There's good news and bad news...and maybe a combination of the two.  Yesterday was my first dermatology appointment since arriving on the island four months ago.  I was scheduled to have my skin "mapped", a procedure that allows the doctors to follow any "abnormal" spots to ensure that anything that required further attention would be tended to.
     On the way to the appointment, I laughed on the inside as I wondered whether or not I'd be able to look my map up on mapquest and the various routes that could be taken from my nose to my toes.  I wasn't particularly concerned because I had recently cleared my third round of topical chemotherapy for pre-cancerous cells just a week before leaving Kentucky, roughly four months ago.
    Topical chemotherapy?!  I know, I know...poor me.  Not so much!  I have done this to myself.  I have been addicted to the tanning bed (and natural sunlight in a pinch) since I was in high school. (Which is a lot of years ago.  A LOT!)  I can remember thinking how much better my white cheerleading skirt looked if I was able to make it to the tanning bed before the game.  (Seriously?!) In fact, I vaguely remember writing a composition on tanning during my junior year.  (Again, seriously?!)  I made every effort to ensure that I made it to the swimming pool to lay out (seasonally) and/or to the tanning salon on a daily basis.
    Of course my mother warned me of the perils of skin cancer and pleaded with me to stop the madness.  In fact, she offered to take me to the nearest cancer ward so that I could see what it was like to have skin cancer and the misery that accompanies treatment.  Silly mom!  Again, the cheerleading uniform was much better on me if my skin were brown...with just a hint of red.  She just didn't understand.  Parents can be so old fashioned.
    In recent years, I cut back on the visits to the tanning salon.  In fact, I was content to visit the magic bulbs two or three times in a week.  I even went the "healthy route" and hosted a mobile spray tanning (margaritas too, of course!) party in my home at Fort Belvoir!  By this time, the damage had been done and I was being urged to visit the dermatologist at least once a year. 
    Fast forward...As ridiculous as this sounds, (and yes, even a bit twisted) I wish I had known (maybe cared is the better word...) about the aging associated with that "healthy, youthful" glow.  It's naive (a big, fat lie in fact!) to think that I wasn't aware that tanning has an effect on aging.  But the truth is that I arrogantly believed that there would be such advances made in curing cancer and, more importantly to my wayward thinking,  this whole aging thing that by the time I was old enough to care, it wouldn't matter.  It matters.  A lot. 
    As I waltzed into the dermatologists office thirty minutes late (parking in Hawaii is INSANE!) I was oblivious to my reality.  That didn't last long.  Dr. Leu, a very kind and patient dermatologist, did not use scare tactics, nor did she lecture.  She did, however, begin making notes like mad, alternating between my new chart and her prescription pad.  I went from her office directly to the pharmacy and then home to begin my fourth round of  Efudex, a wicked cream in the topical chemotherapy family which is used to treat precancerous cells.  The three previous treatments were concentrated solely on my chest.  This round, however, will effect all skin from my wrists to my hairline which I found a bit discouraging, particularly since I am well aware (too aware, perhaps!) of the agony associated with topical chemotherapy.  The area in misery will be more than twice that of previous treatments.  Yea. Me.
    So, the good news (or the slightly mixed news) is that it's all still in precancerous stages and can be managed with topical chemotherapy agents.  The bad news is that it will be managed with topical chemotherapy agents!  And I must say that I was startled to read that I have forty refills.  FORTY!  Can they really write a prescription with forty refills?!  Perhaps I was in a fog when I arrived home and misread the tube...  
    The bad news is that I will have a very "raw" look (and feel!) on my arms, chest and face.  (It's never good news when the dermatologist says, "You don't have any important functions anytime soon, do you?") 
    And now for the good news...Efudex, or as I refer to it, misery in a tube (among other things, depending upon how far into treatment I am!) is dermatology's "dirty little secret" as are some of the other lotions and potions used to treat various skin conditions.  While I will always be a fan of botox, did you know that Efudex has a documented effect on it's ability to "reverse" the aging process?   While it does not differentiate between "good" cells and "bad" cells and just kills them all, it creates a wound, thereby forcing the body to generate new cells. (Or something like that...)
    I had not intended to share this, however this is my fourth round of treatment and on the off-chance that someone reading this will see their dermatologist for something that looks "abnormal" to the naked eye or, better yet, will spend their time in the sun more wisely than I have (SUNSCREEN, PEOPLE!), I would be foolish to remain silent.
    I guess that the best way to describe the next few weeks for me will be to say that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better!  I am hoping to share the good, bad and ugly (and it WILL be UGLY, this I know from experience!) with you not so that you will feel sorry for me.  Don't.  But because I want you to be smarter than me, particularly in the sunshine!


01/10/2012 20:33

thank you so much for the laughs, I am about to start for my first time and I am so fricking nervous! I am 49 and not sure just how bad it is going to be for me. I have had the blue light therapy 2x's and not much happened. We will see.. UGH!!! I grewup in Tx and loved the sun from a very early age, still do!


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