The Big C

I wasn’t going to write about this. Everything is under control, after all, and I didn’t want to seem like I was looking for extra sympathy because there are plenty of bigger problems in the world to worry about. A few months ago I was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer and I decided to talk about it here today with the hope that my stupidity will be a lesson for others down the line.

I’ve always had dry skin but never really thought anything of it. I would just put some skin moisturizer on it and the itchiness would go away, no harm done. A couple winters ago, however, I noticed a lot of patches starting to form and at times the pain became so bad that I could barely sit. My doctor had retired and since I hadn’t located a new one yet, I simply bought a stronger skin cream and ignored it.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t you go get a doctor and have it checked out, you idiot?!”. You would be correct in that assumption but I do have an explanation, regardless of how thin it seems. You see, when my father passed away I went through a really hard time mentally. I developed a severe case of hypochondria that robbed me of almost a full year of happiness, and one of the side effects of breaking out of that depression was a tendency to ignore symptoms and to brush them off as nothing.

In my defense, the tactic technically worked in that I got my life back on track and was able to find the happiness I had once enjoyed. The downside is that while I was ignoring my skin, the dry patches were getting worse and multiplying at a rapid rate and I was growing more and more uncomfortable. It finally came to a head when, while at an unrelated appointment with my new family doctor, I happened to mention it on the way out and he took a look. The conversation that followed is one that I have had with a few doctors now and is something that never gets less embarrassing.

Doctor: “How long have you had these red patches?”
Me: “About 4 years…”
Doctor: “Really?? Have you ever had them checked before?”
Me: “No…”

You get the idea. I felt like I should have to walk around with “Stupid” stamped on my forehead for eternity. I mean, seriously, 4 years of ignoring this? Idiot! Long story short, the doc did a biopsy which came back positive for a skin cancer known as Mycosis Fungoides and I spent a good week with a glazed over feeling before I was able to actually look up what I was dealing with.

Since that first diagnosis appointment I have been poked and prodded, seen numerous specialists and now spend 3 very early mornings a week at the hospital having phototherapy treatments, which is kind of like standing in an upright tanning bed. The doctors have all said I should be completely fine after these treatments, which is reassuring, but there’s always that nagging “what if it isn’t” voice in the back of my head trying to have its say. As someone who went through a crushing bout of severe hypochondria, I’d say I’m doing very well at staying calm while my brain screams at me to freak out.

The ultimate point of this story is not to make you feel sorry for me, but instead to encourage you to not ignore symptoms the way I did. If you think something is feeling a little off, go get it checked out. I’m willing to bet that 99% of the time it is probably nothing, but on the off chance that they find something, you’ll be glad you went in early.

Heart Health

Have You Had The Talk With Your Family?

So when I ask if you’ve had The Talk with your family, I’m talking about the uncomfortable conversation around heart health. A new survey conducted by Vision Critical and commissioned by Bayer Inc. found that 34% of Canadians aged 18-54 agree that they find it difficult to discuss their parent(s) and/or loved one’s health and well-being with them, while 59% of Canadians aged 35-54 worry about the health of a parent or loved one regularly, with 51% of that group agreeing that they are more concerned about their parent or a loved one’s health than their own.

We all have different relationships with our parents, making it easier or tougher to have this conversation with them, but the best way to approach it is while you are doing something you enjoy doing together. Whether that be cooking together, having coffee or in my case, going out for breakfast, the important thing is that you talk about it. Not sure how to start the conversation? How about bringing up the fact that calling 911, then chewing or crushing 2 ASPIRIN® 81mg if you experience the symptoms of a heart attack may help save your life? I guarantee that’ll at least spark a conversation about health while giving your loved one some valuable information.

A recent survey by Vision Critical found that while 75 per cent of Canadians feel they know the signs of a heart attack, only 10 per cent of those were able to correctly identify the correct symptoms.
Common signs of a heart attack include:

* Chest discomfort
* upper body discomfort (including discomfort in the arms, jaw, neck and back)
* shortness of breath
* sweating and nausea
* light-headedness

Approved in Canada for emergency use, I would also think your parent(s) would be happy to know that having some ASPIRIN® 81mg on hand may help save your life in the event of a heart attack. Even if they won’t admit it, I’ll bet they run out and grab some just in case. In fact, 64% of Canadians 55+ said they would buy ASPIRIN® 81mg if it may help save their life. You know, it also never hurt to accidentally leave some on their kitchen counter on your next visit.

The fact is, while a lot of us are afraid of having these uncomfortable conversations, they are often the ones that we need to have the most. If all you do right now is remind your parent(s) that in the event of a heart attack, to call 911, then crush or chew two ASPIRIN® 81mg tablets, then you are off to a great start!

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program.