This year we all 3 went to the dermatologist for a full body-scan. and I mean full. wow. i’m so glad she was a she.
“You kind of remind me of Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones,” I joked, feeling like South America, as she adventured around my body with headlamps & magnifying lenses.
The other not so funny thing was that my 2 guys–with the lighter, more susceptible skin, whose bodies I’ve long protected–got an easy pass a month earlier; while I, with the olive hue (thank you Mom), naturally drawn to the shade & to wearing a hat as I age–left with something “to watch” on both my nose & temple. though to be fair, my youth was spent in full, sun-drenched, seaside abandon. baby oil. tinfoil. hours & hours under the mid-day sun. like a job.
Before I removed the gown and redressed myself in jeans and my purple Lucky Brand top, there was something else. a small innocent freckle, on the inside of my thigh, of all places, and just because it had the audacity to be a shade too dark.
She pointed out two nearby comps, one and two shades lighter. I squinted but barely noticed a difference.
I’d like to take that off, she said, if that’s ok. Now.
I tried to be grateful.
2 needles & a tiny chunk of flesh later, I left the examining room with a bandage and an interior hobble, but even so, stopped at the front desk to courageously ask how soon to expect the results (despite the reminder that it was “probably nothing.” )
I spent the next week in a meditation on the word, Melanoma.
I know someone from the shore who died from something on his leg, and worse than that, I watched a made for television docudrama–this week, in 1973–that never left me. I was 10. She was 20. And dead. Leaving behind a baby. Because she chose not to give up her leg. I remember balling. I lived in Colorado at the time and John Denver’s music was the soundtrack, and my favorite song was the title of the film.
I tried not to take it as a sign.
I’ve worried about it ever since.
Growing up a doctor’s daughter (and granddaughter and great-granddaughter), it’s easy to be preoccupied with health threats before your time. They arrive on the phone and at your front door and at your kitchen table and intrude upon holidays and graduations and birthday parties.
I recall early attempts to remember the difference between words like “malignant” & “benign.” They both sounded bad to me.
After the “procedure,” we left town for a college visit with our younger son and then continued north to see our older son in his “home” in Burlington. This provided just the right alchemy to ponder, despairingly, how all things end, and so I took the opportunity to mention to my family, something I’ve long held inside.
Just so you know, if I ever do get cancer, I said, I’ll probably want to just die like that mom in Sunshine (on my Shoulders) rather than subject myself to all kinds of disabling treatment.
This pronouncement was not met favorably, and my youngest assured me that he’d have something to say about that if the time came, and I had to laugh at all of us, in our presumptive authority over life and death.
The call came in sometime yesterday. 2 days later than expected. No one was there to receive it. My husband and I were in bed when our youngest arrived home late from work and pushed play on the answering machine.
We could barely make out the messages from upstairs:
A personal call from his dentist.
A robo call from someone trying to scare us into calling them back about something related to our finances.
And the final message, which I couldn’t quite make out, particularly over my son’s exclamation of joy and relief.