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Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Importance of Sunscreen

"I don't need Doggles, I can just squint"



I finally called earlier this week for my skin biopsy results.  Two biopsies were benign.  One was a basal cell.  I'll have to have it excised in a couple of weeks.  Stitches in my forehead in time for Halloween!  

For those interested...melanoma runs in the family.  I was also one of those fools in the 80s that enjoyed "laying out" with baby oil and tin foil to try and get as much color as possible.  Didn't matter to me if that color happened to be lobster red.  I even hit tanning beds a few times and burned then too.  If you look at a checklist for qualifications for having the potential to get melanoma - I am definitely a poster child.

Soon after the family member was diagnosed, I took myself to the dermatologist for a skin exam.  Full body.  Oh yeah.  Just when you think the lady town exam is bad - well, if you've ever had anyone give you a good looking over with a bright light and magnifying doohickey - you'll think that other exam is a piece of cake and less humiliating.  During that exam, I mentioned a growth on my wrist that had bled off and on for at least a year.  It was biopsied and came back as a basal cell.  I had Moh's surgery for that one - which was less awful than I thought it would be.  Compared to the other people that were in that waiting room with me - mine was a walk in the park.  They had these huge gauze bandages over different parts of their faces!  It was gruesome and I sat there waiting, thanking God I didn't have one on my face.  If you don't know what Moh's is - look it up sometime - or don't.  Probably, don't.  It isn't pretty.  But hey, what surgery is?

I guess after that surgery, I kind of thought it was all over.  That was the extent of my brush with cancer.  And I didn't want another ridiculous bill for another surgery for something so small.  So I delayed going back to the dermatologist for yearly exams.  Plus, after a few years, my derm retired.  And I used that as an excuse for a while.

I really don't spend a lot of time in the sun during the peak hours of 10-4.  I do early morning hikes or late evening ones.  I avoid the sun because well...Arizona.  And I hate having to put on sunscreen.  Although since those 7 years ago with my first basal cell, I did manage to  get burned a few times without even realizing it.  

Fast forward to about a month ago when I was getting my hair trimmed and as I sat in the chair, I looked in the mirror and saw what appeared to be a zit.  I'm sitting there thinking to myself, "That bad boy is going to get popped as soon as I get home."

Well, upon closer inspection at home, I realized it wasn't a zit at all (this was the one time I was actually disappointed I didn't have a zit) - it was a mole!  A new mole.  I did what anyone would do.  I Googled "getting a new mole after 40" and to my surprise, learned that if that happens, and if you have the history I do and the close family member with melanoma - you need to get it checked out.  So I called a recommended dermatologist and to my horror - they didn't have a long wait for appointments!  I was thinking - okay, I will call and they will schedule me for 3 months down the road, no biggie.  But they saw me that very same week.  They actually had an opening the day I called but I couldn't deal with that so I put it off for a few more days.  I really liked her - very down to earth, yet professional as well.  I only pointed out the one new mole but did admit it had been 7 years since my last skin exam so I had to endure another full body exam.  I admit I was a little blind-sided that she did 3 biopsies on me.  I guess I wasn't expecting that - even though I had a feeling that the new mole was going to be trouble.  

And so now, here I am.  With another basal cell.  Not life threatening.  Some people even like to ignore them - but, people, it's still cancer.  And it still grows under the surface even if it looks insignificant on the surface.  So I will have it removed.  And I will start to wear sunscreen.  And stop driving around with my window open and my left arm exposed to the sun.  My chances of getting more basal cells is high.  My chances of getting melanoma also increase.  

I feel more educated now and having a basal cell on my face definitely emphasized the fact that I need to make sure my skin is protected.  I'm sure that having my dermatologist cut into my forehead - a procedure for which I will be awake - will also make me more cautious. 

So, there you have it.  Not life threatening at all.  And I know a lot of people would tell me that of all the cancers to get - basal cell is probably the best one.  As if there is such a thing.  And I agree - to an extent.  But it's still someone cutting into me.  And it probably won't be the last time thanks to my foolish choices in my youth.  And watching someone die from melanoma makes me take this whole basal cell thing more seriously than some might understand.    

Now, I just have to find a sunscreen that doesn't have a smell that makes me gag...   ;)  I wore some the other morning on a short hike with Blueberry and I just about choked on myself the whole way.  

10 comments:

  1. Gah! But at least you caught it early. I used to sun tan like there was no tomorrow. When I went for a skin exam the doctor told me, "Yeah, I can see you enjoyed your time outside."....I am sure I will need a cancer treatment at some point in my future.

    I hope this is your last experience!

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  2. Howdy Mate. Glad you've ok. I think people don't quite realise how serious skin cancer can be. We live in Oz and with our climate, that is not good for melanoma either. Take care and enjoy those early and late walks.
    No worries, and love, Stella (and Carol)

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  3. This was a very important subject to talk about. As a nurse, I've seen the advanced stages of various kinds of skin cancers. I'll spare you the horror stories. Do keep up your diligence and don't forget that sunblock!

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  4. I'm sorry you are going through this, but glad you are sharing. It's definitely scary, but I'm glad you caught it on the early side and can have it treated.

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    1. That’s true. I have read horror stories of people that wait years and then end up having more extensive surgery and need a plastic surgeon after. So staying on top of anything new or suspicious is key.

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  5. Ugh on having to have your forehead operated on. (My father-in-law had Moh's on his face... not fun, although he looks okay, just a slightly lop-sided nose!) But it's good they caught it early. I was the same in my youth... tanning all the time, although I was always pretty good about wearing sunscreen so... fingers crossed. I've never had one of those full-on derm exams. Ugh. Another horror to add to the list. Anyway, I hope all goes well with the removal and that that will be your last time dealing with that!

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