The Day My Ear Left Home – Skin Cancer Won

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Skin cancer – in my case Squamas Cel Carcinoma (video included) sometimes we don’t take it serious enough. During my hospital stays at Penn State Hershey Hospital when I had my liver transplant one of my doctors told me there were more people dying of skin cancer in the hospital than any other single reason. It was mostly from melanoma because it gets inside the body and it can’t be successfully treated. They make them comfortable. That is scary.

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I didn’t realize how attached I was to my ear until I knew for sure I wasn’t going to be able to keep it, after all these years. I had no choice. I didn’t really think about my ear all that much over the years except as a place to hang earrings or as a  place to balance the other arm off my glasses. Now What was I going to do?
     I had a surgery in September 2018 and a pie wedge was cut out and my ear sewn together, now smaller but still looking like an ear. A skin cancer had formed on the back side. I’m on transplant medication for a liver transplant and was told skin cancer was very likely due to a suppressed immune system.
     I had other cancers cut out of my forehead and top of my head years earlier, but the cancer grew back on my ear almost immediately. So now they cut off everything but the lobe!! At least I can wear earrings – later.

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     They did two skin grafts to kinda sorta make an ear so I can wear glasses, but trust me, it looks like an animal chewed it off. Now I’m have grieving issues missing my ear that I had not fully appreciated having.
     Now I’ll have to shave the side of my head and have 30 rounds of radiation – but no chemo. THANK GOODNESS!
     So I’ll shave both sides of my head, leaving bare a couple inches around my ear(s) which will leave me with a kind of Mohawk, cut short. I threatened my husband I’d dye is purple or green. It will be short enough to grow back fast. What the heck, will I ever act my age!!

NOT A CHANCE! That is no fun, and why start now?

     So, the moral of the story is: don’t think you don’t need sunscreen!! My son works on boats at a marina. He nixxed sunscreen because sweating and sunscreen don’t mix. But now he says he will change. He has to at least wear clear Zinc on his nose and ears.
     All the other people in the Dr office waiting room had bulbous dressings somewhere on their face just like mine. A man had one covering his nose. Oh dear!

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     Fortunately, I had a old pair of broken glasses. The left arm broke off and it was my left that was cut. They still balance pretty good with one arm, otherwise I didn’t know what I was going to do.
     I was given needles of lidocaine for these surgeries. They are painful, like a succession of bee stings. I can’t imagine a needle numbing my nose. Ouch!! It makes my eyes water just thinking about it. But I get a bunch of needles in my ear and in the skin on my head around the ear and on my chest where they did two skin grafts.
     The other weird think was HEARING the sissors cut through the cartilage, and hearing him sewing the stitches and pulling it through the skin! Fortunately the doctor was young (37) and good looking with a great smile. That at least helped the process.

Skin cancer is no joke. It’s amazing that some people still think they are invincible and bake in the sun or use tanning beds. I did, too, for one year 34 years ago and I got out of the sun a long time ago.
     My generation didn’t know. We used iodine and baby oil to bake ourselves like a chicken in the oven. I don’t think the word “ultraviolet rays” even existed in the 60’s and 70’s.
     I’m going to put a photo here to drive the point home to those of you who don’t use sunscreen and think you’ll be just fine, but I’ll use a healed one from the first stage of this cancer surgery. It was in two steps.

Step 1.  cut off the ear and cover with a skin graft taken from my chest. 

Step 2.  use the skin graft to sorta make an ear and
do a 2nd skin graft to cover up behind the ear so the new ear won’t stick to the open skin.

One last point. A few years ago a good friend of mine died because of cancer most likely caused the same way mine was. She had a kidney transplant umpteen years earlier and had been fighting cancer for quite a few years. She lost the battle. She was on the same anti- rejection medication I am on for my liver transplant. I’ve had one medical crisis after another, but I’m not done yet. I have a lot of living to do!

12 Comments

  1. I guess a Spock ear would have cost a lot ? In answer : we lived in the Sudan for years until the worries about my education drove us to England ( I’ve never been sure why) when I was 7 and it is entirely within the tropics but mostly desert . We spent summers in Spain mostly with some other travelling in Europe . I remember visiting Greece inc. Crete and Egypt – all for the antiquities . We didn’t live in SA because my mother was Asian and my father white . It isn’t as romantic as it sounds ! Anyway it would have been difficult for both of them (separately) because of their political involvements . So now I’m stuck in Brexit Britain with the rotten weather…….

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    1. It sounds like you have had quite a life! I’ve never been in any of those places. I had a great childhood and good food summers but it was traveling to places mostly between Maine and Florida. I can’t complain. Then after having children traveling abroad is impossible, but as a working musician they spent quite a bit of time traveling to gigs which was detrimental to their education!

