Waking Up to Skin Cancer

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.

Writer Billie Best is being treated for skin cancer on her face

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.

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6 thoughts on “Waking Up to Skin Cancer

  1. Loved this blog. Informative, funny and encouraging. Your honesty is greatly appreciated.
    It’s 14 degrees in the town of Alford (western Massachusetts) today, but we have a blue sky and lots of sun.

  2. Andrew Mazzone (bass player w Morphine) played on PAPER AIRPLANE 9https://rickberlin.bandcamp.com/album/paper-airplane-2_) w Jane. He had terrible melanoma and died of it. The drugs he took to kill the cancer ruined his persona. He became massively depressive. There were at least 500 people at his service. He’d said to me a month prior that nobody would come to his funeral. That he had done ‘nothing’ with his life. And his Dad, he said, cleaned up Boston Harbor. ‘He really did something’, he said. Of course Andrew was much beloved and a brilliant musician. I had t use that fucking cream more than once on my ancient face. Had it not worked, then next step: Very Intensive fake sun lamps. I’ve seen what they do. They literally burn at least 2 layers of skin off. Saw that happen to a friend who worked outside. But he’s fine, and so, apparently, am I. Did have one ‘pre-cancerous’ thing surgically removed. And I see my skin doc annually (which he said was enough) Damned if I can ‘read’ the weird mole tea leaves. Much love, Bil. r

    1. Thanks for coming out of the skin cancer closet. I had no idea. I get how a metastatic cancer like melanoma can kill somebody. But this routine of being pecked to death by ducks is new for me.

  3. Here, here! I mean, there, there! I mean, important article Ms. Best! Thank you.
    Oh, and “Not that colons aren’t important. Just that you don’t wear them on your face.” (Speak for yourself… unfortunately…)
    eo, r!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I can see this skin cancer routine is going to be playing side stage until the final curtain. I expect you to be making jokes about it until the very end.

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