I wish I’d known…

max dupain womanI wish I’d known to listen to my gut feeling and go to a specialist. I wish I’d asked myself why I continued to ask the local doctors what they thought about the widening brown freckle on my shin.
“No…that looks fine. If you notice any changes, come back then.”
“Oh good….thanks for that.” I’d push it out of my mind. The doctor’s confidence is a temporary placebo. Until the next time, when that inner voice prompted me to ask the other doctor at the practice up the road.
“No…there’s nothing unusual about that.”
At training on the oval I wipe a thick layer of 30 plus sunscreen over the area. I don’t rub it in. Extra protection. Sitting by the pool I fold the end of the towel over my lower leg. Just to be safe. In bed, my right foot rubs up and down my left shin. My skin is dry and itchy….I should moisturise more often. After the shower, I examine my leg more closely. Is that freckle spreading out? Is it a little pink around the edges?
We giggle at the Chinese ladies in the street. They use anything they can find to create a shield against the sun. A folded newspaper, a cardigan, an umbrella. They scurry along the road hiding their faces from the penetrating rays. The hole in the ozone layer. The golden orb in the bluest of skies… giving Australia the reputation of the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.
“Oh my God…check this one out! They’re so terrified of the Australian sun. Someone must have told them….”Watch out for the sun…keep your faces covered. Australian sun very bad. It kill you.”
Like all the other wild things that can kill you in Australia. Funnel web and Red Back spiders….Sharks…Venomous Snakes…..Box Jelly Fish…..the Sun. We Aussies laugh at the frightened tourists. “We’re Aussie….we’re tough….we have venomous snakes and spiders in our backyards. Sharks lurk in the shallow waters of our beaches. The sun beats down on our bronzed Aussie skin. “She’ll be right mate…toughen up.”
We’re off to the beach. My dad looks horrified. “Why would you go to the beach to get burnt? You’d better cover up.” Slip Slop Slap….the slogan for Aussie sunscreen commercials.
“Yessss….Dad…see ya” we groan as we wave goodbye. Heat rises in waves off the burning driveway. Concrete so hot you can’t walk barefoot on it.
I wish I’d not cared about getting a suntan. Two weeks of summer holidays every year. The goal for the ultimate holiday success? Return to work looking brown. Brown as a berry. Brown as a shriveled up sultana. Brown as a melanoma.
I’m reclining on the bed. Not a sunbed. The paper covered bed of a specialist’s office. I hit the jackpot with my enquiries. Finally a new doctor at the local doctor’s surgery wrote me out a referral. The skin specialist is scouring the surface of my fair European skin. It turns out I’m not a bronzed Aussie after all. I’m not an indigenous Aboriginal. My skin, like the Chinese, is fair. It turns out my freckle is not fine. It turns out my freckle is something to worry about.
I have a four inch scar on my left shin. It has a dent in it. The specialist tells me he thinks it was early. He is happy with the ‘perimeters’. The excision should be 95% successful. I had a melanoma. I no longer laugh at the Chinese ladies running from the sun. I wish I had known to listen to those sun cancer commercials. I wish I had listened to my Dad. I wish I hadn’t bought into the whole ‘I’m an invincible Aussie thing’. I wish I had known to listen my gut feeling earlier.

10 thoughts on “I wish I’d known…

    1. Yes Julie, be vigilant about your own health and listen to that inner voice! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I am still working my way through these wonderful blogs!

  1. Oh gosh… this was such a powerful read. I held my breath through it all, hoping and praying that it wasn’t melanoma! Oh, do I get it though… those teen years burning ourselves to a crisp, thinking we looked SO good that way. I’ve had a few pre-cancerous moles taken out. I know many who have had HUGE chunks of skin taken out because of melanoma.

    I’m at least glad it seems you are *almost* in the clear. Oh how I get the regret… dismissing your gut instinct. I have many of those too. Our voice should always be loudest. Here’s to learning our lesson and going forth with that hard learned confidence.

    1. Thanks Chris. I enjoyed reading the story about your little girl and the sense of hopelessness you got from the ‘professional ‘ handling her as a baby. You often wonder how you’ll cope in certain situations and when we are thrown into them. ..we just do. It’s a journey that we suddenly find ourselves looking back on with amazement that once we were there…in the midst of a storm..and now we are here, washed up safely…if not bewildered by the experience and certainly stronger for it. Your little girl is amazing. A great swimmer and I hadn’t worked out if it was your daughter doing the dancing but realise it was. I will have to show my twelve year old daughter these video clips….she also loves swimming and dancing. I’m so grateful to have found this group of amazing writers and strong women.

  2. Wow, that’s so scary. My husband had one removed from his shoulder and he, too, has a four-inch scar. It puckers up at the ends. I used to tan all of the time and regret it as well. Glad that the doctor feels that you caught it early and that you linked this up with Finish the Sentence Friday!

    1. Thank you Kristi, I really enjoyed the Friday challenge but more so reading these fabulous blogs. What a lot of talent you have in this group. So many touching stories that I’ve carried around in my mind these last few days. Look forward to next week.

    1. Hi Kenya, I have trouble deciding if my gut feeling or divine inspiration is in fact reliable or just wishful thinking. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming definite feeling and I just know but the millions of regular thoughts running amok in my brain are very hard to sort! Need more practice being STILL!

    1. I thought I replied to you but not sure where it went. Either way I’m pleased I have motivated you to have a check up! Thank you for your comment.

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