The first two weeks of round 2 did not yield much results. Then….BAM!!!!
The top two photos are from January 5 and the bottom two from January 6. My scalp skin is rapidly changing and eroding. Itchy and painful more so each day.
Only 1 1/2 weeks until application of the medicine stops. Then at least another month of healing, when the skin continues to erode before it gets better.
Shaving the scalp *definitely* has helped. Application is much easier. I highly recommend this to anyone who has hair having to apply this treatment to their scalp.
I tell people my scalp looks like a big red fireball. Or a lizard head.
After my first round of FU-5, I was so happy after a few more weeks that I could uncover my head!
Then I went for my follow up visit to my dermatologist only to find out that what I thought were scabs on my head from the treatment were more lesions. Ugh!
So here I am in round 2 of chemotherapy cream with an added cream called Differin (used to treat acne), to add an extra layer of aggression to get rid of the skin cancer once and for all! I hope anyway. This time, 4 weeks application and 4 weeks healing.
Since my husband is the one who actually applies the chemicals ( and in round 1 a lot of the cream gunked up in my hair) what we decided to do different this time was to shave my scalp, to make it easier to apply. I am hppy to report that it is *much* easier and takes way less time. Since I choose to wear caps and scarves anyway, even with hair, no one will notice. We only shaved the scalp and not the rest of the head. Photos below on day 1.
As with round 1 treatment, I will post periodically on the progress.
FU Skin Cancer!
Day 22 was my last application. 43 applications and the scalp has eroding lesions in spots. Right on schedule. Now the work of the treatment continues over the next 3 weeks.
Here is an archive of the progession of my scalp in week 3.
Day 10 – and away we go! The redness is starting and spreading.
Day 13 – Panic! It appeared that I had enough in the tube to last the three weeks. But today when we went to squeeze the cream out of the tube, nothing but air came out, leaving barely enough for one more application – yikes! Of course this was a Friday night. I ended up calling the resident dermatologist on call and she immediately called in a refill (there were no refills on the original tube – should have been enough to do the job!). Whew.
Days 12 and 14 – not a lot of change. Increased itching, that’s about it.
It is interesting how your perspective of things change over time.
A home screen photo appeared on my work computer the other day. It was a beautiful photo of a pristine spot with cliffs overlooking water and and sand. The caption read something like “The perfect spot for sun bathing”.
That picture on my home screen would have looked so very appealing once upon a time. Now, it makes me want to scream.
Becoming a skin cancer victim has definitely put me into advcoacy mode, in an attempt to educate others on the dangers of sun exposure. If only I had known….
However there are ways to advocate and there are ways to not advocate and educate. If someone had continually hammered on me about being out in the sun oh those many years ago, I would not have listened. Maybe I would have with the right approach.
This article sums up what it’s like to be an advocate, and what to do to work works “changing minds and touching hearts”. I have included some excerpts.
Recently, I’ve tried looking at my photos from the perspective of a person who has never been diagnosed with skin cancer. I am beginning to see why so many people continue to tan, hit the beach without sunscreen, and neglect to wear protective clothing while making sure their children are covered head-to-toe. The “my-skin-looks-nothing-like-that” vibe is strong. Truthfully, they aren’t wrong in their thinking-they are only judging from what they see.
Photos like the ones I share show the impact of treatments and the side effects obvious to the eye. They don’t always show the skin prior to the first treatment. I’m willing to bet a vast majority of people who take a long look at photos of Efudex patients believe they are seeing the skin cancer itself. Our raw, blistered and crusted sores are intimidating. At the same time, they might just give observers false confidence. When they do a silent self-assessment, they will always feel relief–”None of my moles or spots look like that; I don’t have skin cancer.”
I will be chronicling my Flouracil journey in photos. The first 21 days involve application of the medicine twice per day. The weeks after that are the healing process.
My husband has been applying it for me.
There wasn’t much activity as far as changes to the skin on my scalp. Although I took daily photos I have only included day 1 and the last day of week 1 for comparison, plus the scarves I wore throughout the week.
