Monday, July 24, 2017

I Nearly Died! (well maybe not)

A while back I went in for a "procedure" at my doctor's office. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth...but enough about my trying to find a parking spot. Let's go back to the beginning....

I have had, for years now, a dark spot on my temple. I'm guessing people didn't notice it for two reasons. 1) It's small. It's about the size of the mark a pencil eraser would leave if you used it like a rubber stamp with brown paint. 2) It's hidden. It was fairly well concealed just under the hairline of my right temple. I'm lucky enough to still have a hairline there but as it gets increasingly whiter, the brown eraser dot showed through a little more. It was enough for Sylvia to notice.  Since she noticed, and she wants to keep me around for a while longer, she thought I should get it checked out. That was about 5 years ago. It was nothing. The doc essentially said, "if it changes, let me know."

Fast forward to just a few months ago, just before I went to Mexico. Sylvia again said, "It looks different. I think you should get that thing checked out." We looked on WebMD. It's bad...It's either heart disease or I've been exposed to radiation. In the interest of marital harmony, I will say that she also mentioned that I should put frankincense on it a couple times a day to keep it in check. Had I done that I'm sure my story would've ended here. You'll know that I followed her advice if this is the last paragraph.

Anyway...I'm in Mexico, not putting frankincense on this thing, and I got a little more sun than I'm used to. I don't know if the sun is what did it, if I was bitten by a Mexican Mole Spider, or if my warranty was nearing its end, but my little melanin based hitchhiker started to become bothersome. It started to itch. It started to have an occasional sharp pain. And worst of all, it absolutely refused to silence its cell phone so it would not bother other moviegoers. When I came back to the United States it had become more than a was now a full-fledged bump. Did you hear me?! A Bump! To make matters worse, while I was running my fingers through my hair practicing for when Fabio calls in sick and they need a hair double, I happened to catch the edge of Moley McWarterson with my fingernail. That's when I knew it was different than bled. Not a lot, but it took upwards of 45 seconds before I could control the bleeding. (No paramedics were called)

In to the doctor I went. As it turns out I was really sick on a Monday and, always one to get a bargain, I figured if I went in for my cough AND had them take a look at my temple I could save a trip and a co-pay. Bonus! My sickness was just a virus so I should rest and drink lots of water. Never mind that all I had been doing was do my impression of a sack of potatoes while drinking enough water to develop an aquarium behind my sternum. Didn't help. I'll press on. When I mentioned "the spot" the doc got on the phone to see if there was a dermatologist on hand. There was. He was on his way.

He came in, looked at it, checked out my entire scalp (to find out if this was just the scouting party for a full blown cystic assault) and then he said the word that rings in my brain to this day. Biopsy. Not "Bibopsy" as in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Not "a procedure" as described in City Slickers. An honest to goodness biopsy. Thing is, he said it like Ham in Sandlot said "Forrrr Evvv Errrr". I know what a biopsy is...he's gonna cut my head! And then the room started swimming like I was Mel Brooks in High Anxiety. I suppose I'll have to write one day about my movie analogy addiction. But it is not this day, as they say Lord of the Rings.

Where was I? Oh yeah, they're gonna cut me. Cutting something off of my head is bad enough, but they will have to numb it first and that means shots! Getting shot in the head is not something I enjoy and I try to avoid it as often as I can. Not a big fan of needles. In the week or so that passed from the initial appointment to when I went in I mentally prepared myself and I, of course, updated my will. The day came, I dragged Sylvia in to the doctor with me.

This thing that the doc said he'd done thousands of times before and would only take a minute was an ordeal. Apparently I am a "fast metabolizer" of anesthetics. This means that it takes more than the usual patient to where I can't feel anything. Of course this also means more shots! What's the way to determine that one is a fast metabolizer? Have someone start cutting something off your head so that you can say, "OW!!" I am not exaggerating...FOUR shots later, I finally don't feel anything and he was able to run me over the deli slicer. Ok, so he didn't do that, but it was pretty bad! When I was able to sit up, I turned a little pale and they wouldn't let me up right away, Sylvia looked at the spot on my head and grimaced. She tried to hide it but I could tell. She was a little horrified. I finally got out of her that there was a good sized lump on my head where he took it off. I said, "Of course there's a lump! That's what happens when you pump a quart and a half of Novocaine into someone's head!"

The excess pain meds absorbed pretty quickly and I didn't notice any adverse effects. Sylvia says I repeat myself more lately but I think that isn't true. Sylvia says I repeat myself more lately but I think that isn't true.

