Sunday, July 25, 2010

From Surprise Diagnosis To VanDusen Delights

THE WEATHER WAS BALMY AND SO WAS MY MOOD when an appointment with the dermatologist brought me into Vancouver. In no way did I expect that the earlier biopsy (due to a skin discoloration on my ankle) would prove malignant Unfortunately, it turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma. Luckily, it is in the early stages and not melanoma. The doctor prescribed a topical fluorouracil cream that destroys surface cancer cells.

Although there are other factors and causes, this cancer is often attributed to too much sun exposure. The West Coast is not the sunniest place to live but it does have its share of harmful rays even on cloudy days. Indeed, some skin cancers start developing in childhood because of neglectful habits when playing outdoors. Protective measures such as hats, sunglasses and lotions need to be taken seriously to prevent problems in adult years.

The surprise diagnosis took a little sparkle from my visit downtown. Hoping to regain some luster on the way home, I stopped to investigate VanDusen Botanical Garden and its ongoing renovations. It is open for business but I didn’t go inside. Some sights at the entrance, however, gave me a lift.

I saw a wasp climbing a leaf to sip a drink from a drop of sprinkler water.

A fuzzy plump bee was enjoying a tasty meal.

An orange cluster of daisy-like flowers looked eye-poppingly bright.

A gorgeous chrysanthemum burst on the scene.

Wispy cosmos appeared strangely windswept in the unruffled air.

Some flower images looked like butterflies trapped behind cellophane.

Driftwood lounged on the ground like bones of an ancient dinosaur.

A woman practicing tai chi made effortless movements and radiated serenity.


  1. That's unwelcome news. Good thing you caught it early on, though!

    I remember, 'way back when, that they used to tell us how a tan was good for us, and a deep copper-coloured tan made us beautiful. How people would sit under sun lamps so as not to show any embarrassing white skin when summer came. How instead of sunscreen, we wore "sun tan oil", which let in the UV, but kept our skin from feeling burnt.

    Now my doctor scolds me because I have sun-damaged skin on my cheeks and nose.

  2. Thanks for dropping by with your comments, Susannah! Those of us who love to spend hours outdoors exploring are susceptible to skin damage as are those who lounge in the sun (like I did as a teenager) trying to reach the right shade of gold. Today’s youth are more aware of the dangers but often will still put careless tanning ahead of safety. This includes ignoring the debated risk of tanning beds. In BC, being near reflective waters and assuming a cloudy day doesn’t warrant creams or cover-ups could also double the risk.

  3. My heart sank when I saw the title to this post, Penelope, but lifted when I read that your diagnosis was early, and that the cancer cells are surface ones treatable with a topical cream. Thanks for posting. It's strange that I worry about a similar diagnosis, but don't follow through with taking more precautions to protect my skin. Your warning could just possibly save a life!

    I loved that you took time the same day as your diagnosis to appreciate and document the beauty at VanDusen. Who would have guessed there were so many fascinating sights, and you hadn't even stepped over the threshold of the property!

  4. Thank you, Carol, for the sinking heart and then, lift! :)


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