Tag Archives: efudex

Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 39 to 46

I took a much needed break from all things related to skin cancer following my last post on day 38. My skin has still been in the process of healing over these last eight days and I am just now beginning to look closer to my “normal” self. My forehead has continued to peel and itch and still, after eight weeks, has feint red lines criss-crossing like little pathways on a roadmap. The rest of my face from the nose down looks pretty good but it is still a slight pink and turns a deeper red most evenings. Fortunately my eyebrow hairs and the hair on my head stopped falling out as soon as I stopped treatment.

**Almost back to normal.**

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My energy level has improved although I still have occasional bouts of nausea that I believe is due to my body’s efforts to rid itself of the last remaining traces of Fluorouracil.

Over Christmas I had my first real trip away from the house in seven weeks and it was heavenly. After being inside for so long everything seemed so fresh and new and fabulous. We even had a white Christmas with a dusting of snow that was the perfect ending to this whole stressful and painful ordeal.

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When I look back on the past four months from the date of my first surgery, I realize everything I have been through has changed me. I feel the need to embrace the beautiful things in life more and let go of all the crap. I desire to live more fully now instead of putting everything off until later in life when I am too old and tired (or sick) to enjoy it. Although my skin cancer experience so far has not been as harrowing and life threatening as what some individuals have faced, it has definitely rattled my psyche to the point of affecting change. I truly do see things differently now and I appreciate what I have much more than I did before.

I plan to continue to make occasional skin cancer posts moving forward as I have my follow up scans and appointments or should anything new arise. I will also post a timelapse of my face over the course of Fluorouracil treatment as soon as it is clear again. For now I will get back to my regular posting about photography, writing and art.

Thank you all for following along on this journey. Your kind words and support helped to make the pain and tedium so much easier to deal with. You are each appreciated more than I can ever put into words.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 35 to 38

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I love the comparison of these two “mug” shots. The first is from when I was in the middle of Fluorouracil Hell and the second is from yesterday, my second day post Fluorouracil. Although I am not smiling in either I see a look of desperation and pain in my eyes and expression in the first image. In the second image my eyes seem clearer and expression softer. That’s part of the beauty of black and white photography as you are not overwhelmed by color and can more easily get to the emotion of the photograph.

Monday night, day 35, was my last night of Fluorouracil treatment. I was so happy to put the tube of poison away in the cabinet and out of my sight. It was a long and very difficult five weeks. As much as I would love to say everything is done and I am back to normal now, that is not the case. Days 36 through 38 have been a combination of festering blisters, itching, burning and peeling. Last night was another sleepless night due to a lot of discomfort on my forehead. Today there is a bit less inflammation however it still hurts a lot to wash my forehead especially around my temples where the most intense rows of crusty blisters reside. So if you have Fluorouracil treatment in your future don’t expect everything to go back to “normal” too quickly because as in my experience it won’t.

**My face this morning, three days post Fluorouracil on my forehead and
eighteen days post Fluorouracil from my nose down**

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For the past few days I have been playing with metal clay. If you are not familiar with metal clay, it is just like traditional wet clay that can be kneaded, formed, molded, and shaped into whatever you want it to be. It was invented by the Japanese and contains tiny bits of metal, water and a binder. Once fired, the water and binder burns away and the bits of metal form into one solid piece.

The process of working with metal clay is the perfect analogy for the Fluorouracil Hell that I have just experienced. So it is fitting that I have intuitively turned to this medium during the healing phase. The clay has to go through the process of firing at a very high temperature for a specific amount of time in order to lose the impurities of the binder. Once fired, the piece is quenched in cool water and is then soaked in a pickling solution to remove any scale from the firing. After pickling it is burnished to create a beautiful shine.

If firing was incomplete, you can end up with hairline fractures that will cause the piece to break under pressure. If firing was complete, you end up with a strong piece of metal that shimmers and shines with a unique beauty.

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At this point in my journey with Fluorouracil I feel as if I have come through the fire and am now in the pickling phase where the last remaining bits of scale are being removed from my face. Soon I will be like that piece of shimmery metal. Only time will tell whether my firing was complete or if there are any hidden fracture lines waiting to reveal themselves at a later date.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 32 to 34

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Finally, I see light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow night will be my last application of Fluorouracil to my forehead. The past few days have seen an increase in inflammation, burning, itching, blistering, oozing and peeling with the larger spots finally reaching erosion phase.

