Warning: This Post Shows My Face, With Stitches and Blood and Stuff

09.4.2018 | 10:49 am

A Note from Fatty: Oh hi there. You know how I said I was going to start up blogging again? It turns out that it’s a tricky habit to re-establish! I have a lot of stories to tell about rides and races and other stuff, and I really will tell all these stories. I’m just not going to beat myself up when I have other stuff in my life cut in line, priority-wise. Thank you for your patience, or for your impatience. Thank you, in short, for being you.

This is my story about having a basal cell carcinoma removed from just below my right eye a couple weeks ago. I will include pictures, and they will not be pretty, for two reasons:

  1. I am not pretty to begin with, so there’s that.
  2. I show the open wound and then stitches and my black eye and stuff like that, as if I were an oversharing blogger who reveals waaaay too much about stuff that most people would have the good sense to keep private.

So that you don’t accidentally see something you don’t want to see, I’m going to push all of those images — and even the discussion of this event — down below the pre-scroll part of your browser, using this cleverly written paragraph, and a photograph of a rainbow I took from my backyard a few weeks ago.

Isn’t that nice? That really is nice.

OK, let’s get on with my story.


Technically, basal-cell carcinoma is a kind of skin cancer. In fact, it is the single most common kind of skin cancer. But here’s the thing: I hesitate to even write “I’ve had treatment for cancer,” because the seriousness of what I had and what the treatment was is like a 0.01 on a scale of 0 – 10. As in, not even really approaching the onramp of how serious cancer is.

It’s slow-growing. It’s easy to treat. I’m in no danger at all. So yeah, I wish it didn’t even have the association with cancer, because I’ve had several people give me worried looks or expressions of concern, when in fact really this is, once detected, more or less about as serious as having a mole removed. Or, in my case, what I in fact thought was a slightly weird-looking mole I asked my dermatologist about, and she told me: “No, I’d bet money that’s a basal cell carcinoma,” then she biopsied it, found out she was right, and set me up with an appointment for what is called a “Mohs Surgery.”


Here’s the idea behind a Mohs surgery: cut out what looks like the gross thing growing on someone, then let them sit around with a loose bandage on their face while you get out a microscope or something and see if you’ve got a clean (i.e., no cancer) margin on the gross thing you’ve cut out.

There is a real danger, by the way, that the person you’ve been cutting on will eat all the little complimentary packets of cookies you left in the patient room while you’re looking to see if you’ve got it all.

If, by chance, you haven’t got it all, you cut out some more and check again. But in my case, they got it all on the first pass. Which meant it was time to fix me up.

Head With a Hole

The surgeon could have just stitched up the little pit he had cut out of my face, but that would have left a little crater-scar right below my eye. Which would not have been a huge deal, but this surgeon subscribes to the leave-no-trace ethic, so he got out a marker and showed me his plan: cut at right angles to the pit and then sew it up tight:

(And yes, he let me take a selfie here. I texted it to The Hammer. Her response: “Holy shit!”)

I was thoroughly numbed up for all this, but could still feel the sensation of both the cutting (which felt like how it feels when I cut steak, except on my face) and the stitching (which felt like sewing, but on my face). Weird. I focused on other things, because I didn’t really love the image my brain was serving up to itself.

There was some cauterizing mixed in there, too. The smell was…unpleasant.

Here’s how I looked afterward:

I texted this photo to The Hammer. Her response: “Holy shit!”

Then came the bandaging:

And that, to be honest, just felt ridiculous and excessive.

I’d had plans for the rest of the day (I was going to go to SLC to record a podcast with Alex Grant, but texted him some of the pictures above with the explanation, “Sorry, this turned out to be a little bigger of a thing than I expected.” He understood.)

I drove home and took a nap, then watched daytime television. It was awesome.

Day 2

I had planned to go back to work the following day, but I was simply unwilling to go into the office and show off my bandages, even after I had taken off the ginormously comical top layer:

Oooh. That’s quite a shiner.

I worked from home, feeling fine, but finding excuses to go audio-only on the teleconferences I had. Not that I’m vain or anything; I just wasn’t in the mood to explain or get sympathy for something that was pretty non-sympathy-deserving.

Day 3 and Beyond

On day 3 I was allowed to take a shower, which both I and everyone around me appreciated. I also felt like it was time to cut it out with the bandages already.

So handsome. Oh, and also that’s me in an office environment, in my office clothes. I bet you didn’t even know I have an office environment or clothes, did you?

By day 4, I had no pain at all.

But by day 5, I had a new annoyance: one of the little stitch threads had decided it wanted to stick out in just such a way that it was always in my peripheral vision. I found myself frequently swiveling my head around and down, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that was not quite in view.

And Now

One week after the Mohs procedure, I got my stitches out:

So nice to no longer be chasing that blue thread around.

It was kind of interesting when the surgeon took out the stitches. He said he was super happy with how I’ve healed; that this scar is going to more or less fade away, that I’d hardly even be able to see it. I kind of got the sense that he must normally get a lot of questions about scarring and looks and stuff. Honestly, none of that had occurred to me (see #1 way back at the top of this post).

And in short, I should probably be better about applying sunscreen.