Tag Archives: skin cancer

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…