Skin Protection

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By John Veil

“When we fish from our kayaks, we are fully exposed to the sun. Many of us wear sunglasses and hats, but I frequently see kayakers with shorts or bathing suits and short sleeve shirts. Feet are often left uncovered or with sandals.

As great as it is to be on the water on a sunny day, solar radiation is not our friend over the long haul. Yesterday I had my third patch of basal cell carcinoma removed. This was a tiny spot on the side of my nose. The dermatologist removed a chunk of flesh with a size between a pea and a marble. The wound was stitched and will take some time to heal, keeping me off the water for a week or so.

Last year I began going to full sun protection mode. I wear long fishing pants, long-sleeve fishing shirts, a buff, and hat with long front brim and neck flaps, shoes, and sun gloves. This looks goofy and is not particularly comfortable to wear on very hot days. But I do feel safer now. However, sun exposure is cumulative over a lifetime. When I was a kid we ran around with shorts and no shirts and did not bother with sunscreen. I spent many summer afternoons at the swimming pool with no sunscreen. Decades later, my skin is showing the effects.

My advice to those of us who spend a lot of time in the sun is to cover up what you can and use good quality sunscreen on the other body parts. Sunscreen and hot clothing are not fun, but having chunks of your body cut away is even less fun.”

John is a regular visitor to fish Tampa Bay waters.    He had the procedure done in the summer of 2015.  Here were his other notes on the actual surgery:

I had a tiny spot on the side of my nose.  To my untrained eye, there was nothing unusual there – no dark mole or irregular raised bump.  But the dermatologist recognized it and ordered a biopsy.  The results came back showing it was basal cell carcinoma.  She recommended having it removed using the Mohs procedure, where a chunk of flesh is removed, then the cells are quickly viewed under a microscope to see if any cancer cells remain.  If so, another strip of flesh is removed.  I have heard of people having as many as five rounds of this.  I was fortunate, it only took two rounds.

For a very small spot of skin cancer, they removed a piece of flesh of size between a pea and a marble.  To repair the wound, they cut back the skin in two lines, separated the skin from the muscle to  make skin flaps, stretched the flaps, and stitched them together for about a 3” scar.  None of this hurt under local anesthesia, but it left behind serious swelling and a black eye.  The photo shows the black swollen eye and the stitches.”