Stress and Healing

DDCBalt | 8:16

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"It felt like somebody had touched the wound and soldered it shut. "

Skin Cancer Healing Surgery Stress Relationships Mind Body Connection

Story Transcript

Hi. I'm Dana. I'm 54. I have had 25 different surgeries for skin cancer. I have had skin cancer since I was 25 years old. This summer, I had a malignant melanoma discovered on my clavicle, and I had it taken off. It was decided to do mohs surgery because it was not a fatty area, and it was easier to do the mohs surgery and check it in. So having had 25 different surgeries, I went in knowing that I wanted to tell my doctor I don't want stitches. When you make a hole and you need to put stitches, you have to make the hole almost twice as long, to shape it like an eyeball, so you don't pinch the edges when you close it up. So, you have your hole that has a certain diameter and then if you're going to stitch it, it has to have a much bigger [hole]. When I talk the doctor into this and they're always a little hesitant, I always have to kind of talk them into it and say, "I know my body. I'm not gonna fall off your system. I'm gonna keep careful watch on it." Nobody likes you to leave their office with a big open wound. I didn't anticipate how big my open wound was going to be, because it took a couple different swipes. So my wound ended up being 54 millimeters by 24 millimetres big on my chest, covered with bandages and packed. And I'm going to take care of this for the next month or so until it closes naturally. And I'm going to put antibiotics on, and I'm gonna keep it covered. I'm going to go on vacation. I'm going to go to Greece where I cannot swim in the water. And I'm not supposed to sweat, because sweat is full of bacteria that will fall into this hole. And anyway, I am taking care of it. And it is slowly closing.

While I'm in Greece, something odd happens that turns out is my retina detaching. So on a Sunday, while I'm traveling from Athens to Nice to see friends, I am talking to various ophthalmologists, and I'm saying, "I feel fine, but I'm seeing these flashes," and they're kind of getting more and more agitated that I'm not going to a hospital, but I'm in transit. I get to Nice and eventually somebody of a doctor nature says,"Hey, you're gonna lose your eye. You have to get to an ophthalmologic emergency room." And I am in Nice. I don't speak any French. I'm actually 100 miles from Nice. So, I leave my kids with my friends this one morning to go into an emergency room, and my kid, one of my kids says, "Hey, is there any chance you might leave and not be here? You might want to take your passport." So I have a backpack and my passport and I head into an emergency room in Nice, where a doctor from United States says, "They're going to tell you x, y and z and they're going to tell you they can fix it right now. Do not let them fix it. You need a retina specialist." So long story short, I end up connecting with a retina specialist in the United States. We all decide that if they discover that my retina is detaching, don't have the surgery in Nice. Come back to United States, get on a plane the next morning and have this in New York. I'm gonna land at JFK at 2:45 and I'm gonna have my surgery, it was just a laser surgery, at 4:00.

So, yes, they confirm my retina is detaching. They do exactly what my doctor said. "We can fix this right now." It's like a 24-year-old somebody or other in a downstairs room, where they tossed some drugs at me and I don't speak French. And I'm thinking, "Oh, thank God I had somebody who told me, 'Don't let them do this'." I go to a hotel where I check in. I'm gonna leave the next morning. I'm going to go to the airport. I'm telling you a lot more details than you need, but you need to get all this in there, because it's kind of funny what stress we've got going on. So I'm leaving and I say to the woman in English, who speaks broken English. "I'm taking this pillow with me," and she says, "You can't take that pillow. It belongs to the hotel." And I said,"No. I'm telling you that I'm taking this pillow. Would you like to charge me for it?" Because I need to leave my head laying down so that my retina doesn't continue to detach. "You can't take the pillow." "Yes, I know that. But I'm telling you, I'm gonna walk out with this pillow. You can charge me a 100 euros. I'm taking this pillow with me," back and forth, back and forth. Some maids come in, they discover that maybe they can just charge me for the pillow. I leave with the pillow. I'm in the back of a cab laying down. I'm laying down, waiting for my plane. I get on my plane, I'm laying down. I get to New York. Yes. Everything they said in France is correct. They're gonna do the laser surgery right then and there. It's really easy. And they do the laser surgery, which is not that bad at all. I'm supposed to stay with my eyes closed. No real jostling movements. I've left my children with friends in France. I go to my brother's to recover.

Two days in, the doctor I've been talking to in Baltimore, who helped me through this calls to check on me. "How's it going?" I tell him, "I don't know there's this other weird little shadow I'm not sure of." And he says, "I'd really like you to come to me. I'd like to just if I could examine you. I'd feel so much better." So planes, trains and automobiles. I get into an Uber. The woman has to stop at three places. She has to go to the bathroom. I'm trying to catch a train. Let me say this, this is all July 3rd, right before July 4th weekend. I'm not supposed to run because if I trip, that's the worst thing I could do. But I'm two minutes from my train. I make my train, I get to Baltimore.

This is the real important part of the story. This doctor in Baltimore looks in my eyes. He examines my bad eye. He examines my good eye. He spends a great deal of time talking to me. He looks me in the eye. He hears my story. He asked about my bandage on my neck. We talk about my cancer, everything we're all done. These things, whether they're true or not, they matter, he says, "Your surgery is perfect. It's exactly the way I would have done it. This is how I teach residents to do it. I feel very confident, you are going to have a full recovery. I don't know what the shadow you're seeing is probably part of the scar tissue. I'm so glad I saw you," and he really just says all the most magnificent things, whether he looked in my eye and saw that they had botched it and there's nothing they can fix, he says,"It's perfect. It's perfect." I take my train back up to recover with my brother.

The next morning when I wake up, my cancer surgery has zipped shut. It has healed fully. It was an open wound the day before, and it was ready to be close to closing. But it closed that night, and I was incredulous. I showed my mom. I showed my brother. I took the bandage off. The whole thing has zipped shut. And I swear, it was this doctor in Baltimore taking all that stress off of me, from the eye, from leaving my children, from the travels. When he said, "This is perfect," my body could stop worrying about my retina and my body felt this sense of satisfaction and, you know, things were gonna be okay and my body said, "OK, we're ready. Just shut this other wound up. It's done." and it felt like faith healing. When I looked at that wound the next morning, it felt like somebody had touched it and saw ordered it shut overnight. While I wasn't paying attention, it was absolutely incredulous.And I know that it's related to the the fact that this doctor lifted all that stress and when my body and my mind were together on a relaxing, healing place that had nothing to do with the wound. I wasn't nervous about the wound. I mean, it was a stressful wound. It was much bigger than I expected. It was taking longer to heal than I expected, but it wasn't infected. Everything was going as I suspected, but it wasn't shutting. It shut only when, this other doctor took all that other stress out of my life. It was incredible. I can't describe it enough. How incredible was so That's my mindbody connection story.

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