Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's That On Your Nose?!

(How to conceal stupidity and other life altering troubles)

Lately, I’ve been walking around my house like an interloper.  I’m in hiding, irrationally, and too late.  The thing I’m hiding from will not go away and up until recently I have actually been awaiting it’s arrival with great expectation and anticipation as I do each year.  These feelings came on me heavily about three weeks ago.  Starting with a cold, a long drawn out one, with a fair amount of nose blowing.  All of that blowing and wiping, flared up and reddened the small, almost indistinguishable, scrape, or minor abrasion on the tip of my nose.  The one that has been lingering for over a year.  Never quite healing, sometimes slightly inflamed, occasionally just about, sealed, but not quite.

Last summer I went south.  Deep south.  Geographically and emotionally.  I needed to travel far away and deep within myself to gain back a sense of who I am and who I had buried deep within.  I was also carrying around with me some deep, cellular knowledge that I was harboring a modicum of mutant cellular growth.  Irish voodoo.  The “knowing”.  That gut feeling that tells you what’s what but you choose to ignore because, well Irish voodoo, intuition, also let’s you know you can’t really do much about the lot in life that you’ve been allotted.  I was worshiping the sun and simultaneously cursing myself for not wearing sunscreen, enough, regularly, or even slightly more often than three times a summer.  Maybe I should have been allotting time to see a dermatologist, oncologist, and a plastic surgeon instead. 

As I traveled to beaches along the coast of 7 southern states, I behaved recklessly.  Baring my soul and my breasts and soaking up that sun, as though I could somehow face my skin and curse the sun in one fell swoop.   It felt decadent and reckless and devil may care sometimes.  Bad. In that wild, sexy way that bad can be. It felt like a part of me that had been long buried and tamped down, out of commission and ambivalently afraid.  It felt freeing and spirited and I felt defiant, and sad at the knowing.  But I had done sad up pretty good, so I pushed that aside as much as I could. 

I was never so big on sunscreen, because well, I wasn’t really just laying out in the sun trying to dare it into radiation poisoning.  I usually did wear it when I was formally in the sun as opposed to casually out in it from 6 am until 11 or 12 most sunny days in spring and summer, working in a garden that I loved deeply, playing with children that I loved deeply, hiking in the mountains that I loved deeply or walking along the beaches that I loved deeply.  Cancer on my face?  Not feeling the love so deeply. Sad to think it could have been prevented somewhat.

Two weeks ago, I finally spoke up during my regularly scheduled doctor’s visit. When he hadn't noticed it before, I tried to convince myself, it wasn't really cancer.  This time he saw right away and spoke the words I had already known.  Basal Cell Carcinoma.  Of course he couldn’t  really say it with certainty so he sent me to the dermatologist.  So off I went. Where I had the full body skin scan.  It sounds a little like some jazz doo wop song.  Flim Flam.  And she saw it right away too, even though she stopped to say, “I usually start at the bottom and work my way up, ending with the face, but that looks like….” she said it too, “Basal Cell Carcinoma”.  But of course, she couldn’t really know for sure, which is why she needed to do a biopsy and the open wound that won’t heal, had to be shaved, and become a larger open wound that won’t heal.  So she cuts my nose to spite my face or maybe she cuts my nose to save my life. And so then she needed to burn it and I had to smell the burning skin of my once healed nose.  And this is when your once clear head goes elsewhere because it can’t really grasp that your nose is being burned and your skin is smelling burnt and there is cancer growing and living and killing cells in your nose and maybe elsewhere.  Like on your shoulder, so that thing gets shaved off too and thrown in a special jar and whisked away to some special lab.  But you never really liked feeling special, you’re more into behind the scenes and low key.  It’s your special day anyway so you go along with it. 

For now you stay calm because two doctors say Basal Cell Carcinoma.  It’s only Basal Cell Carcinoma and it isn’t that big a deal, you tell yourself, but the Irish voodoo is doing a jig and getting all hyped up (you know how those little green gingers can be).  And you will survive and you will get through it and all the videos and images that you have googled and binged and yahooed will scare you out of your mind.  So then you will look for alternative ways to cure cancer to avoid the 100 plus stitches that are on the googled images and testimonials.  Where on earth will they fit 100 stitches even if you have a liberal amount of nose space?   A liberal amount of nose space that you are quite fond of.  My mind starts to wonder as it does.  And what else can you do while you await the biopsy results?  So I stop and think about noses.  I really like a good strong nose.  Think Liam Neeson, or too dreamy Adrien Brody.  Now there's an Irish nose!  A good solid nose is right up there with a good solid handshake in my view.  This is when I know I might want to figure out how to keep my nose intact.  

The alternative remedies include eggplant extract, iodine, baking soda with maple syrup and howling at the moon.  Which is where I messed up because I howled at myself while flaunting my self at the sun.  I got close to hitting the 1 click purchase of the eggplant treatment better known as black salve.  Or maybe black salve is made from sheep hooves and bloodroot? I read about how it cured and sealed and left no scar tissue.  I also read testimonials from people that shared things like this, “ the burning, debilitating pain lets you know the salve, or orange oil, or acid is rooting out the cancer and killing it”.  I suppose I haven’t tried to pour acid or eggplant extract on my non-cancerous skin, but I think if something’s causing debilitating pain and burning, it might be related to the fact that it has a a toxic impact on your skin, with or with out cancer.  Sloan Kettering seems to believe black salve could cause disfigurement.  I’m not sure if disfigurement cures cancer, but what do I know?  I suppose what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I am certain that burning my nose did not heal my cancer, and it made my minor abrasion more noticeable and myself more self-conscious.  Forget the maple syrup and eggplant baba ganoush, a nice chick pea paste would probably make a better concealer…

