This isn’t exactly a fun piece. It isn’t humorous, and it doesn’t have pretty pictures. It’s not depressing or gross, though, and it is very, very necessary that you read this.
My mother was always obsessive about sunscreen. Every two minutes I was pulled out of the pool or off the horse and more thick white goo was applied to my face. It irritated me so much as a kid! But today I am so grateful to my mother, and I apply SPF to my face every single day, even if it is raining and I am indoors all day.
SC got sunburnt badly a few times as a kid. As a result thereof he has to have a skin cancer check every six months. I decided I would go to his doctor, too, for what they call ‘mole mapping’. Here’s what it entails, and why everyone should go:
It’s not exactly a great experience, you know? First you stand in front of a stranger in your underwear. Doctor or not, that’s not as nice am activity as, say, a glass of wine with your best friend. Secondly, said stranger takes pictures of your body in sections. These show up on a big computer screen and trust me, that doctor’s room lighting would do any super model injustices. I cringed more than once. The doctor then ‘maps’ the moles you have. He labels them, and thereafter pays special attention to the ones that are potentially problematic. He cleans them and then takes a really, really close-up picture of them. A mole, multiplied by a bajillion and shown on a big screen, is not pretty. It’s not cute like, say, a baby panda. But then again, neither is cancer.
The surprising thing for me was that the moles I had been worried about were nothing: non-threatening moles and in some cases not even moles but pigmented polyps. One of the two moles that he marked was a tiny little freckle on my stomach that I had never even noticed! And I can’t help but wonder: how many people don’t have check-ups because they think they aren’t at risk since they don’t have huge moles all over their bodies?
The two moles he marked were in the “yellow zone”, one of them inching towards orange. The zones go from white to yellow to orange to red, and obviously red is a very dangerous place to be. The doctor told me these could be problematic and I would have to come for a three-month check-up, which I did yesterday. If they had gotten worse, I would need to come in every three months for monitoring. Since my last visit I had become even more SPF-crazy, and yesterday I found out it had paid off! Both moles had moved backwards towards the white zone, and now I only need to go back next year!
Last week, my English teacher from high school, who was just a wonderful human being, died of skin cancer. It can spread to your other organs and kill you. It can kill you, full stop. And yet every summer we see people lying in the sun, covered in oil, desperate for a tan. We fry ourselves, despite the risk of CANCER, just so our skin will be a little darker. Isn’t that completely insane?
I think everyone should go for mole-mapping at least once, if only to know where they stand. You may think a tan is sexy, but skin cancer is most certainly not. And since even cancer can’t deter us from striving for ‘beauty’, I urge people to think of how much worse they will age because of all of their time in the sun! Ladies, you want to carry a vintage leather bag, not look like one.
If you have just thirty minutes and R300 to spare, call Dr Pieper’s office at 021 42 44 257 and make an appointment. He practices from a gorgeous old Victorian house on Kloof Neck Road and his receptionist is such a laugh. And maybe someday you will thank yourself for it. In fact, I’m pretty sure you will.
Right. Thanks for reading. Here’s a picture of a bunny: