Monday, January 05, 2015

How to Not Die Like Bob Marley

"In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe."

So Much Trouble in the World

"Now they sitting on a time bomb. Now I know the time has come."

I was slapping my belly in front of the bathroom mirror (I'm unsure whether to describe this as a hobby or a ritual). I put my hands on my hips and let my gut hang out, and turned sideways to admire my bulbosity. My gaze was drawn to a weird patch of skin on my back. It looked like a bunch of rotting Christmas sprouts.

I sighed. "Probably should get that checked out," I said.

Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)

That was in 2009.

Once a week for the next 5 years I did and said the same exact thing. Every time I either forgot or chickened out. There were always other demands on my time, and what if it was bad news? 

"Shoulda come earlier, fool! Now we gotsta amputate youz back.  You ain't getting in no plane."

I wasn't sure I could deal with that kind of news. So I did like Bob Marley:

Forget your sorrows and dance!
Forget your sickness and dance!

(Eventually I found enough time and courage to make an appointment.)

Could You Be Loved

The dermatologist told me to hop onto the examination table. She peered at my moles through a special device that looked like a cheap toy. After three seconds she breezily said, "No problem there!"

Huh? I'd been worrying about nothing the whole time?

"Now turn over and let me check out your legs." I briefly considered refusing. After all, didn't Bob Marley once say 'don't let them rearrange you?'

The doctor spent a long time peering at some insignificant freckles. Then she took even longer studying a bruise on my foot I'd gotten playing football. "That's just a bruise from football," I said.

"Ha!" she laughed. "That's what killed Bob Marley!"
"Excuse me?"
"Bob Marley had the same exact bruise as you. In his case it was a melanoma. He thought it was an impact from football. It killed him."
She was so delighted that I didn't really know how to respond. I was also unsure what melanoma meant. I was thinking about 'melanin' - the harmless pigment in skin. How would that kill anyone? "Er... so what... er what?"
"This will have to come off," she said, indicating my foot. "This too." She pointed to a tiny black dot on my shin.
My foot! I needed that for picking up the remote control when I'm on the sofa. And my shin! I needed that for bumping into coffee tables. "Just to clarify, what do you plan to remove?"
"This." She waved.
"Be more specific."
"This little freckle thing. It is, how do you say in English?... suspicious. And that one. To be sure."

Iron Lion Zion

A quick look on Wikipedia suggested she'd got the Bob Marley story wrong, but whatever. The operating room contained a massage table and not much else. 

The only decorations were the knives that would slice up my beautiful flesh.

I tried to be iron like a lion in zion, but was more frightened than a bison in Brighton.

My worries were misplaced. The anaesthetic injections were painful, but I didn't feel the knifework and the stitches were painfree, though weird and icky.

"Don't shower for two weeks," she told me as I hobbled out.

"I wasn't planning to."

Nice bit of blood oozing out there

Wake Up and Live

The dermatologist gave me the results of the biopsy. It took a while because she didn't know any of the relevant words in English. Eventually I just said, "Is it cancer?" and she said no.

Get Up Stand Up

The lesson here is probably something like 'check your skin and if you see anything weird go see a doctor.' Or perhaps the real lesson is 'don't try to shoehorn a Bob Marley theme into a text because it's hard to do well.' 

But the message I'm ending on is: 'There's no point checking your skin because you don't know what to look for, so just go to an expert and let them do it. Oh, and do it right now.'

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