Just sit with the idea.

One of my favorite people, Karin Montgomery Kaser, is a school counselor, who thanks to difficult economic times in education, must work half-days at an elementary school and half-days at junior high.  Everyone knows half-days always turn into a full’s day’s worth of work to do crammed into a half day’s worth of time.  Here’s the philosophy Karin has created to help her deal with her life:  “If I frame the daily absurdity with art and poetry, then some days I cry, but mostly I am happy.”

Banishing the Melanoma

I am sitting here at my desk illicitly.  I am supposed to have my leg elevated all the time above my heart.  That’s OK if a person is lying down, but in my chair watching TV, that would mean my leg would need to be at almost a 90 degree angle and who can do THAT with your knee next to your lips?  I COULD do it, thanks to yoga, water aerobics and zumba, but not for a whole week and all the TV shows would be ruined with a giant leg in the middle of the screen.  A giant leg with a lumpy white bandage right in the middle.  So I’m sneaking a computer break.  I didn’t want to get bed sores from lying around for hours at a time.  I do not languish well.
The operation went well.  The needles were the worst.  The nurse tried to get my attention off what she was doing by asking me questions, but Neal was in the room with me then and he kept answering them because he was as nervous as I was due to the fact he had a clear view to the savagery and I had to peer over my chest, so we foiled her plans.  Besides, that trick stuff never works on me anyway.  Most of the time I know exactly why people are doing what they are doing.  Neal told the nurse her tactics would not work on me because I was FOCUSED.  On the needles.
She said her shots would not hurt as much as the ones for the biopsy had.  That was .09% true.  I think I got eight shots all together.  I was busy blowing out breaths as the numbing agent was being squirted in so I lost count.  I was so tense my back was out of the chair and my blood pressure was 132/70 when it’s usually 110. 
After the shots started taking effect, she told Neal she would walk with him out of the room, a nice way to say get out of here and he was very, very glad to go because he almost fainted from all the shot giving.  He grabbed up his book and coat and my purse and coat in one fell swoop and jetted from the room.  If anyone gave a prize for room-getting-out-of, he would’ve won.
The doctor came in and also a resident.  He asked me if I minded if he made the chair go back and relief flooded me.  He said that way I wouldn’t have to see his handiwork.  I said I thought that was a super idea.  I could feel it and that was enough.  The cutting didn’t take long but the stitching did.  When he was finished, he moved the chair back to sitting and I saw the incision which is about four inches long.  Then he showed me what he took out of my leg.  It’s about the size of the plug that fits in the bottom of a bar sink.  I looked at it quickly and said, “Yeah.  Wow.”  He left.
The nurse moved the chair down so I could get out of it and then she left to go get something, so I picked up the jar and sneaked another peek at the piece of leg.  Specimens are so interesting, even your own.  I almost dropped it.  I don’t know what miracle saved me.  I would have been so embarrassed. 
When she returned, I got all the instructions of what to do and not do.  She said, “You look confused.”  Well, duh. 
I said, “I’m trying to remember everything.”  She said, “Oh, don’t bother.  I’m giving you these sheets so you’ll have everything written down.  I just wanted you to hear it all, too.”  Whew.  I’m not too good at remembering things after my blood pressure’s been up around 132 and a chunk of my leg is floating in a jar. 
I have ice on the incision now.  I have chanted through one healing CD and read the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book so I’m all mellowed and laughed out.   I did not have to cook dinner.  Thank heaven for small favors.
One of the lines on the instructions reads, “This incision should not be painful.”  Huh?  I hope to heck that’s true.  It itches right now.  Another line reads, “No strenuous exercise.”  Darn!  That’s what I’d had planned for tomorrow.  Now all that’s on my to-do list is 1) lie in bed, 2) read books, 3) watch movies, 4) take shower at 2:30 because I have to wait that long. 
“Have a nice Absolut Ruby Red vodka and tonic” is not on the list because another line on the instruction sheet reads, “No alcohol.”  Darn again!
From all indications I have made it through my little surgery successfully and should know results in a week.  I go back on the 29th for inspection.  In the meantime, I am gluing my knee to my ear.  Elevate, elevate.
(Also remember, if you have a mole or skin coloration mark that changes shape or color, hie thee to a dermatologist, pronto!)


