bad skin biopsy: why I’m lurking in the shade

It's umbrella time

One year ago this week, I got a biopsy of a mole on my chest and it came back positive for basal cell carcinoma. I had it removed in September – an excision that was relatively painless and straightforward. Though the scar is much bigger/longer than I anticipated (I mean, the mole was only a speck), it has healed well.

I feel lucky that this wasn’t melanoma, the more serious form of skin cancer. And I also feel thankful that this wasn’t on my face – I now know several people who have dealt with this. Two friends have written about it eloquently: “Basal Cell Carcinoma…By the Numbers” by Jen from Runaway Mama and “Moh’s Surgery: A Farewell to Skin Cancer” by Sarah from Live, Laugh and Learn.

While I am fine, the reality is that I’m at a high risk for more bad news in the skin department, so I have to be extra careful. This means that I have to a) apply sunscreen like it’s my new job, and b) cultivate a healthy hatred of the sun.

Though I made mistakes as a kid and a teenager, including an average number of sunburns over the years…I’ve never really been a sun goddess. I suppose I got just enough sun exposure to injure my pale Scottish/Irish epidermis. I am basically polka-dotted with freckles and moles: any one of those could “turn” at any moment.

<Excuse me, I just need to apply some more sunscreen. And yes, I’m sitting in my living room and, yes, I just applied it about four minutes ago.>

Anyway, my instinct, after learning more about all of this, was to never go outside again, to flip the bird to the sun, and basically avoid it for the rest of time. At first, this seemed possible. After all, I’m a bookish type: a reader, a writer, and I work at an ice rink. The problem, of course, is that I am also a parent. A parent of a young, active child (three-years-old now) and we NEED TO GET OUTSIDE. Not only does he have a lot of energy to burn, I want to expose him to outdoor activities and help him to appreciate nature. I want to take him to beaches, parks, hiking trails, pools, ski slopes, and all manner of athletic fields.

And so. This is why I have been lurking in the shade. Desperately seeking shade. Basically darting like some kind of freakish ghoul from shady spot to shady spot. Call me Shade Ninja. For example, you may have seen me at the playground curled up into a little ball under the jungle gym. Or wayyyy off to the side, behind the swings, where the trees were casting that lovely sun-free zone. Yes, that was me wearing a long sleeve shirt and therefore sweating like a human shower spout.

If we met up on the street lately, and stopped for a pleasant little chitchat – it was great seeing you! But I was probably also secretly having an anxiety attack. I know I slowly swiveled around so that my back was to the sun and also, weirdly, to you. I swear I was listening when you were telling me about your vacation, even though I was also digging around in my bag for my lil’ travel sized sunscreen-on-the-go and smeared it all over my face. (Thanks for telling me it wasn’t all rubbed in, by the way, but, as I mentioned, that’s how I prefer it now, applied liberally, and with great thickness, like caulking.)

At the beach, I lounge under not one, but a trifecta of umbrellas. I put towels over my legs to be extra safe. I only build sandcastles in the umbrellas’ orb of relative darkness.

At the pool the other day, I squeezed out a coin-sized serving onto my palm, trudged through the shallow end over to another mom, and asked her with a hint of panic if she could rub it into my shoulders, where I couldn’t reach. Was that weird? It felt a little weird, but the alternative was that I was going to have to leave and make my kid leave as well.

When I go for my run-walk over at the lake, I walk in the shade and sprint as fast as I can through the sunny parts; this is how I now time out my intervals.

The point here is that I want to be excited about summer, I want to celebrate and have fun instead of recoiling from daylight like the Wicked Witch of the West does with water… I’M MELTINGGG! I want to teach my son how to throw a frisbee (and, ok, actually learn how to throw one myself which could take a few years.) Basically, I don’t want to be so sun-shy and so shade-centric that his experiences are limited.

I know, I can still do all these things. I just have to stop every four minutes to apply sunscreen. And I obviously also need to buy this stylin’ umbrella hat.

umbrella hat

Thank you for not laughing at me (no wait, I actually invite you to do so) and for coming over to talk to me where I’m crouching in the shade. Well, not to get all soapbox-y or anything, but, even if you haven’t gotten any bad skin news, shade is probably a better place for you, too. If you ever need sunscreen, I have a vat of it in my trunk, 16,000 cases of it at my house, and, I happen to have some in my hand, right now…here you go.

Happy Summer Everyone.

***

For more home tome, put on your SPF 5000 and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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10 replies

  1. I just returned from a few weeks in France. While everyone there was enjoying their baking, I was enjoying the sun from under an umbrella as well. I had squamous cell. On my face. The weird thing is all my life I wore bangs and thought they would protect my skin. I had the squamous on my forehead. Mohs surgery was successful and–screw it. I let my bangs grow out!

    • Bravo! Three cheers for umbrellas. I haven’t traveled out of the country for a while, and I have been wondering what is going on elsewhere on this topic. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

  2. Heartbreaking and funny. I had no idea but I can relate in a huge way. Totally cried. My daughter was the kid at the park who never took her hat off because she’d been wearing one religiously since she was two months. “Mommy, please don’t make me look like a ghost.” I promise!!! Baby spf 50 stock options. Consumer reports summer issue for the best sunscreen list of the season. I had two on my face before I got married. One is not a great scar. Now, we camp at the beach for a week every year….very carefully. As they say, life must go onβ™‘

  3. You know I hear you, sister in paleness. I’ve had a few moles removed but all benign thankfully. And you reminded me, it’s time for to go see my dermatologist!

  4. Aw, I haven’t been reading blogs much lately.. For years?! But I stumbled on this. I’m sorry you had to go through that! I too have times when the sun is my worst enemy and just this week finally invested in a pricey-yet-comforting SPF 50 rash guard. Even though it’ll leave my hands exposed (uggghhh) at least I won’t have to ask for shoulder-sunscreen help! That’s the wooooorst. πŸ™‚

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