I don't have skin cancer

Publié le par chrislzh

So I've been assured I don't have skin cancer. This is good.

One day up in Changping over the summer I found a small lump in my skin on the back of my shoulder. I couldn't see it at all, but I could feel it. So as soon as I got back to the world I got lzh to have a look. She said it was no big deal, just a little lump, nothing suspicious looking. Well, time went by, it didn't change, didn't itch or hurt or anything, so I stopped worrying. Then an odd-looking freckle on my left hand that I'd been keeping an eye on for a while turned into a lump, and every now and then the area around it would turn red and it'd get itchy. Alarm bells started to ring.

So at 6:30 this morning (yes, I know, 6:30 in the morning doesn't actually exist, but for all intents and purposes, that was the time) lzh and I jumped in a taxi with my colleagues wife (who also had some skin trouble, but of an entirely different nature) and the three of us went off to the 空军总医院. Apparently their skin department is especially good, and my colleague's wife highly recommended a specialist by the name of 刘玮 (or something like that. And I'm naming names in case anybody else in Beijing has some skin trouble they want taken care of). We left that early because there's always a huge queue in front of the 专家挂号 windows long before the windows open. Anyways, I got our numbers and booklets and other bits of paper and wandered up to the skin specialists waiting area (yeah, they have separate waiting areas for the specialists and the regular skin doctors).

So 刘大夫 took a look at these two lumps on my skin, lzh told him I was worried about getting skin cancer, he said there's nothing to worry about and wrote up a prescription. And off we went to get the prescription filled.

But here's the key: no bullshit. He was totally down to earth and relaxed, didn't give me any shit of any kind about being a foreigner, didn't stuff the  prescription with unnecessary meds or treatments, just got on with the job, treated me like any other patient, and sent me on my way. Totally cool.

Anyway, the lump on my back he decided should be 冷冻'ed off, and he prescribed a cream for the lump on my hand. And so I was told to go to 物理治疗. What the fuck? I thought. Physics treatment? What are they going to stick me in some kind of particle accelerator? Well, no. After sorting out a bit of confusion about the order in which one pays and how and where exactly I was supposed to have this lump 冷冻'ed off, I found myself lying on a bed pulling my shirt back to give the technician the clearest shot at this lump possible. Then she stuck some kind of electric needle in the lump, and fuck me did that hurt!!!!! It was like having a white hot electrified high voltage needle shoved into my skin. But it was over in about 10 seconds, and the pain stopped as soon as the needle came out. But I'm not allowed to scratch or get wait the resulting wound for a couple of days. So I stuck a sticking plaster over it, and we'll head up to the village this afternoon. This way I won't be able to accidentally scratch it and I'll be in a place where I won't be able to take a shower for a couple of days.

Then we picked up the cream for the lump on my hand, which took all of five and a half seconds, and came home.

So 刘大夫 assures me that neither of the lumps are any kind of skin cancer. And he seemed like a decent doctor. But at the same time he asked if there were any other lumps on my skin. I told him I hadn't found any, and he seemed to take this as confirmation of my lack of skin cancer. I hope this doesn't mean I have to wait until I have fifteen fully developed melanomas starting to metastasize before anybody will do anything about it. And, thanks to lzh telling him only half the reason I'm so worried about getting skin cancer, he assured me that not every white person gets skin cancer. I fucking know that, but I'm from New Zealand, which has one of the world's highest rates of skin cancer. That's the whole reason I'm worried, and it's a reason why I expect the doctor to take things a little more seriously when dealing with lumps on my skin.

I grew up at a time when New Zealanders were only just becoming aware of the risk of skin cancer and the fact that we have one of the world's highest rates of skin cancer. Result: I had a shitload of really serious sunburns as a kid. That's how it starts. I've heard that if you really want to guarantee developing melanoma, you should follow up a lot of serious sunburns in your childhood with continued sunburn, the more serious the more effective, in your adulthood. Well, I've only had a few very mild sunburns in China, so I don't think I'm in the really really really super high risk bracket, but being fair-skinned, no, very fair-skinned (my childhood bright red hair faded to auburn as I grew up), having had so many serious sunburns as a kid, and living in north China I figure I'm still in a pretty damn high risk bracket. And as I get older, I worry more about it.

Last year down in Tianjin a colleague, who had already been medivaced back to NZ in his first year in China to have several large squamous cell carcinomas cut off his face and head, suddenly developed a rather large basal cell carcinoma on his forehead. He dallied a while about seeing a doctor, until he eventually got the school to take him to a hospital. The hospital (天津第一中心医院,if I remember rightly. Head west past Nankai Nanmen, it's at the northeastern corner of the next big interchange)just gave him some useless drip, probably something completely inert like saline or sucrose, and kept him coming back every day. White skin = walking ATM. They didn't even check out this huge, weeping lump on his head, just poked and prodded and said, "Oh look, it hurts", despite having been told the problem. So I was dragged in to explain things and try and get a better deal for him. They just continued the drip. My colleague realised he was being fucked around, and decided to go see a doctor at another hospital that another colleague raved about. This guy tested the lump, decided it was basal cell carcinoma, and removed it right away. Well, it was more like he panelbeated it off. Anyway, lump was off, skin was patched up, my colleague could continue working for the rest of the semester.

The point of telling that story? Sure, this guy is thirty-something years older than me, but as I get older my chances of developing skin cancer get higher, and I sure as shit don't want to wind up in the state this guy was in. The formerly happy, healthy, handsome young man now has several really nasty scars on his face and head, and what skin was left was looking in pretty poor shape, and the spectre of skin cancer constantly haunting him. The man who was overweight when he first arrived in China about three and a half years ago was getting pretty damn thin by the time he arrived in Tianjin just over a year ago, and last I heard he was seen on the streets of New Plymouth, skeletally thin, looking like he was on death's door. I believe his health has since improved, and I hope so. He hasn't even hit retirement age yet. But this is not a state of health I want to find myself in, so I'm determined to take good care of my own skin, and as soon as I find any mole or freckly starting to behave suspiciously, I'm gonna be running off to the hospital to have it checked out.

And yes, I have taken other foreigners to the hospital and translated for them. They take that risk of their own free will (and it has always been them asking me, not me offering). But for my own healthcare I prefer to have lzh with me. She can explain things much more quickly and clearly than I can, which should hopefully translate into better, more accurate treatment and less time and effort spent figuring out what's wrong, what I'm supposed to do, and where I'm supposed to do it.

Publié dans chrislzh

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