The remainder of my face from the nose down is still healing well however there have been a few days when it has become red and a bit irritated again (instead of pink) and the itching returned. However I am now able to go places by pulling one of my winter hats down over my forehead since the rest of my face looks closer to normal now.

**The photo on the left is from the middle of my treatment and the one on the right is from today.**

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It’s really interesting to look back on all the photos I have taken the past five weeks to compare the stages. As soon as I am completely healed I am going to put together a little stop motion video to show the progression of the treatment (because those are the silly things that photographers do).

There are still a few spots on my cheeks that I have concern about and plan to go back to my Dermatologist after the new year to have them checked along with a new growth that has appeared on my back. But I just want to enjoy the rest of the holiday season without thinking of the possibility of further treatment.

Almost there. Finally…


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 29 through 31

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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.**

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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.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 25 through 28

The last four days have shown steady improvement and healing from my nose down. The Aquaphor has definitely been the savior for the severely dry skin after ending the Fluorouracil. My face from the nose down has continued to blister, peel, burn and itch since stopping the Fluorouracil on Tuesday and today is the first day with a significant decrease in inflammation.

My forehead is a different story. Today marks four weeks of treatment with Fluorouracil on my forehead and I still have one more week to go. It is finally beginning to reach the major inflammation stage and is beginning to burn like a mutha’. At least I know what to expect after living through Hell with the rest of my face.

**Here is a grid with photos from days 25-28 that shows the inflammation diminishing from the nose down. Ah, progress!**

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Today, day 28, has been a mixture of feeling happy that my entire face is no longer in pain 24 hours a day, super tired from the wear and tear of this whole ordeal, hopeful with the knowledge I only have one more week on the Fluorouracil (which I am now calling “my poison”), and bored after being holed up inside this house for way too long (I want so badly to go outside and run down the street like a crazy lady in the rain).

The last few days I noticed another side effect from the chemo. I have begun to lose my eyebrow hairs. I now wake up every morning with new eyebrow hairs stuck to the Aquaphor on my cheeks. Oh goody I say. Just one more thing to make me prettier than I am at the moment.

This afternoon I had a window of time where I actually felt good enough to play with clay again. The majority of the past four weeks I have not been able to do much at all except to sit and read and write. Whenever I attempted to do any other projects they were short lived because of the pain and discomfort and general feeling of exhaustion due to lack of sleep. So, if you will be going through this treatment for your whole face I strongly advise you to get all important projects completed before you begin.

**Something pretty to look at besides my face :). They will be up on my Etsy shop soon. (Another shameless plug. But a girl has to make money somehow when she is incapacitated :).**

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So, there is light at the end of the tunnel but it just takes a long time to reach it. I will let you know when I finally get there…


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 23 & 24

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I have a strong tolerance for pain. I truly do. When I gave birth to my son, I made it through 23 hours of intense labor without any drugs and he weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds, 13 ounces. After I broke my foot playing basketball I rode my bicycle 60 miles with a cast up to my knee (crazy young college student). After rupturing my achilles tendon while playing softball, I waited in the stands one hour until the game was over before catching a ride to the ER. That injury required full repair surgery. So when I say Fluorouracil treatment has been painful I truly mean it.

The above photo is of one of my clay tools for creating texture. It consists of dozens of very sharp steel barbs. The pain related to Fluorouracil treatment at times feels as if someone is using this tool to impale my face. So when your doctor smiles while he writes out the prescription and tells all you first timers that it will probably be “a bit uncomfortable,” brace yourselves, especially if you have to treat your entire face.

Yesterday was day 23 and it was the first day off of Fluorouracil from my nose down. As I said in my last post, my doctor wants me to continue treatment on my forehead for two more weeks because it is not reacting as fast as the rest of my face did.

As much as I would love to say yesterday was all roses and furry kittens after stopping application on the majority of my face, it was not. In fact it was more painful and annoying in many ways. My face developed an increased amount of blisters and throughout the day they would pop and ooze down my cheeks. It would sting a lot at the blister sites and then itch like crazy. I also had increased burning over my whole face for the majority of the day.

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The one thing that helps to provide some comfort is Aquaphor. I am now supposed to apply it and nothing else from the nose down for one week. Aquaphor is made of lanolin, glycerin, petrolatum, pro- vitamin B5, and bisabolol (derived from the Chamomile plant, it has anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic and healing effects). It is a lovely, soothing ointment but it has a similar feel to Aloe Vera gel but doesn’t soak into the skin or dry out and it is very, very messy. It gets on everything.

