What Did I Learn After Being Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

The obvious answer is I learned that my body had become a host to a horrible disease. It is just short of a week since the ‘something’ I had removed from my face turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma – skin cancer. This is an unnerving event for anyone. But, I think it was more so for me.

As regular readers know, in the two plus years since we started the blog, I have enjoyed just stunning good health. I dropped 15 pounds that I hadn’t even realized I was carrying as excess weight. I went from 165 down to 150 pounds. I now wear size 30 waist jeans, a size I haven’t worn since high school. My body fat measures below 17 percent. My resting heart rate is under 50 beats per minute vs the high end of a normal of 60 to 80 for someone my age. In short, riding my bike nearly daily here in Chicago and paying attention to what I eat has paid off in spades. I have grown to expect that I am in near perfect condition. So the skin cancer news was doubly disturbing for me.

I got a sun hat to protect my dog, but neglected to use sunblock myself. You can see the lump on my left cheek that turned out to be skin cancer.

The first night I made it to around 2:30 a.m. then got up and wrote a blog post about it to quiet the turmoil in my mind. I had little energy the rest of the day and managed only 21 miles on the bike. Went to bed early that night but got a good night’s sleep. I think that writing the blog post on the previous day freed my mind up somewhat and I woke up rarin’ to go with loads of energy. Walked the dog, put on my sunblock and had a 30 mile bike ride that morning. The only reason I quit was because I was worried that the sunblock had worn off and I hadn’t applied more. I had loads of energy left.

In past summers I have been proud of the suntan that I ‘earned’ riding on Chicago’s lakefront. I have only just learned that there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Realistically, my tan was just vivid evidence that I had overexposed my skin to the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. I was careless about covering up with a good sunblock for protection and now I am paying the price. There is a bitter irony in the fact that the biking which is so very healthy for my body can be terribly dangerous to my skin when I ride without sunblock. You always need to pay attention to the big picture.

I have learned also that getting control of my weight is just the start of good health. You don’t rest on your laurels. You need to pay attention to all the aspects of health. Cardio exercise is superb for your mental and physical well-being, but if you do it out in the sun, protect your skin, too.

This was a good wake up call. Not a fun one, but effective. Going forward I plan to wear appropriate protection on my face, arms and legs from the sun’s rays.

When I first had the tumor removed, the doctor gave me some info on taking care of my wound. Because the dermatologist dealt with skin all day, the sheets also contained a lot of detailed information on protecting yourself from sunburn and skin cancer. I was so impressed that I wrote it up for the blog on August first not realizing that I was a victim myself.

You can get the ‘skinny’ on this vital stuff without leaving the blog.

The last thing I learned from my experience is how many friends and neighbors also have suffered from skin cancer. I can’t get over how widespread it is and how many friends have been through what I am experiencing.

I hope you can benefit from my mistake and not fall into the same trap of ignorance that I did. In a way I feel like one of those people you see smoking that just don’t get the dangerous nature of their act. Lather up with sunscreen; you’ll be glad you did.


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Filed under aging, skin cancer, sunburn

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