Keep Calm and Wait

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I had my annual skin check done yesterday, in particular to have the doctor check out a (very) small bump on my nose that’s been bothering me just because it was hanging in there. It wasn’t growing, but neither was it getting any smaller. The doctor thought it looked a bit suspicious, so she removed it for a biopsy. I should know the results a week from now.

I’m fair-skinned, with blue eyes, and considered “high risk” for skin cancer, especially since I grew up in Southern California and spent w-a-y too much unprotected time out in the sun. My family spent weekends and summers at the beach, where we stayed and played every day from 10:00 am until 4:00 in the afternoon, what everyone now knows to be the most dangerous time for sun exposure. And, while my brothers and sister got tans, I always got sunburns, often some really bad ones. In high school I used to slather myself with cocoa butter, baby oil or greasy Bain de Soleil before laying out on the beach, and continued to burn my skin in an attempt to attain that always elusive tan. Sunscreen or skin health was not in anyone’s vocabulary back then.

The last time I spent any prolonged time in the sun was when we lived in Key West in the late 1980s. I still wasn’t using any sunscreen nor was anyone else I knew. I spent a lot of time at the beach or pool, and for the first time in my life I actually got a tan, after of course getting a sunburn first. However, when I had a required pre-move physical for our overseas transfer to Japan, the navy doctor recommended that I greatly limit any time spent in the sun – with my skin and history it was just too risky.

And so for 25 years I didn’t sunbathe or spend time in the sun . . . until we moved to Hawai’i.

These days I wear SPF 70 sunscreen all the time. At the beach I stay under an umbrella the whole time except for the short time when I’m out in the water. I don’t spend a lot of time outside otherwise – my longest exposure to direct sun is the 30 minutes we spend each week at the farmers’ market. Otherwise I’m indoors or under cover.

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My nose will be sporting a little red dot for a few days.

According to my doctor, the suspicious bump on my nose (which was very tiny) is a result of sun exposure I received over 50 years ago, not something that’s occurred since we’ve been here. Overall, she felt my skin was in excellent condition, especially for someone my age and with my history. IF the bump does turn out to be cancerous, I will go over to Oahu for a Mohs procedure to remove any remaining cancerous cells. But, the doctor said there’s a good chance the bump was pre-cancerous and its removal was all that will need to be done. I refuse to worry about it until I find out for sure what’s going on.

In the meantime though, I’m going to be on the lookout for a new hat, one with a wider brim. I’ll also keep up with my strict sunscreen and umbrella regimen, and have my skin checked annually. And most importantly, I’ll continue to maintain my very healthy respect for the intensity of the sun here in Hawai’i and the damage it can do.

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11 thoughts on “Keep Calm and Wait

  1. tpol1 says:

    I hope it is nothing serious. I actually feel it is nothing serious. Usually my gut feeling is pretty accurate. I was going to suggest a hat too but, you are already looking to get one. I think while you were spending so much time under the sun as a kid, the ozone layer was pretty much intact.

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    • Laura says:

      I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’s nothing serious either, but we will see. I agree, the ozone layer was mostly intact when I was young, but I was in the sun a LOT! Not just when we went to the beach, but every day almost. Lots of my high school friends have had plastic surgery/botox several times because sun exposure also causes plenty of wrinkles. I have some, but have been mostly lucky in that regard.

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  2. JJ says:

    I’m glad you posted about this. I had a similar ‘scare’ recently. I am in my late 40’s and spent a good deal of time in the sun playing sports when I was younger. Unlike you, I did not live in a sunny climate and am not all that fair skinned (have dark hair and eyes) but I do burn before I tan. In the old days, we had sunscreen but it wasn’t as effective as what we have now. Anyway, I recently went to the dermatologist and he found 3 areas he thought looked suspicious and biopsied them. Two came back mildly dysplastic and one was moderate. He removed all 3 and I now have 5 stitches where the moderate one was. Apparently, this isn’t a big deal and he said I just have to do a skin check monthly myself and see him once a year but it was a bit scary because I didn’t think I was at risk for such things. It doesn’t sound like what you have will be anything to be concerned about, but I know what it’s like to have to wait for results. I had to wait a week. I was worried the first few days but then realized that worrying doesn’t help anything, so I just told myself, “whatever will be, will be” and that was that. Hope it all goes well and thank you for educating people about this.

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    • Laura says:

      That’s my attitude now – “whatever will be, will be.” What I have is NOT melanoma, thank goodness – the Dr. did a thorough check for that and found nothing even remotely suspicious. I have been doing monthly skin checks since we arrived here, and will keep it up and be even more vigilant with the sun screen, hat, etc.

      I used to worry about everything, but somehow in the last twenty or so years figured out it did me no good. Find out what’s going on, figure out if I can change or fix anything and if so, do it. Otherwise, let it go.

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  3. Vivian says:

    Don’t think you need to worry. I’ve had several pre-cancerous places on my face. They either prescribed a chemotherapy creme or froze it with liquid nitrogen. Both my parents have had skin cancer, both have had surgery by a plastic surgeon, and you would never know it. Like you, I do my best to stay out of the sun, use hats and sun screens but like you I am also fair skinned and sunny Florida while a great place to live exposes you to that same great sun. Key is early treatment if needed. As you see a dermatologist yearly, you are doing everything right. Whatever the diagnosis, it is fixable.
    Good luck.

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    • Laura says:

      I’ve been reading up on the Mohs surgery, if I do need to get that done. Apparently it’s much less disfiguring than just cutting out a piece of you somewhere. The Dr. said the work they do is phenomenal. Plus, I would get a trip to Honolulu (always trying to find the silver lining 😉 )!

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  4. lifeisfullofsunnydays says:

    Not to distract away from the seriousness of this post, but I love your red frames. So bold! Alright let me get back on track, good of you to get annual skin screenings. I have thought about it but never actually put it into practice. Thank you for the reminder to get on it.

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