Trusting your Health Professional

For those that don’t know, I have very fair skin and have had my fair share of skin cancers. Not just the delightful, freeze your face off every six months kind but also the kind that requires surgery (melanoma, SCC etc).

I’m in the process of getting another SCC dealt with and feeling very uncertain about the advice I’m receiving.

At the end of the day, we have to trust our gut when it comes to our own health. We are the only ones who are going to fight for ourselves, lose sleep over our situations or demand a different course of action. While we are lucky in Australia and New Zealand to have free access to healthcare, it doesn’t mean that the system is always working for us. Resources are stretched, tests cost money and we rarely create a bond with our health professionals. I don’t doubt that they use their best judgement to try and make the best (well informed) decision for me but it feels that they rarely take into account my history and why I might be hesitant about their diagnosis.

About three years ago I had a terrible situation where an SCC that was removed from my face was not managed appropriately and resulted in my scar splitting open and a second surgery that means I now have a large graft (flap for this in the know) on my neck. At the time, it was what it was. Nothing I could do, be grateful/hope they got it all the second time and no point worrying about the bloody great scar. Kind of how I’ve dealt with most things – nothing I can do so accept and move on.

But I think now that was me being TOO trusting. The local surgeon was highly regarded, it was who my GP referred me to so I went with it. Looking at the scar now, while it’s faded, the stitches are quite crude and I know he was never pleased (and potentially a little embarrassed) at how it turned out. I remember in my groggy state after surgery that he admitted he had to take much more that he had anticipated.

I had a friend a while ago ask me if I had ever thought of having a plastic surgeon have a go at tidying it up. To be honest I was pretty offended but now I can at least admit that I see where she was coming from.

Anyway, all this is leading to the fact that here I am in a new country, with a GP I’ve only met twice and I’m looking to her to make the best decision for me about a recently diagnosed SCC. Incidentally, my original GP back in Oz looked at it a few years ago and dismissed it as my just getting old and that’s what happens. No blame, just another case of me not trusting my gut when it comes to my skin.

I was out walking this morning and next minute realise that I have tears streaming down my face. I’m scared. I don’t have a good experience with having skin cancers dealt with appropriately and I don’t have enough of a relationship with my new GP to trust her decision making. No reflection on her skill, just my need to trust her. So I’m taking action. I’ll book an appointment today with a dermatologist that I’ve had recommended (and researched). I’ll explain to my GP that I appreciate her skills but, given my history, I would prefer to be managed by a specialist.

I appreciate the training and dedication required to be a health professional and have utmost respect for those working in that field. But at the end of the day, I’ve been too trusting of people because of their qualifications and not trusting my own instinct. I acknowledge and accept there’s nothing I can do about my face, and to be honest as long as the skin cancer is gone I don’t mind what size the scar is, but I do prefer that it is dealt with once rather than a second surgery on the same site. My skin is a ticking time bomb and only I can truly be responsible for managing it.

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