The preliminaries: My doctor studied the ulcer-like sores on each side of my nose and behind each ear, along with the one on my shoulder. Then he glanced at the two red spots on my chest.
“You’re consistent,” he said, “they’re all basal-cell carcinomas; the most common skin cancer. Often takes 40 to 50 years for them to develop, and they’re generally the result of too much sun. Yours have been percolating for quite some time.”
His statement left me no wiggle room. A sun-worshipper in my teens and early 20s, I now teetered on the brink of my late 60s. The pieces of sun and years fit together.
“Except for the ones on your chest,” he said, “you’ve ignored the others too long. I need to surgically remove them. For the two on your chest, I’ll prescribe a chemotherapy cream. Apply it three times daily. That should take care of them.”
The experience: A week later I began a year-long regimen of five separate out-patient surgeries. I’d heal from one and return for another. Then heal and return for more. You get the picture.
Thankfully, though, I endured more hassle than discomfort. Although the doctor cut deep and wide to remove the tentacles skin cancer sends out, pain pills eliminated any major pain. Nevertheless, because water molecules contain bacteria, I could not get the wounds wet. Thus, I could not shower for two or three weeks after each surgery, and I detest baths.
Moreover, the doctor didn’t use stitches to close the wounds. That would stretch the skin and pull my nose and ears out of alignment. So he let the wounds heal naturally, which meant more time without a shower.
Because of the drainage, the pads to cover the wounds were large and thick. Daily, they needed changed. Therefore, I went to one of my daughter’s every morning where she changed the dressings. She has three children in school and her own daycare. So, when I appeared each morning, it elicited different emotions depending on the prevailing atmosphere.
Now, though, I’m a bundle of health and lab tests showed the surgeries removed all my cancer. Nevertheless, my doctor said to limit my time in the sun and use sunscreen.
Simple Suggestions: Even though basal-cell carcinoma is common and generally not lethal, don’t send it an invitation via getting a suntan. Always have any suspicious looking skin-growths examined.