The scariest thing about cancer is just how normal it is. It isn’t a nay freak occurrence but something we all have to deal with many times in our lives, be it getting it ourselves or knowing someone who will get it. The stats I saw on the teev the other day said there is about a ½ chance of getting cancer in your lifetime. So flip a coin and if it comes up heads that’s the same likelihood that you will get cancer. If you are the lucky 50% that doesn’t get it, it’s pretty much a certainty that at least one person you are close to will get it at some point.
When you are young though you are rarely forced to confront your own mortality. You think of these health problems as something to worry about later in life. When I got skin cancer two years ago it was genuinely the most terrifying time in my life. I was in my twenties, I was (reasonably) healthy. I didn’t drink heavily, I didn’t smoke, I virtually never took drugs. I had made a conscience effort to make the right decisions. I avoided the sun like the plague, yet because of my horrid European skin and my half-wit father who insisted I fry at the beach every weekend as a child my cards were already dealt. Skin cancer would always be a risk even if I decided to live underground from here on in.
Things worked out, I got the bad skin cut out of my back and life carried on much like always. The strangest thing about the whole experience is just how very normal it is. Just speak to anyone over 50 and getting skin cancers cut out of them is practically routine. It’s so normal that it isn’t even worth getting especially worked up about.
Then a few weeks back I had a sudden fear consume me. I just knew I had to get a skin cancer check. And sure enough my instinct was right and there was something dodgy on my right arm. A biopsy was taken and once again I was left in that terrible place where I was waiting for lab results. I was hardly overjoyed with the news that I was in the same situation that I was in two years ago, but neither was I the same insomniac, nervous wreck that I was last time around. I was scared, but I still managed to live a somewhat normal life whilst I was waiting. It was just something I needed to go through.
And sure enough the biopsy came back and I needed a section of skin cut out of my arm and further tests taken. And I was OK with it. The most annoying thing was that I couldn’t exercise for two weeks and showering was difficult when I wasn’t allowed to get my arm wet.
It turned out the dodgy skin was a pre-melanoma (the doctor used a specific medical term that I cant quite recall). It wasn’t cancer, but could have developed into cancer one day, or it could have never turned into anything. But the skin cancer check may have saved my life.
It’s more than likely that with my shitty European skin that I’ll go through this routine again and again throughout my life. It’s just one of those things. And I think I’m fine with that. There is nothing I can do about it but I have the resources to protect myself.
And for all the debate about our health system I’ll say this. I rang up for a skin check in the afternoon, got an appointment for the next morning and had the whole thing sorted out without hassle and bulk billed. You have to be thankful for things like that.