This is a more personal blog post than usual. Being an introvert by inclination I’m not one for sharing details of my life online.
My interests and enthusiasms? yes! Personal stuff? Definitely not.
However I’ve thought about this, and I thought I would share the story in case it helps someone in the same situation.
I’m 62 years old, pretty healthy and while I probably drink more red wine than I should, I’m in good shape, eat well and enjoy life. Sure, I should walk more, and ride my bike more, but I’m definitely better than average, even if I’m trading a bit on past athleticism.
When I was in Malaysia, I was swimming in the sea, and as I made my way out of the water I noticed that a little brown mole that I’ve had on my chest for years had turned black and was larger and lumpier.
I didn’t think that was particularly good, so when I got back to Australia I arranged to go and see my GP. I was pretty sanguine about the whole thing, as about 25 years ago I’d had a warty mole (the official description) burned off my shoulder with a laser, after they’d taken a bit for biopsy.
I was expecting that my doctor would look at it, say “that’s not good”, and give me a referral to a skin clinic to have it removed.
Well I was right about him saying “that’s not good”. Unfortunately he also said he didn’t like the look of it one bit, especially as it was looking a bit speckly. In fact he was so worried about it I found myself ten minutes later in the little operating theatre they have for day surgery in our local health centre, and my GP preparing to cut out the mole.
The whole episode had a sense of unreality about it, one minute he was talking about the rugby (he comes from the same part of the world as I do and has the delusion that I must still be interested in university rugby, not that I ever was), and the next he was talking about possible melanoma, chemotherapy and skin grafts.
At this point, while you continue to chat away affably under a local anaesthetic as he and the nurse hack a lump out of one of your pectorals, another part of your brain is going S-H-I-T-! and all these scary cancer awareness ads on tv flash before your eyes. Suddenly you realise this is for real and despite never having had any serious illness this could be different.
Fortunately, after an anxious few days, the result of the biopsy came back negative, it was a benign type of mole that can be easily mistaken for a melanoma on visual examination. Under the microscope it looks quite different and is not dangerous.
Still, I was probably better off without it.
So why am I blogging about this? Well, a few days later I was watching a show on tv where they critique advertising, and this time they were discussing cancer awareness ads and how they either pussy foot around the issue, or else go for the full out scare – the “you will inevitably die” scenario.
Well this was scary. I was seriously worried. Fortunately nothing bad came of it and I now have 3cm scar above my right nipple. But if I’d ignored it, and it had been malignant the consequences could have been much worse.
A lot of men go into denial about medical things, and do the “I’m big and strong and look after my family” thing, and ignore things like this wart until it’s too late. I know, I’m as bad as anyone else, and if it hadn’t been for my prior experience of having a mole burned off I’d have probably procrastinated about seeking help.
So my little homily to my fellow men is “Go and bloody see your doctor”. Chances are you’ll be right, and it’s better to go early than wait until it’s too late …