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  2. Hey Sonni, so sorry this is all happening to you. Your sense of humor shines through, especially in the title. Good luck with the treatments and thanks for who you are.

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    1. I would be sunk if I didn’t learn to laugh at some of the stuff I’ve been through. I’d be depressed! I didn’t show the photo of my new ear because it needs to heal. It looks like a dog chewed on it. But it is tiny, really tiny. I asked for a Dr Spock ear but he wouldn’t do it. It’s made from skin grafts, no cartilage. I just hope it doesn’t come back again.

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      1. My husband had basal cell surgery on ear and nose (with a Mohs procedure with a not-very-satisfactory visual result). Then he got a melanoma and skin graft on his bald forehead. The graft, taken from the never-seen-the-light-of-day side of his belly, is about the size of coffee cup bottom and white against his ruddy face, looking like a piece of provolone slapped onto his face.
        We laugh about it and are just relieved that it was stage I in situ, but he is uber-cautious about the sun. I grew up in So. Calif and cooked myself at Newport Beach every summer. So far, no skin cancer but lots of freckles, wrinkles, and age spots. If only we’d known, right? To good health, my friend…

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        1. I had mohs surgery. It is my 4th one. scars on my forehead and the top of my head. That one you can tell except my hair parts funny. The ones o my forehead are noticeable because there is a crevice. this time I had two skin grafts, in the same place but it was stitched together, They took it from my chest, under my color bone. The first one was healing nice into just a line. They opened the same place and took a bigger piece but again stitched it together. I was told the skin graft might be a different color but being in my ear and behind it I can grow my hair and it won’t be seen – but on the top of a bald head? OH my! My son works in the son and has been poo pooing sunblock until now. I think I have him convinced, but right now he thinks he only has to worry in the summer. Not so. The dr was surprised my cancer came back so fast so that is why the radiation is ordered. even that, the oncologist said, is about an 80% cure and with my immune system suppressed I’ll be seeing a dermatologist often. My mom has dealt with many skin cancers – most of them between ages 78-85. every year there are more. she gets them frozen off. When I see young people baking in the sun – they won’t listen, just like those who smoke. There is always time to quit, right?

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  3. Hello, fellow Pottstonian! I also had squamous cell removed from my ear last August. I have spent many years without any skin protection as well. Did the whole Hep C Interferon, Ribavirin, Pegasys combo thing and totally lost my sense of smell. I’m going for a checkup in a couple months since I now have a “history” of skin cancer. Reading this is inspiring! Keep on Rockin’

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    1. Geez, your history sounds like I could have written it.sorry about loss of smell. It is such an important aspect of life and I don’t think we appreciate it. How the hep C? After my transplant I did Harvoni and they said I was curied. I recently had a check up with transplant docs and I think my liver is the best thing in my body. It’s 30 years younger after all!. My body can’t fight off skin cancer. When I first noticed it on my ear I didn’t take it seriously enough. I wasn’t thinking. Thanks for coming to my blog. My other blog, though, is the more important of the two because it has my book on it as I write, and music as I record. So if you get a chance: mynameisjamie.net BTW, Do you still live in the area? And get that sun screen out!

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        1. I left PA in 72. I had no intention of ever moving back, but when I needed my transplant my mom begged me to move home for support. That didn’t turn out well. No one even came to the hospital or called to see if I made it. Great family I have. I want it off here as soon as I can afford it and move permanently back to the Keys instead of only 50% of the time.

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  4. Thank you for this and the photographs – I hadn’t thought about what ear surgery might mean ! I also wear glasses . As to the dangers of the sun , I am reminded yet again of Noël Coward’s line about only ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ going out in the noonday sun – which song was written when everyone still wore hats . We did know about uv rays in the ’60s but then I was specializing in science at school and my mother was a doctor who had practiced in South Africa which already then (like Australia) had very high rates of skin cancer . As a mixed race family who had lived in the tropics we also weren’t very into sunbathing . Where the sun is very bright and hot local culture was always about cool drinks in the shade – cooking yourself in full glare (and almost naked) was left to the tourists . I’ve also been considering that traditionally in desert climates people cover themselves – they don’t wear less clothing .
    Coco Chanel is credited with starting the fashion for sunbathing in the ’20s – I wonder now how come she never got skin cancer during her long life ?

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    1. Interesting. I’ll have to look into Coco Chanel. I stopped trying to get a tan long ago. Too much effort and it fade fast. At my age now, gone is the smooth colored skin and now getting too many spots. Did you live in South Africa? I much prefer tropical weather. I live half and half between the FL Keys and Pa and unfortunately my Dr’s are in Pa and I’m freezing! I hate winter. My skin is drying up and flaking off!

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