Friday, March 2, 2012

Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Have a Biopsy.

I went to the dermatologist this morning to get my annual cancer check. I'm pasty and my husband is paranoid. That's why I go, in case you were wondering. If it were up to me, the less doctor's appointments, the better.

I've had this mole in the middle of my back that has bothered my husband since he met me. Or at least since he's seen me naked, which was not immediately after he met me. I'm a lady. Sort of. Anyway, the mole is dark. Which I guess translates to "cancer" in mole-speak. Over the past few years I've had a a general practice doctor, an oncologist and a dermatologist all look at it. They said it was fine.

But my husband is a worrier. And like I said, I'm pale. Like really, really pale. Most of the time I'm wearing a layer of Jergens Natural Glow self tanner and I'm still the envy of field hands. Most people would be surprised to discover that I wear self tanner at all because I am seriously pasty despite my efforts. As I see it, the self tanner takes the edge of the deathly sheen.

In addition to being pasty, I'm old. Old enough to have grown up in the 70s when sun protection wasn't really a thing. I think I have vague memories of Coppertone 4 coming out and my parents using it on me when we went to Florida, but aside from that, I really don't remember my mom ever putting sun protection on me. I'm sure she will object to this. Most of my memories before the age of five are suspect, I admit.

Exhibit A: Topless, hat-less and most definitely wearing SPF 0.

But back then, your parents sent you out the door first thing in the morning and they didn't see you again until you were hungry. So maybe you saw them at lunch and then at dinner. We spent our summers in the sun. There was no, "Wait, let me put this SPF 75 on you before you go and spend 12 hours on the face of the sun." I also recall getting so burnt in Florida that I had to go the hospital. I was throwing up from either heat stroke or sunburn, it's hard to say. They both happened in the same window of time. In any case, SPF 4 was not sufficient coverage for a pasty white kid like me.

My god, did they ever clothe me?

My mother, on the other hand, used to oil herself up with Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil. She smelled like coconut cream pie. She was slick and slippery when you'd hug her. In the summer months, you'd often find her laying out on one of our folding chairs on the back patio. Chances are she'd be drinking a Tab, smoking a cigarette and flipping through Cosmo while she browned in the sun smelling like dessert.

Babies don't tan, Mother.

I didn't inherit my mother's ability to tan. I'm like my father — I pretty much alternate between pasty and burnt. There's no middle ground of "tan." That's not to say I didn't try to get a tan when I was a teenager. My friends and I would line large cardboard boxes with foil and lay inside them. We'd spread baby oil all over ourselves and shiver in the foil box over spring break in Michigan, trying to approximate the tan our other friends were getting on vacations in warmer climes.

You just can't get this kind of burn from a foil box.

Despite all my efforts, I never really got tan. I even spent a summer in the south of France as a foreign exchange student. I came back from the Cote D'Azur considerably blonder, but not much darker. Fortunately my failed attempts discouraged me from any sort of lifelong dedication to tanning. As soon as they came out with SPF 15, I was wearing it and I've worn every increasing denomination of sun protection as it has been unveiled. 

My children, on the other hand, have barely seen the sun. I'm one of those freaky moms who insisted her infants wear long sleeves, pants and hats any time they left the house. In fact, I'm surprised they both didn't have vitamin D deficiencies. Now I slather my son with sun protection before he goes to camp. I send him with a baseball hat and tell him to sit in the shade if the counselors leave them outside too long. 

It's a miracle he's normal at all.

Once he got a little bit of pink on the top of his foot from wearing flip flops and freaked out.

"Oh no! I have a sun burn! I have cancer!" he cried.

Okay, he didn't say the part about having cancer. But he did cry, even though his sunburn was just a sweet little pink blush. I wanted to show him the lobster red I had achieved as a child and say, "Back in my day when we had a sunburn it was a third degree burn and we were sent to the hospital!"

Anyway, this morning at the dermatologist, I told the doctor that I stay out of the sun and wear sun protection. She examined me from ears to toes. She asked if I had any moles I was concerned about and I said no. But then I reconsidered.

"Only, there is that one mole my husband is obsessed about," I said.

"Really? Let's see it," she said.

"It's the same size, shape and color as it's always been," I said. She was spending too much time looking at it and it was making me nervous.

"If it's something he's noticed we should take a look at it."

"I've had three doctors look at it and they said it was fine."

"Maybe we should take a biopsy of it just to be sure," she said. 

"I'm not worried about it. He is. And he's paranoid. So there's no need to biopsy it or cut it off, I'm perfectly fine with it." I was rambling. Have I mentioned I hate needles?

