The news promos used to be sensational, touting some amazing event with the promise that there would be “film at 11” i.e. you only got news generally twice a day — at 6:00ish or 11:00ish. Long before the internet, long before Youtube, long before 24h news channels even, the local news would try and shock you with headlines and one line promises: “Triplets born in cab! Film at 11!”. “IRS Deadline approaches! Film at 11!”.
And sometimes I feel like I know how the promo departments felt when they saw the news items shaping up for that night’s show. Really? That’s what you’re giving me to promote? Because when I’m trying to write my blog entries, the topics sound boring even to me, at least in the abstract. Audits. HR. Public administration. TV series from ten years ago.
But what if something really exciting happened?
What if I was attacked by some random stranger in an alley at midnight? What if they had a knife? What if they knocked me down, and stabbed me three times? How EXCITING would that be? Maybe give him a cool name. Like The Butcher. The Butcher of Baseline. A nemesis in Nepean.
And then I could promote that page with a shocking headline — “Man stabbed! Film at 11!”
Well, it happened.
Okay, maybe not exactly that way.
Maybe he wasn’t random. Maybe I went to see him, but noon, not midnight.
With an appointment.
And in an office, not an alley.
And it wasn’t exactly a knife, it was a scalpel.
And I wasn’t knocked down, I laid down willingly.
And it wasn’t exactly a stabbing, more surgical removal of three skin tags at different points of my body.
And he had a normal name like Dr. I. Although he did say he was the resident butcher.
Not quite as exciting, and maybe not exciting enough to be a 50by50 goal compared to others, but it was on my list to “deal with”. And I have a bunch of little future posts that are more like “Getting my sh** together” in various aspects of my life which are on my 50by50 list. This was one of those items.
** Spoiler alert ** If you are even the least bit squeamish or are easily grossed out, you probably want to stop reading now.
I had three small wart-like things on my body. The first was on the back of my neck, and was there for years. It generally hasn’t caused me any problems except when I’ve had a sunburn in the area or if I had a shoulder strap of a bag catch it the wrong way. It could get irritated and then it was a bit annoying. Nothing serious, just annoying.
I also had a small skin tag of some sort under my left arm. Again, nothing serious, no big deal. Except once in awhile, often while showering, I’d catch the side of it with a hangnail or something and then it would sting like an SOB. Again, not serious, just annoying. And I couldn’t even really see it that well as it was so far back on the side of my body.
Neither were worth really doing anything about. Annoying from time to time, particularly if I caught it somehow, and then it would get red and irritated for a few days. Pfft. Certainly not even worth writing about, let alone doing anything about that would involve the health care system. I think I had someone look at the one on my neck about 10 years ago, and their view was if it wasn’t causing a problem, then just leave it.
I guess technically I used to have one under my chin too, and 15 years ago, I used to worry about catching it with a razor. But like most men who’ve had the same problem, over the years, it gets worn down with repeated scraping from various razors, not enough to cause bleeding, just enough to remove a few skin cells probably and eventually it is relatively “gone”. Kind of gross to think about, but you don’t even really notice it until after the fact. Meh.
But back in the summer, I got a little pimple-like thing on my upper left cheek, just below the eye. Not close enough to the eye to be of any concern, clearly on the cheek, but still, a bit sensitive. A couple of weeks later, it was still there, and it didn’t look exactly like a pimple anymore. More like a scar for a wound I never had.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, and while I wasn’t worried about it, I also didn’t have any other appointments scheduled with the doctor anytime soon. I asked a cousin-in-law who’s a GP what she thought while I was at the cottage, and she said it didn’t look super urgent, but I should get it looked at sometime. My fall has been a bit unsettling in other areas of my life, and I often try to balance things out by not complicating my life in other areas if I can avoid it for awhile. Which I could. So I basically did nothing for another two months.
In which time, it kept growing. Not rapidly, just noticeable over time. A little higher bump, a little wider base. And it would occasionally change colour from normal pink skin colour to being a bit more pale whitish, particularly after a hot shower or just vigorously washing my face. I took pics to show the doctor the change over time (our cousin-in-law recommended I do so), but that was about all I did.
I tried to get in to see my regular doctor, which while I’m happy to have, is often a pain in the patootie to arrange. They’re located in the Market, and while I can pop over from work, parking is a pain, timing is not always ideal, and even scheduling sometimes is a pain. Often if I have something more urgent to deal with, I’ll just go to Appletree. My needs aren’t complex or serious, and I see Appletree way more often than I see the Bruyere physician.
