I know, I know this is a weird title. I can hear some of you laughing and others saying “Ewwww!” However, like the color orange in last week’s blog the topic of skin has crossed my thoughts a lot recently.
Skin is the largest organ of the human body- –
Like a brain or a heart or something?
Yes, 9. This fact will come your way no later than Mr. Brown’s eighth grade science class.
Been there, done that.
And I’ll bet you’re glad you didn’t get the t-shirt, Lily.
Bunsen burners aren’t a good look for me.
One of the main functions of skin is protecting the body from external factors, like bacteria and chemicals and temperature. As you age, it will come to seem that skin also exists to wrinkle, incur sun damage and lose elasticity.
No choice! Sun damage is one reason skin is high in my thoughts this week. In March at my 6-month dermatological check-in- –
Do you have zits?
No, 9, I do not have zits. It’s part of our Irish heritage, a tendency to develop skin issues such as precancerous patches and basal cell carcinoma from cumulative sun damage.
But we don’t sunbathe- -do we? I mean, do we later?
Not much, Lily, but even doing yard work without sunscreen and protective clothing can rack up skin problem points. The cumulative nature of skin cancers is that they start to sneak up on you big time as you age. In 2020 I had six basal cell carcinomas diagnosed and removed, the first time ever in my life.
Since then I’ve had some precancerous spots frozen off my nose and the top of my head. At the March check-in a spot on my back looked suspicious- -either basal cell carcinoma or an irritated mole, according to the dermatologist. He did not consider it life-threatening and gave me a choice: biopsy now to get it over with or wait 6 to 8 weeks and see if it went away. I opted for waiting.
Were you scared?
Not really, 9, because I trusted what the dermatologist said about it not being life-threatening. Et voilà! 8 weeks later it was gone. However- –
I hate it when people say “however.” It never means anything good.
Hang on, Lily, in this case it doesn’t exactly mean anything bad, either, just something that needs taking care of. There’s a red patch on the side of my nose where my reading glasses rest. It’s been there a couple of years and didn’t raise red flags but a few ago weeks it started to get scaly. I asked about it; the suspicion now is that it’s precancerous or possibly a basal cell carcinoma.
The recommended treatment is application of a cream called imiquimod 5% cream. I apply this at bedtime and leave it on for 8 hours on an on-again/off-again schedule that lasts six weeks.
What does it do?
If the patch is precancerous or superficial basal cell carcinoma the cream activates an immune response that, essentially, kills off the bad cells and gets rid of the patch. Both the dermatologist and pharmacist advised me “If it’s working, the spot will look worse before it looks better.”
I choose to look at this as a science experiment, because that makes it fun. The only part that bothers me is I have to be more careful than ever about spending time in the sun while the medicine runs its course.
Skin cancer isn’t the only way skin has become a topic in my life. Yep, we’re back to the aging thing. I mentioned a few blogs ago that I’ve started an online face yoga class and I continue to enjoy it. Through massage, exercise and relaxation the skin develops better circulation and receives more nutrients, plus the muscles tighten and tauten. I doubt this regimen has made me look younger, but I have noticed my face is more relaxed than it used to be, and also more uplifted.
Reflecting on skin also makes me think about a 100-level sociology course I took at UW 40 (!) years ago. The prof was an elderly Englishman whose name I don’t remember, other than his first name was Kenneth. Professor Kenneth had pale blonde/white hair, little skin pigmentation and ghastly teeth. He was of the generation that did their fieldwork with tribes in Papua New Guinea (or some similar location) in a uniform of pith helmet and khakis. We saw the obligatory photo of this in one of his slide presentations.
The professor was especially interested in beliefs and superstitions, and used as an example from our culture the way some women believe if they use a particular, highly expensive face cream for thirty days it will make their wrinkles vanish! He presented this information with glee; to me, it just seemed like a paragraph from a 200-level marketing textbook.
However (sorry Lily!) I did draw two important conclusions from his example. First, if there was ever a Mrs. Professor Kenneth she had probably left him. Second: Professor Kenneth’s blotchy pink and white skin would have been a field day for a dermatologist.