Posts Tagged ‘basal cell carcinoma’

This will probably sound mean at first but I am really, really glad NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson had skin cancer surgery this week.

Of course, it isn’t that I wanted Johnson — or anybody else — to have a skin cancer situation. It is just that he is a very visible and well-respected public figure who can help awareness.

Johnson had surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma from his shoulder — and that type of skin cancer is something I know very, very well.

I’ve had too many basal cell carcinoma situations to count. My first experience was the scariest — the spot near my nose on the left side of the face required major surgery and the tumor was bigger than a quarter inside my face. Somewhere there is a Polaroid photo of the hole in my face before I was stitched back up.

Nobody I meet ever can tell this occurred without me pointing it out to them so my surgeon did a superb job. But it is hard to forget laying there and having your face cut open — it took 42 stitches to close me back up — and every time the doctor sensed I could feel it, there was another shot to the face.

A needle into the face.

Yeah, 3 1/2 hours of super, duper fun. Not.

I have had three others surgically removed and probably two dozen others frozen off with liquid nitrogen, which is negative 321 degrees. That is also the preferred way to be treated — a 10-second squirt and it freezes the area and the cancer falls off in less than two weeks.

Oh, another reason why I am glad Johnson was dealing with basal cell carcinoma — he didn’t hear the dreaded ‘M word.’

That would be melanoma. That’s the worst word you can hear when you are visiting the skin doctor and he or she identifies something suspicious.

Melanoma leads to things like chemotherapy and radiation and is a death sentence for some people. But basal cell carcinoma doesn’t spread, it is a local cancer and it doesn’t kill you.

Johnson learned the same thing I did during my first experience — if you have to get skin cancer, this is the type to get.

“Carcinoma doesn’t spread. It doesn’t go to the glands,” Johnson told reporters Friday at Pocono Raceway prior to this Sunday’s Pocono 400. “They just have to dig it out and you’re good to go. Once I understood that, my reaction to the ‘C’ word calmed down.”

Good time to mention to read this stellar story about Johnson’s experience — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=20&story_id=168468

Johnson grew up in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon and was often outside in the Southern California sun.

I can relate. When I was a kid you played outdoors all day and there was little talk about sunscreen. I went to hundreds of day-time sporting events while growing up to watch the Padres or Chargers play and I know I was unprotected most of the time.

The sun damage accumulates over time and I have to constantly be aware. I’m diligent and nearly always have sunscreen with me and I still regularly get a new spot or mole that needs to be checked.

There is better awareness this century and that is why I am glad somebody like Johnson can tell his personal skin cancer experience.

People listen to a legendary figure like himself — his Twitter post below from Monday has so far received 763 retweets and more than 2,700 likes.

“Wear sunblock kids. I’ve spent the morning on a table having Basal Cell Carcinoma cut out of my shoulder.”

That type of reaction doesn’t happen when I post about a new skin cancer. I don’t have that type of pull.

But Johnson does and that is why I wasn’t the least bit mad that he joined me as someone who deals with basal cell carcinoma. He is someone who can raise the awareness and I hope his experience leads to some people getting into the habit of applying sunscreen.

Welcome to the club, Jimmie. Hope you never hear the M word.