If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)
I usually talk about places I’ve been, people I’ve met, or things I have done. It’s usually not about things that are truly personal. Like I said in my last post, I like to entertain and (maybe) educate. Personal impressions are a far different animal than personal, intimate experiences.
So why am I making an exception? I’m doing this in the hopes that at least one person reading this blog will make a more informed decision or influence someone they care about to think twice. I want to talk about my battles with cancer – skin cancer.
I have had two instances of basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell cancer is one of the least virulent forms of skin cancer, but it is cancer, nonetheless, and must be treated seriously. In both occurrences, the cancer has been on my face. It couldn’t have been in a more obvious place. Both times, it was right in the middle of my right cheek.
The first occurrence was in 2005. I found a small, pea-sized lump on my face. I was blessed with relatively clear skin – even in my teens, so I knew it wasn’t a blemish. My dermatologist took a biopsy, and, sure enough, it was cancerous.
I got a referral to an incredible dermatologist with a specialty in Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is basically micro-surgery. They remove the cancerous area and check all the margins under the microscope. I was lucky the first time. They got all of the cancer and the margins were clean. My face was stitched up and I got to go home. Let me tell you about the incision. It went from about one-half inch below the inside corner of my right eye, followed the “smile lines” around my nose and ended up at the level of the corner of my mouth about an inch away. Basically, it was a lazy “S” shape.
At first, I was horrified! My eye was all squinchy. (I know, that’s not a word, but you know what I mean.) I had to drive home like that (my husband was working out of town) – barely seeing out of one eye, with a numb face. I was probably drooling, too! At work the next day (yes, I am a glutton for punishment), I was given the moniker “Blinky.”
After several months, I realized what a magician my surgeon was. The scar was barely discernible. Today, even I can’t find it most of the time. Truly a “work of art.”
Fast forward 5 years. It’s 2010, and I find another suspicious bump. This time, I know what it is even before going to my regular dermatologist. It’s confirmed. I had been warned that 50 percent of the time when people have one basal cell carcinoma, they will have at least one more. I’d been expecting the diagnosis.
This time, I was smart and lucky enough to have my husband as chauffeur. I knew, immediately, that I would go back to the surgeon who removed the first lump. The second occurrence was a little larger and required a little more area to be removed because the first margins weren’t completely clear. This time the incision was much more involved. They called it a “Mercedes” incision. If you look at the photo below, you can see why.
Now it’s been two years. So far, I haven’t found any more lumps or bumps. I am very hopeful that I won’t have to go through this again.
Why am I baring my soul (and face) like this? It’s because these cancers were entirely preventable. As you can tell from my photos, I’m a very fair-skinned individual. I grew up in Florida during a time when we weren’t as aware of skin cancer and the damage that too much exposure to the sun could do. All my friends were continually tan. I wanted that, too! Pale skin was shunned as “unhealthy.” Funny thing, now we know that the less burning and “tanning” we do, the better.
Sadly, being tan is still the look that most young girls want! Heck, what prompted this blog post was an adult friend saying she needed to go to the tanning booth because she was starting to look “pale.” Even photos on the news of people who have spent too much time in tanning booths and lying in the sun hasn’t dissuaded these folks (mostly females, but we all know of men who do it, too) from putting themselves at risk by baking in the sun or going to tanning booths.
I have to smile when I remember my maternal grandmother trying to get me to carry a parasol to keep the sun off my skin. (Yes, she did!) I know her concern was wrinkles because we didn’t know as much about too much sun exposure causing cancers at the time. If I could turn back time, would I go back and carry a parasol? No! I would not – even knowing what I know now. I would, however, buck the trend and wear sun SCREEN instead of baby oil with iodine, and maybe a hat. I surely would not just go out with the only reason being to try to “tan.”
Up Next: I LOVE Autumn! Do you?