Ah, dear sun… you were so hot. In my misspent youth, how I burned for your touch. And oh, how I am paying for this as an adult!
Those of you who are blessed with darker complexions will never know the true agony of raw, red, sunburned skin. Or the “cute” freckles that eventually become age spots. Or the ever-present threat of skin cancer lurking below the surface, waiting to pounce years later.
But who thought about this while spending long, sunsoaked days at the beach with my friends during the endless summers of my teens and early twenties?
For decades since, I have been diligent about sunblock, avoiding the sun, and wearing a hat. But I have displeased the sun by my inattention, and now I am being punished. A biopsy here, a patch of squamous carcinoma there (on my wrist a few years ago), and lately a nasty little basal cell uprising on the tip of my nose. On my damn face, for heavens sake — you couldn’t wreak your revenge somewhere else?!?!
Last Monday I trekked to a specialist an hour away for Mohs surgery. The technique was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Frederick Mohs at the University of Wisconsin, and has subsequently been refined.
Unlike other forms of treatment, Mohs is generally reserved for cosmetic areas or types of skin cancer that are at risk of recurring. It permits immediate and complete microscopic examination of affected tissue to make sure all “roots” are removed. And it is said to leave the least noticable scar.
We arrived at a very nice office and the very nice doctor (both physician and surgeon) immediately told me I looked much younger than my age, so we were off to a good start.
A little numbing, a little scraping, a little cauterizing, and then a long wait to see if he’d gotten everything. Which he hadn’t, so then it was time for Round Two, which did.
I emerged three hours later feeling ok only because the numbing hadn’t worn off yet and my nose was covered with a pressure bandage.
Naturally, I did not know what I looked like, which was a good thing. Although the cancer was fairly superficial and about the size of a pencil eraser, I have a row of stitches all the way up the side of my nose. And OMG do they itch!
The bandage came off two days later and I could assess the full effect. Luckily, I’ve had to keep the area covered with petroleum jelly and regular bandages so nobody has to see it, including me. To add to the loveliness are several areas of bruising, which are now in the process of fading from bright red to purple to yellow.
I’ll see the derm again on Tuesday to get the outer stitches removed, but I have been “assured” that the dissolving stitches will render my nose a little lumpy for months until they dissolve. Not to mention the scar. Woo hoo.
So, dear readers, be warned: If you have fair skin that is prone to burning or freckling, and especially if you are young enough, it is time to end your love affair with the sun for once and for all.
Oh, and meanwhile, ask your dermatologist about nicotinamide and HelioCare, just to improve the odds.