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Wilma is a skin cancer specialist nurse, here to answer your questions about different...
On Christmas Eve I had a wide exicison for a superficial spreading melonoma and a lymph node biopsy. Has anyone out there had anything similar? I have also had a skin flap over the site. I am having stitches out on Friday.
My main concerns are how I come to terms with my appearance and coping with wait for biopsy result to discover if the cancer has spread.
Hi quilting girl, welcome to the online community
I feel a bit like I’m replying to you under false pretences as I’ve never had a primary melanoma, so don’t have the coping with appearance experience that your after. I do however have experience of coping with waiting for results as my metastatic melanoma diagnosis was in 2015, and so ever 3 months I’ve had scan results to wait for with a few other biopsy results inbetween.
My own experience leads me to believe that it’s unrealistic to be upbeat all the time and so don’t worry about feeling down sometimes, accept it as normal acknowledging that everyone worries about things spreading but that it’s not inevitable and there are treatments. You probably have ways that you have used before to cope with perhaps waiting for exam results, job applications, or other life events, mostly they involve either distracting yourself, preparing yourself, or seeking support when feeling low.
My distracting usually involves something active, I love walks in the countryside, I have also learnt that meeting friends for a walk can be easier than meeting for a coffee as it’s easier to avoid chatting about things you are wanting to ignore. I am not very good at relaxing or beauty treatments but they can work but I’ve just realised you may be into quilting or other crafts and hobbies that you can keep busy with. When the stress of waiting gets to me I’ve off loaded on here in a discussion just to get the anxiety out of my head, and sometimes in a blog I’ve kept on here, it’s a bit like talking to myself. When I was first diagnosed music helped as I sometimes felt I wasn’t sure how I felt but the words of songs always deciphered that. (How many songs are there with sun in the lyrics, or about leaving someone ! ) Singing along or dancing can also get rid of pent up frustrations.
I also read through the Macmillan coping section in the link below
I’m hoping the next few weeks go well for you.
What is a Community Champion?
You can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or contact them by email.
Hi Quilting Girl- I had a graft to my nose Nov 2017 and it took a full year for me to come to terms with my appearance. Most importantly, I relied on my friends and family for support. They let me know I am the same fantastic person they love and I had to build the confidence to face the world with my scar. I wear makeup when ever I am out. I found out that people do not scrutinize my looks, that is the least of what is on their minds.
My first outing with a friend that did not know I had surgery was a lady who always hated her nose shape. I felt bad for mentioning how I didn't like my nose much anymore because she lived with that discontent her whole life. I've learned to accept my slight defect and instead, smile every morning I wake up to a new day cancer-free!
I hope your biopsy results are favorable. Time will heal all wounds, physical and non-physical:)
Hi there, thanks for your reply. I've woken this morning feeling better physically than I have since my op and your reply has encouraged me. I am normally a busy person with lots of interests and I do want to get back to 'normal' - a 'new normal? I just don't know when I'll feel like doing that. I'm having to miss a good friend's 70th birthday on Thursday which is sad but she's very supportive and has said just ring when you're ready and we'll go out.
I'm hoping to see my little granddaughters tomorrow, 3 & 4yrs. I hope they'll be OK with my face - children are more accepting I think.
I'm going to take things slowly, I have decided. Stitches out on Friday will be a step further. I am so looking forward to washing my face properly and my hair!!
Thanks again and take care
Hi there thanks for your reply . It's really helpful. I am tending to go between being in a kind of denial that results might be negative and wondering if I should be facing the demons to prepare myself for needing more treatment.
At the moment I know that I am still getting over the op physically and that's making me tired and a bit low at times. Maybe one stage at a time. . . my first goal is to have stitches out on Friday, wash my face properly and my hair!! Begin to adjust to the 'new' face.
I'm finding that reading good novels helps and you're right - I can get on with my half finished sewing projects!
Take care & thank you.
Good luck for Friday, I had to smile at washing your face and hair, it’s funny the things that bug you the most after an op ! The new face will be a work in progress, and I’m expecting that there will be a few clumsy but well meant remarks from friends, because I know I’ve had them about my diagnosis and I haven’t anything to show for it. I hope you will have some witty answers and lots of patience for them.
Gosh I wish I could sew !
Hi KTatHome, well I had the stitches out yesterday. It certainly feels more comfortable and actually looks better than I was expecting. The doctor was very pleased. I don't feel ready to go out normally yet.
Disapointment - I still can't get the left side of my face wet as the scars need to be kept dry for longer. So..no washing my hair, back to the dry shampoo! Trying not to get this out of proportion.
Did you have any support/help to accept your 'new'face? Any help with makeup etc? I have dry skin and always use moisturiser. How do I find out what's best to use now?
If you really want to learn to sew look around for a local group. In my experience women who sew are the friendliest ever and always willing to share their skills.
