The skin game

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UV detector from Amazon in the United States. Right to my door.

I USED TO BE a sun worshiper, long ago when I was young.

In those faraway summers, in Georgia, Florida and even later in Puerto Rico, I was mostly naked outdoors and by late June I could have joined Black Lives Matter as an angry soul bro’ had that disreputable band of brothers existed way back then.

But starting when I was about 45, the proverbial chickens started returning to the henhouse with roosting on their pea brains. Skin cancer. In the decades since, I’ve had at least 50 basal-cell carcinomas removed from my flesh.

The most recent five — yes, five — were excised last week, surgically and biopsied.

We now have an opaque glass roof over the entire upstairs terraza that we recently had renovated, an upgrade that continues to this day. Two guys will be here today applying a fresh coat of amarillo villas, which is a fancy way of saying yellow.

A few days ago, two canvas curtains were installed in two sections of the new zone, and more perhaps will follow, depending on how the rainy season behaves. We will also install a sunblock net with a nice design on the bottom of the new glass ceiling.

Recently, I ordered a handheld device that measures the sun’s UV rays. I got it from Amazon. I was pleased to discover the new opaque glass roof reduces UV a lot but not to a 100% safe degree, and that’s why we’ll install the sunblock net.

I want to be able to sit out there worry-free. UV is obscenely high here due to the combination of latitude and altitude.

Basal-cell carcinomas are visible and very slow-growing, giving one lots of time to deal with them. Melanoma, of course, is the Bad Boy of skin cancer. I always knew melanoma was the least common form of skin cancer, but I was surprised to learn this week it makes up only 1 to 2 percent of skin cancers. It’s quite rare. But can be very deadly.

With luck, my skin cancers will continue to be basal-cell carcinomas because they appear to be increasing in number as I age. This is common, I have learned.

Let this be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Don’t walk around bare-assed in the summertime, and if you do, apply sunblock. And don a big sombrero.

But no matter your skin tone, stay out of Black Lives Matter.

37 thoughts on “The skin game

  1. Felipe: Very true and sensible. It may be hard to believe but there are still people who think that you have to get a sunburn to tan. Being in a place where farming and fishing are the dominant careers, and ride-on lawn mowing is the most popular sport, there is a high number of people with skin cancer. I try to avoid the sun because I have had one bout and expect more, but I’m not about to buy a UV meter. Can I borrow yours?


  2. I have always, since I became a thinking adult anyway, kept my precious skin pale. That condition is naturally occurring since I’m a pale-skinned redhead. I have suffered some pretty bad sunburns, but I decided I didn’t like that feeling and peeling. Both parents had multiple skin lesions from sun damage removed. They saw the derm doc often. I don’t have to do that, but I have had my hide looked at occasionally to try to catch anything that might have sneaked in. Instead I only have “dark” spots, the same as many superannuated peeps.


    1. Carole: All of which is to say you are smarter than I am. I wish I had been smarter. But I was nuts when younger in a score of different ways. Sun worship was only one of them. Sad.


  3. Keep an eye on your skin, especially on the back. I went to the VA this morning, and there is an awful lot of old and ugly there. I was the healthiest-looking one there, and that included the doctor.

    When we were kids, we ran around barefoot and shirtless. Nowadays, I see young people shirtless. They want to show off those horrible tattoos. Only if they knew what would happen fifty years later. Those tattoos will look more like varicose veins and then there is the cancer.


    1. Señor Gill: Watch out now about dissing tattoos. I have one on my left forearm that’s been there 48 years. It’s held up pretty good. Of course, back then it was not trendy. Only sailors and bikers had them. Well, and me too. I tend to think I was the one who began the tattoo craze.


  4. Ah, the wisdom that comes with age, often too late.

    Eat your peas, avoid loud noises (like rock bands) because they’re going to ruin your hearing, wear a cap outside, yeah, yeah. All true but who was listening?

    In San Miguel you see older women doing “power walking,” clutching a small dumbell on each hand, and wiggling their large cabooses side-to-side like mallard ducks, as if trying to reverse all the bad habits of their youth. Good luck with that. Que sera, sera, baby.

