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A Cautionary Tale - Wear Sunscreen

For everyone who tries to get a loved one to wear sunscreen to protect their skin from UV Rays, I offer myself as a cautionary tale. I don't always wear suncreen, especially on my face because it tends to get in my eyes when I sweat. I drive a lot and so I get sunburns on the left side of my face only. They tend to go away in a day or two. But either in August on my trip to NM or sometime in September, I sunburned the side of my face badly enough to get a blister near my ear. When the blister broke open, it never really healed. It would scab over but then a clear liquid would ooze out from under that scab and the scab would fall off and within a day start a new scab.

It didn't seem to matter if I covered the wound or not. Same cycle over and over. So in December I went to see a dermatologist who did a tissue biopsy and the lab revealed I had basal cell skin cancer.

So yesterday, I went in to have the cancer removed. I don't think it's a coincidence that my doctor's name sounds close to Sadist. He was giggling with his nurse through the whole procedure. 10 little pricks with a needle right near my ear to get all the lidocaine in. From then on, I could only feel the vibrations and hear what they were doing. They found more cancer underneath the margins of the wound and so had to cut out farther. Cut cut, snip snip, scrape scrape, bandage and tape. It sounded like they were scraping the bone. Then they sat me up in a chair for 30 minutes while they took the excised tissue into their lab to see if they got all the cancer. Turns out they hadn't so back on the table I went with my head turned to the side so they could cover my face with a cloth and go back in. 7 more little pricks with the needle for more lidocaine. And then more cut, cut, snip, snip, scrape, scrape, bandage and tape. Then I got to sit up for 20 more minutes so they could look at the newly excised tissue under the microscope again.

A personal note here. Like dental procedures, this kind of surgery, right next to your ear, seems like someone is digging in your head with a backhoe and creating a huge hole. When in reality it's probably not that big. Hopefully my otherwise calm exterior did not betray the fact I was secretly panicking under my blue paper towel.

When the doc came back in again his smile said they had got all the cancer even before he did. Back on the table on my back with head turned to the side. Off came the bandages. 4 more little pricks with the lidocaine needle. Keeping count? That's 21 shots in your face for you kids that don't want to wear your sunblock. You think that doesn't hurt? Wait until the numbness wears off.

Now, because of how the original wound was more like an abscess than a cut, they had to make some other cuts like the legs of a starfish radiating out so they could draw the skin back together. And then they started sewing it up. I honestly felt like I was a Christmas gift being wrapped by a 3 year old. I didn't tell him I actually felt the needle going into my skin on one of them because he moved on pretty quickly and I didn't want to jerk my head. It is the strangest sensation to feel the pressure of your skin being drawn together like a coin purse but not really feeling the pain. Also I could feel/hear the thread being drawn through the skin and tied in little knots. The scar will be interesting. Sort of star shaped. Who needs piercings or tattoos when you can have star shaped scars right next to your ear right?

Finally, he finished and put a huge and ungainly pressure bandage on me. To make matters worse, he gave me a headband to keep it all together. Deb was with me and said I looked like a triage patient from M*A*S*H* or something. They gave me a scrip for codeine if I wanted it (which I don't) and antibiotics in case it should get infected (oh joy!) and sent me on my way. I drove myself home. I have to keep the area lubricated with vaseline and covered for the next 10 days.

Because the stitches go beyond the margin of my ear, It is impossible to put any sort of adhesive there. So unless I cover my ear, I have to cut up a large bandaid and just cover all the wound that I can. The vaseline tends to melt and leak into my ear so I have to carry q-tips or cotton balls around with me to wipe that off. I'm just trying to avoid people at work today. I go back on the 28th to have the stitches pulled...as long as I don't get any infections before then.

Chicks dig scars right?

So if the explanation was not bad enough, here are some photos for those visual learners to drive the point home. Not for the squeamish...you were warned.

This is what the wound looked like prior to surgery. When it was scabbed over I think people just thought it was a mole.

This is how I looked when I came home. Almost looks I was treated for a gunshot wound.

This is what it looked like when we first took the pressure bandage off. Very red and swelled.

The doc said there were 15 stitches in there. You can count them if you like. Does that look fun to put a bandage on every morning? Looks like a 2 black widows mating on my ear.

Peace and Wear Sunscreen,



( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 19th, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
Sounds like it was a strange thing to experience, especially the multiple procedures. My thoughts go out to you for fast healing.
Jan. 19th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
10 days cannot pass fast enough.

Jan. 19th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
I believe you are extremely lucky, to get away with such a little loss.

I've heard of a guy who came from India, married, and 4 months later got skin cancer (caused by Californian sun, as if in India the sun is milder), and died 4 months later on. He was 28.

Regarding the doctor's behavior, that's professional, and that's intentional. When they were doing a dental surgery on me (I won't go into details, but it included scraping the jaw bone), to keep me awake, the nurse, a nice blonde, was asking me if I like leather underwear on girls, and I was supposed to answer something.