This is how it works:

“Unlike Vaseline (100% petrolatum), which is occlusive, Aquaphor (41% petrolatum) forms a semi-occlusive barrier on the skin. This enables the transmission of water and oxygen, important in wound healing, and the formation of a protective moist healing environment.[8] Its other key ingredients absorb the skin’s natural wound exudates, keeping the wound moist to help promote healing.[9]”

This morning, day 24, I have developed even more blisters, Yesterday’s blisters are still oozing, I have a headache, and my skin is beginning to slough off especially on my cheeks. Yes it still burns and itches like crazy even with the Aquaphor but it doesn’t feel as dry as it did before. My face is still inflamed but a little less than yesterday. My forehead, where I am still applying Fluorouracil, is beginning to burn more as it catches up with the rest of my face.

**A comparison photo between day 23 (left) and day 24 (right). You can see a tad less inflammation (yippee for progress)**

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Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 21 & 22

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**My most recent mug shot.**

As much as I would love to say that yesterday, day 21, was my last day on topical chemo, it was not. My doctor has extended treatment on my entire face by one day and on my forehead for another two weeks. My forehead has taken a lot longer to react to the drug. I have quite a few spots on my forehead but they are far from erosion phase.

Last night was another sleepless night with only two hours total. My face was burning really badly so I sat in the living room and read until pure exhaustion allowed me to sleep for a short spell. This morning I have an increased amount of blisters on my cheeks and jawline and they have begun to ooze a bit which adds to the itching.

I managed to shoot another video this morning.

So, I am still at it. Trying to keep my chin up and focus on getting a few things accomplished while the fun continues.

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Now for the shameless but humble pitch to help me pay off my medical co-pay for both surgeries and treatments:

For all of you who are still doing your holiday shopping, I have a Black Friday/Cyber Monday special in my Etsy shop today through Tuesday at noon. You will get 40% off all handmade jewelry, prices as marked.

If you like fine art photography enter code PLMVBU at checkout to receive 30% off all of my photography offered on my Fine Art America gallery.

There is also a GoFundMe page that has been set up to help with my medical expenses.

Onward and upward!


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 20

Day 20 is finally here. I have still been having a difficult time sleeping. I wake up about every half an hour now with severe itching on my face. Today I have developed several small blisters on both cheeks which confirms for me I am reaching the erosion stage. At least on the bottom half of my face. My forehead is still far behind the rest of my face however and I may need to continue another week just on my forehead.

The itching and burning have still been here for the majority of today although it finally feels a bit more bearable. This third week has been the most intense week out of all in terms of pain but now (fingers crissed) things seem to be slowing down a bit.

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During the entire course of this treatment I have had a difficult time doing the work I normally do. The one thing I found I could do every day regardless of my pain and discomfort was to sit and write. I mentioned it in an earlier post that I had decided to undertake the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge where you vow to write every day during the month of November in order to reach 50,000 words towards a novel in just 30 days. If you finish by November 30th then you are declared a “Winner.”

Today I am proud to say I am a winner of NaNoWriMo 2014. So now I have a first draft of my new novel and can begin edits and re-writes during the month of December. In the near future I will begin sharing excerpts on this blog for fun.

Here is the great video you receive from the NaNoWriMo team following validation of your word count. It was the highlight of my day. Correction. The highlight of my year :).

It appears I have been slaying lots of dragons this year (note winner’s graphic above) 👍.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 18 & 19

For those of you who live in the U.S., I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving day was day 18 for me on the Fluorouracil. Needless to say we did not travel or have a house full of people this year. We stayed home and had a nice, quiet, relaxing day.

In regards to my face, yesterday was more of the same. Intense burning for the majority of the day with another headache and insomnia to boot. However, the lesions that have darkened have begun to scab over, dry out, and some of my skin has started to peel. I think I am finally reaching the erosion stage.

**Day 19 gorgeous selfie**

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**Some of the lesions have begun to scab and erode.**

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Today is day 19. My face is alternating between burning and itching and I feel super tired. Lack of sleep is finally catching up with me. I tried to work with clay today and managed to make a couple of cuff bracelets but had to stop after an hour because my face started to burn again. I can normally crank out a dozen pieces in that same amount of time. Needless to say this treatment has definitely cut into my ability to be productive.

