Portrait of a (Sun) Damaged Lady, or Get Thee to a Dermatologist

This rather fetching selfie is my personal contribution to raising awareness of the effects of sun exposure on a fair-skinned person living in Australia.

No, I don't have skin cancer. But I am currently in my third week of a four week treatment for Solar Keratosis, more commonly known as 'sunspots'. The redness you see is sun damage caused from too much sun exposure.

The cream that I am using is called Efudix and comes in a tube that you apply twice a day. It works by destroying abnormal (or precancerous) skin cells. That's the redness. I am applying the cream to my nose, forehead, temples, left cheek, and hands. The skin is blistering and beginning to get crusty. It's a bit like a facial peel. Sure, it's a little uncomfortable and I had to postpone my modelling shoot for a few months, but it's worth it. The dermatologist who prescribed the treatment assures me I'll have the skin of a sixteen year old when I'm done. Perhaps I'll post another portrait in a few months and you can be the judge of that.

The thing is, I didn't realise just how much sun damage I had until I went to the dermatologist. Being fair skinned and sun aware, I thought I was (mostly) diligent about applying sunscreen, but there were still plenty of times when I'd 'caught' the sun. So this selfie is the result of 40 odd years of UV exposure in Australia. Sobering, isn't it?

"Offer your experience as your truth," said the composer Pauline Oliveros. Being a writer, I am able to write about my experience and this is my personal offering, my contribution to raising awareness of the effects of sun exposure on a person living in Oz. If you haven't had your skin checked, it's really a good idea to get it done - regularly. People die from this shit. Melanomas can grow very quickly and become life threatening in as little as six weeks. But you can do something about it before it gets to that stage. You can regularly check your own skin and talk to your GP if you're worried about anything. I had a mole on my leg that changed colour. I went to my GP, who then referred me to a dermatologist. The mole has been removed and Efudix treatment prescribed. I will also need to have regular 12 monthly check ups. Here is some more in-depth information on skin checks, including who is at low/medium/high risk for skin cancer. I'm in the high risk category. 

So what to do if you are concerned about your skin? Go to your GP or go to a skin cancer clinic (assuming there is one near you). Your GP can often diagnose on the spot. If she/he thinks you need it, then they'll refer you to a dermatologist. Pretty easy, really.

Yours truly,