Friday, July 8, 2011

Mother Nature Comes to Collect Her Toll

"Well here I am, I am the angel of Earth. And I have come to bring you my burdens."
-David Lowery (Cracker)

I'm outside a lot.  For work, play, family...all of it.  Outside.  Since I was a kid, my face, neck, and back have taken a total beating from the sun.   Full weeks tent camping at Cape Hatteras in the dunes.  Entire summers spent counting grasses on barrier islands.   Shirtless, lotion-less days in wetlands, boats, and on beaches. A few painfully memorable sunburns from fishing in the Florida Keys.  Thousands of work days just like this, with sunburns just like this:

"Only my neck got burned."

I thought that the fact that I've "gotten better" about skin protection would be sufficient.  I thought that since I started habitually using good lotion on my ears and nose by age 21,  and (almost) always wearing a baseball cap outdoors by age 25, that I was doing enough to take care of my skin.  And I thought that when I started wearing long shirts and longer shorts in the sun around age 35, that everything would be fine, despite constant sun exposure to the light pink skin I inherited from my German, Polish, and Swiss ancestors.
But after a long, hot wetland work trip (and variable sunburn) in the summer of 2010, I got a tiny blister on my neck, right above my shirt collar, that wouldn't quite go away.  As it slowly grew, I joked that it must be an "old person disease" like eczema or psoriasis.  It was never gross, just a little blotch that peeled once in awhile. During the winter of 2010-2011, it kept peeling and I promised myself that I'd deal with it in 2011.
Well, the joke is on me, because I found out last week that I do indeed have an "old person disease" on my neck, but apparently that disease is skin cancer.  More specifically, a basal carcinoma, which is the mildest, most treatable, least deadly (really, non-deadly) kind of skin cancer that exists. 
Later this month, I'll go for Mohs surgery, which will involve taking a nice fat hunk of meat out of my neck, wide and deep, and making sure all the cancer has been removed.  Interestingly enough, three days later, we'll leave on a trip to the beach to visit friends .  I'll have some great stitches and a giant bandage to share with everybody then.  Oh well.
If you have pale or pink skin, I can already predict that the time and effort you save by skipping the sun lotion will be repaid to Mother Nature at a later date.   I really wish I had started the installment payments before age 24.


Unknown said...

Be careful out there man! Good advice for us that are fair skinned. Good luck with your treatments!

Gretchen Steele said...

Excellent advice! Those of us whop spend day in and day out must be hyper vigilant. My dear husband had a total face rebuild thanks to a similar situation. Too many years on a tractor seat :)

Mike Sepelak said...

I hear ya. Had a similar divot taken from my nose last year. Thankfully, it healed surprisingly well. My schnoz never was pretty, but now has just a little added character. :~)

Hats are now de rigor when on the stream.

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