Friday, January 12, 2007

Elective Cosmetic Sugery: Or...Tormenting Melanocytic Nevi.

So... a few weeks ago when I was feeling old, and I listed a number of complaints about aging... I left off another ugly reality... moles. That's right. A melanocytic nevi. A bithmark. A blemish. A mar. A (hopefully benign) neoplasm. A dysplastic nevus. Or more properly speaking... a whole bunch of them. You see... moles can be acquired by exposure to ultraviolet light, or they can be congenital (that means you're born to have and/or get them). As we age, more and more of them appear, and they get bigger. In this increasingly anxious age, the changes that occur in moles over time are cause for worry. We are told to monitor them and have them checked regularly by a dermatologist. Perhaps there will be cause for concern... you may have to get a biopsy to see whether or not you have melanoma.

I've always had some moles. My parents had a large amount of them. And so they are just something I have learned to live with. Once I had one on the right side of my neck. For years I took my time shaving, carefully avoiding the mole to avoid cutting into it. If I nicked the thing it would trickle blood for about half an hour. Finally I got sick of pussy-footing around, and I gouged the thing right off my neck with my safety razor. I remember having to make several passes before it was level. I never regretted doing it.

So last year, I finally decided to go to a specialist and have him/her take a look at my collection of moles (the attached ones, sicko!). There was one particularly annoying mole on my scalp that I often aggravated when brushing my hair. I've always had to point it out to anyone cutting my hair, and this felt like getting off to a bad start with someone poised over me with a sharp pair of scissors. I knew I wouldn't miss this particular chaotic mass of overzealous cells. I also had a couple on my inner thigh that chafed when I walked long distances in the summer. I could do without these as well. So OK... I made my very first appointment for elective cosmetic surgery. The wait was over six months with this particular specialist. Well fine... these blemishes weren't going anywhere. The worst that could happen is that they grew and made of themselves better targets for removal. Right?

Finally, today I had my appointment. There's the customary wait that all doctors give you, so you can consider dashing out of the office for something that's more fun. And the paperwork. Then you eventually get in. I refused to sit in my underwear waiting for the good doctor. It just seems kinda perverse, ya know? So anyway... he comes in and I take off just the requisite amount of clothing to point out my superficial flaws. And I had been mollified beforehand by being told that these guys use lasers to blast them right off your skin... without pain, like. Nope. I have to get a local anesthetic, deliverable via sharp-assed needle. Then he takes an implement that looks like the scissors I use to trim my beard, and he just goes to town... gouging them and scooping them away. When he takes the bits away from my head, it feels like he's scraping my skull. (But he does't have to cut my hair, and for that I am grateful as all hell.) I briefly consider asking him for the remains, and then I do. He doesn't answer me at all. Just ignores the request flat-out. And now I'm wondering if it was a faux pas.

Really though... it occurs to me to believe that a guy who does this kind of work for a living should certainly be prepared for a little oddity. I tried to engage him in conversation. I thought of every movie that seemed to apply to what he was doing... The Dark Backwards (sadly unrelaeased on DVD), in which Judd Nelson becomes a comic sensation when a "mole" on his back grows into an arm. Then there's How to Get Ahead in Advertising with Richard Grant. But I get no reaction. I comb my memory banks for some appropriate chatter, and finally hit paydirt. Joe Charboneau! Of course... "Super Joe"!? I asked the doc if he ever heard of Joe Charboneau, and the guy's face lights up like a late-season Christmas Tree. Must be a baseball fan, no? So I told the doc a story I once heard about Charboneau- he used to (allegedly) carve his moles out of his own skin with a buck knife. Oh that Super Joe! I think I got a chuckle out of him, but I can't tell because his back is turned and I can't see his reaction. And then just like that... conversation's over.

Y'now... it's not like I really needed to talk to this guy. He was efficient and quick, and addressed my problem. But you'd think that if you are going to be a mole exterminator, you might be interested in some topical humor. Maybe I should have told him how Joe used to open beer bottles with his eye socket. Or drink beer with a straw through his nose? I try to stay appropriately on the subject though. But that's another story for another time.

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