Taking Care

With my 43rd birthday a few days behind me, I endeavor into this new year with ‘self-care’ at the fore.

My random To Do lists on half-sheets of recycled paper sit on my desk, ordering my priorities. I enjoy the process of crossing out tasks as accomplished. Once the majority of a list is nixed, a new list gets created. Any straggling tasks that are yet to be completed, get transferred to the new page.

For literally a year, or more, two doctor’s names have continually been ‘transfers,’ never seeing a red line. This past week, I moved on both, addressing the sun damage on my face, and the lingering cyst on my ovary that hasn’t been assessed in two years.

My purpose here is not to drag you through my health issues (and I can assure you that I feel fit as a fiddle, strong, and healthy). What interests me are the stories behind the ‘ailments,’ and how they shape my life experience. And how can these specific stories of mine, translate to an experience that anyone can relate to?

As a brief overview, I’m a fair-skinned girl who always wanted a tan, but mostly burned. It’s taken me over 30 years to realize that my genetics want a gentle morning sun for no more than 30 minutes, then a shady reprieve from which to admire the sunlight from afar. I cannot sunbathe. But I didn’t know that growing up, and the dermatologist tells me that the red and brown spots that have surfaced on my face over the last five years are direct results from sun damage in my youth. These are called “actinic keratosis” and if left untreated can become “squamous cell carcinomas”. These “SCC’s,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, can “become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow.”

Hence, a cream has been prescribed that is to be applied to my entire face. It works at removing the “AK’s,” that are visible, as well as any that are yet to surface in the future. Sounds good! Except the images shown to me in the doctor’s office, warn of a 2 – 8 week period of surfacing sores that can look like a person is suffering from leprosy. During this period, one should not be in direct sunlight. And from what I’ve heard from others who have undergone this process, one does not even want to venture into the world at all. I’ve been offered simple sentences to recite to the check out clerk at the grocery store when she asks, “How are you today?” and then gets a look at my face peeking out from beneath my big-brimmed hat.

Qualifiers have been suggested, along the lines of “Pardon my face, I’m going through a treatment for sun damage.” I’ve been cautioned not to include the “C” word, even in the context of “pre-C,” as they won’t hear the “pre,” only the “C”, and it will simply add more intensity to the moment.

But c’mon! Would a person’s face look so heinous that it would need its own disclaimer in the check-out line? According to many I’ve spoken to, yes.

So I’m on day four of applying the cream. I apply it at night, and the Bohemian and I wake each morning, waiting to see the Monster surface. So far, nothing.

So scared was I that my skin would have a severe reaction, I began the first two days only applying the cream to my forehead. After no results, I announced to the Bohemian last night, “That’s it. I’m doing my whole face. Let’s get this done.”

I’ve gone from fear of a reaction, to being hopeful for one. It’s been said, be careful what you wish for. Well…

Doctor’s say it can take more than a week to begin to see the cream take effect. We will see what the next days hold. As of this morning, not much of anything.

As I’ve faced my fear (pardon the pun) of going through this process, one of the buoys for me has been the opportunity to live a great story. How will I go through my days with crusty sores all over my face? How will I interface with the world, and how will the world interface with me? This will be a fascinating study. And I hope to share some of it here in the Archives.

For now, this is enough medical focus. I’ll save the ultrasound I had yesterday for a different post.

Though both the sun damage and the ovarian cyst are issues I’d rather not exist, it feels really good to have those tasks in ‘pending’ status on the list.

imiquimod

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