Simply Skin Deep
As the nurse practitioner entered the room, she calmly said, “It looks like it’s been awhile since you’ve had a skin check. Do you have any idea how long it’s been?” Sheepishly, I replied, “I’m guessing five?” To which she replied, “As a matter of fact, that is correct. 2005.” I was thinking five years but it had actually been eleven years. My how time flies when you’re trying to fly under the radar.
There were so many excuses floating around in my mind as to why the long lapse in time since my last skin check. The truth of the matter was that I simply had not MADE the time to do it. While the boys were at home there was all of the running around and taking care of them. When we became empty nesters, there were all of hours spent helping Mom with the care of my Dad. But in reality, a skin check takes literally minutes compared to the years that it could save in the long run.
The nurse practitioner carefully studied my skin for a few minutes and then whipped out her can of “Mr. Freeze.” She then began to zap some of those red spots on my skin that I had wondered about. Those little tiny spots that would sometimes appear to be red, and then simply vanish for months at a time. Apparently those are from “old sun damage,” and can be considered as “pre-cancerous.” (I have actually decided that “pre-cancerous” is code for ‘if we call it that your insurance will cover it.’) There was no testing on those spots; they were simply frozen off.
After that, the discussion turned to my birthmark. The practitioner explained to me that new research shows that birthmarks over a certain size become increasingly more likely to develop into melanoma after age 50. Who knew? I’ve had the little guy since, well, birth….and have never given him another thought. She encouraged me to make an appointment to have it removed, which I did. The following week when the doctor removed it he told me the same thing. In fact, he said that they are keeping track in their own practice of birthmarks that develop into melanomas. They have had six this year alone. After hearing these facts I was glad to be rid of it. Better safe than sorry.
I have to admit that I really do love being out in the sun. I love the splash of color that it gives my skin, and the lightening of my hair. I love the feel of the sun on my face and the warmth that it brings. It brightens my mood. It provides me with Vitamin D in the most natural way of all. Although I am much smarter about sun exposure now than I was in the 1970s when I used to lay out on my solar blanket while spritzing my body with baby oil and my hair with Sun-In, I admit to still catching a few rays here and there. No tanning beds and I definitely use sunscreen, but I do enjoy spending time outside on a sunny day.
I truly appreciated the fact that there was no shaming from the dermatologist or the nurse practitioner. They simply encouraged me to use sunscreen and avoid direct exposure when possible. And now rather than being on the “eleven year plan” I am on the “six month plan.” Six months from now I will keep my appointment. Because life is short enough without ignoring something that you can proactively stay on top of.
If you’re like me and have avoided making that appointment — just do it! You might have to wait a few months to get in with a provider that accepts new patients. But just as you keep up with teeth cleanings and physicals, a skin check should be on your to-do list. You won’t “find” the time to do it – you’ll have to “make” the time to do it. Think of it as an investment in your future.
For additional information, there are so many helpful websites. This is one of my favorites: https://scanyourskin.org.