Fourteen years ago at the age of fifty I noticed some thick scaly patches appearing on my partly bald scalp. Unable to resist picking at them, and occasionally causing them to bleed I decided to stop this foolishness and seek medical advice. They’re actinic keretosis my doctor told me. Too much sun, he said. We’ll freeze them off with liquid nitrogen, he said. Good, I replied. But there will probably be more to come, he said. What do you mean I said? You’ll find out, he said and added, I think I’m going to make a lot of money out of you. Am I dying, I asked? Not yet, he said, but we all have to go sometime.
My doctor’s quirky sense of humour was my introduction to the world of skin cancer. It was something I feared greatly when I was younger and heard medical authorities speak about it, but then, as the years passed, it somehow slipped off the radar. Why do I refer to these as the last years of my life? Because they are, and because for me, skin cancer is back on the radar. But first things first. Today is my birthday. It’s 2009 and I’m 64. In exactly 12 months time, I will be eligible for the aged pension, and after working for the last forty-six years, I’m starting to get excited about the prospect of not having to work. There were times I thought I might not make it to retirement, that the wretched sun might have the last say after all those years of foolish exposure. But retirement is just about within my grasp. I can almost reach out and touch it. You are probably thinking, ‘How does he expect to live on the pension?’ Well, my friends, not to put too fine a point on it, I have spent my entire working life aspiring to be poor, and overall, I think I’ve done a pretty good job. I grew up in East Kew in Melbourne’s east; There’s probably a plaque there somewhere to mark the event. Back then, the world of actinic keretosis, basel cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, malignant cutaneous fibrous hystiocytomas and melanomas were a lifetime away.
Back then there was just the Sun.
You will beat it! I have had Basal cell and the Dr wanted to take a small piece for the biopsy and reschedule to take the rest. At that time in my life I had no insurance and the visit cost 300, I told him to take it all then, or we both would be hurting! He took it!
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