Notes from Jan

Let’s Face It

March 8, 2024

Actually, I don’t want to face it. Which, in this case, is me. Well, I don’t mean to sound grim, like it’s over and turn maudlin. There’s enough of that going around. It’s just that, for now, I’m avoiding all mirrors.

Well, to clarify, the eye surgery wasn’t about cataracts or eyes, for that matter. A routine check-up and biopsy revealed skin cancer near my left tear duct. Don’t ask me how it got there. I assume it came from years of living life without sunblock in the sunny South. Growing older has its surprises. But it helps to hunt the humor, and to avoid the temptation to give up on life or whatever the current challenge happens to be.

Because it was near my eye and I love to read, I was a little apprehensive, shall we say. Then, I made the mistake of reading all the disclaimers based on what could go wrong. Finally, the time came to “please sign here”. Which, if I read correctly, meant no one was responsible for anything.

Well, you needed to be there to appreciate the setting. They converted a series of buildings into offices, restaurants, medical centers and banks from what was formerly a massive shoe factory in Beverly. It’s like entering a maze.

After the first operation to remove the cancer, I went from building 900 to building 300 for reconstructive surgery. I assumed wrongly that I’d be wheeled over. Nope. A young fast-walking aide led me up ramps and down corridors to an elevator marked: “OUT OF SERVICE.”

While I caught my breath, she looked stymied. Someone came along, saw her puzzled look and said, “Oh, that hasn’t worked for awhile.” By now, I wondered, “Am I on Candid Camera or Mash?” Remember those shows? After what seemed like minutes, the aide said,” Well, I guess we just need to go back to where we came from.” Now, there’s an idea.

So we hoofed it down ramps, around corners and threaded our way through long corridors until we came to a working elevator. It was the one I used when I came for surgery a few hours earlier. Meanwhile, I’m looking like someone who got punched in the face. I also needed a nap, as well as something to eat and drink. You know, no food or drink for HOURS before surgery. Well, still running on empty.

Finally, we landed at another surgical out-patient center, in Building 300, which resembled hospital areas I’ve seen, although underground. I won’t go into details except to say I looked forward to meeting the anesthesiologist. Why? Well, I misunderstood a question on the pre-op forms. It asked if I needed to be “pre-medicated before the procedure?” What?! Did they expect me to grin and bear it? For sure, after hiking up and down that shoe factory, I was starting to think I might just fall asleep.

But after asking what they meant by the question, which only allowed a YES of NO, the receptionist said it referred to taking antibiotics ahead of time. Good to know. Maybe they need to edit the form and leave room for a short essay on fear. Really. Wouldn’t you want something to take the edge off, so to speak? I’m brave-ish but not super brave.

So, here I am, back to writing a blog with one wide eye and the other half-closed. My glasses teeter on the end of my nose to avoid contact with the graft site. It’s been an adventure. Yesterday they removed the bandages and the surgeon took one look at me and said : “Perfect!” Then he handed me a mirror. That was not the word that came to mind.

Well, that takes me back to the post I sent before the surgery. You know the one about giving up on giving up for Lent. There’s so much more to each of us than meets the eye. it’s a good gift to avoid making superficial judgments and giving up on each other, ourselves or some situation. We are beloved by God, who sees us, AS IS, through the lens of Grace.

And so it’s good to be home. Life is good. But I’m especially grateful for an anesthesiologist named Paul who didn’t ask me to vote YES or NO. He just took the edge off, while the surgeon made me “perfect.” But to be safe, I plan to avoid mirrors, until “perfect” catches up with what I saw with one good eye and the other swollen shut.


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  • Reply Valerie mccoy March 8, 2024 at 10:01 pm

    You’re my hero, Jan!!

