Yesterday was a very long day indeed.
And although it seemed like forever to me, I'm sure it seemed longer still for John.
He had his first go-round with Mohs Surgery to tackle his on-going battle with skin cancer. (One down; two to go.)
He's been struggling with this for several years now and after his last dermatologist retired, he was recently (finally) referred to a new one. And she's a keeper, to be sure. (We are both actually her patients, but that's the topic of another blog.)
This doctor is the only one in Ottawa performing the Mohs procedure so she's kept busy.
We had to be at the hospital for 7:20am -- not an easy feat coming from Almonte but we managed it by leaving home at 6:00am to ensure that we allowed for unforeseen traffic delays (read the Queensway that is otherwise known as the parking lot from hell).
Once there, we quickly discovered that the Mohs Clinic (housed in the Parkdale Cancer Clinic of the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital) is a very well-run, finely tuned machine.
Four patients are scheduled for the removal of squamous cell carcinomas on each Tuesday (removal of basal cell carcinomas are scheduled on a different day of the week).
Each patient must arrive with an attendant who will stay all day, otherwise the procedure will not be performed. In John's case, that attendant was me.
We went armed with a day's worth of food and drink since we had been pre-warned to anticipate the possibility of being there all day long. Of course I took my trusty iPad along and when I asked for the passcode to access the internet, I was told that I was the first person to ever ask for it -- this is NOT a new clinic! (The staff actually didn't know the answer and had to call IT to find out -- I was given a guest account and it was authorized for four months to cover us for the anticipated repeat visits we will be making.)
Mohs surgery involves the doctor first cutting out the cancer (under local anaesthetic) and then looking at the pathology of that cut while the patient waits in the sitting room (with attendant). If all the cancer was excised in the first run (rare occurrence), the patient will be stitched up and sent home. Otherwise, a next cut will be taken, going wider and deeper and again the patient will be returned to the waiting room while the excisal amount is viewed under the microscope.
This process is repeated until pathology reports a cancer-free margin.
Of the four patients done yesterday, the lone lady (whose nose was being done) required only two cuts. We cheered, "one down" as she left our cozy, by now very friendly group.
The gentleman whose spot was smack on top of his head was next to leave (four cuts). ("They haven't hit grey matter yet," was his report every time he rejoined us).
We had by now turned the waiting room into a comfort area, using one sofa to sit on and the other for a foot stool. ("Wow, no group has ever done that before," commented a nurse. We were just the most innovative crowd ever!)
Believe it or not, John was next to leave. This at almost 6:00pm! He had been back for six cuts by this point. (Since I cannot drive after dark, my stepson and his wife met us to provide transportation home -- such sweethearts they are.)
The last gentleman to leave had lost his entire bottom lip and was still in the cutting room when we left. He would be reporting to day surgery this morning at 6:30am for plastic surgery to rebuild his lip.
Needless to say, as difficult as the day was for us, I was left feeling like we had nothing to moan about. Gentleman #4 took that honour I think.
Yesterday's procedure was performed on John's right temple. We return next Tuesday (the 22nd) for stitch removal.
And we're back there on the 29th for the same thing to be done on his left temple. I will again be his "attendant in waiting" and my stepson and his wife will again provide after-dark transportation.
Then she'll leave him alone until after Christmas, when we will both go back to the Clinic on a date as yet to be determined. She will operate on John's left inner eye (yes, right smack dab at the inner corner of the eye --- big time ouch, I say!). And she will remove the basal cell carcinoma from my nose. I'm hoping she won't have to remove too much (although if plastic surgery is required, perhaps I'll get to choose a nicer nose?). We'll need to arrange for an attendant and transportation for that booking since we will both be undergoing the knife on the same day.
Oh the joys of aging. But gosh the wonders of today's technology to allow the complete removal of cancerous cells, while you wait, without general anaesthesia. Amazing!