Basal Cell Carcinoma : An Update

Use an umbrella to help keep the sun off of you this summer. // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comWell, it’s summer.  Which for the last few years has been kind of hard for me in terms of my skin.  In August of 2012 I started seeing a dermatologist.  He immediately started removing moles and marks and such for biopsies.  Very quickly, we found basil cell carcinoma.  You can see my original post about the Mohs Surgery procedure I had here.  But I thought it was time to update that post.  I have had several people find that post and email me that they were about to have the Mohs procedure as well.  And I think my post sort of freaked them out.  Essentially, I talked about the slight depression that I went in to after the removal.  But looking back, I see that there were other personal things happening that clouded that post, like friendship let-downs, etc.  Oh and I also found out that I EFFING HATE STITCHES.  And to most people, stitches are no big deal.  And I can see how they are no big deal.  But to me they are the worst thing on the face of the planet.  So that also played in to that first post although I didn’t realize I was averse to the stitches at the time.  But the two more times that I’ve had to have stitches really drove that home.

An update on the scar from my Mohs Surgery to remove my basal cell carcinoma.  And a super cute necklace. // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI joke in my first post that I would tell people I had been in a knife fight if anyone asked me about my scar.  I only had one person ever ask me about it and it was my allergist, right after I had the procedure, because if it was a thyroid surgery I had (which scars in a similar spot) I couldn’t get my allergy shots.  So I didn’t get to have any fun with it.  Looks pretty good right?  You can see the scar, when it was a little more fresh in this post which was about 5 months after the procedure.

How my scar is healing after having basal cell carcinoma removed. // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI had the Mohs surgery Thanksgiving week in 2012.  In case you had trouble seeing the scar, here it is a little closer up.  You almost can’t see it.  There was never anything special I did to make it scar less other than follow the rules the dermatologist gave me for immediate care of the stitches.  No extra creams, nothing.  I know that I had a GREAT dermatologist do the procedure and that helped.  But I do try to put sunscreen on it and keep it out of the sun.  Well, really, I stay out of the sun as much as possible.  Gone are the days of basking by the pool.  I try to sit in the shade and slather on the sunscreen.  I’m still struggling with making it habit of putting on sunscreen every day.  My skin is very sensitive and I break out very easily.  This is still my favorite sunscreen though.

My scar from my excisional biopsy  // www.cupcackesandcutlery.comSince my Mohs procedure, I’ve also had to have excisional biopsies.  Luckily (?) they were both in the same spot so I only ended up with one scar.  Where as for Mohs, they do the biopsy and pathology at the same time to make sure they clear the margins, excision is a biopsy where they send the sample out for pathology.  In my case, I had a dot that looked like someone drew on me with purple marker.  Both dermatologists (I have a regular derm and then one who does the procedures who has a specialty in plastic surgery) told me it needed to be removed and that the biopsy would take “a stitch or two.”  No thank you.  So I asked them to do it like they do my other small biopsies where they numb me and cut it out.  Remember I hate stitches.  So initially, it was cut and sent out for biopsy.  But then I got a call.  It wasn’t cancer, but they didn’t like the pathology report as it came back with words like “cloning” and they wanted to get all of the cells out to be safe.  Considering my history, my family history of skin cancer (my dad) and my coloring they felt it was better safe than sorry.  So we scheduled an excision procedure for the week of Thanksgiving 2013.  I ended up with about 10 stitches from the procedure.  But I was done.  Or so I thought.  A few weeks later I got a call that said the pathology report came back and they wanted to take a little more of the offensive area to ensure that they got all the bad cells out.  So about 8 weeks later, I went back in for the same exact procedure.  With a few extra stitches.

Excision biopsy scar healing // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI wasn’t sure how the scar would end up looking considering they had to cut in the same spot.  But looks pretty good, right?!  Again, I didn’t apply any extra creams or anything to the scar.  The only thing I was instructed to do was to massage the scar a month after the stitches were out.  Apparently that helps to break up the scar tissue under the skin and help to get the scar to lie flat.  It could be a touch tender at times, but I tried to massage it as often as I remembered.  And because of the location at the jawline, you can’t see this at all.  And I never even bother with concealer on it.

I hope if anyone reading this is about to go through a similar procedure, please know that it is really no big deal.  Of course there are varying degrees of the cancer, and it matters where it is located and how large an area is being treated.  Basal cell carcinoma is super common and something dermatologists deal with often.  The one thing I will say is that I think the dermatologists and staff forget to fill the patient in on the after care, before coming in for the procedure.  I was really thrown off, after my Mohs, when I couldn’t shower for 2 days due to the stitches.  Which means you may want to plan ahead and go to the store before your stitches, not plan a big outing, etc.  I also am in really achy pain for the first two days of my stitches so it helps to have someone available to help with the kids.  Could I manage the kids on my own.  Yes.  But it is nice to be able to take it easy for a few days.  Those were things I had to learn on my own which would have been helpful to know before heading in for the stitches.

