A few years ago I was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer. A few months later, cancer appeared on my face. I’ve since gone back to the dermatologist every year to get checked out, and yes, have cancer removed.

I grew up in Florida in the 1970s. Before sunscreen was prevalent. Hell, most people I knew used something called ‘tanning butter’ which was basically Crisco. Anyway, I’m paying for it now. But unlike back in the dark ages, I’ve made sunscreen part of my daily routine. Right up there with deodorant. And I highly recommend that you do the same.

I’m currently undergoing treatment on my face for skin cancer that hasn’t yet reached the surface. I apply a thin layer of Fluorouracil  cream on my face twice a day.  Fluorouracil reaches below the skin to attack and kill the cells that will eventually make their way to the surface as (for me) basal cell carcinoma. Unfortunately, that means some current damage to my face. Which I can live with.

No, this type of cancer is not fatal, but I’d eventually have to it all burned off, as the cancer can become infected and leave scars. It’s cancer, after all. Just not the fatal kind. So I’ve got that going for me. Anyway, as a result of the treatment, my face currently looks pretty bad. The picture below hides the really bad areas. But it’s kind of cool – I mean, the medicine is treating future skin cancer. So I just have to get through this phase for another few days–which feels like really bad sunburn.

My dermatologist told me that at my age there’s no chance of ‘contracting’ melanoma, and that the damage is already done. Only, instead of sitting around waiting for that damage to make its way to the surface, I’m being proactive by going down there and killing it.

Rather than hide away while this treatment finishes up, I figured that it’s a good opportunity to share. After all, this shit is avoidable. I don’t care whether it’s winter or summer, cloudy or bright, or whether you live in Canada or California, you should make sunscreen part of your morning routine before going out into the world. And if you have children, help make this part of their routine too. Because even though I don’t have the fatal form of skin cancer, that doesn’t mean that they won’t get it.

skin cancer


Jim Mitchem

Read my novel, Minor King

Life Inside the Hurricane
A Remarkable Recovery

Jim Mitchem

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

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