**Polymer clay cuff bracelets ready for the oven. Visit: www.etsy.com/shop/zeninthegarden for 40% OFF everything right now.**

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For the past three days my face has felt super dry, almost as if someone had wrapped it in cellophane and pulled it really hard towards the back of my head. When I open my mouth to take a bite of food the skin on my cheeks feels tight and hurts. Several people have used Aquaphor over the Fluorouracil to help with the dryness but it already hurts too much when I wash my face between applications. I can’t imagine also trying to scrub off all the Aquaphor before applying more cream. At this point my skin is so sensitive just rubbing the cream on sends me through the roof.

Technically I have just five more applications of the chemo although I am waiting to hear from my doctor after he reviews my most recent photos. If Sunday is really my last day then I get to look forward to a very painful two to three days off Fluorouracil before the face calms down then from four to eight weeks of healing before I will look and feel “normal” again.

To those of you who have been so gracious to donate to the GoFundMe page that was set up for me to help with my medical bills, I humbly thank you from the bottom of my soul. I also appreciate each and every one of you for continuing to follow along on my journey and for all your kind words and support. It’s truly great to know there are so many people in our world with such kind hearts.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 17

As I sit here in pain, yes real live my face is burning intensely and I want to rip it off type of pain, I keep thinking about my past and all the UV exposure my skin has had. I am an intelligent person who has made some poor decisions in life, the “I am human” factor. But one of the decisions I regret the most as an adult is exposing my fair skin to that bright yellow disk in the sky.

The decisions I made as an adult were often motivated by how and when I was raised. I was born in the late 50’s, a decade when there was no such thing as sunscreen. A blend of baby oil and mercurochrome were the recipe of the day to rub all over your body for that “healthy” tan. My mother was a true sun goddess and like all new moms of that time, she taught me early how to lay out by the pool for that sexy tan.

**My mom the sexy sun goddess in her teens**

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**Me, her first born absolutely LOVING the fact my little fair-skinned body was working on a tan.**

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**What do you do when a baby gets all fussy in the hot sun? Why you roll them over onto their belly so they can get an even tan.**

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I am not blaming my mother for my bout with skin cancer, however the fact I now have it is due to my early years of severe exposure without protection that has damaged my DNA and triggered the “little nasties” to grow right about now. Several other factors worked against me. I grew up at a high altitude where UV rays were more intense. We spent most of our early years in the outdoors hiking, climbing, swimming, skiing, etc. without any sunscreen.

**Spending summers in my grandparent’s pool without sunscreen was probably not a bright idea either. But there wasn’t any back then.**

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I was also born of that fair-skinned, green-eyed, freckled-faced Irish ancestry that simply doesn’t handle the sun too well.

**My mom, little bro and myself in all our fair-skinned glory.**

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As I grew older I definitely had a hand in helping to add to my skin damage. In my college years I hit the tanning booths, floated on big inner tubes down rivers all day long in the hot summer sun drinking beer with my friends, lay out on rooftops slathered in baby oil so I could keep up that “sexy” tan (you know, the one I never had), and continued to ignore the dangers they were finally beginning to whisper about in the papers because that would NEVER happen to me.

Then what did I do? Why I turned right around after giving birth to my own fair-skinned son and exposed him to the same harmful UV rays with little protection. Fortunately they had invented sunscreen by then and I did use it on him when I remembered.

**Me and my son kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico (both hatless) where the sun was so intense I would break out in hives from too much exposure.**

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I guess my point here with this post is that skin cancer is preventable if you take the proper precautions to protect yourselves. For some of us who grew up with that intense exposure during times when protection wasn’t encouraged, we will and are unfortunately suffering the consequences in our later years.

For those of you who have been blessed with parents who kept you out of both the sun and tanning beds, consider yourselves lucky and please continue to do the same for your loved ones.

For those of you who still choose to deny and ignore the warnings, I wish you the best of luck. Skin cancer is real. It is not pleasant. It is not as simple as just cutting it away and moving on with your life. You will always be waiting for that next one to appear. And in some cases it will spread and kill you.

Trust me, soaking up those rays to get that “healthy” tan truly isn’t worth the suffering of trying to reverse the damage.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Days 15 &16

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**My little friend Lily helping me to feel better.**

Yesterday, day 15, my face continued to burn and itch throughout the day. I noticed some deepening in color of some of the lesions and some slight shedding of the skin near my mouth.

Today there are more spots showing up on my forehead all of a sudden and the lesions on my cheeks are getting even darker and some of them look like little scabs. My forehead seems to be the last part on my face to react to the drug. Hopefully that does not mean I will have to continue for another week. I will know more when I check in with my doctor again at the end of this week.

Yesterday I had a consistent combination of itching and burning throughout the day with a couple periods of calm where I could actually focus and get some work done.

