I’ve had a mole on my face, next to my sideburn, for as long as I remember. It seemed innocuous enough, until recently when it started turning into some weird bumpy thing. Then, my sister who is a nursing student was all, “CANCER this and CANCER that,” and I got all panicky and went to the doctor. My family practitioner is a good doctor but she’s as emotional as sheetrock. She’s a very no-nonsense person and because of that not at all comforting. She looked at it, “it doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about,” she said, tucking her little magnifying glass into her front pocket, the way that doctors do. “Take a picture of it with your iPhone. Every few months, take a new picture and compare it to the one before it. If it grows or changes then come back in.” I stared at her for a second, “hmmm, okay,” I said. But I actually thought, “OMG HOLY SHIT THAT SOUNDS SO STRESSFUL!” She must have noticed the panic in my eyes because she added, “if you want, I can refer you to a dermatologist just to be sure but it honestly doesn’t look like anything to worry about.”
I slowly nodded, “yes.”
I made an appointment with the dermatologist and waited for three months until my appointment, wondering all the while if I was going to die before I saw a doctor. I didn’t.
Yesterday, I went to my appointment. I walked into the office, filled out paperwork and after a few minutes, the receptionist called my name. I followed her to the back and she tried to whiz past the scale and I stopped abruptly, “wait, we aren’t doing the uhm, thingy?” She tilted her head, “excuse me?” I shrugged, “I don’t have this thing at home so could I weight myself?” She nodded, “sure if you want.” I enthusiastically threw off my coat and purse and stepped onto the scale. “Oooh,” I gushed, “I lost five pounds since last time!” She looked at me like, I don’t give a rats ass lady. So I picked up my stuff and trotted behind her. In the room, she instructed me to put on a gown and hop up on the table. I changed and this time I even put the gown on right. Last time, I put it on backward and my husband was like, “WHY ARE YOUR BOOBS OUT LIKE THAT?” I sat on the table and swung my legs until the doctor came in.
“Hi, I’m Doctor H,” he shook my hand.
“What am I seeing you for today?”
I turned my head and pointed, “am I going to die?”
He stepped closer to me and inspected my face for a minute with a light.
“Nope. That’s just some fatty cells clumped together an-”
“Ew,” I said.
He laughed, “anyway, they’re not dangerous at all. In fact, they might just go away on their own.”
“Oh, okay,” I smiled.
He grabbed my leg, “But while you’re here, let’s just look you over real quick.” He picked up both of my legs and started to inspect them. I blurted out, “my husband has been in Sweden for weeks and so I didn’t shave my legs so I apologize for that.”
“No worries,” he smiled, “women always worry about their leg hair for some reason. But, honestly, I don’t even notice.” The nurse in the room turned to me, “well, I’m just happy to hear that I’m not the only one who stops shaving when the husband leaves.”
“Oh, no, I go completely feral,” I told her.
The doctor grabbed his phone, “so listen, I’m going to show you some pictures of what you should look for and what should cause alarm be-”
“Ah! NO! I don’t want to see!” I recoiled from him and made an icky face.
“You need to see,” he said in a dad voice that he pulled from somewhere inside of himself. So I reluctantly looked at his screen where he’d pulled up a billion terrifying images. “Okay, so I’ll monitor for those and-”
Doctor H smiled, “good, good, do a skin check once per week. Also, make sure you check your vagina and anus. My neighbor got Melanoma in her vagina and she didn’t see it for a long time. She died.”
The room was quiet for a second, uncomfortably so. I took a deep breath, “okay, well that’s not terrifying or anything.”
“No big deal,” he smiled, “but skin checks are important and you should be thorough.” And I imagined myself walking down the street holding my vagina open like a skirt and asking everyone, “Notice anything a little off?”
Then, Doctor H began wrapping up and I remembered that he was a skin expert so I had to ask, “how can I look young forever? I’ve never seen a dermatologist before. What can I do to have vampire skin?”
“Well,” he smiled, “a retinoid cream, sunscreen always, and drink a lot of water.”
“What about chemical peels?”
“those are good to do a few times per year.”
“Mineral or chemical sunscreen? I’m sorry, I know you have other people to see but just need to know.”
“Mineral works well and has fewer chemicals so if you like the natural route, go with that.”
“Can I use oil to clean my skin? I do. Is it wrong? Am I ruining my face?”
He gathered up his papers and stared at me like he knew if he didn’t get away soon, I’d keep him there all day. And it was true. I had twenty years of fashion and beauty magazine consumption rattling around in the back of my head and I wanted, no, needed, to debunk everything I’d ever heard.
“Don’t use Olive Oil, turns out that’s actually very drying and not good for your skin for a number of reasons. Coconut oil, however, is great. If you don’t break out, then go for it.”
And then he escaped.
I learned how to take better care of my skin and that you need to aggressively monitor your vagina so it doesn’t kill you.