Monday, February 15, 2010

Hidden Danger

Currently, if you looked at my face you'd think I am a leper. It's the result of years of UV radiation (skiing, boating, hiking, being outside) - and the vanity that comes with a good tan. As if I had placed it in a microwave - what is it that heats up that food anyway? Just cuz we can't see it... doesn't mean the rays aren't cooking. Who knew that the damage would be cumulative?
I met a girl in the gym on Saturday. She said "Aw, precancerous cells, huh?". As she showed me a wide scar that ran the length of the back of her arm, she asked, "Do you know what this is?". "A zipper for your humerus?", I guessed. Not so humorous. "Skin cancer. Years of boating on Flaming Gorge and water-skiing on Lake Powell as a kid. " She's a fair-skinned beautiful young woman - only in her late 20s. "I had a mole there all my life, but it started to change". She went to the dematologist, and sure enough the biopsy was cancerous. They took out lymph nodes in her armpit to see if it spread - it hadn't. She reports that another 20-something in our neighborhood recently had the same experience, same mole, same spot. Only HER lymph nodes showed cancerous cells - therefore, she's on chemo. Bummer.
I have to put a cream called 'Aldara' on my face, twice a week for 8 weeks. It apparently makes the precancerous cells scab up. It didn't look that bad before, no serious wrinkles - it's not like I looked like a 90 yr old smoker - no obvious signs to me. But my doctor could tell. I used to go in once a year for the dermatologist to freeze precancerous cells. Occasionally he'd cut something out. This time he said he couldn't freeze anymore. "Use this cream. 1/4 teaspoon per $20 dose". It works. It's crazy how it works. I'll trade my vanity for years of solar abuse, if it means I don't have to bear a 12" zipper-scar across the forehead - or a patch of skin from my rear on my face - which I've also seen on others.
Be careful out there in the Utah wilds and on its slopes and waters. See a doctor regularly. Lather up with the SPF. No one wants to be a butt-face.

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