Day One-Hundred-and-Twelve: A mole, a doctor, and an inconvenient discovery

Image

WARNING: Squeamish readers beware. It gets pretty descriptive further down.

 

“I would prefer to take that out,” the doctor said a month ago, squinting through the skin-scope-thingy. “I mean, you don’t have to do it today, or this week or anything, but I would do it within the month.”

She looked at me hard before I left, and repeated: “Within a month. If we don’t hear from you, I’ll be calling you myself. I’ve even set a reminder.”

Cue reluctant phone call to medical centre just inside a month later. If there’s one thing I can’t take, it’s a scolding from a medical professional.

Plus, I’m super brave, right? This is for my health. That mole might be a ticking time bomb. (Or, as I’ve suspected for a while now, it might be a cute little brown spot that’s called my back home for the most part of my life. It might be called Steve.)

If you’ve read me before, you know that I have an intense and all-encompassing fear of needles. I hate those pointy bastards. So it stands to reason that submitting to a series of needles and then having some of my flesh cut out is not something I’m entirely comfortable with.

Mum endured the same procedure only a few weeks ago: two incisions on her back, one on her neck.

“The neck was fine,” she told me, gesturing towards the dressing. “It was the back that was the most trouble.”

Had I told her at that stage that I was going to get a mole removed from my back? I’m not sure. If so, she had pulled a real dick move.

“How was it trouble?” I asked, stupidly.

“Well,” she said. “For one, it’s been the more painful of the two sites in healing. I can’t really sleep on my back. And then there was the thing with the anaesthetic…”

“The thing with the… what?” Is she serious with this shit?

“Well,” she said again. “She’d put the anaesthetic in and was all good to go. Then she started cutting and I could feel it.

I gaped at her. “Did you scream?”

“No,” she said, waving her hand. “I just told her and she put some more in and then it was fine. Actually it was lovely having the extra, because it was numb for about eight hours afterwards.”

Lovely is not the word I would use, but surely my mother was just one of those weird people who doesn’t react properly to certain medicines. Like those poor souls who go in for surgery and somehow remain conscious (and aware of every sensation) for the entire thing, but have no way to communicate this to the surgical team.

Well, not quite that dramatic. But close.

“I think it was just because she was working so close to my spine,” Mum reassured me. “Nervy area, you know?”

 

Oh, I know.

 

I left the house and drove the three minutes down the road to the medical centre.

“You’re getting it out at the GP?” my boyfriend had asked a week before.

“Yeah,” I said, wondering if he was about to tell me some horror story. “She said I could go to a dermatologist, but that would cost more, and it’s only on my back, so I don’t care as much about the scar.”

“Did you ask her if she’s done this kind of thing before?”

I hadn’t. But she’d spent a good deal of time prodding the area and describing the size of the potential scar, so I figured she knew her shit.

I pulled into the car park and wondered for a good moment whether I would be in a fit state to drive myself home after the procedure. I could always call someone, I figured. A year ago, my dentist’s receptionist hadn’t wanted me to drive home after I had a tooth pulled, but this was different. That had been traumatic.

I walked in and announced myself at the front desk. A large sign asked me whether I’d had my shingles vaccination. (I haven’t, if you’re wondering, but weirdly enough my brother came down with shingles two weeks ago.)

I took a seat against the wall and waited. The waiting is the worst part. Any time to think about the impending procedure is not welcome. They should just stick with the needle as you walk through the door.

When my name was called, I smiled woodenly and followed the doctor down the hallway to a room that housed two beds surrounded by curtains.

“Have a seat there,” the doctor said, indicating the closest bed.

I hoped that she wasn’t expecting me to maintain a seated position through this. I was already in danger of passing out.

I removed my shirt and she greeted my mole with an “ah”. After some more prodding, she bid me lie down and elevated the bed.

“I’m going to mark out where to make the incision,” she told me. (I’d already asked her as we walked in not to say ‘cut’.)

When she was happy with her lines, she walked to the head of the bed and explained the risks.

Bleeding. Infection. Scarring. Further incisions if the mole proved to be sinister. (She didn’t think it would be.)

“So, is that all good?” she asked.

“No,” I laughed. “But go on.”

 

“We’ll put the anaesthetic in to numb it,” she told me. “That’s the worst part. It does sting.”

