Sunday, March 25, 2012

On The Road Again!

Chrissy and Chris
Last year, the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour made 80 stops in 24 states.  They traveled through some pretty nasty weather conditions, including a massive tornado outbreak last year in Raleigh, NC as they headed out of town.  But despite the obstacles, Chris and Chrissy, the RV’s pilots and mobile clinic’s hosts, are back for another tour.  This year they plan to stop 85 times and visit three additional states.

The stormy theme to the tour seemed to return as another strong shower hit on the day they kicked off this year’s tour in Raleigh.  As I walked up to the large 38-foot yellow and blue RV, Chris was wiping off chairs and checking the many pamphlets and magazines to see if any got wet in the lunch-time downpour.  Kim Parker of the American Institute of Healthcare and Fitness, which hosted this first stop, was the first to welcome me.  Despite the rain, it looked as if a few others were visiting the clinic as well.

“We’ve had a fairly good turn-out despite the weather,” said Kim.  “We hope others show up during lunch and that one of the local news crews will stop by to do a story.”  When I identified myself, she handed me a media guide with all the statistics of this year’s tour.
Over the last four years, the Tour has screened over 13,000 people through the efforts of the volunteer dermatologists along the way.  More than 5,200 suspected pre-cancers and cancers have been detected including 239 suspected melanomas.  I find this ratio interesting in that it closely matches what I’ve read in various studies.  The chance of being diagnosed with melanoma is reported to be about 1 in 50…and the chances increase when being over exposed to UV rays through indoor and outdoor tanning.
Two dermatologists were volunteering during this time.  The first I talked with was Dr. Rebekah Oyler from Andrus and Associates Dermatology.  She was just finishing up her volunteer shift, but seemed quite personable and was very impressed by the service the Tour was offering.  In fact, as we chatted, three new interested people came for a screening.
Chrissy (who remembered me as “that blogging guy from last year”) asked if I was interested in another screening this year.  Of course!  As I filled out the paper work, I asked her a little more about their experiences on the road.  For the most part, she stayed very neutral in picking a favorite stop or more memorable moments.  But as Chris entered the RV, both commented how it’s not them but the brightly colored RV that gets all the attention.  “We drive the RV from place to place and Chrissy handles most of the scheduling, “chimed in Chris, “…but we’re not dermatologists.”
Chrissy laughed and recalled one time when a gentleman knocked on their door after they made a grocery stop to stock up for the road.  When they opened the door, he dropped his pants and asked them to take a look at a suspicious mole.  “I just told him that he needed to see a dermatologist to get that looked at!”
When it was my turn, Dr. Carol Trakimas from the Dermatology Center of Raleigh performed the exam.  “Dr. T” as she referred to herself has been involved with the Tour since the beginning.  In fact, she stated that she was integral in recruiting the other local volunteer dermatologists for this event.  “I feel this is a very important service to the community and have been in constant contact with the Skin Cancer Foundation to make sure I’d continue to be involved.”
As an organizer, the Raleigh area should be grateful for her assistance.  As a dermatologist, I have to admit that she and her medical assistant did a very thorough job.  In fact, my exam the previous year was very brief and basic, but Dr. T performed an exam in the mobile exam room that rivaled that of my normal in-office dermatology appointment.  In fact, she was so thorough that she found a suspicious spot on the back of my right leg.  It was a spot I’d never seen before as it was impossible to see directly and involved more flexibility than I usually attempt to see even with a mirror.  To me, it looked like nothing.  To Dr. T, it is worth taking a biopsy.
The RV is not equipped for such procedures, but is merely intended for screenings and suggestions for further treatment.  I took her suggestion to heart and contacted her office.  I have an appointment for that biopsy this coming Wednesday.  Of course, I’ll keep you posted.
As I left the exam room, Chris and Chrissy were discussing any last minute items they needed to pack.  Their seven-month trek was about to begin again.  I wished them well and told them I hoped to see them again next year.  I took a parting photo, said my thanks to those I’d met, and then headed to my car.  The sun has begun to shine brightly…surely a sign for a successful tour ahead!

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