Yes, this is a picture of me one day post-op to remove and repair the site of one of two basal cell carcinomas on my forehead. This suture is what is left from a Cheerio-sized basal cell. The other site, which needs to wait, is the size of a dime. I very much debated submitting this picture. It’s hard for me to look at, and it’s my own face. But it’s my reality – a reality that stunned me as I stared at the quarter size hole cut into my forehead and then the 1.5 inch long suture I was left with. My goodness, this was my face! The first thing people see. What did I do (or not do) to find myself in this predicament? Well, a few things. First and oddly enough, I can count on one hand how many times I visited a tanning bed. One hand. But the carelessness I took with my skin, in the sun alone, is what ultimately led me here.
When I was 15, and as fair and blue-eyed and freckled as they come, I hated my skin. I hated the paleness. I hated looking cute instead of really pretty (whatever that was). So I laid out. A couple hours here, a few hours there. I would turn red, bright red but that was it. The resiliency of my poor, youthful skin. And then I did it. I laid out from 12pm to 6pm one day. I never got up. I didn’t have a lick of sunscreen on. In fact, I spritzed myself with a water bottle occasionally. I fell asleep at some point. When I was awakened by my parents, I was in a complete stupor. That night I became very hot, like 120 degrees hot. By 10pm I could feel my skin opening up, literally opening up to release the heat. By early morning I was covered, head to toe, with huge pulsating blisters. There wasn’t a patch of skin on me that did not blister. We were lucky enough to live by a nurse who basically spared my skin from scarring. It was a long and painful two weeks lying there with giant aloe leaves all over me, among other things.First and oddly enough, I can count on one hand how many times I visited a tanning bed.
But I healed. And my skin took on a less pale tone. Let’s say the front of my body and the back of my body never matched again. But then the paleness started to return. And I wanted more sun. As a teen into my early 20s, I paid no respect to my skin, or the sun.
So here I am, at the still somewhat young age of 36, looking mangled and minced. I was first diagnosed with my larger basal site at 31, as a pre-cancer. It was treated but over the years it continued to grow and scale and bleed, and grow and scale and bleed. I covered it with make-up. I pretended it wasn’t there. And then the other site popped up, but it was growing faster. In just a year and half, there was a red and agitated abnormal patch of skin telling me, screaming at me, to go have it checked.
Because my two basal cell sites are too close together, the doctor advised against doing both surgeries at the same time. The two sutures would have competed for stretchable skin, hence compromising the best chance for healing. My best case is that I have two vertical scars, one 1.5 inches and the other will be about 2 inches. As I sit here writing this, I can feel my incision throbbing.
This is my face. The only one I have. And I told the sun to go fly a kite. Shame on me.