If It’s Cancer We’ll Call You

I was just at the dermatologist’s  to see about a red patch I’ve had on my leg for some months now. “Hmmm,” smiled the person who saw me there. “I THINK this is nothing but let’s be certain. Would you mind if we did a little biopsy?”

“Not at all,” I smiled back. She ducked out and was back in a jiffy with a wee digging tool so precise you could use it to tease apart every layer of dough in a pan of baklava.

“Will I have a scar?” 

“Maybe a teensy one.”

“Because it’s OK. I mean, I have a million scars on my legs.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yup, and a story for every one. This one’s from the time I sneaked out of my cabin to meet a boy from the camp down the road, this one from the time my sister freed me from my nap to go to the drugstore with her for candy… I figure what’s another scar at this point”

“Ha!” she said, even as she expertly popped out a tiny divot of flesh and dabbed at the blood. She studied me from head to toe then, first examining my whole front before flipping me like a pancake to study my back. “No cancerous growths here that I can see!” she sang.

“Yay!” I sang back. “Any other questions?”

 “Actually, yes. This past winter I got these little bumps. They’re gone now.”

“On your upper arms? Like little pimples?” There’s a name for them!” she said, whipping out a pamphlet called Dry Skin and Keratosis Pilaris. “You can use this cream,” she added, writing its name on the front.

I opened the pamphlet, the last page of which showed somebody’s hand covered in a painful looking ‘glove’ of scaly white skin.  “Whoops!  Don’t look at THAT picture!” she cried, reaching to fold over the page so I wouldn’t see it.

Too late. “The poor soul!” I said as she turned to flash out of the room again for some bandages and the list of wound care how-to’s.

“We see worse!” she called over her shoulder, and that comforted me too for the blunt truth of it: that she and her health care colleagues routinely ‘saw worse’ in us all and forgave us anyway in our human imperfection. “You can get dressed now,” she said when we were finally done.

“Ok,” I said jumping off the table. “And you’ll let me know about the biopsy?”

“Sure!” she gaily cried as she sailed out of the exam room. “If it’s cancer we’ll call ya! If not, we’ll write ya a letter!”  

Now THERE was a sunny health care professional. I loved her, whether it’s a little skin cancer among my living layers of phyllo dough or not.

what IS this thing?


3 thoughts on “If It’s Cancer We’ll Call You

  1. Got a red one on my shoulder, getting crusty; guess I should have it checked out but along with all the other marks of age, it’s easy to ignore it. Have a cartoon I gave to my doc which hangs in his office. Shows little mole with dark sunglasses on and a gangter-style hat. The patient says, “Doc, I’ve got this suspicious looking mole on my shoulder.” Funnier if you could see the picture. Good luck. sweetie.

  2. From your description, it sounds like it’s not serious. If you develop a raised scaly Itchy lesion which pops up real fast, as in a week’s time, then I’d be concerned. It could be a squamous cell carcinoma, which needs to be surgically removed right away. This happened to me several years ago, in the middle of the winter. The skin remembers all the damage done by the sun for the rest of our lives.

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