"I'd feel better about it if we biopsied it," she said. The next thing I knew, I was lying face down on the table getting my back numbed with needles.

"Give me the green blade," the doctor said to the nurse.

"Can we not say 'blade' when I'm in the room?" 

"Green tool. I meant to say green tool," the doctor said.

Ha ha ha. Hilarious. I'm lying on a table in a paper gown getting my back cut open because I'm married to an obsessive (yet incredibly handsome) man. If the mole comes back positive for cancer he's so going to say "I told you so" and that will really irritate me.

I called him after the appointment to let him know that after all these years of worrying about the mole on my back, he would be pleased to know they had finally biopsied it.

"What mole?" he said.


  1. "What mole?!" Smack upside the head.

    I don't go to into the sun, so I'm pretty pasty myself.

    Also, the title of this post reminds me of the song I put up back at 100 followers.

  2. You'll be ok. They might remove it or is that what they did? I had 2 removed. I only wanted him to remove the one that bothered me and sometimes bled. He insisted on removing another on too. His was benign. Mine was or could have been pre-cancerous. Hope all is well and please let us know, K?

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  4. Hahahhaahhaaaaaaaa! I love it. Totally something my husband would do, and then I'd be yelling "Hello, I am your wife, do you know me? Sometimes we eat meals together and speak to one another?" Incidentally, I have a mole on my back that my own husband has pointed out. Gah. If yours is OK, mine will be too!

  5. You totally missed the title on this one... It should have been "Three Topless Pics of Me".

  6. @Joshua: I was so excited to report this and he was so unimpressed. SIGH. Very disappointing. I need positive affirmation for taking care of myself!!!

    @Middle Child: I'm sure it's fine. The doctor even said it looked fine. She tried to remove as much of it as she could without having to give me stitches.

    @Erin: I'm sure cancer works in blog pairs like that. That sounds totally scientific and legit.

    @Mobius: HAAAAAAAAAA! This is why I need an editor in chief!

  7. Well, at least they didn't do the punch biopsy. I wish I could say that is where they knock you unconscious and then take the mole off. Alas, no.

    While they do numb the area, they basically use what looks like a hollow hole punch and take a big chunk of skin. Then, they stitch it up.

    Mine was on my back and it hurt like a mother for two weeks. When the results came back, they were positive and they had to cut out even more and stitch me up again. I have a pretty big scar.

    It's better than having the cancer spread, but damn it hurt.

    One word of caution though... if you are anxious about a mole, get it removed no matter what the doctor says.

    I had another mole that a boyfriend commented on. So, I went to get it removed because I became self-conscious about it. The doctor didn't want to remove it because she thought it looked fine. But I insisted. They biopsied it and it was cancerous. Sometimes I think we know our bodies and things happen for a reason.

    All seriousness aside, I remember the days of the 70s. I lived down the street from a public pool in Arizona. I was there year round from sun up to sun down. We used baby oil, but I never heard of sunscreen until....

    Wait, what is this sunscreen you're talking about?

    And now you know why I've had several cancerous moles.

    Damn, this was a long comment. Apologies.

  8. @Eva: Never apologize for commenting on my blog. Perish the thought, woman!

  9. Do you know how good this post is? It's Bombeck good.

    You told your story wonderfully but also managed to somehow encapsulate almost all of my childhood memories, including my tanning experiences with a fair best friend and my chain-smoking mother. Your post's currently relevant as well due to my own husband's oddly similar obliviousness to situations post panic. Ah-mazing! (I'm singing this word like a soprano now; it works better that way.)

    So let's hear a good ending and find out that everything is fine! I'm sure it is!

  10. @Lauren: Aw, thanks! I totally thought it was too long.


  11. I hereby officially praise you for taking care of yourself. I hope you get good news on your biopsy. As a kid, I never understood that "suntan lotion" was meant to be protection. I used the stuff that promised a dark tan, duh. Of course I just burned. Now, these many years later, little cancerous spots are showing up. I go to the dermatologist every six months, and as Rosanne Roseannadanna used to say, "It's always something."

  12. Good grief, you've described my entire childhood, especially "tanning" with the cardboard foil in the middle of winter because it was Spring Break. Well, of course ours were the same. In any case, the mole is probably nothing, but better to KNOW that it's nothing.

    I'm still a "tanner" from way back. But it's the Mexican/Lebanese side of me. I can't help it. LOVE Hawaiian Tropic with no SPF. I do remember there was a "face SPF 2" available at one point - Coppertone, I believe.

