I am blonde (a little help is now required from a bottle), fair but not pale, and have 487 moles. I counted them once when I was a teenager thinking that the answer to life, the universe and everything was somehow imprinted on my skin, just like the stars. I no longer have 487 moles as various dermatologists in recent years have regarded my answer-to-everything moles as a risk to my life. Five years ago I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and went through 3 months of surgery, wild mental anguish and zombie-like existence. The offending mole was removed and then about 3" diameter of extra skin around it just to make sure. Every suspicious mole has been subsequently hacked off - so far 9 to date. This usually means I have a 2-3" slash cut into the skin at a depth of least 1cm, many stitches, bit of pain and discomfort and then out the other side.
I've had every type of skin cancer going- melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, dysplastic cells, I think the only one I'm missing is squamous. I believe the dermatologists regard me as a living research and teaching tool and look forward to my bi-annual visits with relish!
Sewing may been seen as a frivolous hobby, an innocent pastime, a creative outlet, saving of money - whatever. The real reason I went back to sewing, and I've only just realised this myself, is skin cancer.
Here's the connection -
After the melanoma, I was warned about the sun, especially with my skin type. I haven't actually sunbathed proper for nigh on 30 years as I was more concerned with wrinkles than cancer, but the doctors told me quite emphatically - no skin exposure to the sun. Folks, you have to try and get your heads around this - I live in Ireland! We don't have sun! But when it shines on the occasional day we like to get out in it, walk around, turn our faces to the sky and smile and feel all warm and content inside. Now this little pleasure was practically denied to me.
Five years ago the over riding fashion was sleeveless - blouses, dresses, I even remember a sleeveless sweater. You may have read in my posts over the months that I don't do sleeveless - my upper arms are nothing to write home about but now you know the real reason why I cover them up. Sewing my own clothes allowed me to put sleeves in everything - not be dictated to by what was selling in the shops. You may think that being diagnosed with cancer would put fashion way down the list of things to think about - almost the opposite - I had to think very carefully about what I wore. I still wanted to look good, fashionable and be covered up. I also now have some huge scars where there once were moles and to prevent people asking me what happened, I cover them up. Hence my return to sewing and I haven't looked back since.
As I sit and write this I have two new gashes in either thigh and haven't slept properly in four nights as I can't get comfortable in bed. I took the week off work as I knew I would be sore and mostly worried that I'd bump into desk edges and the like. I sewed like a maniac, maybe as distraction. But, I'm coming out the other side now and the stitches will be removed in a week's time. Two new giant scars to add to all the others. I'll get the results of the biopsies a week after that. Mind you, I don't wear shorts any more so my sewing style will not have to adapt dramatically for these new scars.
And it's funny how some things work out and fit together.
Just a little while ago Thornberry linked to my most recent What Do You Think? post. I was flattered but the post upset one of Thornberry's readers and then that upset me. The reader was annoyed, I was annoyed that I'd annoyed her. These posts were never intended to insult or hurt and I began to think that it was time to stop blogging - I'd over stepped the mark. For the record, I happen to think that this particular sewer is very talented and looks damn good too.
Then this morning I was just checking Thornberry's blog to make sure I hadn't inadvertently offended anyone else when she wrote about covering up in the sun - that got me started on this post. Coincidence or what?
I have never done the "Why me?" thing, or "life's not fair" - this is just the way it is now.
We look at people and think they have wonderful lives, when really we don't know them at all. I often wonder do we even really know ourselves? In writing this I have addressed a few truths about myself that I hadn't realised.
Thanks for reading. Remember folks, use SPF and cover up!