I first spotted it as I began to apply make-up before an outing with my Mah Jong group to see a local theatrical revue of the music of Cole Porter. 
AACCCHHH!  What I thought I saw was not De-Lovely.  Was what I saw true?   Or was it a trick of light?  Wrinkly revelations scare me on a regular basis in that larger-than-life-sized mirror. I shuffled to ascertain my reflection from a different angle.  Perhaps only a rearrangement of position was in order.
Ohmifreakinlordy, as my friend Judith says.  Holy fuckanoli as my friend Nancy says.  Shit!  (That’s me.)
That black hair sticking straight out like errant stubble dead center of my chin was real all right.  Thank you, hormone loss.
I fumbled for the tweezers and yanked out the culprit.  I felt no mercy for yet another signpost of my aging self.  Why had no one told me it was there?  I hoped it was because no one else had seen it.  At the same time, I knew that people can be polite when you least want them to be.
Another terrifying thought struck me.  What if there were more lurking?  I checked under my chin but the combination of light and shadow and the trying machinations it takes to see anything you really need to if you wear tri-focals foiled me.  Have you ever tried to look under your own chin?  Or in my case, chin, chin, and dewlap?  I decided to let what I didn’t know not hurt me and set off to enjoy my evening.
I relished the pleasure afforded me by music and the companionship of my friends.
Looking around the table at the musical revue, I reflected upon our assembled group.  I saw one friend who recently had a heart attack scare, one who has raised a son with a mental disability, one who cares for her ailing husband, one who has lost a breast, and two who have lost their husbands. 
 No one emerges air-brushed and perfect, loss-free, from the miracle of having lived.  All of my friends have their own facial hair to deal with.  Yet these women are beautiful.  Me, too.
Why?  When we have problems, we have suggestions, sharing what we’ve learned from life with each other.  Our lifetime acquired knowledge is prodigious, the group of us their own private Google.  We laugh and make each other laugh.  We create beauty with our paintings, sculptures, gardens, and jewelry.  One runs a county-wide program feeding hungry children.  We use our talents to love—our families, our friends, our communities. Yes, life has dealt us loss and our answer back, to a woman, is love.  Women who learn, laugh and love are beautiful, errant hairs notwithstanding.  
Once home, in the bathroom, passing the mirror, I thought, “Why not take another look?”  Late evening now, the ambient light was darker.  Shadows are often more revealing than light.  I notice on CSI the agents always leave the lights off when searching for clues.
AAARGH!  Right away I spotted three long and curly hairs, like three butterfly probiscae, happily nestled in their shaded refuge under my chin.  I could have braided them but instead I grabbed those tweezers again and plucked, plucked, plucked.  Sigh.
Remember that old Chinese curse, “May your life be interesting!”?  What a body does as it ages is interesting, all right.  Furrows and ridges appear.  Parts pucker and sag.  Joints ache.  Hair arrives where it’s never been before.  When you look in the mirror, you see your grandmother and your mother.  As much as you love them, you aren’t ready to be them.  Time travels too fast, especially at this end of life.
But you know what?  Despite what advertisements define as beauty for us, despite the fact the older we become, the more invisible we become to younger generations, despite the various declines we endure, despite our losses, we can take what life dispenses.
So what am I going to do about my hairy chin?  I think I’ll write a musical about the wonders on this side of life and call it Hair—the Next Generation.

The Marbled Blotch

So I went to the dermatologist because I thought the thing on the back of my
knee was a cancer.  It looked like the ones that my mom gets taken off her
face from time to time.  Nope, it was OK, and I had the whole body check,
ending with what I thought was a lovely dark brown marbled splotch on the
left side of my left knee. 

“That doesn’t look good,” the resident, Gretchen, said.  Three torturous needle pricks of lidocaine later, she
scraped off that artistic piece of leg for the lab.  Dr. Parker, the teacher doctor, said he’d call within
the week with results, and he did.  He gave me the name and phone number of the surgeon he
wanted me to use.  Same place, OHSU Center for Health and Healing.  5th floor. 

So far in my experience, there’s been more slice and dice than healing.  And three
crummy pricks.  (Aren’t there always crummy pricks in every story?)  Ariana, the surgeon’s receptionist described for me the two methods that could be used. 

One was excision.  I know that means “cut it out.”  OK.  The other was the Mohs method, which as she described it seemed like another level to Dante’s Hell, one he didn’t know about when he wrote
The Inferno.  Cut out, wait, analyze and come back for more of the same, again and again, until there’s only clean tissue.  Oh, yippee!  Then Ariana told me I could not wait until December when my husband had a free day at work, that December would be TOO LATE and this had to be done as soon as possible.  So November 16th was the date we chose together. 

Since he’s coming with, Neal will have to miss work that day.  She called later
with the semi-good news that after analyzing what Gretchen had scraped off,
the surgeon will use the “excise” method.  There’s already a big hole where
Gretchen did her handiwork last week so I don’t think that part of my
anatomy will be very happy to be re-sliced.  And I’m not looking forward to
the lidocaine pricks since that’s an area always inflammed thanks to my
fibromyalgia pressure point and zumba dance.  And that’s the knee that might have
to be replaced.  To Knee or not to Knee.  Going through all that new knee or not process comes next. 

Well, not really.  Having a colonoscopy on the 8th of December comes next.  Girls just
want to have fun!!!
I am calling Ariana tomorrow to see if I can take Xanax before I arrive at
their office.  I get so nervous that the adrenalin rush after-effects leave
me limp, light-headed and unable to control my muscles.  Xanax might unnerve
me enough to sail smoothly through it all.

Complaining is what I do best, as you can see.  Really, I am ecstatic
knowing that I felt I had to see a dermatologist even if it was for the
wrong thing.  I think my friend Frank, who died from this very thing, sent
me the message I needed to go.  So thanks, Frank.  I’m always open to
messages from any dimension.  Anyone have anything to say about my
intestines?  Anyone?