Standing On A Chair

Telling it like I see it…

Rants from the Chair: On Skin Cancer

During my high school days, virtually all of my free hours were spent languishing on the Florida Gulf Coast beaches, slathering iodine-infused baby oil on myself from head to toe.  I sought out sunburn, totally on purpose.

One particularly bad burn happened on the deck at my parents’ house on Treasure Island (St. Pete).  I had to lie naked for two days under a down quilt, with my mom drizzling apple cider vinegar on my body about every hour.

Then there was the time on Pacific Beach (San Diego), during my first paid vacation after my first year of flying.  By damn, I was going to return to Newark with one helluva tan to show off.  What ended up happening was, on the second day I fell dead asleep on the beach, under overcast skies.  For hours.  The rest of my vacation was spent in recuperation.  I couldn’t move.  My face was so swollen and my eyes so puffed up, I couldn’t even open them.  I had to fly back to Newark and work a flight right away; garnering a lot of “Holy Shits” from passengers as I dutifully served them their double Chivas Regals on the rocks.  I looked somewhat like a house-fire victim, with sheets of peeling skin hanging from my face and arms, revealing further red and puckered skin underneath.

So it’s no wonder that I found myself having “Mohs” surgery on what they call a squamous cell carcinoma, not to be confused with the M-word.  Melanoma is the “potential immediate death sentence” kind of skin cancer.  This was not Melanoma.  So I wasn’t too freaked out.

Mohs surgery was invented by a guy named Dr. Frederic Mohs around 1941.  It’s where you hang out for a few hours at the dermatologist’s office.  It’s where the doctor scoops up some flesh at the site to be analyzed, to determine if all margins are clean.  You wait while they check.  Sometimes you have to go back in for the doctor to dig out more tissue for analysis.  And you wait again.

“I don’t care if you remove my entire leg, Doc.  Just make sure I don’t feel it!” I declared as I lay on the table in exaggerated anticipation.  I’m always up for the maximum anesthesia allowable.  Honest to God, I am a pathetic coward in any medical situation.  I don’t know how I ever survived having a baby.  But you can bet your sweet ass I only had one.

Anyhow, the good news is the crater he dug out of my leg is only about the size of a nickel, and approximately a quarter to a half-inch deep.  And I only had to go back in two times for more tissue to be removed.  So now, after eight loops of stitches, and scripts for infection and pain, I’m going to kick back all afternoon in front of my beloved DVR, or maybe even take a nap.

Every year millions of people are being treated for some type of skin cancer.  Being suntanned, something we used to view as a necessary and fantastic asset, is now, hopefully, considered just plain stupid.

So, my gentle and heartfelt message to everyone is above all else, please…

…for God’s sake, stay the fuck out of the sun!


November 29, 2011 - Posted by | Medical Treatments | , , , , ,


  1. too cold and cloudy in Washington! I too recall those days on the beach behind the Don Cesar, and have a friend who DID get Melanoma – I THINK she has survived long term after a very big scare. Thanks for your note to the world.

    Comment by geri wright | November 29, 2011 | Reply

  2. Oh Jill, I had Mohs on my left forearm a few years ago… Mine was squamous cell also. One spot smaller than a pencil eraser eventually resulted in a 2.5″ long, thin scar, but started out as a 3″, 3/4″ deep incision. Funny we only felt “healthy” when we had that deep, dark tan… Oh, yeah… I was a fair-skinned semi-redhead… : )

    Comment by Peggy Smith | November 29, 2011 | Reply

    • Sounds scary Peggy. We will continue to “pay the price,” I’m afraid.

      Comment by standingonachair | November 29, 2011 | Reply

  3. Oh dear Sis, such memories ! I do believe you were visiting us in Pacific Beach when the “Murder by Sunburn” incident occurred. I remember the slits on your face where your eyes should have been, you were so swollen !! You may rebuke me now for not taking better care of you !! In my defense, I was also a victim of the thinking of the time – – – if you didn’t come home from a “tanning” session with a burn, you had wasted your time. UGH ! And I also have paid, and continue to pay, for that mind set of those times, by shelling out the big bucks at the dermatologists office. More surgical Moh’s procedures on Basal Cell Carcinomas, than I can even count ! I go in every 12 months for a head to toe look over by the Doc. My sister Nancy’s 35 year old son died of malignant melanoma – – – 6 months from diagnosis to death. !!! If that isn’t enough to send all of us to the doc to get every little bump checked, I don’t know what is ! I have brainwashed my own daughter so well that yesterday she reported that she put on sunscreen before she went out to put the Christmas lights up on the outside of the house ! HA, HA, HA – – – – and I did it without even waterboarding ! Love You, Looey

    Comment by Luanne Fickett | November 29, 2011 | Reply

    • Oh Loo Loo…you are so right! That was my visit with you in 1969! Such memories. You took care of me just fine! LOVE YOU!

      Comment by standingonachair | November 29, 2011 | Reply

  4. I think so too Jill… I remember when people didn’t get “age” spots until they were really old, but our age group has them now and they’re starting to see them and skin cancers on women my daughter’s age!!! (46). The more we lose of the ozone layer, the worse it’s going to get…

    Comment by Peggy | November 29, 2011 | Reply

  5. Steve Ritch just had to have this done (he was in for hours and they went pretty deep beside his nose) as did another friend (class of ’70). I don’t know why I don’t get them, except that for some reason I’m fair but don’t burn and never could get tan. I was a lifeguard for several summers and never used sunscreen (all we had then was zinc oxide and who wanted that?). I have the docs check on a regular basis though!

    I did just spend the morning having a follow-up mammo due to suspicious activity on the screener…anxiety aplenty, but…thank God….good results after the ultrasound.

    Could it be that our warranties have run out?

    Comment by Becky | November 29, 2011 | Reply

  6. I used to go to Pass-A-Grille on Saturday, pour on the baby oil iodine and get blistered, go home pop the blisters, and go back on Sunday and do the same thing over again. Never did get a tan, just red and blistered. Years later I decided to be responsible and got some sun screen and used it, that’s when I learned I’m allergic to Paba, and where ever I put that crap on I had chemical burns, still have a little scar on my forehead from it. Thank God for better sun screen now, and the brains to not try to fry myself. Hope you’re feeling better and everything heals guickly.

    Comment by Linda Wines Stokes | November 30, 2011 | Reply

  7. Good luck with your Mohs recovery. I had Mohs on my nose recently (to remove a Basal Cell Carcinoma) so know exactly what you’ve been through. I was left with a crater about half a centimetre wide by one centimetre deep, which was simply cauterised rather than stitched, with the aim of producing a better healing result. That in itself was pretty traumatic – seeing that staring back at you in the mirror is pretty alarming – but, I’m pleased to say that my consultant was right and I have a very neat (almost imperceptible) scar. I’ve recently undertaken some follow-up treatment with Efudix to kill of any other pre-cancerous cells elsewhere on my nose (the Mohs obviously caught all cancerous cells in the margins of the Basal Cell – the Efudix was to treat the rest of my nose). Wasn’t a particularly pleasant treatment but, could have been an awful lot worse and my nose is now pretty much back to normal.

    All the very best with your recovery.

    Comment by efudexandme | December 7, 2011 | Reply

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