I debated on whether or not to share this photo array and a personal admonition. But now that summer is here and we’re spending so much time in the sun I decided to go ahead and put this out there, preferring to encourage early detection over offending someone with the pic.
What started out as a very small spot on my left nostril near the tip of my nose turned out to be a deep, nodular basal cell carcinoma. Over the years it would scab, maybe bleed a little, but it was so small (the size of the tip of a sharpie) I ignored it, thinking it couldn’t be anything significant. My daughter Emily actually mentioned it to me 2 years ago but I just didn’t think anything about it.
During a routine exam this past March with my dermatologist I casually mentioned this particular “spot” and she immediately examined it and took a biopsy. Two weeks later I received the dreaded call – positive for basal cell carcinoma.
My skin cancer surgeon performed a Mohs procedure on it, which required two “passes” (or cuts) to completely excise the deep cancer from the tip of my nose. Four days later he used a skin graft from inside my left ear to cover it and gave me a 50/50 chance it would take. Sadly, it did not.
In late May I had ”bilobed flap” reconstructive plastic surgery (by one of the best plastic surgeons in Florida at Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery) to repair the hole where skin cancer had grown. The surgeon told my wife my left nostril had collapsed and needed cartilage from inside my right ear to rebuild my nostril rim. He rebuilt three layers: lining, nostril rim and skin layer (top).
To say it’s been rough is an understatement. It may take a full year before the swelling is completely gone. But the scars will always be there reminding me of how careless I was exposing my skin to the harmful effects of the sun.
My glasses barely fit on my swollen face for several weeks after the surgery. Even several days post-surgery I awoke to increased swelling around my eyes – which I can barely keep open. My face was in constant pain, kept in check with limited doses of the “heavy stuff” as well as Tylenol & Advil for the swelling. I could barely work – my office hours were drastically curtailed.
I’ve never been vain, but when the most prominent feature on your face reminds you of Quasimodo, it’s bad.
All this is to say PLEASE WEAR SUNSCREEN! Skin cancer can be devastating but is preventable. Being rather fair-skinned I wore sunscreen “almost” all the time growing up, and as a young man I did tan. Of course, I also had my fair share of sunburns. Little did I know how badly I was damaging my skin.
GET REGULAR WHOLE-BODY SKIN CHECKS by a dermatologist! As we get older we need to be checked more often for unseen dangers growing on the biggest organ of our body – our skin. Don’t ignore small warnings!
Don’t let my story become yours. It may take years before something like this shows up (hopefully never!) but when it does it can cause irreparable damage. And it is preventable.
Have a great summer – and WEAR SUNSCREEN!