A woman in a tank top is sad. She has lots of red spots and one is bleeding

Jinx! Buy Me Some Sunscreen!

“Jinx” is such a fun word. We normally associate it with silly times with siblings or friends, and it almost always brings a smile to our faces. If you do a little digging, you’ll find out that “jinx” dates all the way back to the 17th century and originally involved spells and bad luck. See? Fun stuff, am I right? My all-time favorite “jinx” moment is the one between Jim and Pam on The Office when Jim is not allowed to speak until he buys Pam a soda and then finds the drink machine is sold out. My absolute least favorite “jinx” moment? I brought that one upon myself just last week.

Great news...while it lasts

My last visit to the dermatologist brought great news - no Efudex the rest of the year and no biopsies. It’s been a long time since I had a report that positive. In fact, I can’t remember when my six-month checkup yielded such encouraging news. I told everyone. I was not shy about it in the least. My Facebook status was touting the joyous news within minutes of leaving my doctor’s office. I don’t know if what happened next was Murphy’s Law or a good, old-fashioned jinx, but whatever it was, it happened.

Spotting the new spots: actinic keratosis

Early last week, I was stepping out of the shower and noticed a little spot of blood on the towel. When I did a quick skin check, I noticed a thin stream of blood snaking its way down my left shin. Even as I typed those words I shook my head and my face contorted into a little snarl. I am no stranger to actinic keratosis, but having these precancerous spots on my legs is new. These little devils are a battle that never ends and the bane of my existence.

My previous experience with actinic keratosis

I have no doubt in my mind that the tiny stream of blood was from a precancerous spot. They can present as tiny flecks on the skin about the size of a grain of sand and break loose from the surface easily. It’s normal for me to find them on my back and chest. Generally, I don’t notice them until I shower. It’s at this time they are wiped from the skin, sting, and bleed just a little. The minuscule specks appear again and again until I treat the area. Even after treating with a topical chemotherapy, I may experience a new crop.

Actinic keratosis: the gift that keeps on giving

Typically, I use Efudex at least once a year to treat actinic keratoses that reoccur on my face, chest, and shoulders. I am never surprised to hear I have new spots in those areas, but my dermatologist has never found similar spots of concern on my legs. It won’t surprise me at all if I am told at my next visit to spot treat my legs. Sun damage, which is actinic keratosis’s more user-friendly name, is the gift that keeps on giving. Even though I have been a faithful sunscreen user since my melanoma diagnosis in 2007, I’ve accumulated enough sun damage over the course of about 20 years to, quite literally, last a lifetime.

Dang it. I was so proud of that all-clear from the dermatologist, too. I can’t help but believe I jinxed myself with my boasting. Eh...maybe it’s not a true jinx, and maybe bragging had nothing to do with it. The real jinx didn’t happen this week or last week; it happened decades ago, when I shunned the sunscreen and worshipped the sun from March to October every year.

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