After her recent cancer scare, Cowley County resident Pam Crain is warning others against the ill effects of too much sun exposure.
“Here is my (public service announcement) on skin cancer: Go get that spot checked… Now!” she posted March 20 on Facebook.
“Being as fair skinned as I am, I always desired a tan,” Crain said.
“Of course, my attempts only resulted in sunburns. As a teenager and young adult, I did not use sunscreen.”
But that has changed since her diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma — a form of cancer that is relatively easy to treat.
“I will not be without (sunscreen) now,” Crain said.
Realization and diagnosis
Crain first noticed a small blemish on her nose late last year, but initially, she didn’t give it more than a cursory glance.
“After about six weeks, it had not gone away and had gotten a little bit bigger,” she said.
Crain finally mentioned it to her husband and daughter on a family vacation.
“I had an appointment on the Tuesday we got home,” she said. “I had a gut feeling and was sure it was (cancer), so I wasn’t really surprised.
“My dad has had the same type of cancer … on his nose.”
Removal and reconstruction
The dermatologist’s initial interaction with Crain involved a biopsy, the results of which took two weeks to come back from the lab.
It was at this juncture that she found out she had cancer and what type of cancer it was.
“I was scheduled for removal and plastic surgery for Feb. 13 and 14,” Crain said. But “I got the flu and had to postpone for a month.”
Her appointment to remove the cancerous cells finally was moved to last week.
“To complete the restructuring of my nose, I will have two more plastic surgery procedures in the upcoming months,” Crain said, “neither as invasive as the initial surgery. And I will now see the dermatologist every six months for a full body check for suspicious spots.
“All of this, for a spot that was the size of a pimple.”
Recovery and prevention
With her first surgery now behind her, Crain is spreading words of encouragement to her friends and family.
“While going through this, I have had many friends say they have spots that they need to have checked,” she said, “to which I say, ‘Do you need the name and number of my dermatologist?’
“They see it every day and can rule out or confirm any suspicions.”
Crain will be in bandages for some time, but admits the damage is the result of years of skin mistreatment — something everyone can avoid.
“Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen,” she admonished. “Those of us who haven’t been diligent about using … sunscreen (should) watch for spots and blemishes, especially in the areas you have sunburnt in the past.”
Crain also cautioned that family history is an important factor to consider, as well.