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Micheline Harvey: Virtual Assistant, real person/Adjointe Virtuelle, mais tout à fait vraie

I hated my summer September 19, 2013


I’ve always loved summer. I’ve never complained, even in the worst heat waves. I sincerely believe that I was born to live in a tropical climate. And yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds when you notice my green eyes, pale skin and freckles. But I tan, I swear that I do! I just don’t tan as dark as people with deeper complexions. And it takes me longer. And I have to do it gradually.

Or should I say, I used to.

Since I had a BCC (basal cell carcinoma) removed from the side of my nose last March, I feel as if I’ve turned into a vampire. They told me to avoid the sun, wear SPF 60 and a hat. Not wanting to go through the experience of surgery on my face and the hideous recovery period, followed by up to two years before I know what my scar will actually look like for the rest of my life, I listened. Oh, how I listened!

At first, it was a relief to avoid the sun. No more longing to be laying out in the warm, caressing rays, getting some color on beautiful sunny days when I should be working. Since I was to avoid the sun, I could simply concentrate on my work and not be concerned about wasting precious sunshine.

I kept telling myself that my skin would look so much younger than everyone else’s, because it is shielded from the evil sun and its aging effects.

I preached to everyone to be careful, avoid the sun, consider the damage and check their skin for anything suspicious. And I believed it. I still do.

But then, I became somewhat depressed. I felt pale and pasty. I missed the sun. So I figured that if I slathered on the SPF and wore a hat and caught just 15 minutes of sunshine from time to time, it would be plenty, and not dangerous.

Then I got fed up with having to put sunscreen on for 20 minutes just to sit out in the sun for 15 minutes. More often than not, I’d remain indoors.

I convinced myself that I could go out walking really early in the morning or late in the evening, when the sun was not strong at all. Then I got too tired to get out of bed at the crack of dawn and too depressed to go out walking in the evening.

And I put on weight. Not much, but enough for me to feel it.

And I stopped wanting to wear my swimsuit when anyone else was around.

Oh, I enjoyed road tripping to PEI and surprising my family in NS. I enjoyed going for drives, and rides and visiting different areas of Quebec.

But I hated my summer.

Spray tan, you say? It’s not that affordable or available around here and, let’s face it, it’s not the same. Also, I can’t stand the smell of self-tanners or chemicals on my skin.

And now, just about the time I always start to shop for a trip south for the winter, I am at a loss. Can I even consider going south for a week when the sun is so strong and my skin has not been exposed for so long and I always get at least some sunburn even if I’m super careful? I think not. Then again, I look at pictures of our favorite destinations, and they call to me.

I hated my summer. Do I have to hate my winter too?


It can happen to you May 7, 2013

Filed under: My view/mon point de vue — matamich @ 2:00 pm
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I admit, I didn’t think it could happen to me either. I always use SPF 30 at least, sometimes SPF 60 and always higher on my face. I don’t bake out in the sun for long periods of time. I tan normally and am active out in the sun, but sensible. I often wear hats. I live in a northern climate, so I’m protected from the sun for many months.

And yet, I had a basal cell carcinoma lesion removed from my face last March. Although I am healing nicely, it will take from six months to a year before I am completely healed and I may need plastic surgery or shots if my scar does not flatten nicely or if it pulls too tightly or leaves marks or discoloration.

A year is a long time for a girl to wait for a scar to heal on her face.

The truth is, we all think it won’t happen to us. We’ve been out in the sun for years and nothing any worse than the random sunburn ever occurred. So we’re safe. Skin cancer is for other people. Weird, pale people who can’t handle the sun. Wrong. Skin cancer is dramatically on the rise in younger people. It is estimated that as many as one in six people born in the 1990s will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
I was lucky. My cancer is the least dangerous form of skin cancer. It does not metastasize (or very rarely) and is slow growing. Despite this, I now have a 50% higher chance of having another lesion. My form of skin cancer is probably due to sunburns in my childhood and youth, exacerbated by trips South in the winter (exposing your skin, even with sunscreen, to intense sun for a week after being out of the sun for months).

There is no changing what was done years ago and no deprogramming my skin cells. But I can prevent another episode like this. And I am.

I love the sun, although I never laid out in it for very long. Now I’m nervous, aware and a little sad. It’s very recent, so I suspect that I will eventually calm down and get used to seeking shade, wearing hats and sunscreen at all times, saying goodbye to my lovely golden summer hue and embracing my lily white paleness.
I think the saddest part for me is probably giving up my trips South.

But then I remember months of a tiny sore that refused to heal on my face, several attempts to get in to see a dermatologist, showing it to my doctor who shrugged it off and prescribed a cream that did not help at all, trying home remedies, staying inside when the spot on my nose flared up, finally seeing a dermatologist and hearing her tell me that I have skin cancer, the agonizing wait for a surgery date. Then spending four hours at the cancer center, two Mohs procedures, surgery on my nose while I was awake, which was surreal experience, twelve apparent and eight hidden stitches on my nose once the bandage was removed. My swollen and discolored face. Cleaning the wound. Looking at the wound. Not being able to wear my glasses. Not being able to go out in public.

I don’t want to go through that again.

The golden tan is not worth it, people. Also, on the upside, because I have to find an upside, sun exposure and tanning beds make your skin age dramatically and damages it on a very deep level. This damage is irreparable. So, if you choose to ignore my warning and keep baking in the sun, at least I’ll look younger and prettier than you… and I’ll also be rocking some pretty fabulous hats!