If I’m being totally honest though, it’s also because I don’t really like my family doc. I was with someone who retired, and the person who took over kind of rubs me the wrong way. She’s been out of the country for a couple of years, and her temporary replacements were awesome for me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her, I just don’t find her bedside manner fits me. The one time I almost filed a formal complaint against her as I thought she was incredibly unprofessional. If our health care system was different, I would have just changed docs. But of course finding a new doc isn’t that easy. So I stay with their medical group, and schedule myself with the residents more often than with her.
But I digress.
However, it was enough of an issue to put it on my 50by50 list to “get it taken care of”, not just ignore it, and so what I really want to say is that I had an appointment, had to reschedule, and then had to cancel that one for work. Eventually, I just went to Appletree to have it examined. I was expecting a referral perhaps to a dermatologist, which is another reason I wasn’t prioritizing the GP visit – they weren’t actually going to do anything, I was just going to get a referral to a specialist of some sort.
But Appletree has a resident butcher, his words not mine, and I got kicked over to him. He told me the thing on my face was a sort of lesion, slash wart, and that it could be removed by him, or a skin specialist. Either way, they would send it to a lab after removal to see if it was cancerous.
He noted that under some people’s interpretations of OHIP’s coverage, it was a cosmetic procedure that wouldn’t be covered. It wasn’t strictly medically necessary by some doc’s views in the industry, but he noted that often what happens is that the patient ends up either catching it on something and ripping it, or simply scratching and pulling it right off. But since they have blood vessels in them, they often bleed like crap, and the person ends up at the ER to get stitches to shut it down. And then they have to have it removed anyway. At an ER with much higher cost to the health care system than a simple procedure in the clinic.
So he was fine to treat it as medically necessary, and it was getting bigger and dryer, so it was starting to cause me some discomfort at times. And while I was there, I asked about the other two for my neck and armpit, and he said he could take those too.
Sign me up.
Cuz who can pass up a bargain like that? A three-for-one special on having someone stick multiple needles in you and then slice off skin? At that price, I’d have to be crazy not to jump on it, right?
The one on my neck/back didn’t worry me. I don’t like needles, but for there I wasn’t too worried.
The one under my arm? I have had a registered massage therapist do intercostal muscle work next to my ribs, and it was extremely unpleasant. And under the arm / pseudo armpit area is sensitive all on its own. I was willing but worried it was going to hurt like an SOB when he started working on it. Even though it was the smallest of the three.
And then there was my face. Or as my wife said, “I think you should have someone look at your face.” Nice.
Jacob loves the phrase now, so it will likely continue long past the procedure. I told him my family has said the same thing for years too, but with little larger scope than just my cheek. 🙂
For extra context, I don’t have a lot of experience with surgeries, even little ones like this. In fact, I have a grand total of about four. Wisdom teeth, but I was knocked out completely. Freezing for other dental work, never fun. A cyst removed from my eyelid when I was about 18. Not fun, but it was more the trauma of them working on my EYELID than any particular pain. They did have to freeze the area, so I know I got some freezing, I just don’t remember it much.
About the same time, though, I also had an ingrown toenail that wasn’t causing me much distress but it also wasn’t healing properly. So their second option after “wait and see” is to remove the toenail and let it grow back. Which meant that I went to an ER to have it removed, the resident stuck in a nice big needle, and then, as some sort of resident evil, the guy was bending the needle all the way to the left and the right and up and down to make sure the freezing went everywhere. The initial prick and the burning was fine, it was the bending and angling that almost put me through the ceiling. It hurt like hell.
So when the surgeon told me he was going to do simple freezing, I knew that I was about to have NEEDLES in my FACE. Like I said, I don’t really like needles or giving blood, but I can look the other way. Kind of hard to ignore it though when they’re inserting them IN YOUR FACE. Sigh.
I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it, just wanted it over with, and I was only slightly comforted by the fact that I was only going to be about 45 minutes in total for all three. A phrase my brother used one time often comes back to me when I have to do something like this. “45 minutes (or insert other time estimate here)? Hell, you can stand on your head in a pile of sh** for that amount of time if you had to”. I don’t know why I find that oddly comforting or effective in giving me a new perspective, but it is.
