I had this little spot on my cheek that started bleeding the other day. I didn’t think anything of it at first until I overheard some friends talking about skin cancer. I Googled skin cancer and clicked on the images tab. Hundreds of pictures of skin cancer covered my computer monitor. I do not recommend you do this. Take my word for it – you do NOT want to see those images. Ever.
I employed my M.O. and ignored it, figuring it would go away on its own. And it did. Sort of. Mostly. But when Savannah asked me to make a dermatologist appointment for her, I figured I should make one for myself too. I mean, I live in Florida now and they don’t call it The Sunshine State for nothing. I’m vigilant about slathering my kids in sunscreen, especially since three of them have Vitiligo, but I suck at remembering to apply it to myself. Then there were the days when I was young and stupid and I’d lie around our pool, covered in baby oil, a veritable piece of bacon crisping in the sun. And finally, I’m old. Old people get skin cancer. In fact, 1 out of 5 people will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. I decided it would be a good idea to get checked out by a dermatologist.
At the doctor’s office, I was escorted to a room by a young guy. He gave me a pamphlet about skin cancer and rambled on about checking your skin for suspicious spots, avoiding the sun whenever possible, using sunscreen, and making yearly appointments with a dermatologist. “The doctor will be checking you everywhere. She’ll even check your scalp and the bottoms of your feet and in between your toes.” He continued, “People develop melanoma between their toes. Bob Marley died from melanoma under his toenail that spread to his lungs and brain.”
I wasn’t sure how to react to that tidbit. Was that supposed to reassure me that I’d be fine since the doctor would check my toes? Or was he trying to freak me out? Or just making dermatology related conversation? My mind went to Jerry Seinfeld when he was dating the dermatologist, Dr. Pimple Popper MD. Saving lives? The whole profession is; eh, just put some aloe on it. I chuckled to myself because that’s what I do – imagine random scenes from movies and sitcoms and then laugh inappropriately.
“Are there any areas of concern?” he asked.
“Well, I had this little spot on my cheek here,” I admitted, while poking at my face in the general vicinity of where the spot was. “It’s really hard to tell where it is without a mirror. Anyway, it was bleeding a little bit about a month ago.”
He looked at my face, then took a pen and proceeded to draw a square around the spot in question. Then he handed me a paper gown and told me to change. Before leaving, he asked, “I’ll be in here assisting the doctor unless you’d feel more comfortable with two females in here?”
I shrugged, indifferent, and took the proffered paper gown. “I’ve given birth 6 times. Modesty is a thing of the past.”
He left and I quickly changed, lest they walk in and see me with my shirt half off. I mean, I know they’re going to see me buck naked, but somehow it’s okay that they see me naked while I’m perched atop a paper covered table. Seeing me standing there with my pants twisted around my ankles, on the other hand, is a whole ‘nother world of embarrassment.
I hopped up onto the table and glanced down at the chipped polish on my toes. Oh no! She won’t be able to see my toenails through my red polish with the black and white stripes (my homage to the Blackhawks and their 10 game winning streak.) Great! I’ll probably die of toe cancer and all because of this stupid nail polish. They should really tell you to arrive polish-free when you make an appointment.
Bob Marley songs played through my brain as I waited for the doctor.
About a thing
‘Cause every little thing
Gonna be alright
Unless you have toenail cancer
And then you’ll die
Thankfully the doctor walked in before I could create any more new lyrics. She introduced herself and held out her hand. I eyed her hand, then peered at my own, glistening with moisture. I’m cursed with the ability to produce inordinate amounts of sweat when I’m nervous. Clasp her hand and gross her out with the sweat, ignore her outstretched hand and offend her for not participating in her greeting, or mumble something about having sweaty palms? I ignored her, then reconsidered and wiped my hand on my paper gown, ripping it in the process, and finally thrust my hand out toward her. She gave me an odd look, then got to work combing through my hair with her fingers, looking for signs of skin cancer.
“Do you have a hair stylist?” she asked.
“Yeah, I know I’m really gray. It’s time for a touch-up,” I said, embarrassed.
“No, no, I just meant that if someone does your hair, they can let you know if they see anything strange.”
She continued to look me all over while I sat there. As she checked me, she called off official sounding names to her assistant who stood, bent over his clipboard listing all the weird skin conditions that apparently cover me. Satisfied that she’d thoroughly inspected my top half, she asked me to stand up. I tried to gracefully slide from the table, but the paper stuck to my legs and I pulled it with me. Then my knee buckled (thank you for that, Zumba!) and I kind of teetered for a minute flailing my arms out and hitting the doctor while attempting to regain my balance. Meanwhile, the paper which has fused to my thighs is still trailing behind me like an absurdly prosaic bridal train.
I gave a nervous little laugh as I pictured Ross trying to pull his leather pants up over his sweaty legs. (Again, it’s what I do.)
|The lotion and the powder have made a paste!|
When she finished her check, she told me that the spot on my cheek was pre-cancerous and not to worry because it could be many years before it turned cancerous, but still, they recommend getting rid of it with cryosurgery now. So she froze it with liquid nitrogen. I didn’t look in a mirror and didn’t realize I had a big red blotch on my cheek inside a square drawn with pen until I got to work. Pretty.
And you know what? She never looked at my toes!
So here’s my little PSA – use sunscreen, pay attention to any moles or spots on your body that change, and see a dermatologist because skin cancer is highly curable when caught early. And take off your nail polish before going!