On Visiting The Knife-Happy.

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I’ve noticed that there are two types of 30-somethings.

Those that have a regular visit to the Dermatologist to get every millimeter of their skin scanned for abnormalities and are constantly mentioning what they’ve recently had removed,

And those that have never visited a Dermatologist.

I’ve always been in the second group. Not because I have anywhere close to perfect skin, or dislike doctors, but because I have been in denial that I’m in my 30s for some time and would rather believe that I’m an invincible teenager with no skin fears.

This is not to say that I haven’t forced my husband to go and get a bump removed when it started to morph into something that made me feel uncomfortable. But he’s older than me. It’s time he starts thinking about his skin.

Also, I see enough variety of doctors thanks to my Dysautonomia and compromised immune system and stupid wreck that I really just don’t have room in my life for a relationship with a Dermatologist.

But finally, after fighting bravely on my own the war against a pesky shoulder rash for…wait for it…five months (including religiously applying two different prescriptions I already owned)…I decided that I should most likely plan my first date with the Dermatologist.

Over the years, I have asked my friend that is most solidly in group #1 of 30-somethings for her Dermatologist’s name on countless occasions, always intending to grow up and go. I’d even had it pulled up in a browser on my phone for a couple of months. So I scrolled through and found the tab, and gave them a call.

“Yes. I’d like to schedule an appointment. I have a rash that won’t go away.”

“Okay. Would you like a full body mole check while you’re here?”

(Sounds like a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare, but might as well get all the services for my co-pay…) “Sure.”

“Okay…the first available appointment is…..June 10th.”

“Um, well, you see, I have a rash….”

“Okay. Without the full body mole check, the first available is….April 20th.”

“Um, well, you see, I have a rash….”

“Okay. Well, if you’d like to see a nurse practitioner, you can come tomorrow.”

“That will work.”

I knew that “tomorrow” was too short of notice to get a sitter for my kids, so I bravely decided to bring my little homeschooling troupe with me.

I mean, I just have a rash. How gruesome could it be?

On Tuesday morning, we arrived and got settled into my assigned torture chamber. The bubbly nurse and nurse practitioner overflowed their joy all over the room as my eyes darted back and forth, looking for blood spatters on the ceiling or suspicious moles stuck to the walls.

Things had happened in this cell. I could feel it.

My rash, unfortunately, was at a dormant stage – of course. It has come and gone for five months, getting much worse when I was on an antibiotic for something else. At one point, it swelled up and looked exactly like the symbol on the old USSR Flag:

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(Which happened a mere two days after I blogged about Mr. Putin’s Sexy Wall Calendar. Coincidence? I think not.)

But at this moment, it just looked like a bit of dry skin. It still itched, but Nurse and Nurse Practitioner couldn’t see how very itchy it was and how very communist it had recently been.

“Hmm…just looks like overly dry skin to me. You need to use moisturizer within four minutes of getting out of the shower and here – I’ll prescribe you a stronger cream to knock it out. But let’s look at this bump over here…and this one…oh and this mole in your armpit!!”

They began to circle my shoulder area hungrily, clucking at all of the various bumps and discolorations. I was a DermaVirgin, and they were taking great pleasure in all of the various offerings of my as-yet un-cut-on skin. It hadn’t helped at all that I’d been honest on my medical history form – they saw that my dad has Ocular Melanoma and their frenzy only heightened. “Melanoma is melanoma. You’ve got a first degree relative with Melanoma. We need to check all the things. Melanoma melanoma MELANOMA!! You don’t mind not having any flesh remaining, right?”

Okay they didn’t ask that last question but it was implied.

“We need to take a biopsy of that…and that…and let’s just take off that mole real quick. It won’t need stitches. These will just be slightly pink marks – like you cut yourself shaving. No big deal – it’ll just take a minute.”

A tray magically appeared with three jars (the kind you’d see shrunken heads floating in), three flexible blades, a shot, and a bunch of gauze and blood-soaking apparatus.

And nobody asked my opinion.

I mean, call me old-fashioned, but I think I deserve a minute to consider the fate of my armpit before they slice a crater into it. Maybe I held a fondness to my armpit mole.

They shot me up in all three places to numb the areas so I wouldn’t be fully aware of their carvings. Then, with the quickness of a NASCAR pit crew, they buzzed around me, sliced and diced my arm, back, and armpit, dropped my former pieces of self in their jars, and covered me with band-aids before I could see what they’d left of me.

I did catch a quick glance at their blood-and-guts covered knives, though, and knew that “it will just be a pink spot – like if you cut yourself shaving” was as much a lie as The White Witch promising Edmund an endless supply of Turkish Delight.

