A frustrated woman's tangled arms and hands are wrapped in dressings and gloves

Arm Wrapping and My Fluorouracil Routine: The Struggle is Real

While doing a yoga class, I felt a crinkly thing on my arm. It felt like cellophane under my long-sleeved shirt. For a moment I forgot, then I remembered. It was a patch of Tegaderm that I had put on my forearm the previous night. I was covering an area that I was treating with my “favorite” skin care routine, Efudex and Dovonex.

How I use fluorouracil

The combination of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and calcipotriol can be applied for a shorter term (five to seven days) than just plain Efudex, so that is what I do. For areas where this is possible, it works better when covered, so that is why I had Tegaderm on my arm. It is sometimes a struggle, often comically so, to cover an area. First, to back up, why was I doing this? I know by now what needs treatment, and as per agreement with my dermatologists, I don’t always tell them.

I saw the tell-tale signs of pre-cancer

I was actually supposed to be treating my hands. After doing this, I put on gloves (the exam kind) that I sleep in. While doing it, I noticed the tell-tale signs on my forearms. These were the usual little white flakey things. First, I did my left arm. Because I am right-handed, this was easy enough to cover with plastic wrap. It reacted well, as they say. By this, I mean the areas turned red. Next it was time to treat my right arm.

Different doctors, different methods

A raised white spot was calling out, "pick me, pick me!” I started to do it. Then a voice in my head said, “STOP!” (Am I the only one who has conversations with a spot? Or with myself? I hope not!) My different dermatologists are of different minds when it comes to the approach to treating, by the way. One says to do everything at once, and another says to pick certain areas. If you do everything at once, you get it over with. But then you have red, burning areas all over, so that is not too much fun.

One at a time

Since I was doing these areas on my own, I decided to do one arm at a time. It is frustrating, by the way, that these treatments don’t just keep the pre-cancers, or actinic keratoses, or solar keratoses, away for good. They are persistent and keep coming back. It is a game of whack-a-mole!

It's trickier than it seems

When it came to covering my right forearm, it was trickier. I cut a sheet of plastic wrap and managed to wrap it around by tucking part in against my body. It was such a good sheet that I wanted to use it the next night. But I couldn’t remember which side was the sticky one that had been adhered to my skin. I put it on, and it fell off. That’s when I remembered that one of my dermatologists had given me Tegaderm for this purpose a while ago. I had a couple of sheets left. I got it on, and it fit so snugly against my skin that I forgot about it until the next day.

I wanted to be able to update them on my progress

I don’t always remember to do it, but I jotted down the day I started treatment. I have an appointment in a few days, and I wanted to be able to give a progress report. I am quite the sight, by the way, at times when I have gone ahead and had both arms wrapped at the same time. Sometimes, if I am doing my hands at the same time, I have mismatched gloves, one gray and one purple.

It just didn't seem right

During this most recent process, my boyfriend was coming over to spend the night. I’ve known him long enough that it doesn’t matter, but somehow the thought of cuddling up with someone while wearing exam gloves AND with my arms wrapped just didn’t seem right. There is also the matter of the mouth guard I pop in to keep my teeth from grinding.

I made a decision

I decided to leave the gloves off and leave the mouth guard out and go to bed with just one crinkly arm. Maybe this slightly interrupted the treatment schedule for my hands, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I did put the cream on at least, and even un-wrapped, I figure it is doing something.

It's my routine and I'm sticking to it

It is all pretty annoying, but I try to keep the perspective that it is good to have these treatment options so as to stave off the more serious problem of treating skin cancer itself.

What is your topical chemo routine like?

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