My heritage- as some of you know – is Irish. Born and bred in the good ol’ US of A, but a DNA history that dates from the Celts. With that go many things: a fierce temper, a bawdy wit, a love of poetry, music, and debate, curly hair, light eyes, and a mercurial disposition.
Oh, and fair, freckled, and spotted skin–the reason for this blog.
Today was my six month mole check with my dermatologist. I go every six months ( down from every 3!) because of the numerous basal cell cancers and one ridiculous melanoma I’ve had to have treated in the past 3 years. At my last check up I was what is called in the derm world, clean, which meant I didn’t need to have anything cryogenically removed, or biopsied because all looked well.
Not so much today. At this morning’s check, my wonderful derm guy ( who also happens to be a neighbor and friend) found 2 spots that needed attention. Two. One on my ear he froze with sprayed liquid nitrogen. For those of you who know how this works, he literally freezes the s**t off the area. Like minus 100 degrees or some ridiculous temperature. Six hours later and my ear is still cold to the touch! Spot number 2 was on my forehead. He had to numb me first with lidocaine and epinephrine ( which immediately sent my heart racing and my hands shaking like it always does) and then shave – yes, you read that correctly SHAVE the area with a scalpel/razor blade thingie like he was filleting fish skin.
Needless to say, I was upset. Well, pissed, if I’m really being honest.
The last time I was in the sun was over 10 years ago. And when I say “in the sun” I mean it just that way – laying out, trying to get tanned, slathered with lotion. For the past decade I have not sun worshiped once. I always wear a hat and sunglasses when I am outdoors – even if it is not blazingly sunny. My moisturizer has a 45 spf block built into it and I douse my skin in 100spf block during the spring and summer months when I tend to wear less clothing. I do no outside sports. I don’t go to the beach. And even if you’d put a gun to my head I wouldn’t be caught dead at a pool in a bathing suit.
I tell you this because my skin damage was incurred long before I quit being a sun worshiper.
As a kid I was extremely fair. My mother – as all mothers did back in the stone age – thought a little color would “health” me up. Meaning, a little sun on my cheeks would make me healthier. A good premise, but, yeah, in the long run, not so much. Before I was 10 I’d already had about 20 bad sun burns. The blistering, peeling, turning to tan kind of sun burns that fair people are famous ( or is it infamous?) for. The rule of thumb dermatologically these days is that the more you burn before the age of 18, the higher your incidence of some kind of skin cancer will be as you age.
Perfect. Instead of “healthing” me up, my mother’s intervention has made my skin a veritable boiling pot and harbor of insidiously growing disease. Not her fault. She only did what she and everyone else thought was good.
When you know better you do better, so here’s the PSA portion of today’s rant: DON’T-
- sun worship at the beach, at the pool, in your backyard
- go to tanning booths – the urban myth here is that tanning booths won’t give you skin cancer because, hello, it’s not the “real” sun. Bulls**t! You can get just as much skin damage and skin cancers from a tanning booth as you can from the natural, “real” sun
- ever go outside without some kind of SPF on your face and exposed skin. Most facial moisturizers have spf built in, but they need to be at least 30 or above. None of this 2spf crap. That’s like going out naked – actually, it IS going out naked!
- ever go outside without head protection. This includes ears and neck. I had a spot on my ear today that I never even noticed. Guess where I’ll be applying that moisturizer from now on? Wear a hat. I love hats. Ever since Princess Diana made them fashionable I’ve loved wearing hats.
- reapply that sun tan lotion frequently. Don’t just slab it on at 6 am and think after a day of sweating and swimming you’ll have the same protection at 2pm. Freuqently and a lot – I use 100 spf in the summer and yes, it goes on like Desatin, but I never EVER get any color so you know it works! If it keeps the color from leeching, it’ll keep the cancerous rays from leeching.
Please, if you have babies or young children or even kids up to 18, protect them NOW from the damage they will incur in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. My daughter is 27 and when she was an infant I kept her covered when outdoors, and then after 6 months of age had a 60 block on her ( that’s the highest number they made back when she was little.) If I put a 45 on her, she burned.
Hats, sunglasses, sun block. Preventative measures so you – and your loved ones – will never know the heartbreaking agony of a melanoma diagnosis or its treatment ( which isn’t pretty! I know firsthand)
Enough ranting for today. Take care of yourself. Your skin is your biggest organ and the one people looking at you notice first. Treat it with respect. Treat it with love.