By Belema Omuso Abbey.
I need to say I am sorry dear melanin. Can you ever forgive me? Can I ever undo this wrong? Is there a way I can make this better? How come I was never told I despised you with my actions. I was unknowingly telling you to get lost, literally!!! How come my brain never actually registered the counselling and all the caution I heard? Repeatedly heard.
A deep groan escaped Fabby’s lips as she clutched at her head, sobbing quietly. Then, she pressed send, delivering her message. She got up from the toilet seat and stood in front of the bathroom mirror. She looked at her once “glowing, very fair” skin, scattered in patches of red, black and yellow discoloration. Her skin was shriveled, she could see very tiny and large blue-green veins literally making a map all over her skin. It is a map indeed.
Her doctor says it shows the way the superficial blood vessels course through her body. Her left arm had a long scar, a lasting memory of the surgery she had 4 weeks earlier. The wound took 4 weeks to heal. Dr Regina said it was because her skin has lost all its protective, healing and regenerative functions. Fabby listened as her husband opened the door for the team comprising of doctors and nurses. Her husband called out to her, she is needed he said.
You see, she begins chemotherapy today for melanoma, a skin cancer. That was the outcome of the surgery on her left arm. Melanin stood rigidly against Dr Tan’s consulting room walls. Fabby’s message overwhelmed him as her words echoed all around him. He remembered reading Dr Regina’s notes a few months ago. “Mrs Fabby Dema, a 38 year old female, manager at a bank, who presented with an ulcer on the left arm. She was said to have previously developed an itchy black spot (before the ulcer started) that bled occasionally. She had been using over the counter whitening creams and soaps for 10 years, including a whitening cream following which she would pluck and pull out her skin after a few hours, revealing supposedly new skin. She is married, has just gotten to the peak of her career, her 3 kids are in secondary school. She does not smoke nor take alcohol.”
An angry loud thump drew melanin’s attention back to Dr Tan’s consulting room. It was the angry female patient. She is quite furious because Dr Tan is insisting that she has developed an addiction to steroid creams as she refused to stop applying them 5 months ago. He had prescribed it for an acute flare of her eczema but was surprised to see her much lighter in complexion during the clinic visit. She explained that the steroid cream made her skin fairer and more beautiful. She stomped out of the consulting room as the young dermatologist refused to prescribe some more for her. Melanin pitied Dr Tan. He had particularly had a bad day at the dermatology clinic.
He reminisced about his previous patients. He wondered whether he was complicit in 45 year old Mrs Owuna’s addiction to hydroquinone. He had prepped her skin for a chemical peel with 2% hydroquinone after counselling her on the benefits of the controlled procedure. Following sessions of chemical peels with glycolic acid, he withdrew hydroquinone, placing her on sunscreen.
Despite pre procedure counselling, Mrs A has refused to go off hydroquinone. Today, she informed Dr Tan that her 23 year old daughter’s skin is doing very well with a hydroquinone cream. Dr Tan felt some warmth on his shoulders as Melanin wrapped his arm around him. “No” Melanin said, the patient chose to continue the use of hydroquinone, you did not. He thought of Ms A. Ms A’s ebony skinned friend had accompanied her to her follow up clinic visit today. She needed to consult Dr Tan for a cream that could get her fair. Her group of friends had all started using naturally mixed soap and cream that made their skin luminous. She was rightly worried about the contents of those products, so she came to consult Dr Tan for safer options.
Melanin then screamed through the doctor. “Do not be tempted madam”. Do you know what the different shades of “black” you see on different skin do for us? It protects us from the damaging effects of the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It actually forms an umbrella shield around our skin’s DNA preventing damage and leading to skin cancer. It helps us not to photo age as fast as the white race. Ever heard of the phrase “black don’t crack”?
Bleaching agents with toxic contents like mercury and hydroquinone can give you kidney failure, steroids can cause growth retardation in children and cause a disease called Cushing’s disease. In the long run, when compared to your peers, your skin will look older, is prone to rashes, prone to skin infections, looks more wrinkled, does not heal properly and looks transparent. “I am Melanin, I live in your skin, I protect you, please do not hurt me” the doctor heard himself plead loudly. Those words sliced through Fabby as she dropped the cup of cream.