According to Cancer Council Australia, the land down under has the highest number of skin cancer diagnoses around the world. With the probability that two out of three Aussies will develop skin cancer by the time they’re 70 years old, you know this is pretty serious stuff. What’s even more scary is that 95 to 99% of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure and we know how much Aussies love sun baking. Although I do prefer the winter months, I am known to skip out on the slip, slop, slap. But to think that I narrowly missed being the two of three Australians with skin cancer was a massive wake up call.
I have had a little mole on my arm for as long as I can remember. In December last year, I noticed that it was peeling after an outdoor band rehearsal in the sun. Initially, I brushed it off as just a bit of sunburn. It was only at the insistence of my boyfriend did I get it checked out.
My GP may have been slightly horrified that we didn’t get the mole checked out before. But seeing as she didn’t have her special camera with her, I had to wait till after Christmas. My GP ended up referring me to another doctor who performed all the skin checks. This time, the skin doctor had the special lens with her, but not the special camera or her glasses. So we used my phone instead!
Turns out by using you can use a camera phone with the special magnifying lens to check out moles or sun spots as they’re called. According to the doctor, they look for colour and symmetry. The more uniform it is, the better. She was concerned that my sun spot wasn’t consistent in both colour or symmetrical, which meant a high risk of it turning into something nasty. I was given two options: (1) if I’m terrified of needles (hah, does she even know who she’s talking to), I can keep coming back monthly to monitor any changes or (2) remove it and not think any more about it. Naturally, I went for option 2. It was only a little spot, surely it couldn’t be that bad.
Surprisingly, as I laid on the surgery bed, a moment of panic engulfed me. Part of me wanted to run away while another part of me was telling me to suck it up and a small part of me insisted that I should have tested my blood glucose levels. I wished I had brought someone with me to help distract me!
The most painful part of the procedure was the anaesthetic. As it went in, I felt it sting a hundred times more than a Lantus shot. Next I felt a sharp pain on my skin, I must have winced because the doctor backed off a bit and said she would wait a bit longer for the anaesthetic to kick in. Next thing I knew, she was stitching my wound up! The whole time while I thought she was waiting for the anaesthetic to kick in, she had already removed my sun spot and put a stitch in! Cheeky bugger.
I have definitely learned plenty from this experience. Just like diabetes, skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, especially under the harsh Aussie sun. Where preventative action and screening are available, use it. I’m currently getting another sun spot on my chest monitored, but this one seems to be in the clear for now. I have also learned that going to the gym right after getting a stitch in your arm, even if it’s just one stitch, is a pretty terrible idea.