Saturday, November 17, 2012

Losing Face: Layer Two

Second installment. For the first part, click here.


May 16, 1980. Does he need the cream, too?
The next day I call again, hoping to score a different nurse, and I succeed. This just doesn't sound right. And it turns out it isn't right. There had been a miscommunication. The doctor tacks on a third week of treatment. I start again.

Given enough time, the magic cream will happily remove your whole face, but, in theory, it seeks out the faster-growing cells that are improperly motivated and burns them off first.  So a person applying said cream can expect portions of her skin to light up like the Milky Way. In my case, a number of areas of my face that I thought could be trusted to play quietly by themselves were actually up to no good. The magic cream lit up a stealth army of skin cells that had apparently been scheming to take me down all along. I am the captain of this here ship, and now I see there has been talk of mutiny. I intend to see to some plank-walkin'. I continue to apply the cream.

May 17, 1980
My chin has turned a blotchy plummy purple. To be fair, I have seen baby's bottoms that looked similar. My chin is not my favorite body part. It's been sinking into my doughy neck like a bon-bon on a pillow for years. As we know, the skin is the largest organ in the body, and I don't like to brag, but my neck is hung like a racehorse. I don't approve of this, but I had always thought that at least my chin looked comfy. Now I can see  it was just settling in to plot my downfall. I do remember the inciting incident. It was 1980. I was climbing Mt. Hood. People didn't do much sunscreen then, but our guide talked us into some zinc oxide, which I applied in an attractive smear across my cheeks and button nose. Worked good. The sun, however, was zinging off the snow and onto my lower face for hours. The next day I had blisters the size of voles hanging off my face. I got future-cancer in one day.

Week three is not too bad at first. Friends say nothing, but speculate privately about my diet. A few days later, passersby remain friendly and give Dave a nod of appreciation, assuming he is an evolved man who is drawn to inner beauty. On Day 24, they give him the raised eyebrow of suspicion. By Day 25, people snug their children to their sides and cross the street as I approach. The grocery clerk sprays antiseptic on his conveyor belt after I pay. A driver rolls down her window and lobs me a quarter. My face looks like a baby baboon's bottom. I decide to stay indoors out of consideration for others.

In the shower, my face shears off like a calf from a glacier and sludges up the drain.

At the end of the third week I call the nurse again. I feel worse. But I'm really not as miserable as I'm supposed to be. Should I keep going?

"Do you have any oozing?"

Yes! Yes I do!

"Is it honey-colored?"

Yes! Yes it is!

"Okay, that's probably a staph infection. Maybe you should see the doctor." And miracle of miracles, although appointments with my doctor are always two months out, she makes a slot available to me. I meet him between the ninth hole and the clubhouse.

The doctor said I can quit now. I walked away, a festering pus-bag with a bottle of antibiotics and a date in five months "to see how we did." I stopped well short of suicide, but murder is still on the table.

79 comments:

  1. I can't believe you didn't have to smear the cream on your upper lip area - I wasn't able to eat or talk for two weeks because the blisters inhibited mouth movement - just as well for the doc because I had a few choice words for him for not telling me just how awful the treatment was. His response when i did mention it? "That's what you get for lying out in the sun." I reminded him that when I was his age (he's at least 12), we were encouraged to go out in the sun and there wasn't any sunscreen, just sunTAN lotion and it was meant to turn one the color of toast, not raw meat. I offered to sue everyone in his profession for deliberately misleading us all those years so they could reap the benefits of insurance payments; he's nicer to me now. He smiles when he comes at me with that can of spray.

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    1. Now that you mention it, I didn't leave the doc's office with any clear instructions at all about where to put it, except to avoid the mouth and eyes. He might have intended me to just do the spot on my nose. Once I started reading about it I decided on my own to do the whole face and see what lit up. And I did, but I skipped the lip. You can see there's no involvement on the sides of my face at all. Protection from long, hanging hair?

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  2. Good lord, you are handling this CONSIDERABLY better than I ever would!! Hope that mess heals up fast. Hang in there.

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    1. Now I've been off the stuff for twelve days, and just look like I have a bad complexion. A couple bleeding spots. We're making progress.

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  3. Oh my...I don't know what to say ...hope it all turns out well. "They" never tell you how bad it is going to be because then we would never do it. Looking forward to seeing the "finished product"...

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    1. That's what I keep hearing, that hardly any of them tell you what you're in for. Seems to me that the uninformed patient would get to this point and go straight to the ER unless she had more information. I likes me some information.

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  4. At my age, I'm over the hill for this treatment .. should have had it in my 50s!!!! Maybe 40s. Hang in there.

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  5. Ouch! Having been there, done that, I know how much it hurts, and then hurts AND itches at the same time.
    So, so sorry for what you are enduring.

