"Ooh - that's gonna leave a hell of a scar, haha..."
Nope, didn't sound funny to me either.
But that was very much the tone back in May, when I went to have a rash-like patch of skin on my left shoulder examined by a Dermatologist in the Mater Hospital, Dublin.
I'd had the thing for a while, and thought it nothing more or less than an irritation caused by carrying a backpack over that shoulder, but it wasn't going away and the E45 wasn't helping, so it was off to see the wizard, and my GP sent me for a consultation.
While he was of the opinion it was a basal cell cancer formation, he wanted to be certain, so that was good enough for me.
On the day of the exam I was ushered into a small room by a young doctor who introduced herself as Karen. She took some details and then handed me a paper gown and said I could undress behind the screen.
"What, everything?" I asked, alarmed.
Karen explained that she had to do a surface check for any other signs of the condition. Happily, I was allowed to retain my boxers and a shred of dignity, but you didn't need to know that.
Satisfied there was nothing else of concern, I was allowed put some of my clothes back on while she reported to her department head, who confirmed what my GP had suspected and dropped the opening quote.
Having explained what would be happening (the word 'excision' featuring prominently in the description), I was given an appointment to return on Thursday, June 27th, which I did.
I'd never had a day procedure like this before, but I was surprisingly untroubled by the whole thing - after all, it was just going to be something more or less cosmetic, right?
Accompanied by my Dad, I sat and listened as a doctor explained the procedure and made certain I understood exactly what was going to take place before having me sign a consent form. I must confess to not having read it, since I was becoming more apprehensive the more I learned, but simply signed on the line as directed, before following a nurse to theatre.
I had a short wait in an anteroom while the theatre was prepared, then was ushered in and invited to sit on the table, then recline on my right side. The only person I recognised was Karen, but the doctor who had confirmed her diagnosis was also there, gloved and masked, so I can be forgiven on that count. Two nurses and the consultant who would be performing the procedure were also in attendance, and the whole thing seemed very informal.
Some music played softly in the background, and we got underway with the administration of local anaesthetic.
As we waited for it to take effect, the surgeon asked,
"Have you ever seen the show, "Breaking Bad"?
I never thought I'd laugh on an operating table, but I did then.
He raised an eyebrow. "What's up?"
"You're Number Eight," I told him, then explained, "the eighth unrelated person to ask me that and then tell me that I look like Hank."
He laughed, then explained to the theatre staff what the show was and who the characters were. I confessed that I had yet to see any of the show, but that maybe now that it was on Netflix and I'd have some time on my hands I could catch up with it.
In the meantime, someone pulled up a picture of the character on the OR's PC, and everyone went "Ahh..."
By now, though, the anaesthetic had kicked in, and it was down to business.
I didn't feel a thing.
The surgeon (I never did get his name) kept conversation going, I think as much for my benefit as anything else. I thought it strange that, mid-way during the procedure, one of the nurses asked me to confirm my name address and date of birth, but I found that this was to make sure I wasn't having a reaction to the anaesthetic.
While I couldn't see what was happening (and didn't really want to) I was nonetheless curious; like when you go to the dentist to have a cavity filled and you can't help but probe the tooth after he's drilled it out, but I couldn't do that.
I was able to hear, rather than feel, what was happening - scissors snipping, forceps forcepping (you tell me what the proper adjective is), swabs swabbing (avast!). And at one point I was warned that
"You might hear a crackling sound and smell smoke - that'll be you." Ha ha ha...
But in no more than 35 minutes, the job was done and I was sewn up, cleaned up and sat up on the table. A bit stiff, but still anaesthetised - the pain wouldn't begin for a couple of hours, so I was told to get some paracetamol and have them ready.
I was ushered to a wheelchair, my shoulders draped with a blanket, and wheeled back into the waiting area where my dad sat, reading a book I'd given him earlier. After my nurse had left, he came in to the cubicle where I was dressing and we discussed my instructions for the care and feeding of my wound.
- Dressing to be changed every 2-3 days;
- Stitches to come out in 2 weeks;
- No heavy lifting or stretching for up to six weeks; and last but not least,
- No golf for 6 months.
I need to see my GP again to discuss details and get a medical cert for my employer, but outside of that I won't be moving much for the next week or so.
So I guess for the moment it's Netflix and Breaking Bad for me...