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Michael J. Daly: This just kept him in stitches

May 27, 2017 GMT

Over the last few weeks, I have collected a few new scars.

Ten stitches here, 18 there. Here a stitch, there a stitch, everywhere a stitch, stitch.

And in a few days, I’ll collect more.

Stitches are annoying, all right, but they are better than staples. More on staples to come.

There are very few things I’m in a position to advise others on. As far as role models go, I’m not your guy.

But I do know this: Visit a dermatologist — that would be a skin doctor — regularly.

And when you go outside on a sunny day, even a not so sunny day, put sunscreen on your exposed skin and wear a hat.

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Skin cancer can kill you.

As mentioned, I am not an expert. I have been fortunate that even after a childhood of long, unprotected exposure to the sun, I have had to deal only with the milder forms of skin cancer.

Melanoma, the killer kind, has passed me by so far.

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, it was a different era. Not only were there no smart phones — there were still party lines, if memory serves — there wasn’t much emphasis on skin damage from the sun.

So it wasn’t unusual for me as a little kid to spend the day — that would be all day — at Seaside Park with my Scotland-born mother and by Ireland-born father and sit in the sun.

Of course you didn’t want to get too burned, because it hurt, especially that night when even the smoothest sheet rubbed like glass shards against skin burned to scarlet.

Nobody knew anything about sunblocks with numbers like 30, 50 and upward.

On my most recent visit to my dermatologist, Dr. Douglas Bilinski, once of Fairfield, but now of Hamden (the ride is worth it to me.) the good doctor discovered five unsavory characters: one each on my back, right wrist, chest, left shin and left shoulder.

He took biopsies of each and sent them off in little bottles to the lab at Yale-New Haven hospital for analysis.

Biopsies are expensive, even with insurance coverage, and the skills of a Dr. Bilinski are also costly. So you can actually save money, too, by protecting yourself.

The biopsies, as expected, came back: cancer. Some basal cell; some squamous. Basal cell grows on the skin, is considered the least risky and is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, according to webmd.com.

Squamous cell, according to the same source, is the second most common form, is slow growing, but can spread to nearby tissue, bones and lymph nodes.

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So, it was back to Hamden for scraping off — Thank God for lidocaine — of the chest and left shoulder nuisances. A second trip was scheduled to dig out the one on the back and stitch up the wound.

Then back two weeks later to have the stitches removed.

But the wrist and the shin were a different matter. They required what’s called Mohs surgery. During Mohs surgery, according to a description offered on the Mayo Clinic website, “...thin layers of cancer-containing skin are progressively removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remains.”

So it was off to see Dr. Andrew Herbst at the Skin Cancer Center of Fairfield County in Norwalk. (Among the other perils of skin cancer is having to make an hour-long drive on a weekday morning from Fairfield to Norwalk to make an 8:30 a.m. appointment.)

Dr. Herbst did the wrist and, as we in the field like to say, ended up with “clean edges.” He stitched me up I went back in two weeks to have the stitches removed. (I scheduled the appointment for 10 a.m., and it still took an hour.)

And I will see him next month for Mohs surgery on the squamous cell on the shin. More stitches.

One procedure I had years ago required the application of a skin graft. The skin was too taut for stitching. The graft required staples. Yes, the kind of staples you’re thinking of.

Removing stitches — and getting them — is a relative piece of cake. The doctor who did my stapling, in my opinion, left them in a little longer than was good. The skin had actually grown around them Let’s just say that removing a couple of them was the most painful experience I have ever had.

Capisce?

Summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the street. That’s great. Just make sure you’re wearing a hat and sunscreen.

Okay, so here’s the good news: Go see a dermatologist. Pronto. Because when they find something early, they freeze it and it eventually falls off. No stitches, no staples, no nothing.

Michael J. Daly is editor of the editorial page of the Connecticut Post. Email: mdaly@ctpost.com.

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