Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Skin Game

I never went to a dermatologist until I was in my 50s.  For decades I'd ignored my skin, running around in the Oklahoma and Texas and Ohio sun, playing baseball, riding a bike, playing tennis, just being outdoors, which, in my boyhood, was far preferable to being indoors, where chores lay waiting for me in my mother's imagination.  Seeing me would activate them--and me.  So ... outdoors it was.

Decades passed.

And then I began noticing ... strange ... things on my face.  Nothing too scary.  Nothing like that illustration in our old high school health book that showed a "black mole."  That page was so gross I could not look at any other.  No, my ... strange ... things were flaky or red ... or otherwise creepy.  So I figured it was time for the dermatologist.

And there I met for the first time--but not the last; oh, no, not the last--that can of Freeze-O (my affectionate name for it) which the doctor aims at spots on my face and blasts away like Flash Gordon.  The first time this happened, I was not too alarmed: The spot was over by a sideburn, barely visible.  And in a week or so, it was gone, and only smooth skin remained.  Frozen magic!

But in subsequent trips, he's tried the Freeze-O elsewhere on my face (almost always my face)--cheek, forehead, chin, and--my favorite of all: nose.  The past few years it seems as if it's always my nose, one of the most sensitive places on the body, and, of course, the most visible.  So I go to the dermatologist; he looks at my nose--maybe strokes it; shakes his head, sighs a little, reaches for the can of Freeze-O, which Igor has been holding the whole time, tells me to close my eyes, reminds me this will sting a little (it stings a lot), then fires away, decorating my nose with a splash of red that lingers for about a week or so before morphing into a handsome scab that sometimes falls off, sometimes remains until Impatience decides to act.  Afterwards, the nose knows that something is better and shows off some new baby skin.  For a couple of months.  And then something rough and patchy begins to form again.  And soon, I know, I will be phoning the dermatologist and facing the Freeze-O.

I've a few skin biopsies, too (one has left a permanent scar in my upper arm--it was benign, so I will tolerate the scar).  One--right in the middle of my forehead--turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma (cancerous, but not (yet) deadly).  It required a technique called Mohs Surgery, which I underwent in late July 2004.  The procedure was successful, but for a couple of months my forehead looked as if it had been a practice field for Victor Frankenstein.  In September, my students--kindly, kindly--told me they didn't notice a thing when I told them about it.  But this confirmed only a few things for me: (1) they were kind; (2) they were blind; (3) they didn't look at teachers over the age of twenty-five.  I could have had a child-sized demon emerging from my forehead--half in, half out--red and raging, and they just would not have noticed.

The scar has healed well--looks, actually, as if it belong there when I frown, which I do now and then, especially when I feel and/or see something on my face that is going to require some blasts of Freeze-O to eliminate.

PS--I write this today because my face--and yes, my nose--are now featuring the effects of a visit to the dermatologist last Tuesday.  I'm in the demon-emerging-from-the-forehead phase ...

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