Thursday, October 2, 2008

If I had known, I wouldn't have bothered shaving my legs

As the receptionist at the clinic checkout window declined my debit card, I stood there wondering whether I had inadvertently stumbled into a blip in the space/time continuum that hurtled me back to 1948.

"We only accept cash or checks," she said blankly.

I felt like telling her she could take my $30 copay fee and shove it. I never carry checks and cash isn't even in my vocabulary anymore, let alone my wallet.

But I didn't have to. The look on my face apparently said enough.

She handed me a bill and a pre-addressed envelope with a lack of fanfare that proved the maneuver was a routine part of her workday. "You can mail it."

That exchange, followed on the heels of the warped doctor I had met with moments earlier, made me want to run from the building never to return. The single overwhelming thought I had as I walked to my car was, "I will NEVER recommend this place to anyone. Ever. Even if they're covered in gooey lesions."

Because living with lesions would be better than seeking treatment at that office.

After much procrastination, I finally made an appointment to meet with a skin specialist about the two nearly identical bumps that appeared on my body a few months ago -- one near my right knee and the other on my left shoulder.

Putting off making doctor appointments has always been my specialty, but this one was even easier to avoid because I didn't want to deal with the probability of addressing my own mortality. It's much easier to put "face potentially life-threatening disease" on the next day's to-do list. Which, incidentally, makes having to do laundry just a little more appealing.

The office seemed clean, and I felt reassured by the large waiting area based solely on the assumption that the office had enough patients to warrant such a space.

After signing in, I nabbed a tattered months-old issue of People magazine and read it cover to cover.

Then I illuminated my cell phone to check the clock.

Good lord. I had been waiting almost an hour.

Just as I was considering whether to tell someone I had to be to work in less than 30 minutes, my name was called.

I went through my entire medical history with the nurse, including details of my last menstrual cycle, then she asked why I was there. I explained the spots, even pulling up my pant leg to show her.

"That's it?"

Were my potentially cancerous, dual-toned, raised bumps that suddenly appeared overnight without any incident not enough?

The doctor confirmed as much.

My initial impression was that he looked like a monk. His hair was white and bowl-shaped, covering his ears and his ridiculously bushy eyebrows. In fact, his massive bangs would've covered his eyes entirely if not for the gold wire-rimmed glasses resting on the tip of his nose.

"You gotta spot?" he said from the doorway before closing the door and slowly ambling into the room, hunched over from what appeared to be a combination of decades of bad posture and old age.

"Two," I said, explaining their location and pulling up my pant leg again.

When he got closer, I realized I could practically see the bones in his hand his skin was so thin.

He reached over to pinch my spot, digging into my skin with his strangely long nails, momentarily causing me to flinch.

"It's nothing," he said.

What? That's it? I anxiously stressed for months and waited for almost an hour for a three-second analysis? Seriously?

He had already dismissed me and started scrolling some completely illegible notes on my paperwork. I was desperately trying to read them, but not one mark even remotely resembled anything in the English language.

"Forgive me for pressing the matter, but how do you know?" I asked.

"Forty years of looking at skin."

"I can understand that, but you'll have to talk me through it a little," I said, trying to prod something, anything out of him. "What were you looking for? Discoloration? Discharge? What?"

"The way it depresses," he said. "It's nothing. It's the most common skin ailment."

"Does it have a name or do you have some information on it you could give me?" I asked.

With that, he opened a door in the desk he was sitting at, pulled out an information sheet and started highlighting, verbalizing the talking points as he went.

"So I should just take your word for it that I'm fine," I said, suddenly realizing he hadn't even asked me to sit on the examination table.

With that, he paused.

"What do you do?" he asked eventually.

"I'm a newspaper editor."

"Oh, alright. I wrote a newspaper column once. And, you know, they would have to cut it to fit the space. Sometimes words would be missing, or sentences or sometimes even an entire paragraph. But you know what? The meaning was never changed because they knew what they were doing."

I understood what he was getting at.

"So I should trust you to do your job and you should trust me to do mine," I said.


Right, I thought. But if I fuck up a headline, you don't have the potential to die from it.

So I kept pressing.

And he resisted.

"Sure, you could get a second opinion from one of those new-fangled lady doctors and they might dig it up and biopsy it, but it would come back negative and then you'd have a scar worse than what you have now," he said.

He kept ranting, but I was stuck on one phrase.

New-fangled lady doctors? NEW-FANGLED LADY DOCTORS?! Who the fuck was this guy? What decade was I in?

At that point, I gave up. I didn't want to hear one more word he had to say.

"Did I describe it well enough?" he asked.


The most maddening part of the entire thing? The literature he gave me describes my marks perfectly. I have dermatofibroma. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I should've saved myself the hassle, the 30 bucks and a stamp and diagnosed myself on WebMD.

You know, one of those new-fangled internet things.


aj said...


you've GOT to be kidding me?

"new fangled lady doctors" & no card machine? Yes, run, and never come back.

Anonymous said...

That is crazy!

You are one of the best writers ever. I love your blog and thanks for making it public. I can't remember how I stumbled onto it, but I love it.

