At the start of my speech I joked that this is the first time I have attended a dermatology training conference wearing so many clothes, and I thanked them for that.
When I was younger I attended a few conferences where up to 200 doctors would look at me, many did not speak to me, or did not speak English, and I was only able to wear undies, one sock and a blanket. At first it was a novelty, I would charge the doctors a few cents a look. But then it got a little distressing. I was a teenager, not yet comfortable with my changing body, and I was frustrated by the cold environment - physically and emotionally. Not being able to wear clothes, and impersonal consults made for a difficult time. The last conference I took part in was when I was 15. As well as the doctors who examined me, I met a few people with various skin conditions, and that was a real eye opener for me - they were in search of a cure, but also missrable with life. I did not want to be like that. It was an unpleasant experience, and I told Mum that I wanted to leave early. So we did. I felt the doctors only wanted to get to know my condition, and not me as a person. I felt like a zoo exhibit. Dare I say it - I felt a little exploited.
When my dermatology geneticist invited me to a training day in October, she gave me the option of being a patient or a speaker. I immediately said I wanted to be a speaker. Good, she said, that will change the power balance of me as a patient.
It was strange being in a different role to a patient. While my dermatology team are fantastic and most realise I know as much about my condition as they do, and respect my medical choices, there is always that superior/subordinate relationship between us. The head dermatologist, a doctor I have been seeing for 24 years, walked me to the lecture theatre, and he was so thankful, so proud of me for doing this speech.
Before the conference, I chatted with dermatologists that had seen me over the years. We talked about my trip. There was little talk about skin.
And then I did my speech. I spoke in front of around 40 doctors. They were so receptive, and they got some laughs out of my speech too. It was not clinical, it was personal. It was a great feeling.
I am always going to be a patient. That is inevitable. But when I did my speech, the roles had shifted, and I was a teacher.
If you would like me to do a speech for you, shoot me an email.