Saturday, 8 September 2012

Fun in the Sun

As a 7 year old my family  moved to Bendigo, Central Victoria. I loved being outdoors and playing till after dark. I loved going swimming. I couldn't swim, just pretended to be a seal alot and tried to pretend to be an exotic pearl diver and see how long I could hold my breath. My sister and I would peel each other's backs after the blisters had eased off from our sunburns. Getting the biggest piece of skin intact was always an ongoing competition!
  Around 1981 there was a skin cancer campaign going. Australia had the highest death rate from Melanoma in the world. Reason? Our typical skin type was Irish or English heritage. Only a few generations from having arrived in Australia, our skins were not tolerant of the higher latitude of piercing UV rays. Our lifestyles of being outdoors in the sun was ingrained into our very core of our nationality. However this was also our undoing.

This is the ad from 1980 which was catchy and got the point across!

Click the link above to watch the ad!

Slip Slop Slap

One of the most successful health campaigns in Australia’s history was launched by The Cancer Council Australia in 1981. Sid the seagull, wearing board shorts, t-shirt and a hat, tap-danced his way across our TV screens singing a catchy jingle to remind us of three easy ways of protecting against skin cancer.

Slip, Slop, Slap!
It sounds like a breeze when you say it like that
Slip, Slop, Slap!
In the sun we always say "Slip Slop Slap!"
Slip, Slop, Slap!
Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat,
Slip, Slop, Slap!
You can stop skin cancer - say: "Slip, Slop, Slap!"
The Slip Slop Slap slogan has become institutionalised as the core message of The Cancer Council’s SunSmart program. The campaign is widely credited as playing a key role in the dramatic shift in sun protection attitudes and behaviour over the past two decades.
At about age 22 I realised I did not want to be one of the statistics to be dead from undiagnosed Melanoma. I was always burning and totally uncomfortable with my pale, pale skin. So I took myself to a dermatologist to have a look see at my sexy body (cough) to get my 'join the dots' moles seen too.  One was removed on my thigh just near the knee on my left leg. I have the scar which looks like a squashed bug. It amuses small children who truly believe I squished a bug one day and it got stuck there forever. Silly billies probably grew up and told their kids of the Crazy Lady with the Squashed Bug story and gave them nightmares. Hee hee.

 This one had no skin cancer at all. I was very relieved. However the dermatologist reminded me quite seriously of how prone to being burned earlier in life is proven to cause a cancer later in life. This worried me as I was only young (and vain, ok I admit it!) However the healing process was intensely difficult. It would itch and hurt and drive me insane. The scar swelled up and caused me grief. I went back and the doctor told me it was a Keloid scar where it had thickened. I had an injection of something or other, probably clear broth soup for all I know.  I don't recall. The itchiness and redness and pain went away after 2 more tries days apart. I begged him to cut my leg off. I couldn't stand it a minute longer! This was also another Red Flag which I had not seen a connection to till many years later.
  A few years later I worried more about the large black mole on my right calf. It was between two smaller ones. I called them my Traffic Light moles. This one had a Stage 1 cancer.(Basically as long as it is contained within the mole, you won't drop dead) Now THAT scared the begeebees out of me! So I took more care in the sun. I now refer to my paleness as something a Polar Bear would be jealous of!
 I had by now married and had 3 children and moved from the area where that original dermatologist was. I had watched my then husband's cousin die of a melanoma left too long on his ear, and even though they cut off half his ear he died. It was a sobering thing to know of someone who had had the silent killer.
   In the year after my husband left me and with my young baby son, and my two small children, I went on a holiday with my friend and her children. That same Traffic Light mole which had been removed only a few weeks prior had been over an inch wide with a dark centre surrounded by lighter colouring. Both colours were mostly almost black. No cancer. Phew! But my darling son, bless his little heart, stepped on my leg as we relaxed in bed and popped open the freshly removed stitched area and you could see in my leg all the fat and the muscle. Eeeeeeew! That day was spent trying to find a doctor to re-close the wound. It was just taped up and eventually healed on its own.

 Now I have been checked regularly every year without fail. I am lucky so far, no cancer. I have a largish one on my back on the left hip area that is weirdly shaped, has at least 3 or 4 different types of mole in it and is very black. Each time I am told it is ok. I am not so sure! I am seeing the dermatologist soon again and might just ask to have it removed, just to be sure.
 Sid Seagull has changed with the times and he now stands under an umbrella, and does some wonderful good for charity.  There is even a great online checker to follow the UV levels for the day. I use this religiously each time I need to be outdoors any time of the year. Not just summer you can get skin damage!
  That one time stage 1 was a worry, but keeping out of the harsh rays and covering up seemed to do the trick! Till many years later.
    Oh, no it wasn't a cancer. It was lack of Vitamin D!  
 That will be another story for you to listen to and perhaps learn from.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The saga begins......

