“Did I cut you or did you cut me?” I wanted to ask the question but didn't. The surgeon was taking out the cancer on my leg using numbing medicine. He said it wouldn't hurt, but it did. Isn't that what all doctors say just before it hurts?
Monday was a big day for me. My husband and I drove to Baton Rouge to see Dr. Antrodrus, plastic surgeon. He is a uniquely gifted doctor, in the opinion of those who make referrals to him. He specializes in Moh's procedure, a form of surgery that allows cancer to be excised from an area using special precautions. I have used him before and find him fine.
Moh's procedure was developed by the physician Dr. Frederic E. Mohs, and is considered to be a state-of-the-art treatment continuously refined since the 70 years ago it was technically initiated. This particular technique allows the doctor to see beyond the visible portion of the disease in order to identify and remove the entire tumor through each layer while at the same time leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed and intact. It is considered the best method to reduce the chance of re-occurrence of cancer and the potential of scarring. I have had it done a few times on face, ear and side of foot and there is virtually no scarring from any of four surgeries I have had. This one yesterday was the fifth.
After applying topical anesthetic, the doctor used the needle next to numb the spot before cutting. The typical process for Moh's is to surgically remove some of the tissue, test it, and return to the area if needed to remove more if the laboratory results show the cancer still exists. Those who have circulatory problems or diabetes, as I have both, take longer to heal. They might also feel pain more than others. Still the doctor said it wouldn't hurt. But it did.
How often do doctors give messages like that? Likely often, according to the American Pain Foundation. The foundation gives both the patient and physician information about pain and how to communicate it properly. Sometimes patients won't say they have pain when they do, because they don't want to show weakness; but proper communication is key to getting a diagnosis and recognizing when something goes wrong. It is important for both the doctor and patient to converse comfortably about pain, understand and be sensitive to individual differences in how people cope with it.
The doctor's office called today and asked how I am feeling. Hurt, I said. That's enough.