What are you looking at?
“What happened to your nose?” asked the suspiciously slow talking chap on the Bay Run this morning. “did you bang it?”. “No, I had some extremely minor surgery on it”. “Did it hurt? What did it feel like?”. “Yes, it hurt quite a lot. And now it kind of feels like it has a staple in it”. “Well, I’d never have that done” he said, walking slowly away.
Easy for him to say. Yesterday I had my yearly skin checkup. Just mentioning that brings everyone out of the woodwork. “did you see Dr Wong? He’s the best, he looks after my dad. You should go and see him”. I can’t go and see him, because I have a special dermatologist. She works at the melanoma unit. And I see her because some years ago I had quite a nasty melanoma, and she’s been waiting for something like this to happen. “Just a matter of time”, she said.
My dermatologist is French. She looks older than me, but is utterly exquisite in that special French way. Perfect skin, cerulean eyes, slender, anything she wears looks incredibly expensive. She always wears beige. Yesterday she was wearing a light beige shift dress with what looked like a rope tied around it, topped off by a dark beige cardy and espadrilles. She looked a million dollars. When I see her I have to strip and lie on a bed while she goes over my entire skin with a bright light and a magnifying glass, squeezing various bits as she goes, always terrific for the self esteem. I drew her attention to a spot on my nose that occasionally gets a bit crusty. “Hmmm”, she said. She rubbed it firmly with an alcohol wipe (non flushable) and gave it the once over with the searchlight. “I think there is a spot there. Nothing much. Better to take it off. I have a cancellation this afternoon, I shall send you off for some lunch and then you shall come back. It will be just a small dent I will make in your nose, possibly will not even bleed”. I can’t do the accent.
Instead I went home, what makes her think you can park for more than hour in Newtown? I supervised several relays of children making the most of the pool, first some milk white nerds pew pewing each other with water pistols. Then a pack of twelve year olds on whom the length of the pool is wasted, they only clamber out and find an infinite number of ways to jump back in again, off the slide, the jumping platform, through the plastic donut, classic catches in the air. The rabble of girls had to wait until I came back.
It’s always a bonus to have your doctor run on time, you just sign the paperwork, nod as she rapidly outlines what she’s going to do in her incredibly melodious and somewhat incomprehensible French accent (fortunately everything gets written down). Take your shoes off, lie down under this giant light, you’ll have a cloth over your eyes so you won’t have to see the giant anaesthetic needle dig around in your nose. Yes it is very unpleasant. I do wonder if just taking the biopsy without anaesthetic would hurt less? Maybe not in my case, because after a bit of pushing and tugging on the old schnoz she said “Ah. Now I can’t see what I’m doing”. I could feel some kind of liquid running across my face and down my neck and devoutly hoped it was antiseptic fluid. There was a bit of repartee between the doctor and the nurse, ending with “it’s not stopping, we’ll need a pressure dressing”. “Is bleeding a bad sign?” I asked in my most light hearted voice. “Oh, yes. That was almost definitely a BCC, and it may even have roots which will mean more surgery, but we won’t know until the biopsy comes back. Call us in two weeks. But if it comes back and it is sinister, I shall call you earlier. You may sit up now.” “Gosh”, said the nurse. “You could go out to Halloween like this”, she said as she mopped blood off my face, neck, back and out of my hair. Tops.
I’m an old hand at this waiting for medical results, if it is really a BCC, that’s actually great news compared to what I’ve had in the past, especially if she got it all. But if any student complains to me this fortnight about not getting assignment marks back quickly, they’d better stand well back.
And now for one of the more interesting aspects of this kind of thing. How do people react to you with something really obvious wrong with you? When I had a massive slice out of my neck almost everyone’s eyes would slide to it, they’d do a double take, then suavely pretend not to notice anything. Interesting. And that’s exactly what happened with one of the parents coming to pick up a twelve year old, the slight pause and then polite ignorance of the dressing on my nose. I’ve taken the dressing off now, so there’s just a large black stitch sticking out of the tip of my nose, along with some bruising and swelling. I have fifty students tomorrow. Shall I do the social experiment? I rather think I shall.
PS. There has been a lot of “what does one say” floating about the social media lately. For the record, I’m always happy to give a gruesomely detailed description of what’s going on with me. But having read this post, now you won’t have to ask.