I keep trying to think of stories to tell you.
I’m not doing so well, am I? It isn’t the beginning I was hoping for, so let me tell you where I am right now.
I sit at my laptop in my living room with as second-floor view out into forest. My pants feel too tight, but I can hardly blame myself for that too much right now. I’m stuck eating soft foods for a few more days. Do you know how hard it is to eat a healthy diet on a soft food?
I need to step back a few weeks and fill you in.
Last fall, I had to have some skin cancer removed from my forehead. It wasn’t pretty, but my doctor did a beautiful job of keeping me from looking like Frankenstein even though the stitches stretched nearly two inches long. When I was done, my dermatologist said she’d like me to use a topical that would eliminate most of the smaller skin cancers on my face. It would, she said, keep me from having multiple surgeries. Okay. That sounds good.
I figured this thing was going to be like a chemical peel. The first round wasn’t that bad. I looked pretty zitty, but spots I was pretty sure were going to need surgery were clearing up. Cool! Yay Zyclara! When I saw the doctor to evaluate the problem spots, she froze them with a spray and we talked. It turned out that I’d been avoiding lips and eyelids when I should have been using this cream there as well. Okay, I can follow directions and I’m willing to do a lot to avoid another surgery on my face. Lips and eyelids!
I started the second round of the topical before Christmas. Oh, if I’d known, I would have waited until after New Year’s Eve to start. I didn’t know.
The first few days were fine. Christmas was fine, but a couple of days after Christmas, I could feel my lower lip swelling. I looked as though I’d gotten a collagen injection. It hurt, but it looked kind of nice. I had pouty lips. I’ve never had pouty lips before. I walked around all pouty for another day or two.
Then, the swelling increased and I began to look like a bulldog. It hurt more, a lot more, though the flesh looked pretty normal. Then, by New Year’s eve, it started getting oozy.
I should tell you that Mike, Nick and I have pretty quiet New Year’s eve traditions. I love it! We usually play games, watch movies, and eat nachos, pizza rolls, and mozzerella sticks. In fact, Nick and I were hungry when we shopped this year and I ended up with pigs in a blanket, garlic-stuffed olives, pizza rolls, nacho ingredients, taquitos, and mini quiches. We didn’t have to finish all of it, I figured. We could have a little of this and a little of that.
The thing that all of these foods have in common, I realized as I began to eat, was salt! Holy crow that salt stung! I ate anyway, but I enjoyed it a lot less too. I let Mike and Nick play and I just laid on the couch with my mouth hanging open. By New Year’s Day, I sat there with an ice pack on my lips with tears streaming down my face. I went on a schedule of Advil alternating with Tylenol. I could tell when the Advil wore off, when the swelling resumed its stinging. My teeth and ears ached.
Now, this whole time, I kept being surprised that I looked fairly normal in the mirror, bulldog lip aside. How could I look so normal and feel so miserable?
Mike started looking up the side-effects of Zyclara. I called my doctor. Both sources said that the medicine was doing it’s job, but that it would be a little more painful to get through than on normal skin. Bull crap! This was a lot harder. I had this tiny little location of road rash and it felt as though my whole head had lost its skin. I remembered the story a guy told me about how much it hurt when he was in a motorcycle accident and peeled the skin off his back. I have new respect for that pain. I remembered John Hersey’s book ‘Hiroshima’ in which he described the people with their skin peeling off. This is just my lower lip. How could it hurt this bad?
Mike started taking care of things for me, laundry, errands, walking the dog, and meals. Hell, I couldn’t eat anyway. Why would I want to eat?
So now, I’ve lived on cottage cheese, sugar-free pudding, and protein smoothies for four days and I’m learning to stop talking. That’s a hard one.
Now, I’m at a new place in the healing of my lips, the gummy part. My body is desperately trying to grow new skin. Yesterday, I made the mistake of letting the shower wash off more of the goo that collected while I slept. Even the cool air hurt when I took the dog out for a walk. I’d woken up tasting salt, with crusty stuff on my chin and in the corners of my mouth, and with white goo gluing my lips together. Do you remember the scene in the first movie of the Matrix where Neo’s mouth is closing? This felt like that, though it wasn’t nearly as dramatic in the mirror.
It’s strange, isn’t it, how some things feel so big but look so small in the mirror?
Still, my lips are pretty gross. Chunks of dried goo and blood are falling off of them, mostly when I pick at it. I’m trying not to pick, but it’s hard to imagine accidentally eating this stuff. I remember when I was eight and my brother stuck his elbow in my face with an oozy, pussy scab on it and said, “lick it, lick it! I dare you!” Was your brother like that? This feels like that. It’s so gross.
But at least I’m past the point of feeling as though my lip is on fire, at least when I leave the crud where it is collecting. Now, I just try not to think about that oozy pussy sore or it will gag me. It ruins the joy of being on a diet of mostly pudding, too, doesn’t it?
So, I ask you – is that a pretty good reason not to have a good story to tell today? Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have something new for you. In the meantime, don’t think about that melting mozzerella too much, okay?
Thank you for listening, jules