If you could change one part of your body what would it be? Whenever I read that question in a magazine I mentally answer, “My skin”.
I’m holed up for these beautiful spring school holidays. I have what feels like a massive gouge on my face so I’m in hiding. It was self-inflicted. Not by my hand but by the hand of my dermatologist.
I met this dermatologist after the birth of my second child. During my first pregnancy I had a small red patch on my forehead and thought it was just one of those odd pregnancy things and figured I was proven right because it diminished once the baby was born. The spot returned for the second pregnancy and never went away. After a biopsy proved my little red patch was actually a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) the dermatologist sent me to a cosmetic surgeon. It was over a centimetre in diameter.
I arrived quite nervous for my initial consultation with the cosmetic surgeon which wasn’t made any better by the exclamation, “What big pores you have” upon initial inspection of my face. I’d grown up with similar remarks about my ears so now I felt like the Big Bad Wolf. It turned out I didn’t have frown lines which one would normally consider to be a good thing but it meant there was nowhere to hide the scar that would result from the surgery.
A few weeks later I came out of surgery looking like a car accident victim with a bandage wrapped several times around my head and grogged up on Mersyndol. I think they had to dig deeper than originally intended.
Ten years later I still have a capital T on my forehead despite the frown lines now present. I have had quite a few BCCs removed and several ‘sun spots’ frozen off my face by being blasted with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), mainly around my hairline and on my nose. ‘What a big nose you have’ I think every time I inspect its large pores for sun damage. I commented recently to the dermatologist that ‘sun spots’ was a rather generic term so what did he mean? Sun spots are actinic keratoses which commonly result in BCCs or the more dangerous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and are characterised by a small pink and scaly mark on the skin.
In the last few years I have developed little lumps around my right cheekbone, like warts. Apparently it is a sign of my middle-aged status. These bumps are an enlargement of the skin’s oil glands called sebaceous hyperplasia. They aren’t dangerous but they’re ugly. In a weak moment my dermatologist offered to remove my more pronounced one. I say ‘weak moment’ because he’s always been against any action for purely cosmetic purposes. He even refuses to give advice on beauty creams beyond sunscreen.
This was a tough decision for me. I am vehemently against face-lifts, collagen implants and the like. I believe we should just accept our appearances and those of others. I hope I don’t judge people on their looks, well not too much anyway. Yet I spend a fortune on beauty products and won’t leave the house without makeup on. By allowing my dermatologist to take a scalpel to my face for the sake of appearance only I feel I have blurred that line I swore I wouldn’t cross.
So here I sit, less than 48 hours later, with a bloody blotch on my face, hoping the scar won’t be worse than the lump, remembering the cosmetic surgeon saying big pores result in big scars. I am petrified it won’t heal, guilty that I acted out of ego and miserable at feeling trapped in my own home. I should be out frolicking in the sun…with a big hat and sunscreen on, of course.
[Title of this post comes from Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 1]