[12-19-19COVID: If you make it through to the end, post a “like.” It won’t count against you. If you really feel bad about that, instead, leave a comment telling me where your feel-bad hurts. Not that I can make it all better, but you might join hordes of others directing me to go back and finish-up welding school. If you’re recognizable by email or WPid, we here at spwilcen will see to it that your “participation” trophy ships by the end of the week. No cheating. There could be a quiz.]
I – Self-diagnosis
Several days ago, I woke to find a small black something on my face. Where the nostril-thingy of my nose folds into my cheek. An inch or so from the breather-hole. Small enough, when sleepy-eyed, brushing my teeth in the odd lighting that curses all bathrooms, I saw it, I thought it was a speck of dirt. It didn’t brush away. Which, au naturalament, put an end to teeth-brushing and the beginning of closer, much closer, inspection.
What I saw was not a pimple, for its color not a whitehead, and not a blackhead. Decorated that way in my youth and occasionally now when I’m sweating out in the barn or in the pasture long days and don’t scrub until I bleed showering in the evening, I’m familiar with those aggravations.
It wasn’t a boil or an abscess. Whew! Those things take weeks to decide what pain they’re going to put you through before suddenly disappearing. More often, they swell and become insanely tender. When touched, they knife radiating pain to body parts not sensibly connected: from your elbow to your ankle or from inside your wrist to the back of your ear.
It didn’t seem a cyst, the somewhat less painful relative of insidiously vile boils and abscesses.
Ingrown hairs are tricky. Another sweat-induced festering malady common when you button your shirtsleeves and your shirtfront all the way up to your neck. Which you do in summer because out bailing hay nekkid from the waist up, really with any exposed parts at all, hay dust coats you so you look like a coconut flaked German Chocolate cake. Seen my share of ingrown hairs, which this was not.
Old folk suffer skin tags. Tags usually live around the neck or underarms and are probably the most unoffensive anomalies. Old(er) myself, I have a few. This was not a skin tag.
It surely was not a mole. Moles always look like they’re on serious business. If you suffer with them, you either accommodate or rush off to have them checked when you suspect they’re new or have redecorated.
Seeing a disproportionate share of bug bites, I knew for certain this was not one. No inflammation or swelling surrounding the dot, no discoloration. Not a bug or spider bite. Save the Recluse and Widow, usually only a two- or three-day aggravation anyway, but with inflammation.
Not a nodule. Had I determined it was, that would have been the end of it. What I’ve seen of nodules, they’re pretty much a ‘here-to-stay’ proposition. Live with it, Bub.
It thankfully was not a carbuncle, which ranks right up there with cysts, boils, and ingrown hairs. This perturbation would have to seize a lot more real estate to be a carbuncle. Nope. Whew! Again.
I considered it might be a misplaced beauty mark. Later, somebody, please explain to me why it’s fashionable, chic, or trendy to paint a beauty mark on your upper lip, or accenting smile wrinkles. Please? Some work on my vanity might let me come to love, even flaunt a beauty mark, but I decided against it, requiring maintenance I’m not prepared to suffer. A haircut sure, and a shave most days, okay. Sorry Brad, two days’ growth isn’t handsome, it’s lazy.
It certainly was not a cold sore. Not going there. I had no earthly idea what I was dealing with.
The dot bothered me. I don’t mind that I’m marred. I’ve been less than perfect all my life. Comfortable with it, sort of. If I understand it, it’s okay. If I don’t understand, I worry. What if it turns orange and falls off? Or grows so big it scares women, lesser men, and small children? Between the ages of four and twelve, children are fascinated by bodily anomalies; threatening pustulence, funny colors, and odd shapes rivet their attentions. My concern was babies and teens. For reasons, which if not striking a chord with you, lead me to admire your perfection.
Hating the inconvenience, I thought to get it checked out. It’s a costly process because until it’s life-threatening which I didn’t believe (hoped) this was not, the insurance people won’t pay real money for imaginary diseases, breaks, sprains, or infections. Oddly, they’ll pay for a tummy tuck or rearranging cleavage. But hell, a man who figures to have the Singapore tattoo “Mary Jane Forever” wreathed by two entwined rattlesnakes removed gets an “it’s on your dime, Buddy.”
II – Expert Opinions
My first call to a medico was my family physician. I dunno if he’s a GP or an internist or what, but I suspect he’s only a shill for the Med Center’s MRI department. No matter how badly I’m bleeding, no matter at what stupid angle my arm dangles when I walk into his clinic, the first order of business is always, “Better pop down to the Med Center for an MRI. I’ll have the front office set up an immediate appointment.”
