Still mortal (after all these years)

Screenshot anime Hanada Shounen Shi.

Give me immortality or give me resurrection! Death is not on my wishlist at all. Unfortunately, it won’t always be up to me.

“My goal is to be immortal. So far, so good.” Uh, about that…

I am double-vaccinated against COVID-19, but I can still get cancer. And probably have, but we’ll know more about that by the end of August at the earliest. But when I saw the patch of red, scabby skin on my face had grown a new little blood vessel, I did not tarry overlong requesting a doctor appointment. Angiogenesis – the creation of new blood vessels – is not something bacteria or fungi can do, but cancers do this routinely as they mature, because without extra blood supply their growth is limited. So yeah, probably cancer this time, or at least a precancerous growth. Which sucks, but not as much as it did a couple of generations ago.

When I was a kid, the word “cancer” was pretty much a death sentence. But that is no longer the case, especially with cancers that are easily detected, like basal and squamous skin cancers. (This is probably one of those, if it has even advanced to the cancer stage at all.) Today, the greater risk for me is the simple and streamlined structure of Norwegian public health care (which is almost all the health care we have, except for a booming beauty industry).

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Norwegian health care: Each person is assigned a regular doctor, called “fastlege” in Norwegian. Unfortunately this has nothing to do with the English words “fast” as in speedy, but rather means fixed, immovable doctor. (They can be replaced though, but it is a procedure.) Mine has been looking out for me for many years, most lately by gambling on me getting vaccinated in a far-away location without getting infected along the way. So I’m fine with the system in general. But doctors need a vacation too. Regular doctors, specialists, all kinds of health personnel celebrate the short Norwegian summer by taking a month or so off. Last time I was suspected to have cancer (false alarm, yay) I had to wait a couple of months for further investigation because of summer vacation. This time I am only waiting 1 month for my regular doctor, but of course it feels longer.

After seeing my doctor, he will hopefully apply for an appointment with a dermatologist. (Ideally my local doctor would remove the skin lesion first, but that may be too much to hope for.) Then a couple more months (possibly more since people have stayed away for 18 months during the pandemic). Hopefully the dermatologist will remove the thing and get it checked for cancer. I would like to have this done before Christmas, but again, there is likely a backlog from the pandemic. And I guess I have contributed to that, so fair is fair.

Generally, our health care has two lanes: Emergency and everything else. Cancer is not an emergency, at least not until it is too late. So it is perfectly normal for people to wait for months to diagnose and remove a small cancer, and then have a fortune of tax money spent trying in vain to get rid of all the metastases that were created during the wait. This may not be perfect, but it is simple and streamlined, the way we like things here in Norway. It wouldn’t be like this unless the people wanted it this way, what with us having a pretty effective democracy as such things go. A small downside of our current democracy is that dead people don’t vote. (Unlike what I hear from some other countries.) So if some feature causes people to get removed from the voting pool, those who suffered from it will not be around to vote against it.

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Well, it is not like I was in doubt about the mortality of my flesh before. I am that age after all, where I could live another thirty years or another thirty seconds. You have to get used to it. “All flesh is grass” a better prophet than me once said. But episodes like this one remind me of the unofficial motto of the Chaos Node: “We must say all the words that should be spoken, before they are lost forever.” And I wonder if I have done that. Probably, and then some. But as long as you live, there are new things to learn.

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