I’m a little late to the party, given the first week of May is nearly over, but I wanted to write about something that is very near and dear to my face – skin cancer.
About 4 years ago I had a small bump on my cheek next to my nose. At first it just looked like a little pimple, but it wasn’t a pimple. Given all my struggles with rosacea, I figured it was simply another symptom rearing its ugly head. But something was different about it. Every couple of months, the bump would puff up a bit and bleed. After it would bleed, it settled back down to its regular “bump” size. I finally decided to see my dermatologist to see what was going on.
The first thing my dermatologist said was, “That’s not from your rosacea”. From that point it was a little bit of a blur, but I heard him utter the words, “carcinoma” and “biopsy”.
And then he grabbed a razor blade.
The sight of a razor blade descending on my face was enough to make me yell, “Hold on a minute!” until my brain could process this unsettling turn of events.
The doctor patiently explained to me that the bump appeared to be a basal cell carcinoma but to be sure he wanted to do a biopsy. Hence the ominous sight of a razor blade being held in front of me. There was nothing I could do at this point other than let him slice off part of my face.
A couple days later the word came back – basal cell carcinoma. I would have to scedule an appointment with the surgeon at the dermatologist’s office.
I’m going to add a public service announcement right here: It is a bad idea to google medical conditions – save yourself the hysteria. A half an hour with google had me convinced I would end up with either half a nose or a cavernous hole in my face.
Luckily it wasn’t even close to that bad. I met with the MOHS surgeon. Two months later I was sitting in a chair in his office, getting novocain injected into the side of my nose (which, funny enough, made my lip feel like it was curling upward, ala Elvis – thank you, thankyouverymuch).
I got through the surgery and thanks to some handy stiching work, can barely tell there’s a scar on my face. The nurses in the office told me they refer to the surgeon as, “Dr. 90210” because he does exceptional work with minimizing post-surgery scarring.
But the whole experience has made me immensely more aware of sun exposure and skin cancer risk. I will never go out without sunscreen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cloudy day or even winter. I didn’t even have near the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and yet just having it in the first place was enough to scare me straight.
So now that you’ve patiently ready my experience with skin cancer, what can you do? Well, don’t stay indoors – just protect yourself while you’re outside! Seek the shade, wear a hat to protect your head, face and ears, wear sunscreen, and for God’s sake, avoid tanning beds! Another thing you can do? Go get screened – schedule an appointment for a skin cancer screening.
Learn more about skin cancer at skincancer.org