Skin I am in
Body image is a complicated topic at the best of times. It is often fraught with strong negative emotions and experiences. It doesn’t help that our ideas and beliefs regarding our own body image are constantly challenged by the unrealistically narrow range of represented bodies and faces around us. This constant barrage of imagery basically tells us that if we don’t look like the people in the pictures then it is we who are faulty.
I have never had a good relationship with my skin. I had bad teenage acne on my face, that then became bad adult acne on my back. I have rosacea. More recently, and the subject of this blog, I have had skin cancer a few times. On bad days I feel as though I am locked in to some kind of invisible battle with my own appearance and, in particular, my unruly skin.
This week I had plastic surgery on my forehead to remove a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). BCCs have been part of my life since 2015, this was my 5th treatment and my most significant. This particular BCC had been treated before but not responded and so painful and deforming surgery in the middle of my face became the only option. During the COVID-19 lockdown, I watched with dismay as my skin cancer visible started to spread before my eyes. It was as if my skin cancer knew my surgery was delayed and was rebelling against me. This Thursday gone I had the skin cancer removed, and many stitches and two black-eyes later I find myself reflecting here on my sofa about my relationship with my skin.
The thing is, skin is amazing! As I have been learning what to expect in the days following this surgery I have also been finding out all sorts of things about skin. The average person has about 300 million skin cells, our skin has an extraordinary natural elasticity that stretches with us as we move and grow. My skin now is now swelling and bruising in response to the trauma of an hour long skin surgery. Bruises are part of your body’s natural response to injury and part of the healing process. Instead of looking in a mirror and worrying about how ugly I look right now I have decided to watch with fascination the amazing job my skin is doing in repairing and recovering.
I also wanted to write about my recent experiences to acknowledge how much it sucks to have skin cancer at my age! I am likely to have it many more times. I am very fair-skinned and though I have never burnt badly my skin is easily damaged and the sun has already clearly affected me. I wanted to write, not for a vote of sympathy, but to encourage all readers to do two things so that you don’t have to go through surgery like mine or face the more dangerous prognosis of a cancer like Melanoma.
1. Protect your skin from the damage caused by the sun. Wear SPF, wear a hat, stay out of midday heat.
2. If you have a mark or mole on your body that has changed shape or size get it checked out. Go to your doctor. Be stubborn and see a dermatologist if you have doubts. If I had been a bit more stubborn in 2015 I may not have had to had so much skin removed this week in 2020.
Skin cancer is serious. Even the less dangerous and more common types like my own can still be life changing and deforming. No skin cancer gets better on its own. Melanoma can be life-ending. Skin cancer really, really sucks. But there is plenty we can do to prevent it. I think simply having a better relationship with our skin, one where we recognise changes and alterations is helpful. It helps us respond more quickly and calmly if something is wrong.
Lastly, I wanted to say that you are beautiful. I am beautiful. We are beautiful not because of society’s prescription of beauty but because our bodies are amazing! Our skin (even when it is problematic like mine) is amazing. Let’s start respecting our beauty and strength a little more as we are thankful for the life we have been given. Weirdly, it has taken having this deforming surgery to appreciate the skin I am in a little more. I sit here looking at my worst. But I am grateful. Very, very grateful.
I believe we have three homes we live in and we don’t appreciate any of them nearly enough. We have our bodies and the skin we are in. We have the homes and communities we make with the people we love and who love us. We have our planet Earth that nurtures us and supplies us with the very things we need to survive. Let’s treat all three homes with more love starting with our own incredible bodies.
☀️☀️☀️ To find out more about skin cancer visit https://www.skcin.org a great website full of information on taking better care of your skin. ☀️☀️☀️
☀️☀️☀️ I share more of my own skin cancer journey on my Instagram Highlights. ☀️☀️☀️