Nothing grabs your attention like death, your own most particularly.
And three weeks ago I was pretty sure I was dying. I wasn't pretty sure, I was certain.
Four years ago I quit my job, thinking, “If I die tomorrow, it won’t be doing this.” If I die tomorrow – maybe the universe took me literally.
Ever since I was a kid, I could pick up a medical pamphlet and share all the symptoms of any disease – dementia, diabetes, prostate problems, kidney failure.
What kind of strange, morbid little creature was I back then, I wondered, clicking through the series of cancerous skin lesion images on the internet.
No, mine didn’t look like that or that or that. But here it says, “At the beginning, skin cancer may look innocuous.” Innocuous – oh my god, mine looks innocuous. “It will change in size and shape.” I checked mine hourly. It seemed huge at times, and small at others. ”A patch of skin may be rough or shiny.” Oh, I’m dead meat. Mine is rough. Or shiny. Or roughly shiny.
It was two weeks before the dermatologist could see me. And that’s because, when my back is to the wall and I must seek medical attention, I choose a doctor in the wealthiest zip code in the U.S. The best never say, “The doctor can see you in half an hour,” no, it’s “We’ll call you if we have a cancellation in the next 30 days.”
I had two weeks to get my affairs in order, plus decide who would care for my horse, my dog. I figured no one would take Albert unless a trust fund were involved.
And then, I tried to find something to divert my attention. But nothing poses a legitimate distraction when you’re staring at the great beyond.
The doctor was sweet and handsome, as they all are in this zip code. And within two minutes he said, “This is not a problem.”
I went limp. “You mean, I’m not dying?”
“Ah,” he said, and took my hand. “Let me tell you something. Last week I celebrated a little too well in Seattle. In the middle of the night, I felt ill, and was sure I had pancreatic cancer. I didn’t sleep all night. Let me tell you something else: My brother is a doctor; three times he’s diagnosed himself with an incurable disease, and three times he’s been wrong.”
I wanted to kiss him, and gathered my purse, ready to run out the door. I wasn’t going to die, no, not ever again.
“Of course,” he said, “one day my brother will be right.”
“I see six cases of skin cancer every day," he said. "You’re blond, blue-eyed, fair skinned and you live in California – you’re an accident waiting to happen. Next time you see anything suspicious, anything at all, don’t hesitate to call.”