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Walking and cycling after skin cancer

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
Having recently received the results of a biopsy confirming skin cancer in my lower leg, I’ve been searching the forum for appropriate advice on walking or cycling the camino after surgery. Although I’ve discovered several inspiring accounts of the determination of survivors of more radical surgery on other parts of their anatomy, and many cautionary tales about the need to apply sunscreen and a sombrero, I have yet to read any that address my specific condition. I'm not worried about surviving surgery, but I am exercised by the practicalities of walking or cycling the camino — I have not yet decided on mode or route — with potentially impaired mobility. The medical team can supply the prognosis, but they can’t predict my ability to cope with the camino. If you have been there and done that, I should appreciate some practical advice. With no family history of cancer and no predisposing personal factors, this is all new terrain for me.
 
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Having recently received the results of a biopsy confirming skin cancer in my lower leg, I’ve been searching the forum for appropriate advice on walking or cycling the camino after surgery. Although I’ve discovered several inspiring accounts of the determination of survivors of more radical surgery on other parts of their anatomy, and many cautionary tales about the need to apply sunscreen and a sombrero, I have yet to read any that address my specific condition. I'm not worried about surviving surgery, but I am exercised by the practicalities of walking or cycling the camino — I have not yet decided on mode or route — with potentially impaired mobility. The medical team can supply the prognosis, but they can’t predict my ability to cope with the camino. If you have been there and done that, I should appreciate some practical advice. With no family history of cancer and no predisposing personal factors, this is all new terrain for me.
What kind of cancer is it and what kind of surgery are they going to do? I also have skin cancer and malignant melanoma from skin cancer. Many different types of surgery. If you’re having a very invasive surgery it may take awhile to heal. I’ve had 8 Mohhs surgeries and I have an 8 inch scar on my arm to remove the melanoma. I visit my dermatologist every 3 months and each time they freeze off about 100 places and always seem to find something to biopsy. I grew up in California and have lived in Arizona for 50 years and was always outside. I decided long ago that my use by date would come before skin cancer was ever going to kill me. Skin cancer should not stop you from doing a Camino. It matters on your healing time and the type of surgery. Hat and sunscreen become your best friend. Buen Camino.
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
What kind of cancer is it and what kind of surgery are they going to do? I also have skin cancer and malignant melanoma from skin cancer. Many different types of surgery. If you’re having a very invasive surgery it may take awhile to heal. I’ve had 8 Mohhs surgeries and I have an 8 inch scar on my arm to remove the melanoma. I visit my dermatologist every 3 months and each time they freeze off about 100 places and always seem to find something to biopsy. I grew up in California and have lived in Arizona for 50 years and was always outside. I decided long ago that my use by date would come before skin cancer was ever going to kill me. Skin cancer should not stop you from doing a Camino. It matters on your healing time and the type of surgery. Hat and sunscreen become your best friend. Buen Camino.

Many thanks for the helpful response, Gloria. It’s an SCC that has grown quite rapidly since I first noticed it earlier this year. The dermatologist currently recommends excision, but the plastic surgeon, whom I have yet to see, may have other ideas. I don’t know how long I shall have to wait for surgery, or how invasive it may be.
 
Past OR future Camino
Sarria to Santiago 2014
Pamplona to Santiago 2017
Norte. 2018
Many thanks for the helpful response, Gloria. It’s an SCC that has grown quite rapidly since I first noticed it earlier this year. The dermatologist currently recommends excision, but the plastic surgeon, whom I have yet to see, may have other ideas. I don’t know how long I shall have to wait for surgery, or how invasive it may be.
I have had a least 8 of those and unless it is really big and needs extensive surgery you might find you’re back in action immediately. I’m attaching a picture of my last Mohs surgery and plastic surgery on my nose. I bruise very easily and there really was no pain after it just looked like I lost a fight. And it didn’t keep me down, put on a hat and was out the next day. Keep me posted. Just remember sunscreen is now your best new friend and not the cheap kind. Have the dermatologist tell you what needs to be in it. You’ll love the Camino and I’m old and very slow.
 

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Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
I’m attaching a picture of my last Mohs surgery and plastic surgery on my nose. I bruise very easily and there really was no pain after it just looked like I lost a fight.

Not so much lost a fight as gained some high ground — maybe doing a faceplant on O Cebreiro? Either way, I hope you’ve healed well. Thanks again for your support. I’ll send you a pm when I have some news.
 