My main dermatologist tells me that I will have more basal cell carcinoma at some point.  I see him every few months and we monitor areas that could be a problem.  I have enough experience now to know how it all works and I’m not afraid of it.  And I’ll deal with it as it comes.  For now I stay out of the sun, use my sunscreen and rock super cute hats.


August Loves

This month I couldn’t get enough of…

cotton-candy-flavored-grapesCotton Candy Grapes : :  I found out about these from my friend Pattie Cordova.  They sell them at Sprouts markets and of course I had to try them.  They really DO taste like cotton candy.  It is so odd!  And delicious.

Foam-magazineFoam magazine ::  I’m kind of obsessed.  I always hesitated picking it up at my local bookstore because I’m not a surfer and I didn’t want to be a poser.  I thought it was for awesome surfer chicks.  And it is.  But it’s for everyone else too.  Fashion, ocean, art, music.  I have been reading it the past few months and LOVE it.  It took me everything I had to save the music issue to read until I was on vacation.

ginger-beerYou may remember I mentioned my love of Moscow Mules but for the times when I shouldn’t be imbibing, I just drink the Ginger Beer.  I have had to limit myself to one a day.  Reed’s is my favorite brand (flavor varies depending on the brand you buy) with a crisp, refreshing ginger flavor.  I add about an ounce of fresh lime juice and ice and sip away.

pottery-barn-mirrorI finally got my husband to hang my Willams-Sonoma Channing mirror up in our bedroom.  I LOVE it.  And my husband got excited when he saw Jeff Lewis use the same mirror (or one VERY similar) in an episode of Interior Therapy.

sun-bum-suncreenI took this Sun Bum sunscreen with me on vacation.  Remember my previous post about sunscreen?  Well, the one thing that I had missing was the smell of a tropical scent in my skin protection.  It may seem crazy, but it really mattered to me.  When I found out that Sun Bum smells amazing AND comes in a 50 plus SPF I just had to try it.  And I’m a fan.  The can says it is hypoallergenic and is anti-aging.  Sold.  While summer might be coming to a close, don’t forget that you need to be wearing sunscreen all day, every day.

nixon-blaster-speakerThis Nixon speaker totally made our vacation to Cabo.  My husband and I love music and new we wanted to take a speaker with us.  What is so awesome about this one is that it was designed to withstand the elements, like sand, and is shock and water-resistant.  I came in to our family room to find my husband egging my son on to throw it on the floor!  And so he did.  Several times.  We had it with us on the beach every single day and never worried about where we set it.  The sound is also crazy good, which is well, good for a speaker.  One of my favorite parts is the voice.  Todd Richards, a pro snowboarder, lends his voice for  several phrases that come out of the speaker.  He will tell you when you are about halfway through the battery life (about 12 hours!) and when you turn it off he says, “See you later.”  This speaker is smart AND polite.

mushrooms-and-brussels-sproutsI have always disliked mushrooms.  But all the sudden, my 7-year-old decided that he liked them and has been asking me to make them for him.  So I did and now I love them.  We have them about twice a week.  I keep it simple using Trader Joe’s pre-chopped onion, shallot and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil.  Then I add the mushrooms and whatever other veggie we think we need and over the pan.  We let the veggies cook down a bit and then take the lid off and let the moisture evaporate.  Takes about 15 minutes and then we eat our faces off.  Mushrooms are super high in Vitamin D so at least I know we are getting some sort of health benefit.  But I have promised him every 3rd time that I will cook them with bacon.  It’s all about compromise.

*Disclosure:  This is not a sponsored post.  These are just things I love.  Pottery Barn (a sister company to Williams Sonoma) sometimes sends me products at my request.  The Channing mirror is one such item.  All opinions are mine.

Best Sunscreen is Clarins Fo’ Sho’

clarins sunscreenThis is my first summer since having some skin cancer removed.  I am not a sunscreen lover.  My skin is oily as it is and to add on another heavy of layer of grodiness on top of it, well, it sucks.  (P.S. my spell check didn’t know what the heck to do with “grodiness”)  I know I should be wearing it daily but I’m not.  I’ve been trying some sunscreens out to see if I could find one that I can tolerate.  And I finally found Clarins.  It is not cheap  but if it gets me to wear it, I think that is worth it.  And I found it in just the nick of time since I am heading for a girl’s weekend in Scottsdale at the end of this week!

clarins oil free sunscreenFor my face, I got this Clarins oil free UV plus HP Sunscreen.  It totally sinks in to my skin without feeling heavy.  That is what I have been looking for.  And I have been coming across sunscreen tips in magazines this month.  They say to let it sink in to the skin and then dab the skin in case there is any still remaining on the top before you put on your foundation.  I don’t feel like this makes me any more oily than normal.  And I don’t wake up with pimples the next day.  Dream come true.

clarins milk lotion sunscreen sprayFor my body, I got this Clarins Milk-Lotion Spray.  It is super lightweight and doesn’t smell like sunscreen.  That’s huge!  I’m kind of in love.  And it says it has age control.  I am hoping that means that I won’t get any more wrinkles from this point forward.  But I’m doubting that.

