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Wednesday, 18 October
Skin Trade

Last Thursday--a week ago--I wandered past my boss's office. He had these odd little sculptures on his desk, so I ducked in to look at them. They were little squat white things; they looked like trophies from some sort of Abstract Olympics.

"What the hell are these things?" I asked.

"Melanoma displays," he said. I picked one up and looked at it closely. Sure enough, it was a little model of a particular kind of melanoma, in this case malignant melanoma. "It's a little doodad that clinicians can have around as a help in diagnostics, I guess. Some drug company gave them to me." Sort of like those sets of fake teeth that you see on sitcoms when someone goes to the dentist, but you never see in real life.

"Do you like them?" he asked awkwardly, probably because I was still staring at one of them intently. He must have felt like kind of a tool asking that.

"Oh, they're great!" I said, and put the thing down quickly. Smooth. I mentally donned the tool-shoes, mentally taking them glumly away from my boss. "They're pretty awesome." He looked at me oddly, and in my mind, I began lacing up the tool-shoes and straightening my tool-cuffs. You're a tool, I told myself, and adjusted my tool-lapels.

What I had been staring at was the model for malignant melanoma, and what I realized was: Hey. That looks exactly like that thing right under my beltline! Right where my pubes sort of dwindle down into lazy gut-hair, so, you know, the awesomest part of my body.

See, I've had this mole. And it did this freaky thing for a while where it swelled up painlessly, turned into some strange groinal continent, shed a bunch of hinky skin, and then reduced itself down into a little weird spiral of obnoxious-looking mispigmentation. I had thought, for a while, dimly: I should get that looked at. You know, by the Green Lantern, maybe. "Ring! What's with this guy's creepy mole?" Not: "Hey! You might want to have a medical professional examine this!" Because fuck that.

But then I saw those terrible things on my boss's desk last Thursday, those little totems of oncology, and I thought of my crummy goddamn freaky fucking mole . . . I don't know what happened. It looked exactly like what was right below my beltline. Son of a bitch.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist that very day. In fact, I found one that was in the same building in which I work, ten floors down. I called them up.

"What's the nature of your visit?"

"I have a misbehaving mole. I'm hoping it's not malignant."

"What's it been doing?"

Three-card Monte.

"It, uh, if it isn't new--maybe it is--anyway, it grew, uh, above the skin, and then it was flaky for a while, and now it, uh . . . it's kind of funny-looking."

"I see." You've got to love unflappable receptionists. "And may I ask how you found us?"

I closed my eyes at this point. "I found you on the Premera website," I said honestly. And I had! But why I had really chosen them? Because their offices are in the same building as where I work. Ten floors down. Yes, I make potentially crucial medical decisions based on spatial expediency. For all I know, they're a vampire farm with designs on my unimpressive neck.

It went very quickly, the exam itself. The doc introduced himself, and then spent little time in saying, "Well, let's see this rascal!" Rascal. I closed my eyes again, and he asked, "Are you okay?" I resisted the urge to reply: "Well, you said 'rascal,' and that's kind of freaking me out." Instead, I peeled down the front of my pants and lay back on the fucking doctor's table so the poor bastard could bow down and take a good look at my sorta-pubes. He snuffled down around my crotch for a while using some sort of loupe-like thing to examine my strange bunch of epithelials.

There was a nurse there as well, of course, who sort of tugged on my pants with the kind of urgency that I would normally find thrilling, but in this context, it was just a drag.

"Yeah, I'm going to need to take a sample of that, buddy," the doctor said. The nurse stopped pawing professionally at my groin. I asked him what all the changes in my mole meant. He helpfully said, "I have no idea."

"How big of a stick am I going to get?" I asked. I was waiting for him to haul out some terrifying large-bore needle.

"Oh, I'm going to numb you up," he said briskly. The nurse once again lavished some attention on my near-penis, rubbing it with a pad, and then cruelly jammed a needle into my belly. "Sorry, sorry!" they both yelled, and I leaned back and thought dismal thoughts. You're being eaten from the inside. You have aggressively malignant boner disease, and in three weeks your dick is going to fall into someone's salad, and frankly, you deserve it. After the local, the doc didn't just give me a needle aspirate: he fucking carved the whole goddamn thing out of me, possibly with a rusty shovel.

