A Southerner's Guide to Efudex Healing

I’m from the South, and I’m (cough) over 40. Those of us who fall into this age range know many sayings from our southern parents and grandparents. All of our lives we’ve heard, “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.” Many of us down here have gone on to tell our children that “can’t never could” and referred to a comedian as being “funny as all get out” all the while punctuating our sentences with “bless it.” As a mother myself, the phrase “put a little salve on it” came in handy more than a few times over the years. As a skin cancer patient and Efudex user, I longed for the days of my grandmother’s magic salve.

What is salve?

For those of you wondering if “salve” was just another southern figure of speech, well, you’re barking up the wrong tree. It was as real as real can be. The salve my grandmother handed us came in a little white ceramic jar with a black metal lid and looked like nothing else in her medicine cabinet. Come to think of it, it looked like nothing else I’ve seen since those days. It was yellow, denser than Vaseline, and was harder to spread, too. Whatever it was, it went on every cut, scrape, and bite we could show her - fixed us right up.

Efudex: The application phase

During the application phase of Efudex treatment, my dermatologist advised no additional lotions, creams, or ointments be applied to the skin. In fact, I’ve always been encouraged to simply use water to rinse and pat the skin dry, avoiding even bath soaps if possible. However, the healing phase is a whole different ball game.

Efudex: The healing phase

A couple of years ago while healing from a particularly trying lip treatment, my stepdad asked me what I had tried to soothe the pain. I told him that most people suggested Vaseline during the healing phase. Aquaphor is another go-to for many. I have developed an allergy to petroleum-based projects over the years and can’t use either of these remedies. If I am being honest, they put me in a world of hurt. I had tried other lotions and creams that didn’t amount to a hill of beans, but I told him I was using Vanicream lotion at the moment; it was helping with the dryness.

Salve for Efudex healing

I must have looked even rougher than I felt because a day or two later, he was back with help. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Y’all...he brought me salve! In a little ceramic jar! I hadn’t seen a jar like that in ages. He found it in a local country store specializing in Amish goods and specialty foods. Salve!

How to use salve

I was excited to try it but ran into one problem - the density (it was just like my grandmother’s) made it difficult to spread on my raw and sore lips. The best way I can describe it is to compare it to slightly melted Chapstick, if that makes sense. Well, this wasn’t my first rodeo with the painful healing stage - I knew just what to do. In order to get it to a workable consistency, I had to warm a bit of it between my fingers for a minute and then dab it gently on my lips. That worked well. The salve wasn’t petroleum-based, caused no adverse side-effects, and kept my lips moist for hours. It absorbed much more slowly than any lotion and brought relief even while I tried to eat and drink.

Getting through both the application and healing phases of Efudex will wear you slap out. Sometimes you will find ointments and creams that ease the pain and bring a little relief while other times you will try a host of things and none of them will be worth two cents. Finding what works for you takes some time, but it is more than worth it when you finally find your own “salve” - grandmother’s or otherwise.

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