Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Melanoma Parable: Escargot

Fancy word for "snails." July 2010 I bought a bright red male betta and promptly named him Rudolph. He was in a rather small betta tank by himself and seemed lonely. Bettas are also known as "Siamese fighting fish" and, in pet stores, are those fish kept in tiny cups, one to a cup. Mitch taped a mirror to the side of his tank and that made him happy. I bought a couple of snails and put in his tank so he would have another moving life-form in there with him. Rudolph knew he had company and would often swim around the snails. While I thoroughly enjoyed Rudolph, those snails were mighty interesting in their own right.

They laid little clusters of eggs and they would hatch one at a time. They were almost microscopic and as they slowly grew, I could see their shell was born on them (which I didn't realize) and grew with them. When I had too many for his tank, I put some in Mitch's larger tank where he had his own community of various fish.

His fish community changed over time as fish died and he got other types and they didn't get along or the pH wasn't right for that fish while it was fine for the other. As his fish died out, Rudolph thrived by himself with his snail friends. Eventually, he ceased to thrive and developed some sort of ick that I couldn't get under control. The snails died and so did he. My tank was lifeless and got cleaned out. And though we kept the filter running in the water, Mitch's tank was lifeless also...

Until late this past summer when I bought Rex Ned. A bright royal blue betta and we put him in Mitch's big tank by himself. I had one happy betta! And then the strangest thing started happening. Snails started showing up in that tank! I didn't bring anything home with Rex in his bag of water. That tank had sat, lifeless, for months, and now, after Rex has been swimming around several weeks, he's got unexpected company. So far, there are eight snails of various sizes!

As I've contemplated my sermon for this week, God has brought these snails to mind. I'm not going to preach that sermon here. I'm going to use those snails to illustrate a different sermon.

While those snails seemed to have come from nowhere, that's really not the case at all. Apparently, eggs had been laid and were dormant, not doing anything until conditions were right and then they hatched. Now, I really don't know if that's how it can work in snail-world, but that's the only thing that makes sense. Mitch has enough decorations in that tank for egg clusters to have gone unnoticed. But they were obviously there. When the conditions were right, they hatched, and being living creatures, they're growing and doing what snails are meant to do.

Melanoma is like that. We can go about life, doing like we want, knowing conditions may be just right for skin cancer, but, hey, we don't see any sign of it and particularly melanoma at work, Soooooo...we must be in the clear....and then...all of a sudden...we start to see something we haven't seen before...a change...something grows...maybe slowly...maybe develops its shell...the longer it grows the more impenetrable that shell does what it's meant to do...conditions were right after all...we didn't know...weren't paying attention...smug...self-confident...snails grow in other people's tanks...I have no reason to look for snails in my own tank...

Until they are obviously there for all the world to see. Except, maybe, me. If you like horror films, you'll love Life With Killer Snails. Or maybe you won't.

Melanoma is one killer snail I promise you, you really don't want in your tank.

The truth of the matter is, you really don't know what's lurking around waiting to grow. If you've got skin, and most of us do, thick or thin, the potential is there. So what if you don't have a "family history" for skin cancer in general or melanoma in particular, family histories have to start somewhere. It could be you. So what if you've always protected your skin and never been burned. Check yourself to make sure you've got skin somewhere on your body. If you spot a patch, you're at risk. So what if you've never stepped foot anywhere near a tanning bed, much less climbed into one. Again, if you've got skin anywhere on you, you are at risk. It's that simple.

And by the way, like all snails, melanoma is quite hardy and eats the most disgusting stuff. It like toe-jam...check your feet, soles and nails. It likes eye tissue and inside mouths. It likes orifices of all kinds, and I'm not going to spell that out, but, yes, melanoma shows up in those places also, your problem might not be hemorrhoids. It likes to play hide-and-seek, check your scalp and hairlines.

I've never tried escargot and don't plan to. I like my snails in a tank and my melanoma...

Well, I wish I could quietly hide that under the tank, forget about it, and go on with life and never give it a second thought.

But I can't do that because that would mean sure death. That's the kind of attitude Killer Snail Mel likes and thrives on. While you're checking your body, check your attitude as well.

See, you might not know what lurks or what's already going on inside you somewhere. You might be complacent (not good!) or arrogant (not good either!) about melanoma. You might be ignorant (deadly).

So, here's your wake-up call.

I'll keep calling and nagging. It's in my DNA. I'm a Southern Mama Preacher. This is how I roll.

And I am grateful.