Our beautiful fall-ish weather continues today, as we start in the 50s and will end in the upper 70s this afternoon. We have very nice levels of humidity, with dew points in the upper 40s this morning… very dry atmosphere! It’s always fun to watch the kids go down the plastic slides at the park when it’s this dry–their hair stands straight up with the static electricity!
Not only is it comfortable, but it’s beautiful too. Bright blue skies and just a few puffy fair weather clouds will be the rule. This is all thanks to a strong slow-moving area of high pressure. Not only at the surface, but also aloft. It will keep us with sunshine through the end of the week.
This used to be my very favorite kind of weather… but this has changed recently. I’ll take more cloud cover, thank you very much! This is all due to a recent diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma. Ugh… skin cancer… seriously? How many skin cancer stories have I done in my career as a meteorologist/environmental reporter? I’ve lost track… there have been so many! Covering these stories really opened my eyes as to how common this type of cancer is, and how I am actually pretty likely to get it. Not only do I have fair skin, but I have spent a lot of time out in the sun as a swimmer, lifeguard and runner. And, ok, there was some careless behavior in and just post-college… as I would occasionally go to a tanning bed. Because of all this, I do go in to see a dermatologist once a year for a skin-check. He looks over my skin and checks out any suspicious spots.
I was the one to notice this particular spot, which I initially thought was a blemish. It was just a small red bump, but it wasn’t going away… so I pointed it out to the doctor, who then did a biopsy. When the results came back and the doctor first told me the news… I was really scared. I’m pretty young to have cancer… and, really, to hear the word CANCER at any age?? Yes, it’s scary! Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer… and in fact, the most common form of ALL cancers. The good news, it is rarely life-threatening and cure rates are near 100 percent. The bad news, it will keep growing and growing unless treated. And the larger the tumor grows… the more extensive the treatment needed.
The doctor told me I was going to have to sit through his long talk, one he gives to all of his younger patients. He told me everything I expected him to… this cancer was caused by lifelong sun exposure. Every minute I was in the sun from when I was a little girl… to just last week… have added up and this is what I get. What this means for me is a lifestyle change: SPF 30+ every day… hats… shade… long sleeves/pants when I can. It is a change from what I’m used to for sure… having to be so careful. But hey, at least I am still alive.
The most common place for this type of skin cancer is on the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. Mine is on my forehead, and is thankfully a very small spot at this point. I have to go in for a surgery so the doctor can remove the tissue all around the cancer site. He will then look at it in the lab, to make sure he got it all. If he did, I am good to go… if not, I will have to go back in and have more skin removed.
Working in television, however, this could become a problem… as it’s a very visual medium. I will have a large compression bandage on the spot for a couple days, and the doctor tells me there is a 70% chance I will get a black eye! Apparently, that is common on patients that have work done on the forehead. So if you see this in the near future, please know I wasn’t in a brawl or anything. And there will be a scar. That actually doesn’t bother me much. Again, I’m still alive, and it could be a lot worse.
People with BCC’s are at increased risk for developing other areas over the years… and are at higher risks for other types of skin cancer. I will take all the precautions the doctor recommended, and will continue my yearly skin checks. But, again, the cumulative sun damage from all of my 36-years is already there… and another spot popping up in the next year or two is possible. I will do my best to prevent anything beyond the damage that is already there. As a good friend once said, I’d rather be white as a ghost… than to actually BE a ghost.
So please, share my story: the meteorologist who got skin cancer. Most days I am forecasting the UV Index, to warn the dangers of the sun. And here I am, a victim of skin cancer. I am happy to answer any questions as I go through my procedure… if I can reach any teenager… to tell them being tan is NOT cool… or any parent to urge them to put that sunblock on the kids each and every day… I think I have succeeded.