Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Suspicious Mole

I recently had a Highly Suspicious Mole (HSM) on my back. I was 99% sure it was cancerous (and had spread to distant organs), but I successfully avoided having a doctor look at it until I accidentally scratched it and it started bleeding. Somehow, the Highly Suspicious Bleeding Mole became an item I thought needed professional attention.

Now, I had given the HSM plenty of unprofessional attention in the form of:

  1. Craning my neck to peer at it in the mirror every time I got out of the shower to see if it had changed color or gotten bigger. Or, perhaps it had vanished overnight! (This never happens, by the way.)  
  2. Asking my husband to examine it and provide his assessment. He said it looked weird and that I should see a doctor. I stopped asking him after that.
  3. Studying pictures on the Internet. (Tip: unless you want to give yourself nightmares, I strongly recommend against Googling "suspicious mole." There are many terrifying pictures.)
  4. Poking, picking, scratching, prying, and prodding at the HSM in an effort to determine changes to its texture. 

Readers, I know what you're thinking.

"Gee, I sure hope she took a picture of this Highly Suspicious Mole!"

These are hushpuppies. But one of them could have passed for my mole.
It grieves me to report that I did not take a photo. I did, however, find a picture I took of some hushpuppies, which I think you'll see resemble a disagreeable mole. They resemble mine, anyway.

So there I was, a revolting bloody mole on my back. I called the dermatologist's office. I was displeased when they said they could see me that very week. Aren't dermatologists supposed to be fully booked for months on end? Because it would have seemed odd if I'd asked for a much later date so I could, you know, prepare myself for crushing news, I accepted the appointment and glumly hung up the phone.

Yes, I realize that this approach makes zero rational sense. Intellectually, of COURSE I know that it's better to get things checked out right away, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, but the irrational part of me vastly prefers the "ignore it and it might go away" approach (please see Item 1 in the list above), even though it never, ever works.

Back to the bloody mole. The day of my appointment was upon me in no time and I found myself hunched in the waiting room, which felt entirely too hot. No one else seemed to be perspiring. And why was everyone so calm? I covertly checked out my fellow patients. Did anyone have anything that appeared contagious? I detected no open, weeping sores, and there weren't any patients engaged in frenzied scratching, so I went back to trying to focus on my book.

I'd read the same paragraph four times when a nurse called my name. I fumbled around, grabbing my book, purse, coat, scarf, phone, and water bottle and shuffled along behind her. We exchanged some pleasantries:

"Hi, Ms. CrankyPants, why are you here?"

"Oh, just to have this mole looked at."

I showed her the mole. It is at this point in almost every appointment that I lapse into full-on sweaty, panicky, jokey Ms. CrankyPants. My most recent appointment went a little something like this:

[as nurse was prodding at HSM]

Me: "SO! Bet you wish you had taken today off, huh? HAHAHA! This probably isn't too pleasant, is it? HAHAHAHA! See how it's bleeding? Yeah, I accidentally scratched it. Now it keeps bleeding! HAHAHAHA! That's a bad sign, isn't it? Does it look bad to you? Have you seen ones that look like this before? Hey, where are you going?!"

[as nurse was fleeing the room to get the doctor]

The doctor entered, brisk and businesslike. He was probably warned by the nurse that there was a manic 10-year-old girl in Exam Room 2 who seemed on the verge of some sort of fit.

Me: "SO! HAHAHA! I guess..."

Dr.: "Ms. CrankyPants. We're going to remove that mole and have it biopsied. You'll have the results in less than a week."

Me: "HAHA...Wh...?"

[as doctor was fleeing the room]

The nurse came back in with the scalpel and giant needle to numb the area around the HSM. She whisked it off. I bleated out a few more pathetic HAHAs, and finally she took pity on me, saying it looked to her like a skin tag. A skin tag? Gross-sounding, yes, but far better than the deadly alternatives I'd been imagining.

