“I don’t like the look of that.”
I don’t quite wince, although it’s not what I like to hear from my doctor when she’s staring intently at me—well, at my nose, and at two spots thereon that just won’t heal.
A week later I’m sitting sideways on the examining table in the office of another family practitioner, this one with a dermatology sub-specialty. A scalp-to-toe visual scan has identified one more teeny-tiny spot that she doesn’t like the look of. An injection to freeze the surrounding area follows. Now her voice comes from behind me.
“You shouldn’t feel anything sharp. If you do, let me know.”
I start to nod and then decide it would be better not to move around too much. There’s no knife to my throat, but there is one to my shoulder blade. With a nod to my inner toddler, I’ll use my words.
The activity, thankfully, is all out of sight, but not, regrettably, out of smell. My nose wrinkles. “Is something burning?”
I pause. “Am I burning?”
That gets a laugh. “Yes, I’m cauterizing the site.”
All right then. Hurray for freezing.
In a matter of seconds she finishes the behind-my-back part, and moves to the part that brought me to her office. Having watched my father go through this a few decades ago, I know what to expect: a prescription for a cream that will, over the course of a few days, blister my skin and burn off any pre-cancerous cells.
I know wrong. Instead of her prescription pad, she grabs a canister, plants herself in front of me, shields my eyes, and tells me not to wrinkle my nose.
Several (pshht) blasts (pshht) of liquid nitrogen (pshht pshht) follow. This time, I don’t have to ask if I’m what’s burning. The nose knows.
Five minutes later I’m heading down the eight flights to the lobby, paying attention to every step, as befits my age. Although I feel that I’ve had all the fun I can stand for one day, I reflect that this freezing-slicing-burning and freezing-that-is-also-burning is a small price to pay for healthy skin, and all just another part of being my age.
And I also reflect, not for the first time, that at my age other scans might also be worthwhile. Something by way of a behavioural or attitudinal review, with any questionable bits—anything that, you know, someone doesn’t like the look of—removed while I wait. Pshht.
But I guess that this is not a case for any kind of medical professional. No, this is more a case of “Patient, heal thyself.”
To be clear, the removal of one basal cell
and two actinic keratoses was innocuous, albeit smelly.