by Louis Cahill
It doesn’t matter how many times you say it in your head, the first time you hear a doctor say the word cancer, it’s like getting kicked in the nuts.
The room is bright and cheery with yellow walls. Ironically, a wall of windows facing east floods the room with morning sun. The white paper crackles as I sit. A woman half my age asks me questions and I answer.
“No, no tobacco. Yes, several drinks a week. Yes, I’m allergic to penicillin. Yes, my father died of lung cancer.”
She turns from her keyboard, folds her hands and asks, “So, what brings you here today?” I lift my finger to my nose.
I am the most serious person you will meet when it comes to sun protection. I wear sunscreen that resembles caulk. I never fish without a buff. I often wear wide brimmed hats which don’t look remotely cool on me. I never fish in shorts or short sleeves. I wear sun gloves and SPF lip balm. I’m practically a vampire.
But between my dark glasses and the top of my buff, there’s this little spot. It’s about the size of a pencil eraser and no matter how I pull or slather or shade, I can not keep it covered. One sixteenth of a square inch on the bridge of my nose. One spot, smaller than a doctor fly, ninety-three-million miles from the sun. That’s all it took.
I’ve been poking and staring at that spot for a year, since it popped up last summer on a permit fishing trip. I didn’t get a permit. Instead I got this little flakey, red spot. I figured it would go away but it didn’t. It just hung around looking chafed and irritated, like a moody teenager. By January I figured I had skin cancer. So, why did it take me another eight months to drag my ass in to the dermatologist?
“Actinic Keratosis” The words come out of her mouth like a gong next to my head. “Pre-cancer.”
It doesn’t matter how many times you say it in your head, the first time you hear a doctor say the word cancer, it’s like getting kicked in the nuts. Thirty years later, my father’s suffering is still quite vivid in my head. It’s like a horse standing on my chest whenever I think about it. I’m not afraid of much, but I’m afraid of cancer. I’ve seen it at work.
I am lucky. These little precancerous spots are pretty common and only one in ten becomes a real problem. I caught mine in the early stages. It does mean that I’m at risk and I’ll have to be diligent but don’t worry about me. I’m going to be fine.
The doctor was great. She put me at ease quickly. She froze the spot with liquid nitrogen and told me it would scab over and peel and I would most likely be fine. Nothing to worry about.
I feel ok about it. I know that I’m going to have to be checked regularly from here out, but I was prepared for much, much worse. I stewed and fretted for a year over that little spot on my nose and for what. It cost me $40 and an hour of my time to have it blasted away.
Here’s my point.
Take it seriously. Damned seriously! I see way too many anglers taking unnecessary risks with their skin. You may be getting away with it now, but you won’t get away with it forever. Even my doctor told me I’m doing everything right, and I still got it.
Protect yourself every single time you go on the water. Wear SPF clothing, long sleeves and pants, a buff and hat. Above all wear good sunscreen. The kind with zinc in it. Wear it absolutely every time you fish. Get yourself checked regularly by a dermatologist. Don’t take chances with the sun. Life doesn’t have to be short. Stick around and fish a while.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!