Monday, June 3, 2013

The Sun - My Friend and Enemy

Make sure to wear sunblock during sun exposure - on all exposed skin
I love the sun. I love the feeling of it on my face, on my back, my skin.  I love swimming in my pool, the beach, the lake.  I love opening my blinds and having the sunshine come through my windows.  Simply put, the sun makes me happy, even though it is my enemy.

Hey...wait a minute here.  I do believe that I was photobomb by Little Diane's waving hand.  More on her in another post.

Years ago I used to layout in the sun to tan my white body.  I know shame on me.  I didn't want that overly tan look, I just wanted a little color.  Sometimes I wore sunblock and other times not.  I don't even know why I bothered trying to tan, it never lasted.  I take after my dad in many ways and one is his white on white skin.  I wish I knew then what I know now.

Melanoma scar
It was a little more than 5 1/2 years ago when I was diagnosed with Melanoma on my left arm and that is what started my skin cancer adventure, as I call it.

After having the suspicious mole removed by punch and stitch, I received a call from the doctors office a few days later with the news that I had melanoma and that there were no clean margins.  I had no idea what that meant, but I sure knew what melanoma was. In short, it meant that the area removed was entirely cancer (no clean margins).  So I had to go right back to the doctors office to have more removed.  I was like, wait a minute here.  I still have stitches and it's not even healed!  I had so many questions.  Anyway, they explained it all to me and that the doc had to actually cut more out of my arm.  Um...excuse me, "cut"?  No worries they said, my arm would be numb and I wouldn't feel a thing.

To sum that part up, they had to remove a lot more.  As you can sort of see in the photo above, I have a 1 1/2" x 1" scar, which is concave.  It was nasty looking, but not near as bad now. For years it looked like somebody took a big bite out of my arm.

Wear hats to cover your head, face, ears and neck while in the sun
When you're diagnosed with Melanoma you have to go in for head to toe skin checks every 6 months for the next 5 years, which they say is the survival rate.  After the 5 year mark and if all is good, you then go in once a year for the rest of your life.  I was so looking forward to that day.  But, for now that is not the case with me.

On every single one of my 6 month checks, I've had at least one to multiple suspicious moles removed...on each visit.  They were removed by punch and stitch.  I tell ya, some days I feel like Swiss cheese.  And, on each of those visits I've had at least 1 come back precancer melanoma.  That does not mean benign.  Benign is simply that - no detection of cancerous cells.  Precancerous melanoma is when the cells have the makings of cancer, but hasn't gone there yet.

My latest check was in May and I had 2 more moles punched and stitched (one was right next to a previous precancer, which came back precancer as well), plus a new skin cancer on my finger that I thought was just a sore that didn't want to heal for the past several months and 2 new spots on my nose that were Actinic Keratosis (can develop into Squamous Cell Carcinoma) - those were removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.  THAT stung! 

Because I continue to have precancerous melanoma moles past my 5 year mark, etc., I have to continue the 6 month checks until I get 2 separate clean visits.  This is fine because at least they are being found and removed.  My doc (I love her to pieces!) always tells me that I'm such trooper and is happy that I don't mind scars.  Let me tell you, I have plenty in various sizes and shapes. 

As with my breast cancer, I'm sharing this information with you all in hopes of providing some help or as an eye opener.  I hope that it makes you NOT want to lay out in the sun to tan (leather is ugly).  I hope it makes you wear good sunblock whenever you are out in the sun, even if you think you're only going to be out there for a little bit (trust me, I know this one).  I hope that you wear protective clothing and hats during sun exposure (I hate wearing hats, but...).  I hope that if you notice a suspicious mole or sore on your skin that doesn't heal, that you call a Dermatologist to get it checked and not wait because you think it's just nothing. 

Not sure what a suspicious mole is?  Learn the ABCDE's of Skin Cancer: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Elevation/Evolving and use it as a guide.  Let me say here that not all suspicious moles are cancerous and on the flip side, moles that don't exactly meet the requirements can be early stages.  I've had a variety of all the above.  Need I say more?

Yes, I still love the sun, I love my pool and enjoy being outdoors.  I'm just a lot smarter about it than I was in the past.

Peace and love,


Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Great Post. People can't be told enough..but most think it will never happen to them. That's what I thought. It hasn't yet, but I say out of the sun pretty much now. But it has happened to a few of my friends, some gone now because of it. Just keep posting because you just might use the right approach to get through to someone.
xx, Carol

Rocki Adams said...

Thank you Carol and sorry about your friends. I know, I used to think that way to about many will never happen to me. Life is so unpredictable. I know I'm just one little voice in a sea of many, but I just feel the need to let my voice be heard.