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.

Cancer-Lite

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.”

Surgery-Lite

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.

16 Comments »

  1. Comment by Tominalbany | 09.4.2018 | 12:40 pm

    Nice to hear from you again, Elden! I’m looking forward to reading the next installment of the Crusher!

    Hats off to you and Hottie on the Leadville Podcast. That was really well done!

  2. Comment by MattC | 09.4.2018 | 3:06 pm

    Ahh Fatty…that wasn’t so bad…I was afraid (after reading the very top about stitches and such) that you crashed your bike and had some hideous wounds to show (battle scars!). The basal cell tumors are the “not going to kill you” ones, right? Just checking…I’m not really very up on my tumors like I should be after all those years of fundraising for LIVESTRONG. If anything it makes you look like a boxer…when anybody asks just tell them it was from a streetfight (rule #1 about Fight Club is you don’t talk about fight club). Nobody messes w/ a guy w/ all kinds of fighting scars…just give one of your crazy faces and I guarantee that along with the scar all but the most foolhardy mugger would run away!

  3. Comment by Lee Donnahoo | 09.4.2018 | 3:24 pm

    My only disappointment in this post is that you didn’t come up with a really cool but totally made-up battle story about how you were trying to clear some major MTB obstacle and caught some dude’s chainring in the face.

    Not sure what this does to our relationship. }B^)

    Dammit. You know, you’re absolutely right. I can’t believe I missed that opportunity. Clearly, I’m slipping. – FC

  4. Comment by Joan W | 09.4.2018 | 10:30 pm

    Holy crap – that’s the view from your backyard? Can I move in with you and the Hammer? I can clean bathrooms and kitchens and all the other places no one likes to do. It would give you guys more time for bike rides….

    As far as… “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.”

    I’m just thrilled your blogging again – whenever and whatever. So as someone already brilliantly said, thank you, in short, for being you!

    The surgeon does good work, and I’m glad you caught it early.

    Yes, that is my backyard view. I’m incredibly fortunate. I should note that this picture is cropped so you can’t see the fence or trampoline in the original shot.

    We’d hire you to move in as our janitorial staff, but we have teenagers for that purpose.

    - FC

  5. Comment by Eric F | 09.4.2018 | 11:32 pm

    First, sunscreen is no joke! Use it!!! Glad you’re on the mend.

    Second what podcasts are you doing these days? I really enjoy your sense of humor and try to subscribe to them all!

    Agreed on the sunscreen comment; I’m resolved to make a habit of applying it.

    As far as podcasts go, I’m currently co-hosting the GU Energy Labs Pinnacle Podcast with Yuri Hauswald. The most recent episode is with Rob Krar, and I’m really proud of it. It’s a great conversation with an extraordinary and insightful superhuman. I’m also working with Hottie on a few new podcast projects, but they aren’t ready to announce. He and I have also kicked around the idea of rebooting The FattyCast as a 2-person show. I’ve thought about putting up a post asking my readers what they’d like from me in a podcast; feel free to let me know what you’d be interested in. – FC

  6. Comment by Leo | 09.5.2018 | 10:35 am

    My wife had the same surgery, but she’s better looking than you. Both before and after. And if that’s your backyard view, I gotta move. Glad to have you back, I enjoy reading your writing.

  7. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 09.5.2018 | 11:10 am

    @MattC Aren’t they all “…crazy faces…”

    @Lee Donnahoo @FC He’s not ’slipping’. It just takes a little time to get your conditioning back after an absence.

    @FC the fact you have teenagers is the reason you need @JoanW. #livingthatnow

    Finally, Fatty, you couldn’t shave before going in? Had to go ‘all in’ on the tough guy look.

  8. Comment by fellowfattychris | 09.5.2018 | 4:53 pm

    Hey Fatty, I just had Moh’s surgery last month for a basal cell on my left cheek. I had mine done the Monday after my first race in Leadville. Just wanted to say thanks for all the podcasts, they helped this first timer a lot on race day. I also especially appreciated the encouragement as we crossed paths while I was still going up Columbine. I tried to pay it forward and do the same for others once I started my descent.

    My scar is a little bigger and more noticeable than yours since the area they removed was larger. They didn’t get it all with the first layer and had to go back for more. My favorite part post surgery is having people see it for the first time and asking what happened. It’s fun to see their faces when I tell them I was attacked by a bear or in a knife fight before I tell them the truth.

    I’ve been fairly good as an adult to cover up and use sunscreen, and even more diligent since my diagnosis. I just wish I had been more aware about this kind of thing when I was constantly getting sunburned as a kid.

  9. Comment by Corrine | 09.6.2018 | 12:00 am

    Your surgeon did an excellent job!
    @fellowfattychris no picture? And how was your Leadville experience? Were you able to finish? More details!

  10. Comment by Andy | 09.7.2018 | 1:47 am

    Caught your post via Flipboard this morning over toast and coffee. Unfortunately Flipboard uses a random photo from the post, it’s was not the rainbow.

  11. Comment by Jerome | 09.7.2018 | 10:01 pm

    Great post … had some weird whim to click on an old bookmark that I used to go to so often. Glad you are doing well. Pics are awesome,
    and you should never apologize for reality. speak the truth! That’s why we follow you. Keep riding! I might just start putting sunscreen on after 53 years hmmm.

  12. Comment by Jimbo | 09.9.2018 | 1:45 am

    Fatty,
    I think you brought it up on Twitter and I agree with you that basal cell is not “real cancer”. I have had a few occurences of it, including a Mohs surgery. My surgeon actually met Dr.Mohs.
    I’m now going under the knife for Squamos.
    I would like to point out that just having a mole removed is not always exactly an innocent affair.
    Some of what is thought of as moles can end up being malenoma. That can be a very serious “real” cancer.
    Odd moles should be taken seriously.
    We can all use sunscreen more often and learn lessons from experiences such as yours and mine.
    Kids, please listen.

  13. Comment by Kiye Sic | 09.9.2018 | 6:15 pm

    Hope you’re okay!

  14. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 09.12.2018 | 2:02 pm

    So I was checking for a ‘new’ post and this perfectly placed ad came up on the sidebar:
    https://dannyshane.com/products/nelson-white-cycling-jersey?variant=341546459&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIpvHRmqC23QIVSdFkCh1EGACREAEYASADEgLoxvD_BwE

    Talk about knowing your audiencea2014_Nelson_Pearl.jpg?v=1534457733

  15. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 09.12.2018 | 2:03 pm

    That’s for you MattC. It’s called the ‘Nelson Performance Jersey’.

  16. Comment by Jeff | 09.13.2018 | 7:20 am

    Great to see you back here!

 

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