Many of you have been asking me privately, “How is Erin doing? Is she finished with her surgery for her skin cancer?” You might recall that I wrote about it in my column titled, “Ray of Light” and about how she had been documenting her skin cancer journey on the Instagram page: bccnosejourney.
After posting her photos and her updates on social media she has received many private messages from other’s that are having the same type of MOH surgery and subsequent reconstruction using the Paramedian Forehead Flap technique.
This is how I described the Paramedian flap in my first column: “The reconstructive surgical procedure is called a Paramedian Forehead Flap or PMFF for short. The surgeon harvests a piece of cartilage from the ear and uses it to recreate the stability of the nose. The forehead flap is a fancy-pants surgical technique that means, ‘take some tissue from the forehead and use it for the nose’.” That tissue is then left attached to the eyebrow for 6 weeks to encourage and support the new cartilage to grow.
Erin had that surgery and then another surgery to begin finessing the look of her new and improved nose. She still has the tissue from the forehead flap in place (called a pedicle), which is one of the reasons why this surgery can be so traumatic. Can you imagine being a young woman with this pedicle thing on your face for 2 months? You can’t really cover it up, and it extends from your eyebrow to the tip of your nose so you can’t drive because it obscures your vision; therefore you become very reclusive.
Which is why I felt the need to write about this once again. I wanted to provide an update on her progress and I needed to write about how insensitive and clueless people can be when someone looks “different” than they do.
After 5 weeks of not going anywhere but back and forth to Edmonton for appointments or spending time at her grandparent’s home, Erin decided to join a bunch of us at the movie to see the Melissa McCarthy movie, “The Boss”. She placed a bandage on her face and joined us for a night of fun and laughter. The first time she had been ANYWHERE public.
Standing in line at the movie theatre, waiting for the obligatory popcorn and small beverage from the concession, Erin overhears the people immediately behind her talking about her….and they aren’t whispering. They weren’t children, the were grown adults and the man and woman were speaking in normal voices RIGHT BESIDE HER. You know…the “oh my gawd, what is wrong with her face?” conversation.
Up to that point Erin has not really left the house. She understands getting stares because her reconstruction progress can look alarming, but a grown man and woman discussing her condition as they stood beside her?
FYI people…..she had cartilage taken from her ear for her nose….it didn’t effect her hearing. Much like the boy in the movie, The Sixth Sense, she still can hear “ignorant people”
Now before some of you say that I am being too harsh and that these types of things can be difficult for others and that it is acceptable to point and stare and talk well….. I say NO. I am not being too harsh and the Webster definition of “Ignorance” is: destitute of knowledge or education, lacking knowledge of comprehension of the thing specified and resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence.
On Monday, she is heading back to Edmonton for a big surgery. I am calling it a “big surgery” because it is during that surgery that the surgeon is going to clip the pedicle and it will no longer be attached from eyebrow to nose. She will be able to see clearly for the first time in weeks and will finally begin looking like her old (well…young) self again.
She will be able to play with her baby without worry, she will be able to drive and she will be able to leave her home without stares and whispers.
I write this today as a reminder that being and looking different is not a bad thing. It is not something that we should be afraid of or intimidated by. Acceptance is a virtue that we all can embody.