alt=a woman being reminded to where sun protection while exercising

Nothing Like a Good Talk With Myself About Sun Protection While Exercising

As I was about to head out for a morning run on an already hot day, I said to me, myself, and I, “You should take off the blue shirt and put on the pink one.”

“But I like the blue shirt. It’s cotton and more comfortable,” I said.

“Do you want to get more skin cancer on your neck or get AKs (actinic keratosis) and have to treat again? Do you want Mohs surgery on your neck?” the reasonable side said.

“But I don’t like the feel of the pink one.”

“But it will give you sun protection, and you can turn the collar up and protect your neck. And remember the problem you have with your hands? You can put your thumbs through the thumb holes.”

“All right already!”

Convincing myself to wear protective clothing

I went upstairs and changed into my pink Solbari shirt with UPF 50.

Such a conversation.

I have worn the blue shirt so much that it is fraying. I’m not much of a slipper wearer, but I can see it being like an old pair of slippers. Sometimes the cotton ones without the UPF factor, especially dark colors, make me feel adequately protected. On this day of the conversation with myself, though, it felt like the beginning of the summer season, even though it was just May. It was a good time to remind myself of the better coverage of shirts with a high collar, and longer sleeves, like the pink one.

When going running, playing tennis, walking the dog, or gardening, I try to remind myself of the areas of my skin that escape protection. So, with the blue shirt, that would be my hands, neck, and wrists. I have had squamous cell cancers or pre-cancers in all of those spots.

Warm weather makes me want shortcuts

Next it was on to thinking about coverage for my legs. It was getting so hot that I wanted to wear only a skort. I thought about doing that and putting on sunscreen. I will do that at some point, but for today, the conversation with myself was simple.

“I want to wear the skort.”

“But you have that irritation on your calves.”

I still don’t know what is up with that. On each calf is a reddish area that had a big reaction to the combination of Efudex and Dovonex that I use to treat actinic keratoses. Having a big reaction is a good thing. But it was intense and didn’t calm down. One of my doctors said to apply a steroid cream. I did it for a few weeks, but it didn’t get better and in fact started to look worse. It was red, and the skin was flaking off. I took a photo, and it is on my list to send it to the dermatologist. In the meantime, I decided it was OK to switch to Vaseline. I don’t usually make this kind of decision by myself, but I know that Vaseline is widely recommended for calming things down.

Putting on leggings was an easy decision.

Covering the other exposed spots

Next is the matter of my ankles. (Or yours!) Are your ankles exposed and unprotected while the rest of you is covered? Mine must have been badly protected; I got a humongous squamous cell cancer on one of them. Due to a delay in diagnosis, it got big enough that the incision was the size of a quarter and required a graft to close it up. True confessions…I most often put on taller socks, but today I went for the short ones. I just didn’t feel like covering everything.

I am not that great about my ears. And guess what? I got a basal cell carcinoma in one. It was my only basal cell. For walking and gardening, I have been wearing my wide-brimmed sun protection hat. So, I am covered during that time. For tennis and running, though, I wear a baseball cap. I am especially fond of the one that says USTA (for United States Tennis Association).

My lightweight tan hat with a brim would work, but it makes me feel silly and encumbered. It’s not going to hurt my game (or my jog), but up to a certain point, you must look the part.

I need to have a talk with myself about this. I no longer play team tennis and do NOT need to look the part. But I kept my USTA membership and still like to play competitively, though there is not as much pressure as when I was on a team. The talk might be a short one.

“Wear the silly hat.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Then put sunscreen in and around your ears. But not too deeply of course.”

“OK I will.”

“Great. And how about you bring the silly hat if you are going to be out there for a while? Then you can at least wear it for part of the time.”

As my father liked to say, that last bit of advice was good clear thinking.

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