I honestly had no idea that some biopsies require stitches. But stitches I got. They are still bristling from my low belly; I tickle them on occasion when it suits me. I have been flicking at them for a whole week as I waited for the pathology results to come in. The mole is, as far as I can tell, completely gone. I guess the guy just chopped the whole thing out. The stitches come out in one more week.

I've been working on cancer trials for fifteen years. Eight years ago I managed to convince myself that an atypical nevus on my neck was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had a co-worker whose stomach complaints exasperated everyone for months, right up until she died of gastric cancer.

I got the call today. There's no malignancy. Probably a lot of people with much more practical medical knowledge are laughing at this whole thing. That's fine. I have a mole--or had a mole--with odd pigmentation and not much else, never mind the creepy physiological changes. But I'll tell you this: I was fucking scared.

You're all stuck with me for a little while longer.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

Jesus, Skot, are you going to trust your mole to the Green Lantern? Get Dr. Mid-Nite on that shit.

Comment number: 008576   Posted by: Snark on October 19, 2006 05:32 AM from IP: 65.43.226.15

oh my lordy I am amused. ok, I get that you are in the medical field but you have missed your calling.
You are the funniest male blogger I have ever read, and since I do medical insurance collections, and spend alot of time on hold, that is alot of blog reading.
I *shamefully* have a tool uniform I don in the presence of my boss, as well. It's a hair shirt, and a pair of Woody Allen fake nose and glasses.

Comment number: 008577   Posted by: Alyxmyself on October 19, 2006 07:04 AM from IP: 67.155.164.227

yeah, he's alright......for a male

Comment number: 008578   Posted by: dusty on October 19, 2006 07:09 AM from IP: 167.88.201.100

yeah, he's alright......for a male. blogger.

Comment number: 008579   Posted by: dusty on October 19, 2006 07:10 AM from IP: 167.88.201.100

I'm glad you're okay.

Comment number: 008581   Posted by: Simon on October 19, 2006 07:52 AM from IP: 12.156.16.5

Just wondering how normal it is for you to dangle your dick over peoples' salads. I've never been in a restaurant where that's allowed.

Comment number: 008582   Posted by: Jeff on October 19, 2006 08:33 AM from IP: 209.32.109.28

Good job on the not dying again, Skot. Try to keep that shit up.

Comment number: 008583   Posted by: C on October 19, 2006 09:25 AM from IP: 70.148.180.50

Good job on the not dying again, Skot. Try to keep that shit up.

Comment number: 008584   Posted by: C on October 19, 2006 09:26 AM from IP: 70.148.180.50

My best friend died of melanoma a few years ago at age 24 - it's no joke.
Good job on the not-dying, and even better job on the going to the doctor when you saw that your mole was acting weird!

Comment number: 008595   Posted by: Lala on October 19, 2006 12:20 PM from IP: 66.7.242.34

Probably not scared enough to quit smoking though, huh?

Comment number: 008596   Posted by: el on October 19, 2006 01:03 PM from IP: 156.74.250.7

Hey, better safe than sorry, yes?

I don't know why the phrase "mole salad" keeps coming into my mind.

Weird.

Comment number: 008597   Posted by: Stine on October 19, 2006 02:04 PM from IP: 71.35.174.110

"You're all stuck with me for a little while longer."

Well, fuck. I, for one, am completely bummed out by this bit of news.

Comment number: 008600   Posted by: beige on October 19, 2006 02:49 PM from IP: 128.95.169.36

Glad to hear it, pal.

Comment number: 008601   Posted by: kaf on October 19, 2006 03:28 PM from IP: 75.6.44.65

Happy benign-ity!

Comment number: 008623   Posted by: Joe on October 20, 2006 01:28 PM from IP: 68.164.202.233

Glad to hear your OK, Skot. May you live to be a thousand years old...best blog evar.

Comment number: 008624   Posted by: Jason on October 20, 2006 02:19 PM from IP: 216.239.124.38

Did you ask for the mole back? That way you could have made yourself a mole paperweight/sculpture for your desk!

Comment number: 008673   Posted by: Marty on October 23, 2006 12:01 PM from IP: 207.200.116.69

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