    And you know what? A.N.Y.T.I.M.E. you must endure a traumatic event like that, I am here……to assist, to drive, to hug, to encourage, to sing,…or best of all, to go for icecream!! Truly! Don’t go alone, there’s tons of us who can hang with you while telling mindless jokes to keep your spirits up.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 8, 2024 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks, dear Valerie! Just seeing your name makes me smile. I’ll add you to the list of fun people to make me laugh while going through a maze or something less traumatic. Chad took me there and home. Stayed with me at the house for 24 hours to make sure I was OK. And he’s one to keep me seeing the funny side of life, It’s just that once you’re checked-in, you’re in the hands of the medical staff. or a fast-walking young aide. Thanks for your caring heart.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe March 9, 2024 at 3:34 am

    Jan, thank you for explaining further about your procedure. As a 3 x skin cancer patient, I blame our Norwegian heritage more than the sunny South. My former dermatologist and MOHS expert in Illinois commented cheerfully that Scandinavians were her best patients. I don’t think she meant that in terms of quality but rather quantity! All those blue-eyed, fair-skinned people. I’m glad you always hunt the humor in a situation, as you help us do the same. Sending much love from the Homeland!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 9, 2024 at 11:04 am

      Yes, you’re right, dear Maggie.. It’s the Scandinavian gene, more then the South. And mine was MOHS surgery, also. Pretty amazing stuff they do. Thanks for sending love from our Homeland. Stavanger folks must be thrilled to have you and Mike back to bless and be blessed in Norway..

  • Reply Jeri March 9, 2024 at 10:05 am

    Wow! That has certainly been an adventure, Jan! Grateful for good medical professionals along this journey. And I always appreciate your humor and puns, even in the face of challenging health issues. Each day brings surprises, right? Praying for a complete and speedy recovery!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 9, 2024 at 11:15 am

      For sure, dear Jeri, it was an adventure! But,like you said, I’m grateful for a man named MOHS who came up with this type of surgery and for those who trained, and often accumulated great debt, to complete their medical training. I don’t look so great, but I feel good. And it felt good to laugh out loud, now and then, as I wrote this blog .

  • Reply Hilda L Spates March 9, 2024 at 1:14 pm

    I love your wit, wisdom and world view.
    It makes me smile, laugh out loud (which should be done more often) and look ( grateful to see) at the world through a wider lens.
    It also allows those of us who read your blog to pray for you in a specific way…to keep on seeing in order to remind us of the Grace we have been given.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 9, 2024 at 6:36 pm

      Yay! How fun to see you name show up, dear Hilda. I didn’t know you read the blog. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. You encouraged me. And thanks for your prayers and all you do for Community Bible Study on the Northshore of Boston.

  • Reply Russell K Bishop March 9, 2024 at 6:45 pm

    Jan Carlberg’s excellent adventure. I’m sure your beauty is intact!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 9, 2024 at 8:43 pm

      You must be a man o great faith.! But thank you for the encouragement, dear Russ. Next time our group gathers, I’ll be watching for your reaction. If you avoid eye contact, I’ll know that “perfection” still has a long way to go.

  • Reply Wendy March 10, 2024 at 4:11 pm

    Oh my goodness! That’s horrible! So good of you to find the humor in it – I think I would have been… well, not so good natured! 🙂 Hoping and praying your eye heals to 100% without any complications. <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 10, 2024 at 6:39 pm

      Well, I’m mending. I went to church today and startled some folks. Guess I needed to wear a sign that said,, “No, I didn’t fall down.” But it was so good to be at Church. Thanks for your prayers and good wishes, dear Wendy. For sure, I feel much better than I look.

      • Reply Wendy March 11, 2024 at 6:31 am


  • Reply Carolyn Sylvester March 11, 2024 at 10:47 am

    Praying for comfort, Jan, as you recover. Maybe you’re already back to “perfect” by now. God bless you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 11, 2024 at 11:10 am

      Not “perfect” yet but making progress. Thanks for your prayers, dear Carolyn. Compared to a world of suffering, my “adventure” in a maze isn’t really worth mentioning. I wrote more to laugh at the “adventure” and help others do so, perhaps, as they navigate their own long walks. The prayers and encouragement from so many have been unexpected, undeserved gifts of God’s grace through people like you. Thanks so much. When your name shows up, i’m reminded of years of JOY Bible study at Grace Chapel Does my heart good!

  • Reply patrick mccary March 11, 2024 at 1:16 pm

    Jan, You are a very gifted writer! I love your humor. Keep those blogs coming!!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 11, 2024 at 6:50 pm

      And you do my heart good, Pat, when you or your name shows up. You’re one of the funniest people I know, so it means a lot to think something I wrote made you smile, laugh or ,at least, smirk. Loved our years together at Michigan State U. and grateful for our friendship in the years since then. Hugs to you and Diane.

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