**Lovely photo of the day – lesions are getting darker, more inflamed and burning a lot.**

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Today is a different story. My face has been on fire for the majority of the day, I have a headache, and am extremely tired. This three weeks straight stuff of discomfort, pain, itching, and less sleep has definitely taken a toll on me in many ways. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and in my ability to be productive.

To ease some of my stress, my wonderful partner created a GoFundMe page to help me with the costs of my co-pay for my surgeries and treatments. I am personally very shy about those types of things and don’t normally ask for help. But this was definitely not an expected expense on my radar for this year. Such is the life of the working artist. So, if you feel so moved here is the link to the GoFundMe page: http://www.gofundme.com/hgdvmk.

I am one who likes to give in exchange for giving. So, if you would prefer to help out by purchasing some of my artwork instead of just a blanket donation, here are two places you can do that along with discount coupons for each:

My Etsy Shop (handmade polymer clay jewelry): http://www.etsy.com/shop/zeninthegarden – Enter coupon code: WPSKIN1 at checkout and receive 30% off your total purchase. A portion of the proceeds for this shop will be donated to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

My Fine Art America gallery (fine art photographs): http://tracy-thomas.artistwebsites.com – Enter coupon code: PLMVBU at checkout and receive 30% off your total purchase.

And if none of these appeal to you please feel free to share this post or those links along with coupon codes. You are all, each one of you, appreciated for your kind and encouraging words and especially for continuing to travel along on this journey.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 13 & 14

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Yesterday morning, day 13, I woke up to increased inflammation and a very dry feeling around my mouth to the point it was hard to talk or eat. Just to move my mouth caused pain.

It is also more difficult now to wash my face and apply the cream. It hurts a LOT when doing either. It feels like every nerve in my face is on fire. Once I apply the cream I experience a window of about an hour where everything calms down a bit. Then as the day progresses it alternates between intense burning and extreme itching. Not a fun way to spend one’s day for sure. At this point it takes a ton of resolve to keep my hands from scratching at my face when it itches or burying my face in an ice bucket when it burns. Neither of which I am supposed to do.

**I bravely decided to do a little video**

Again, I am a realist, so if you will be facing 5% Fluorouracil treatment for your whole face in the future just prepare yourself for some pretty heavy-duty pain and discomfort.

Last night was another sleepless night. I slipped into the living room and read until around 3:00am and had some fun with a couple of creepy selfie night shots using just my iPhone and the light from my iPad to illuminate my face.

**Creepy low-light vampire selfie**

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This morning, day 14, I am one cranky ass. Yes, this is another listed side effect of the drug. I feel trapped in the house and trapped inside this face. Sometimes I feel like a vampire. I can’t go outside during the day because the drug causes extreme photosensitivity (yet another irony). They say if you do decide to leave the house to wear lots of sunscreen over the Fluorouracil. Negatory Big Ben. It’s hard enough for me to rub the drug on itself, I can’t imagine rubbing sunscreen on top of that then scrubbing at my face later to get it all off before the next application. So for now I will stick to wandering the streets in the darkness thank you. I also do not want to scare anyone who does not know my story. I have visions of children screaming and running down the street in terror while hoards of torch bearing vigilantes heave rocks in my direction. Yes I can be facetiously dramatic and indeed it wreaks a bit of havoc on one’s self-esteem.

This is the end of week two of application. Seven more days to go of applying the cream, that is if my face reaches the “Erosion” phase during this next seven days. If not, then it’s up to my doctor to decide whether to tack on extra time or not.

Gettin’ there, but definitely not fast enough for my taste…


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 12

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This morning I look and feel like a Meth Head between hits. My face feels swollen and it is painful to open my mouth to talk or eat. I have giant, puffy rings under my eyes due to lack of sleep and it feels like a tiny Gremlin is running around on my face poking it with a million little needles.

Yes, this is one of those not so good days in this treatment cycle. I ordinarily have a high tolerance for pain, however this treatment experience delivers a pretty constant level of pain that just gets to you after awhile. I can understand today why a lot of people tell their doctors they can’t continue with the entire regimen. But I intend to keep plugging for my remaining time on the drug because I feel the alternative is not a smart one for me based on the amount of nasty cells it has already uncovered on my face.

**The uber tired me after a sleepless night of discomfort and nausea.**

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I haven’t been able to accomplish much of anything the past three days. But the one thing I have been able to do faithfully is write. I am still hammering away at the NaNoWriMo challenge and am just 10,000 words away from reaching the goal of 50,000 words. At least I will have a rough draft of a novel at the end of all this if nothing more.

