This post though is not about running ........ or then again, maybe it is. Either way it is a message that is very relevant to runners as a generic grouping.
On 25th May I got the news that I had a pretty rare form of lethal skin cancer on my scalp, or at least the test came back with 'a 99% probability of a sebaceous carcinoma'. The date is easy to remember because it was two days after my 50th and the visit to clinic for the results was on the way to see the very impressive performance by 66 year old Bruce Springsteen at Manchester.
Apparently the prognosis is much improved if diagnosed within 6 months. Erm, that didn't sound too good considering that it was probably twice that time, and possibly a lot longer, since it first appeared.
Regardless of how long it had been it now needed to be removed with as little delay as possible.
That surgery to remove it has just happened this morning, during which they removed a significant chunky piece of scalp. It is now a case of fingers crossed that that is the end of the story and that there is no recurrence or spreading. Ironically the surgery was carried out to 30 minutes worth of Brucie tracks :)
After the surgery:
How was it found?
This is the main reason for this blog post. Left to my own devices it still wouldn't have been looked at to this day.
It is on the scalp, it doesn't hurt and is very small..... to the extent that I had to point it out to the consultant on the first visit because he couldn't find it. At it's maximum size it was 9mm in diameter, that's all, not some humongous unsightly carbuncle.
Hannah mentioned that it looked a bit odd several months ago, possibly even a year ago, but it took several mentions and nudges before I finally had it looked at by the GP in October last year. So if it wasn't for her persistence who knows how embedded it would have become before any action was taken?
There was no concern from the GP, probably a harmless mole but might as well have it checked out properly by a consultant.
Fast forward to late April this year before finally getting a first consultant appointment, it doesn't normally take this long but multiple appointment mix ups dragged out the waiting time. Again, no particular concern from the consultant, probably harmless but might as well have a biopsy to make sure.
Of course that biopsy came back with unwanted results.
I know a lot of people are very diligent about reducing the risk of skin cancer by wearing caps and using high SPF sun creams, after all it is very common knowledge that we should do this stuff, right?
Maybe it is but I suspect plenty people are also as complacent about this as I have been. After all we live in the UK and although we get plenty warnings that damaging UV rays are still hitting us on cloudy days do we mentally quantify the risk as significant on a personal basis? I didn't that's for sure. I don't recall getting sunburnt to the point of significant soreness very often and that is what I thought was damaging to the skin and therefore the big risk factor.
However, as runners we spend a lot of time outdoors and often during the riskiest hours of 10am to 3pm, so cumulatively we probably get a disproportionate exposure to the damaging UV rays as compared to the general population.
Pre Diagnosis :
So, a big wake up call has been delivered as can be seen from recent race photos pre- and post- diagnosis:
Leeds Half Marathon - 8th May (No cap)
Riga Marathon - 15th May (one sensible runner, one not so sensible):
Post Diagnosis :
Derry Marathon - 5th June (That's more like it!) :
Catforth 10K - 12th June (2 sensible (ish) runners for once) :
Apparently I look like a naughty schoolboy in a baseball cap..... I think I can live with that ;)
Regular checks are now required but the size of the piece of scalp removed was designed to get it all out once and for all. We will see........
Shifting The Wake Up Call
I wouldn't normally post about stuff like this but the incidences of skin cancer are growing pretty rapidly apparently so if posting about this makes the risk 'more real' and helps shift one or two peoples' wake up calls to before anything develops then that will be a good result all round.