Hi there!
 My name is Maria and I live in Healesville, Victoria, Australia. I have another blog called 'Renovating on a Shoestring' but due to my ongoing health issues haven't really been able to blog much of any of the goings on. Namely because there AREN'T any goings on! So I figured I since I am ALWAYS having something going on with my health, it seemed appropriate to make a new blog. That and the fact people have been hounding me to write down my tale of woe for a long time spurred me!

 'The Medical Oddity' is the name I came up with after much contemplation. Reason I came up with that name is apparent as you come along with me on my LOOOOOOOOOONG journey. (Bring a thermos of hot tea/coffee/cocoa/scotch/'re going to need it!)
 Ok.Here we go!
   I was born at a very young age. My mother was there at the time. Back in 1963 when The Beatles were causing many a young girl's (and many secret gay guys) heart aflutter. JFK was killed and my cute little face presented itself to the world. Now this cute little face apparently had gorgeous pale translucent skin which nurses and family and friends cooed over and said how beautiful I was. I can't remember any of that. They probably really said, "Oh for god's sake! CHANGE that nappy!"
 The first disaster of my life was that in the taxi on the cold and foggy morning about 7 days later, on the way to my first home,  I went flying. Yes, just sprouted wings and took off. Ha ha. Truth be told, the taxi almost hit another vehicle in the fog and of course, in those days, Mums could hold bubs rather than strapping them in safely. No seatbelt rules either. So apparently my 9lbs of blub went cascading into the front seat. Again, I have no idea. Probably just some folklore to get a good lot of sympathy. Mum swears it's true, so I guess there you have it.

Don't ya think I'm cute? I look serious.....Hmmmm contemplating all those rotten doctors in the future I will be dealing with!
    Now don't be alarmed by the fact I have only one eye staring at you in the above photo. ( Bet you just looked back at my photo. Am I right? Hee hee) It seems when I was born my left eye was underdeveloped. Medical oddity Number 1. What caused this? No one seemed to know at the time. Gawd, the early 1960's people drank and smoked and did all sorts of things without a thought that this could cause a baby any long term damage. It took till the 1970's to understand  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I do not have this.
 Poor Mum was one of those poor women who upchucked regularly and violently pretty much from the second I attached my itty bitty cells to her uterine wall. She did try taking Distaval, an anti-morning sickness medication which we know was a Thalidomide drug. It was banned in many countries in the early 60's but some pharmacists still had stock and would give this if the doctor prescribed similar. Oh the days of non regulated pharmaceuticals! Mum threw most back up and gave up taking them. Much to her chagrin and being evicted out of a flat (apartment) for the noise she was making throwing up 24/7. Thin walls, you see.
  Many years later I tried to be involved in the Thalidomide compensation group which was occurring around the world. The hospital I was born in, 'The Queen Victoria' hospital in Melbourne, Australia had been found to contain asbestos and was shut down. It sat there idle for many, many years. Oddly enough at age 15, I would walk past my birthplace, on my way to work in an office not far from there,  not knowing how important this building was to my future. Years later again, it had been demolished internally and now only the external walls are a reminder of times past.
 I discovered that the records of all patients had been transferred to the new wizzbang hospital Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. (an south eastern suburb of Melbourne) I wrote to them. They wrote back. Records had been destroyed after FIFTEEN years from the date of birth. I was 10 years too late. I sobbed. I was disgusted. I asked the obvious; WHY? The answer? Due to lack of storage space and time and money by the government (The Queen Vic was a public hospital sponsored by our government) they were destroyed. I said, What about Microfiche? I used that when I was 15 at work! Surely they could have scanned them to that! No, that would have involved paying humans to do the time consuming work of transfer to the microfiche films. I shook my head in disbelief.
 Canada, USA and UK apparently keep medical records for much longer than we do here in the Land of Oz (don't quote me on this. It's just my recollection) I contacted the Canadian Thalidomide support group who said that the only way to prove anything,  would be to find documented evidence, either by Mum recalling the name of the drug, (Mum was prrrrrrrrretty sure it was Distaval but seriously couldn't recall the name), that the doctor had record, and/or the pharmacist still had record of prescribing the drug. Well, great. A: Mum had no idea, even with prompting by showing her images of the drug, B: The doctor had karked it and his family had tossed his records in the garbage. and C: the pharmacy is no longer in business and no one knows what happened to them. Just my luck. So I left it at that. Not knowing any more and just accepting I had to wear a prosthesis for the rest of my life. Not knowing if it really was the thalidomide drug or something else. Poooey. It didn't satisfy me. Not one bit. I was determined to find out what had caused me this weirdness in my eye. Oh! It was also discovered at a very young age, I was deaf in my left ear........Now what would have caused they, hey? Medical oddity Number 2.

  There we end today's saga.
Come back real soon for more excitements! We've only just begun!