The first time that I had skin cancer, I was about 28 years old and the dermatologist was surprised that my test came back positive for basal cell carcinoma. I had originally visited the dermatologist because of an itchy, sometimes bleeding scab on my scalp that wouldn’t heal. Gross, I know. I never thought the scab would be skin cancer. The dermatologist treated it with a topical medication that made me feel horrible and made my scab one giant monster scab. Luckily most of my hair that didn’t fall out due to the treatment, remained to hide the monster scab.
Skin cancer at 28! Being part American Indian, I was never fair skinned, and I never did try to get tan indoors or out. When I was 15, I started putting sunscreen on my face and arms every day because I was a little odd and dreaded the thought of looking like a leather handbag when I got older. However, this instance of skin cancer was merely because I never put sunscreen on my scalp. Who would think to do that?! As a youth, I swam nearly every day during the summer for about 13 years. So I considered it a fluke and expected it not to happen again until I was much, much older.
Apparently much, much older for me is at the age of 34. In January of 2012, I noticed an odd thing: The chicken pox scar in the middle of my forehead that had been indented since I was about 7 or 8 years old was suddenly starting to stick out and look like a round mole. Then a few months later it started to itch and bleed. I really wanted to deny that it was cancer and hoped that it was just some odd scar that would heal. And it did heal for a little while. The spot became smoother and flatter. And then it started to bleed again. My husband convinced me to have it checked. The dermatologist took one look at it, scraped it for the lab and then performed curettage and electrodesiccation. His nurse said if the result came back positive that the doctor would either perform another curettage and electrodesiccation or refer me to a plastic surgeon. She told me that the doctor didn’t believe that the creams, like the one I used previously, were as effective as removal.
About one week later, I got the call confirming that I had basal cell carcinoma again. Stress. I thought it must’ve been the stress I’d been experiencing for several years. Then I thought about my childhood in the sun. It must’ve been all of those years in the sun when we weren’t yet pressured to wear sunscreen. Then I became afraid that the previous skin cancer hadn’t been completely removed and had traveled through the basal cells.
Of course the Internet didn’t help with all of my fears. I got to research all sorts of things, including a video of the surgery that my plastic surgeon was going to perform on me. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.
Today I have a thin line on my forehead where my cancer once was, and when I wrinkle my brow it’s more noticeable. After surgery, I used lots of sunscreen and vitamin E cream to help with the scar. My surgeon had recommended other things besides vitamin E, but because I was breastfeeding my son at the time, I couldn’t use most of it.
For more information about skin cancer and how to protect your skin: http://www.skincancer.org/