Skin cancer… ouch!
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world – it’s our #1 most common type of cancer. According to the Australian Cancer Council, 2 in 3 Aussies will have been diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70.
As a kid, a lot of my older relatives had skin cancers cut off – one uncle had half of his nose removed. He said it was “too much golf”. It looked a bit odd, but he was fine. So in my young mind, it was something that affected older people, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. All of my relatives were a little bit scarred, but otherwise healthy.
Then one Sunday night, I saw an episode of a TV show called 60 Minutes that really affected me. It was about a man, only in his 20s, who was dying from a skin cancer on his back. That’s when it hit me that it could happen to anyone, at any age, and we all had to be vigilant. I now get a skin cancer check by a dermatologist every year.
My most recent appointment was in July, and the doctor had a young trainee from England observe our session. I laid down on the bench while the doctor checked my face, stomach, legs. Then after a minute, he had me turn over and spent another minute looking at my back, and told me it was “all clear”.
Then the English trainee said, “What about this?”
And the doctor said, “Oh, I saw that, it’s nothing.”
Me, being overcautious, asked, “Can you chop it out anyway?”.
The doctor agreed. “I’ll nick that off.” He put it in a tiny bottle – and unbeknownst to me, sent it off for testing.
A few days later he called me. “I’m terribly sorry. That thing is a cancerous melanoma. I need you to come back ASAP.”
I was working out of the SSW Brisbane office at the time, and flew home to Sydney to meet him at 8am the next day.
He cut a big hole in my back. For a tiny speck, barely a millimeter or so in size, the hole is huge. They had to go deep and wide to be sure they got it all, in order to keep it from metastasizing.
What I found especially interesting was that the spot wasn’t a big dark, spreading mole, like the kind I’ve been told to be wary of. This was small and white, easy to overlook. And yet it was cancer.
My mate Andrew Vaughan also had a skin cancer removed recently. We were comparing notes when he said that 13% of people die when they get a melanoma, so he said that there was a 26% chance that one of us would die. I’m not sure about Vaughanie’s numbers, but I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I nearly had this left in my back for another year. That would have been crazy dangerous.
I’m a big believer in having built-in redundancy. I make sure it’s in the software SSW produces, and I apply it in my personal life – if I see a dentist who recommends a procedure like tooth removal, I’ll get a second opinion before making an unchangeable decision.
If I had my time again, I would have doubled my skin checks to every 6 months alternating experts, and I will from now on. I got lucky this time, but it’s not a chance I want to take again. I still have a lot to get done in this world.
Usually I try to keep my blog posts about business, but if just one person reads this and has the same “Aha moment” that I did when I saw that young man on the TV as a kid, then it will be worth it. Look after yourselves.
August 2, 2018 @ 2:13 AM
I hope you are well. Reading your story gave me chills…
I’ve done my first skin check this year – I’m 35. Had a very similar guy just going through some skin changes and saying its all fine. Didn’t give me much confidence, to be honest.
We should create an AI driven website or an app where you upload photos of your skin and you will get results within a few minutes on how likely your changes are dangerous.
That at least would be more accurate as an initial consultation.
August 2, 2018 @ 4:53 AM
I know all about these things. I’ve been at the dermatologist every year for the last 30 years and have had numerous procedures over the years for all sorts of things in all parts of my skin. Actually, my wife is going tomorrow for her yearly checkup and I’m due in early September and I just know there will be more to cut out or burnt.
All the best. doesn’t hurt.
August 2, 2018 @ 7:36 AM
That was a really close call. I definitely want to get a skin check now.