Is it a Lion or a Giraffe ?

A friend, fresh out from Wales via a year in the tropics, decided he needed to be checked over for skin cancers while he was here since, as he said, Brisbane is probably the skin cancer capital of the world. If he was to go to his GP in Cardiff it would have been free but the GP would undoubtedly have had to refer him to a Specialist, probably in London. And even then that Specialist will have seen fewer skin cancers than any GP in Brisbane. So where better place to be checked than where every doctor in the city has had some experience with melanoma.

We duly recommended him to our Doctor Wong who specialised in skin cancers and, more importantly, their removal. A good guy apart from the brusque manner, poor english and poor communication skills notwithstanding his having been in Australia for many decades. More important to us was his skill in identifying and removing skin cancers. So our young Welsh friend, with an equally welsh name Thomas, is confidently sent to Doctor Wong for his check up. The subsequent events I can only report second hand so you will understand that I cannot entirely vouch for their veracity - although I can vouch for his somewhat shaken demeanor on his return.

Now our Dr Wong actually has two specialities, skin cancers and vasectomies, an unusual combination but demand driven I guess. When Thomas arrives there are a couple with babe in arms and another middle aged man also waiting. Now of course before a vasectomy the doctor must be satisfied that this is a sound decision, so the intended recipients receive a bit of a pep talk to make sure they know what they are doing. Dr Wong appears and invites the couple to join him then ten seconds later pops his head out and says to the other man - 'you come in too, same talk but faster all together'. Thomas is left to contemplate Australian high speed medicine and to wonder if the procedures would be 'en mass' and thus 'faster all together'.

Soon enough it is his turn with the efficient doctor. After stripping down to his underwear he is given the (to us) usual skin exam. Doctor Wong goes through his patter which of course we always ignored and which the good doctor probably thought was both reassuring and communicative. Neither his staff nor patients have had the heart to tell him that his patter is largely incoherent. So while a bemused Thomas is trying to sort out what has been said to him, Dr Wong starts his exam. Mmm he says while looking closely at something on Thomas' back. Mmm he says you have cancer and then goes on to state (as Thomas reels under his death sentence):

'Now it is like an animal, some animals are giraffes and some are rhinoceros - no that is wrong some are giraffe and some are lion. Giraffes are animals but do not chase you, lions will chase you. We do not know if you are a giraffe or a lion.'

First he has received a potential death sentence and now he does not know if he is a giraffe or a lion. Inexorably Dr Wong continues:

'We do not know if it is a giraffe or lion, lion is very dangerous giraffe is OK. There are many giraffes but not many lions which is good. We take piece out and send away to see if lion or giraffe.'

He beams at Thomas and adds 'People like my lion and giraffe so they understand'. At this stage Thomas begins to feel hope as it gradually dawns on him that Dr Wong may not actually be insane and that the spots on his back while sun spots are probably relatively innocuous and not a malignant melanoma.

In due course Thomas gets the pathology back - it is a giraffe so all is well.