“So,” he said very medical-ly this visit, “you have a spot on your nose?”
“Yup. Dunno what it is.”
“Well, let’s take a look.”
This drew a confused look, which made the doc a trifle self-conscious, so he did take a look. Touched nothing. Just looked, and…
“What is it?”
“Don’t know. The otolaryngologist across the street is just back from vacation. Lots of holes in her schedule. I’ll ask her to take a look.”
Which she did. Look. Touched nothing. I mentally noted to look real close in the mirror when I got home, suddenly believing I was a damned sight uglier than I understood. She sent me to the Oncologist in the Medical Center.
The Oncologist speedily determined it was not something she was concerned about. Which is okay for her but not for me because it was my nose. It was an opportunity to exhale in relief because you know what oncology is all about.
In the Medical Center anyway, I thought I’d pop down and get an MRI. Just in case, you know? No, probably not a good idea. I didn’t.
The Ophthalmologist I was referred to, for some unrevealed reason but what the hell, slipped me right in between two freckle-face twin girls who have careers in comedy and a dude with something resembling a ‘dickie’ or a high-English ascot wrapped around his neck. I wasn’t about to ask the gent what his problem was. The twins, the comedians, were that not so much for sharing jokes, but for encouraging the audience to laugh because they themselves were on the verge of wetting their trousers. They never stopped laughing the whole time they were there. That was pleasant for a while but before I left the office, became disconcerting, suggesting a career in film noir with a decided horror twist. It was the Ophthalmologist’s opinion whatever I had was not something he’d know about. He was in good company.
On day two, I disrupted the schedule of a local Dermatologist. She hemmed and hawed, actually touching my nose, used a huge square magnifying thing that made her eyes look like something from a sci-fi movie to zoom-in. I ran my list of suspects past her. She “No, don’t think so’d” every one of them. By then I was disheartened. She did however remark “Cleon, my sister-in-law’s cousin is a plastic surgeon” and promptly dispatched me there, suggesting, “He’s seen it all.” You can feel my confidence in the medical profession growing leaps and bounds, right?
Cleon had no idea. He did suggest a little rhinoplasty once the obvious malady was dispatched. Maybe a chin tuck? And about those wrinkles at the corners of my eyes…
Pausing my expedition to identify and hopefully treat this aberration, while sipping a cup of coffee I got a phone call. Yes, I was tri-tasking, also staring into a mirror to see if my new friend had grown, changed color, moved, found buddies, or started wearing clothes. The same inspection, incidentally, assured me I was no uglier than I’ve ever been, so the treatment I’d been getting remained a mystery.
The call was from my insurance company. How rare is that, I mean a real live insurance person actually calling someone?
“We’re a little concerned here in claims processing.”
I thought I heard giggling in the background. “How’s that?” I asked.
“Well, you’ve been to several specialists…”
“And I’m not done yet…”
“There will be more?”
“Until I find out what I got.” It was giggling in the background. “Is that laughter?”
“Well, yes. We have a pool here. We’re betting on what you’ve got. We’re curious.”
“Sure, it’s costing the company for all this, if we decide to pay, but we’re curious. What you got? I mean what do you have?”
“Have a spot near my nose. Black, thin, tiny. Looks like a pencil dot. No one seems to know.”
“Oh. I’ve had that.”
I heard that bit of news replayed to the gigglers. I’m quite sure HIPAA might have been playable, but I let it go. I had another appointment, you see.
I asked: “You had it?”
“What was it?”
“Well, you’ll excuse me, but I have to run.”
“Oh sure. But we’d like to know. The pool, you see.”
“You’ll get the paperwork.”
“Not always. Sometimes policy holders just give up.”
“You mean like if my nose just falls off?”
“Or I adopt the thing?”
“Um. Okay. But I’d really like to know what it is. You know, in case I ever get one again.”
“And the pool?”
“I’ll be sure to let you know.”
III – Protocol
On day three, in a hurry to leave in the morning, I snatched an appointment card from the refrigerator door, jammed it into my shirt pocket, grabbed my Resistol, and hoofed to my pickup. My first appointment was the Radiologist. I guessed x-rays were needed to see if my friend had roots anchored in my skull. That or it was the other kind of radiologist who would throw a heavy blanket on my chest, don a lead sports jacket himself and Flash Gordon the alien growth from my schnoz. Only for the briefest moment was I concerned any alpha-beta-gamma would put my brain in peril, that being the least valuable part of me anyway.
