Freelance Writer Files: Apparently, I have cancer.

Just on my nose, a little patch that some prescription cream is eating away.

For a year or two (three?), this little patch on the side of my nose had been flaking and peeling. When I went to a dermatologist for a mole check (required annually for people like me, with “that European skin”), I pointed it out, thinking she would give me some kind of cream to clear up what I thought probably was some kind of dermatitis. Nothing to fret about.

The magic cream

The dermatologist did give me a prescription for cream to put on it, but not to clear it up. This cream (Fluorouracil, in case you’re interested) has the ability to eat up cancer cells. I read the instructions and warnings, which is always frightening, and decided not to use it. I didn’t fully understand it. I thought it was supposed to identify cancer cells so you could have them surgically removed. And I really didn’t want to think about it. Besides, it was probably nothing, I thought. No need for such extreme measures. Then my other doctor explained it to me.

This cream is an *alternative* to surgery. It eats up the cells, and voila! no more cancer. He said it’s “pretty cool” that when it works, you can actually see the outline of the cancer under the skin. “Pretty cool?” Yech.

So anyway, I started putting a thin layer of it on the flaky patch twice a day, and before long, it turned an angry red. Then a thin scab appeared over it. I don’t know how long I’m supposed to keep applying the stuff. When I see the derm in a couple of weeks, I’ll find out.

Future skin cancer patient.The idea that I have skin cancer is unsettling, to say the least. Just the “C” word is troubling. Now that it’s become a reality with me, I remember a couple of bad burns when I was a child from spending too much time at the pool. That can up the odds you’ll have cancer at some point. But who ever heard of sunblock back then? Girls were lying by the pool for hours, applying baby oil and mercurochrome to get that fabulous-looking bronze. BTW, did you know mercurochrome is a poison? Yep. I recently read a book on poisons. OK, so my reading tastes are weird.

I have several kinds of sunblock, including in my facial moisturizer (though it’s only SP15, which is practically useless, they say). The overexposure I had long ago still will make itself known, it seems. But it’s good to use sunblock now, so exposure doesn’t cause any more troubling moles or flaky spots.

If you have “that European skin” (That is, if your forbears came from France, Germany and Czechoslovakia, as mine did), go for a mole check every year or two, whether you think you need it or not. And if you see a mole or a flaky place that looks funny, get to the derm sooner. It’s better to know, as difficult as it is.

God, the terrors of aging.


  1. Hi, Liz

    Appreciate you sharing your experience with others.

    I went through this a few years ago and still have to be very careful. Hope your medication is less painful than mine was – easily one of the most uncomfortable treatments of my life so far:)

    Hope everything else is going well for you.


  2. Hi, John,

    The word “cancer” is not a lovely one to hear. Thanks for your good wishes. The spot on my nose isn’t painful unless I twitch my nose like a bunny, which I don’t do often :-). It just looks red and scaly. The doctor wants me to continue applying the cream for a few more days, and then, slowly, it should heal.

    Tout ca va. I attended my first French conversation Meetup last night. Very humbling. I hope to learn like a sponge, with the help of my Collins French School Dictionary!

    Best wishes to you.

  3. Thought I’d let you know that my little nose is now free of that spot of skin cancer, says the derm doctor. I wasn’t really too worried, and apparently, neither were any of my friends or FB “friends.” You were the only one who said anything. I appreciate your concern. Hope you’re doing well and wearing SPF 30 when you go out. I know I will be.


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