It started out with a tiny scratch. No, it started out with accidental scratching off of a small pimple. (I won’t admit how long ago I did that.) Before it could heal, I would scratch my forehead and take off the scab. Over and over and f-ing over again. If it wasn’t me, then it was Tornado A’s sharp finger nails. But the thing never healed. And when it finally did, it was red, dry, and flaky. But it was just a little thing. So I waited for insurance troubles to settle down. And I waited to ask around for a good doctor. And I waited for a good time to make the appointment so I had child care.
The doctor zoomed in, not because she was late but because she was a tornado like the boys and I. She scanned the paperwork, not yet in the computer.
Doctor: You’ve had skin cancer?
Me: On my back.
Doctor: And how old were you?
Doctor: And when was the last time you saw a dermatologist?
Me: It’s been a while.
I said it as though I was in the confessional.
Doctor: 28 is awfully young. And you are awfully pale. And you’re tan. (Really? How does she know? I only turn a darker shade of white) Do you wear sunscreen? On your whole body? (I shook my head) You need to start wearing it. 50spf. Every day. Rain or shine. And you need to start wearing a hat. Every day. No matter where. (She looked at my pale eyes. I think they were green that day.) And you should wear sunglasses. That’s not my specialty, but here in the desert, with pale eyes, you need to wear sunglasses. And you need to invest in sunproof clothing. I need to see you every year, at least once a year. Next time, there better not be a tan line on you. (What tan line?! Oh, my flip-flop tan line.) Now let’s look at that forehead. (She turned on the light and stared and made a concern noise.) I’ll need to remove a little (Duh.) But. Um. It doesn’t look like much. But. Um. Hmm. My gut is telling me it’s precancer.
Me: Um. Hmm. My gut is telling me it’s cancer. Both parents, all grandparents. It was never a question of if. It was a question of when.
The doctor looked shocked. I guess she never met a fatalist as young as I.
She blistered my ears as she removed a small piece to send to the lab. I had five business days to wait. I made my appointment for six months because if I get a clean bill then, I can go once a year; if not, then it’s every six months.
I got to my parents’ house to pick up the boys or more to the truth to stay and eat lunch and go swimming after the heat of the day was done. My mother blistered my ears. As I knew she would.
After I related the story to a friend, there was a pause on the other end. “Have you told Wally?” No. “And the doctor scolded you?” Yes. “And your mother scolded you?” Yes. “Then I’ll let Wally scold you and won’t worry until next week.” Don’t worry; it’s just skin cancer.
It’s just a little thing.
Wally: Huh. And he said he would give way to me?
Wally: Huh. Well, two things. One, I know you. You’re just like me. No one has said anything that you haven’t already said in your head to yourself. Worse, you’ve said worse. No one needs to scold you or punish you or whip you; you’ve done it already and better than they would have. So, my first thing is lighten up. Which brings me to two. Of course, you didn’t go sooner. You’re life has been shattered, and you have been picking up the pieces. It’s like being on the Titanic and the ship is taking on water and all hell is breaking loose. And then someone tells you the cook has the flu. If got bigger or worse, you would have seen a doctor sooner.
It wasn’t five business days. It was five days. A weekend in between. I missed the call at home. As I cooked dinner, my cell phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize. It was after 5, so it must be a friend, who could wait as I stir fried the beef. I listened to the answer machine after dinner and then to my voice mail. The doctor. Herself. Twice. Once after hours.
It’s just a little thing?
I called first thing in the morning. Well, first thing, when the office opened. She called back within fifteen minutes. Ah, crap. Basal cell. Duh. Surgery. They will cut it, examine it, and won’t sew me up until they know if they have everything. Luckily one of the best surgeons in the country worked there. And in a month, I would have several hours away from the boys but on Valium. I hate Valium.
I texted back and forth with a friend with long pauses in between while we dealt with our kids. Finally I texted: Not too bad. Boys are good. Got lab results back. Skin cancer. Suck.
I received a text back. Fae. It’s S. K left her phone. I’m so sorry. Let us know what we can do to help. Will have K call you.
Text back: Thanks S. It’s just a little thing.
Apparently K got chewed out by her husband for leaving her phone.
K: If there is anything I can do, let me know. I can watch the boys.
No worries. It’s just a little thing.