    Mexicans, you’ll note, have a respectful relationship with the sun. Félix, whose skin is cinnamon brown to begin with, always wears a hat the size of a 18-inch pizza pan whenever he goes outside.

    For your sun porch you might want to visit a garden supply store and check out sunscreens they use in greenhouses to keep out the sun. It comes in rolls and in various degrees of opacity. We used some here because even the cacti in pots were getting fried. Home Depot has the same stuff, in fancy packages and marked up accordingly.

    Keep after all those nasty spots. Good luck.


    1. Señor Lanier: It was you who drove me to the dermatologist last week with your saying you knew– or knew of — two people there where you live who had died of melanoma. I knew I had some carcinomas due to my long experience with the little buggers, but I was procrastinating. So I went. However, now that I know that 99-98 percent of skin cancers are not melanoma, I’m thinking it’s rather a stretch that you knew even one person of died of it, much less two! And treatment, as with most cancers, is improving daily, so the chance of dying of melanoma is less every year. You knew two? C’mon.

      Yes, I know the sun screen is available in a number of places, but there’s “a guy” here who does it all. He’s the one who’s already installed two canvas curtains. I’ll stick with him.


      1. I did, I did. One was Roger, an Australian who spent most of his youth at the beach, as a lifeguard, surfing and such and developed skin cancer that somehow spread throughout his internal organs and eventually killed him. The other was Nancy, a Texan with leathery, permanently tanned skin, from spending time in the sun, that went the same way. A third guy, Bill, is still battling skin cancer and receiving chemotherapy and whatnot at MD Anderson, supposedly a renowned cancer hospital in Houston. So, in my experience, it’s not that rare (unless we’re talking about different things).

        I’ll be taking measurements of my back terrace and send you a private email to consult about your dome project. I don’t follow the part about the canvas. Is that on the sides?


        1. I was a blond kid in California who spent every August at the beach. A couple of years after I moved to Phoenix I bought a small house and couldn’t wait to get my own private pool. I loved to lie on an air mattress and float around, and roll off into the water when I got too hot. Surprisingly, I’ve only had a couple of spots treated. After my last treatment, I checked Amazon, and for about $17 you can buy medical grade liquid nitrogen in a can. So I thought of having a liquid nitrogen party, where everybody takes their shirt off, and I pass the can around the room, Too bad I don’t know a doctor who could come and supervise. Phil


          1. Phil: Jeez, I hardly know how to respond to this. I know a blond guy who lives in a nearby town. He thinks it’s a good idea to sunbathe and get his daily dose of Vitamin D. I think it’s best to avoid the sun, especially in these parts, and avoid skin cancer. I’ve yet to notice any Vitamin D deficiency on my part.


        2. Señor Lanier: Let’s assume those two had melanoma. It’s kinda hard to die from other forms of skin cancer unless you ignore it for decades, and maybe they did, out of pure ignorance. And yes, MD Anderson is the most famous cancer-treatment facility in the United States.

          As for our upstairs terraza, it’s L-shaped, not square. It has five sides, not four. We have installed outdoor curtains of some sort of material designed for such use on two sides. A third side, which is oddly shaped and faces the sex motel, will soon be covered with the same material, but permanently installed, not a curtain that can be rolled up and down. We had a big storm last night that really blew, and it’s made me question the long-term viability of the two curtains that roll up and down. I suspect they will break. We’ll be in a holding pattern regarding installing the same curtains on the remaining two sides. We may end up removing the ones we now have and installing more steel and glass. Just have to wait and see what the weather does to them. Due to their being on the upstairs and very susceptible to wind, well, time will tell.


  5. Felipe: The former (about 15 years ago) premier of Quebec, who was the French equivalent to George Hamilton, died of melanoma. He was always tanned, and criticized for the number of vacations he took to sunny climates. People have commented to me that when I go to warm places in winter I don’t have a tan. I recently went to Cuba, and the only time I was in the sun was walking from one shady place to another.


