Meadow Muses

By Luddd Creef

Dermatology is “Pig Latin” for PAIN ...

Following World War II, my father returned to Norfolk County, Virginia with his wife from Maine and son from California (me). Norfolk County became the City of Chesapeake during the 1960s. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and the Ford assembly plant were located nearby, so there were plenty of good paying jobs.

The combined cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk became the Tidewater Area. Tidewater offered an abundance of beauty for work and play for anyone who liked the beach or the miles of shoreline found there. Fishing, boating, surfing and sailing were our free forms of recreation, and we took all of it for granted. Our yellow and white 1957 Ford station wagon carried many loads of neighbor kids to the beach and reeked of sun tan lotion. We thought the jelly fish stings were the only thing to dread. Every spring we were lily white, and by mid-June we had all suffered from full-body sunburns. I objected to the long days of sun that resulted in painful burns and peeling. I chose to avoid most of those family beach trips unless they had a cold watermelon (one of my personal weaknesses). Most of the teenage boys and girls just had to return to school in September with a “Beach Boy Tan.” I did not need the beach. My family had a garden and teenage labor (me).

As my age group passed their 50th birthday, many began to die from a new and fast acting form of cancer called melanoma. The “bronze” look achieved with suntans was deadly, a scary reality. Our health providers began to warn everyone of the many forms of skin cancer that could be treated with the scalpel in the early stages…pain worse than jelly fish stings.

During my annual physical for 2016 my doctor examined the ugly wart on my nose and asked how long it had been with me? I told him it was recent. He wrinkled his forehead and said to keep a close watch and let him know if it changed any. Then during my 2017 physical, he took a picture and said, “o.k., time to get a second opinion”. I wrinkled my forehead as he described the likely procedure, and my only question was, “Will it hurt?” He did a doctor tap dance and said, “Oh, they have medicine to dull the sensation”. He never used the word pain!

My regular and current source of pain for the past 60 years has been the masked man we call “The Dentist”. My doctor realized that the words pain and hurt are near and dear to my heart. He assured me that it had to be done and would not exceed the discomfort provided by The Dentist. My doctor could teach “tap dancing” – he avoided all of the scary words. I did not understand enough to ask any intelligent questions, so I agreed to do as he asked. He should have gone into all of the details of the “World of Dermatology” – like there are two stages to the ugly wart removal. It’s a two-step process. Two different doctors, two different places, two different days and double the DISCOMFORT – I should have realized there was much ugly pain ahead.

My first encounter was late January, and it was absolutely NO fun! I requested pain relief; the Q-tip dipped in alcohol was not what I had in mind. I left there with a new hole in my only nose, three days/nights of pain, and a broken tooth – the latter from clenching my teeth from the very real pain beyond discomfort!

My second encounter was late February, and I really did not want to go. But I had told my family doctor I would go, and Peggy asked that I please keep the appointment. We drove over to the hospital and found the building with the big 66 on the front. My shoes felt like lead as we walked into the full waiting room, where old geezers like me were decorated with bandages. Each one had been gift wrapped with huge gobs of gauze and medical tape. The place resembled a MASH field hospital tent from the Korean War. After filling out about 66 pages of information, I was led like a lamb to the slaughter.

I explained my apprehensions and asked if this were really necessary, and what would happen if I chose NO surgery. They got up real close and smiled like a couple of undertakers (no offense GW), then said…”it won’t be pretty”. I asked if there would be any pain. They said we have special salve and two shots. That is all you will feel. They did a nice tap dance too.

My blood pressure was a little high because I am afraid of people who give shots and use scalpels and drills. After what seemed like a long time, they returned and thumped my nose. They asked if that hurt. As I said NO…I got the shots. They put a heavy towel across my eyes and I could feel the scalpel but it did not hurt – and before I could say SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS (which means wonderful), it was over. I am sure I never want to go through any of this again. I am positive I will never return to the scene of the broken tooth. If you trust a doctor and pay him for advice, it is foolish to ignore his advice, after his tap dance.

After leaving the PAINLESS doctor, I was hungry. First stop was Subway, where people looked at me with pity. Second stop was Martin’s for groceries. There was a lady there with an unruly kid. She pointed at me and said, “Behave or you are going to look like him!” I ran to the men’s room to look in the mirror – I was rather scary. That nurse had bandaged me up like a cheap gift, without a big red bow!

This has been an education. Too much sunshine can cause cancer and death. I have a uniform for cutting grass, - wide brim straw hat, gloves, full coveralls, ear protection, sun glasses, socks, and boots. Early morning and late afternoon only.

Research provided the names of three types of skin cancer, and none of them sound friendly. 1. basal cell cancer, 2. Melanoma, and 3. squamous cell skin carcinoma. The doctors say, “Early detection, treat it when you see it, fast action is essential”. Take it from a “Skin Veteran,” treat sunshine as a danger and avoid the painful treatment. Cancer research is ongoing but the scalpel is the most common treatment these days, after the entertaining tap dance.

I took a close-up picture of my bandaged nose to remind me that cancer is as ugly as “Rust on a Mercedes.”