Ever since I developed that cancerous (squamous) cell on my upper lip and had it excised–some twenty-five years ago–I have seen a dermatologist annually. I have seen the one I saw today for about ten years; I don’t know where the previous one went to or remember what he looked like. But this guy and I…we are growing old together. He looks less young each time I see him; his hair is really thinning with male pattern baldness (somehow related to the depletion of testosterone). One thing remains the same. He has never been on time for an appointment. He always runs twenty minutes late. One day I came in early and I thought maybe I was his first patient, but he was fifteen minutes late for that.
Today, my appointemt was for 9:20 and I had another appointment, not five minutes away, at ten. No big deal. But I wanted to be on time, if only because I always am.
There I sat in the office in my “gown,” as they call it. Here, they say, put on this gown. I don’t know that the nurse would have said that but for the fact I said I was there to have the dermatologist check out my body. Sometimes I only have to talk off my shirt. So there I am all sagged down and slumping on that table thing in my gown, and I am not really pissed off. Not like I sometimes get. Tense in the face and toe tapping pissed at the wait. I am more like numb with anxiety. But damn I have been waiting 25 minutes, so I get up and go to the door, thinking I will call out and see what’s up.
I open the door and there he stands. He apologies for the wait perfunctorily, and I say equally perfunctorily, is OK. And he launches into something about dermatologists waging a war on melanoma. That freaks me out immediately because I think he must have spotted one. But no, maybe he has just been to a conference on melanoma because it turns out, as he looks me over, that there’s nothing really alarming.
“You have few moles,” he says. “Yea,” I say, “I am blessed that way.”
Then, on cue, out comes the liquid nitrogen.
“May I,” he says pointing at something on the back on my hand. What am I going to say? No?
So he starts blasting away.
He’s finishing up when I point out the red spot on the tip of my nose that he tried to get rid of last time, but it didn’t go away, and he starts into talking about how the only way to tell if it’s cancer is to biopsy–which freaks me out–and then he starts blasting away at the tip of my nose, so now six hours later I have this big ugly pustule on the tip of my nose.
So, I say, in effect, A-OK? Hoping for some reassurance given the melanoma scare.
“You look great,” he says with some enthusiasm and then qualifies the hell out of it with, “for the kind of people I am used to seeing.”
Now what the hell does that mean. What kind of people is he seeing?
But I will take what I can get.
By now it’s eight minutes to ten. The whole exam took a little over five minutes.
Seemed like forever.