The appointment was scheduled for Monday, January 27 at 7:15 a.m.
My dermatologist had already taken a whack at the top of my left hand. There was a slight rise of a dry spot between the knuckles for my pointer finger and middle finger. When the report came back from the lab, there was no surprise— it was skin cancer.
Per my dermatologist, an appointment was set with a dermatologist who specializes in mohs surgery. The mohs process allows the doctor to cut out a section of tissue and have it quickly analyzed by specially trained lab technicians.
As a patient, my hope is that the doctor gets all of the unruly cancer out in that first whack. Then, I can be sown up and sent home.
I arrived on time, handed off the layers of a now dead tree of paperwork, provided my ID, insurance card, paid the co-pay, and waited.
When called, the first nurse played the confirmation game based upon the stack of paperwork I had turned in. She was very patient with me. This was especially true— when she asked for clarification about my medical history and my reason for being present this morning.
Interestingly, during my visit, I was asked a handful of times to verify my birthdate. I’m not sure if they were trying to trip me up. Aha— we have a possible impostor! Or if my appearance befuddled them—this guy looks a lot, I mean a lot older than his birthdate.
Anyway, the doctor came in, asked questions, and talked about the procedure. Based upon the location of this pest, she was concerned about closing the surgical spot back up. Her first instinct was to grab a chunk of skin from another part of my body for a graft.
We had quite a discussion about this possibility, and I basically encouraged her to try and work her magic without going to another part of my old body for some skin.
Before she left, the doctor temporarily became a first grader. She took out a marker, and drew on my left hand the core of her perimeter margins.
I was prepped. A section of my left hand numbed up. She returned, did some gentle pokes to insure the numbness, and the whacking started.
Soon, I was temporarily patched up, and whisked into a separate waiting room.
While waiting the results, I attempted to read Barney Hoskyns’ book— Across The Great Divide: The Band and America. My childhood pal, Joe Vanderford, and I are teaching a class for the Osher Institute at the University of Richmond in April about The Band and their first three albums.
Sadly, one of the members of The Band, Levon Helm, lost his life to cancer.
It is no secret—I dislike cancer. Cancer needs to die. It needs to leave our planet immediately now, scram!
So, a skirmish with a skin cancer makes me worry. Mentally, I play what if.
I take a look around the waiting area. I wonder about my fellow patients— are they worried, nervous, and playing what if too?
For some reason, the time seems to pass quickly, and I’m called back. I get settled down into the chair, and the nurse gives me the good news. The doctor carved out the troublesome cancer in the first whack.
The doctor hustled in and reconfirmed the news. Now, she turned her attention to instructions for the nurse to prep me for being sewn up.
Before she started, the doctor had me move my hand in assorted configurations. She wanted to see how my handed responded to her plan for stitching me up. Pulling skin from another spot on my body wasn’t going to happen. Her plan was to use existing skin to form a graft with a bolster.
Soon, her work was complete. I learned quite a bit about the mohs process as she worked. And, I also learned about her compassion in helping her patients.
Indications are this skin cancer had been caused by the sun hitting my left hand while driving. For all the good the sun does, it can also be bad when a person fails to respect its rays. When I was a lot younger, I wasn’t respectful.
Before the nurse dismissed me, he thoroughly discussed the protocols for taking care of my hand. I was ready to reconfirm my birthdate if needed as my pass for escaping. But, I wasn’t asked. I guess they finally agreed this guy isn’t a stunt double.
I had my follow up appointment set. I walked out to the car. I made a call home and shared with my wife the good news.
I needed to stop by Trinity to let them know the doctor told me to spend the rest of the day at home.
In the church office at Trinity, a surprise was waiting for me.
Two friends from my days at Lakeside Elementary School had dropped off an original copy of the Beach Boys Concert. This live album recording was released in October 1964. I was 11 years old. I am grateful to Amy and Cindi for thinking of me. Cindi knows all about cancer. She has beaten it out of her body once.
I look at the young faces of the Beach Boys on stage. They looked so happy in their trademark striped shirts. Sadly, my favorite Beach Boy, the youngest Wilson brother, Carl, lost his life to cancer way too early at 51.
So many of the band’s early songs, put people out in the sun. They sold America and the rest of the world on California and all its golden grandeur.
Little did we know in that youthful exuberance—that someday we might just have a price to pay for the sun and its harmful rays.
I’m thankful my news was good on Monday. I hope the news was good for the other patients in the office that day. I’m thankful for the skills of the nurses and doctor who worked on me. I’m thankful for two friends who remembered my affection for some musicians from Hawthorne, California.
And I hope that as I continue to age that my respect for the sun will never leave me.
And I pray that our children and their children will be wiser than me with the sun.
For we all know: “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises.”Ecclesiastes 1:5