Melanoma risk

Over the weekend, I accomplished the impossible. Well, I accomplished a whole lot, but the impossible was a side effect. Best of all, I didn’t even know I was doing it. In the process, I learned something very valuable.

First, the preamble. Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend in North Texas is a meteorological Schrodinger’s cat, in that the quantum potentialities will collapse the moment you make plans. Staying home to work on the garden? We’ll hit extreme and often record-setting heat, right about the time you figure the tomatoes need some judicious weeding. Going on one last vacation before the school season really gets into gear, or having to work? Three inches of rain every hour for the whole of Monday. Since I’d planned to stick around, our surprisingly mellow and wet August turned into a September more evocative of a cement kiln. Heat stress, shifting foundations, small birds and insects spontaneously exploding in midair…we had it all.

Essential information, numero two-o. I know I’m pale. Johnny and Edgar Winter express horror at my lack of melanin. It’s not just a matter of applying sunscreen, but needing to apply it with a concrete float. If I could garden in the dark, my skin would appreciate it, but I have to settle for soaking in the best sunblock I can find and hoping I don’t burst into flame more than ten minutes in.

And now the situation. Besides repotting a large batch of Bhut Jolokia and Trinidad Scorpion peppers, it was time to finish a set of storage shelves given to me by a friend. The shelves were made of rather weak fiberboard, so I made a quick command decision and planned to seal them with spar varnish. This also applied toward continuing the conversion of that Nineties-era television console: spar varnish offers both water and moisture resistance and UV resistance, and the only thing holding off a good painting was the funky weather every weekend in August. I discovered that a gallon of Cabot Stains spar varnish can cover the interior of a 28-inch television console and ten shelves with three coats and nothing left in the can. That was the good news.

The bad? The best option for painting the shelves was to lie them flat on the ground and paint them while kneeling. This kept the mess to a minimum, to be sure, but it opened up one vulnerability I’d never considered. Much like Achilles being dipped in the River Styx as an infant to give him invulnerability, I’d covered myself quite liberally with sunblock. Much like Achilles’s mother holding him by one heel, thereby leaving him with one fatal weakness, it had never occurred to me that kneeling while barefoot meant that I left two size-13-sized vulnerabilities exposed to our gentle and tender sun.

The rest of me? A bit of singing along my arms, but no actual burns anywhere. The soles of my feet? Well, you ever really look at a piece of pizza that’s short on cheese that’s been left in a refrigerator for a week? The skin moves the same way. This is compounded by the realization that sunburned feet have a completely different type of pain than any other. It doesn’t really hurt, but walking anywhere for any length of time is annoying. It’s just enough to make me wish I’d put a mesquite thorn or a rusty nail through my arch, just to give me something to complain about.

The really bad part is that all of this fussing is moot. According to the National Weather Service, the vicious heat of the rest of the week should be gone by Saturday, and we’ll be back to our normal end-of-summer temperatures and precipitation. About blasted time, if you ask me. Until then, I might as well take advantage of the skin tone and hair color and get prepped for Halloween. All I need right now is a sentient black Roto-Tiller, just so I can wave it over my head and scream “Sap and stolons for my lord Arioch!

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3 responses to “Melanoma risk

  1. If it makes you feel any better, the evidence for solar involvement in malignant melanoma is actually mixed at best. (Bernie Ackerman, who literally wrote the standard textbook on MM, was convinced that it was close to zero. Of course, he also only slept 2 hours a day.) You’re mostly putting yourself at risk for carcinomas, which if detected early have a minimal fatality rate.

    Maybe wear a full Beduin suit while gardening?

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