Sunday, September 26, 2010
The price for growing up in Florida and having a family that went waterskiing (and one of the verbal quirks that distinguishes me from a native Northener is that I call it snowskiing as if it were an equally likely alternative activity) every weekend. My dad would want to hit the lake about 8 a.m. so that he could get in an hour of skiing while the water was still 'like glass' - the super smooth mirrory texture of calm water. As soon as all the rubes in their speed boats showed up, the water just got too choppy.
We would head home after a picnic lunch and put the boat back in the garage. Meanwhile I would have fried to a deep lobster red crisp. For the next week, if I was bored following my mother around the commissary, I had some built in entertainment. I would play games with my peeling sunburn. The best one was to see how big a piece of skin I could pull off all at once. Sometimes I could do the entire length of my arm.
So for me the risk of developing skin cancer is a 'when', not an 'if'. After years of doing Male Habitual Doctor Avoidance, my wife booked me an appointment with a dermatologist, which is no mean feat. I've gotten a table at Babbo easier than a time slot with a skin doctor.
The appointment included a Full Body Scan, which is far less sophisticated than I thought it would be. The doctor looks over my whole body while a nurse writes down the rapid fire jargon-filled observations. The only thing slowing the doc down from her voluminous tracking of conditions was her stopping to zap scaly areas with her liquid nitrogen gun. A quick peak at my pale white ass confirmed for her that all the skin damage is sun related. Thank goodness I never became a nudist.
All the dry flaky spots on my skin which I thought were just a lack of moisturizing were actually pre-cancerous actinic keratosis conditions. While the cold gun burns off the surface cells, the doctor told be to come back for the Blue Light Treatment, or it's more technical name, Photodynamic Therapy (PDT).
PDT involves applying a chemical that takes away the natural UV resistance of the skin. To get the chemical absorbed into the skin, they wrapped my forearms with cheap Target brand saranwrap and then had me sit in the waiting room for 90 minutes with my arms looking like they were being marinaded, which I guess they were.
After being thoroughly basted, they then stick my arms into an open ended EasyBake oven of lights that put off a preternaturally blue light. During this time the skin gets warm and some spots begin to tingle.
But the most disruptive aspect of this treatment is that you then have to stay out of sunlight for 48 hours afterwards. Like indoors away from windows. My tech even cautioned me against standing in the kitchen with the blinds closed. So that began what I am calling my Vampire Weekend. Normally my house is kept dark enough to meet London Blitz darkout conditions anyways, but I took extra precautions.
Rather than use my desktop computer I set up a laptop in the dining room which is equidistant from the rather sunlit kitchen and the living room which has perfectly opaque vertical blinds. I even turned the overhead lights down on the dimmer.
Normally, having to stay indoors all day on a weekend is not a problem. But when you are told not to do something, it's all you can think off. All day yesterday, I was itching for the sun to go down. Finally, as twilight began to glimmer I begged my wife to go to the movies with me just to keep me from going stir crazy.
Today, as my 48 hours are to expire, the skies are rainy and overcast, but I am going to wear a thick long sleeve shirt just to stay on the safe side. I was given some topical creams just in case my skin gets irritated, but so far all I feel is the warmth of a mild sunburn, which just brings back the memories of those summer days of my youth blissfully ripping the blistered skin from my arms. Now I leave that to the doctors.
And just in case you feel misled by my post title and were expecting some tweeny pop band, here is a link to make up for it.