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    1. It really hasn't been so bad for me. Looks worse than it feels. Which of course makes me wonder if I shoulda gone longer.

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  6. Wait just one minute there - no explanation of who the naked guy is?

    You are a brave soul. Hope your skin grows back in less mutinous condition.

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    1. Naked guy's name is lost to history. Use 'em, and fling 'em away...

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  7. Oh my. Here's hoping the best for you Murr. I'm hoping to avoid all this and ask some questions the next time my doc. freezes those little "wild" spot on my face and scalp next time.

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    1. ASK QUESTIONS. All this time I wasn't even all that clear on what the danger, if any, of the spots was. Why don't they talk to us?

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  8. How did he get his pants and long johns and skivvies off over his boots? May I print this picture on a t-shirt? You, my dear, make mountain climbing look good. Except for the subsequent vole-sized blisters. Maybe that was God''s punishment for frolicking with a naked man in the snow. Or at least, for enjoying it. Did he get blisters?

    Oh, your skin thing - hope it works. Now, when I see other people out looking like they are incubating flesh-eating bacteria, I will assume that they are fending off skin cancer.

    The naked guy is really cute. And looks happy, in spite of the chill. Does his wife know you posted this photo?

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    1. There was NO FROLICKING! It was seventy degrees up there on top. I would have to say that the naked guy thought he was cute, too.

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  9. That's some hunka burnin' love there behind you on Mt Hood. Sure it wasn't his visage that caused all that blistering? From my nursely perspective, I'd agree that that yellowish sludge hanging off your chin is indeed a staph infection. Hope the antibiotics are conquering it. Next post I hope to see some progress with the flaming red that makes you look like a monkey's ass.

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    1. This is why I started a blog. So I could get experts in all fields chiming in and eventually I wouldn't need to do research or go to medical professionals.

      Infection all cleared up now, thanks!

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  10. Wow. That was quite a case of future-cancer, so I can see why you were motivated to stick with this treatment. I hope you are healing now.

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  11. Ouch! This has served to discourage me from going to the dermatologist, something a few suspicious patches on my temple have had me thinking I should do for quite some time now........What about your friend on Mt. Hood? You have problems with your face. I shudder to think where his problems might be!

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    1. Might as well go. You can always spot-treat, you know. Ignorance is not always bliss. Of course you can go to the dermatologist and still be ignorant unless you get one that volunteers information.

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  12. Well, I was obviously hanging with the wrong crowd in the 80s. I got my red/purple sunburn dirt-biking in the foothills with fully-clothed guys. If I'd only known the naked ones were at the *top* of the mountains...

    So far my doc is just going at me with the cryo-spray, though the cream was mentioned. All I can say is "Ow". I hope your face heals up soon.

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    1. If your doc mentions the cream a little harder next time, listen hard for that "baby's bottom" sell they all seem to push.

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  13. Ack.. that looks so incredibly painful. You're probably in better shape than mr. naked, these days. I hope you heal quickly and with as little pain as possible.

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    1. All I know about mr. naked is he became a lawyer.

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  14. Wait, I have been to the top of Mt. Hood and there was no buff naked guy up there. I've been cheated.
    And holy hannah, that treatment looks horrible. No offense, but you look as though you are pooh bear after putting your head into an occupied bee's nest. I hope you are feeling better soon. I have never heard of this "treatment". I just hope that the dermatologists are right this time. Maybe thirty years from now they will change their minds and decide the sun is good after all.

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    1. I still think a little sun is good for making vitamin D with, but I suppose I'll have to get on the sunscreen bandwagon instead of just hanging off the back bumper.

      My picture of Dave on top of that mountain is one of my favorite ever, but he kept his pants on.

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  15. You would think they'd have invented a more civilized treatment by now. That treatment looks like it was devised by a certified sadist. It better by damn work. Hoping each day is a little less worse.

    I DO remember those days in college, slathered with baby oil, with cookie sheets covered in tinfoil propped up on either side of me to reflect even MORE sun onto my freckled self. What was I thinking?

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  16. I've had problem skin my entire life so I can certainly sympathize with you. I even took Accutane back in the day. It's since been recalled because of horrible side effects so I guess I should be grateful I haven't grown a third eye.

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    1. Maybe you have. It's amazing what shows up when the hair falls out.

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  17. It's taken me three tries to type a comment; I seem to keep passing out ... yes, why don't some doctors give more information? I do so much better knowing what I'm facing. I realize you're through the worst of the treatment by now, but here's a retroactive "good luck" and commiserating hug.

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    1. I really only had two or three bad days, and they weren't nearly as bad as they were supposed to be. [fingers crossed]

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  18. One word: burka. Or stay out of sight til it's over!

    Calling travel agent to plan Mt.Hood holiday...

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    1. I was kinda smart about it. I waited until the rain started--October 12, first rain since July 1--and then stayed indoors. It kept raining for 17 days and quite a few days since then. I got my novel finished. It's all good.

