Sunburns

I had put the appointment off for ages. It wasn’t until a work colleague came back from her recent dermatologist appointment with news of 2 basal cell carcinomas (BCC) on her face that I picked up the phone and booked myself an appointment.

The Skin Clinic. I was able to get in the next day so I took the appointment.

Being a fair and very freckly redhead growing up in Australia wasn’t an ideal combination. This fair colouring due to my Scottish and German grandparents. The redhead jokes at school were nothing compared to the sunburns and blisters on my shoulders and back that I had as a child. I remember every Summer would start the same with that first bad sunburn and after that the subsequent ones didn’t hurt as much. We did wear sunscreen but it was such a low sun protection rating, I think SPF 12 from memory.

I remember the crazy treatments my dear mum would use to ease those sunburns. My least favourite was malt vinegar. I don’t even know why she thought this would work. Sliced tomato was another one. Weird!!! Throw me in some lettuce leaves and lunch was served. Thank god we found Aloe Vera in later years, it was a lifesaver.

Our hot Australian sun and my love of outdoor field and water sports took a toll on my skin. We didn’t have 30+ sunscreen or rash shirts to wear in the water. We had tubes of white zinc and cotton t-shirts that weighed a tonne when wet. The t-shirts would stretch way past our knees and after a day of swimming they would chafe our knees as we walked. We didn’t have ‘No Hat No Play’ policies for the schoolyard. I remember my mum going to my primary school asking if I could wear a hat and her being told no!

All of my Summer days were spent swimming at the pool and later at the beach where I thought I would give lifesaving a go. No hats were worn when on lifesaving duty, just the red and yellow skullcap that we tied up around our chin. I did slap on some sunscreen, SPF 15 was available by then, and some white zinc on my nose and lips but not nearly as often as I should of.

So as the Dr, with her gorgeous olive skin complexion, was examining my skin this week she asks me how I came to have so many freckles and sun damage. I sighed and thought to myself, seriously Doc, my colouring doesn’t give it away at all.

After a minute or so the Dr notes a BCC on my back, right in the spot that I can’t reach. I have in the past scratched that very spot on the door frame as I walked through it, a bit like a cow does on a fence post in the paddock. I have to admit I was taken aback as I thought there might only be a few spots to be zapped. Naive I know! She pointed out 2 more ‘likely’ BCCs – it was fast becoming a bit too real now.

Before long the Doc is giving me the local anaesthetic needle and it hurt! I’ve had 2 babies, and 1 of those naturally, so I can tolerate pain but that needle really stung. Before long I’m up and dressed with the sticky plaster dressing on my back. The Dr takes the biopsy cup to send off for testing. I go back next week for the verdict of a cream to take it off or the knife to cut it out. I’m hoping for the cream.

I count myself very lucky there are no melanomas!

As I drive home I tell myself I will be more vigilant and I will go for check-ups as often as is necessary. I will chant the mantra, ‘The greatest wealth is your health’ and I know that I want to hold onto mine for as long as I can; wrinkles, freckles and all!

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