cancer: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
Date Diagnosed: 2018
Location: New South Wales
In the 1980’s slip slop slap was just becoming a thing, INXS was taking on the world and to me, T-Shirts outside were optional.
Fast forward to 2006 and I had developed a small basal cell carcinoma (BCC) on my back, around the size of a 10 cent piece. I applied the out of sight out mind management process and promptly ignored it for over a decade. After years of scratching it because it was itchy and making it bleed; my wife put her foot down and marched me off to the doctors to get it looked at. This time a new plan was in place to actually do something about getting it removed.
A typical BCC looks a lot like eczema and is slightly raised, can be red or inflamed and forms a loop but is generally less raised in the middle. Mine had taken a turn from its previous state and became a solid mass about the size of the palm of my hand with a darker crusty surface. My Doctor took one look at it, picked up the phone and rang a surgeon who specialises in this type of surgery. He told him he needed to make time to see me today.
At this point the realisation of how stupid I had been began to sink in. I remembered how many times I had said it was no big deal as another Doctor had told me it was a BCC quite a few years earlier. I had decided it wasn’t a threat and as long as it stayed on my back I would “live and let live” Cancer changes its mind. Cancer isn’t big on following rules and just because you have had it tested and diagnosed as “the fine type of cancer” its cancer; and cancer kills people. My BCC had formed a solid mass and was growing in all directions.
A visit to the surgeon and we set a date to have it removed. A BCC would normally be frozen off, or you can apply a cream to the BCC and it’s sorted. I was on the operating table for about 30 minutes to cut it out. They used Moh’s procedure I was tacked together whilst a hunk out of my back was sent to be tested at Pathology for clear margins. There was another 20-30 minutes whilst they inserted the synthetic skin grafts and closed me up with some 70 odd stitches.
Further examination has revealed another 7 sites that require surgery that I can hardly see there is anything there on most of them. I have had a second round of surgery for another 110 stitches on three different spots on my upper back, and there is one round more to go. I could have dealt with this with minimal fuss by going to the Doctor getting it checked and applying some cream or getting it frozen off. It is not easy sleeping with 70 stitches in your back, driving was a challenge too and it is not cheap either if you don’t have a cover for it.
I am very happy we live in a country where access to Doctors and Surgeons is freely available and at a world class standard. I’m really glad my wife didn’t stop pushing me to get it sorted out and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’m even more happy that this time; I have been lucky, and my extensive delays only cost me some money and some pain but not my life.
The thing I want you to know is that getting checked is easy and in most cases, the treatment is also quite simple, cancer is not simple. In my case, it grew more in a 12 month period than in the previous decade, but I couldn’t see it. Get your back properly checked because you can’t do it yourself and get all of your lumps and bumps checked by a Doctor. If you ignore cancer it won’t ignore you, as long as it is in or on your body you are at serious risk.
Over the years I have donated money to Camp Quality the Starlight Foundation and the Children’s cancer Research foundation to try a make a difference in finding a cure for this hideous thing. Strangely enough, when it was my time for treatment, I had worked out it wasn’t so important, I have now changed that opinion. Life is precious and fragile, Slip Slop Slap and get yourself checked out.