    1. Kris: George Hamilton! Well, that’s a name you don’t hear anymore. I just looked him up. He’ll be 80 in August and lives in Palm Beach, Florida. Wonder what he looks like these days.

      You recently went to Cuba? Oh, that’s not good. The dictatorship lives off tourism these days. Yeah, I know I went too, and I am ashamed of myself.


      1. The only part of real Cuba I saw was when we went on a day trip, and conversations with staff at the hotel. My experience was different than yours, but everybody has their own thoughts. I would like to go back and spend some time in a town or city.

        I was surprised at how much Spanish I remembered after 11 years, and the fact that we met Canadians who had been to Cuba over 10 times, and didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

        Oh yes, I have to tell you that the population of your adopted country has diminished by at least 50, the migrant workers have returned to work at the jobs Canadians are too lazy to do.


  6. There was a short piece on the local news the other night saying that over time sunglasses lose their ability to block UV, and should be replaced periodically. I wasn’t paying good attention, but maybe I should do a little research. Cataracts are obviously not as bad as melanoma, but should also be avoided.


        1. Gerard: Actually, my sunglasses are prescription lenses. No Ray-Bans for this ole boy. I wish I could just buy Ray-Bans. Be simpler and cheaper. I am a simple, cheap guy. Well, not cheap, sensibly economical. There, that’s more like it.


          1. Felipe: Being an extremely wealthy Canuck, since my health care is provided to me, I have prescription Ray Bans. I love them.


            1. Kris: Your healthcare is provided to you, but I sure hope you don’t believe it when your pretty boy, PC-obsessed prime minister tells you it’s free. Check your tax bill next year. There ain’t no free rides.

              As for Ray-Bans, yes, I could buy a pair and then have them made prescription. But my two identical pairs of sunglasses are Stetson brand, and I’ve been using them since I purchased them in Houston in the 1990s! They do hold up. The frames, that is.


              1. Felipe: I’m well aware that I pay for healthcare through taxation, but, that’s the same as every other developed country in the world … except one, where greed is more important than the citizens.


                1. Kris: It’s greed, sometimes called ambition, that keeps the world going round and round. A great thing. Big government? Not so much.

                  I have no government healthcare here and, like countless other Mexicans, get along fine paying my way, as needed.


  7. It is all in perception. When I had the cataracts taken off of my right eye, I was really surprised how dirty my house was. When they did the left eye, it was no surprise. Still dirty.

    Like my father said, “the car ran so much better before he got the hearing aids.”


  8. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” I agree. I hate to go on cruises lately, a bunch of old people sitting at a buffet discussing their latest bowel movements and medications. Is that next here?


    1. Bonnie! Well, what a surprise. I thought you had vanished permanently into the ethers. As for people discussing bowel movements and medications here, well, who knows? Maybe now and then. Hope not. Gotta go now. I’ve got a concrete park bench down the way waiting for me to sit on it.


      1. I figured you thought I was dead and deleted my old email. I did almost die of pneumonia in Chiapas so came back to the USA to recover. I taught school last year to students who told me that they thought they might be legal because their family figured out how to tunnel under the fence undetected. Frankly, I would rather be with young people, singing and dancing to “Old Town Road” while building Rube Goldberg machines than complaining about the inevitable signs of aging. I intend to slide into home exhausted with nothing left to give and vow to never discuss bowel movements. I do miss Mexico, though not Ajijic and the expat community — too much like Navy housing.

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        1. Bonnie: So you’ve hightailed it back to the ole US of A? Oh, dear.

          As for the pneumonia, there is a vaccine for that. I got it long ago. I hope you’ve done that now.

          As for Ajijic, I was surprised you were there in the first place.


  9. I should have mentioned that I gave up sunning about 10 years ago, and I gave up the pool two years ago. I’m now living in a condo with a pool, but I have no interest, and don’t feel it safe to go in alone, as my balance isn’t what it used to be. By the way, yesterday I clicked on your “Art” section. Talking about the chair with the wicker seat, you said “I weaved it.” Shouldn’t it be “I wove it.”?


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