Saturday, April 30, 2016

99 Reasons for Faith - #90: Mercy Through Medicine

In early April I was in for my yearly dermatology checkup when my doctor noticed something unusual. Just by way of background, I have fair skin and have enjoyed being out in the sun every since I was a kid. These two don’t go together too well. My skin was made for the mostly cloudy climate of Ireland, not the mostly sunny climate of New England. I also grew up in the years before SPF 50 sunscreen and the like. On top of that I was a lifeguard throughout college and have owned a pool for the past 22 years. All that to say, it was no surprise when I started to show sun damage in my mid thirties. But I never expected what my dermatologist found this month.

She saw a dark spot on my left arm, just above my elbow. I had seen if before and just figured it was an extra dark sun spot, not too different than the many sun spots (or age spots) already dotting my 50-year old skin. She took a biopsy and let me know, a few days later, as soon as the results came in, that I had stage 1a melanoma and needed surgery ASAP. Thankfully, I was in surgery within 10 days and am healing now from the ~3x4 inch section removed from my arm.

How does this relate to reasons for faith? Well, you may think it was all just the result of good science and good medical practice. Certainly, the combination of good medical practice, well-trained, gifted and conscientious doctors and a medical system and health insurance that allow for such care is a huge part of all of this. But I can’t help thinking that behind all this is the simple mercy of God. Had I not had my annual check-up when I did, had the surgery turn-around time not been so quick, had such high quality care not been available, my melanoma might have progressed undetected. The fact that it was found at stage 1a, only 0.18mm in depth, versus stage 4, where it has spread to other parts of the body, means my 10 year survival rate is near 100% vs. 10%. (BTW - if you are light skinned and over 40, make sure you get a yearly checkup - it could save your life!)

So, I am grateful for good science and good medicine. But I see behind all this, particularly in the timing of things, another reason for faith – God’s mercy through medicine.

Reason #90: Mercy Through Medicine

Melanoma Cases Per 100,000 People Per Year

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