‘Sting’ is what a bee gives you. Don’t get me wrong; bee stings hurt like a sack-whack (I assume from the similar facial expressions), but this I would describe as something deeper. Sure, if ten bees pooled their resources into a long metal needle and poked their way under your skin to deliver a shot of painful venom in a very small area, then yeah, it stings.

“Ok,” the doctor said after the ‘sting’. “And now I’ll do the other side.”

I was left alone for what I imagine was five minutes, and the doctor spent a further few minutes making sure the equipment was prepped, and washing her hands.

“That should have done the trick by now,” she announced upon her return.

I could only agree with her. I’d never had local before, and it was such a small spot that I wasn’t entirely sure whether it was numb or I was just unaware of it. I was still suffering the after-shock of the ‘stings’.

“Sharp or dull?” the doctor asked, lightly pressing some metal object against my mole.

“Dull,” I answered after a moment.

 

If you’ve ever had nightmares about being cut, then you will sympathise with me here. You also might want to stop reading. (As if, though; you’ll be right.)

I was expecting pressure. I was expecting a tugging sensation. I was not expecting another ‘sting’.

“Sharp!” I gasped as she started to slice. (Gross. Sorry.)

She stopped. I could hear doubt in her voice when she asked, “What does it feel like?”

“Like you’re dragging a needle across my skin,” I answered.

The only answer was more anaesthetic. The ‘worst part’ again. Fantastic.

Two more jabs of searing sting-fluid would do it.

It didn’t.

 

I should clarify that the anaesthetic wasn’t totally ineffectual, and I didn’t scream through a procedure where I could feel each cut intensely. But it was not completely numb. Some spots were worse than others. Some I truly couldn’t feel.

“Can you manage it?” the doctor eventually asked, after I’d whimpered in pain at another cut. (Even after what I can only assume was a double dose of local.)

“Yes,” I replied, gritting my teeth.

I was already there, already brave, already cut. I couldn’t quit and come back to face it another day.

And so it continued until the mole was off. If you’ve had a tattoo (I haven’t), you’ve probably experienced a similar (or worse, let’s be honest; you guys are tough) sensation of stinging and dragging. But you’re expecting it. You don’t get a tattoo if you’re not.

I had nine stitches in total. I felt all of them. The pain was vague, but it was enough. And it was not supposed to be there at all.

By the last stitch, I’d nailed my deep breathing, and I joked to the doctor that I thought the anaesthetic might finally be working.

 

I walked out of there a mess. I’ve only just stopped shaking. I shouldn’t have driven, but here I am, alive.

“Next time you’re having something cut off, let them know that they need to leave quite a bit of time for the anaesthetic to kick in,” the doctor told me on my way out.

Next time I’m having something cut off, they will have to knock me out and tie me down. Nuh uh, sister.

 

TB

(The irony is that now I can’t feel it at all. Just like Mum said!)

Advertisements

Day Ninety-One: How it feels to face your phobia

Image

I take a deep breath and push the heavy glass door. A bell tingles overhead to signal my arrival. No hope of sneaking out again then.

“Won’t be a minute,” calls a male voice from a door down a hallway. I know what’s in those rooms.

A TV plays grainy news footage in the corner, and a sign on the wall announces the place as registered. Yep, everything’s above board.

I don’t sit. If I do, I might end up clinging to the chair like a two-year-old having a meltdown. No, the least I can do is maintain some of my dignity. Besides, if I’m standing, it means I can run. And I should run. I want to run.

Then the man appears. He looks at me inquiringly, so I hand him the form I’ve been given. He asks to see my medical card, and checks the details against the ones on the form.

The bell sounds again, and I see another victim has arrived. This one’s a man, casually dressed. I guess that he’s in some kind of trade. He loiters near the door, waiting his turn.

“You can have a seat,” the man behind the counter tells me. “I won’t be long.”

Take as long as you need, I think, lowering myself into the closest chair. Then again, maybe we should just get it over with, before my courage deserts me. But that’s not right. My courage left me at the door.

The new arrival saunters up to the desk, all nonchalance. I’d like to see him when he goes into that room. Perhaps he does this all the time. Or perhaps other people don’t taste bile at the back of their throat when they come here.

I hear my name. My heart is threatening to beat its way through my chest wall and make a bloody escape.

“First door on the left,” the man tells me.

