Imagine looking in the mirror to see more than 40 sores on your face. That was how I started this morning. I have a couple of chunks of skin and flesh missing from my right shoulder too.

The sores were from dark spots caused by the sun and removed from my face by laser. The chunks of flesh were cut out to check for melanoma skin cancer through a biopsy.

Outdoor writers spend their lives in the sun and I am no exception. During my dating days I laid in the sun trying to get a good tan and was often very dark. The norm was to get a sunburn in the spring and then everything went to tan.

I initially intended to have about five dark spots removed from my face. I was assured that it would not hurt and numbing cream was not required. I was given plastic eye patches for protection from the laser and two rubber balls to squeeze during the procedure – and that should have been my clue to a rough afternoon.

The doctor warned me in a calm voice that this might sting a bit and I could smell some burning flesh – another clue I did not want to hear. A pretty nurse assisted and adjusted laser controls when the procedure started. Then it began.

Have you ever been stung by a wasp? That is what it felt like each time the vicious lasers touched brown spots caused by a lifetime of direct sunlight. He burned the selected spots and then continued on places I didn’t realize existed. I squeezed the two rubber balls with all my strength and occasionally jumped with each new sting.

I was handed a mirror after the procedure and looked in shock at the burned sores on my face. I was handed a hose that blew cool air that actually made my face feel better. Then the nurse rubbed a cooling lotion that eased the burning pain considerably.

The doctor and nurse did their job, although I think some numbing cream might have made this less traumatic. But I don’t fault them. I blame myself for not using more sun protection over the past several years. I definitely recommend that you visit the doctor sooner instead of later like I did.

Want to avoid this type of day? Then take facial protection seriously.

The sores on my face will soon be gone, but melanoma cancer could make anyone of us gone forever.

I have read numerous reports and it is claimed that ultraviolet radiation breaks down immune system causing cancer cells. I am no doctor, just an old outdoorsman and have no idea how this terrible cancer works, but several of my friends have died from melanoma.

Prevention is the best cure: Outdoor enthusiasts spend their lives in the sun and unprotected skin is subject to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Here are tips to protect yourself:

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:

• Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• Don’t get sunburned.

• Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.

• Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

• Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

• Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.

• Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.

• Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

• See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.