That dang pimple just wouldn’t leave me be. It would go away after a week or two, I would forget about it… and a few weeks or months later, there it was again. In the same place every time, too.
Last January I became a Consultant with Rodan+Fields. I loved the healthy glow and smooth surface of my skin after using our products; happy to be working for a company that enhanced my skin as well as my income. But then July rolled around and with it came my old nemesis, the ‘Pink Pimple”. “Fifty + years is too old to begin having acne problems”, I remember thinking. No worries though, because Rodan+Fields has a Redefine Cleansing mask that will clean the most stubborn pores. So about a week after the pimple reappeared, I applied the mask and left it on for thirty minutes. Washed my face….nothing. The pimple was still there, the pore was still clogged. I tried the mask a second night and then a third. No change. Later, after the third masking, I woke with a sudden realization: If the Redefine Mask didn’t clear this clogged pore, then I’ve got a bigger problem than a pimple.”
The next day I made an appointment with a dermatologist. A receptionist said it would be a month before any of the doctors could see me. I wasn’t concerned, because at some point that morning, I had once more convinced myself again that I had nothing more than an irritating pimple. So, I waited a month to see the doctor and in the meantime, I kept my face clean; tried the mask a few more times. Bought some of those blackhead strips (just in case).
The pimple changed from light pink to almost red and became nodular; raised. Back to worrying.
During my very first appointment with a dermatologist, the young doctor (was he really old enough to be out of medical school?) performed a biopsy of the spot on my face and said he believed the biopsy would confirm his suspicion of Basal Cell Carcinoma. “Basal Cell Carcinoma isn’t malignant in the way melanoma is malignant,” he said. “However, we do consider it malignant, because left untreated, you will become disfigured. And it could lead to other health issues.” He explained the MOHs procedure a surgeon would use to extract the cancer. He said they “would cut until they got it all”. No…he couldn’t tell me how many stitches or how big the wound would be….that would all depend on how wide and deep the roots of the cancer cell had grown.
“Deeper is better than wide,” he said.
“Can it grow into the bone?” I wanted to know.
“Yes. We don’t want that to happen,” he said. “But if it has, we will get it out. All of it. In that case, or if the cancer has grown wide, reconstructive surgery will be a second step. We have wonderful surgeons on staff who will fix you up good as new”.
Last Monday I had surgery to remove this uninvited, pest of a guest, from my face. I’m glad he’s gone. Here’s the thing….he never should have been there. Had I known to use sunscreen or wear a hat as a teen, this little problem could have been avoided. But my generation had not heard of sunscreen until around the time we were having children of our own. In light of my ignorance of the damage caused from the sun, I probably wouldn’t have used sunscreen anyway. I wasn’t a ‘sun worshiper’, but I tanned easily (only had a few sunburns over the years, one really bad one as a kid) and could stay outside all day with no problem; when I went to the beach or the pool, my tanning oil of choice was Hawaiian Tropic or Johnson’s Baby Oil, neither offered protection from harmful rays. Hats and caps were a nuisance.
Later, I had an hour long commute from my home in Cartersville to the Atlanta airport. And it is there, in my car, that I feel I took on the most damage to my face. My doctor says it was probably from the burn I had as a kid. But when I think of skin cancer, I remember the sickening feel of the sun and heat hitting me in my car on the ride home from work. For years, I was frequently held captive in my vehicle while the hot Atlanta sun kissed the left side of my face. I would attempt to cover my face with my sun visor and my hand, but never sunscreen. Because by then, I had learned I had a sensitivity to sunscreen. No matter the brand I tried, sunscreen made my eyes burn and would irritate the skin around my mouth, nose and eyes until it became raw and red, usually after a single application. (Today, I use Rodan+Fields Reverse Sunscreen without any problems or skin irritations. RF has the only sunscreen products I’ve ever been able to use on my face. I keep a tube in my car, my purse and on my bathroom counter).
The point of this article is to encourage you…men, women, teens and children…to use a good quality sunscreen. Use it every day, regardless of the weather. Make sure it is a broad spectrum, UVA and UVB and is Skin Cancer Foundation approved. (This is important, in the past there has been false advertising surrounding sunscreen products. Finally, new legislation is changing that practice.)
A better quality sunscreen may cost a little more, but you’re worth the cost.
For now, I’m concentrating on healing and future protection. And I’m asking you to take your skin seriously. My doctor said, “If a spot persists longer than three months, have it looked at by a professional”. If it looks like a bug bite or a pimple or a scaly patch of skin, or a mole that grows or changes shape….don’t delay. See a doctor. Don’t tell yourself It’s no big deal. So what if it turns out to be nothing? You are something. You are a big deal. Take ten seconds and apply your sunscreen. Better to be safe than sorry.