Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Turns Out The Dermatologist Is Having The Last Laugh

Being a SAHM you would think my week evolves around trips to the gym, lunching with lady friends, doing a spot of shopping and having time to be on top of Everything.

Why this is NEVER the case is something that irks me greatly.

This week my calendar was empty of all commitments and chores.  Yet still by Monday lunchtime I had managed to crack a tooth (task 1: book and attend dentist appointment), the brake lights on my car decided to remain permanently illuminated (task 2: get treated like a complete nelly at the local garage and be without the use of my car for a whole day) and my wireless router took a personal dislike to my computer (task 3: beg my computer literate friend to come and kick it into touch...although hopefully not too literally because then this would lead to task 4: buy new wireless router).

Last week was just as joyful, including a trip to a dermatologist to check out a dodgy mole on my back, that my primary doctor had spotted some weeks ago.

I'm not a great one for doctors or hospitals.  And to be honest, I contemplated ignoring my doctor's advice because I'm not the biggest fan of spending $20 to park downtown, then wait around in a doctor's surgery all day only to find out that everything is, in fact, hunky dory.  Not when, in my dream life, I could be mincing about in front of a mirror, dressed head to toe in Lycra waving a couple of 5lb dumbbells over my head or spending a couple of hours moaning about my life with someone - in person - while stuffing my face with $20 worth of Sushi.  Let me tell you something for nothing: if I am going to be spending $20 that I really don't have, then Sushi is going to win hands down every time.

I couldn't even see this mole (and Lord knows, I tried all sorts of ridiculous contortionist type attempts to track the bloody thing down).  Therefore, I wasn't entirely convinced it even existed.  And my body is completely littered with moles (I personally prefer to call them Beauty Spots...and if beauty is ever judged by the number of moles then it is patently obvious that I am very beautiful indeed) so why was this one deserving of extra special attention?  The one I couldn't even admire with the use of a 3-way mirror?

Ultimately, of course, I booked an appointment because it did represent a day out (of sorts).  And it's one more rational justification for why I am never on top of Anything in my life.

Within half an hour of arriving at the surgery I am sitting on the obligatory sheet of noisy parchment paper in a fetching peacock blue paper gown, gazing at rows and rows of pamphlets on every skin disease known to man (and possibly some known to aliens, judging by the photos).

I spend a few minutes picking at my nails.  I contemplate the state of my hairy, pale legs in quiet disgust. I start to look in detail at the plethora of Beauty Spots adorning my arms until I go cross-eyed.  Ultimately, there is nothing else for it but to peruse the damn pamphlets, purely for reassurance purposes.

I start off with the skins diseases featuring the most obscure names.  Far be it from me to pass up an opportunity to educate myself.  After all, knowledge is power.  Apparently.  Each accompanying photograph is graphically hideous and yet strangely comforting.  My skin, in comparison, is remarkable in its perfection.  Eventually I pick up the leaflet I have been consciously ignoring: Melanoma.  One interesting fact catches my eye; Melanoma is more prevalent in people who have over 50 moles on the body.  50?  That's a big number.  I'm pretty sure I don't have anywhere near 50 moles.  I start to count the moles on my left arm and stop when I reach 62 at some point half way up.  Oh.  Well.  I'm sure it doesn't mean anything.

Just as I am replacing the leaflet in the rack, the doctor walks in.  Male.  Youngish.  Fairly good looking. Oh hellllooo, I think to myself.  This appointment might be enjoyable after all.  I bat my eyelashes at him coquettishly while we have an introductory chit-chat.  I'm trying to remember if there is a suspect mole on my boob that he really ought to take a close look at, while I'm there.  Purely for medical purposes, of course.  I know for a fact there is one in my bikini region but, given the fact that the bush is in desperate need of a prune, I'm thinking I'll give that one a miss this time round.

He opens my gown and starts to look closely at my back.

"So, where did you grow up?  Where's the accent from?" he enquires.

"Oh, England."

"Hmmm.  And do you remember getting sunburned as a child?"

"Well...I grew up in England..." I deadpan.

"Yes, but do you remember getting sun burnt as a child?  What about on vacation?" he continues, ignoring my facetiousness.

"Not typically a great deal of sun in Scotland..."

The doctor is obviously not a huge fan of irony.  He continues to prod about on my back with one hand, while handing me a leaflet outlining the ABCDs of identifying melanoma with the other.  It is the C he is concerned about.  My mole is apparently pitch black, which is not a good colour.  He asks me if I remember using sunscreen as a child.