So there you have it. I survived a trip to the doctor. After the two weeks of hiding in the basement of the opera house and finally throwing away the mask that covered half my face, I was able to rejoin society. (But I do miss the serenading) My hairline has recovered and I rarely think about this incident anymore.

And yet, Sylvia was just running her hand through my hair and she noticed something on the other side of my head just at the temple. We looked it up on WebMD and I only have fifteen minutes to live...I'd better type fast.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Peek Inside

As I sit here this morning getting ready to write I have several very important things swirling around in my increasingly jumbled brain. First and foremost, my daughter just left to go live on another continent for a year. Second, We are about 7 days behind on beginning my summer vacation house de-clutter titled "Operation Deep Clean". (Never mind that I've only been obligation free for about 7 days) We adopted an energetic three-legged Pit Bull/Great Dane puppy who thinks the world is his chew toy! Next, I am at the tail end of a 16 week weight loss program. Additionally it is the day before our country's Independence Day and I am a huge fan of all things related to patriotism. Also, we have a 2000 piece puzzle that has been hibernating in a secured location for a year. Only recently we have uncovered it in its 85% completed condition and, through hard work and dedication have moved on to being 90% complete!

With all these pressing concerns I think it's become extremely obvious to anyone who knows me what the first topic of the summer must be. Let's say it together....Hat Face. What? That's not what you were thinking? Allow me to explain.

I come from a group of people, now confirmed through Ancestry DNA, whose skin turns that painful shade of red from the least exposure to the sun. I haven't confirmed it scientifically yet, but I think I could get a second degree burn from standing in front of a painting of the sun. Without extreme measures my skin would go from pale, to red, to peel, to pale. It's not that bad really...and I may be exaggerating a tiny bit...but I cannot even begin to count how many burns I have had in my lifetime. Because of that I avoid the sun like a vampire, I choose to sit in the shade, I prefer the woods to the beach,  and I try to wear a wide brimmed hat to protect my head. This is where the trouble starts.

I, like all red-blooded American males, have a special set of eyes that distort images bouncing back from mirrors. When I look in the mirror I am pretty pleased with what I see. My distortion doesn't show me six-pack abs and hair that is "on fleek." (apparently millenials say that is a good thing even though it sounds to me like what you'd call that stream of spit that shoots out of your mouth when you laugh) No, my mirror distortion involves hats. Whenever I try on a wide brimmed masterpiece I think I got it going on! My criteria is simple: Does it fit? and Does it cover my solar sensitive ears? If the answer to both of those is yes, I have a winner! When I go over to the little mirror my suspicions are always confirmed! It's astonishing really. I look and I see Indiana Jones fleeing from danger! I see Frank Sinatra looking defiant as he looks back over his shoulder under the slightly askew brim of his chapeau. I see Sam Elliot smirking in a western just before he saves the town. (As an aside...I also hear Sam Elliot talk when I hear my voice back on a recording) Nearly every hat I try on is "the one!" In my excitement I show my treasures to Sylvia and that's when I see it. Hat face.

Hat face is the unvarnished truth. Hat face is my touchstone to reality. Hat face is what keeps me from being the American hat equivalent of Imelda Marcos and her collection of thousands of shoes. It's hard to describe hat face but I'll give it a shot. It's really a mix of amusement, disappointment, and pity. You might see something similar as a mom looks at the kitchen mess after the kids have surprised her with breakfast but substituted orange juice for milk in the cereal and baking soda for sugar in the coffee. In an instant I can see that I have not only chosen poorly, but I have brought shame upon the household. I see Clint Eastwood, Sylvia sees Pee Wee Herman. I'm not complaining. I'm really not. I'd rather know when something doesn't look good than not. I'm obviously not to be trusted when making decisions about hats. Occasionally I will test Sylvia's limits. I think my favorite is when I put on the beanie with the propeller. With that one I got hat face with the added bonus of an eye roll.

I have, on occasion, come across a real hat which Sylvia thinks actually looks good on me. In Kansas I found a cowboy hat that everyone in the store agreed was just right for me. It fits, it looks good, it keeps the sun off my head, it's perfect! One problem though is that whenever I wear it, since I am a teacher, my students ask if today is "cowboy day" and then they are sad that I didn't tell them they could wear their cowboy stuff. One summer, when we were camping 12 feet from the sun, I found a camping hat that was ugly but it fit all the other criteria. This was even better than most since it had the added fun involved with being able to scrunch up and stuff into my pocket and it was completely ok in the water. It was great...until I left it on the dashboard one day and it shrank and faded beyond all recognition. I buried it next to my broken leg lamp in the back yard in a private ceremony.

So here I sit at the precipice of summer, hatless, ready to venture outside. I hope to find a suitable hat before I go back to school. Wish me luck.