A Visit to the Dermatologist

As part of this summer’s countdown to my 70th birthday, I scheduled a series of doctor’s appointments. I’ve been fortunate health wise. I have no chronic conditions; I’ve never been hospitalized, and I’ve never had surgery. My intention is to keep it that way. I wanted t make sure that if there were any potential problems, I’d catch them at an early stage.

In the last two months, I’ve seen my eye doctor, general practitioner, dentist, and gynecologist. All delivered good news. “The cataract in your right eye hasn’t changed. No need for surgery.”“ Marian, your test results are good. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” No new prescriptions. No problems.

My most recent appointment was with my dermatologist. I was nervous before this one. I wondered if the stupid use of a sun reflector when I was in college and the endless hours I spent in the blazing sun during my years representing the scuba diving industry had done more serious damage than the freckles that dotted my skin. Were the hated bumps and blotches that had sprouted on my body like a garden out of control more than an annoyance?

Marian Rivman - poolside in the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Pechter Photo
Marian Rivman – poolside in the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Pechter Photo

My concerns were not unfounded. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Dr. Lisa Travis at Upper West Side Dermatology listened to my concerns and patiently answered all my questions. Then she pulled out a magnifying glass and examined my body head to toe, inch by inch.

She determined that the blotches and bumps I loathed were Seborrheic Keratoses, common, non-contagious skin growths that can appear anywhere on the skin in middle-aged and older adults. (An unwelcome gift of aging????) Some people get just one. Most people have many. Too bad, I’m in the latter category.

Seborrheic keratoses - a common skin growth.
Seborrheic Keratoses – a common skin growth.

According to the AAD, most Seborrheic Keratoses do not require care. However, they recommend you see a dermatologist if:

  • The growth grows quickly, turns black, itches, or bleeds (possible signs of skin cancer).
  • Many new skin growths suddenly appear. This can be a sign of cancer inside the body.
  • Your skin growth does not look like a typical seborrheic keratosis.
  • Your growth is dry, flat, rough, and scaly. It could be an actinic keratosis, which can progress to a type of skin cancer.
  • The growth is easily irritated, such as from shaving or clothes rubbing against it.
  • You want the growth taken off because you do not like how it looks. An option I may consider some time in the future for the blotches beginning to develop on my face.

There was only one spot, the size of a pinhead, which Dr. Travis said could be problematic and she wants me to watch. To me, it looked like just another freckle. She explained that it was much darker than my other freckles and that color was an important variable.

The suspicious dark spot that needs to be watched.
The suspicious dark spot that needs to be watched.

Before I left the office, I asked Dr. Travis the most important things people my age should do to keep our skin healthy and hopefully, cancer free. She said her recommendations would be the same for people of any age.

First and foremost, be sure always to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. She also said that everyone should examine his or her skin regularly. She suggested that I visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website that has an excellent step-by-step guide for skin self-examination. I did that as soon as I got home, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.

All-in-all, it’s good to know that I’m as healthy as I feel.

I hope you will continue to follow me on my countdownto70.

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Milestone Birthdays

On September 12, 2015, I will be 70 years old. The number astounds me. As I countdown to 70, I’ve been reflecting on other Milestone Birthdays, remembering where my life was at the time and how I’d spent the summer before each.

Twenty-One: The summer of 1966 was spent training for my assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines; I was going to teach science in an elementary school. My first ever plane ride was from New York to Boston.

There were 42 in my training group. We spent ten weeks living in dorms on the Radcliffe Quad while taking intensive language and cultural studies classes. We rented bikes that we rode around Cambridge. I felt like an Ivy League co-ed. It was a far cry from the experience I had living at home with my parents in the Bronx and walking to Hunter College.

We flew to Manila on September 12th, my 21st birthday. There were champagne toasts as we crossed the Pacific. What a way to start my life as an adult!!

Thirty: The summer of 1975 was dedicated to job-hunting; I had been unemployed for more than a year. The situation was dire; my unemployment benefits were about to expire. Reorganization of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency where I had been working as a manpower development specialist had left me jobless in a very depressed employment market.

What was particularly frustrating was that I was supposed to be a job-finding expert. While at the agency, I had found jobs for hundreds of our clients and a booklet I wrote, “Help Wanted-A Job Hunter’s Guide” had been widely distributed.

