Saturday, February 25, 2012

“Hydrogen Peroxide and Vaseline”

         About four or five years ago, my mother had a growth on her nose. At first, we just thought it was a pimple and hoped it would go away. It changed very slowly at first. Then in a week it almost doubled in size. I scheduled an appointment with Mom’s internist. He took one look at the spot and said, “Basal cell carcinoma.” He feared it had grown too large, taking up part of her left nostril, so he referred us to a plastic surgeon for removal and fixing the hole it would leave.
         We arrived a couple of days later at a plastic surgeon’s office. She took one look at Mom’s nose and said, “I don’t remove these. I just fix the hole that’s left after they’re removed. You need to go to a dermatologist to have it taken off.” She didn’t abandon us, though. She requested that her receptionist schedule an appointment with a group of doctors with whom she often worked, making certain we saw someone later in the day. Mom and I treated ourselves to lunch and headed over to the dermatologists.
         Basal cell carcinoma hits people with blue or green eyes, fair skin, and blonde or red hair. Mom fit the description 100%. She’d also spent years sunbathing without sunscreen. During her teen years, the common practice for tanning was to slather baby oil all over your skin. Mom explained that she didn’t intentionally sunbathe often because she always burned. As a matter of fact, if she stepped onto a beach it seemed like she burned! I remember her nose often being pink from sun exposure when she came in after hanging the clothes.
         Anyway, the dermatologist sliced off the growth for a biopsy, telling us we’d have results in about a week. He was pretty certain he did not get all of the cancer cells, warning that Mom would need another procedure called Mohs surgery. Sure enough, we received notification within a week to schedule another appointment.
         A different dermatologist with the group specialized in this procedure. His laidback attitude relaxed both of us, and he insisted that I could sit and watch him work. Layer by layer, he went deeper into the nostril until the cells came out cancer free. It left a pretty large whole in Mom’s nose, but he simply “stole” some skin from her temple and quickly fashioned a patch. A few stitches later, and she looked almost as good as new.
         The main instructions for her recovery proved simple. Keep a bandage on the spot for three or four days, clean the area with hydrogen peroxide every day and slather Vaseline on the wound to prevent scarring. Of course, it worked beautifully.
         Since that first Basal cell carcinoma removal, we’ve had to go back on two other occasions to have growths removed from Mom’s nose. Her hands and arms get zapped with cryotherapy, freezing off suspicious areas. The other day, the doctor removed another spot on Mom’s nose (the opposite nostril), handed me the Band-Aids and reminded me to get out the hydrogen peroxide and Vaseline. We know the drill.
         Once I got home, I started thinking of how quickly my mother will heal with the simple “clean and slather” combination. Then I started wondering if it would help Bridget’s hot spots. They still plague her after weeks of cone wearing. I’ve tried Benedryl spray and ointment, Neosporin, too. I went to Polly’s Pet Shop and purchased ointments guaranteed to help, but her spots still linger. So on Thursday I started cleaning her skin irritations with hydrogen peroxide and protecting them with a thick layer of Vaseline. Within twenty-four hours, they looked better!
         Again, it turns out that sometimes the simplest proves to be the best. Two household items we always keep in our medicine cabinet, applied daily, will heal both man and beast.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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