Okay, anyway, hope it is over now, is it?
Jan. 19th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
Barring an infection it's just a matter of waiting until next Thursday to get the stitches out. And then being very careful of my skin. It's genetic. My Mom has to get skin cancer removed from arms and hands yearly and she covers up and always wears sunscreen. I just need to be more careful when I'm driving.

Jan. 19th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC)
Ouch. Very glad you got it taken care of so they could get it all out.
Jan. 19th, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Yeah, it was worrying me quite a bit.

Jan. 19th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
And THAT'S all the warning you're going to get. From now on, not only wear sunscreen (and they make it now so it goes on DRY! Seriously!) but you need to do a check on your ears (old men, no matter what their skin type always have ear skin cancer), top of your head, nose, neck...you check these places at the very least, once a year. Look for anything different. It doesn't have to be a sore that won't heal.
Also, don't get complacent, you can end up with skin cancer in places that have never seen the sun. I've heard of people getting it between their toes so you do a whole damn body check but you pay special attention to those boy parts (stop thinking that, perv)--back of neck, ears, head. Or grow your hair out really long.
And consider a hat.

And realize this scare will last maybe 8 months before you get complacent. I was forcing myself to wear sunscreen by the end of the summer and I had them cut out a nice section just a year ago on my nose!

Jan. 19th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
I have long hair but it does nothing for the sides of my face. I really hate hats. At least baseball type hats. I like western hats but they are not always convenient. And were you actually calling me an old man in there?

(no subject) - cinnamonbite - Jan. 19th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
Glad they got it all, and hoping you have a speedy recovery!
Jan. 19th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
I usually do heal very quickly. That's why the original wound not healing was becoming so bothersome.


Jan. 19th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
I had one but it wasn't actually cancerous. Right in the middle of my forehead. Doc stitched it up and I didn't think anything of it until I pulled the bandage off to change it. It was probably an inch or inch and a half square, looked kind of like an H and was stitched with green sutures. I looked like Frankenstein. There is a scar there now but it is pretty faint. At least I don't scare little children like I did when the stitches were still in!
Jan. 19th, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
Like I said, I'm just avoiding people for the next few days. At least I can cover this mess.

Jan. 19th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
A dear friend of mine had some skin cancer taken off her arm by folks at one of the leading cancer clinics in the US.

4 years later, it metasticized (sp?), ended up in the pain center of her brain, and she died. Slowly.

She was pale, rarely went in the sun at all, and always wore sunscreen.

It was horrible.

I will actually YELL at people who don't wear sunscreen, if I care about them.

I'm linking to this post, because it's like yelling.
Jan. 19th, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
For fair-skinned people going in the sun without sunscreen is like being a chronic smoker. Eventually something bad is going to happen. In my case it took 44 years and luckily it won't kill me but it sure is a pain in the ass.

Jan. 20th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
You've motivated me to be a lot less lazy about sunscreen in the future.
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
.... can't say that I'm too happy with how that motivation came about though. I'm really glad things have gone smoothly so far.
(no subject) - wander - Jan. 20th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wander - Jan. 20th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
Thanks Love!

Jan. 20th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
It was nice that you could write about the experience.
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
If it reminds just one other person to protect themselves...it's worth it.

Jan. 20th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
I bet it heals up nicely.

No, it doesn't sound like fun. I'll be screaming to be asleep. I couldn't do it.

Take it easy and recover. It was a lot.
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:43 am (UTC)
I think I'd have rather been asleep just for not having to also heal from all the needle pokes, Thanks!

Jan. 20th, 2010 04:53 am (UTC)
We redheads should buy stock in sunscreen.

Doesn't look too bad. :) Glad you are healing.
Jan. 20th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC)
I'll get over it. More annoying than anything now. Thanks!

Jan. 20th, 2010 05:30 am (UTC)
We've a certain bottle of Missouri wine that has been awaiting the proper occasion to be opened. I think a prayer for your recovery and perhaps a slight draught of forgetting the pain and annoyance will be part of it.
Jan. 20th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
Thanks my friend. That sounds like a good time.

(no subject) - virga_flame - Jan. 20th, 2010 05:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wander - Jan. 20th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - virga_flame - Jan. 20th, 2010 06:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wander - Jan. 20th, 2010 06:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - virga_flame - Jan. 20th, 2010 06:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wander - Jan. 20th, 2010 06:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - virga_flame - Jan. 20th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:30 am (UTC)
I'm very guilty of not wearing sunscreen for most of the times I am outside. If I plan a day at the beach, or something similar, yes. But not the day-to-day stuff.

I really should change my way of thinking.

Heal up quick and good!
Jan. 20th, 2010 06:33 am (UTC)
Thanks kind sir. I hope to. Yeah, it's a hard lesson to learn, but I have now.

Jan. 20th, 2010 12:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, honey. I'm sending you so much love and healing juju.

Sunscreen is important for sure...

Love ya!
Jan. 21st, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
I really try to go through life not worrying about such things but eventually something slaps you upside the head and makes you take notice.

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( 42 comments — Leave a comment )