It's all her fault.... and her little dog too!
It's been an interesting couple of months.
You go to what has become a routine dermatologist appointment to have some spots sprayed off with liquid nitrogen and he suggests a cream that will attack "a larger field" and causes "some reddening but once you get blisters you're done!" (I suppose for some people, having liquid nitrogen sprayed on their head, or for that to actually become "routine" would have been a big warning sign)
I've always been susceptible to sunburns. Fair-skinned, blue eyed and red hair when I was little. When most of us were kids, we were bombarded with "Coppertone Tan" ads and we spent lots of time around water and the beach. I loved being in the water, and summer was to be spent outdoors. I think the strongest sunscreen I ever used (until my 20's) was perhaps an SPF15. I remember a few blistering sunburns. One was so bad that I had the chills that night as I was burning up. My parents encouraged us to wear Sunscreen but like most teenagers, I thought I knew better. I wanted a tan!
So I take this prescription to Costco to get filled, only to have them tell me to come back the next day as it had to be ordered. When I went back the next day, they got all weird, asking me if I wanted to speak to the Pharmacist. I said jokingly, "its a cream, it can't be rocket science", but the staff person didn't laugh.
When I got out to the car I looked at the info sheet you get with 'scripts here in Canada. Things taking on a "metallic taste" really got my attention. Thats not a good sign. I whipped out my phone and Googled this product called "Efudex". It turns out that its a topical form of Chemotherapy.
Of course, I tried getting another appointment ASAP with the Dr. but couldn't even get through to a human, so I started Googling and looking at photos. This did nothing to reassure me. When I finally got ahold of the Dr., he told me I shouldn't be looking at pictures online. (If I could get through to his office, I wouldn't need to be doing that, would I?!)
Thats an understatement.
I work with the public, and even my favorite hobbies involve putting myself out in front of people. I'd managed to snag a bit part in an Opera being done this fall and walking in there looking even a fraction as bad as people I'd seen in photos was a deal-breaker.
Just how bad are these photos? Have a look here. (Goes to a Google search)
Actually, some of these don't look so bad now....
So, on my next appointment, I asked if we could burn off some spots that concerned him and start treatment in the Fall. Who wants to have to stay indoors or walk around looking like raw hamburger during the 8 weeks of nice weather we get in Southern Ontario? He agreed and I've set my "start" date as October 23, 2011.
It should be interesting as that week, several people asked me what was going on as the spots that were burnt off, blistered and then crusted over. I'm not looking forward to October, and it'll be here before we know it, but it's got to be done.
I don't know how this is going to affect my work. It's not like I can telecommute. That's a big question mark at this point.
Why this Blog?
I noticed that though there are a few blogs out there that detail the patients' progress using Efudex, but I think there's always room for 1 or two more voices.
Perhaps a Canadian angle? Already, I'm noticing that the same prescription for Efudex that cost me $39 at Costco, is several hundred dollars in the US. Though it's nice, in an odd sort of way to see that something is more expensive in the US than in Canada, because we're so used to seeing the opposite, why does it have to be something like this?
It'd be nice if some Drs. saw this and thought that perhaps maybe they should better inform their patients of what's going on so they don't put 2 and 2 together in a Costco parking lot.
Further, if my experience can persuade even ONE person (especially young people) to use sunscreen more, in order to avoid having to go through up to 8 weeks of pain, blistering and looking horrible, or having to endure surgery to remove cancerous spots, then maybe its not such a dreadful experience to go through.
I can tell from peoples reactions a few weeks back that stares and questions are going to be a daily occurrence. I'm thinking of making up some buttons that say things like "Use Sunscreen!", "Don't worry, it's not contagious", etc ... maybe make it an educational experience for others.
My Dr. said that he doesn't expect me to "light up like a Christmas tree" (my words - not his), but we'll see.
So if you are coming across this blog because your Doctor has prescribed you something called Efudex/Efudix/Carac or Fluorouracil and you don't know what it is or what to expect... welcome! Yes, there are some scary photos out there and kudos to the authors who have documented their progress using this.
The good news is that if you're using this drug, you're being proactive and hopefully catching things before they turn worse, or much worse.
If there's one bright spot in all of this, its that apparently, people who've used it have reported younger looking skin and fewer wrinkles as a result.
Okay, I admit it. I'm clutching at straws. :-)
In the meantime, the next time the Doctor asks if I've been wearing sunscreen everyday, I can honestly say yes - SPF 45 to 70. I'll just have to make sure that it's one of the ones that isn't misleading.