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Tag Archives: Melanoma

Growing Old, Buck Buck

I’ve been blogging now for at least 13 years. My first post on this blog was on January 8, 2008. Prior to that, I had a Blogger presence I called The Cranky Curmudgeon, where I mostly vented about things that pissed me off and that I thought might piss off others as well. Those posts still exist. You can find the first of them, which I posted on February 23, 2006, right here. Some of them I reposted here in “Systems Savvy.” Prior to that I had another site on Blogger called “A Muse Me”. I can find the reason I said I was starting the blog, but I can’t find any posts and I have no recollection of writing—or deleting—any of them.

I had many reasons for blogging. Prior to starting my own blog, I was blogging internally at Rocketdyne and wanted to test my voice outside the firewall. When I retired in 2010, I realized there weren’t very many people my age who were active bloggers. I reckoned, in addition to offering my thoughts on Systems Thinking, social media for business, religion, and lots of politics, I thought I might shed some light on what it’s like as one ages and approaches the end of life. Not in the way folks have blogged about their terminal disease (as I don’t yet have one), but rather about the aging process when one can only guess at how it’s going to go . . . and the evidence keeps changing as time rolls by.

People who have followed this blog site for a while no doubt know that I have had surgery to have a melanoma removed from my lower back, as well as a few lymph nodes taken from my arm pit and my groin. I spent an awful lot of time out in the sun as a boy and young man, when the only thing anyone wore for protection from it was zinc oxide. When I used to surf we put it on our noses and lower lips. Otherwise it was things like Coppertone or baby oil with iodine in it. We were enamored with being tan, which meant we were “fit”. Little did we know just how damaging being out in the sun so frequently was.

When my family used to go for three and four-day weekends to Palm Springs, which was generally the only kind of vacation we got, I would invariably get a really bad sunburn on my shoulders and back, which required me to wear a t-shirt in the water for the rest of the time we were there. I remember my skin peeling in sheets and thinking how cool it looked, never realizing the damage I was doing to myself.

Fast forward to today. I was going to start this post off by using the term “chicken skin” because that’s what I thought people called what happens to human skin when one reaches a certain age and it becomes a bit parchment like. It’s also referred to as crepe skin. I am fortunate in that, even at almost 72, I have virtually no wrinkles on my face. I do, however, have a lot of wrinkles and other weird things happening to my arms . . . especially my arms, probably because they’ve received more sunlight over the years than any other part of me.

I mentioned this to my dermatologist and he said it’s just normal, aging skin. Nevertheless, the transformation is something I find fascinating, especially when viewed at through the magnification available with my iPhone XR. Below are two photos. Actually one is an enlargement from the other. I was sitting in my car, waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school when I took this pic of my arm. I actually used the magnifier, took the pic at the high magnification level, then pinched out to the whole photo, both of which I saved to my phone. Note the first one looks pretty normal, at least for a man of my age. Yes, it’s a bit wrinkly, sports a few freckles and moles, and may be a bit dry, but still pretty normal.

This second one, however, is (for me) a mind blower, especially when you look at my skin in juxtaposition to the cloth of the shirt I’m wearing. BTW – this is an enlargement of the inner elbow from the above photo. Even looking at my arm as I’m writing this, it doesn’t look anything like it does in this enlargement. I think it’s a combination of the magnification and the angle of the light hitting my skin. I still can’t get over how weird it looks, though.

So . . . any of you out there who read this and are in your thirties, forties, or fifties, here’s something really exciting for you to look forward to. You’re welcome!

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How I Became A Vampire

Nine years ago I had a nice chunk of flesh removed from my left lower back to remove a Melanoma. They also took a couple of lymph nodes from under my left arm and the left side of my groin. Tests all proved negative and, save for becoming a vampire, I’d put it mostly behind me.

This morning I went for my yearly dermatological exam and had to have another small chunk taken out of the middle of my back and sent for biopsy. So . . . I’ll know in a week or two if I have to undergo another surgery.

Compared to many people, including a number I know, my experience was a walk in the park. No chemo, no radiation, just scoop that shit right out of my body. I’d rather not have to do anything other than eat healthy and exercise, but if I have to go through this again, I’ll take heart from my past experience. Given what others have gone through, I refuse to call myself a cancer survivor. I was never sick and the entire episode took less than three months from discovery to excision.


Everybody Needs a Hug Now & Then

Free Hugs at Sycamore Cove, Calfornia

How Can You Pass up an Offer Like This?

Back in late July of 2010 (actually, Picasa – and my camera – tell me it was on Saturday, July 24, 2010, at 2:45 PM) we were enjoying the Summer weather at Sycamore Cove State Beach here in Malibu, Caifornia. We had camped out in an adjacent site in Point Mugu State Park, which requires a short walk to a sand carpeted tunnel that takes you under the Pacific Coast Highway; very kid safe! I can’t recall if it was with the Indian Guides or the Girl Scouts, but we were there with a bunch other families and a bumptious horde of little girls.

Despite my having recently undergone surgery to remove a Melanoma and a couple of lymph nodes (just to be sure it hadn’t spread, which it hadn’t), I was determined to spend some time on the beach. My wife had purchased both a long-sleeve, UV-resistant shirt and a large umbrella designed to corkscrew deep into the sand. I was able to sit in the shade pretty comfortably and enjoy my children and their friends – and a beer or three – frolic in the surf and sand.

We had been there a couple of hours when this young man and two women came walking by. He was holding a sign that said “Free Hugs”. Most people were ignoring him but, being the old hippie that I am, I just couldn’t resist availing myself of his offer. Frankly, I think those who didn’t (and that was most everyone on the beach) were being disrespectful. Here was a fellow human being who, despite all the fear in this world, was offering to hug perfect strangers.

To tell you the truth, for all I know he could have been pledging a fraternity (though the timing wasn’t right) or working on some sort of thesis or paper (the timing wasn’t terribly propitious for that either). I really didn’t care. It just struck me as the right and decent thing to do. Besides, there is something magical about connecting with strangers in a very human way. Hugging is something we all do. Hell, even male professional golfers hug their caddies nowadays . . . at least after a victory!

Da Kine Hug at Sycamore Cove, California

Notice I am carefully hanging on to my beer!

It’s now well over a year and a half later and I’m still healthy, so I guess he wasn’t carrying any communicable diseases. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind. Regardless, I think we all can use a hug from a stranger now and again and after surviving my cancer scare I suppose this was just one way of my affirming I’m alive and kicking. Next time you see someone with a sign like this, go ahead a stick your damn neck out. I doubt you’ll be sorry you did.

PS – Just in case you were thinking, “That Rick’s a lying SOB. He just took a picture with the guy for fun”, here’s the pic Linda took shortly after we posed for the one above.


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