Something happened a week ago that has me scratching my head (both literally and figuratively).
It all started when I headed to my dermatologist’s office for my annual skin exam. I wasn’t concerned because nothing had changed since my last exam. All of my spots, moles and bumps looked exactly the same way they'd looked a year ago.
Anyway, I’m a person who’s late for everything. I don’t care how well I plan things, I'm still never able to make it to any appointments on time. My mother and my husband, who were such sticklers for punctuality they always insisted upon arriving everywhere at least a half-hour early, used to complain that my habitual tardiness was the cause of most of their gray hairs.
So on the day of my appointment with the dermatologist, I actually left the house early. I was pretty proud of myself, especially since I’d gone to bed only four hours before I had to get up. But as I pulled out onto the only road that leads down the mountain from my house, I found myself directly behind two trucks. The first one was painting a new yellow line down the center of the road. The second truck had a guy clinging to the outside of it and placing orange cones next to the newly painted line. A sign on the back of the truck warned drivers not to pass because of the wet paint.
I never would have believed a vehicle could travel that slowly and still actually be moving. Ten minutes later, I’d gone exactly a half-mile…and was mentally shouting at the guys, “Have mercy and pull over and let everyone pass, will you?” By then, I couldn’t even see the end of the line of cars that had formed behind me.
A mile later, the trucks finally did pull over…and I was able to travel the actual speed limit.
Alas, I arrived ten minutes late for my appointment…and with my “always late for everything” record still intact.
As it turned out, the doctor also was running late, so I was able to sit in the waiting room for 15 minutes, followed by another 30 in the examining room – where I was instructed to take off all of my clothes, including my shoes and socks, and put on a gown. It wasn’t long before my feet actually turned blue, they were so cold, because, as everyone knows, examining rooms must follow a strict protocol not to allow the temperature in them to climb any higher than the interior temperature of an igloo.
During my wait, the assistant took down all of my information and then said, seemingly out of nowhere, “Just to let you know, the doctor will be examining the crack of your buttocks. There was a young woman here not long ago who had melanoma in the crack of hers, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The doctor finally rushed in and asked if I had any new concerns since my last visit.
I was tempted to say, “Yeah – I’m now concerned about my butt crack,” but instead I asked him if the hair I’d lost, mostly on the very top of my head, during Covid would grow back. He immediately examined my scalp.
“I do see significant thinning,” he said. “I think I should do a scalp biopsy,” He turned to the assistant and said, “I’ll punch that.”
Just as I was going to ask him if local anesthesia might be a less aggressive approach, he explained that a punch biopsy used an instrument similar to a paper punch to take a sample. He then mentioned he’d also seen a blue mole on my scalp and was going to biopsy that, too.
Blue mole? That was a new one to me. It also made me wonder if maybe I’d dozed off while using a blue permanent-marker and accidentally had dotted my head with it.
Hate to say it, but it wouldn’t have been the first time.
“And I’ll make a list of the blood tests I’d like you to have, concerning your hair loss,” the doctor added. “Alopecia can be caused by such conditions as thyroid cancer, or anemia caused by internal bleeding from cancer, or from a hormonal problem caused by ovarian cancer.”
The exam continued and I kept hearing, “This might look like an innocent mole, but cancer loves to disguise itself as innocent-looking growths, so you can’t be too cautious.”
Then there was the pale pink bump on my shin, “It could be nothing,” he said, “but I’m going to biopsy that, too.”
I was beginning to think the doctor considered everything to be cancer until he was able to prove otherwise.
A few very long minutes later, after the doctor had examined every inch of my body from my scalp down to the soles of my feet, the assistant left and returned with a fistful of hypodermic needles and a bunch of little jars, which she began to label.
The numbing, carving, punching, scraping, cauterizing and stitching then began. I left there looking like the walking wounded – bandages on my head, chin, leg, chest, neck and in places I couldn’t even remember. I was embarrassed to walk across the parking lot because I was afraid people would think I'd just been mugged by a gang of thugs.
So I now can empathize with a Thanksgiving turkey, which also has to undergo a lot of carving, injecting and stitching during this time of year.
I might smell like something else, however, as I’m not supposed to get my stitches wet…and I still have to wait another week before they can be removed.
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UPDATE: Received all of the biopsy results and was relieved to learn everything was benign and nothing of concern. And the little pink bump on my leg – the one that required the deepest incision and the most stitches, and the doctor said would leave a scar – turned out to be a mosquito bite, which I probably got during the record-breaking warm spell we had just prior to my appointment.
I’m totally serious.
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