I can remember going to Hawaii as a kid with my family. Spring break. We'd head to the beach and then there was my mom (whom I love dearly, mind you, but after so many times of hearing this, I started to tune her out), "Brooke, put on your sunscreen!" Ugh. "What do mothers know?" I thought. (Ha! A lot, apparently. More on that later.)
In my teen years I cared more about beating my brother to the beach, rushing out into the water first. Sunscreen? No time. And reapplying? Forget it. I didn't want to deal. And so I remember I just about ruined our trip to Maui one year – I must've been in the fifth or sixth grade. One day in the scorching sun.Woke up the next morning and could not move. Scorching pain. I'll spare you the details. Needless to say, the sun held me hostage in my Hawaii hotel room for the next 24 to 48 hours. Snorkeling trip? Forget it. Horseback riding? Nope. (Sorry, family.) I, Brooke Baldwin, did not "do" sunscreen.
But then I got older and wiser (about time). In college and beyond, I would slap on the SPF. But by this point in time, I'm afraid serious sun damage had been done. Keep in mind, I never dared to hit a tanning bed or ever coat myself in coconut oil (How do girls do that? Can we say "burn!"?). Sunscreen was becoming part of my vernacular but it certainly wasn't a day-to-day thing.
Fast forward to summer 2010: I start to notice this tiny scratch on the bridge of my nose. Almost looked like a cat got me. In fact, I thought at first it was a scratch. And working on-air at CNN I go into makeup every day. So by the time I get home and vigorously wipe it all off, it would bleed. Barely bleed. But it was enough to cause me some pause. But did I go into the dermatologist then? Nah. Because in a matter of months, it went away. And I thought I was in the clear.
But I wasn't. Just two months ago this little obstinate scratch – poof – came back. And it was this time that I knew I needed to get into my dermatologist. ASAP. So I went. And it was one of those visits when the doc asks you a bunch of questions and you answer "yes" to every one of them. (Does it bleed? Yes. Have you had it more than a month? Yes. Have you had a few bad sunburns as a kid? Yes). So she said to me: "Brooke, we need to do a biopsy." OK, never had one of those before. So she took out the tiniest little scalpel (keep in mind, this thing is on my nose and I'm watching my dermatologist's every move as she narrows in on my nose with a sharp scary object). Oh and did I mention I work in TV... like ON TV. So all I could think was "Of all places I could have skin cancer it could be – bullseye – in the center of my face?" Great. She took a small scoop, popped a bandage on my face and sent the sample into the lab.
A few days later the biopsy came back: positive – basal cell skin cancer, the lowest form. The doc told me, "You'll be fine, but you have to go to this specialist and go get a Mohs (procedure)." So being a reporter, I go home, do my homework and start Googling everything I can about a "Mohs." You know the first picture that popped up – a woman with a dent in her nose from her cancer removed. A dent. Not kidding. (Great.)
So a month later, I take a few "vacation" days from work (Ha, vacation) and go to this specialist/plastic surgeon to have this Mohs procedure. Basically it was very similar to a biopsy but more invasive. They numbed my nose (oh yeah, a big, long needle headed straight into my face – and now I can say, THAT was the most painful part of the procedure.) He then took a small scalpel and in he went, cutting out the cancer. And then the wait. They take the skin, test the margins and figure out if they need to go back in and cut out some more. They did – but only one more time. All in all, fairly painless.
The following two days, I kept a large pressure bandage on my face and a steady rotation of frozen peas on my nose and eyes to keep the swelling down. The pain was minimal. It was the stares I got in the grocery store or out walking my dog that were the best part. It's that, "Oh my, did she get a nose job?" look. Finally, that bandage came off and on came a tiny BandAid. And as I sit here and type exactly a week later, I still have a small BandAid on my nose. I've worn it on air the last three days. Even my newsroom show team put bandages on their noses in solidarity. By now, the stitches have just about dissolved. And I think soon enough I'll be good as new.
I do have to admit: Still love the sun. You can't stop me from being the outdoorsy gal I am. But I now carry SPF everywhere. And I, at nearly 32 years of age, still have a mother who always finds a way to work in "wear sunscreen" into any conversation. And now, she has good reason. So learn from me (what I should have learned from my mother years ago): Wear sunscreen.