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JimM

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Camino Portuguese and Via de la Plata
Having recently received the results of a biopsy confirming skin cancer in my lower leg, I’ve been searching the forum for appropriate advice on walking or cycling the camino after surgery. Although I’ve discovered several inspiring accounts of the determination of survivors of more radical surgery on other parts of their anatomy, and many cautionary tales about the need to apply sunscreen and a sombrero, I have yet to read any that address my specific condition. I'm not worried about surviving surgery, but I am exercised by the practicalities of walking or cycling the camino — I have not yet decided on mode or route — with potentially impaired mobility. The medical team can supply the prognosis, but they can’t predict my ability to cope with the camino. If you have been there and done that, I should appreciate some practical advice. With no family history of cancer and no predisposing personal factors, this is all new terrain for me.
I have had several squamous cell carcinomas on various parts of my body including one on my left calf with Mohs surgery performed on all. I have had melanoma twice. One was on my rib and the other on top of my head. Both serious surgeries, but recovery was fast. I have walked 7 Caminos in the past 9 years and the skin cancer and surgeries have not hindered me a bit. I walked only once in July and the sun and heat were brutal. My other Caminos were in September and/or October. I wear a big hat and cover my neck and the side of my face. I wear long sleeve shirts and hiking pants. Of course, sun screen. I'm looking forward to Camino #8 next year. Skin cancer won't cause major ill effects as long as it is addressed early on. Buen Camino!
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
I have had several squamous cell carcinomas on various parts of my body including one on my left calf with Mohs surgery performed on all. I have had melanoma twice. One was on my rib and the other on top of my head. Both serious surgeries, but recovery was fast. I have walked 7 Caminos in the past 9 years and the skin cancer and surgeries have not hindered me a bit. I walked only once in July and the sun and heat were brutal. My other Caminos were in September and/or October. I wear a big hat and cover my neck and the side of my face. I wear long sleeve shirts and hiking pants. Of course, sun screen. I'm looking forward to Camino #8 next year. Skin cancer won't cause major ill effects as long as it is addressed early on. Buen Camino!
Thank you for the reassurance and sound advice. While waiting my turn for surgery I can pass the time by researching which route I'd most like to follow on my next camino. I wish you a happy and healthy 8th camino and many more to come.
 

DyanTX

DyanTX
Past OR future Camino
CF Sept 22 - Nov 3, 2016
Many thanks for the helpful response, Gloria. It’s an SCC that has grown quite rapidly since I first noticed it earlier this year. The dermatologist currently recommends excision, but the plastic surgeon, whom I have yet to see, may have other ideas. I don’t know how long I shall have to wait for surgery, or how invasive it may be.
I have had 5 basal cell surgeries, including 2 Mohs procedures on forehead and ankle and one SCC on my calf. As you said, the SCC grew quite rapidly and was actually the only painful skin cancer I have had. It came up after a backpacking trip so I initially thought it was a thorn or splinter. Anyway, the SCC was removed by the same doc that did my Mohs but he didn't use the Mohs, he just excised a large area to completely remove the lesion. While I had always thought SCC was almost as bad as melanoma, he said "No" they don't spread and complete removal is curative. After 2 weeks of healing and stitch removal, I was back out in the wilderness - with an elastic wrap to continue the healing and maintain cleanliness. I do have checks every 6 months and have had other lesions frozen or chemically treated. I believe that the damage was done in my teens - 30's living in the south and before sunscreen became popular and is just now coming to the surface- so to speak. Sunscreen and a hat are your friends. You should be able to go back to normal activity after healing. How long will depend on the amount of tissue is taken.
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
I have had 5 basal cell surgeries, including 2 Mohs procedures on forehead and ankle and one SCC on my calf. As you said, the SCC grew quite rapidly and was actually the only painful skin cancer I have had. It came up after a backpacking trip so I initially thought it was a thorn or splinter. Anyway, the SCC was removed by the same doc that did my Mohs but he didn't use the Mohs, he just excised a large area to completely remove the lesion. While I had always thought SCC was almost as bad as melanoma, he said "No" they don't spread and complete removal is curative. After 2 weeks of healing and stitch removal, I was back out in the wilderness - with an elastic wrap to continue the healing and maintain cleanliness. I do have checks every 6 months and have had other lesions frozen or chemically treated. I believe that the damage was done in my teens - 30's living in the south and before sunscreen became popular and is just now coming to the surface- so to speak. Sunscreen and a hat are your friends. You should be able to go back to normal activity after healing. How long will depend on the amount of tissue is taken.
Thank you, Dyan -- this is really helpful and heartening. I'd also attributed the strange growth to one of many minor incidents out in the wild, and was astonished by the diagnosis as I've never been a sunbather and have always used sunscreen.
 