Do you have a favorite sunscreen?  Do you wear it every day?

*Not a sponsored post I just love it!  But how rad is that rug?  Pottery Barn sent it to me the Gianna Recycled Yarn Kilim rug and I can’t wait to share it with you in a styled shoot!!

Mohs Surgery : Skin Cancer Sucks

basal cell cancer on my neck
Photo by Dez and Tam Photography

Just FYI: Once you read the story below, click here to see an update on my scars! 

“So…I had skin cancer.  I had surgery.  I’m totally fine.  I just wanted you to know because we are having dinner in a few days and I didn’t want you to freak out when you see a huge wound on my neck.”  That is how my phone conversation went with a really good friend recently.  This is the story of when I found out I had basal cell carcinoma and had it removed with Mohs Surgery.  Oh and it is also about how I became depressed.  I want to share my story in case you know anyone who has one of the “better” skin cancers, like basal cell, or you have it yourself.  It is ok to be scared.  Even though a lot of people will not give it a second thought, it is ok to feel uneasy about it.  WARNING:  I share photos with my stitches.  If you are squeamish, you may want to skip it.  I mean, its not all that grotesque but want to give fair warning.  And since this post is super long and some of you may not want to read the whole thing I’ll be using a post break.  If you want to read on, just click “more.”

dermatology officeThis summer, my dad was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.  He is fair skinned with light eyes and I totally take after him.  This California girl enjoyed her time in the sun all through high school and in to college.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some time in a tanning bed prior to my wedding…Needless to say my own chances of having skin cancer were pretty high.  I have had moles removed in the past but recently have been noticing some things that I felt were a bit out of the ordinary.  So given my own past and now had a family history of skin cancer, I decided it would be best if I saw my doctor.  The two main concerns for me were a little red mark that had been on my neck for about two months (effing eczema, I thought) and a mole close to my ripple that had a white ring around it (yes, I said ripple.  I don’t want any McPerverson’s coming to my site after searching for the female body part – and I think you can figure out which one I mean).  My general practitioner didn’t think anything was wrong with those two things but didn’t like the way a mole looked on my back and referred me to a dermatologist.  I’m so glad that I had that bad mole because the first things the dermatologist wanted to address was the mole with the white ring and red spot.  If you think something is wrong but your doctor isn’t listening, for sure get a second opinion!  So I’ve become very familiar with my dermatologist’s office and its pinkness.

mole evaluationSo began the journey of having moles biopsied.  The dermatologist evaluated my body and we’ve set about prioritizing moles.  You know how there is a checklist of all the signs to look for when deciding if a mole is potentially cancerous?  Well, all of mine meet at least 5 out of the 6 of the criteria.  So even though you know this story has a happy ending because I am writing this post, I still have many things to be removed and watched and will for the rest of my life.

medical instrumentsMost of my visits result in me being numbed up and moles sliced away.  I’ve had 4 or 5 removed so far.  On one particular visit, my dermatologist said “If I call you, don’t freak out.  It doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong.”  But then when the call came, he said, “You know if I’m calling, something isn’t right…”  That was my neck.  And it was basal cell.  He explained that because of where it was, he would refer me to another dermatologist who specializes in plastic surgery who would proceed with a procedure to remove all the cells.  I didn’t know until right before the surgery that it would be Mohs Surgery, the same that my dad had that summer.  So leading up to it, I just thought it would be pretty similar to the mole removals I had done so far, which required a small bandage for about a week.  To be fair, I do remember my dermatologist telling me that I may end up with a few stitches but I’ve never had stitches, aside from child birth (hey if I’m sharing, I’m sharing everything) so even a few stitches seems insignificant.

I didn’t really know how to feel about this news.  I was kind of scared but most people I talked to were not that worried.  I went out to dinner the night that I found out.  One close friend said, “yeah I had that, they just take it off, right?”  And we moved on.  Several of the moms from my son’s elementary school have had basal cell and they seem totally fine with it.  And knowing that my dad had the surgery, that it was “no big deal” and was pretty common left me feeling, well, it left me not feeling.  I never really thought about it.  So I didn’t make any special phone calls to friends with news of my skin cancer.  I didn’t need any extra support.

Here is my, probably very wrong, description of what Mohs Surgery is.  First they remove the area that they believe to contain the cancer cells.  There is a pathologist right on site who evaluates the cells and determines if they need to go back and take more tissue.  They do this as many times as they need to in order to remove all cancer cells.