Ok so this is not an overnight thing. As many of you will know it started almost 6 years ago with my soft tissue sarcoma in my calf, then two years ago gravitated to my hip which needed replacing. This summer I broke a tooth and needed a root canal and a crown (OW!) and now this, a basal cell carcinoma or bcc. Top to toe!
BCC is extremely common I might add, and never lethal. Just the larger you let it grow the more disfiguring it can become.
I am writing this as an encouragement to get your skin checked! I am in a high-risk melanoma category due to an African childhood and lots of sunburn, especially on my scalp. Having had three friends with melanomas I started getting the once-over in Singapore and have kept it up since.
On the NHS you have to present a specific mole you are concerned with to get the quick referral. In fact I had one which was raised and a funny shape so didn’t feel like a complete fraud when showed it and my nice new GP made the 2 week cancer referral to the Royal Free.
I had a lovely dermatologist consultant whom we will call Meena and, when I asked her to check my scalp (after she had discounted my other mole) – something they don’t normally do unless you have a symptom – her eyes lit up and she said ‘Oh yes! you do have a basal cell carcinoma’. I felt vindicated for knowing my body.
Next question was – NHS or private. I am trying to optimise my insurance before I give it up on the next renewal as being a total waste of money, so when the answer to the ‘how long is the NHS waiting list?’ question is over 4 months, you can guess what I chose.
Less than two weeks later finds me lying in the outpatients operation theatre with two surgeons and a nurse while they insert the local with a fine long needle – amazingly it feels like a bee-sting, nothing more, despite their warnings. I was nervous following my root canal where the injection is the only part that hurts in the long and uncomfortable, but painless, procedure. Meena tells me she always gives a worst case scenario so that patients can be pleasantly surprised!
Soon my skull is numb and were are chatting away about films and all sorts while Meena excises a chunk of my scalp the size of a one-pence piece – ‘got to get the margin’; this is followed by a horrible smell of burning as they cauterise the blood vessels (scalps bleed a lot) and then a lot of tugging and pulling with a fair amount of snipping as they suture two layers of skin. Then bingo, an hour or so later I emerge with a pink rinse and a neat scar.
The moral of this story is, please check yourself for all cancers – skin, breast, bowel whatever. Only you know your body, and insist, as I did when I had the sarcoma diagnosis and on this occasion, when things don’t feel right. And then, afterwards, you have to follow my blueprint, eat healthy, exercise and carpe diem!
I had even prepared for the worse by purchasing an Alice band with a bow to cover my bald patch for this weekend’s wedding. It seems I might not even need it, Meena did such a good job! By the way I thought photos of flowers from my garden were nicer than anything else!