Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Red In The Face

I have a genetic pre-disposition toward skin cancer. I have gotten into the routine of having a "skin check" every 6 months. Usually that leads to a biopsy being taken, a number of small spots being burned off with liquid nitrogen, or other such fun stuff . On rare occasion it leads to a small surgery to remove an actual lesion. None of it is horrible - but most of it is uncomfortable. Of course the option of NOT taking care of those small spots as they come up really isn't an option.

Recently my doctor recommended I undergo "Photodynamic Therapy" or "Blue Light" treatment. I had my first session two days ago. It involves having your face first prepped with acetone to remove the oils on your skin. Trying to breath while someone basically washes your face with an acetone (think fingernail polish remover) soaked washcloth is nearly impossible.

Then an ointment is applied. It is a clear ointment but pretty greasy looking. It has to stay on for an hour. Of course, you can't take up a treatment room for an you go back out to the lobby with a very shiny, greasy face and try to keep your head down while reading old magazines - luckily I like Midwest Living...

After your hour is up it's time for the light therapy! I have never been in a suntan booth. But my face has been now. First you get to put on the really cool looking swim goggles to protect your eyes. (Can you keep your eyes open with those on? Will the rays penetrate at all? Just a few of the questions I had!) Then you sit on a stool, in a room cooled to a ridiculous temperature, with your face in a hot dog bun shaped fluorescent light device. Your nose is almost touching the plastic surface. "Are you comfortable?" the nurse asks....don't even get me started!

Then, while your face is immersed in this hot dog bun shaped light, they place one of those small battery operated fans in your hand. Of course, your face is in a plastic tube and you can't see your hand or how to work the fan. Then you are told that if it gets too hot you can use the fan to cool your face. face is surrounded by plastic - I don't know if I can even turn the fan on let alone get it to blow on my face! Grrrrr.....

Okay - time to turn on the light. It's very bright. It starts out a little warm. The nurse says, "I'll check on you in a few minutes" and leaves the room. I'm all alone. The warm moves into the "I'm being stuck with thousands of tiny needles" stage. I try the fan. I get it turned on and can't really get it to blow on me. Man it is getting hot on my face. This is NOT fun.

The nurse returns and asks how I'm doing. I take the high road and say I'm "moderately uncomfortable" rather than "my face is melting off!" She says, "that's only have 11 minutes left" and leaves the room again.

The sensations and treatment continue. It sort of surges in intensity - from hot to prickly. I think at some point I sort of zoned out because my nose touched the plastic surface of the light machine - does that mean I got too close?

It's finally over. The nurse turns off the machine. She has me wash my face - which is very red now. She says that's good and I should get a good result from the treatment. She then applies a steroid cream and sunblock. Great - Mr. Greasy face heads out into public again.

The rest of the day....and still at this face is red, feels tight, and has that really good sunburn feel to it. I'm supposed to stay out of the sun for at least 3 days. The instructions actually say "Wear a large brimmed hat when walking to your car". Wow.

Here is the picture of me that you have been waiting and reading so patiently for....

I'm thinking I may go back to having my small pre-cancerous spots burned off with the liquid nitrogen again. We'll see....

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