Days 29 through 31 have brought much of the same. My face continues to heal from the nose down and the itching and peeling have diminished greatly. My forehead is now on day 31 of Fluorouracil and has become increasingly inflamed and continues to burn intensely and itch. The past few evenings it felt like some little gremlin was running back and forth across my forehead with a pair of spiked golf shoes. Not a pleasant sensation.
I continue to lose eyebrow hairs and have most recently begun to lose handfuls of hair from my head. Fortunately I have a thick head of hair and I know this is only temporary.
**The transition in my face over the last three days.**
One positive thing I have noticed this week is increased spurts of energy during my days mixed in with bouts of nausea and feeling super tired. It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride. Fortunately these past few days I have actually been able to get a few things accomplished which is a good thing.
After going through this past four plus weeks of Hell I have been asked by several people if I think it has been worth it. When I consider the amount of sun damage on my face and the alternative of ignoring the growths and running the risk of the basal cells invading bone and surrounding tissue or of actinic keratoses mutating into squamous cell carcinomas, then yes, it has definitely been worth it. Although I often wonder if this treatment is going to knock out all the little nasties that are lurking on my face. I realize it is only killing those bad cells that live on the top few layers of the skin and does nothing to eradicate any cancer cells that may be multiplying in the sub dermal layers. Here is the National Cancer Institute’s take on topical chemo treatment: “Given the superficial nature of its effects, nonvisible dermal involvement may persist, giving a false impression of treatment success.”
Of course the most intelligent course of action would have been prevention. But hindsight is just that. Education along with a little dose of reality can make a big difference now that the damage has been done. As I have said before, I am a realist and I know I will more than likely be dealing with skin cancer for many years to come. But now I am very aware and know what to look for in order to remain on top of it.
The statistics speak for themselves:
Approximately 36% of all patients find a new basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma within the next five years following treatment. Having a basal cell carcinoma before the age of 60 may also increase the chance of developing other cancers in internal organs.
As many as three thousand deaths from advanced basal cell carcinoma occur annually in the US. (Skin Cancer Foundation)
Approximately 65 percent of all squamous cell carcinomas and 36 percent of all basal cell carcinomas arise in lesions that previously were diagnosed as actinic keratoses. (Skin Cancer Foundation)
Men and women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer [basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma] are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than people without a nonmelanoma skin cancer history. (American Academy of Dermatology)
Women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing leukemia, breast, kidney, and lung cancers and men with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. (American Academy of Dermatology)
From a recent Harvard Medical School study:
Results showed that people with nonmelanoma skin cancer were at an increased risk of developing the deadly skin cancer melanoma, and that women with nonmelanoma skin cancer were at increased risk of lung cancer and breast cancer, according to the study.
So the answer is a definite yes. This treatment is, has been, and will continue to be worth the extreme pain and discomfort that it delivers. At times I look at it as penance paid for all those hours of foolishly subjecting my skin to UV rays for the sake of vanity.