Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spending My Life In Plan B ..... includes skin cancer? Really?

What a crazy week. I knew it would be as hubby flew out of town on a business trip. And of course when hubby travels - things always go wrong. This time it was sick kids. Alex is still coughing up a lung every night. Why is it always 10 times worse when they go to bed than it is during the day???

It started out as any summer vacation week begins: getting ready to go to swim team. Summer swim team practice prep is easy: bathing suits. Check. Towels. Check. Goggles. Check. It also includes: jogging stroller. Check. Water. Check. inhaler. Check. Goldfish. Check. I run with Ellie in the jogging stroller every time Alex has an outdoor swim team practice.

We were also going to stay at the pool for free swim after practice, so I packed a lunch, sunscreen, toys and towels and suits for me and Ellie. We managed to get out the door on time and had a great time at the pool. Alex got a mild sunburn in spite of the sunscreen, so we skipped the evening swim team practice at the YMCA with his year-round team. Thus began a downward spiral to the week. We missed all the remaining swim team practices as Alex developed a fever Tuesday afternoon and a cough on Wednesday. The fever broke by mid-day Thursday, but the cough is still pestering him. Mostly at night when he is trying to sleep. When the cough developed I called the Doc to see if they could fit him in. Thankfully they saw him at 4pm and confirmed it wasn't swine flu or strep throat. He is on antibiotics, musinex and cough syrup.

On Friday morning I got a rude wake up call to USE SUNSCREEN WHENEVER I AM OUTSIDE. I was mentioning to a friend this funny red bump on my neck and how it had been there for 4 weeks and it's condition (color, shape, size, itchiness, & crustiness) reminded me of a Basal Cell Carcinoma I had removed from my neck 7 years ago. My friend said, "Well if you're concerned about it you should call your Dermatologist." Very good advice. Don't know why I didn't think of it first!

Well, I remembered to call the Dermatologist after I scheduled Alex's appointment. The Dermatologist was able to fit me in on Friday. I brought the kids, thinking it was only going to be a quick evaluation. The PA came in and after a quick look-see through a huge microscope said, "That's a keritosis, and it needs to come off." Out he went, and back in as quickly he came with a tank of liquid nitrogen. "We're going to freeze this off. It will sting a little bit, and be sore for a while." My son thought that was SO COOL! He didn't know Doctor's offices had LIQUID NITROGEN. Wow! And, yep, it stung, and was sore for a while after that, but it went away quickly. I covered it with a very cool pink Barbie band-aide. I covered the rest of me with SPF 70, and back to the pool we headed.

So what is a keritosis? It wasn't a basal cell carcinoma like I had 7 years ago. I wasn't too worried about that when I learned they don't metastisize and they are "cured" by cutting them out. The one I had removed was on the back of my neck near my hair line: not even a really visible scar. The PA told me that the keritosis was not a basal cell, but pre-cancerous. So I googled keritosis, and Google was polite; asking me "Did you really mean KERATOSIS?" Oh, yeah, thanks for the spell-check. A quick trip off to MedicineNet and I have my answer. Well, there is some debate in the medical community as to whether it IS cancer, or it is just PRE-cancerous. That's maybe good. But regardless of the debate; it is definitely pre-cancerous to squamous cell. Is that good? According to the MedicineNet website "Anywhere from 5%-10% of AKs can potentially go on to become skin cancers." I guess it's not melanoma and won't turn into melanoma, so it must be good. Right? Oh. Squamous cells are all over the body. Oh. Unlike Basal Cell Carcinoma Squamous cell cancer CAN matasticize. Not so good. Also, the website says: "While AKs may give rise to skin cancers like squamous cell carcinomas, they do not turn into melanomas. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that people with AKs may be more prone to melanomas simply by having more sun damage." Great.

I feel like I'm on a new journey. I imagine skin cancer is like that bear in the woods. You go hiking, knowing that there are bear, and that they are very dangerous when encountered, but you still enjoy nature and hiking so off you go. Forewarned of course and with your wits about you and the knowledge of what to do if you encounter one. I too have knowledge of what to do to reduce my risks now. I sunscreen always: SPF 30 or higher depending on my activity and repeated hourly if I'm out that long. I wear a hat, especially when I'm running or gardening. I try to avoid spending lots of time outside at the high point of the day. Instead I run and garden in the morning or late afternoon/evening when I can. But I do have two young kids, one a swimmer. So I am not going to hide inside all summer long. I am not afraid of cancer. If it does pop out of the woods on the trail ahead, I will meet it head on. In the mean time I will enjoy the hike.

Since I started this two weeks ago, I found another possible keratosis on my right arm, and as I was researching last night I found maybe a few more on my right leg. Guess I have a call to make today. I was hoping they were just more mosquito bites like I got on the 4th of July. But, they aren't bug bites. Mosquito bites get big and red, and REALLY itchy. So ITCHY I scratch and scratch till they open and bleed. These are small, and sort of itchy, but don't open up like bug bites. Instead they are the same size/shape as the keratosis that he removed. So to all my swim team friends past and present: get your sunscreen on!


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