I’ve been thinking about skin cancer lately. A young, fair skinned friend of mine
recently had a small mole removed from her leg.
It turned out to be melanoma! It
didn’t take me too long to make the connection between her complexion and mine,
and the fact that I’d been avoiding the dermatologist for several years,
worried that I’d come out like a punch biopsy pin cushion since I have quite a
few freckles and moles (and I’ve heard that dermatologists like to err on the
side of caution and biopsy anything remotely suspicious). But the melanoma story galvanized me into
action. I made an appointment with a
dermatologist (yes, I had to wait 4 months to get an appointment!) and got a
skin check. Luckily for me, all was fine. But I started to reflect on various conversations
I’ve had about my skin recently. All you
Irish types out there will relate…
Coworker A: Val, are you ok?
You look kind of sick.
Me: I’m just fine.
Coworker A: But Val, you look a little… bluish…
Me: That’s just my skin color. My veins show through my skin because it has
Coworker A: (Appearing sympathetic) Oh, well glad you’re
Coworker B: (in the middle of a conversation with me, sitting
across from one another on chairs. I’m wearing a skirt. Suddenly she lunges forward
and touches my knee and gasps). Is that
your real skin?
Me: Um… yes. What
else would it be?
Coworker B: Well, I thought you were wearing white pantyhose.
Me: Nope. It’s too
hot for pantyhose so I just go bare legged.
Coworker B: (still in shock). But that’s your skin? Just like that?
Me: Yeah. I don’t
Coworker B: (appearing sympathetic) Oh, wow.
Dermatologist: Hi, I’m Dr. XXX. (Peering at me, seated on the examining table
in a paper gown.) Are you Scandinavian?
Me: No, I’m part Welsh – you know, “Jones.”
Dermatologist: Oh, well the Vikings probably invaded Wales
at some point.
Me: (to myself) well thanks for alluding to the raping and pillaging
of my ancestors.
Dermatoligst: You’re high risk for skin cancer. People like you need to have careful skin
exams every year.
Me: Yes I know. But
please don’t take any unnecessary biopsies!
I think my moles are all fine.
Dermatologist: Well let’s see…(tearing the paper gown in two). You definitely need to wear SPF 50…
Me: Sigh. I know…
Husband: (giving me what I thought was a tender look. He leans in…) Your eye lids are kind of pinkish purple
Me: Yes, that’s the color of the capillaries that show
through my lid skin. Hard to get a tan
there you know.
Husband: You don’t need a tan – I like your color. Kind of pastel pink and blue. (He leans in even closer to inspect my eye lids.)
Me: Yeah, not exactly attractive in a bathing suit. (I pull away. He laughs.)
Husband: Well, yeah.
It’s better not to be out in the sun or on the beach, but you can still
Asian manicurist: (looking at my hands) Your skin is so white!
Me: Yes, I’m afraid my past efforts to alter that have failed.
Asian manicurist: How did you get your skin so white?
Me: I didn’t do anything.
It’s like that naturally.
Asian manicurist: (looking closer at my hands) I wish I had skin like yours.
Me: Why? (Hoping she’d say something flattering after all).
Asian manicurist: It looks clean.
And so I guess despite all the people I’ve worried with my vaguely cyanotic appearance, there’s one thing for sure: I look clean. I guess I can live with that.
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.