"Well, only if baby oil counts as sunscreen.  Or cocoa butter lotion.  I'm not even sure sunscreen was invented when I was a child.  Have you seen my date of birth?  Did they even have sunscreen in the dark ages?"

I can tell my constant stab at flippancy is starting to piss him off a little, but I just can't help myself.  For goodness sake - I grew up in England, in the 70s.  Of course, I didn't use sunscreen as a child.  Did anyone?  And can that really be my responsibility now?  I have used sunscreen pretty diligently since I was about 19 and went on my first holiday abroad, to Corfu.  But certainly have no memory of my mother slavering lotion of any description on our exposed skin during the summer months.  Apart from the heat wave of '77, there seemed little point at the time I suppose.

"Right.  Well, I recommend that I remove this mole and biopsy it.  I should get results back in the next week.  Just to be sure there is nothing to worry about."

"You're going to remove it now?  Like, right now?  I don't even get the time to go home, lose a bit of sleep over the next few nights, and possibly even a few pounds, with the anxiety of it all?  You're not going to give me the opportunity to come back and moan about having to pay another $20 to park for an hour?  Are you sure?" I laugh as I attempt to banter with him.  He still doesn't seem to be appreciating my light hearted wit.  I obviously need to try just a little bit harder.

"There's a choice of two different procedures I can use to remove the mole..." which he goes on to explain.  Both of which make my knees start to go a bit googly.  Did I mention I'm not really good with hospitals?  "Is there one which you would prefer me to use?  The second one might leave slightly more scarring."

"Hmmm.  Choices.  Choices.  Well, I guess as my Sports Illustrated calendar days are behind me I'm not sure the scarring is an issue.  Do you have a preference?  I mean, feel free to knock yourself out if there's one you need to practice more than the's not as if I'm even going to be able to see your handiwork anyway."

I begin to sense I have stretched his patience to the limit.  I'm really not trying to be rude, I just don't want it to be so serious.  If I continue to treat it like it's nothing, then of course, it will be nothing.

The doctor tells me he is going to slice the mole off, which sounds perfectly disgusting, and leaves the room.  I sit there in my doctor-appropriate knickers (full cheek coverage) and blue paper gown, feeling a little bit nauseous.  Scalpels.  Blood.  Not really my cup of tea at 11am on a Tuesday morning.  I begin to think that I might want my mum.

Eventually the nurse comes in and sticks a needle in my back.  As I lie down a lock of hair falls over my face.  Oh good.  I can be distracted by counting my split ends.  Within minutes the procedure is done and the offending black blob is floating whimsically in a jar of saline.  Thank God that's over.  The doctor reminds me that the results should be back in a week or so and turns to leave.

"Er...excuse me?  Don't I get a sticker??"  I call after him.  My last pathetic attempt to get him to smile, at the very least.  He closes the door behind him, without responding.  The nurse grins at me.  "Well, I'm hoping you have a Star Wars band aid for me, at the very least" I say, giving her a mock stern look.

I get on with the rest of my scintillating week, far too preoccupied with matters concerning Divorce and Transatlantic Move to spare any for biopsy results.  In a moment of despair I do think, bitterly, 'well, I do hope it is fucking cancer - then he'll have to let me go bloody home'.

Which I guess is a lesson to be careful what you wish for.  The doctor called with the biopsy results yesterday and confirmed that it is melanoma.  Skin cancer.  He thinks it is localised.  He thinks it has been caught in the early stages.  I'm booked for surgery next week to remove more skin from the original site and need to have my whole body closely examined for further suspicious Beauty Spots to biopsy.  (Fact: If they need to remove every mole on my body, then there's not going to be a lot of me left.)

I'm sure it's all going to be fine.  I'm sure I don't have anything to worry about.  But it's still a little unnerving.  And trust me to piss off the doctor that diagnoses me with cancer.  Mind you, I'm still hoping the surgeon next week has a soft spot for smart alec's, coupled with an appreciation for irreverent cancer jokes.  Would that really be too much to ask?


  1. Yowser. the hits just keep on coming. At least they've caught it early. Good luck for follow ups (PS - the doctor sounds like a knob).

  2. For Christ's sake Nicola. What HOM said about the hits. And about the doctor too, actually. I know I'm in Russia but you know, anything I can do - and there's always skype. PMx

  3. Oh dear lord, not another thing. I hope that it has been caught early enough. I know you will manage, cause you do, but rant away, I will be listening

  4. Do whatever they tell you, m'dear and take it very seriously.

    The NHS is very good at dealing with this kind of thing so I'm sure that your American doctor will be great too.

