Catching The Sun
My goal has always been to catch the sun. For warmth, and for color.
As a person prone to cold feet and hands when the weather is chilly, I regularly walk on the sunny, and therefore warmer, side of the street.
I was always tanned growing up in sunny Malaysia. These days, hours on my bicycle have given me that look peculiar to roadies. Razor-sharp tan lines mid-thigh and upper arm.
As far as I was concerned, the only downside to riding in tropical Malaysia is the need to manage my hydration and core temperature. Applying sunscreen was secondary, although I usually put some on before and during century rides on sunny days.
Sunburn is a hazard of living in the tropics. I have had my share of sunburns that started out red and sore, and ended with sheets of peeling skin. Aloe vera lotion to the rescue.
Overall I agreed with this Beatles lyric.
Two weeks ago I received a histopathology report that read, in part:
Growth, right lower back: Squamous carcinoma, well differentiated.
The deep resected margin is involved.
I had skin cancer. In my case, a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is the second most common form, behind basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
Both BCC and SCC are nonmelanoma skin cancers. A lucky thing for me, as the third form of skin cancer, melanoma, is the most dangerous type.
It was still a serious situation. The fact that the tumour extended to the deep resected margin of the excised tissue meant that the tumour had not been completely removed. My dermatologist wasted no time in booking me in to see a plastic surgeon in order to have a deeper excision done.
I was in an operating theater within a week of receiving the initial pathologist’s report.
Imagine an ice hockey puck, like the one above. A standard puck measures 2.5cm / 1in thick and 7.6cm / 3in in diameter.
The plastic surgeon excised an elliptical piece of tissue measuring 1.9cm / 0.75in thick, 4.3cm / 1.7in long and 2.6cm / 1.0in wide. Roughly two-thirds the volume of an ice hockey puck.
A few days ago I received the pathology report for the second excision.
The tumour appears completely excised.
The report goes on to confirm that there was a margin of at least 1cm / 0.4in of ‘clean’ tissue on all sides of the tumour.
So I dodged the proverbial bullet in that the SCC was caught early and completely removed. In hindsight the odds of getting skin cancer have been stacked against me. There are a number of risk factors for skin cancer, and I have a tick beside a number of them:
- A lighter natural skin color.
- Family history of skin cancer. √
- A personal history of skin cancer. √
- Exposure to the sun through work and play. √
- A history of sunburns, especially early in life. √
- Age. √
- A history of indoor tanning.
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun. √
- Blue or green eyes.
- Blond or red hair.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
I don’t have red hair, but my late mother did. I suspect I have inherited some of her sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) light. 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
Now that I have had one skin cancer, the chances of getting another one are heightened. It is time to get serious and consistent about protection from the sun.
I did some research on sunscreens. Read more at:
6 Great Sunscreens That Won’t Come Off While You Ride
This will be on my skin every time I ride from now on. This one is formulated to stay on wet and sweaty skin.
This will be on my skin whenever I am out in the sun. Light and non-greasy.
I used to be a bit dismissive of the need to regularly use sunscreen. Having two-thirds of an ice hockey puck dug out of my back has cured me of that.