The kids and I escaped the Dungeon of Human Samples, but not until after they’d scheduled that “Full Body Mole Check”, leaving me seriously fearing my future fashion statement of Swiss Cheese Flesh.

Thanks to those numbing shots, I was really feeling quite fine, aside from the mental stress, and it was a beautiful day, so we went on a hike in the woods with friends. It was as if nothing dark and demented had occurred that morning.

There were waterfall discoveries,

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And boulder throwing,

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And rock-climbing,

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And cave-dwelling.

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I felt great. It was a lovely day. The dermatology visit was squarely behind me.

…Until the end of the hike. When things began to sting. Shots only last so long, after all.

I went home and peeked under my bandages. I gasped at the deep craters that were now a part of who I was. These were not slight pink marks. They were more like someone decided to journey to the center of my body and began digging a hole, then gave up and started somewhere else, then gave up and started one more place.

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Over the next couple of days, the abysses were greatly uncomfortable, especially the largest one that happened to be in my armpit, and especially especially when I ran. Sweating profusely into a giant white pus-filled crater is not really something I would recommend for fun and amusement.

By Thursday, the holes named Shoulder and Back had dried up and become less like bubbling cauldrons and more like nice, dry moon craters. But Armpit did not. It began to grow, taking up more real estate under my arm, and developing a nice swollen, red shoreline. Then I began to get chills and fever and dizziness. At first I just thought I was having a couple of bad Dysautonomia days, but I soon realized that it was likely being caused by the vat of infection stirring beneath my arm.

Finally on Saturday, I decided it was time to call about it. The on-call doctor said it definitely sounded infected and called me in an antibiotic – an antibiotic that would heal my armpit, but most likely turn my rash back into a Communist Flag.

Oh – and did I mention that in the chaos of treating my wounds, I lost the prescription for my rash, the original reason I entered the Dungeon of Doom?

Yeah. I’m awesome like that.

So the moral of this story is, don’t allow people to randomly cut on you. Just Say No. It’s a two-letter word. Practice with me. NNNNNOOOOOOO.

“It will be a pink spot”, they say. “Like if you cut yourself shaving”, they say.

Yes. It’s exactly like that. If you shave with a staph-infected three hole punch.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. Lindsay D. says:

    You convinced me! I was going to call about a planters wart on the bottom of my foot… but after a quick Google image search, I realized my situation is NOT THAT BAD. And after your knife-happy appointment, I’ll pass. Hope you are healed soon!!

    • My son had awful plantar warts on his feet, and we put thin slices of raw garlic on them at bedtime with a bandaid. His bedroom smelled like a cheap Italian restaurant, but within a few weeks the warts were gone.

  2. Kristina Franklin says:

    Oh! That sounds terrible. I have a dermatologist, but I’ve never done the full body check. I probably should though since I’m old. Lol. When do you get the results of your samples?

  3. I went in for warts on my knee and they cut a mole in my armpit too! I wasn’t lucky enough to get a shot though. Just scissors. I remember the cut as I sat in a chair with my arm in the air. Then I woke up on the bed/Dr.’s table in the room. Apparently it hurt worse than they anticipated and I was gone! I was nauseous for the rest of the day. You’re descriptions made me wheezy and made my head spin all over again. I’m never going back!

  4. I think there is a typo where you’re describing what kind of giant, white crater is under your arm. The paragraph under the final picture..?

  5. Can you text me some of the hiking pics?

  6. I wonder if this is more prevalent in the South where there is more sun exposure. I don’t know anyone our age who sees a dermatologist. Or maybe they’ve all heard stories like this and have been forever scarred! Haha

  7. Yeah, I’m an expert at the mole removal process. I joke that it looks like I’ve been attacked by someone holding a melon-baller. And a bout with basal cell carcinoma in my 20s is why I need the ACA to have health insurance now. After finding melanoma last year (yay that I go on the regular) now I’m also an expert at that, but I’m discouraged that they didn’t give you a long list of how to take care of your places so that it didn’t get all funky.

    As for missing your armpit mole, this last go-round they removed the mole that sat seductively in my cleavage. It was the marker for “your shirt is cut too low”. But now the boob mole is gone, and I have to admit, it seems odd.

  8. This sounds terrible! As someone who once had a wart burned off of my foot as a young teenager in a doctor’s office and screamed so loudly the doctor was embarrassed, I will be avoiding dermatologists for as long as possible. Even though, unfortunately, I have the skin type that will likely need a lot of attention in the coming years. And what’s with doctors not asking for patients’ opinions? Even the last time I took my dog to the vet she did a ton of different (in my opinion, unnessecary) things to her, never once asked for my permission, then charged me almost $400, when I brought her in for one little thing that should have cost under $100. It’s not unlike the behavior of con-artists.

