I've always loved the sun. Growing up in the UK made sunbathing more challenging, but I took advantage of every ray of sunshine that came my way. I remember watching the sky and running outside whenever there was a break in the clouds. I even had a job as a dental assistant that allowed me to dash out for a quick hit of sun between patients. Yes, I was an avid sun-worshiper — and a complete idiot!
I left England in my late teens and became an au pair. (Aka, a nanny with lots of free time to get into trouble!) My first stop was Greece and then Spain. Most of my working day was spent by the pool with the children I was looking after. I thought I had the dream job! While in Madrid, I got married (for the first time) to a US serviceman and ended up in sunny Arizona. The heat didn't bother me, and I loved the endless sunshine.
My first bout of skin cancer (a basal cell on my forehead) happened in my early thirties. Although it was pretty upsetting, I was able to flip my bangs and hide the scar. I remember feeling lucky it happened where it did — and god-forbid, not on my nose!
I had another basal cell (again on my forehead) in my late fifties. This one was tiny, and again I felt fortunate that my hair was able to hide it. And then, right when I turned sixty, the big one hit me square in the face! I'll be honest and confess that I've always been a little vain about my nose. I don't have beautiful eyes or voluptuous lips, but my nose sure was cute! I knew something was wrong when I noticed a tiny dot on my nose that bled every time I washed my face. When the diagnosis came back positive for basal cell, I wanted to cry because there was no way my hair would cover this one.
The surgery was horrible. Thankfully, it was the Mohs procedure, which saved as much healthy tissue as possible. But it felt like my nose was being mutilated — and there were so many stitches!
I went home with a compression bandage on my nose, terrified at the prospect of having to remove the dressing and care for the stitches. I was instructed to soak the wound with a solution of water and white vinegar, pat the area dry, apply Vaseline, and keep it covered. I did all of this in the bathroom with the light off!
A week later, I went back to have my stitches removed. When the nurse was about to show me what my nose looked like, I interrupted her and said I was incredibly squeamish. After hearing this, she said my nose was very red and swollen, so I probably shouldn't look! I asked what I could do to speed the healing, and the answer was "eat protein and greens." Now, this was something I could do with gusto!
With the stitches out, I only had to wash the area and keep it moisturized and covered. When the wound was fully healed (a week later), I started using the ScarAway sheets recommended by my surgeon. (These are made from silicone which helps soften and flatten scars.) Scaraway was a game-changer for me - easy to apply and remove. And I no longer had to have a massive gauze pad taped to my face!
It's been a couple of months since my Mohs surgery. I'm wearing the ScarAway sheets religiously and devouring kale and peanut butter smoothies! After a lot of research, I've started taking a supplement called Polypodium leucotomos. Peer-reviewed studies show that Polypodium can help prevent skin cell abnormalities caused by UV radiation. An article from The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology states the following:
Polypodium leucotomos extract 240 mg taken twice daily for 60 days was a safe and effective means for reducing the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation."
Although a pill won't take the place of sunscreen, polypodium leucotomos (an antioxidant-rich fern from Central America) sounds pretty impressive. If you live in the US, you can find this supplement at Walgreens under the brand name Heliocare. If you'd like to buy it online, I have a link for this (and the ScarAway sheets) here.
Wearing sunscreen is essential (even on cloudy days), and I've finally found a mineral one that doesn't pill or leave me looking like a ghost. An added bonus is that it wears beautifully under makeup. This holy grail of sunscreens is Skin Medica's Essential Defense Mineral Shield SPF 35. Unfortunately, it's a little difficult to find. But you can locate a doctor's office or spa that carries it (or purchase online) at www.skinmedica.com. I have no affiliation with this company - I'm just obsessed with this sunscreen!
We're often asked what we'd like to tell our younger selves. I wish I'd warned young me to stay out of the sun (oh, and don't drink too much!) But there's one thing I have done right — and that's eating the Mediterranean way. This plant-based diet (full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil) is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. I believe these foods have helped mitigate the dumb decisions I made. And considering the extreme amount of time I spent baking myself, I'm lucky I'm not a shriveled prune by now!
So here's my nose eight weeks post-surgery. It's still a little swollen, but I'm not unhappy with it — and maybe it's still kinda cute!
The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology - Safety and Efficacy of Oral Polypodium leucotomos Extract in Healthy Adult Subjects
PubMed - Oral Polypodium leucotomos extract decreases ultraviolet-induced damage of human skin
PubMed - Polypodium leucotomos extract: a nutraceutical with photoprotective properties
Oncology Nurse Advisor - Does Adhering to the Mediterranean Diet Lower the Risk of Skin Cancer
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Healthy eating is my passion, and I love to share what's worked for me.