Skin Cancer Awareness

6.07.2019

It's summer time and most schools are out and that means the start of summer vacations or enjoying a pool in your own backyard. All these things mean spending lots of time in the sun, but please be sun smart because I'm paying for my time spent in the sun.
Today's post is not my normal home decor post, but if I can reach one person and save one life then this post needed to be read by someone. It may be someone like me who used to spend many hours, days, and years laying out in the sun trying to acheive that tan that I thought would look good, but only problem is my skin really never acheived much of a golden glow, but more of a very pinky red look. I have skin that freckles easily and doesn't tan all that well, but that wasn't going to stop me from trying because it was the thing to do.

Skin Cancer Awareness

Did you ever lay out on the roof like this? You know closer to the sun your bound to get a better tan, right? That's what we thought! Of course that's not how it works.


Yes, back in the late sixties and early seventies I would come home from school, put on my swimsuit, lather myself in baby oil with idodine mixed in it, for that better golden glow, and get on a lawn chair in the backyard and do my homework while working on that tan. Yes, I even did the "Sun In" too.



In the sixties and seventies there wasn't much talk about skin cancer like there is now. Even today a lot of people hear about it, but aren't really listening and they just brush it off as no big deal. The thing is it is a big deal and it takes many lives every day. And it's especially a big deal when you are going through dealing with it yourself. The biopsies don't hurt too badly, but having the surgery to cut out a lot more is quite painful once the lidocaine wears off. 

(image source and article at romper.com)

I started getting my annual skin check up by a MOHS doctor years ago. My husband had been to this doctor for a spot on his nose and then she started checking my skin, too. The first few visits I never had to have anything taken off, but a couple of years ago spots were getting biopsied and then they came back as basal cell or squamous cell and I have been getting surgeries ever since. I have had several on my left leg done and this time my right leg decided to join in, too. I have also had one on my shoulder and chest removed. All three of these recent biopsies came back as squamous cell carcinoma. Not what I wanted to hear. I don't even think the doctor thought these places would come back positive as she said I'll see you in six months when she walked out of the room. She called me three days later with the news that all three were cancer and three weeks later I'm back having more surgery.

WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTO NEXT of stitches




What starts out as a very tiny place turns into a huge incision when the skin cancer is removed. This is the surgery I had last October on my left leg for a squamous cell cancer. It was the second time I had squamous cell cancer on this leg. The doctor had a very hard time pulling the skin together to get it sewn up. You can see the puckered skin. Thank goodness doesn't even show now. It smoothed out.

This is the first time having surgery on the right leg. The doctor almost couldn't stitch up one of the places because the two cancer spots ended up being so close together once she cut all the cancer out. They started out with one on top of my shin and the other was on the side. She was able in the end sewing them both. The first night is the worst with the pain. I didn't sleep much at all. I was taking Tramadol and advil and the pain still didn't go away completely. I even put an ice pack on it which helps the most.
Two days later it is much better, but I have to wear this wrap for two weeks. There is a plaster wrap under the bandage, because the stitches could pull apart if they didn't do this.

This article explains what Mohs surgery is: md.com



Please keep an eye on your skin and any place that starts changing. I have read some stories of people who had their primary care doctor look at a place on their skin and the doctor said it wasn't anything, but thank goodness they went for a second opinion and found out otherwise and had to have surgery. So if you have a place you aren't so sure about get it checked by a dermatologist or a Mohs doctor.
When in doubt check it out!

I have had a couple of basal cell carcinomas which are the most common, but then the rest have been squamous cell. My former MOHS doctor, who has retired, did my first squamous cell skin cancer surgery and she started pushing around on the outside my pelvic area and I asked her why and she said she was checking to see if my lymph nodes were swollen because this cancer can cause lymphoma. Well, that about scared me to death! At my most recent surgery which is by the doctor who took over my retired one's patients, I askeed the nurse who was prepping me for surgery about it turning into lymphoma and she said it's very rare for that to happen, but of course can if the skin cancers are left untreated.


I hope all this information helps about skin cancer and maybe someone out there has a questionable spot that needs to be checked out and has read this and it causes them to get it seen about. I sure hope so.

I was talking to a man in the waiting room at one of my appointments and he was there to get skin cancer surgery on his ear. He had already had over ninety skin cancers removed because he was a lifeguard in his younger days and was paying for all that sun exposure.

On June 17th I will go back to the doctor and have the cancer on my left leg removed and then that leg will be wrapped up for two weeks. So no yard work for me the month of June.


It's the weekend and enjoy yourself outside, but be sun smart!

25 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. Well-researched and important. I'm so sorry you had to go through it. My dad had skin cancer, as did his sister (who lost a large chunk of her nose). And a good friend had melanoma--she had lived in tropical countries for decades, traveling with her diplomat husband. All very scary. I also laid out, copying my older, glamorous neighbors. And had my share of peeling sunburns. Now I wear a high-neck long-sleeve rash guard when I swim, and I always have a hat. We really could have used this info decades ago.

