I was getting my hair colored one afternoon, and the stylist kept scrubbing at a spot on my neck. I finally asked her what was going on back there, and she said there was a spot of color that wouldn’t wash off. I was watching her face in the mirror, and I noticed her expression change from determined to concern.
“When is the last time you saw a dermatologist?” she asked.
“Never,” I answered, as my heart dropped into my stomach with a big ole thud.
“You need to find one,” she said as she put a mirror up so I could see what she was looking at. It was a spot the size of a pencil eraser, and it had not been there five weeks earlier. We stared at it and tried to comprehend where it came from, and why it was so big in such a short amount of time.
Time stood still for three days until I was able to see the dermatologist. He looked me over, and then asked, “Do you drive a convertible?”
“Yes, a red one,” I answered, wondering where he was going with this.
“Do you drive with your hair pulled back in a ponytail?”
“Yes.” OMG. Was he suggesting???
“Do you use sunscreen on your neck?”
I didn’t answer. I just stared at him and I my eyes welled up with tears.
It had never occurred to me to put sunscreen on my neck.
I had driven a convertible for over ten years. I was proud of the tan I maintained while driving. I’d driven those cars in California and Florida, serious sunshine states! I’d picked up some great color driving across Alligator Alley once.
I put sunscreen on my face and arms for long drives. Never on my neck.
It was Basal Cell Carcinoma. I was so thankful it wasn’t Melanoma that I didn’t think to ask too many questions about it. I made an appointment to get it removed, went home, and had a big ole glass of wine.
A few days later, the doctor removed it. They put me in a room after to wait while it was biopsied and the surrounding tissue tested. Fortunately, he got it on the first round (others in that room had to be sliced two and three times!) He said it “had legs” and was hard to get, but he got it. He gave me instructions to treat my wound while healing and I went home. On one of my follow-up visits, he was upset that the scar had spread. It happens sometimes, no matter how much Mederma or Vitamin E a girl uses. He wanted to fix it (he’s a plastics guy as well, and his pride was hurt.) I said no. It was, and still is, a war wound of sorts for me. A reminder of how I took so much for granted.
I remember being incredibly thankful. I’d dodged a bullet. I know a LOT of people who have these Basal Cells removed. I was so glad it wasn’t one of the others, not that I really know the difference. I know a few who have had to deal with Melanoma. That is absolutely terrifying.
I stopped going out in the sun that week. It was more than ten years before I would go outside or get in a pool for the purpose of getting a little color. Last summer was the first time I hung out by a pool. Not a lot, mostly under the umbrella, but I did pick up color and a few more freckles.
I still forget my sunscreen. Seriously? Yes. I’m that girl. I rely too much on my friends to remind me, or to just spray it on me when I’m walking by. You’d think it would be on my radar.
How can I be so stupid? I’m human I suppose.
The scar is ugly. My hair hides it for the most part. When trying to get a photo of it, a friend was surprised it was there. Yes, I keep my hair a certain length to hide it.
I have sun damage all over my chest, shoulders, thighs, and face. I also have sensitive skin, as you can see from the red mark in the photo (caused when I pulled my hair up and out of the way and barely scratched my neck with my nail.) I have all kinda of yucky things going on with my skin. I’m working on that.
I can’t undo the years of sun-abuse, but I can be kinder to my skin. I am counting the days until my Willing Beauty order arrives. I truly believe that I will see improvements to my fine lined, sun damaged, under-eye disaster of a face.
I now own a really huge hat which I got for Christmas. I plan to break it in this weekend, at my besties pool, under the umbrella. Oh what a site that will be!
Don’t be like me. Wear your sunscreen! 🙂
I am terrible about wearing sunscreen. Terrible. I have sun damage all over my body to show for the years of abuse I put my skin through when I thought, “There’s plenty of time…I’m young…I am invincible…”
I wasn’t allowed to use suntan oil as a child. We had a pool, and I had SPF 15 sunscreen. All my friends had gorgeous tans, and my wicked mother insisted I be protected when I laid out. I really did think that was wicked of her.
What’s a teenage girl to do when she’s being denied the glorious, oily, tropical smell of Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, or St Tropez? She snuck into the kitchen and slathered on the Wesson Oil before heading out to the pool, that’s what she did!
Insert horrified face here.
I got away with it for years. I became a master. I could time it so I never got too burnt (I’m lily white, I burn!) I worked on that “base tan” all summer. I looked GOOD when school started! All the while, the mother was impressed with my tan, thinking I was safely slathered in SPF 15, saying things like, “See how good sunscreen works?” and wondering why her tan wasn’t as good. In fact, when SPF 30 was invented, thought she would wet her pants with excitement.
My senior year, I did a LOT of tanning. I skipped sunscreen as often as I could. I was stupid. Yes, I said stupid. I sustained several severe sunburns that year. 1984 was the year I learned the joys of Noxema and White Vinegar, and how they took the sting out of a sunburn. God bless my Home Ec teacher for the vinegar trick! I kept white vinegar in the house for years for just that reason.
Spring break 1984 was spent at Pismo Beach. A week at one of my favorite beaches with the family. I was in heaven. I laid out every day, and every day the weather was kinda yucky. No tan was developing. I began to panic. The day before we left, I used the Wesson Oil. It was overcast. Do you know what happens to a lily white girl slathered in Wesson Oil at the beach on an overcast day?
She burns. Badly. So badly that she can’t take her swim suite off. So badly that the seams of her t-shirt cause excruciating pain upon her shoulders.
I got in trouble for not using the sunscreen. She never knew about the Wesson Oil.
We left Pismo and took a side trip to Yuma Arizona to visit the grandparents. From there we drove to a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert to watch the space shuttle land. It was pretty dang hot in that dry lake bed in the middle of the desert. Too hot for clothing. Ya, I wore the swimsuit and shorts. After-all, I felt better, and the tan was building.
Oops. Burn on burn, not a good thing. Apparently the desert is just as bad as the beach on an overcast day. Eventually it was necessary to cut the swimsuit of me. The burn was that bad.
I blistered and peeled like I never had before. It was at that time that I noticed…freckles. Not a lot, but a few, on my shoulders and on my chest. Hmm, they kinda looked like a tan, so I didn’t care. Freckles were cute as long as they were minimal.
Soon it was graduation week. We went water-skiing the weekend before graduation. Now, no matter how much sunscreen one slathers on, it washes off every time you fall down on the skis. Boy did I fall down a lot. I am not meant to stand on water-skis. I’m not mean to be in the same body of water with water-skis. I spent a lot of time in the water that day. I also burned again. Really, really bad.
I clearly recall a trip to the doctor who declared a first degree burn. I remember my mother placing huge gauze pads on my shoulders under the straps of my dress which I wore under my graduation gown. I remember my boyfriend being both fascinated and grossed out at my shoulders. When the pealing and healing was done, my shoulders were covered in freckles and a lot of damage. They still are.
Do you think I learned my lesson? Heck no! I tanned all through my 20’s and a good chunk of my 30’s. Then, a trip to the salon changed my wayward tanning ways. More on that tomorrow…