My Little White Spots: Cryosurgery Reflections

My lipstick looked crooked this morning. I guess it always looks like that, but today was the first time it really struck me that my lips truly look uneven. The light must have been just right in the rearview mirror, or my head hit the perfect angle to show me the bitter truth. My lips weren’t always uneven. There was a time, before my tanning addiction, when those white patches didn’t exist on my lip lines.

Blasting all the precancerous spots away

Once upon a dermatologist visit, I met up with the business end of a liquid nitrogen cryosurgical sprayer. (Impressive and frightening all at the same time, isn’t it?) Since I was covered in sun damage with large areas of actinic keratoses, my doctor went about the task of ridding my skin of multiple precancerous spots during the visit via a process called cryosurgery (cryotherapy). Instead of assuming a “let’s wait and see” stance on some of the less sinister looking spots, she decided to blast all of them with liquid nitrogen so I could, hopefully, be done with them. A couple of the spots that took the hardest hits from the sprayer were on my lip line--forever changing its contours.

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Cryosurgery - quick, easy but uncomfortable

If you have never had cryosurgery, you might not realize that it’s quick, easy, and low maintenance compared to the recovery from excisions and Mohs surgeries. Cryosurgery isn’t without discomfort. Feeling like a bee sting and throbbing for an hour or so following the doctor visit, the treated spots usually form a small blister and scab over eventually requiring a dab of Vaseline or other ointment to keep the area from becoming too dry and uncomfortable.

Cryosurgery scar club members

If you have experienced cryosurgery, you know what I am talking about all too well. You are familiar with the sting, You have had the scabbing and probably have the little white patches on your skin to show that you are more than familiar with the treatment. Chances are pretty high if you have had cryosurgery once, you have had it multiple times--you’re a charter member of the club paying dues for a membership you never wanted in the first place and would be happy to see revoked.

Realizing the scars add up

I have wavered over the years in my feelings about cryosurgery. The white spots on my lips are noticeable, and I have a dozen or more that stand out on my chest. There was a time when I would not hesitate when asked by my dermatologist if I wanted her to go ahead and freeze the offending areas. I would reply, “Sure, take as many as you need. I’m not worried about the scars.”

Later, I thought differently. The scars began to add up. Before too many years passed, I was inundated with little white patches that weren’t going to blend in or fade over time--they were there to stay. My expanding collection became an ever-growing source of stress. I found myself worrying about the way they seem to pucker my lip line and wondering what, if anything, I could do about it.

Taking it day by day

I am not tickled pink over my crooked lip line. Today, though, I’m okay with it. Tomorrow I may dwell a little too long on it again and do a double take in the mirror when my lipstick looks a bit off kilter. Every day is different, and each one brings new feelings. Skin cancer just works that way. My little white spots are a part to me now, but they are a part of the healed me.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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