  13. I daydream about dermatologists, the pregnancy mask on my forehead that never went away, the various moles I want to show them. How about this one? I'd ask. *sigh* Someday.
    I'm a freak about G and the sun too, except it turns out all sunscreens give my kid excema. So I put long sleeves on her and squirt her with water. I DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO. I may not be doing her any favors though because if she goes outside and the sun is in her face she acts like a vampire being turned into ashes; THE SUN THE SUN IN MY EYES!!! Oh well.

  14. I was always a very easy tanner. Half an hour in the May sun and I was tan for the summer. Never wore sunblock, ever, until I was in my mid 20's. Obviously, those were the days of living on the edge.

    I rock the SPF 30 now, especially on my head. Sometimes ball caps have gaps.

  15. Um, I totally am in with Mobius.

  16. Hahaha I love the last line. Maybe you can have the doctor save it in a jar so he'll never forget "what mole."

    We went to the lake every summer growing up and my sister and her friends used to mix MOTOR OIL and body lotion and lay in the sun with it. I have no idea how she hasn't had any negative repercussions from that yet.

  17. Don't be afraid. I'm 38, grew up at the beach (Only Coppertone 4 in the 1980s of course), and had my first carcinoma cut off of my neck last year :( The scar....could be more attractive.

    Hope your luck is better!!!! Being afraid/annoyed is a bad reason to leave it alone!

  18. lol, what mole ..

    We will hold hands..I was in the dermatologists office this past Tuesday.
    What I was worried about .. was nothing. What I didn't even notice, might be something.
    In a month, I see her again. If it is what she thinks, another surgery .. this time it is tiny, hopefully not a big deal surgery-wise, although it is the back of my ankle, there is no fat there !
    Living in Buenos Aires is really dangerous for a blonde with fair skin.
    Stay well/stay pale :)

  19. Sounds like we have the same kind of skin, white to red, then blisters, then peeling. Very attractive when you are a teenager in Australia living at the beach. I think going Goth might actually have saved my life at that point...
    Well done for getting it sorted.

  20. My mother works for a dermatologist when I was a kid. I was doomed to be pasty. My legs sometimes look see through.

  21. My downfall was being one of those white freckled skinned kids that tanned.
    My skin tans beautifully ... bad .. bad.
    So now I am paying for all those tans.

    Not to mention what our grandmothers called Age Spots that are really sun damage ..

  22. Most folks do try not to have their naked childhood pics outed, let alone self-post them on the internet! Here's hoping you don't get to hear "I told you so."

  23. I've got a similarly placed mole in the middle of my back that my son likes to pick with his little sharp nails.

    Also, I know where you're coming from on the tanning front.

    I go from pale blue, to white, to red, to brown for about an hour, then back to pale blue again.

    Like a beautiful caucasion rainbow.

  24. I actually do hope you update us.

    I worry.

    I shouldn't.

    But I do.

    There you have it.

    And, yes, "what mole?" is funny. :-D

  25. You will let us know when you get the results, won't you ?

  26. I laughed. I'm sorry. Sort of. Ok not really.

  27. I just found you through Padded Cell Confessions...and dare I say I love your blog already? Alright, I dare. Awesome, awesome..I'll be visiting frequently...
    Right, you probably want a comment pertinent to what you actually wrote. I can tan, but I spent the majority of my childhood not wearing sunscreen and toasting like toast, so I should start looking like the leather couch at my parent's house in about T minus twelve days...

  28. This post gave me shivers. I DON"T WANT to think about the burns I gave myself while a teen in the 70's. crusty, oozing burns all across my wonderful cheeks while on spring break.

    It's the ugly truth.

    Now, I feel like a skin cancer ticking time bomb.


  29. @Blissed Out Grandma: Better late than never. ;-) I'm a late bloomer to the whole "taking care of myself" dealio.

    @Soobs: SPF 2! That makes me laugh! Didn't you guys have a tanning bed at one point?

    @Amelia: Maybe she'll be less sensitive as she gets older? I hope so. Otherwise, you may have to buy her a parasol!

    @Bluzdude: You've got to protect the dome!

    @Chantel: I knew you would be.

    @Mel Heth: Whaaaaaa...t? You just hijacked the crazy train with that anecdote. I have never heard of that madness!

    @River Mud: I'm sorry to hear about your bad mole. Hope your future checkups will be free and clear!

    @Notes from Abroad: I will send out positive thoughts for you this week. I hope everything goes well and turns out well. I'm assuming mine will be's better that way.

    @Todd K.: Pssh. I'm only topless. I've let the entire South of France see that for free.

    @Jules: The beautiful caucasian rainbow made me laugh.

    @Susan in the Boonies & Notes from Abroad: Yes, I'll let you know. The doctor didn't seem very concerned. She said there wasn't any pigment around it when she removed what she could -- which is apparently a good sign.

