Friday, October 3, 2008

A typical atypical mole

A few months back, I suggested everyone go to their doctor and get their skin checked. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. For once in my life, I decided to heed my own advice. I looked in my benefits package for the closest dermatologist and made an appointment. I think all my doctors have a last name that begins with A or B because they are the first ones in the list. I'm not too picky. I think most guys are like me. If I ever decide to become a doctor, I'm changing my name to Dr. Aaron Aardvark. That'll keep the patients rolling in.

The office happened to be just down the road from where I work and in a well-to-do neighborhood near the lake. I guess that's where dermatologists will find most of their revenue. At first I wondered if I had made a wise choice. It is my experience that a doctor's office usually has a wide assortment of health related pamphlets which adorn the waiting room tables and office walls. You know, the FAQ and self-diagnostic flyers for disease prevention etc. In this office, there wasn't a single skin cancer pamphlet. Not one. There were plenty of Botox(tm), Rejuviderm(tm) and skin bleaching promotional materials, but nothing 'health' related. I found that odd. They already had my $15 copay, so might as well go through with it right?

For the first time in my life, I was older than the doctor. My GP from when I grew up is still in practice in my hometown and is 75. He is older than my parents and they still go to him. I guess it's the 'older and wiser' thing that gives me some comfort. I guess that's just a symptom of getting older. Every second of every day, there are more people younger than you and less people older than you. Don't get me wrong, he's a good doctor, it's just my own personal hangup about being examined by Dr. Doogie Howser. And another thing. These days, I understand that when women go to see a male doctor, a female assistant/nurse is usually present in the room. So when a guy goes to see a guy doctor, is the assistant/nurse thing a common occurrence? I don't think that my doctor subscribed to the same 'lifestyle' that the real Doogie Howser did, so I'm not quite sure why the 20 something year old female nurse was in the room, but there she was. And there I was in my underwear.

As I was seated in the chair, the doctor started on my arm and worked his way around my upper body and head. He methodically dictated where the moles were and what they looked like. The nurse dutifully typed them into the laptop as he went. Then he asked me to stand-up so he could check my 'legs and buttocks'. My mind immediately raced to the morning's decision to put on any old pair of underwear. If I had known that a young nurse would be in the room with us, I'd have chosen some newer underwear with some elasticity to prop up my assets. But to my disappointment (and maybe her's too...who knows), I had chosen some war-torn pair out of the top drawer. I'm sure, as a guy, I had previously played this scenario out in my mind a few thousand times (Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought it'd happen to me but....), but never did the scene end with 'hmmm...this mole here looks kind of strange'.

So there I was, standing in the doctor's office, my butt-crack showing, my 'junk' sadly doing a wholelotta nothing, and a doctor and nurse staring at my back-side ready to freeze the mole, shave it off, and send it to a lab for a biopsy. What the fuck!!!

As a product of the 70s and 80s, I never heard the word sun-screen as a kid. I never wore sun-screen and in fact, I used sun-tan lotion and once cooking-oil (yes, cooking oil) to intensify the effects of the sun. Sounds completely crazy now but that's just what we did back then. I worked as a landscaper most summers with no protection and no shirt. My yearly cycle would be to have a good burn early in summer, let all the skin peel off, then my tan would get darker and darker as the summer went on. I am the offspring of 2 British parents, so how I ended up with such a dark complexion is beyond me. With my long teenage hair and dark skin, my brothers would call me Pocahontas. I never considered myself a risk for skin cancer.

The doctor said it was an atypical mole. I asked if it was a typical atypical mole. He started talking about the ABCDs of melanoma and what to look for.

A = Asymmetry - mole is not symmetrical
B = Border - mole does not have a well-defined border
C = Color - mole has more than 1 color
D = Diameter - mole is bigger than 6mm

Mine was ABC but not D. It doesn't necessarily mean melanoma, but these things can lead to melanoma. After a long 7 days, the biopsy results were back. No cancer, no melanoma, just a mildly atypical mole (on a scale of mild, moderate and severe). He said "It's gone now, no risk, nothing else to do, just come and see me in a year". Whew!

We live in Texas and my kids are covered from head-to-toe when they go out. It just seems the sun is getting hotter and hotter and more dangerous. I'll get a mild burn after about 15 minutes. We aren't messing around.

So I urge you again, go get your skin checked out. You just never know. When I show up at my appointment next year however, I'm wearing a thong and doing some dumbbell curls in the parking lot!

4 comments:

Jude said...

Glad to hear everything was okay! Well um..... except for the old ginchies. *snicker*

your favorite neighbor :) said...

Important message - it was however lost on me due to the "undies" links. When did you have time to pose for the first one??

John said...

Just a moment I had between my humanitarian relief work in Darfur and my runway show for "Banana Hammock Intl".

Anonymous said...

Your story is a year old, but had me in stitches for the full ride. I am researching on behalf of my 12 year-old daughter, Emily, who I just noticed has all four ABCD. Thank you for lightening the burden.