**Here is a closeup of the spots on the right side of my face that are the most sensitive.**

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Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 11

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I reached the halfway point today, at least with the application of the Fluorouracil part. I know there will still be several weeks following the 21 days of treatment where the skin will be super sensitive, scabby, festering and sloughing while the new healthy skin grows back to replace the pre-cancerous and cancerous spots. But at least I’m not back at the beginning all over again.

When I began this treatment I was of course nervous. I had read numerous blogs and had seen all the photos and videos of those who have gone through this treatment and it wasn’t pretty. It turns out my fears were not unfounded. It really does hurt like a Motha’. In fact it hurts way more for a prolonged period of time than either of my surgery sites did.

I don’t ascribe to sugar coating anything. I believe it is far more valuable to present things exactly how you experience them so that others will know what they may or may not have to face when doing the same. Of course we all experience things differently and my level of reaction to and pain caused by Fluorouracil may not be the same as the next person who uses it. But going into it educated with all the possibilities has allowed me to mentally prepare myself for what might be.

**Tired of looking at my flaming red face every day so I am taking a break and posting a black and white instead :).**

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Fluorouracil is sort of an enigma. You are putting it on your skin to help eradicate bad cells and it in turn causes your skin to react at times severely. It is harsh on the skin to say the least. At the same time once you wash it off between applications during the 10 minute wait, your skin starts to feel extremely dry and begins to burn way more than it did when you had the cream on in the first place. Once you rub the next dose on your face the burning and dryness calm down a bit until a few hours later when your face begins to scream at you again and all you want to do is wash it off. I think of it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A heavy duty caustic chemo drug dressed up in a nice soothing cream base.

I had a mid-point follow up with my doctor yesterday. I sent him several photos (oh the beauty of the internet and the ability to have virtual appointments). He said my face is right on track with where it should be now but to anticipate some “increased discomfort” over the next few days. Oh goody. I love how they use the word “discomfort” when you know they really want to say “it is going to hurt like a mother f***er.”

He advised me to start applying petroleum jelly right now to the nasolabiol and melolabiol folds (the lines that runs from the edge the nostrils down to the mouth) to serve as a barrier to the Fluorouracil. He told me if I don’t do that now it will become so painful over the next few days it will make it hard to contine. Yikes. Petroleum jelly applied!

Today my face is burning a lot more than yesterday. The volume of spots looks about the same but some of them have turned a darker red. I will post another technicolor photo tomorrow.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 10

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Today is day 10, almost halfway through my prescribed 21 days of treatment. Well, at least I am halfway through applying the cream itself. I know there will be several more weeks following the last dose where my face will still be doing it’s thing. I also realize my face has not yet reached the most uncomfortable phase of treatment based on following other bloggers during their own course of treatment.

**My pretty face at this juncture in my treatment**

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Yesterday was another difficult day. My face still burned quite a bit intermixed with some severe itching. I felt nauseous and had a headache for most of the day. I also had a difficult time sleeping last night and woke up with my face burning again.

**Side view right (the small dark wide line on the side of my nose leading straight into my eye is the scar from my recent Mohs surgery to remove one of the Basal Cell Carcinomas – they did a wonderful job)**

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Right now after washing my face and applying my morning dose, my face has calmed down and is bearable. That seems to be how the course of my days go with Fluorouracil so far. Mornings are the least painful and uncomfortable but as the day goes on it hurts more and is pretty bad by evening.

**Side view left**

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I am still able to tackle some work projects during the day however by early afternoon I am pretty wiped out. I am lucky that I work from home and am my own boss. I have no idea how people who go through this treatment and need to leave their homes for work do it. If any of you are going to go through this treatment and have not yet started, I would highly recommend you use some vacation time or get a note from your doctor and take some sick leave.

Onward and upward!


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 9

I decided to write this post earlier in the day today since I tend to feel worse during the evenings for some reason. Yesterday was not a good day as you could probably tell by my post. It was the first day where my face began to turn red in addition to the multiple spots that had shown up on days 6 & 7. My face literally went from feeling uncomfortably itchy in the morning to burning like it was on fire by the afternoon. It was not fun and I know I haven’t even gotten to the “fun” part yet in this cycle.

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So far today my face is not burning as much however I have a pretty constant headache and some nausea this a.m. My face feels extra dry even with the cream base of the Fluorouracil and it is starting to hurt when I open my mouth.

