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My photosensitivity is almost gone?!

For over a decade I’ve had problems with photosensitivity.  For me, it manifests as red welts that itch like crazy on my face and arms (well, anywhere that the sun has hit me.)  And it’s pretty distinct – if I pull up my sleeves, for instance, you can see the exact line where the reaction has stopped.

Which means, for years, I’ve been answering questions like “what happened to you?”, and having to explain that it’s just my usual state.  After two weeks, the welts would go away, and I’d look normal again.  I’d say it was embarrassing, but, I had gotten past that point years ago.  It was what it was, and it didn’t matter on a day-to-day basis (though, if I had something public going on, I’d stop spending time out in the sun just to hopefully avoid the reaction.)

A month ago or so I had my final surgery to remove Basal Cell Carcinoma.  That’s when two interesting things started happening:

  • Odd, but, I now heal from mosquito bits in a matter of hours.
  • I only have (what might be) a very light reaction to sunlight now.

For the first one, it’s odd, but not too far out of the ordinary.  Most people have an active itch from mosquito bites for 24 – 48 hours (I know two people who have them for a week at a time!).  Mine now quit itching and disappear within 4 hours.  Basically, go to bed, wake up, and they are gone.  Handy.

I suppose that one doesn’t surprise me too much.  I tend to heal really fast, and as I’ve gotten older it seems to have gotten even faster.  My wife joked once that you can see the skin knit back closed.  It’s not that fast, but, for small cuts most of them will be completely healed over night (for instance, I cut myself when working in the yard yesterday, and brought up four blisters.  One of the blisters have already drained and meshed back up with the skin, and the only hint that I had a cut on my little finger is that there was a piece of skin hanging off: the cut it’s self is already healed.)  Another one of those “handy” things, though not particularly amazing in any way – there’s plenty of fast healers out there.  Having another facet of my body decide it wanted to heal quickly – in this case, getting over the histamine reaction from mosquito bites – doesn’t surprise me too much.  It’s just new and different.

The second part is what has me a bit shocked.  Being out in the sun for an hour or so was always enough to trigger two weeks of itchy welts.  I’ve changed diets, I’ve changed all the products I use that end up against my skin (soaps, etc.) any everything else over the last decade.  Nothing fully eliminates it – instead, it just reduces it.  And, inevitably, I would find some way to end up having it happen anyways, no matter how careful I was.  Eventually, it became something that I just lived with and moved on – nothing seemed to really reduce the two weeks of itching on a consistent basis, and nothing seemed to talk to it.  Even talking to a doctor, they just nodded at it, and discussed what I was doing for skin care products, etc.

Yesterday I worked in the yard, cleaning up from felling a tree.  Last weekend I felled a tree and cut it up.  I ride around in The Joker with the roof open.  So far, nothing seemed to have triggered a major outbreak.  There’s none on my arms, and I’ve got a few very small, non-itchy spots on my head – it’s hard to tell if those are just small shaving bumps, or if they are legitimate photosensitivity reactions, or if they’re just something else.

And, well, there’s only been one major change in my health status:  the removal of the carcinoma from my face.

Most forms of cancer have a “tumor marker“, a protein produced due to the tumor (sometimes as an immunoresponse mechanism, sometimes from the cells themselves), and I suppose it’s possible that basal cell carcinoma marker (SOX9) which is the target of the Sonic Hedgehog pathway (Shh) might be part of it.  Who knows.  I can’t find any papers on this particular subject.  And I’ll admit I had to write that sentence in the middle just so I could use “Sonic Hedgehog pathway” in a sentence.  And yes, it’s really a thing.  Who says med guys aren’t gamer geeks?

So, somewhere along the line, it’s possible the tumor on my face was producing something that caused the photosensitivity.  Or not.  It could be a completely unrelated, temporary situation that will return later.  But, if it is related, it means I’ve actually had basal cell carcinoma on my face for over a decade, and it only became visible about 4 years ago.  How weird would that be?

Here comes some real fun for me, because of this:  I’m going to be at the Great Plains Renaissance Festival this weekend, hosting the Kansas Authors’ Pavilion again, and I’ll in the sun for most of two days straight.  I’m going to put on sunscreen.  You might be thinking “So?  Almost everyone wears sunscreen when they’re going to be in the sun all day.”  AH, but you see, that’s always been a way to guarantee my skin reacts to the sun with those itchy spots, so I avoid it like the plague.  This time I’m going to wear it, and I’m going to find out for sure if the whole photosensitivity thing is gone or not.

And if it is, well, I’m going to praise God a bit, and count myself lucky / blessed that a two surgeries fixed two long term problems for me 🙂

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