“Why are you here,” the bespectacled, doubly-badged, multiple-ballpoints-in-pocket doctor asked.
“I have this thing on my nose.”
“Oh. I dunno. Who sent you here?”
“You have the paperwork.”
“Oh. Yeah. Not something any film is going to help with.”
“Guess I’ll be on my way.”
The doc spied my Resistol. “You a cowboy? Rancher? Horse and all?”
“Yup.” Might as well do the part up brown, I figured.
“My daughter would like to learn to ride. Horses.”
“Horses we got. Bring her out.” I gave him my card, he thanked me, and I left. I figured it was an investment if it turned out I really needed zapping or some such.
I had a teeth cleaning and dental exam squeezed in. Not as much an emergency as the nose attachment, but I was there. It didn’t scare off the hygienist, so she was blind, or it wasn’t as bad as I figured. When the Doc came in, we sandwiched some conversation in between his “Hm’s” and “Um-hmms.”
“See that thing on my nose?” I figured everyone else has had a shot at it, why not the dentist?
“What? Oh that. Pimple. Or gonna be.”
So much for cross-training doctors and dentists.
This adventure was not without embarrassment. Finishing at the dentist’s office, I pulled the card torn from the refrigerator from my pocket and drove to an unfamiliar office. Pretty befuzzled as you’d imagine by this time, I was running on auto. Arriving at an unfamiliar building, I went to the designated floor, found the numbered door, and walked in. Eight pairs of eyes snapped from glossy magazines to hold me in wary surveillance. Women. All of them. The nurse, I guess a nurse, at the desk gave me a stern look. I glanced at the certificates on the wall to my left. “Obstetrics.” “Gynecology.” “Women’s Health.” I cannot tell you how quickly I backed out the door, meeting my wife coming in. Unwittingly, I’d snatched her appointment card from the refrigerator. I mumbled something that took a heap of explaining later that evening.
Rimshot, my foreman is dating a woman who is an Acupuncturist. I believe in that. Seen it work. But it’s for bona fide aches and such. Or I believed. The woman is tiny. She put me on a table and went to work. With several needles well placed, she poked one in that didn’t feel so good. I’d have jumped off the table except I worried I’d snap off an already-placed needle and have more than a pencil dot to worry over. We discussed it. Session over, I graciously expressed thanks and left. I will be having words with Rimshot. There are things he needs to know about his tiny little lady friend.
Found myself back in town so I stopped by Doc Stimson’s office to chat about leptospirosis vaccines. Doc, local large animal vet, was walking a high school shadow student around his office. Why not? I asked the Doc to take a look at my new friend. He had no idea, but it didn’t look bad to him. The student took one look and went running off hand over mouth. There’s little hope he’s gonna make much of a vet. I mean out here, on the ranch, sometimes a cow will… Um. Well, it’s worse than a speck of un-dirt on your face.
The wife was doing yoga in the big pole barn when I got home. Her yogi uses the big machine bay because it holds all twenty-odd yoga-ists and is free. I failed to scoot out before class broke, so the instructor cornered me. Apparently, the missus had been confidentially chatting with the yogi about my condition. The machine bay was empty of students, only honorable yogi, my wife, and me.
“…and as you inhale deeply, feel the air slowly enter your lungs and expand. Hold it there to empty it of oxygen. Breathe it out slowly, focused. Count the molecules of air. Let them cleanse your mind and body. Your body will heal itself.”
Hell, it works for the missus. It couldn’t kill me.
I was wrong. The ‘simple’ positions she gave me felt good but demanding. Until an hour later when I’d apparently used-up all the good air and my back and legs rebelled. Maybe needle holes let the good air leak out.
It was an exhausting week. I checked the mirror. The spot was still there. Still wouldn’t wash off. My new friend and I went to bed. Tomorrow would host a visit with a neurologist – maybe nervousness over enough rain to fill the north pasture pond caused ganglion agitation manifested on my nose? After that, an allergist.
The next morning, you saw it coming, didn’t you? Yup. It was gone. Not a trace. I almost missed it. I cancelled some appointments, re-planned my day to get some work done around the place for a change. I suppose I should call my insurance company. They’ll want to know.
© SP Wilcenski
Originally in P**** June 7, 2020
Posted to spwilcenwrites 12/17/2020