Connecting with the wilderness, mainly by sea kayak, but not solely.

Archive for January, 2007

Practice Safe Sun!

For many years my biggest fear has been “the big C” — cancer. Having lost my mother and father, as well as my aunt, to cancer, I think it is an understandable fear.

I’ve paying close attention to my body, looking for tell-a-tale signs. In those places where I haven’t been able to inspect myself, I’ve done what my doctor recommend and had “the procedure” (colonoscopy). But, I always kinda figured that my largest risk would be from skin cancer. For three summers in my late teens I was a lifeguard at a state park beach in my “home” state of Indiana—lots of sun exposure. If that wasn’t enough, I did some work on neighbors’ farms; worked one summer as a hod carrier for a masonry contractor; Then there were the tours of duty in the navy that took me to far away places–places that I’d love to return to with my sea kayak; and, for the last 16 years I’ve been an avid sea kayaker. So, there’s been a lot of sun exposure in my life.

How appropriate that in the current (February) edition of Sea Kayaker there’s an article on avoiding heat injuries, which also discusses sun exposure. While the author of the article includes sun exposure in his discussion of “heat” injuries, it’s actually the exposure to the radiation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays that causes the damage to our skin. The author does give a good description of UV radiation and its effect on our skin, but he leaves the impression that it’s only a summer time issue. My mentioning of this point, is that our skin is exposed to this radiation year-round, not just in the warm weather months, though it is more intense in the summer months.

In these later years I’ve been pretty diligent about applying the sunscreen, and wearing a hat! I’ve been applying a daily dose of skin moisturizer containing SPF 15 sunscreen on my face, neck, ears, and head—if it is above the shoulders it gets Lubriderm moisturizer with SPF 15 sunscreen—365 days a year! However, all of this couldn’t undo the damage previously done.

About 2 months ago I felt a spot on my head—it had a dry scaly feel to it. Then a few days latter, I noticed another spot in the same area—a bit of a bump that was a different color than I was used to. Hmmmmm. . . . time to do some research (on the web of course), and make an appointment with my primary care physical. He then referred me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist did a full body inspection and came back to my head. Discussing with me his findings, he gave me the option of treatment now for the “pre-cancerous” spots, or wait until my next appointment. Why wait? So, with a device that looked more like a blowtorch than a medical instrument, he began to apply liquid nitrogen to several spots on my head. Other than the noise, and a brief “ice cream headache”, nothing to it. The photo above is one day post-treatment. It’s now two weeks post treatment, and four weeks until my follow-up appointment. The treated areas are still red, but have healed nicely. And, I’m continuing my visual exams—monthly is what my doctor recommended, but I keep a more frequent watch than that. And, I will continue to use the SPF 15, and reapply every 2 to 3 hours when in the sun as the chemicals breakdown and the protection weakens.

Yes, I practice safe sun and I hope you do as well!

A New Year!!!

I ended the year by having coffee with Silbs, while we watched the rain and wind through the windows of the coffee shop (Sven’s). In the afternoon we (my wife, Oz, and I) drove in dense fog to Manitowoc for our traditional New Year’s dinner with more great friends–something we’ve been doing for 25+ years. So, it was a day spent with close friends, PERFECT!!!

To start 2007 we took a drive up the lake front from Manitowoc to Two Rivers–I have to get my daily fix of Lake Michigan. The sun shinned brightly and the water looked inviting, but I know it’s cold (it was 34 degrees F on Friday when Silbs, Greg and I paddled). We spotted four people in sea kayaks on one of the rivers as we drove across the bridge. Returning to our friends’ house, we had a wonderful brunch, and nice conversation, before returning to Milwaukee where we joined a sea kayaker’s party in progress–more great friends!

Now we are back to our home, returning to the routine. I return to work tomorrow after being off for 10 days, all of which I have been feeling less than my usual 100 plus percent while fighting off some sort of respiratory and sinus infection.

The evening news is the same ol’ stuff . . . I don’t need to tell you of the doom and gloom (day one and already 2 murders here in Milwaukee and now over 3000 dead in the war in Iraq!).

And, “what will happen?” (Will he retire or not? — “he” being Brett Favre.) For many, too many, this is the only thing they care about! I guess it is a diversion for them, but there are sooooo many more important things to be concerned about.

All-in-all, 2006 was a good year for me—lots of personal accomplishments: lost 28 pounds, started working as an EMT, became a Wilderness EMT, and while I logged fewer days on the water in my kayak, I feel that I’m a better paddler (probably has to do with the weight loss and the daily stretching exercises).

Now I look forward to 2007. . .while I have my sights set on a couple of personal accomplishments (losing another 2 to 5 pounds, assessing to become a ACA Open Water Sea Kayak Instructor Trainer, begin working on becoming a BCU Coach 3, and adding more strength and cardio training to my stretching and flexibility workouts. But, the one thing I really want is PEACE!!! Not only in the global sense and the wars that our country are involved in, but also on the local neighborhood level. Many neighborhoods, mine included, are “war zones” complete with terrorists. Too bad we don’t go about the task of ridding our neighborhoods of these terrorists with the same vigor we use in the “war on terrorism”. These neighborhood terrorists are more of a threat to me personally than the others. I’ll continue to be vigilant, and do what I can, but it would be nice to have the assistance of the “authorities”!!!

And, by way of a New Year’s resolution—I resolve to blog on a more regular basis, so stay tuned!

Hoping that all have a great 2007!