You should write a book or be famous or something, but I'm sure you're told that a lot. :)

-Cara in Missouri

Liz said...

you know, it might NOT be that easy. my best friend has a thyroid disease called Hashimoto's, and one of the manifestations of it (according to HIS doctor) is slightly squishy bumps. he has a couple of them, all normal color, just kind of raised skin.

then again, i get bumps too, and mine are just a proneness to cysts (i even had one IN my nostril one time).

if you have any doubts, seriously, just go get checked by someone else, maybe get a recommendation from a woman you trust. the worst case is, they tell you it's nothing (again) and you feel a lot better, but are out a little money.

Randall said...

Oh, those lady doctors, they're silly you know :)

I will tell you I had a mole I didn't have a good feeling about, I was told it was nothing but they did a biopsy because I insisted. Turns out it was a pre-cancerous lesion (my kind is the type that turns into melanoma - super!) and 16 stiches later I am now a firm believer in a second opinon.

It wouldn't hurt to go to another doctor to have a look, it could be nothing, but what if it isn't?

the plainsman said...

Despite his many warts, and there are many, the guy does seem to be knowledgeble; but heh, I would definitely think about a second opinion even if you do stop short of a formal biopsy.

As to the cash or checks only, I started by paying only by cash or checks with my local merchants when I can (as opposed to chains and large orgs.) and they all apreciate saving the 3 or 4% fees going to the big financial institutions, even if they don't give a discount for cash (some do).

They are ones paying local school property taxes, employing local people and contributing to the first aid squads and fund drives, so I don't mind helping them a bit evne if I don't save.

So I can appreciate his idea, even if not always easy practical for all.

Yeah, would get a second opinion, even just for your own piece of mind. Had two single dealings with dermatologists over the years, one older guy almost retired, one young woman, but both so expert and thorough, I wished all doctors whom I have come across were as competant as they were/are!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly,

I had the same thing appear near my hip toward the end of my pregnancy. I got the same diagnosis and a "nothing to worry about." Just keep an eye on it and take note if it changes shape or size.


Jennifer Suarez said...

Yup, now there's a guy I'm willing to bet is voting for McCain - just sayin...Oops hope that doesn't spark a debate... but I just can't help to think that Sarah Palin would make a similar comment about "NEW-FANGLED LADY DOCTORS" *shrug* Annoyed Democrat talking sorry. Let's move on...

You know I believe I have the same exact thing. Same deal, popped up practically overnight - got 2 spots as well. One on my leg, one on my torso. Unlike you, I decided not to face my mortality and do the "let's pretend they are nothing and let's not find out what they MIGHT be" card.

Yes I know, real mature of me.

But I just popped dermatofibroma into google and it looks exactly like what I have. So thanks, now I consider YOU to be that new-fangled lady doctor hahaha!

Jennifer Suarez said...

Oh and for the record, mine popped up about a year after the birth of my daughter. Don't know if that has ANYTHING to do with it, just a weird coincidence worth noting perhaps.

Tennille said...

lol I had to look up "NEW-FANGLED" in the dictionary

This doctor is a genius.

jaclyn said...

Ok, so I just want to say how FUNNY it is that you -someone who rarely EVER curses in her blogs- dropped the 'f' bomb like...twice.
Makes me feel better about accidently yelping it when Katelyn chomped chomped down on my shoulder the other day!!

Rachel said...

I had a similar experience with a dermatologist a few years ago. I found a wonderful "new-fangled lady doctor" and will share my horror story with anybody even thinking about going to the dermatologist in the area. I've smeared his name on as many rating sites as I can find!

Chelsea said...

Leave that practice! Even though it may be nothing, you should find another doc to go to when it may become something.

Karen said...

Grrrrrr. Don't get me started on condenscending "professionals" today.

I agree with those that said never go back. And next time you see any other doctor, tell them what happened. At least have them take a look.

Jessica said...

Are you sure your doctor wasn't a dentist here in Florida 3 years ago?

I'm telling you I went to a guy (who's been my husband's dentist since he was a kid!) who acted the same way. Treated me like I was stupid simply for pressing him for answers to INTELLIGENT QUESTIONS. Heaven forbid I actually know what he's doing to me & don't just take his word for it!

I should ahve known when I walked into the "office." It was an old converted house with wood paneling & rocking chairs in the waiting room.

Anonymous said...

a lot of times debit and credit cards are expensive to use for a business owner. they can lose up to 13% off a payment that goes directly to the credit card company.

that dr is probably old school and way stuck in his ways. a shame because he probably is good at what he does. though, it does go to say he can offer his patients a little bit of comfort for the $300+ cost of the appointment.

Ray said...

Wow that's crazy. But that's how it is. You wait for about two hours and they diagnosis you in a matter of five seconds. Making you feel like an idiot for coming in the first place and for waiting so long. I tell you doctor's like that have it made. Making thousands a week off of a, "5 second analysis." If only we could ALL be that LUCKY! Sheesh!

So all in all I completely understand when you say you should have just looked it up on I'm sure their analysis would have been worth the thirty dollars!

(About the not carrying money thing: I know it's none of my business but, in case of emergencies where you can't use your debit card or can't find an ATM, you should carry a bit of cash with you. It's better to be safe than sorry.)

Laura said...

I always carry one check in my wallet for this reason. I live in kind of a small town and never fail to be amazed when they dont take debit/credit.

I really really hate doctors who act like you are inconveniencing them by being there. Do your job, dammit. They are no better than bored waitresses.
Seek a second opinion if you are worried about it.

Candi said...

Wow. What a jerk!