Sorry, Can’t Hear You, I Have A Banana In My Ear

30 May 2007
Well, actually a cancer, but it’s the same principle. And the cancer is now sliced into 10-micron slices and arrayed like purple Proscuitto on slides in my doctor’s office. Now I can’t hear you because my ear is full of at least ten pounds of gauze.

Before anyone freaks, it’s just Basal Cell, about the least scary of the whacky things our cells do when they get bored and decide to try uncontrolled growth as a hobby. The most unpleasant thing about it is the hole the size of a jumbo martini olive in what used to be a very shapely ear. There’s very nice skin graft on it, but if it starts growing hair I’m going to have a tough time mowing it. The doc says that won’t happen, but he seems to have a puckish sense of humor.

This all started when I got back from Maui and started getting serious about having my racing physical. When you become a geezer like me you have to have one every year. While I was at it I decided to see a dermatologist (okay, Diane flogged me into it) and have him look at my vast collection of moles. I’ve been having a spot in the bowl of my ear that bleeds a little, then heals, then bleeds. The dermatologist did a punch biopsy of the site and said it might be nothing, or it might be Basal Cell Carcinoma, but not to freak–the cure rate for Basal Cell is super high.

Incidentally, if you have one of those little spots that bleed, or some white, flaky crusty spots on your nose, chest or back, or a pearly-looking pimple that never goes away, don’t regard it with suspicion for a year like I did. The hole they have to gouge will be smaller if you go see someone right away.

So after I flew home a few days ago for my nephew’s graduation I received the biopsy results. Bingo, Basal Cell. If you’re going to get skin cancer it’s the one to get. The surgeon found me a spot on his calendar for a consultation today, but when he looked at it, found out I had been ignoring it for a year and found out I was headed off to go racing for four months he decided to do the surgery right then. I didn’t even get up off the exam table.

He didn’t want to wait until October when I got back. Good thing–it turned out to be wandering toward the ear canal. That would have been messy.

Had to remove quite a bit more than expected, I probably had it for some time. He grafted in some skin from my neck right behind the ear, so all the pain is in one general area of my head. Not bad, just irritating. I’m supposed to spend the next few days being a couch potato, so I can’t finish cleaning my shop as I planned. I’m about a third done. The place looks like someone ransacked it. Nice to have a medical reason to screw off. I swear Diane thinks I slipped the Doc fifty bucks. That’s just simply wrong, and an insult to the medical ethics of Doctor Pokorny. It was a hundred.

Pretty interesting surgery–he took a circle out about the diameter of a good cigar, right in the cup of my ear. Since he had to excise to bare cartilage and there’s no blood supply in the cartilage to feed the graft, he removed the cartilage under the excision. I should get something cool stuck in there, like maybe a pencil holder or a flashlight. Could be very handy.

The surgical method is called Mohs–they section and microscopically inspect the tissue they remove to ensure they have it all. He had to extend the margin twice. Then after he had the graft in place he was showing Diane the slides and said: “whoa, what’s that?” He spotted a tendril of growth that had escaped him. Back in he went, and cut out another little moon-shaped section, and pronounced it perfect. Had to harvest another chunk of skin to patch the new spot so now I have two graft areas.

This surgery has about a 99 percent cure rate. If he hadn’t been showing off the slides to Diane I might have been one of the one percent-ers. It’s very worthwhile to have a really cute wife.

We’ll check in with the doc on Sunday morning (what a cool guy!), and if everything looks fine, we hop in Diane’s Bentley and head for VIR. I’m racing at the Gold Cup there June 8-10, then it’s off to Watkins Glen. Hope to see you sometime on the tour. But if I don’t respond when you talk to me, I’m not ignoring you, it’s probably just a banana.

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