I sat in the dermatologist chair last week, and my face felt like a sizzling red hot Cheeto. I am being treated for precancerous skin cancer and it is not fun. I have precancerous cells on my face which started out in one area in the middle of my forehead, and now is above my lip, near my chin, and on the side of my face. Cancer is literally spreading across my face, and it’s scary.
But I am taking care of it, and doing everything I can to prevent full blown cancer from attacking my face so, I am grateful I’m not living in denial about the reality of being a redhead with sensitive skin. However, although it’s physically painful, to be honest, the real pain is psychological. I harbor resentment toward myself for not wearing sunscreen as a child. Growing up I more or less lived outside – surfing, skiing, sailing, tennis, volleyball, you name it. When I was an adolescent I was teased a lot for my skin. I am very fair and easily burn in the sun so was made fun of in middle school for my freckles. “Freckle face freckle face, you are a freckle face!” I remember being teased like it was yesterday, and I know everyone more or less experiences some form of teasing and bullying at some point in their life but, I was the only one in my class made fun of for my freckles. As a result, I grew up thinking they were ugly. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup at a young age so, I couldn’t really hide them with foundation or power or anything so I just did my best to accept that I was a full blown freckle face. As I got older they started to fade, and I started wearing sunscreen in my late teens, but the damage was already done.
So now I stare at my face in the mirror and there are red blotches where the precancerous cells were treated, and flakey skin and patches of freckles and it’s almost like I am experiencing PTSD. I don’t want to go to work and face everyone, and have to explain why my skin is such a mess and, at 42-years-old I know I shouldn’t care but I do care. I am back in middle school feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, and reminded of those feelings of being awkward, different, and freakish. I think what I’m going to have to do is walk into our upcoming staff meeting and attack it head on, and let people know I am being treated for skin cancer and, although I look like a circus clown I’ll be ok, and please don’t stare at my face.
We all have insecurities in life but, it’s interesting when issues from your childhood creep into your adulthood, and you are reminded of the emotional stress and pain you endured. Obviously it’s on a different scale but it doesn’t change the feelings of being uncomfortable in your own skin. However, despite all this madness, it has been a lesson for me on trauma. It’s nice to be able to pin point the origins of trauma, and so I can move forward and do my best to love my skin regardless of its appearance. I am, I am, I am a freckle face!