Monday, September 5, 2016

The case of the disappearing freckles


I'm beginning to not recognize the face I see in my mirror.

No, it isn't the super short hair or the temporary 'moon face' from the high dose steroids (although those are both certainly looks that I never expected to see there). The reason is decidedly more... odd... and is certainly the most fascinating side effect from my immune therapy treatment that I've experienced so far. Right now, as I sit here typing away, my freckles are literally disappearing from my skin.

Now -- I have had freckles since I was very little. My dad has had rather freckly skin and I inherited some of that. I have a scattering of them on my arms and occasionally they are noticeable on my knees and shoulders. On my face, however, I have them year round. It's just part of my face. It's who I am. They are generally pretty mellow, especially throughout the winter, but the summer sun has always pulled their darkness up to the surface, betraying me for enjoying even a brief moment of sun worship. After my return from St. Lucia, however, I noticed something strange happen where I got the bad sunburn (after the accidental mud wash fiasco). When the sunburn began to clear, so did my freckles...

Wait.. what?

The disappearing act started in the places that had a direct sunburn after my trip. The redness, instead of fading to tan or freckles, as usual, faded to a pale white. I thought that might be the end of it. My shoulders had peeled pretty badly as well.  More recently, however, I started noticing what I first thought were more freckles around the thin areas of skin of my eyes and ears. However, I'm now realizing that those are just more noticeable now because I HAVE NO OTHERS. They have packed up and left my face. This is very strange, folks. I have never in my life seen myself without freckles, even in my makeup they still shine on through.

Now, let's take a quick jump over to my forearms and you can see an even more interesting dance play out. What first appeared as small white blotches over the backs of my hands and down my arms are beginning to spread outwardly, like an unraveling of anti-color, and in the path of this whiteness I'm left with clear, unfreckled skin. Just... skin, perhaps a few dots of small moles here and there. At a glance, it actually appears as though I have more freckles on my arms because they are blotchy, but I'm realizing now the darker areas are simply the remains of the 'uncleared' portions of skin. Those little, layered piles of pigment that used to always dot the backs of my arms are vanishing in the wake of the spreading pale. 

Where are they going?  What is this mass exodus?

The surprising answer is that it appears that they are being 'treated.'  As a side effect of this treatment, it's referred to as 'depigmentation.'

Freckles are, essentially, changes in pigmentation related to cells, called melanocytes, that overproduce melanin granules. Melanocytes. Oh that word. That word has an extremely powerful meaning for me. Melanocytes are the very cells from which malignant melanoma develops. These cells exist in the skin and also other mucosal surfaces within the body - where my mucosal melanoma originated.

I'll let the rest of you connect the disappearing dots on this one. 
Next mystery?  Are my two life-time member lip moles really plotting their escape from my face? They look to be about to make a move! Stay tuned to see how this one plays out.  I'll leave you with a final fun fact? A mole is sometimes referred to as a Melanocytic Nevus. (Bye!)


  1. Freckles are rarely treated. Several safe but expensive methods are available to help lighten or reduce the appearance of freckles. See more.

  2. Did you ever determine what was causing your freckles to vanish? Was it the steroid you were on? ��