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! 🙂