Susan's nose cancer operation

Update 12 March - Susan just said this in an email: "I am so grateful to the people who have contributed. I didn't think any one would see me... am afraid of people seeing me actually. People are so kind... I am just so grateful."

My friend Susan has a lump growing on her nose which needs immediate surgery.  Because it is growing, every day of delay means  that the surgery will be more drastic with more potential for scarring or disfigurement.

I asked Susan for an update and she said "no surgery yet, that is the problem. I am on a 3 month waiting list which started on Feb 20. In the meantime the lump is just getting bigger which means the hole they have to cut out of my nose will be bigger and the flap that has to cover it will have to be bigger. I feel helpless. The surgeon said with a smile that he would take care of me, and if I had $3,500 I could have had it done by now but because I don't, I have to wait."

Susan says "every day I have to control the utter dread and panic that my body goes into. My brain tries to control it by saying consoling things but my body just wants to panic."

I asked Susan to tell her story in more detail and she wrote the below:

Due to so many errors and delays the skin cancer on my nose has gone from being a pimple to turning into major surgery that requires a graft. I do not know yet how much of my nose they will have to take.

Initially the growth I had was very small. It looked like a pimple. The first doctor I went to about it was supposed to freeze it off, however, he missed it completely. I phase out and miss periods of my life due to Complex PTSD (* please read the below #metoo) so I didn’t realise that fact until sometime later.

During this period I was disassociating and having a hard time staying in touch with my body and surroundings. I didn’t look in the mirror much, however, one day I noticed that the growth was still there and much bigger now. I went to a different doctor and he said it was likely to be a mole growth as I had some others on my face. He was a doctor. I thought he knew what he was talking about but it kept getting bigger.

So I made an appointment with a GP who specialised in skin cancer. He took a biopsy and confirmed that it was skin cancer. He said he could take it off using minor surgery, however, I had to wait 5 weeks due to his Christmas holidays. He described a procedure where they had to take a big chunk out of my nose, pack the hole and send the chunk for biopsy. Wait 3 days to make sure they had it all and then graft a patch of skin from behind my ear over the hole with about 30 plus stitches. This was to be done under local in their offices.

At the time I told him I had CPTSD and I would find this hard to do, however, he still said come back. I went back 5 weeks later for the procedure. During the prep I jumped a few times during the examination. I can’t help it. I startle very easily. It is part of the CPTSD. He then told me how delicate the operation was and the risk would be too high to do it under local anesthetic as I was so jumpy. He sent me away to make an appointment with a general surgeon.

Due to CPTSD I had already spent the 5 weeks prior in an agony of panic. Each day took every resource I had to try to stay calm. My nose was hurting a lot but I didn’t know if I was imagining it or not due to CPTSD.

I had to wait 3 more weeks to see the surgeon. I was holding on to my sanity by my fingernails (as I still am). He said the pain I was feeling was real. He said to fix it is major surgery. He said that it was likely to be much bigger underneath. He said that the cancer would continue to grow while I wait for an operation. The longer it takes to get surgery the bigger the hole will be and the bigger the flap they will need to use to graft it.

With great concern he told me he would take care of me, I would be a priority. I thought “Oh my god… it will be over soon”, the horrible panic and emotional agony would be over soon.

HOWEVER then he said if I had the money ($3,500) I could get it done in 2 weeks, if not I have to wait 3 months.

And so here I am… sitting… waiting… for each tick of the clock. Knowing the cancer is getting bigger and bigger. Trying to get through every day. Each day seems to last a week. I have nightmares every night.  Tears run down my face and I don’t even realise I am crying. I feel helpless and terrified all the time.


* Due to many years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse I suffered as a child (#metoo), a bit over a year ago I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. For most of my life I had been diagnosed with major depression, however, the remedies didn’t help much. Antidepressants didn’t help and as they were using talk therapy treatments for depression it didn’t help much either. 

The last psychologist I went to heard my story and asked me to write down all I could remember from when I was born to 10 years old. At home I started to write down so many horrors. It was early hours of the morning and in desperation I called Life Line. As I wasn’t in immediate danger of killing myself the lady suggested I call 1800RESPECT as this sounded like trauma to her. I talked to the wonderful people at 1800RESPECT for two hours as they told me things that I had never heard before. All the debilitating symptoms I had were trauma related, all the things I had berated myself for, all the things that had ruined the normal progression of my life.

Thank God for the lady at Life Line and all the wonderful people I talked to at 1800RESPECT. I was diagnosed with CPTSD and have been seeing a “Trauma Informed” social worker for nearly a year through Community Health. I had always felt like I didn’t belong in the world. I felt isolated and different to everyone else. Now I know the reasons why.

If you have experienced trauma please find a “Trauma Informed” counsellor. It could change your life.
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Carol Walczak 
Wonboyn NSW
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