Dealing with Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Except for our regular appointments with our doctors and dentists, Kate and I have had little reason for medical treatment since her diagnosis. A year ago, Kate’s arthritis in her right knee led us to an orthopedic clinic for a shot of cortisone. She has gotten along well since then although she complained of a little pain a few months ago. More recently, I have asked her on several occasions if she felt any pain. She has always said she didn’t.

Four or five weeks ago, I noticed a small growth at the edge of her upper lip. It had been well over five years since she had seen her dermatologist. I made an appointment, and the doctor performed a biopsy. A week later, I received a call that the she has a squamous cell carcinoma. We arranged an appointment to have it removed. It was scheduled for noon yesterday.

I much preferred an afternoon appointment. That would have been much easier for Kate and for me as well. That’s because I would have to wake her earlier to have lunch before the surgery. Unfortunately, we would have had to postpone the appointment until much later. They didn’t recommend that.

Every time I face getting her up early, I do so with a bit of trepidation. This time there was no problem at all. Although I had to wake her, she got up easily. That enabled us to have a leisurely lunch and arrive at the doctor’s office twenty minutes before noon. I didn’t mention where we were going until lunch. Kate didn’t understand why we needed to see the doctor and quickly forgot. I explained again on the way over, but she never really grasped the problem.

The doctor who was to perform the surgery was not her regular dermatologist. This doctor is a specialist in squamous cell carcinoma. He immediately noticed that it was hard to see the spot where the biopsy had been taken. Her dermatologist had either removed a large portion of it or it had diminished since the biopsy. The specialist summarized five or six options for treatment. They included complete surgical removal, radiation, freezing, and a topical chemical treatment that we could give at home twice a day for three weeks. After a brief discussion, we settled on the chemical treatment. That requires a compounding pharmacist. I took the prescription to the pharmacy, but they said it would be 24 hours before they would have it ready. I’ll pick it up later today.

As you might expect, the whole process was confusing for Kate. I tried to translate the doctor’s explanations, but she never really understood why she was there and that she had almost had surgery. In this situation, I didn’t think that was a bad thing. She didn’t seem annoyed or frustrated by it all. She wanted to understand what the doctor was saying. She just couldn’t.

I had a United Way meeting at 1:30 and had arranged for our sitter to meet us at the dermatologist’s office at 1:00. She arrived a few minutes before that as we were checking out. Perfect timing. This was one of those times it was really nice to have a sitter. She was able to take Kate home while I went to my meeting. Kate mentioned that she was hungry, so they dropped by Panera on the way. That meant she had a second lunch, but it also helped Kate pass the time until I got home later.

The balance of the day went well. At dinner, we ran into three people we know and had nice conversations with them. At home, we watched an Andre Rieu concert from London on YouTube. Kate enjoyed it more than usual. I’m glad to report it was a good day.

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