Monthly Archives: June 2013

Letter from my consultant


Friday 28th June

Fantastic news!

This morning I received a letter from my consultant dermatologist, (the one I saw right back at the beginning), who has carried out the two excisions on my lower back. The first time round the results came back inconclusive, so a Wider Local Excision was done, twelve days ago.

“I am writing to confirm that the re-excision of the scar site on your right lower back did not show any residual pigment cells, only scar tissue was identified. Please be reassured by this.”

Yay!! A great relief! An unbelievable weight has been lifted. The dark clouds have dissipated somewhat.

The next step will be the lymph node procedure, to be carried out at Exeter ~ still haven’t heard any news of an appointment, yet.

Thinking lots of positive thoughts, as always.

My stitches were not removed!


Wednesday 26th June

Scheduled for a visit to the practice nurse this morning, I managed to convince her that I wasn’t ready for the stitches to be removed from my lower back. Yay! Since the wider local excision ten days ago, I had been in a fair amount of discomfort: a dull, throbbing, bruised sensation, making it difficult to sit or sleep properly.

I had this awful fear that, because it was a much bigger wound than before, the scar hadn’t knitted together properly, and if the sutures were removed, the whole thing would open up! Silly thoughts I know, but I was really concerned. The nurse, sensing my uncertainty and trepidation, agreed to leave the procedure until Monday; exactly two weeks since the operation. Big sigh of relief!

She commented that my left foot was healing well, despite a small area of raw skin, but it did however, appear to be quite swollen still, but that was to be expected, after two bouts of major surgery. I told her I was trying to take short walks, but on returning home, and later on in the evenings, my toes look like a pack of pork sausages! She said I must continue to elevate my foot whenever possible, and also to massage it, to try and reduce pressure.

Returning from a slow, gentle walk around the town, this afternoon, I sit down in the garden, and my husband turns the hose on, cooling and massaging my aching foot! Perfect hydrotherapy!

A few kind words


Sunday 23rd June

Most Sundays we visit our local supermarket to do the weekly shop.

Having paid and about to move out, a lovely lady who works on the tills made a point of stopping me to wish me well. She said that everyday she sees me I’m looking better and better.

Such kind words, spoken with sincerity, totally unexpected, really have the power to uplift the soul.

My Left Foot goes for a walk (first time in seven weeks!)


Wednesday 19th June

Today I go for a walk, yay!

Having spent the last seven weeks at home, or visiting different hospitals and surgeries, I felt it was about blooming time I had some gentle exercise. My left foot was still rather swollen, so going out for a walk necessitates crutches and a speed akin to a tortoise carrying the weekly shopping.

Despite the slow plodding, it was so refreshing to be outdoors. The sky was a beautiful blue, the colourful boats bobbing on the sea in the harbour were straining at their anchor ropes, and the many, many people walking along the front were engaged in all sorts of activities: eating ice-creams, pushing prams, holding hands, conversing, taking photographs.

I had really missed the normality of everyday life and its simple pleasures.

Back op #2


Monday 17th June

It was way back, on 16th April that I first visited the dermatology department of my local hospital. On that day I had a dodgy looking mole on my right lower back removed under local anaesthetic. The results came back as inconclusive, so erring on the side of caution, the surgeon decided I should have a wider local excision. So here I am: not the most awesome way to start your week, but needs must when the professionals make that decision based upon your best interests.

I was first in at 9am; introduced to two nurses, asked whether I minded a student being present, whether I was taking warfarin and if I had pacemaker. The surgeon then arrived and began to put me at ease. I signed the consent forms, and we were good to go.

Having stripped off and climbed aboard the gurney, I could not see what was happening, but I could certainly feel the many sharp jabs of local anaesthetic, (the surgeon had to inject more halfway through as I could feel a little bit too much for my liking!) I was cut open, the scar tissue and surrounds dug out, deep stitches and surface stitches applied, and finally a  dressing gently positioned over the area.

And breathe . . . . And so to the recovery room for a welcome, wobbly-held, cup of tea.

Had a long chat with the ‘nice’ Macmillan nurse, about my left foot ~ I need to be taking it slow, with little bits of exercise and short walks, to help reduce the swelling, and also massaging in Bio Oil or Vaseline, to break down the fibrous collagen in the wound site (really doesn’t feel pleasant doing that at all!) Then she spoke about the possible sequence of events, going to Exeter for the lymph node biopsy procedure. Not pleasant either, but really is the best, and only course of action to take.

Am now in bed, heart is racing from the anaesthetic and tummy wobbly because it was uncomfortable, but thankful another procedure has been given a tick in the box.

Onwards and upwards towards a steady and comfortable recuperation.

Follow up appointment


Friday 14th June

It is now exactly four weeks since I traveled to Plymouth for the second operation on my foot. Painkillers, dressings, infections, antibiotics, appointments, a scan, compression stockings, crutches, silly foam and Velcro shoe/boot have all been a part of my daily life!

Today I went to see my awesome plastic surgeon consultant at Treliske (he was running over an hour late!), but he still took a considerable amount of time talking to me.

He is really pleased with the way the skin graft is taking on the top of my foot. We discussed all the procedures he had undertaken, and being an 8mm tumour, that means I have Stage 2B melanoma, with a five year survival rate of 70% (good odds, or not?)

For now, I must focus on being as healthy and sunsafe as I can. The recouperation process from two lots of major surgery is still ongoing, taking in physical, mental and emotional recovery.

He is referring me on to his friend/colleague at Exeter for Sentinel lymph node biopsy. (“He’s a good bloke!”) and we talked about what might happen. I’ve a feeling the letter may come through pretty soon, as he dictated the request there and then. He really wants to push me to the front of the queue, bypassing time consuming paper-work.

Also during the consultation he spoke of my talking with an oncologist, but was wary of too many specialists each having their own take on the situation, and advising one course of action without communication with the rest of the team! He told me quite vehemently that I am his patient, and he makes the decisions! (I believe he was making reference to the original Macmillan nurse who gave me conflicting, confusing and wrong information: he seems very possessive about his patients.)

We also talked about our proposed summer holiday, and whether it was likely that we could actually go, bearing in mind his request for SLNB for me. He said if the appointment came through for late July/August then I would be a fool not to accept it. I can always book another holiday, but my health and enjoyment of my life comes first.

I left the hospital feeling quite upbeat; lots of information to take in and process, but I know I am being given the best possible care, and that I am truly being so well looked after.

My GP called


Wednesday 12th June

Lying in bed, on a dreary, grey June afternoon, I am roused from a nap by the telephone ringing. It is my doctor whom I originally saw back at Easter time, about my foot.

He wanted a quick catch-up, as he had been absent from the surgery for a while. He understood that I had been through a lot since he last saw me (understatement!!!), and wanted to know how I was doing. As he had the scan results infront of him, he was so pleased that they had come back clear. We talked of my upcoming appointments and surgery, the infections and antibiotics, and also of the lymph node biopsy procedure. He would try to see me tomorrow, when I go to have the wound dressed. He was also concerned that I wasn’t at work, standing up, teaching all day, and would write me out my fourth sick note, for collection tomorrow.

It was great to speak with him, knowing he had taken time out to enquire about my health and well-being. A super caring and concerned GP: so lucky to have him as my doctor.

The Results


Monday 10th June

The CT Scan results have come back clear. The melanoma has not spread to other body organs.

The big black cloud that has been hanging over me for months has now turned into a fluffy little white cloud.

Not totally out of the woods, as it looks likely I will have the Sentinel lymph node biopsy at Exeter at some stage ~ will know more on Friday when I see the consultant who will refer me. I’ll also have check ups every 3 months. BUT this episode has now passed, and I am so relieved.

Husband and I went to the appointment with hearts beating overtime, pulses racing, and tummy doing flip-flops. We also cried when we went in. Scared, not knowing what to expect, I somehow assumed the worst. All I could think of was the accepted thickness indicator, the fact that my melanoma measured 6mm, and a prognosis of survival being 37 – 50% for staying alive for the next 3 – 5 years. Not good odds at all. Having been told that the scan came back clear was the greatest feeling in the world. The massively heavy weight bearing down on my shoulders had been lifted. I was being given a second chance. Having arrived crying, we also left the appointment in tears; but these were tears of relief, of happiness, of joy.

Son was so happy and elated, too: the best news ever. His partner texted the following:

We are both so relieved. Just get the biopsy done and dusted, for peace of mind, then you can totally move on feeling blessed. Make sure you do learn from this awful experience though. It was a gift so you could fully realise you need to actually start enjoying your lives together now. We’re here for a good time, not a long time. Love you very muchly xxxx

Such lovely, tender, thoughtful words.

I still keep my leg elevated, and have it dressed twice a week. I have further appointments coming up. I will not be going back to work soon, and certainly will not be spending a week on the beach with a group of students, learning to surf.

I need to fully recover, to get back to feeling ‘normal’, before going back in the classroom. The nurse told me today that there is no point returning too soon, and undoing all of the healing process.

I feel so amazingly well looked after. Today’s consultant has rearranged her theatre list, and will do the wider excision on my back on Monday, 9am, just because I said I would prefer her to carry out the procedure and no-one else

Positive, positive, positive all the way.

A truly amazing end to the day.


Friday at the Surgery


Friday 7th June

Just returned from the surgery for my twice weekly dressing. Another infection. More antibiotics. Yah boo sucks.

On Monday I have been called to the hospital to see the original consultant who ‘did’ my back, and referred me on, for my foot.

I believe she is going to talk me through the CT scan results. It’s make or break time.

Positive, positive, positive thoughts. Crossing everything.

CT Scan


Wednesday 5th June

Computer Tomography

The scan was a bit unnerving, uncomfortable, and am now full of dye.

Two separate scans: one upper body, first without dye, then stuff goes in through your arm, which is bent above your head, then back and forth again, through the ‘doughnut’ wheel, holding breath, and keeping perfectly still. Second scan, jump up, change position, and put head in a helmet like contraption, close eyes and don’t move. The whole thing took about 30 minutes. All I could think about was what they were going to find.

I did feel a bit wobbly when I came out, so had a cappuccino and flapjack at the little coffee shop at the entrance.