Adventures in Dermatology

I met a friend for drinks a little while back and we realized with a sinking feeling that we have reached that age where we have medical tales of woe. Oh god. I am lucky, of course, since for the most part I have been ridiculously healthy all my life, but damn, once you get near that half century mark things can get a bit dire. And of course, as noted by peevish essayists dating back at least a thousand years, stories of medical crap are of consuming interest to precisely one person: the one affected. For everybody else they are at best a snooze, at worst they give you that itchy feeling that you need to gnaw your own arm off to escape. SO! Let me tell you about my operation! 

I had a scary mole on my arm so, after a few months of worrying about it off and on, I actually managed to acquire a family physician of my very own (I don’t mean I bought one, although bring on the Health-O-Bot, but instead I am a recognized patient at a family practice.) This as you probably know, fellow American, is a big pain in the ass that takes months. Once achieved, though, the sky is your limit. Your health insurance won’t actually cover much, although it claims it will, but still! You can go to the doctor as much as your pockets will bear! Anyway, my doctor agreed that the mole was not so good and so he took it off. Then his office called me and said, actually, that mole was very not good, and you need to go to a dermatologist. So I duly presented myself at the dermatologist where I found out that a) the mole was what is called severely atypical (in English very very not good) and that the weird mark on the bottom of my foot that I had been ignoring cheerfully for the last five or six years was also quite a not good thing. The dermatologist, who has all the warmth and charm of your average speculum, told me that he was going to cut a large chunk out of my arm where the original mole was and a somewhat smaller chunk out of the bottom of my foot. This happened last Friday. 

I lay on the table looking assiduously at the white, white wall, trying to ignore the fact that there was an operation happening on my arm. “You know,” I said chattily, “The dentist has a video screen attached to one of those lamp things that shows, like, nature videos with soothing music. You should get one of those.”                                                                                                                                                                                      “Huh,” said the dermatologist, “But then my nurses would be in here all day watching it. Ho ho ho.” “Giggle,” said the nurse obligingly and I, outraged, also chuckled obediently because, okay, principles are one thing but the man was currently engaged in carving up my arm. I am fond of my arm. I use it regularly. I am still angry though because if my boss said something that condescending and clueless and yes, sexist, not to mention indicative of complete disdain for his colleagues, I would be furious. 

They moved on to my foot. “This is just a scraping,” said the dermatologist dismissively. “Wait,” I said, “You said you would go ahead and take the whole thing now so I didn’t have to go through recovering from it twice.” He ignored me and swept majestically from the room, his work done. “You’ll get the biopsy results sometime next week,” said the nurse, “keep the stitches wrapped up with some ointment on them.” Then she left too and then, after a few minutes, so did I, with 8 stitiches in my arm and a hole in my foot. It’s  a fairly big hole, actually, it looks kind of like a crazed student took  took a number 2 pencil, set it on fire and stabbed me in the bottom of the foot. It feels like that too. 

Do you know it is very difficult to deal with a hole in the bottom of your foot? Particularly if you have the kind of job where you cannot sit down. I went to work on Saturday – and Sunday, and Monday and Tuesday – and although I sat down as much as I could it was not enough. My boss watched me limping and went out and bought me a pair of slippers, which was incredibly kind of him, but I think it was still not enough because today, which is Wednesday, it is of course all swollen and red and painful. This is America. I am broke. It costs me $50 every time I walk into the dermatologists office, or $85 to go to urgent care or $35 for my regular doctor and I am about out of paid time off, so if I don’t go to work, I will not get paid, which will impede me coming up with that $35 or $50 or $85. 

Anyway, I am now trying to get someone to look at my stupid foot, or, best case scenario, to just call me in a prescription. I am not having any luck at all, although I am obediently pressing 2 when prompted and leaving my name and number and birthdate and a description of my problem. This is, I think, good training for the self pity Olympics at which, as you can tell, I am going for a gold. However! I have decided that if I am in fact dying of cancer, I will at least not have to quit smoking, so, yay for that plan. UPDATE! I take back the mean things I said about the dermatologist. They just called me back and are phoning me in a prescription. Hurrah! All is now well. Until it isn’t. 

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