The big event
So I checked in, did all the vitals, blood pressure holding fine for the day (lower than normal actually, weird!), and then we went through all the consent stuff. I grimaced a bit when he talked about the needles, and when he asked why, I mentioned my previous ER experience getting freezing in my big toe. He basically said that is the way lots of the schools teach them to do it, and if they would just pull the needle a little farther back out before they moved it, and then semi-reinserted it, it doesn’t hurt as much. Plus he would use the smallest needle he had. Nice to know. 😊
So we started with the face freezing. It stung for about 3 seconds, the burn lasted for another 3 seconds or so, then it was “done”. We moved on to the freezing for the neck and under the arm, and while the armpit stung too, it was easy as pie, and the neck was hardly noticeable. Again, nice.
Now he had to do the slicing and dicing. I didn’t feel it other than pressure in the areas while he was doing it. And then afterwards, while doing the stitching, there was a bit of pulling and occasionally small pricks when he went to sew in an outer area that wasn’t as frozen. But nothing too bothersome.
Plus I was fully distracted. We were talking about books, including the challenges of reading classics like Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare, Anna Karenina, etc. A pretty wide-ranging conversation actually, the kind you might have with a good friend over a beer or even just a stranger in a coffee shop. Not super deep or anything, just engaging. We probably could have been done with all the medical stuff in 25 minutes; instead, and perhaps he just sensed my nervousness, he put me completely at ease talking about books, and we ran almost 45 minutes. It was great. Almost fun.
I also think it was his general bedside manner that put me at ease too. He dresses in jeans and an untucked casual button shirt. No scrubs, no artifice, no real trappings of most formal doctor’s apparel. Now, I know that med schools teach them to wear it like they’re going into battle so that when it’s on, they’re in full professional mode. A shield of sorts to remind both them and others that it’s business, not social.
This guy? It seemed more like simple chatting while he was giving me a haircut or working on my car than cutting into me with a scalpel.
And that was it.
The face one was done on an angle so that the resulting scar will hopefully fade into the normal lines in my face, and he also used special sutures that had to be removed but also lead to reduced scarring. The ones on my neck and armpit were just standard stitches that fall out on their own.
After a couple of days, I had a little bit of bruising showing up. My cheek felt like I have a shiner (don’t ask how I know that, long time ago and even less interesting), plus it pulled a bit when I moved my face too much. I also REALLY wanted to scratch or rub around it. He put the steri-strips on it for a few days, and I could replace them in a few days or just remove them altogether. I opted to remove them altogether.
The mark on my face was quite noticeable with the dark stitches, but not too gross if you weren’t zoomed in (like in the photos below). Surprisingly, I think I only had three people comment on it in the four days it was uncovered. Near the end, I felt like I had some spider thing on there as the sutures were seeming “loose” and dangly. As I said, these ones had to be remove after a week, and he used a combination pair of tweezers with a bit of scissors / knife built into them. It pulled a bit, although mostly as I had some little facial hairs growing next to the sutures too. Now that they’re gone, and I’ve had another week of healing, all I’ve used is a bit of face cream one day as it was a bit dry. Otherwise it is healing nicely and very hard to see unless you’re looking for it.
The neck one was fine up until I took the steri-strips off. I had forgotten about it, put a bag on my shoulder, and the strap hit it dead on. That wasn’t what I would call fun. But more of a reminder than serious. I put a bandaid over it for three more days just as a barrier protection, but it probably didn’t need it. It still has a suture embedded in the small scab which has not yet fallen off, but it is healing fine.
The one under my armpit though was initially the problem child. It was just under the back side of my arm, and of course I wanted to bend my arm and move it, which rubbed against it. I had a shower the next morning and I was focusing on avoiding the one on my neck. I accidentally wrapped my towel under my armpit and started rubbing it back and forth on my back to dry off, directly rubbbing on the spot under my arm. It got my attention, that’s for sure. And it was a bit raw. However, when I pulled off the steri-strips, the existing sutures and everything came with it. All that was left was a little raw spot. The surgeon couldn’t even tell where the injury had been at a week, and I can barely feel it after two, even when I’m actively seeking it with my fingers. It’s hard to see in the photos now.
Which means another item ticked off my 50by50 list, even if it is more maintenance work than developmental or experiential. And while I don’t have “film at 11!”, I did try and take some pics to document the change (see below).
Under my arm: