SKIN CANCER: 3 things I wish I knew
It’s been a little over 2 years since my skin cancer diagnosis. Almost one year since I last blogged about it here.
I have learned and experienced many things since then and one of them is, sometimes you get Skin Cancer.
When I was initially diagnosed, I was devastated. How could this happen to me?
- Let’s be clear… I did not fit the skin cancer demographic – I am hispanic and I tan so effortlessly. On top of that, I also wore a lot sunscreen in recent years – I am all about prevention. Safe right?
- Then you start to tell family and friends and sometimes, people say mean things. The kind of things that hurt you to the bone – “that’s what you get”. Stupid, right?
- And let’s not forget the blood curdling panic of what if’s and the scariest of all words: Cancer.
For many, maaaannnny months I was so hurt and offended with every Facebook update of friends tanning at beaches and enjoying sunshine while I hid indoors – my last post on the subject was full of dramatic ideas that were (and are) very really feelings.
But since then, I have calmed down a lot. So why another post? Because the internet needs to be flooded with more hopeful stories of skin cancer. Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, with skin cancer being the most common cancer in the United States (approx 5 million diagnosis each year), I wanted to share some of the things I wished I had known during my prognosis. I mentioned a lot of great facts, feelings, and things I learned in my last Skin Cancer post, here.
- If something does not look right, get it checked out. I knew about that weird spot on my nose for a little over a year before I finally went in. Can you imgaine how much nose I would have had left if I waited another year or two or three… BE SMART. Making the time to make an appointment to have a complete stranger look all over your body for weird spots doesn’t sound like your ideal spa day. You’re right; it’s not fun but 100% worth it. Better safe than nose-less – is what I like to say!
- So you have been diagnosed with Skin Cancer: JUST CHILL . I have spoken to many friends and they remember every thing about the day of their diagnosis. Heck, I was so mentally preoccupied with the worst case scenario that I drove through my garage door and part of my house. One of things I learned from reading many self help books the last few years is to need to learn to relax. I know that sounds easier said than done but the same amount of energy you are spending to get stressed can also be focus to being positive.My favorite “chill out” question: this is good because [ ] (fill in blank).
– I was told that I would need MOHs treatment and that a possible skin graft would in the works… what I wished I focused on: this is good because I getting this resolved.
– This whole situation is good because it led to me writing the first article that got my good friend to get her skin checked.
– This is good because I learned so much about protecting my skin and the precious skin of my 4 babies. They, too, are hispanic and some, naturally, super duper tan. They still need sunscreen – the cancer I got: infiltrative basal cell carcinoma loves ALL skin types – brown, black, orange, yellow, green, purple – this cancer does not discriminate. So please, even if you hate sunscreen put in on your babies and reapply often.
– After driving through the garage and part of the house – “this is good because you barely missed the main water line – by 2 inches.”
- It will get better… with time.
It was hard to think that my nose will ever look normal. I wanted to know exactly how much time will get take to heal. I remember sitting in the doctor office asking:How long will the graft take to attach? a couple months.
Will I have a scar? yes.
Will it be super noticeable? no, but there will be a scar.
What does that even mean? just give it time, maybe a few years.
If you have ever taken a selfie with me, I always pull rank and demand to stand on my “good side”, ha! But things do get better with time, I promise, and the body is an amazing thing! So be gentle with yourself, you will hardly notice it and within no time, you will be the only person to notice the scar. And the biggest trial you will face is to learn to look beyond the scar, too.
Below are some pictures I wished I could see when I was diagnosed with skin cancer. I had no clue what a healed skin graft would look like. When I googled skin cancer, I saw many, MANY elderly people with noses almost gone and ears cut in half. “Skin grafts” searches led me to see so many burn victims – it broke my heart. So hopefully, for anyone reading this and in my similar circumstance, this can give you a little insight into the healing process for someone in their mid-30s.
- I had my surgery on March 28th, 2016. The April picture was 2 weeks post-op.
- May (end of may) was 2 months after I found out that my skin graft had officially attached and I could finally rub my nose and exercise.
- November was when I didn’t an chnages in my skin graft until more recently this month.
- All comparison pictures are without makeup.
- The last picture is taken with a high definition camera instead of my normal old iphone – to show a more accurate picture of the graft scar.
