The last few weeks have been mind-altering to say the least. Between falling out of the habit of doing revisions on the LTM 2K stories and succumbing to work demands as the year’s end approached, I have not been in a good temper. Old thoughts of fatalism and helplessness have returned. And then, when those feelings hit their apex and I once more renewed my efforts at turning my writing dreams into reality, I had a doctor’s appointment. The feelings are still fresh, which makes them difficult to wrangle. Overall, I expect everything to work out, but the fear that it won’t is alive.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with a dermatologist. My primary care physician wanted a second opinion on a mole located directly on my belt line. He told me he was 70% sure that it was nothing to be worried about, but just in case…have another doctor look at it. He also instructed me to call the dermatologist’s office two days later to allow the referral time to process. Like a good boy, I waited. The next day they called me.

“We received a referral and would like to get you scheduled.”

“Excellent. I was going to call your office tomorrow.”

We plopped down on the calendar December 21. I spent two months with the knowledge of this visit sitting at the corner stool in my mind’s bar. Patiently, this appointment sipped and waited. He had a few more drinks as he quietly bided his time until the day came.

I forgot about this appointment. I hadn’t even written down the day. Plopping down on the calendar meant their calendar, not mine. I needed the reminder text to jog my memories. The time came and he, my mind’s barfly, got up from his stool and tapped me on the shoulder. “Time to go have that mole checked out. Should be nothing.”

Coincidentally, my coworker had a dermatology appointment the day before mine. His bright cheering attitude set my mind at ease. His wife had gone through breast cancer, and here he was not worrying about his skin and his moles. If he was fine, I’ll be fine.

I went to the appointment. I waited in a large open room with views of the mountains. The gaggle of geriatrics surrounding me put my mind at ease. Only old people get melanoma, I thought.

I was called back. The room was large, almost the size of my kids’ bedrooms. One wall was accented with an aqua blue, while the others stalwartly held up skin cancer posters and diagrams against their white faces. In the center of the room, a powered chair like the kind at a dentist’s office waited for me.

The assistant asked about my medical history and if the various areas of my skin were all above my waist. I revealed that there were a few moles on my legs. With the most disinterested tone I can imagine, she said, “You’ll have to strip down to your boxers then. Is that okay?”

“I…uh…I guess so. You are all professionals, right? It’s not like you will be recording me.”

“Correct. Unless we have to take pictures before a biopsy.”


I stripped down after she left the room and took a seat on that armless dentist’s chair. The room was cold. I still had plenty of reserve heat to keep any shivering at bay.

The doctor came in and looked at the mole on my belt line. His initial reaction set me at ease. “Not too bad. Let’s look at the rest of you.” He checked my toes, my legs, my back, my neck, behind my ears, in the crevice between my nose and cheek, and my arms. “I don’t see any other spots of concern.”

“Oh, good.”

Then with the most nonchalant attitude. “We should biopsy that one on your belt just to be safe.” He directed his assistant to gather the equipment and administer local anesthetic. He drew a circle on my stomach.

“Wait, what?”

“It’s best to be safe. That’s all. Don’t worry, it will feel like scraping your skin on the sidewalk.”

He left the room. His assistant came to my side with her tablet.

“So, I am going to have to take a picture, just so we know where it was. The mole will be gone.”

My trepidation at disrobing was suddenly merited. I am going to be recorded in just my underwear, after all, I thought.

She took her pictures, left the room, and returned with a syringe.

“I’m not going to lie to you. This is going to burn a bit before it takes effect.”


“I just think it’s better to be honest. I had to do this a little while ago, and after I was like, ‘We should tell people this stings. We shouldn’t lie to people.'”


I expected to feel the needle enter my skin, but I didn’t. All I knew was that a burning sensation was growing across my abdomen just under my belly button. Then it went away and I was left feeling numb. Localized numbness in your abdomen is strange. I felt taut and relaxed at the same time. The best I can think of to describe it is doing a crunch while relaxing your muscles simultaneously.

She left the room. I sat on that chair still wearing only my boxer briefs. As I waited, I began to shiver. The residual heat had vanished. She returned briefly to place stickers on my sample container and then left again.

When both of them return, the doctor asks how I’m doing.

“I’m a little cold.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I should have had you get dressed. This will be quick, and then you can put those on.” He waved his arm to the corner where my clothing was placed.

The biopsy went quickly. I tried not to look. My visual insensitivities only apply to other’s poking and prodding, not my own. What I did see was the doctor’s arms moving in circles and then yanking four or five times. How big of a sample is he taking, I thought.

His assistant placed a bandage on the site and before I knew it, both of them were out of the room. I was cold and alone, and I was missing an unknown amount of flesh.

I got dressed and walked out of the room. The doctor was chatting with another doctor and waved to me.

“Have a good day, and good luck with your kids.”

I had completely forgotten how much he asked about my children. I suppose he did that to try and distract me or calm me down.


The checkout lady briefly confirmed I would get a call in 9 months to schedule a yearly checkup, and then I was done. I left the office, walked to my car, and let loose.

“Holy shit,” I said to nobody. “What happened?”

I ran errands and tried to keep it together. Suddenly my mortality was front and center. Like Schrodinger’s cat, my expiration date had become set in an unknown, potentially not long off, state. I both might and might not have melanoma.

Costco, my shopping Disneyland, was suddenly pointless. I didn’t browse at all. I got diapers and wipes for my daughter and left. I got foam insulation strips from Lowes and left. I focused on the chores I had to do and nothing else.

When I got home, I unloaded the things I bought and put the foam strips on our new dog door. Once everything was finished, I was able to think unimpeded.

I might have skin cancer.

That thought terrifies me. I will spend the next month in a mental hell of unknowing. Everything has suddenly taken on new traits. Things are both important and meaningless at the same time. Work sucks, but I need it for insurance. My writing is small compared to the desire to spend time with my family, and yet I need to do it to feel any sense of control over anything.

But the worst part right now is having to tell my children they can’t sit on my lap. All they want to do is cuddle up on top of Dad. Saying no to them burns my soul worse than any anesthetic.

If you ask how I am doing right now, I will say, “I’m fine.” or “I’m okay.” I honestly don’t want to think about how I am doing after I finish this post. I just want to spend Christmas with my kids and watch their happy faces as they open presents.

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