Friday, July 21, 2006

Fame of the Flakier Kind

Local blogger details his skin cancer ordeal

By Sandra Thomas-Staff writer

A local marathon runner, tattoo aficionado, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker has recently developed a new passion. Vince Hemingson's latest mission is to use his blog to warn sun-loving Vancouverites that skin cancer can happen to anyone.

"I went for my annual checkup and my blood pressure was great, my good cholesterol was fabulous and my bad cholesterol was non-existent," said Hemingson, who just turned 46.

"Because of all of the training I've been doing for marathons I'm probably in the best shape of my life. But I just had this tiny bit of skin on my forehead that always flaked and never seemed to heal. So I asked my doctor about it."

Hemingson's doctor referred him to a dermatologist who confirmed the patch was a pre-cancerous lesion, actinic keratosis. Hemingson was not surprised.

"Ironically last year I wrote a screenplay about a writer who gets incurable cancer so I had researched it like crazy," he said. "So in my heart I already knew what it was and I wasn't surprised. But then the dermatologist told me that for every lesion we could see there were probably more we couldn't. When he took this blue light to my face I had a whole battalion of them. That's what absolutely stunned me."

Hemingson is writing about his experience on his blog at

He's included links and references to information about skin cancer.

His doctor gave him a number of options, including freezing the spot, but Hemingson decided to go with a prescription cream called Efudex Fluorouracil, which he must use for 45 days. "My doctor told me this was an option as long as I wasn't concerned about my appearance," he said. "And I told him since I don't make my money with my face it was no problem."

Being a "go big or go home" kind of guy, Hemingson decided that if he was going to treat one spot on his face, he would do his whole face at once.

"I went to see my doctor after 21 days and he just about had a bird," said Hemingson. "He told me I was only supposed to do my forehead and cheek bones and that none of his patients had ever been able to handle the pain of doing their entire face at once."

Hemingson said the treatment is so painful at times he can barely stand it. Three weeks into the treatment his lips are cracking and his face is swollen and covered with crusty lesions. His skin also radiates heat.

Alastair Carruthers, a cosmetic dermatologic surgeon and member of the Canadian Dermatology Association, said treating the entire face with Efudex is probably not a good idea. He advises a moderate, lengthier treatment, but has sympathy for Hemingson.

"It can be pretty unpleasant," said Carruthers. "But doing your face one section at a time goes on for so damn long."

Hemingson said his Scottish and Norwegian heritage, fair skin, red hair and freckles, and frequent sunburns as a child growing up in the Prairies make him a prime candidate for skin cancer.

"And I realized relatively early in my life that I should be careful so since my late 20s I've been slathering on the sunscreen and wearing hats," he said. "But as I found out it's that early damage that will come back to haunt you. Remember when we used to use baby oil for sun tanning?"

Carruthers agreed.

"These pre-cancerous marks are extremely common in people with lots of sun exposure like farmers and fishermen," he said. "And you know those cute little freckles you had as a kid? They are a sure sign of future pre-cancer and indeed true cancer. The Celts, like this man, are susceptible."

Hemingson said he feels like a vampire these days, "slinking from shadow to shadow," as he walks down the street.

"Or someone out of a Monet painting because I wear a big straw hat everywhere I go," he said.

But he can't stress enough the dangers of too much sun exposure.

"I would not want anyone to go through this, it's agonizing and this is pre-cancerous," he said. "If you have the smallest suspicion about a mark on your skin, get it checked out."

published on 07/21/2006


Anonymous Neil said...

Vince I've known you thirty-odd years.

All the best writing, you taught me.

All writing is subtext.

Actions speak louder than words.

A glance tells more than a paragraph.

Less is more.

Write til you hear the branch crack.

Enter late, exit early.

You ain't telling the whole story bro.

Is there more?

11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Vince Hemingson said...

There is always more.

Wait for the ending.

Don't ruin it for the rest of the audience.

You have superior knowledge.

Shut the F**k up.

Said with love.

At the end of the day.

I'm not that good a writer.


Never great.

By the way, Sandra Thomas did a great job in her piece.

11:24:00 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

You're a God Damned Celebrity!!! Can I touch you???

1:27:00 AM  
Blogger Vince Hemingson said...

Please touch me.

If only for luck.

Lucky for me that is... :)

4:45:00 AM  

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