    @Just LD: I hope you laughed! I was proud of that ending.

    @Paige: I have no requirements or expectations of comments, only that I like to get them. Thanks for coming over and visiting and I'm delighted that you wandered over from the delightful Padded Cell Confessions.

    @The Empress: Sometimes I wonder if it's not the luck of the draw ... a genetic crap shoot. Hopefully we're both sporting harmless moles and freckles.

  30. Didn't the Nixon administration have a mole?


  31. I don't care how handsome my husband is, if needles and blades were used on me because of one of his "concerns" he'd be flayed alive and sent to feed a cannibalistic tribe! EEEEE!! I'm not a fan of needles either (can you tell??)

  32. When I was a pre-teen, I used straight up coconut oil and forced myself to tan, thinking THAT would be the one thing that makes me more Farrah Fawcett. I'm a short brunette, btw.

    Recently, they biopsied my mole, too. It was fine. Now I have a scar, which is not as pretty as my mole. No Cindy Crawford for me either, evidently.

  33. @La Piazza: *Ba dum bum chhhh!*

    @Padded Cell Princess: You are hilarious.

    @Janice: I can't really complain about any scars on my back. I don't wear backless numbers too often.

  34. I agre with you re: "the less doctor appointments the better" :-)

  35. I remember that Hawaiian tropic oil. And the "ban de soleil for the san tropez tan" commercials. and using butter one time to tan. I hate going to the dermatoligist. good for you for getting ye olde mole checked out.

  36. I had that very same 70s experience of being fried to a crisp in the sun and no one having the slightest idea what sunscreen was. But my parents had the attitude that no one was allowed to go to the hospital unless they could pay for it, which I as a child obviously could not do. So I sat at home in my room stark naked for several days as my body swelled up like an inflatible man. My father, being a genius, threw a jar of Vasoline at me and swore that Vasoline cures everything, so I should cover myself in it. I did and it made the burns infinitely worse. I was throwing up and screaming in pain for a week. Ah the '70s, what a wonder time it was.

  37. No we're not.
    That's know him as ROOTY 009.
    He's the one that did the KIDDOMP on KILLA WATT.
    And NYSSE.

  38. what mole?!? OMFG!!!!! kill kill kill! but kind of hilarious!

    and i hope the mole is benign! i hope it is! and it probably is!

    like you, i am of the pasty variety. sometimes i refer to myself as fish belly white. lol. did i mention my last name is white? well it is. very fitting.

    and, like you, i grew up in the 70's and 80's when sunscreen wasn't a priority.

    sometimes i do sit out in the sun for about 10 minutes, but that happens about twice a year. tis a shame that so many fun things are so dangerous. annoying! but i am glad that the ban de soleil (sp?) look isn't in right now. :)

  39. What mole????

    I would have had them just remove it. they had everything numbed and ready to go- lop it off and send the whole thing in. May have been easier that way.

    I'm with you on the part about covering up. I would rather that than sunscreen. I have heard tell of harmful chemicals in the stuff. No thanks.

  40. I too just go between pale-ish pink to burnt.

    Kind of like a pig roasted in a pit.

  41. This is an interesting post. Really enjoyed reading.

  42. I want to hear that it is AOK!

    I'm glad they biopsied it. I'm the same way, pasty and freckled, and have moles, so I've been there.


  43. I LOVE this! I never would have guessed that you are also a lighter shade of pale. I can relate to the baby oil slathering; my friends in Texas tried to convince me that I had to "train" my skin to tan. As if. Like you, I gave up trying at 19 and instead became a sunscreen devotee. I love La Roche-Posay: every day, all day. I was reading something recently about Victorian women. Apparently they actually wore a lot of makeup, and one of the things they'd do is use blue kohl to draw on veins to create the appearance their skin was transparent. Wouldn't you know it? My beauty peaked over 100 years before my birth.

  44. Happened with me and my best friend. She kept making frowney faces about a mole on my back so I finally, sheepishly, asked the doctor. I felt like the most responsible person of all time. When I reported it to her, feeling like dog about to get a treat, I got a, "Really? I was worried about a mole on your back?" Yes. Yes you were.

  45. My parents let us out to roam as babies until dark ) .We would hike in the woods,crawl through drainage sewers ,play around construction sites, throw dirt bombs on my doctor neighbors car who was a dermatologist by the way. He didn't like me after he caught me doing that. I also lit his fence on fire by accident burning model tanks near his wood fence I'm not making this up. Summer was spent outside always How things have changed

  46. Hi Mandy,
    wow...perfect ending.
    Richard O.