Tag Archives: dermatology

The Sun and I: A Cautionary Tale of Unrequited Love

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.

Well.

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.

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Scenes From a Derm Convention

Much as I dislike having my yearly skin check, I always enjoy chatting with my dermatologist, especially about the crazy things women (it’s mostly women) will do in our mostly futile attempts to defeat the march of time.

She had me laughing during my otherwise unpleasant squamous surgery with the following report.

Dr. D had recently attended a dermatology conference.  She said you could tell at a glance what everyone’s specialties were.  The cosmetic derms all had the age-indeterminate, inflated look you get when you have unlimited access to fillers, Botox and multiple procedures. Designer clothes, Jimmy Choos and Birkins were de rigueur. She observed a lot of air kisses with this group; a vigorous hug could potentially squash an implant or two.

Dr. D says about cosmetic work, “Never make the critical mistake of only looking at the mirror straight on.” We need to know how we look from all angles, lest we resemble a blowfish in heat.

In contrast, the doctors involved with serious medicine such as reconstruction for burn victims had the slightly distracted look of people who wished they were somewhere else.  They greeted each other with firm handshakes; no frivolous air kisses for these folks.

One of the lectures dealt with a client whose complaint was that her labia were uneven. (One wonders how she knew that.)  In any event, she’d had cosmetic surgery to repair the issue — I forgot to ask whether one side was inflated or the other side deflated. Next visit! But as Dr. D says, “If you’re with a man who loses interest at the point he can tell that your labia are uneven, you have much bigger problems!”

Finally, here is one of my favorite anecdotes:

One of Dr. D’s clients tried Botox and complained that it “didn’t work” and that she didn’t look any different. Her husband told Dr. D in confidence, “You’ve saved our marriage.”

Apparently, every time the poor man offered a suggestion about where to have dinner or something equally benign, his wife would scowl at him. To avoid an argument, he’d usually change the subject.

Now that she doesn’t scowl, he continues talking and is amazed how often she will be receptive or even agree with him!