A reporter at the Daily News, who thought my unemployment was a great human-interest story, wrote a piece “Job Expert Can’t Find One” that appeared in the paper on August 7, 1975. My phone started ringing the minute the paper hit the stands. The callers weren’t employers with job offers; they were producers and reporters asking for interviews. I did dozens hoping one would lead to a job.

On September 12, 1975, my 30th birthday, I appeared on the TV show Midday Live with Bill Boggs. One of the other guests was Stanley Tannenbaum, an executive at Kenyon & Eckhardt, an advertising agency. In the green room, Stanley told me he thought I was one smart cookie who should be in his business. He offered to send my resume to all the ad agencies in the city. I landed a job as an assistant account executive at Benton & Bowles.

Forty: By the summer of 1985, my foray into the advertising industry was long behind me having left B&B after a year. The Madmen life had not been for me. After a half-hearted job search, I decided to start my own business. Quality Respondents recruited subjects for consumer research groups. A New York Times article about QR, “A ‘Central Casting’ for Consumer Research”, prompted an avalanche of people to volunteer to be subjects.

By 1982, I had recruited thousands of people for hundreds of groups. I was ready for a change. That year, I fell in love with an Israeli underwater photographer who owned a travel company that specialized in exotic scuba trips. I became his de facto public relations consultant. My efforts were so successful that after two years, the executive director of the scuba diving trade association (DEMA) asked if I would be interested in promoting the whole industry. It was goodbye Quality Respondents – hello Marian Rivman Communication Consultants (MRCC). DEMA was my first client, and I represented the association for more than eight years.

With 40 fast approaching, the summer of 1985 was spent getting myself in shape for the globe-trotting life I was starting to live. I took multiple aerobics classes and treated myself to workouts with a personal trainer. I was fit and toned at the birthday party I threw for myself.

Me at 40
Marian Rivman at 40 scuba diving in the Caribbean 1985  Photo:PechterPhoto

Fifty: I had found my calling in Public Relations. By 1995, in addition to DEMA, MRCC had represented an eclectic roster of clients including: UN agencies, programmes and world conferences; beloved children’s singer Raffi; legendary music producer Phil Ramone and global non-profits like the Amazon Conservation Team.

In the summer of 1995, I was working at the UN. This time as a communications consultant for the Secretariat of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was being held in Beijing September 4-15. Since it was pre-birthday cleanup time, before heading to the office each day, I’d go to the sports club across the street from my apartment to run on the track and workout on machines

On September 12th, 1995, I celebrated my 50th birthday in Beijing. It was an incredible start to my 50s, which were filled with interesting work, travel, and a few romances.

Beijing Birthday with Helvi Sipila, Secretary General of 1975 UN World Conference for Women
Marian Rivman’s 1995 Beijing Birthday with Helvi Sipila, Secretary General of the 1975 UN World Conference on Women

Sixty: My life was in a VERY different place as I approached my 60th birthday in the summer of 2005. My father had died in January 2004, and I had become my invalid mother’s caregiver. I had moved her to New York from Florida, and she was living in an apartment across the street from mine; she had home health aids 24/7. I was running a nursing home for one.

My pre-birthday summer cleanup included multiple yoga classes weekly, an extended juice fast, and numerous hours with a masseuse. Having stopped jogging years before due to a knee injury, I bought a pedometer and started logging 10,000 steps a day.

On September 12th, 2005 I celebrated my 60th birthday with close friends at a neighborhood restaurant. My future was cloudy; I had no idea how long my mom would live and I would be caring for her.

With my mom, Julia Rivman
Marian Rivman with her mom, Julia Rivman 2005

Seventy: It is now the summer before my 70th birthday. I am no longer a caregiver. My mother died in my arms on April 16, 2014, three months shy of her 97th birthday. My dad had died when he was 90. I have some serious longevity genes.

This summer’s birthday cleanup is a crusade to get my mind, body and spirit in condition for the rest of my life. I’m devoting full-time to the effort. My FitBit (electronic activity tracker) has become my BFF and I’m fanatical about meeting my daily goals, and it’s working. My friends are getting used to my suggesting that we take a walk instead of going out to eat. The neighborhood Equinox Sports Club is my go-to place for yoga and other classes. Trader Joe’s makes it easy to eat healthfully. I am having a blast!

My 60s were spent caregiving. It is my intention to spend the rest of my life at “full throttle.” My Bucket List still has many items that I want to check off.

I hope you will follow me as I countdown to the big 7-0 and as I start my life as a septuagenarian.