Friday, May 28, 2010

The side-effects

This is more for transplant peoples, just thought I'd share.

I had this dark freckle on my foot. Not really too big, a teensy bit raised, but not what I would class as a mole or anything. I don't know how long I've had it, maybe a couple of years, I couldn't be sure. I was aware of it, especially since skin cancer is a *huge* deal post transplant (Usually, when the UV rays or whatever cause cells to multiply abnormally (cancer) the body naturally fights this itself and corrects it. It happens a lot and without a person ever knowing, but without a good immune system this process is damaged, that's my basic understanding of it!) Anyway, my mom caught sight of it one day and pressed me to have it checked out.

My GP wasn't overly concerned. My dermatologist said he'd remove it there and then for me, except when he described what he would do, I freaked and said I'd think about it (since he wasn't overly concerned either).

So skip a couple of months later, and I'm off to America for the summer. My mom is still pressing me to have it dealt with. So I ring my GP who cannot fit me in until July(!). My dermatologist is the same. I then ring the Beacon Hospital who said something similar but we explained about how I would be away for the summer. Their timetable is to have a consult done on a Wednesday and then any follow up work done on a Friday. So they tell us, fine, we can go see them this Wednesday considering how I will be going away. (When I say "I" phoned and "we" explained, I obviously mean my mom, because she's better at these things than I am.)

So on Wednesday morning, we strolled up to the hospital and the lovely lady doctor saw me and I showed her the offending article. She had read my notes that I had had a transplant so was at an increased risk. I was about to ask her to just look at another freckle I had on my shoulder when she interrupted (and immediately, I was like 'ugh' since I loath it when people interrupt) and told me that, in fact, she would like to do a whole body examination as it was best to see if there was anything else. I loved that attitude. Following the examination (where she found one other suspect which should be monitored) she asked me had I found anything else which I wanted her to look at (she had this magnifying thing that looked like what detectives use when they're inspecting diamonds) and I showed her the dark freckle but she said it was ok.

She then said she felt it was best to definitely remove the thing on my foot. So she went out and rang the plastics clinic and sent me right up. The doctor there went through what would be done and said that he could fit me into his procedure clinic that afternoon.

So that afternoon, I had it removed, which was painless after the local anesthetic. I just can't walk now, but I'm trying very hard to put weight on my foot and getting it to work again.

There are two issues with this story. Firstly, I am extremely fortunate that we are able to afford to pay for all this (seeing two doctors in a private hospital and a GP for a referral letter the day before is NOT cheap). If I had waited until my hospital decided to do something and then gone on a waiting list for a public plastics clinic, that could be months. There is something about that that is not right at all; money shouldn't mean better health care, but yet, it does. We caught this one well in time, but it's so important to not get caught in that position when it's too late.

Secondly, I am going back to see this dermatologist once a year for a check up. I would recommend that all transplant patients do this if your clinic does not offer it. Or just do a self check and make a mental note of dark freckles. Prevention is much easier than treatment.