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    1. Yes, it's a scary thing, but cureable if caught early. I'm sure to cover up outside, too.

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  2. Thank you for using your blog platform to support this awareness. I have had stage 3 melanoma, squamous and basal cell carcinomas. I am grateful to God to still even be here. Having skin cancer has doubled the chance for my children to have it. Prayers for you.

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    1. Wow, you have really had it all! Thank goodness I haven't had melanoma. Thank you and take care!

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  3. Scary and even though, I've been through it several times and my kids have seen the stitches and the scars, they (and their friends) are still insistent on getting a tan. It's infuriating and frustrating. They are careful about it, not burning, but sunscreen is a dirty word to their generation. I'm going to show them your post, Kim, perhaps seeing and hearing it from someone other than their mom may help! Thank you for sharing your story and I'm sorry that you've had to go through it.

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    1. Yes, it blows my mind how many will still work on those tans even though they know the dangers and what I've been going through.

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  4. Kim, I am a redhead, freckled and fair, age 70. I have "hated" the sun forever. BUT since I grew up playing outside, I still was exposed enough. I did not pursue a suntan as a teenager or college-age girl. My dermatologist and I are "good friends." I cannot count the number of moles removed - just in case. I visit the Dr. once a year at least. Sometimes when a mole get "itchy," I head to the doctor; no waiting around. My only complaint about dermatologists is that they are not "cosmetically" trained for their stitches; the stitches often leave scarring. Oh well, if that saves your life, you bear that.

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    1. Yes, better to remove the cancer and not worry about the scars. My legs are ugly anyway with vein disease that I have had worked on many times and that too is a losing expensive battle.

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  5. Thank you for this informative post. I have slightly olive skin and tan fairly easy, so I was shocked several years ago when a white growth on my eyeball ended up being sun related squamous cell cancer. It was removed and so far no recurrence, but just shows the damage the sun can do, especially with the depleted ozone layer. So sorry you've had to go through the surgeries and best wishes for a smooth recovery.

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  6. Kim,
    Thank you for this post!! As someone who as had 6 skin cancers removed (basal & squamous) beginning in my late 40's in addition to numerous pre-cancerous treatments I know full well what you have gone through. Its not pretty and at 60, all my sun damage was due to the same type of sun exposure in my younger years as you. A friend lost her daughter to melanoma some years ago at age 42 and boy I grew up with died in his early 30's with melanoma.

    Please if you have young teen-age daughters/sons or teen-age grandchildren who are going to tanning booths (especially for proms and beach trips) STOP THEM NOW!! These places should be much more regulated because the rise in skin cancers among young people has grown dramatically and its all due to sun exposure both outside and inside with tanning booths which are not safe. Instead, give them a gift certificate to a have a professional spray-on tan at a salon.

    My son made a cute joke the other day when he saw my sunscreen with a SPF/55 and said "Mom you know you are getting older when your SPF matches your age".

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    1. Yours started much earlier than mine. It is scary and yes, I hope my grandkids learn sun safety. I used a tanning booth many years ago when they were touted as safe, but of course they aren't!!

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  7. Another who has had skin cancer and MOHS surgery. In fact, my wonderful MOHS sugrgeon now only does MOHS surgery and no longer sees regular patients. That is scary that there is the need for so much surgery for skin cancer! When I first went to him, there were only 3 dermatologists in our area trained to do MOHS. Maybe that has increased, I'm not sure. I'm thankful I have only had basal cell as that and squamous are easiest to cure. (I have never heard of the lymphoma link???) Melanoma is terrifying because it KILLS. We have a young woman at church who had a small spot on her upper back and it spread to her brain and lungs. Thank God her lungs are now clear. She has had more than one brain surgery and is in Texas now (we are in TN) for another procedure. She and her husband will have to stay there for a couple of months. She is alive and doing well most of the time, but she has been receiving treatment for the last 2-3 years. We should all be wearing sunscreen daily. I do not give up my outdoor activities but I take care and protect myself. I have been fortunate that my MOHS surgeries did not lay me up and I healed well with no problems. I am now trying a cream (similar to chemo cream but natural with way less side effects) on any spots. We (everyone) needs to realize that untanned skin is beautiful and that we don't need to bake ourselves. Tanning comes with a price. Even if you don't get skin cancer, you are aging and damaging your skin. Thanks for your post.

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    1. Yes, squamous cell can spread to the lymph nodes and bones. It spreads slowly so that's why it's important to catch these things so they are cureable. Yes, my MOHS surgeon has always only done surgery and skin checks for her patients. I think I'm on the three month plan now. I'm so tired of more spots showing up between visits.

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  8. Thanks Kim for all this info. keep saying I have to get checked then forget to make an appointment. My neighbors behind me, we are very good friends; both go to our pool EVERY day, all day and bake in the sun. They both go to a dermatologist and have pre cancerous spots removed and she also goes to a tanning bed!!!!!!!!! It is crazy! For the past few years I have been getting my tan from a bottle:) I am so scared of skin cancer since I did the whole routine you described. I hope many people heed your advice and stay out of the sun

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    1. I sure hope they don't ever pay for what they are doing! It's ashamed the ignorance of some folks.Thank goodness they do get checked, but one of these days it may catch up with them and it will be more than precancerous spots. Mine didn't start out as pre cancers as I get my skin checked twice a year and boom there will be new squamous cell cancers out of no where.

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  9. I had a basal cell carcinoma in the fold by my nose and had MOHS surgery. When I saw the hole as the doctor continued to remove the cancer, I was sure my face would never look the same. However, three years later you would never know I had had a problem. I use sunscreen every day and wear a big hat when I am in the sun. You can't be too careful!

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  10. Thanks for posting this. I have been thinking about writing a post on this. I am 57 years hold and have had several basal cell skin cancers removed from my arm and back with stitches. I was a child of the baby oil and iodine and sun in. When I read that, it brought back the memories of what we did to our bodies. I don't even think sunscreen was invented or maybe we just didn't know about it. Now I get regularly screenings. My dad is 85 and I just took him to have a basal cell removed from his face and a squamous cell from his shoulder. Every time a get a spot, it makes me nervous. Great advice you have given to everyone. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Thank you for your wonderful post. I have had 1 MOHS surgery on my face, a melanoma surgery at the base of my throat, an excision on my back as well as two scrapings on my back. All of that included melanoma, basal and squamous. I have been so blessed to have a wonderful practice that has taken care of me through all of it. It's a Skin Cancer Specialist group and I absolutely love them all. They are in the north Atlanta area and just as good as they get. It's wonderful that you are getting such good treatment, blessing on you and all of your healing.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your story with us Kim. Awareness and hearing others stories are what will save lives. I was like you and would do the baby oil and sun in as a teen. I have fair skin that has lots of freckles too. I did burn in my teens but now as an adult with high sunscreen I can achieve a tan. With that said I still go every year to have the cancer skin test with the dermatologist. Early detection is the best for survival. I am glad you caught yours and they got all the margins. I bet your story shared today will probably have saved many more than one life. Bravo for sharing.
    Hugs,
    Kris

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  13. Kim, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It's so important that we share what we are going through in order to help others, especially when it comes to illnesses, diseases and health issues that effect so many women. Blogging has given us a platform to speak about these important things. I've always tanned easily, but like you I was extreme in my teens. Crazy, we all did it. Because of autoimmune disease my skin is not pretty, so I cover up as much as possible. I gave up the sun years ago thank goodness. I've been through so much with hereditary heart disease and autoimmune illness that I know I've had to be open and share the hard stuff to help others. thanks again, you're in my prayers. Deb

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  14. I pray many will read your whole blog.My father died 16 yrs ago from Melanoma and after that I had my first skin check out of fear.Thank goodness as I had a mole on my lower left leg that turned out to be melanoma.i had to have checkups every 6 months for 2 yrs.I had another melanoma on my right shoulder removed 3 yrs ago.I am 63 and I never miss a checkup.My father died a horrible death.Now I wear 70 spf and a rash guard to swim in. I also did the baby oil and we layed on al. foil! HORRIBLE!!! I wish we had the info that is out now! I tell everyone!!!

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    1. So sorry about your dad and what you have been dealing with. I hope I never hear the word melanoma. I'm so glad you got checked and caught it early. You and I are the same age and I wear a 70 spf, too when I work outside and a big hat and long pants.

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  15. Wishing you speedy healing, Kim. Glad you are taking good care of yourself, it's so important, you're absolutely right. My mom has had several cancer surgeries and regular skin checks and many many burns to get rid of small spots. I was a sun worshipper in my younger days, and although I have dark olive skin, anyone can get skin cancer, and everyone should be checked periodically.

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  16. With both parents of Irish heritage--fair skin is the name of the game.
    My father passed in Oct 2017 of melanoma that had metastasized to the liver brain and lungs. He had battled skin cancer for many years. He had MOHs surgery on his chest and on his face and on his scalp. All these were over many years.

    Last year I had basal cell removed from the side of my calf. I wear a compression stocking on that leg as I have had a blood clot in that leg and it helps with the circulation of the leg.
    Just two days ago I went to the dermatologist to have my body scan. All my siblings and I do this to make sure things are OK. I was told that things look OK.


    I hope that things will be of a wonderful outcome for you.

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