I wasn't going to rest easy until I heard the results, though, which I was told would come in one of two ways. If the biopsy was normal, I'd get an email. If it was cancer, I'd get a phone call. So I did what any irrational hypochondriac would do: I turned the ringer off my phone for a week.

And I got an email. The mole was benign. Did I learn a lesson? Next time, will I confront a suspicious mole, persistent cough, or sporadically bleeding scalp head on? I likely will not. That's just not how I'm wired. But I'm working on it, honest. Every non-death sentence at a doctor's office inches me closer to the place where I know I need to be: facing my medical fears without delay. At least, without too much delay.


  1. It's always best to have these thing checked out. I'm glad the results were good.

  2. Yes, it is. I always advocate it for other people!

    Thanks, me too. :)

  3. Hello,
    Interesting post!! I just have one question - what on earth is a hushpuppy?! They look really scrummy, whatever they are. The only hushpuppies I know are a brand of shoes?
    I'm confused and it doesn't take much....
    p.s so happy everything ok!

  4. SIF! You did it (not anonymous anymore). Hooray!

    A hushpuppy is a wad of fried dough, usually served in a plastic basket on top of some greasy checkered paper in casual seafood restaurants. An amuse bouche, if you will. HAHA! (Confession: I just had to look up amuse bouche to see if I used it correctly.) Hushpuppies, or pups if you prefer, are rather sweet. Sort of a thick, chewy doughnut hole.

    My question to you: is scrummy a good thing? (I am thinking both "yummy" and "scummy," so not sure which direction this word leans.)

    I am happy too; thanks!!

    1. I can't believe I did it - just got to work out how to add a wee picture.

      I was completely wrong then - I thought they looked like little meatballs, lol. I like the idea of an amuse bouche, kind of like dinky donuts. or as they do in Scotland, a deep-fried Mars Bar.

      Scrummy is short for scrumptious! So definitely a good thing. All these new words. God help us when me and The Teenager hit New York next Easter - he'll come back speaking with a funny accent and saying things like 'sidewalk' and 'garbage'. And demanding I make him S'Mores (sp??).

    2. I suspect in some establishments, they are made in the same deep-fat fryer as a meat product or two, so there's a very good chance there is meat lurking in your average pup.

      Scrummy: check! Will immediately add to vocabulary so I sound British and clever.

      S'Mores it is; well done.

    3. EEEEEEEWWWWW... hushpuppies are even more disgusting to me now, also not sure if I will ever eat another "Oliebol" (a Dutch fried ball treat) again!

      I plan on borrowing "scrummy" as well, very clever indeed ;)

  5. Good morning chaps!

    I will be googling a recipe for hushpuppies latr - The Teenager will be very impressed to be getting some early American training in. He is obsessed with all things USA and he does insist on calling sweets candy, meh.
    Think I prefer Oliebol - very descriptive. Am looking forward to seeing more of your recipes. I just wanna know why Wee Squeaky did not make a guest appearance amid the dough-balls!!

    1. Cheerio! (Or is that just for goodbye?)

      Let me know if you make hushpuppies. And if the Teenager is suitably impressed. I suspect it's right up any teenager's alley.

      Equutopia, this Oliebol is intriguing. Important question: does it contain meat or cheese?

      Wee Squeaky did not make an appearance in the hushpuppies picture because it was one I dredged up from years ago, before Wee Squeaky was even a seed of a thought in the person from China who no doubt made her. She will, however, be present in my next post on (spoiler alert)): CRAB CAKES.

  6. Glad to hear it was benign! Ack.

    [shudder] I'm suddenly remembering the time I had one removed from my scalp. When it came time to cauterize it, it became obvious that the area hadn't been numbed enough. YIKE! Sort of like having someone dig a lit cigarette into your freshly sliced flesh. I told the doctor it was not numb and I COULD FEEL THAT. To which he replied, "Eh--we'll be done soon," and kept sizzling away.

    Anything involving scalpels etc. is not good.

    1. Holy sh!t, that story made me cringe! As the nurse was digging away, she did ask if I could feel anything. Thankfully not. Ouch!! The scalp!!