With the exception of yesterday, so far it has been bearable and I know the outcome of subjecting myself to this uncomfortable and at times painful experience will be a positive one. I would much rather eradicate the “Little Nasties” now than have to go through multiple Mohs surgeries on my face in the future. I know this will not be my last time using Fluorouracil as my Dermatologist told me as much due to the amount of UV damage I have on my skin. I was also one of the stupid people, yes I said “stupid,” who chose to tan in a tanning booth when I was in my twenties. Crossing my fingers that something worse like Melanoma does not grow out of that poor decision from my past.

Onward and upward!


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 8

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All I want to do today is claw my face off. Fluorouracil burns. That is all…


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Days 6 & 7

Yesterday, day 6 on Fluorouracil, my face burned a lot throughout the day. My skin was a little bit pinker but for the most part looked the same as day 5. But if felt different, as if things were beginning to happen beneath the surface.

This morning, day 7, I woke up to around four dozen deep red spots on both cheeks, my nose, around my mouth and on my forehead. The majority of these spots were not visible prior to application of Fluorouracil so I assume these are the “Little Nasties” that were lurking beneath the surface of my skin all this time just waiting to turn into cancerous lesions. The spots look angry, like they are really pissed off at me for attempting to eradicate them. Meh, let them be pissed. I don’t want to go through surgery again so flame away!

(Photo: pissed off angry spots on my right cheek and side of my face)

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My face was more uncomfortable today with a pretty consistent burning similar to a mild sunburn intermixed with itching. It took a lot to keep myself from touching and scratching my face today. I am also feeling extra tired the last few days. Sleeping pretty well so far but it’s as if my body is working overtime to deal with the reaction happening on my face.

I dislike being so hyper-focused on something like my face. But being a slave to this treatment means I need to plan my days around the timing of the applications and how I am feeling. That means thinking about my face, staring at my face, taking photos of my face, wanting to scratch off my face, trying to hide my face in public, writing about my face, dreaming about my face being pressed against a hot iron… you get the idea.

I realize this is only the beginning and I have not reached the worse part yet. But I keep trying to focus on the rewards – a decrease in the chance of another surgery and as my Dermatologist says, when it’s all over I will have a face as “smooth as a baby’s butt.” Yes he said that. He really did :-).


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Days 4 & 5

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Yesterday on day 4 of Fluorouracil it was pretty much the same as day 3. Still waiting for Christmas to arrive with the same few acne like spots and the blister appearing on my nose.

Today, day 5, is a different story. My face now feels like it is periodically sitting over a low burning flame. And when it’s not burning it begins to itch and I want to scratch it really bad. I also noticed a few more red spots appearing on my cheeks, nose and forehead and when I wash my face prior to application of the next dosage it feels like my face has a sunburn when I pat it dry with a towel.

Even though my face was extra sensitive today I was still able to concentrate and get a lot accomplished. I made several pieces of jewelry and posted them for sale on my Etsy shop (www.etsy.com/shop/zeninthegarden) **SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION** and I reached 30,028 words written on my novel in the #NaNoWriMo challenge. Go team!

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Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 3

This is day 3 of Fluorouracil treatment. I now have what looks like a mild case of acne, especially on my forehead. I also have a small blister forming on the side of my nose right where my glasses sit. My forehead and cheeks are a light pink and my forehead burns a bit, although so far it’s tolerable.

**I am bravely displaying my naked face below for documentation purposes only in the name of science ;-).**

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I feel like a little kid impatiently waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. Although I would much rather receive the pony I’ve always wanted instead of the “gift” I am about to unwrap after applying this chemical to my face two times a day. As I wrote in my first post, I know most people don’t react to the drug until around the sixth day. The waiting is the most difficult part. I don’t like unknowns. I just want the drug to kick in and do its thing so I know what I have to deal with.

The positive part of all this is my sudden sense of urgency to finish up projects before the hard part gets here. Yesterday I hit the halfway point for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I have already written 25,014 words of my novel in 11 days. The goal is to reach 50,000 by the last day in November. At this pace I should reach the goal by November 22nd. This cancer thing has definitely been the impetus for me to keep my nose to the grindstone and write like a Mother_____er (well, you know).

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I am also a bit less irritable today because I made a point to set some time aside for a bit of clay play. I love creating jewelry and other goodies with polymer clay. The act of squashing and rolling and mixing and folding the clay in my hands is very therapeutic. Losing myself in the act of creating a design is a great way to forget about the stressors that have recently consumed me.

Today’s design I called “Superstar” for everyone who has to endure the more difficult things in life.

