When You’re Not as Thick Skinned as You Think.
by Debra Chappell
View from the dermatologist office…
Mood Reading: ZZZ’s (slept okay last night considering)
I am going to take a moment here to whine (not wine, that comes later) about the minor surgery I had to remove skin cancer from my face yesterday. For anyone raised in Southern California, with a passion for outdoor activities, or who was an enthusiastic former sun worshipper replete with baby oil, iodine and a reckless disregard for your mother’s overwrought nagging about same, you know what I’m talking about. My sister and I have often lamented the fact that just about all the things our mother warned us about which we thought at the time were alarmist, exaggerated and totally nonsensical, have without exception come true. Every thing from our own inevitable skin cancers, god-awful insect borne illnesses (can you say West Nile or Lyme Disease?), to the nations big banks going bust and if you believe the Republicans, the communists taking over the country – mom predicted it way back in the ‘60’s.
And now for me at least, those sun kissed, bottle blonde, body surfing chicks have come home to roost. Yesterday I had to spend 4 hours at the dermatologist undergoing the Moh’s procedure on my left cheek, and I’m not referring to my backside here. This “little bump” was unfortunately smack dab in the middle of my face. Even my doctor, who is a friend of mine, mourned the fact that it wasn’t in a more discreet location. Because she is the consummate professional, she saved me from what I know must have been her thought process as she contemplated the best strategy for the subsequent stitching: “what a pisser, why couldn’t it have been closer to the nose, or a laugh line, or the temple which could be covered by hair. Has to be dead center of her friggin’ face – I better have a steady hand or there’ll be hell to pay at book club this week…”
I know, this all seems rather trivial in the over-all scheme of things, especially when you consider what millions of women go through with breast cancer etc. But in the isolated confines of my little bathroom early yesterday morning, it more or less consumed all of my mind (okay, that’s not that much space, but still….) I had more or less convinced myself I’d come away looking like Frankenstein, with a huge railroad track of a scar beginning at the bottom of my left eye and extending down to the top of my upper lip. And because I’m my mother’s daughter, the wild scenarios of what could possibly lie beneath were running rampant and gaining ground. By the time I arrived at the doctors office I imagined that what started as a small lesion had probably spread like wildfire in the extra minutes it took to order my pre-procedure double shot, low fat, hold the sugar latte from Starbucks, and would now require removal of my left ear, several lymph nodes, extensive radiation, and agonizing months of chemo-therapy.
Imagine my relief when after only two scrapings, microscopic analysis in-between, and the pronouncement of “all clear”, she began to stitch me up to the successive melodies of Norah Jones, James Taylor, and David Gray playing in the background. I felt a little sheepish over my selfishly induced earlier panic, and had to admit it was much more expedient and comfortable than I would have imagined. Why if a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc would have been served with the variety of snacks she had provided for the duration of the procedure, it would have qualified as happy hour — only in a more sterile setting than your average wine bistro!
I am resting comfortably today, with a large bandage covering a relatively small 1-inch line or so of tiny (and I do mean tiny) stitches that I’m sure will fade quickly. And none of the bruising and black eye predicted has materialized so I’m getting off easy. None of us wants a blatant reminder of our ill spent youth lounging in the sun displayed in the form of a nasty scar smack in the middle of our middle aged face. But considering the alternative – I’m very lucky indeed. Slightly embarrassed by my initial vanity, I have been humbled by the whole experience. I realize now I’m pretty damned fortunate it could be “cured” so easily. And I at least now have a plausible rational why the modeling agents aren’t knocking down my door anymore (as if they ever were). I can blame it on the thin line down my cheek rather than the ones ever accumulating around the outer corners of my eyes (and elsewhere.)
So if I could impart one piece of sage advice from the whole ordeal it would be this: Your mother might have been right after all. I wish I had listened more to mine. And I find myself not only warning my own kids of the same things, but now, finally, after all these years, heeding her other advice as well. I do use those antiseptic wipes on market baskets. I diligently wash my hands after leaving the doctors office. And I’m careful not to stand too close to the microwave as well – just in case she was right about those too.