  9. B and I get full body skin checks every year. We’re both fair, had multiple bad sunburns as children, and have histories of skin cancer in our families. We’ve each had a couple things cut off here and there, but never without discussion and a thumbs up from us. I’d get a new dermatologist.

  10. The moment you said the rash was at it’s worst when you were on antibiotics the big neon sign in my brain started flashing ALLERGIC REACTION. Is it ALL antibiotics or just a certain one? Or just a few?

    I have the joys of fair skin and lotsa moles so I’m a dermatologist goer. I’m pretty familiar with my moles so I notice if something changes. I’ve had one removed on my upper arm and you’re right – those biopsies hurt like a mother and bleed like a stuck pig. I’ve noticed that moles bleed more anyway, though. I wonder why that is.

  11. So sorry! My dermatologist’s eyes light up when I walk in. Pale, freckled Florida kid who played outside before sunscreen. I guess safe is better than sorry, but those “shave biopsies” are more like crater digs. Wear sunscreen!

  12. Fair skin, multiple sun poisoning, premature sun spots. I have never been. My hubby went for a spot/rash that lasted years. I figure I’ll go in my 40s, & they’ll cut tons of stuff off of my face and chest. I’ll wait a few more years :)

  13. I like to pretend that being Hispanic (and therefore darker skinned) makes me immune from skin things. I have no intentions of ever seeing a dermatologist. The last time I had a rash I went to walk-in clinic and saw a nurse practitioner, and one prescription cream later it was gone.

  14. Jarrod’s family has a history of skin cancer (with the closest relative being his mom) and he’s covered in freckles and moles so he gets checked OFTEN. But he also has a reaction to whatever is in the shot to numb you, so they can only do so many at a time. Once they took off 17 in one sitting, so count your lucky stars.

  15. Stacey J says:

    I have been only once when I was in my early 20’s for a funny look spot on my leg that was brown like a mole but hard. I was told it was a bruise and sent on my way ( I’m almost 40 and I still have it so yeah some bruise ). I had a doctor remove one mole on my back that you could see if I wore a bathing suit; it was wiggly and made the skin around it whiter then the rest of me. That was the only good thing that doctor did for me.
    I have a few more moles but I don’t feel like going even though my dad passed away from melanoma 17 years ago; I keep an eye on them and use sun screen and pray for the best.

  16. I had a spot on my forehead 2 years ago that wouldn’t go away. It acted a sore that never fully healed – it would come and go varying from super ugly and scabbed to raw skin when I would go crazy and pick it off. After a few months of this I finally went to my doctor who froze it off. Sadly it didn’t last more than a month before it returned and a few months after that I resigned myself to an actual dermatologist (I really dragged my feet). After the biopsy it was determined to be a basal cell skin cancer and I needed surgery to fully remove it.
    So those 3 craters on your shoulder/back/armpit could be worse — they could be smack dab in the center of your forehead. Oh and my dermatologist also lit up when seeing the moles all over my body and now I have become one of the regulars getting checked. :(

  17. Stephanie says:

    I had a melanoma a few years ago, so now I am kind of a dermatologist zealot. Since then, I have had…15 biopsies? 20 maybe? I forget. Some of them were the shave kind, but most were punch biopsies–where they take a thing like a tiny biscuit cutter, and literally punch out a piece of your flesh. They’re small but quite deep, and take a few weeks to heal. The worst was within what they euphemistically termed my “underwear line” and it burned like fire for weeks every time I worked out and got all sweaty. But, I will keep going and keep getting poked and stabbed, because I definitely DO NOT want another melanoma.

  18. There was a time when I didn’t know a single person with a melanoma, and now I know several people. It is a good thing to keep an eye on.
    I love the bolder with the cave. Looks like a great adventure.

  19. I tried to be one of those that go to the dermatologist. I have tons of moles. One has dramatically changed shape / colour, so I asked for a referral.

    Dermatologist was all “puffy moles aren’t a concern for cancer” subtext: stop wasting my time. Half hearted look at my moles (didn’t even make me get undressed), told me if they were bothering me I could pay to have them surgically removed (Doctor visits here are free) and shoo’d me out the door. I felt dismissed and never went back. Admittedly most of mine aren’t the flat ones but she was so rude I’m still not quite sure whether she was competent or not. meanwhile I decided the mole I was concerned about was probably fine & it isn’t worth the hassle of potentially encountering another doctor like her to be proactive.

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