Imagine paying $50 for a few ounces of face cream that’s supposed to give you scabs. It’s called Fluorouracil and you cannot buy it at Nordstrom’s or on Amazon, although you can get a book about it on Amazon for $700. The book is about the use of Fluorouracil for treatment of colon cancer. I’m using it to eat away pre-cancerous lesions on my face, three red blotches that have been there for more than a year, above my right eye, on the bridge of my nose, and along my upper lip. Previously I was taking a different approach. Call it faith healing — faith that if I stopped looking at it, it would go away.
Now I’m putting my vanity in the hands of science, using a chemical to burn skin cells on my face that is also used to kill cells in someone’s colon. Not that colons aren’t important. Just that you don’t wear them on your face. The instructions that came with my chemo cream say it will cause redness, crusting, scabbing and possibly oozing. This is the normal reaction. The end treatment goal is scabbing, open sores and ulcerations. Once achieved, discontinue the cream and let your skin heal. It should come back smooth as a baby’s bottom. Or it could leave you with some Jackson Pollock tribal scars. No guarantees.
Also, don’t apply the cream with your fingers, use a cotton swab. You may need your fingerprints for security clearance. Coat surrounding areas with jelly, especially eyes, nostrils and lips, to prevent burning mucous membranes, poisoning yourself and blindness. And don’t let your dog lick your face while you’re using the cream. This is not a Nivea commercial. It’s going to hurt.
Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and my actinic keratosis are all the result of abnormal changes in skin cells caused by the sun’s ultraviolet light. For the first three decades of my life I was a sun worshipper. This is the price I’m paying. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, actinic keratosis has a 5 to 10% chance of turning into squamous cell carcinoma, an invasive form of skin cancer that can become life threatening. Those are not good odds.
If you are a woman over 60, your chances of getting breast cancer are 3.49%, or 1 in 29. Whereas, 1 in 5 people, or 20% will be diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70. Two people die of skin cancer every hour, but melanoma is 98% curable if it’s detected early. Do the math. If you want to save the planet, start by getting screened for skin cancer. You could reduce the burden on your family and the healthcare system and spare yourself a miserable death at the same time. Win, win.
Sun exposure, age and genes predispose me to skin cancer, and I’m likely to have a reoccurrence of actinic keratosis. Fortunately, I’m rich and powerful, so I don’t have to worry about healthcare access and affordability. Otherwise this would be really scary.