Since my diagnosis, I will forever have a 50% chance of getting more skin cancer so I try extra hard to protect my skin. The big thing is finding a good sunscreen – opt for Zinc or Titanium Dioxide. Yes, they suck and I am currently preparing a post about my favorite sunscreens but until them, choose a mineral based sunscreen that will literally block the rays from penetrating your skin. Also: use a shot glass of lotion for your entire body. More is better – one of my favorite quotes, ha!
The other big thing to mention is makeup and skin care I use on my face. While I am still trying to figure out skincare, I have to say that I love the R+F roller. I bought this as soon as I learned that it was great for scars. Vaseline also helps prevent scarring in the early phases. I used only Vaseline for a very long time (and LOTS of it) – until the graft was no longer pink. Since then, I’ve used a variety of products (essential oils, hydration, vitamins, cremes) for scar prevention but the roller and vaseline were my 2 favorites.
Makeup has also played a big part in protecting my skin. I started using Senegence cosmetics 6 months after my surgery because of the mechanical shield properties that protect my skin. It shields my skin from the sun and allows those aging UV rays to bounce off than chemically absorbed. It’s also long lasting, smudgeproof, water resistant and provides great coverage!
My lipstick, foundation, and eye-shadow all provides a mechanical shield from the sun – AND cover ups up all my imperfections. Anything that helps me feel confident or protected in the sun is BEST and it’s why I choose to become a distributor. This post is not a commercial for makeup so I will not go into detail about the products I used but you can learn more by joining my Facebook group page, Riva La Diva Lips – it’s a closed group page and you will need approval to join (basically, no spammers allowed).
Over the next few weeks, I will show you some of my favorite sunscreens and ways I cover up in the sun. Nothing (zero, nada zip) is sponsored. Take comfort in knowing that I, as always, am gonna give you my 100% opinion. I am tired of being a sold a product that is completely useless, how about you? I want to protect your skin and the skin for your littles!
We do not allow our children to endure second hand smoke for fear of cancer and breathing issues. Why would we let them go out in the sun unprotected? Premature aging and skin cancer will become a reality at a much earlier age; however, it can be preventable!
To learn more about Skin Cancer, visit: The Skin Cancer Foundation
To research healthy sunscreens, visit: EWG’s Guide to Sunscreen
Thanks for stopping by and if you have a moment, me on Instagram, @RivaLaDiva and/or give me a shout out on Facebook at Riva La Diva. Spread the word and share this post with everyone. I feel like sun protection is something we all need to understand more and learning how to take care of your skin is vital.
Alright lovelies, stay safe and protected! Have a glamorous day!
Love you so much, my favorite diva! I’ll be forever grateful for you and your courage in sharing your story. You’re as beautiful today as before the cancer. Mwah!
I LOVE you Bonnnie! Thanks for your sweet comment! xoxo
Thank you for these posts. I do think of this when I go out in the sun , thanks to you. I have only known older people who worked for years in the sun, get skin cancer so very much an eye opener. Stay the fun, beautiful, smart person that you are, you don’t need to be tan!!!!
Thank you so much for your comment Tammy, reading your comment made my day! xo
Wow! I’m surprised you haven’t been bombarded with thousands of comments of people thanking you for this post and admiring how brave you are for sharing your personal experience. It can happen to anyone and you are an inspiration for getting through with strength and grace… for whatever it is we need to get through. So, thank you. XOXO <3
Oh my goodness Andrea, thank you soooo much for this! This post and topic means a lot to me! I’m so dang happy to read your comment!! <3 thank you!!!!!xoxo
Hi There – just wanted to say “THANK YOU” for posting your BCC / Mohs experience. I just had my procedure for a BCC on my nose yesterday and I was able to walk into the appointment informed and empowered to take this on. A huge part of that is because of you, and other brave women, for sharing your experiences online. I cannot overstate how helpful reading and seeing the experiences of other young women has been for me. I wish you all the best!
My dearest Bridget!! Thank you for your comment! I hope your recovery is speedy and with ease. xoxoxo
I have just gotten an biopsy on a spot on my nose that has been there for about a year and half. The problem is I keep picking at it as well. Thank you for posting on here about your experience. Hopefully I can snap out of picking at my spot and if it is cancer, that it heals fast.