I’m from Scots-Irish descent and grew up in Florida in the 70s – before sunscreen was a thing. As a result, I used to burn fairly regularly. I love the sun, and continue to enjoy being outdoors as an adult. Albeit with plenty of sunscreen.

Last year I noticed a tiny spot on my chest and scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist. He diagnosed the spot as basal cell carcinoma. Skin cancer. A week later, the doctor took a hot spoon and dug the bad thing out. Problem solved. A few months later I noticed a spot on my face – so I called the dermatologist who diagnosed it as pre-cancerous and then froze it off. A few months after that there was another spot which was also frozen off. Last week I went in for another spot on my face, but instead of having it removed, the doctor prescribed a cream called Fluorouracil. The idea was to apply the cream all over my face where the medicine would attack pre-cancerous cells just below the surface of the skin – without the painful freezing thing. After a week of using the cream, my face is now littered with red spots which represent pre-cancerous cells that would have eventually bubbled up to the surface where they’d have to be frozen off.

Two things: First, my doctor assures me that my skin damage is from decades ago. I won’t contract ‘more’ skin cancer now that I’m an old guy (so long as I regularly use sunscreen.) What’s done is done. Now I just have to manage the damage. The second thing is that science is pretty amazing.  I can use a freaking cream to attack the cancerous cells before they becomes serious. Sure,  the skin on my face currently looks pretty rough, but it’s a lot healthier than it might be a few years from now if I wasn’t using the cream.

Clearly, the lesson from my experience is to wear sunscreen. But also not to take chances. 2.8 million people in the US are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year. And while BCC is usually not fatal, it can be highly disfiguring if left unattended. Don’t take chances. If you notice something awry, get it checked out. Science is good.

Jim's cancer


Jim Mitchem


A Letter to America
The Billy Goats of Marketing

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

1 Comment