The Fair Skinned Lad
The Fair Skinned Lad
Fall was approaching. It was time for my annual dermatological exam. In my earlier years, I would never have thought in a million years of going to see a dermatologist. I was aware of them of course. Children with acne conditions and similar maladies needed to get help from them. But me? No way.
That was before we started spending several months a year broiling under the intense semi-tropical, Florida sun. During the first few years, several lesions of basal cell carcinoma had to be burned off, using a frozen nitrous oxide compound. Then, later I had to treat a dozen more areas with a topical chemotherapy called Fluorocil. What is this all about?
Well, it turns out that the sun is a merciless predator of fair skinned lads. Who would have ever thought of the need to use sun tan lotion on the part lines of your hair? I didn’t either and had to treat whole areas of that skin with Fluoricil. Now I wear one of those wide-brimmed cowboy hats when I play golf. It covers your head and necks areas from damaging UV rays.
I thought I was doing a pretty good job of covering up and using sun tan lotion judiciously. No more spending time poolside or sitting on a beach for this fair skinned lad. Who needs the grief, I thought.
So, I walked into the Doctor’s office with some degree of confidence. And then the bad news unfolded itself. The Dr. took four biopsies off of my upper back and one from my leg. Each would be sent to a lab to determine if they had turned cancerous. I felt like the sun had won this round. And then, the good doctor pointed out five pre cancerous spots on my face, one on an ear and several on my hands. I would have to use the Fluoricil twice daily, for three weeks, to prevent these spots from turning cancerous. Funny, I don’t remember sleeping in a tanning bed for several hours to bring on this dermal onslaught upon myself. What’s up with that?
The Doctor explained that basal cell carcinoma, the lesser variety of its evil twin melanoma, is a condition that is many, many years in the making, particularly with fair skinned people whose ancestry originated in Northern Europe. The cumulative damage to your skin builds up. As the body ages and the skin loses both its elasticity and the ability to repair itself, the lesions emerge. Like most cancers, if caught early they are treatable and relatively harmless. You ignore them though at your peril.
So, with lacerated skin from the biopsies and a newer appreciation for how damaging the sun can be to your skin, I set about applying the Fluorocil to my suspected damaged areas of skin. I knew, from past applications, that in a few weeks my face would start to look like a pizza pie. But, that’s the way it goes. The treatment burns through the affected layers of tissue until newer and healthier skin emerges.
I have to call the Doctor back in a few weeks and see how many of the biopsies are positive for basal cell carcinoma, then prepare to have them burned off at a future date. The battle of the fair skinned lad versus the sun will go onward, year-by-year. Vigilance and a good Dermatologist should have me winning these battles. I wonder if I should just walk around with a linen tent covering all of me. That would be an interesting sight.
So when next you see an individual with that alabaster skin that shimmers a luminous white, you are seeing someone who knows what damage the sun can do to your skin and avoids the problem. Coppertone and all of their cute commercials be damned. When we were younger there were very few sun tan lotions available. The few that were around were a level two spf protection and virtually useless unless you wanted one of those golden tans they showed in the movies. We used to spend all day running around in the summer sun, burning to a crisp. We then applied vinegar to the affected areas, cringing with pain at the roasted skin. We always envied people with darker skin who didn’t have to through all of this.
If your ancestors emanated from one of those sunny lands where an increased amount of melanin is produced in the body, from living for generations in harsh sunlight, then bless them for the genetic protection that they bequeathed you. My own lot were mostly Hibernians. They burn to a crisp in the noonday sun. Still, with today’s medical procedures, a good deal of daily caution will keep your skin healthy for as long as you need it. And much later in life, you wont get sun burn from watching “I Love Lucy” re-runs in the shade of an old Maple tree or at your favorite repository for the elderly.
Joseph Xavier Martin