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In an hour I will don the glove and spread another dose of the cream all over my face. Maybe tomorrow will be the day. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, I think I will buy myself that pony after all of this is over.


Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 2

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Day two on Fluorouracil has been pretty uneventful. Last night my face tingled a lot and it felt like I had a mild sunburn (oh the irony). I sleep on my side so my pillow case kept sticking to my cheeks every time I went to turn over. I hear it is even more fun when your face begins to bleed and fester. Plastic covers under the pillowcases anyone?

This morning my face was still pink but the day was mostly uneventful with the exception of the fact I felt slightly irritated. More than likely not a side effect of the drug at this early juncture but feeling a little trapped by the thought of being a slave to this chemical for the next three weeks and not certain how intensely my skin is going to react.

There are a few tiny red spots that are already beginning to pop out on my forehead but nothing worth taking a photo of yet. So I decided to post some photos from my last nature walk this past Sunday instead.

It was my last chance to get in a good walk before starting the Fluorouracil. The medication makes you extra sensitive to UV rays. I have seen the photos of people who used the drug and made the mistake of going out in the sun. Even with sunscreen and short exposure times, their faces became terribly inflamed. Thus I have decided to become a vampire and go on walks after the sun goes down. It makes life more exciting that way :-).

So for now, here are a few iPhone photos I shot using the Tintype app by Hipstamatic. They were shot along the Barge Access Canal across from the Port of Sacramento.

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Skin Cancer Treatment – Fluorouracil Day 1

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Today was the first day of my topical chemotherapy treatment for skin cancer with 5% Fluorouacil. For those of you who have not followed my blog up to this point, I have been through two different surgeries to remove Basal Cell Carcinomas in the past few months. The first was a more advanced lesion on my back. It was removed by way of Curettage and Electrodessication. The second one was on my face near my eye on the Medial Canthus and was removed with Mohs surgery. I have also had close to two-dozen Actinic Karatoses removed from my face, hands, legs, arms and chest through Cryosurgery.

My Dermatologist was a bit concerned by the amount of pre-cancerous lesions that were apparent on my sun damaged face. He prescribed 5% Fluorouracil to stop the growth of cells in both the pre-cancerous lesions and any Basal Cell Carcinomas that may be lurking under the surface.

Fluouracil is an Antimetabolite originally used as an internal chemotherapy to treat a variety of cancers. On the cellular level, Antimetabolites interfere with both DNA and RNA synthesis thus the cancerous cells die off because they can no longer replicate.

If you do a Google search of Fluorouracil, or more specifically “Efudex” treatment, you will find a lot of scary looking photos and some videos from different stages of treatment. Not everyone reacts the same way to this drug. Some individual experiences are more dramatic than others. It all depends on how many lesions you have on or beneath the surface on the skin being treated. Some people are only prescribed treatment for specific or small areas on their bodies so the overall dosage is minimal. However, some people like myself have been prescribed treatment at maximum dosage to cover a larger area, in my case the whole face.

I have decided to document my treatment with photos and updates on my blog and will file these types of posts under the “Skin Cancer” category for those who are interested in following along. I also feel it is important for others who may have to go through this same treatment in the future to know the reality of a variety of people who have used it. I know it helped me immensely to research and read other skin cancer patient’s blogs prior to my treatment.

So here is day one photo of my lovely face sans makeup (just for you) immediately prior to applying my first dose this morning. Note the smile on my face (we shall see how long that lasts).

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I will be applying Fluorouracil to my face twice daily for three weeks straight. There are many possible side effects including: Skin irritation, burning, redness, dryness, pain, swelling, tenderness, changes in skin color, eye irritation (e.g., stinging, watering), trouble sleeping, irritability, temporary hair loss, or abnormal taste in the mouth.

These are the more uncommon but serious side effects: stomach/abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, signs of infection (e.g., fever, chills, persistent sore throat), easy bruising/bleeding, mouth sores, rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

Yes I know this now sounds like one of those television commercials that I hate so much and question why anyone would use one of those drugs with the risk of all those side effects.

But the benefits definitely outweigh the risks when it comes to skin cancer. Fortunately, the more serious side effects happen to a small percentage of users.

I will be applying the second dosage in about half an hour. Most people do not experience much reaction until after seven days of use. I happen to be blessed (or cursed) with very sensitive skin and my face is already beginning to turn pink and it feels as if I have a slight sunburn. I get the feeling I am going to end up being one of the “prettier” Efudex patients before too long.

And away we go!