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  19. If you had to put that FU cream on your face, I wonder if cute naked guy now has to put it on all of his exposed areas.

    Wait...*furiously trying to get that pictures out of my mind...*

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  20. Jeebus, Murr, how can I laugh all the way through this while almost in tears for your suffering?
    Word devil!
    XO
    WWW

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  21. PS I did enbiggen yon pic, just to look at the snow.
    XO
    WWW

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  22. Replies
    1. 'S'allright, Linda. And it came in handy for Halloween.

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  23. PUHWAHHHHH
    That's the closest I can come to wordifying the sound that came out of my mouth at the sight of your poor face.

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    1. I know. This makes my real face look a lot better.

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  24. Aww, geez, Murr, I'm eating dinner here!

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  25. Geesh.... I bet I'm right there with you when I go to the dermatologist! Jerry just gets stuff burned off every 6 months.... You are a brave woman!

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    1. Anne, no biggie. You can do it. Jerry, as a redhead and former lifeguard, is probably screwed.

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  26. Oh. So sorry! What a rough thing to endure. I'm waiting to see what revenge the sun is going to take on me, too.

    btw - I couldn't help noticing that if you had been on Mt. Hood one day later, you could have seen Mount St. Helens erupting.

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    1. No Shit. Two days, actually. Didn't escape our attention, either. And as mailmen, most of us, we usually worked Saturdays, so we saved our trip for the day most of us had Friday off and wouldn't get caught up in weekend crowds. Otherwise we would have been up there on eruption day, Sunday. Can you even imagine? We climb up the south side so we wouldn't have been at the top until noonish but we probably would have heard it and seen ash in the sky--it would have quickened the pace for sure. Because we wouldn't have seen Mt. St. Helens itself until we got to the top. As it was, I do have a picture of a much blackened Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

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  27. That is one crazy, horrible treatment. And, I honestly just don't get it. It seems like it would be more damaging and dangerous than any possible good thing that could come of it. But, I guess the doctor knows what he's doing. It sure looks painful. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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    1. See, what we're trying to avoid is slicing out a divot from the nose and replacing it with ass tissue, which will inevitably lead to confusion when wiping.

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  28. Eeek! I think you deserve some sort of medal for gallantry in the field. That's a pretty dreadful state to be in. Sorry, but I have no useful advice whatever, not having been through the same ordeal.

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  29. NOW you're cookin' with gas! Baby's bottom right around the corner. You will be very pleased. It's a painful road but hey, I'm having a picnic here at the end. I may even get to be mother of the groom without forehead skin flaps covering my nose. And, as noted previously, I only read this blog for the photos. Today, I've been amply rewarded. Thanks. xoxox

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  30. Good Lord! That looks remarkably painful. And your doctor seems to be awfully casual about the whole thing. I hope it heals up soon!

    And, um... what's going on with naked snow guy?

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    1. The doctor is like the country vet who promised the farmer it wouldn't hurt to castrate his favorite donkey, and then accomplished it with two bricks, whereupon the donkey ran off bellerin', and the farmer said "I thought you said it wouldn't hurt!"

      And the vet said, "It didn't. I kept my thumbs out."

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    2. Oh. Naked snow guy is a little bit into himself. That about sums him up.

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  31. OH MY GOD!!! I am freaking out for you. This looks horribly painful.

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    1. I'm pretty sure it hurts you worse than it hurts me. Hey, today when I washed my face, it didn't bleed! We're making headway.

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    2. Well, I'm glad to know you're healing!

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  32. I have seen people sloughing off before, but not like this! You will be your cute self again in no time.

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  33. I said it once and I'll say it again, you're the bravest woman I know. Only you have the courage to plaster your mug all over the internet. Ah, by the way, does that cream affect the brain?

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    1. My ass is on the internet also. Let us here duly note that I do not expect to be looking for a job anytime.

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  34. This was self inflicted for medical reasons?

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    1. Self-applied, to burn off actinic keratoses that might some day have become cancerous. I am Healthy but Ugly.

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  35. that might some day become cancerous?

    For heaven’s sake woman, change your dermatologist.

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    1. No no! I'm good with prevention.

      Would that be like changing my spots?

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  36. Best of luck to you, ma'am... I'd have someone by the throat by now, so it's an understatement to say you're handling it well. Maybe too well...

    I'm incredibly impressed with your willingness to share this moment of your life. Tip o' the hat~!

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    1. Oh this kind of stuff is easy. I try not to share too much personal stuff that involves other people. I do keep some things to myself. But any vanity I might once have had has lost all purpose now.

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  37. The sacrifices you make to remain snortworthy!

    I snorted, I staggered, I stumbled and took out three standees on the bus home.

    Honey, are you okay?

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