“First… which?” I reply intelligently.

“Go into the first door on the left,” he repeats, not unkindly. I’m sure he has six-year-olds who freak out on him all the time.

I force one foot in front of the other, and shuffle into the room. My brain is telling me to run, but I don’t think I could do it without collapsing. I can see the chair now, the bed next to the wall, the equipment. I shouldn’t look. But it’s hard not to.

“Just have a seat on the chair,” the man says, expecting a normal patient, expecting no trouble.

I’m not falling for that one again. Once you’ve tasted the cold embrace of unconsciousness and woken on the antiseptic-scrubbed lino floor, you learn very quickly to request the bed. Which is what I do now.

He looks at me, and I think he realises what he’s dealing with. “No worries,” he says. “But we’ll do the paperwork first. On the chair.”

He skirts around me like I’m a frightened cat and not just a frightened human, and gestures towards the chair. It might be a trap. Maybe I should just claw his face and run while I can. The voice in my head is soft, but firm: You have nothing to fear. You are being ridiculous.

I sit in the stupid chair, and sign my name with a shaking hand.

And then it’s time.

He asks me if I’ve had this done before. I nod. I’m going to vomit; I know it.

He asks me whether I have a ‘usual’ arm. Without looking, I point to the crook of my right elbow.

He nods and places the tourniquet around my bicep. He asks me to clench my fist, so I do. He feels the ropy life-support under my skin, and approves.

Then it’s time to get on the bed.

“Get as close to the wall as you can,” he says, so I do. I would disappear into that wall if I could.

It’s not too late to run, my head screams. I think I might cry.

He approaches with a plastic container filled with equipment. He asks me what I do for work. I tell him. I can’t breathe.

He’s still talking casually when he warns me I’ll feel a sting. I bite my lip so hard it hurts. It’s not enough. I still feel the sting.

All I can think about is the fact that I’m being drained. He’s sucking my life force through a sharp straw, and I can’t take it.

It’s over as quickly as it began. I feel the pull as the needle is removed, and oblige when he asks to press down on the cotton bud. He returns moments later with medical tape, and tells me I should keep the pressure on for five minutes.

“But you can go,” he adds, obviously assuming that I have the power of movement. I wonder what colour I am, whether he can smell my fear, how big my pupils are.

I don’t trust myself to walk, but I swing my legs over the bed anyway.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I tell him, faintly.

“I like to think I’m pretty good at it by now,” he shrugs.

“Right,” I try to smile. “Thanks. For making it easy. I’ve had some bad experiences…”

“You can go now,” he reminds me. He doesn’t want to hear my double-arm, hit-the-floor, bruises-the-size-of-tennis-balls story. I don’t blame him.

In the waiting room, the other man is sitting, scrolling through something on his phone. The phlebotomist beckons him into the room I’ve just vacated. I consider sticking around to see if I hear any screams, but my breakfast is threatening to reappear, and I just want to go home.

Hours later, every twinge in my arm makes me light-headed. I know the puncture has knitted together. I know that my blood is well-contained inside me. I know that I’ve lost only a few drops from the river that courses through me.

And still I fear.

 

 

I went alone to face my biggest phobia. I didn’t die. If only that meant I was cured.

 

TB

Day Forty-Eight: The bluntest advice columnist ever

Image

Dear NavyBoy, Why stop at two? Think of it as amassing an army.

 

My boyfriend and I were talking crap in the car today, and came on to the topic of replies we’d give to Agony Aunt-type letters. You know the ones. Dear Sally, it hurts to pee. Please help. From, Razorpiss. I feel (hope?) that at some point in my writing career, I might have the prestigious honour of answering these letters with insightful and encouraging replies. Ha. Just kidding. I would totally mess with them.