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances September/October (2014)
I had a Melanoma in situ removed from the back of my upper arm, just below where ladies tee shirt sleeves end (they are always shorter than men’s sleeves) where it is difficult to put sunscreen. I found it an upsetting experience, more mentally than physically. The excision was more extensive than I expected from the size of the spot, and then had to have the scar re-excised (this was the protocol.) it healed well and because they did not need to go into the fascia or muscle it has not affected how my arm moves.
For you, i think the issue will be, where on your leg is it? If it is your shin, healing will probably be slower than on the back of your calf, which should heal better. Hopefully the fascia and muscle will not be involved either which should not affect your mobility too much after the skin has healed.
As others have said you will need to join the ‘coverup’ gang. Hat, long sleeves, long trousers and good sunscreen. There are plenty of us about.
Wishing you all the best.
 
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Richard Smith

Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
I have had one melanoma on calf, many SCCs and BCCs on arms/back/chest/face. They heal after removal and don't stop you hiking afterwards.
Wear a hat and use sunscreen is the advice, although the European sun is much weaker than in Australia IMO and I didn't use sunscreen in Spain. The hat I wore on CF was disreputable before I started, the one in my pic is a nice cork hat I bought in Portugal afterwards.
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
[QUOTE="Andpartner, post: 953932, For you, i think the issue will be, where on your leg is it? If it is your shin, healing will probably be slower than on the back of your calf, which should heal better. Hopefully the fascia and muscle will not be involved either which should not affect your mobility too much after the skin has healed. As others have said you will need to join the ‘coverup’ gang. Hat, long sleeves, long trousers and good sunscreen. There are plenty of us about. Wishing you all the best. /QUOTE]

Thank you for your considered and considerate response. I am glad that you have not lost any movement in your affected arm. Even though I have yet to undergo surgery, I can well understand why the experience may have provoked more mental than physical distress. I’m still processing my response to the unexpected diagnosis. In my case, the SCC is on the outer side of my lower leg, closer to the calf muscle than the shin, for which relief, I suppose, I should be offering much thanks.
 

Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
I have had one melanoma on calf, many SCCs and BCCs on arms/back/chest/face. They heal after removal and don't stop you hiking afterwards.
Wear a hat and use sunscreen is the advice, although the European sun is much weaker than in Australia IMO and I didn't use sunscreen in Spain. The hat I wore on CF was disreputable before I started, the one in my pic is a nice cork hat I bought in Portugal afterwards.

Thank you for giving me the benefit of your experience. You may be as surprised as I was to discover that skin cancer is the commonest form of the disease in Ireland, a country not known for the radiance of its climate. It seems that we persistently underestimate the effect of ultraviolet rays. I do, in fact, keep my head covered by a helmet when cycling and a hat when walking, although not nearly as nice as the one you are wearing in your photo. Sadly, they seem not to make them in small sizes.
 

Richard Smith

Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
Thank you for giving me the benefit of your experience. You may be as surprised as I was to discover that skin cancer is the commonest form of the disease in Ireland, a country not known for the radiance of its climate. It seems that we persistently underestimate the effect of ultraviolet rays. I do, in fact, keep my head covered by a helmet when cycling and a hat when walking, although not nearly as nice as the one you are wearing in your photo. Sadly, they seem not to make them in small sizes.
Paladina,
My first diagnosis was a real shock - I was in my late 20s at the time and melanoma is no joke.
After two ops, I had a 5 inch scar and my calf muscle looked like a pagoda. Exercise rounded out the calf muscle, I did lots of roller blading after recovery (3 months? I can't remember) and you couldn't tell the difference between the two legs after a year or so. After the 12 month follow-up check the surgeon assured my worried wife that I would die of something else.
Now at 65 I can barely see the scar at all. Apart from a slight numb section for a few years and a tendency for that ankle to swell up a little if I wear tight sox, it has never affected me or stopped me from doing anything I wanted.
I see from another response that you are still processing your diagnosis and I feel for you. I had a very bleak night before my own op. But if I could give you one thing it would be that there is a path through this and the other side is very good.
Richard
 
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Paladina

old woman of the roads
Past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
I see from another response that you are still processing your diagnosis and I feel for you. I had a very bleak night before my own op. But if I could give you one thing it would be that there is a path through this and the other side is very good.

I’m feeling much more optimistic about my prospects since reading the responses to the original post. If all of you have emerged from more extensive surgery without significant loss of mobility, I have no reason to fear a worse outcome. Thank you for pointing out the path; I look forward to following it all the way to Santiago and beyond.
 
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