I dread the thought of being in discomfort, but I hope this is working and would like to see a sign that it is. I did read that it can take a couple of weeks for symptoms to appear.
I began my journey with Flourouracil today, October 27, 2019. Flourouracil is a chemotherapy cream used to treat pre-cancer and cancer lesions on the skin.
Between November, 2018 and July 2019 I had five malignancies on my head – one on my forehead and four on my scalp – each one Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Each time required first the biopsy, then the waiting, then the diagnosis, then the Electrodesiccation and curettage (EDC – or as I call it, “scrape and burn technique”) to get rid of the cancer cells. My scalp looks like a battle zone with all the scar tissue.
After the fifth malignancy, my dermatologist said “We have to stop carving up your scalp. Let’s try this cream.” I had read about this treatment but not that I was to use it I did a lot more research so as to be well prepared. Although every individual reacts differently to the treatment , It’s not pretty and it’s not free of pain and discomfort. But the success rate is very high.
I find it quite humorous that the abbreviated name for this cream is “5-FU”, especially the “FU” part (The “5” is representative of the percent of Flouracil in the cream.). Yeah, “FU” skin cancer!
Using the tag “flourouracil” I will be creating a chronicle of this first (and hopefully only) journey with Flourouracil treatment. WARNING: I will incorporate photos of my scalp which are likely to become unsightly.
My hope is that my sharing my experiences, those who read my accounts will know the dangers of sun exposure, practice protection from UV rays, and will spread the word.
Now, on with Flourouracil and adorning my head with scarves and caps!
Now that I am deeper into the world of skin cancer, the activist in me cannot help but research the linkage between climate change and skin cancer.
Here is what I have found so far.
An article on NBC Washing, April 22, 2019:
Changing Climate May Contribute to Increase in Skin Cancer
The World Health Organization predicts a 10% increase in skin cancer incidence among the U.S. population by 2050
“Scientists expect the combined effect of recent stratospheric ozone depletion and its continuation over the next 1-2 decades to be (via the cumulation of additional UVB exposure), an increase in skin cancer incidence in fair-skinned populations living at mid to high latitudes (3). The modelling of future ozone levels and UVR exposures study has estimated that, in consequence, a ‘European’ population living at around 45 degrees North will experience, by 2050, an approximate 5% excess of total skin cancer incidence (assuming, conservatively, no change in age distribution). The equivalent estimation for the US population is for a 10% increase in skin cancer incidence by around 2050.”
“It looks like we will have to take another biopsy.”
“Well you know it’s like “Whac-A-Mole”.
(Big laugh) “I’m sorry I”ll have to carve up your scalp again.”
This is the conversation with my doctor when he called me the other day after I had sent him photos of yet more growths on my scalp.
It is like Whac-A-Mole. After each surgery I”ve had to get rid of skin cancer cells, more growths pop up. This time I have detected four more new growths.
This will be three biopsies in 7 months (the first two positive for skin cancer resulting in other procedures). I now have added Reishi extract to my daily regime of vitamins and supplements.
As Skin Cancer Awareness month is in its last week, it is far from stopping the stories. My story continues. The two “bullet hole”-like areas on my scalp where I had Squamous Cell Carcinoma removed are healing well. They still look like bullet holes, but will slowly fade. The SCC area on my forehead removed in November is barely noticeable. The bad news is that there are several more growths that have appeared on my scalp and are growing. I have an appointment on July 2. More to come.
Here is a story of a woman’s skin cancer experience with SCC, the type I am diagnosed with, as well as Basal Cell Carcinoma. “After my diagnosis, the strangest coincidence happened. I took a cab home, and the driver shared that his mother had died from squamous cell carcinoma. He was devastated. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Really, I thought, people die from this? Yes, while the statistics on nonmelanoma skin cancers are estimates, as many as 15,000 people in the U.S. die from advanced SCC every year.”
Skin cancer is serious. It can kill. I will remain vigilant. I hope others take my advice and do the same.
A Hole in My Head