Hi quilting girl, good to hear your feeling more comfortable. Re help with makeup have you a Boots near you ? Some have Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisers, I will put the link in for more info.
I haven’t tried them, as I say I have had no primary so no face involved but maybe Thinking Positive has, or others, who might be able to give some tips.
I do keep meaning to go down to the local library for info on community groups, I think I just need that extra shove.
I had a similar case to yours. Two and a half years ago a lesion on my left cheek bone was diagnosed as melanoma. I had an initial surgery and then a WLE and SNLB, followed by a third surgery as the margins of the first WLE were not sufficient. Two skin grafts side by side that take up about half of my cheek. The last of the three surgeries was in August 2017.
Initially it was very disfiguring. By now the skin has softened almost to the same texture as the rest of my face but the colour is a bit whiter than the rest. It is most noticable when I get very hot when doing sport as the contrast with the rest of my face is greater. As time goes by I am getting fewer strange looks from strangers. I just stare back at anyone who stares at me.
I've never really used make up so I don't cover it. I have to massage it a lot so that it doesn't tighten and pull at my lower eyelid and I have to moisturise it a lot, so it is easier to be able to massage and moisturise whenever I feel a tightening (and not worry about wrecking my make up ). I always use a moisturising sun block outdoors.
You may have a better result with a flap from your face from a colour perspective, so I would say with massage you are probably looking at 18 months for a good result and probably even less if you use make up. Where on your face is it situated? If it is well clear of specialized facial tissue such as eyes and lips you should have a less complicated recovery. I came very close to losing my lower eyelid and that has been a source of difficulty throughout.
Make sure you take notes about when you can start massaging the area and how vigorous you need to be. It will hurt a lot at first but persevere. Try to pinch and roll the skin between your fingers to break down the scar tissue and moisturize it well afterwards.
This melanoma business is no fun for sure. I've always felt that getting melanoma is bad enough but getting it on my face was doubly unfair. I also had breast cancer in 2011 and several basal cell carcinomas. A friend sent me a very helpful message when I was recovering from breast surgery in which he wrote that life brings us bad things and good things. Some of the bad things are behind us and some of the good things are ahead of us. Try to focus on the good things ahead. The people who care about you will still love you as you are. The opinions of those who are not dear to you don't really matter.
Maybe you could have your hair washed at the hairdressers or get someone to wash your hair in a similar configuration at home (sitting with your back to the bath tub or a wash hand basin so that the water runs away from your face). My husband washed my hair for me this way post surgery and it felt wonderful!
I hope this new year brings you a rapid return to good health and a good recovery from your surgery.
All the best
Hi Miranda 2, it's so good to know that someone else has had a similar experience and has come through it. My melanoma was on my left cheek and I had a margin of 1cm removed so it was quite a large area, but not too close to my eye. I had a BCC removed from my eyelid about 2 years ago. I remember massaging that scar. Now I can't really see it at all. Of course that was a lot smaller...
It's all been a much bigger thing than I imagined before my op. Now the stitches are out it doesn't look as bad as I was expecting but I still need to come to terms with my new face. My aim this week is to go for a little walk around our village on my own. I do need some fresh air and exercise, but I also feel I need to make a first step around other people.
A friend visited yesterday and said she'd been a bit worried about seeing my face but it wasn't as bad as she thought it might be. That was lovely to hear.
I agree that having a melanoma on the face is a real bummer. If it was on my leg it would be easier to come to terms with. On Wednesday I have my biopsy results. I know you're right about friends, I've had so many messages etc. It's made me value my friends so much more.
My other aim this week is to go to my hairdresser. They know me well but it would be another step to be in public.
Many thanks again. Take care
Hi Quilting Girl,
I am very glad to have helped you, though of course I dearly wish that this did not have to happen to anyone else.
Your message brought me back to when I was reluctant to go out after my surgery. What I did initially was to go out after dark and then at dusk and then early evening. It was August so I didn't have the option of wrapping myself up with scarves as you have in January. Make sure you always use sun block or cover the area even in Winter. The new skin will be very sensitive to light.
And yes, life goes on. I am still here and more importantly my husband is still here too with me, closer than ever, and also my family and friends.
It might take some courage to step into the hairdressers but you'll feel great after getting your hair done!
Hi quilting girl, Did you get your biopsy results on Wednesday ?
I had my results and it was good news! The melanoma has all gone and the lymph node was clear of cancer cells. They will keep an eye on me for 2 years but that's OK with me.
On Thursday I went to the hairdresser and yesterday to a pub lunch with a group of friends. We had made the date a while ago and I really enjoyed it. So glad I went. Today I am shattered but I guess it might be like that for a while?
My scars are healing and seem to look a bit better every day.
Thank you for your advice and help. I'll let you know how things progress.
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