    Take care.

    Mad x

  5. Crikey! It is one thing after another for you. That was a great pickup by the first Doctor, second Dr sounds like he needs a humour biopsy. Thank goodness they caught it early - do let me know if I can help in any microscopic way. Feel free to rant on as much as you like. Big hugs x

  6. You know me. I'm not laughing, but I'm laughing. Hysterical post, from the childhood holidays to the googly knees. Very well written.
    Keeping everything crossed for your next set of results.
    Oh, and best sort out that bikini line
    Love you x x x

  7. Anonymous13 May, 2010

    Bloody hell woman. That's harsh. Second doctor sounds like a tit. I would have behaved just the same way. Anyway. Glad they caught it

  8. Good God, Nicola. What did you do to piss off the universe in a past life?!?!? Sigh. So glad they caught it early.

    I'm wondering if I should figure out a way to get over into your neck of the woods and take you out on a serious GNO, because girl, YOU NEED ONE.


  9. So glad to hear they caught it early. I know that treatments for skin cancer have come on leaps and bounds recently - well done on your original doctor for spotting it.

    I live in fear of this, actually. I have loads of moles and have been told by a dermatologist that I have a higher risk of melanoma as I grew up in the Far East.

  10. bugger - I was really enjoying your dry wit, particularly your tags(it's exactly the same as mine and never fails to piss everyone else off!) and then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like "I got cancer" - bugger

    Good luck with the next round of tests

    (if it helps the doctors in the UK don't have a sense of humour anymore either!)

  11. Maybe your dermatologist got tired of being mocked for not being a 'real doctor' and so takes it all very, very seriously when there's possible skin cancer involved. Like the Seinfeld episode

  12. Darn, didn't mean to finish that comment there! Also wanted to say sorry to hear about the melanoma but glad they caught it early. Continue to be as irreverent as you need to be!

  13. I've had 3 moles removed. One was fine. Two were 'pre-cancerous', which - ironically - turned out to be correct, though not in the sense they meant it. I've been dying to say that to someone, but you have to pick your time and your audience for irreverent cancer jokes. And you've just revealed an appreciation of them.

    Of all people, I'm feeling I should have some words of wisdom, but I don't. I think what everyone is saying about catching it early is true - that is very good news. And if writing helps, then write often and copiously on your blog. Please keep us updated anyway, even if you don't feel like writing, and it's just a few lines of news.

    I know we think different things about spiritual
    matters, but I'm thinking you won't mind if I pray for you anyway.

  14. Hi darling,
    Just read this very well written, wry but worrying post.
    Like everyone else has said, glad they caught it early.
    And as PM said, skype me, ok?
    Speak soon.
    xx jo

  15. Lots if hugs hun. Sent you an email.

  16. Anonymous14 May, 2010

    A good dose of British humour,often misunderstood!
    I know ,I've been there!
    I've been trying it on with very serious French doctors,
    they can't believe my "flippancy".Huh
    Just trying to be positive and look on the bright side...
    Anyway best of luck to you,
    hope it all turns out all right!

  17. Hi,
    Susie sent me over here. I was really enjoying this post until your end revelation.
    My gran has had about 30 moles removed - all cancerous or pre-cancerous and it's hardly touched her. My father also has had 4 removed, one of which was borderline.
    When it's caught early like yours was it generally goes well. Just don't be a supid bugger like my father-in-law and refuse to wear sunscreen cause you already have skin cancer. His nose looks like a leper's cause he's so stubborn and foolish.
    How in God's name are you supposed to remember if you ever had a sunburn as a child anyway?!
    And what was wrong with dude. Maybe he thought you were flirting and was tense that you might flash your boobs at him or something.

  18. Laughter is the best mediciine always but all my cancer jokes have just flown the coop...pugger about the malanoma, brilliant they caught it so quick. HUGE hugs.

  19. Eek! Yes, take it seriously (which I'm sure you are doing) but some of us cope by using humour.

    My husband has LOADS of mole that I keep asking him to get checked out. I bet you can guess where we're up to with that...

  20. Oh that's not allowed to happen! Big hug to you! I bet that was just what you needed. xxx

  21. Hey everyone. Thank you so much for your comments. Wow. You can't believe how much they mean to me right now. I am being so lazy - contravening all good blogging rules - by not replying to you all individually. I'm sorry. But thank you, thank you, thank you. xxx