The cost of spots

the cost of spots

My entire being is covered in a constellation of spots. On my left thigh I can draw the little dipper; as for my back, I avoid letting it see the light of day out of embarrassment. I wish I was hiding a regrettable tattoo rather than an endless sea of spots most likely borne from fake baking in my early twenties.

I was checked from top to toes last Monday: freckles, and moles (mole-y, mole-y, mole. Mole.) - nothing was safe. My dermatologist was pretty casual about the whole thing as she peered through her handheld microscope to inspect my largest bodily organ. When we first met I think she half expected to find something, and she eventually did. She biopsied an unassuming spot located just above my ribs because she thought it looked funny. What's so funny about a mark no larger than the size of a pin head? I wasn't even aware of it, it appeared innocuous, and maybe it still is.

Yet in the wake of parting ways I replayed my stupidity. Buying tanning oil with factor 8, turning lobster red most summers, allowing myself to get so badly burnt during the summer of 2001 that my calves swelled to almost twice their size and bags of frozen peas were my saving grace, and for being recklessly (s)unaware. I love the sun. I worship it for its ability to make an okay day turn good, I love the feeling of its warmth on my back, and I'll even go as far as following it just for another glimpse.

The sun bookends our days, and highlights our memories - how poetic.

I mean, can you even fault it for moments like this?

 Sunset captured at Spouting Horn, Kaua'i

Sunset captured at Spouting Horn, Kaua'i

Yeah I didn't think so.

The sun though, it hates my DNA. I'm thirty-two now, and it's taken me one too many sunburns to realise if I want a tan it's coming from a bottle (thank you, Clarins), a hat and a pair of sunglasses are way cuter than a peeling part and premature wrinkles, and factor 40 SPF is the bare minimum.

Come next week, good news or bad, that funny, little spot left a tiny hole in my side for my past sun sins to pour out. Two stitches made me whole again, and the discomfort and inconvenience was a nasty reminder that the bright, burning ball in the sky is a bully.

A few takeaways from last week's appointment (I am not an expert, but these tidbits resonated with me):

  • Pink and skin coloured (beige/tan) moles should be pointed out to your GP or dermatologist
  • Moles that you've had for eons are likely nothing to worry about, but it's still a good idea to keep an eye on them
  • Get your skin checked every year, or even sooner if spots become itchy, won't heal, bleed, or changes in shape/size
  • If you have loads of spots, photograph the entirety of your body in sections, and allow it to serve as your skin diary for the next twenty years. You can get this professionally done, or have a trusted partner, friend, etc. take them for you
    • Store these images some place safe, ideally protected with an excellent password
  • A cloudy day won't protect you from the suns' harmful rays.

For further reading:

http://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/moles-fact-sheet

http://www.sunsmart.com.au/skin-cancer

Btw, Supergoop (specially formulated for people with sensitive skin) is my favourite sun care range.