Have you had a Skin Cancer Check lately?
I know I usually write about happy things, doing the things we love, travelling, chasing your dreams and the like, but you can’t do any of those things without your health. This post is a gentle reminder of how important our health is.
So, earlier in the week, this happened….
No, I haven’t been the victim of a crime – I’m a victim of the sun!
Here’s a little story about skin cancer…
By the way, this post does not constitute medical advice – it’s just my story. If you think you may have skin cancer or any medical condition – see a medical professional – NOW, please!
Like many other Australians, as a teenager and in my early twenties I spent too many days foolishly attempting to bake my luminous, lily white skin in the sun, trying to get a tan. I usually ended up going very red, then peeling for weeks! But I couldn’t be told. I even tried using the good old coconut oil, which just helped me burn faster!! It’s important to have a tan – after all, a tan is healthy – right? I was misguided, to say the least!
I must confess…
If there’s one thing I would do differently, it’s that I would spend less time in the hot, burning, Aussie sun!!
I even used a tanning bed prior to being bridesmaid for a friend’s wedding – eek! That’s potentially more damaging than the sun!
By age 24, the damage was well and truly done. I had 3 spots on my back, between my shoulder blades. They were pink and raised, sometimes scaly and other times smooth, but they never went away. One of them grew bigger and harder over time.
Over a period of about a year, I visited 3 general practitioners, all of whom told me they were different things, including one who diagnosed the spots as psoriasis, and gave me a cream to treat it! They all said the spots were nothing to worry about.
Then I met my lovely husband-to-be. One sunny day, when we were off to the beach, he was applying sunscreen to my back and asked me about the spots. I told him I’d been to several doctors already, but he wasn’t happy with that – he insisted I go to his GP to see about the spots. I rolled my eyes, but I wanted to keep him happy, so off I went to his GP, expecting him to say it was all OK. The doctor took his time to look at the spots, then went and got his partner, who came in and looked at the spots. There was whispering outside the door as I dressed.
The doctor came back into the room and said, “Well, we’re not sure, but we think you should go and see a specialist and have the spots checked out more thoroughly, just to be on the safe side”.
I made the appointment with the specialist, Dr White and a few weeks later, I went off to the appointment. I had a little chuckle at the brass plaques outside the surgery, one which had Dr White’s name and qualifications on it, and the other had his partner, Dr Wong’s! White & Wong – geddit! 🙂
Anyhoo, Dr White took one look at the spots and asked me to name the doctors who told me not to worry about them. He immediately took a biopsy and sent it off for urgent pathology – URGENT! EEK! He asked me to come back in 3 days’ time. It was then he told me that I had two advanced Basal Cell Carcinomas and one Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Now, this was 25 years ago. There was no internet and no Google. I didn’t even know what these carcinoma things were. All I heard was CANCER! I asked him to write down the names of the cancers so that I could go and look them up at the library – don’t laugh!
Dr White rang a plastic surgeon and booked me an appointment for surgery two days later, and the next thing I knew, my back was being cut open, the cancers removed and 40 stitches put in their place! I remember walking out of the surgery and bursting into tears. This wasn’t meant to happen – I was only 25!
At that time, I was working with a girl who told me she had a dark spot on her leg. After my experience, she showed me the spot. I said, “Well, I’m not a doctor, but I’d get it checked, just to be sure.” It turned out to be a melanoma. That skin check saved her life!
There are 3 types of skin cancer – Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma. Most people know that Melanoma is the most aggressive and can kill you.
What a lot of people don’t know is that SCCs can kill you too, they just take longer. SCCs have roots which, if not removed, can grow and metastasize to your internal organs, which can eventually kill you. BCCs account for 70% of non-melanoma skin cancers, while SCCs account for 30% of non-melanoma skin cancers.
Most BCCs can either be frozen off with cryosurgery (liquid nitrogen), also called curettage and cautery, however some need to be cut out.
Having had this experience at a relatively young age, I stopped going out in the sun, started wearing a hat and sunscreen, and thought the battle was won.
Sadly, nine years ago, we lost our beautiful Dad to melanoma. His cancer was in the same place as mine – on his back, between the shoulder blades. It’s one of those places you can’t really see unless you look at your back in the mirror, so it’s easy to miss … and it was too late by the time Dad found his! That’s why you need to go to a
In the past 25 years, I’ve had dozens of skin cancer checks, with many BCCs frozen off, mostly from my face, hands and lower arms. I’ve also had quite a few larger BCCs cut out, just to be sure they haven’t spread. Touch wood, I haven’t yet had another SCC – or a melanoma, and I hope I never do. Having regular skin cancer checks gives me some peace of mind.
As a result of my regular medical, earlier this week I had a large BCC cut out of the side of my face. It only appeared about 6-8 weeks before I had it looked at, so it grew very quickly. Although it isn’t life-threatening, it’s quite confronting having such a large chunk of your face cut out, all while chatting with the doctor! I think I would have preferred to be asleep in a way.
The main thing is that the cancerous growth is gone now. I have about 25 stitches, which are very fine, so I’m hoping not to have a big scar. We are awaiting the pathology results – cross your fingers for me! Hoping I don’t need any further treatment. It’s starting to get itchy now, which is a bit tricky when you have stitches – no scratching! 🙂
Having this skin cancer removed just reminded me how quickly things can change and how important it is to take care of your health. Skin cancer can happen to anyone – and it CAN kill you. If you want more information on skin cancer, check out the Cancer Council’s website.
Have you had a skin check lately?
This post does not constitute medical advice – it’s just my story. If you think you may have skin cancer or any medical condition – see a medical professional – call and make your appointment now please!
Linking up with Leanne at Deep Fried Fruit for #LovinLifeLinky
Also linking up with Kirsty @ My Home Truths for #IMustConfess