Now, I had given the HSM plenty of unprofessional attention in the form of:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.|
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."
[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.