With his surgical light blaring right into my eyes and the magnifying glass pressed up against my nose, my dermatologist declares, “We’re going to need the big guns for this.” Part of me thought of some cheesy adult movie title, but unfortunately that’s not what he meant.
Melanoma is the most virulent type of skin cancer and the type most likely to be fatal. That was news I received in September 2009 and two weeks after the ‘big guns’ incident I was booked for surgery on March 23, 2010. Here’s my story.
Some part of me, no doubt a denied part, thought I was better than the rest of the population that had melanoma and I wouldn’t do the whole ‘cancer’s going to kill me’ drama, but I’d lying if I said I didn’t.
Having six months to prepare for the surgery helped, but under it was this fear that given the time from diagnosis – from a potentially fatal cancer – wouldn’t anyone want to move the date up a bit? As it turned out, no one did and I ended up with the perfect amount of time to be with this.
I had this memory of saying, albeit very politely, “no thank you” to an offer of extra SPF for my nose while living on the island of Maui in 1994. It’s not that I think the sun is my enemy; it’s just that I can see how I ignored my inner wisdom, and the friend handing it to me, when it came to extra protection for my skin.
So as I did ‘my work’, relative to living or dying with cancer, I also opened myself up to the clarity this voice of inner wisdom was constantly providing. I choose to befriend it and become a larger listening to this voice of truth – my truth – not ‘the’ truth.
As a little boy it always seemed like my birthday and Christmas took so long to arrive. What I would have given for that dynamic to hold true in relation to my ‘big guns’ surgery. It arrived quickly and I felt somewhat prepared.
With some support in place for myself post surgery I remember something I did, during a meditation the morning of, which would change the course of my life. I allowed a whisper within me to form these words, “I intend to be free of cancer before I return home today.”
With a yummy lunch all packed, clean underwear and a cheery disposition, off I went to day surgery on March 23, 2010.
I was welcomed into the surgical suite by a bright-eyed nurse and two very capable looking plastic surgeons. “These must be the ‘big guns’,” I thought.
With a deep breath and an open mind, I listened to all the details of what they were about to do. Before silently laughing at an image of Pinocchio, my nose was completely frozen.
It’s always strange being awake for such an invasive procedure like surgery, but here I was and all seemed to be going well.
In no time, the younger of the two plastic surgeons shared that he thought he’d gotten it all, but would send the sample out for testing. I was told they’d taken a bit of a bigger swipe of my nose so they could test the surrounding cells for any other melanoma – that made good sense to me.
After about an hour of waiting, the surgeon announced they had to go back in to take a ‘little’ more because the surrounding cells were not clear of melanoma. “Are you okay with that?” he asked. My thought was ‘who would say no’ so off we went with round two.
Being somewhat familiar with the drill, the second round seemed quicker. This time, packed with gauze, I reclined in the patients’ lounge to enjoy my organic lunch while the next ‘swipe’ of me went off for testing. I must say dining with other day surgery patients does little to whet the appetite.
Once back in the surgical suite, the other surgeon appeared. This didn’t feel good to me. He shared that they needed to go in a third time. I giggled nervously and said, “Is the reason why Keith (the first surgeon) is not telling me this, is that he thinks I’ll be angry at him?” Dr. Cowan quickly replied, “You’d be amazed the number of people who blame us for the additional surgery we sometimes have to do.” I quickly thought “Who’d be so silly to get pissed off at their surgeon, especially while they’re doing surgery?”
With that, I asked him to grab Keith and this is what I shared with my surgical team, “I am 100 per cent responsible for this cancer. I’m not completely sure how I created it, but it’s mine. I made an intention this morning that I’d leave here cancer free, so please do what you need to do.”
They both looked a little stunned. The nurse held onto my hand and gave it a little squeeze – the story I made up about that squeeze was that she was sending me love.
After a third procedure and with a ‘green light’ from the investigative melanoma police, I was treated to some extensive reconstructive work on my nose. The swipes, all three of them, now lead me to choosing between a couple of techniques to close the gash – I chose the nip and tuck. Even Michael Jackson would be envious.
It has been a year. My nose is completely healed, the cancer gone. Both plastic surgeons, each time I saw them, marveled at my healing. They asked how I did it, I smirked and said, “I chose to start at the end.”