It's never a good thing to hear at a dermatology appointment, especially when he's only made it from my forehead to left cheek, "I'm going to stop counting at 18 and I have not even covered half your face."
I guess being a white, nearly ginger, freckled, dude that grew up living in the tropics, cyclist, runner, triathlete, has not been kind to my skin. In fact, the doctor said that the damage to my skin is indicative of a 60 year old...Double Yikes!
Before I get scolded. I wear sunscreen. I wear a hat. I wear shirts. But...sunscreen doesn't work as well as not being in the sun (as told to me by the dermatologist). I have multiple risk factors. Growing up in Australia (2 out of 100 will develop melanoma and 25% of the population will develop some sort of skin cancer according to the dermatologist), I covered my face in sunscreen and zinc oxide; but, cycling, running, and generally living outside has taken it's toll.
It seems that my entire forehead, nose, and cheeks are severely damaged with multiple cancer/ pre-cancer spots...more than 18 on just the left side. Just within the past 4 months I had a spot that was continuously "peeling" or scaling no matter how much lotion I applied. I also had a spot right on the top of my head, at my part, that NEVER had sunscreen applied and wasn't covered by a running visor, that also was continuously peeling; hmph!
Well instead of hacking my face apart or irradiating me into oblivion, I am applying 3 weeks worth of a topically applied chemotherapy cream that essentially kills any rapidly proliferating cells on the surface of my face. Thankfully it's not a more aggressive form of melanoma. Instead, the primary damage is to my squamous cells, the last layer of epithelial cells that eventually become the outer layer of the skin. If left untreated there is a good possibility for these cancer cells to proliferate inside the body and then I'd be in really big trouble with a metastasizing form of cancer.
This treatment leaves me with a very unsightly face. You know you are pretty fucked when the medicinal information packet describes to expect your face as "UNSIGHTLY!" The info packet recommends limiting your interactions with people and maybe taking vacation time at work to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations and staring.
Ok, I look like I'm VERY sunburned, windburned, chaffed, dry, peeling,...well...pretty fugly! It burns, itches, and is very sensitive and uncomfortable. My lips are completely blistered over!!!!!!!! My lips look like what I can only imagine a hooker's vagina might resemble...scabby and blistered???? I have a few more days left of chemically removing the entire surface of my face and then I can expect the severe redness to slowly fade over the next 3 weeks, along with some scabbing in the heavily damaged areas. The advantage of this treatment is that it is 93% effective and my skin will return wrinkle free! Great, I'll have the skin of a 16 year old with grey hair.
Sunscreen. I use it but, I'll use it ALL THE TIME now. There are two main types of sunscreen: blocking and absorbing. Chemical sunscreens absorb the radiation and turn it into heat, damages skin but not in a cancer way; and, blocking...think zinc oxide. Now there are new pulverized zinc creams that are apply clear but block uv rays vs. old school total white out zinc. I won't be preachy but wear your sunscreen all the time!
**upcoming news** vive la France (hint)