For the last six months, give or take, I've been eyeing this funny spot on my cheek.
Now, my five-year-old would tell you I've got lots of "funny spots" and indeed I do - my colouring is such that I've got freckles and moles a-plenty, including "beauty marks" that I once hated and now have come to appreciate.
Like many people my age, I'm cautious about sun exposure - fortunately, I've had a lifelong love affair with the breezy, shady spots of the world and tend to eschew beaches and other shadeless spots in the worst of the summer months. (I know what you're thinking - good thing I live on the West Coast, right?)
Still, in the back of my head are memories of summers spent as a child in Ontario, barreling around the neighbourhood without a stitch of sunscreen on.
Or, worse, the years between about 13 and 18 when I desperately wanted a tan and frequently pulled out the baby oil to go lay in the backyard. These teenage sun sessions never lasted long (see previous comment about love affair with the shade), but still, it can't have helped.
Hence the concern with the funny spot. I've spent a few minutes every day pondering it - had it changed? Was it bigger? Darker? Different somehow?
A voice in the back of my head (sounding suspiciously like my husband, who ultimately got sick of me asking, "Does this look different to you, does it?") kept insisting that I should take myself to the doctor and get it looked at.
Normally I'm pretty quick to get a medical concern checked out. And yet, for some reason, I let this drag on for months.
And then serendipity stepped in. My editor sent me a message about a skin cancer screening taking place in Burnaby, organized by the Canadian Dermatology Association as part of an awareness campaign they hold each year.
Aside from being an interesting health story and an opportunity to pass some knowledge on to readers, it seemed that the universe was forcing my hand - I could hardly tell readers about skin and sun awareness without absorbing some of it myself.
When photographer Larry Wright and I arrived at the start of the three-hour session, the place was packed. The Canadian Cancer Society had a presence there, with tons of informational pamphlets, and representatives from the Tanning is Out campaign - aimed at teens and young people, to discourage tanning - were also on hand.
I can't lie: I was incredibly nervous. The refrain that kept going through my head was "what if?"
What if the doctor does spot something suspicious? What if this spot on my cheek is not just concerning but an actual cancer? What if I leave here with instructions to see my family doctor immediately.
The ridiculous thing about this is that early detection for skin cancers is the absolute best way to deal with them. Death rates from skin cancers have dropped in recent years because of increased awareness and a rise in early detections.
So my "what if" could be answered simply: finding out "bad news" today could only be ultimately "good news." Because if that funny spot was indeed something bad, it certainly wasn't going to go away on its own.
I went into a curtained cubicle with Dr. Jason Rivers and, after asking him a series of questions for my story, I rolled up my pant legs and bared my arms and back for his inspection.
He did a quick but thorough check, using a magnification tool to take a closer look at some of my spots.
"These are fine, these are all fine," he said.
The authority in his voice completely put me at ease - if he said they were fine, they were. (At a later physical checkup with my family doctor, I happened to mention this screening with Dr. Rivers and my doctor's eyes just about popped out of her head. "He's the guy for skin cancers," she said.) Turns out I did have a few atypical moles that will have to be watched down the road, but that funny spot on my cheek was nothing to worry about.
The relief was like a physical force - and I wished I'd simply dealt with it months earlier and saved myself the stress and anxiety.
The ultimate lesson for me that day, and for readers I hope is this: if you have a concern, get it looked at.
If something doesn't seem quite right, have it checked. The best case scenario is that there's nothing awry, and the worstcase scenario is that something that will only worsen will be spotted and dealt with. But worrying about it and not doing anything certainly won't stop a problem from getting worse.
Of the 92 people who attended the screening that day, several were identified to have possible cancers or pre-cancerous lesions - I can't help but wonder how many of them might not have discovered this until it was too late, and if lives were saved that day. I have a feeling they were.
Christina Myers is a reporter with the NOW, covering health, families and more.
SPOTTING TROUBLE: A CLOSER LOOK
CANCER FAST FACTS
? Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Canadians. It is also the most common cancer in the world.
?Three people die each week in B.C. from melanoma. Last year there were 850 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in B.C., and 130 deaths.
? More than 81,300 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers (basal and squamous cell) are expected during 2012; about 8,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2012.
? Melanomas are less common than basal cell and squamous cell cancers, but are the most dangerous type of cancer.
? The main cause of skin cancer is too much UV radiation. Some tanning beds can expose a person to five times as much UV radiation as the sun.
? Simple measures like limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, wearing hats, using SPF30 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer.
For more facts, as well as tips on self-examination for skin cancer and descriptions of what to look for, see www.dermatology.ca or www.cancer.ca.