 

Dear Dr Bopf,
I think my boyfriend of a week is cheating on me. I looked at his Facebook the other day (because he left it open on his laptop) and he had been talking to some girl. It was just stuff like ‘hey’ and ‘what’s up’, but I’m 90 per cent sure he’s more than friends with her. Should I dump him, or do I need to just lay down the law with this other girl?
Totes Heartbroken

Hey Totes Heartbroken,
First, let me say that I totally agree. He’s defs banging her. I mean, guys don’t just say ‘hey’ to a girl unless they’re getting up on that, right? You need to think hard about this one; I’d hate for you to lose such a great, long-standing relationship over a jealous suspicion. I know that just asking him about it straight up, and starting your relationship on a firm grounding of honesty, is totally out of the question, so here’s what I would suggest: hack his Facebook account (hire outside help if need be); start a convo with this bitch; suggest some sex and see what she says; if she agrees, go to town on his account, like really mess that thing up–post pictures of animal porn, comment homoerotic things on his friends’ walls, post a big status about how he’s a cheater and a horse-fucker. He’ll either apologise and never speak to another woman again, or he’ll dump you and press charges. Odds are good on both.
Love,
Dr Bopf
P.S. If you haven’t already, check whether he’s ever agreed to sleep with this girl or if she’s just a mega slut who’s up for anything.

 

Dear Dr Bopf,
My husband and I have three kids under the age of five, and we really struggle to find any time to spend together. I recently found out that I’m pregnant again, but I’m nervous about telling him because we agreed that three was enough. What do you think that I should do?
Up the Duff

Dear Up the Duff,
I have to say that I’m surprised you even had time to write this letter. I’m can only assume that you drugged you kids, and I cannot endorse that kind of behaviour. I’m curious about how exactly you think this will play out. What should you do? Well, you could just not tell him, and avoid all physical/visual contact for nine months. After that, just adopt the kid out and it’s smooth sailing. Of course, most men aren’t so stupid that they can’t notice a pregnancy–particularly in your case, where pregnancy seems to have been your resting state for the past five years. The second option is to terminate celebrate the little miracle within you. (Sorry. Christian publication.) I’d say that you should just tell him and make a decision together, but where would be the fun in that? The cloak and dagger thing is so much more dramatic, right? But really, you’re already pretty f–ked; what’s another mouth?
Best wishes,
Dr Bopf

 

Dear Dr Bopf,
I’ve had this weird rash on my girly bits for about three months now, and I’m starting to get a little worried. Some days, it’s so itchy that I can’t stop myself from scratching, even when I’m at school. It’s really embarrassing and sometimes it hurts so bad I want to cry. Please help.
AntzPantz

Dear AntzPantz,
Seriously? You’d had a searing genital rash for three months and you’re only just now seeking help–from a magazine columnist, by the way. You know they just call me Doctor Bopf because it sounds cool, right? What I usually do when I have major medical issues that are causing me immense pain and discomfort, is just give them time and see if they go away. So, you’re right on track there. It’s always my preference to leave things until they require surgery/hospitalisation. Why make a fuss over something so insignificant as blood in your urine, right? If you haven’t already succumbed to your illness by the time you receive this reply, I would suggest showing your rash to your local member of parliament and see what they can do for you. I’m sure we elected those idiots for something.
Happy scratching,
Dr Bopf

 

Dear Dr Bopf,
Every time I have sex with my boyfriend, he spanks me on the butt and calls me Beryl. Beryl is his grandmother’s name. What the actual f–k?
Can’t Stop Vomiting

Hey there, Can’t Stop Vomiting,
I assume because you’ve said ‘every time we have sex’ that you’re still having sex with him, despite your apparent repulsion. You’re clearly kind of into the spanking. I’m not sure if you’ve read any of Freud’s work, but this is some next level shit. You’d better hope that he just had an ex-girlfriend whose parents were into old-fashioned names. On the other hand, maybe you just look like his grandmother. Have you met her? She’s probably a babe. Take it as a compliment. How many dudes’ grandmothers are so hot, they fantasise about them while they do their girlfriend? Lucky guy.
Have a bucket handy and enjoy yourself,
Dr Bopf

 

Well, now I’ve effectively ruined my chances at ever being hired as an advice columnist–unless it’s for a publication that deals in keepin’ it real and dropping truth bombs. I really hope this publication exists. I am waiting for your call.

But seriously, people don’t really write into those columns with legitimate problems, do they? I remember reading the advice sections of Dolly and Girlfriend and wondering how many bored kids with messed up minds had dreamed up these oozing genital warts and relationship ‘conundrums’ that an infant could solve (hint: dump him). Maybe that’s what failed creative writers turn to in their darkest hours. I’m looking forward to it.

And remember kids: always use protection. Unless your boyfriend has convinced you that you can’t get pregnant if you’re on top. Don’t Google it or anything.

 

Love and scorn,
TB