We all know we shouldn’t eat food that’s high in fat and sugar, but we still regularly shovel deep fried rubbish down our gullets, and junk food is so popular that nowadays lots of trendy restaurants and pubs do an upmarket version where suckers pay upwards of fifteen bucks for a hot dog.
We all know we shouldn’t smoke, but clustered around the entrance of just about every office building in every Australian CBD you can see people puffing away, spending a fortune on contracting cancer.
And we all know we shouldn’t drink, but visit any pub on a Friday or Saturday night, and you’ll see that this message hasn’t exactly sunk in either.
No wonder doctors experience such high levels of stress when hardly any of us take their advice. The poor things, they should go and play even more relaxing rounds of golf than they already play.
But I’m in no position to criticise anyone for ignoring repeated, obvious health messages when I just went and got my skin checked this week for the first time in ten years.
Ten years! When I’m a pasty white person whose skin burns more predictably than the Australian bush in summertime.
I don’t tan, I freckle and/or burn. And so I spent my childhood dutifully applying 15+ (as it then was) sunblock to my body, and donning hats, and wearing long-sleeved shirts when everyone else had bare arms – and I still regularly got burnt enough to make my skin peel. I’m a person who definitely needs to get checked top to bottom for suspicious moles – I’ve received this warning repeatedly – and yet I haven’t been to get myself checked out for a decade.
This is stupid, reckless – and inconsistent with my general approach of being paranoid. Even low levels of risk freak me out – I’m unable to catch a plane without anticipating all manner of disaster scenarios. So why on earth have I not acted on one of the few things I genuinely ought to worry about?
This week, I grasped the nettle. My GP has a reassuring diploma on his wall suggesting that he has special training in the area, so we booked in half an hour for a thorough inspection. I stripped down to my undies, and he brandished a digital camera and a magnifying lens, which he used to snap anything that looked dodgy.
I’ve never done any modelling, you’ll be shocked to learn, so the idea of someone using a camera to take multiple photos of my semi-nude body was a little disconcerting. But he’s a trustworthy fellow, so I’m fairly confident he only took close-up photos of the brown, discoloured bits of skin, and not any unflattering shots of moi in underpants.
And given my general discomfort with the whole situation, I was grateful that he at no point advised me to pout or “make lurve to the camera”.
There were probably about a dozen things he photographed – the idea being that we’ll do it again soon so he can see if any have changed. It all seemed very sensible, and he was extremely professional about it, even when I was required to semi-drop my dacks so he could check my posterior for moleage. All in a day’s skin medicine, naturally.
It took about twenty minutes, after which he sat me down and cheerfully said he’d only found one thing he needed to cut out.
I was shocked. I thought that at worst, there’d be something or other that he needed to spray with his trusty can of liquid nitrogen, like a Ghostbuster dispatching an errant slimer with a laser beam. But apparently the particular thing he found wasn’t the kind of thing you can freeze off – it needs to be excised so it can be sent to a lab for testing, while I’ll get a few stitches in the skin. Unpleasant, but not major in the scheme of things.
Sure, I guess when you have skin like mine, have been sunburnt in the past and haven’t had a skin check in a decade, a mere one item needing surgical removal is arguably a fairly lucky result. But I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by good fortune, I must say, as I contemplated my imminent session under the knife.
I booked in a date next week to get the strange little discoloured patch cut off my back. The chances of it being genuinely problematic are fairly slim, I’ve discovered via extensive Googling – but I’m still berating myself for being so stupid as to go ten years without a simple checkup that I know I need.
I mean, they’re even Medicare-subsidised.
I’ve watched a lot of action films. So I know that if something is trying to kill you, whether an evil Terminator from the future, a terrifying mandibled alien bent on trophy-hunting, or just some weird dude with an airpump, the best course is to take evasive action.
Well, the sun is trying to kill me. It’s been trying to for years by blasting my skin cells with toxic UV rays. And not only have I let it do that on all too many occasions, but I haven’t taken a simple test that would intercept any harm that it’s caused.
Especially if you’ve got vulnerable skin like mine, consider this a cautionary note and book in a skin test. Increasingly what’s killing us the affluent West is our own laziness, whether it’s through our excess consumption of things that are bad for us, or not taking advantage of the advanced, convenient, publicly-funded medical infrastructure that exists to detect skin cancer.
So please, don’t be as dumb and lazy as I was. Just convince yourself that your doctor is a paparazzo who likes working on an incredibly small scale, and get it done.