Tuesday morning before work, I decide to go for a run.  Cause life is still going on.   The big thing in the sky that I have been hiding from, couldn’t hurt me at 5:15 I reasoned.  My quirky little village was asleep, but for a few commuters slumbering toward the train.  I was slightly worried about them.  I approached with such speed and joy as I ran to the trellis stairs to enhance my work out, and shake off a long winter’s ass growth that I might actually need for the skin graft.   I was afraid I would collide with such force.   I was glad not to know any of them.   I was glad for my run.  Glad for the beautiful sunrise and the stillness of the Hudson River at daybreak.   A very good start to my day.  When I get to work, I’m trying not to think about not hearing about my results on Monday.  Which means I won’t know until Wednesday or Thursday, which suddenly seems like each minute is slowly moving forward but I am now moving quickly from my hyped up rubber-legged morning run buzz.  This ought to be interesting….I think.  The day will be interesting.

Irish voodoo, the knowing, I’m certain the day will be interesting and then… just like that! It is! ..the visit comes.  Uninvoked, or invited….She arrives at my door, and comes close.  Too close.  “What’s that thing on your nose?” This person asks as though I owe her an explanation, as though it is somehow interfering with her life.  I’m thinking she should know, she’s close enough to bite the damn thing off and cure me instantly.   I’m slightly stunned, but quick on my feet or with my tongue anyway.  “Welllllll, umm, probably skin cancer.”  I say this in a minor tone thinking it will at least communicate that she came too close, physically and verbally.  My private space, that bubble or wall that I have been building and carrying for far too long was intruded upon, and knocking it down on her behalf,  didn’t even slow her down.   She replied, “Well, everyone has their share of problems”, as though I was somehow intrusive and sharing them with her.  The incongruity of this little interaction seemed to move years of not quite right into  absolute clarity.  Because suddenly I'm off the hook.  I'm not so incongruent after-all.  This new wisdom helped me feel about 30 pounds lighter, in focus, and suddenly as though I could get through a bit more, since, well that seems to be the plan anyway.   

I don’t need to be intensely private it turns out, that might be my lesson, but Rumplestiltskin! I miss the long ago days when people knew about boundaries, and social graces were somewhat important.  I don’t think we have to whisper the “c” word,
shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh cancer

Since I'm trying to hide from the sun, and people from my cancer, I get my concealer out.  It turns out concealer doesn’t work so well on hiding shhhhhhhhh  cancer.  Try as you might.   I guess if skin can’t regrow on top of it, why would I expect concealer to be able to mask it?  I didn’t read the fine print on my cover stick or the liquid concealer with two applicator tips, but I think it did promise to cover and hide.  I don’t generally feel the need to conceal much lately and I don’t particularly like being in this position right now.  Not that I can think of a more convenient time to conceal cancer.  I have spent a fair amount of time concealing all sorts of unsightly troubles, I was kind of thinking I was done with this particular lesson that was put before me.  I guess I have more work here too. Being zealously private hasn’t really served me well, I thought that was my lesson.   The gaping wound right on the tip of my nose?  I wouldn’t mind covering that up. 

The lesson from being isolated and private helps me to realize it’s not healthy feeling so secluded and secretive about all of my woes.  I want friends to know enough to support me and help carry me through. I wouldn’t mind if a few gazillion or so other people would keep to themselves.   Working in a school  and living in a small town, it seems everyone knows your business. (whether it's personally posted in said blog, or not.) I wouldn't mind if my colleagues and students remembered or were raised on the commercials of days gone by.  Remember, “Does she, or doesn’t she?”   Way back in a time when it was scandalous to discuss whether or not someone was covering their grays, or not a true blonde, brunette or "ginger"?  

My students announce my occasional hair color change as though I had just walked in with a hickey,  the scent of his* aftershave, musk and funk, and yesterdays dress on.  "Look! She colored her hair!" Scorn.  (Where did I leave that damn red letter arm band?  Oh probably at his house with my panties no doubt.)  Sadly, however, it wasn’t a student that shouted about my nose.  And even though that’s the least of my worries, it lightens my mood even more than my run. Because I have an odd sense of humor.  Because I can't really believe that someone that I don't know very well, could just walk up and demand to know about my nose and it just makes me laugh, because what else can you do in this situation?

I get the phone call later in the afternoon. I won't have to worry any longer.  It’s confirmed.  I’m an over achiever, even when it comes to cancer.  Basal Cell and Squamous Cell, all mixed in.  Fortunately, it’s the end of the day.  I can take in the news in peace.  I can drive home quietly stunned, in spite of the knowing, the Irish Voodoo certainty, I still don't want to know this.  I don’t know what this will entail. Well, I know it will entail surgery, my nose, and my face.  I have scared baby bejeezus and all the saints alive, out of my mind by watching YouTube videos of cancer surgery.  I have seen legions of zombie faced survivors and their stitched up now cancer free faces.  I have nothing else to do really, but call my family.  Call my friends. I consider not going out although I have plans.  I’m not feeling much like wallowing.  I’m actually somehow feeling a little more appreciative of the abundance in my life that I can now see and feel clearly.  

I go out.  My face, still kissable, gets a kiss.  I am surrounded by love, and happiness, and music.  I am free and spirited and relaxed in a way I have not been in ….maybe ever.  Irish voodoo, devil may care.   Light and smiling.  Lots of laughter.  1 Jameson's, neat.  

I am surrounded by love, and it is a very good place to be.   

*Believe you me, when there is a his house to leave my panties at...several small towns deep might whisper it,  "Did you hear where her panties were?"  "shhhhhhh No!"   "Unnn hmmmm."    .......Dreaming Big.

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