Unfortunately I’m sitting at the dermatologist office for my second bout of skin cancer irradiation.
If someone would have told me five decades ago that Cocoa Butter wasn’t the best method to obtain a sun tan, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. However I’m not so sure I would have taken their advice. I love the smell of Cocoa Butter! Just the thought of it takes me back to my carefree childhood, when a day seemed like a hundred hours. I had nothing to worry about, no one to be responsible for and nothing to fear. I smile just thinking about my friends at Hermosa Beach who’d hold onto the sides of the blanket and catapult me high into the sky. I never thought for a moment they’d drop me and they never did! If they had, I’d probably be sitting in an Orthopedic’s office instead of the Dermatologists.
Being the smallest member of my group, I assume my friends thought I was their personal toy. They’d bury me in the sand or put me on their shoulders when they surfed. Oh those were the days, lying on the blanket for hours at a time, taking in the smell of the ocean and listening to the sound of the waves. Basking in the sun with the wind in my hair and the sand in my crotch. Ah the memories!
The doctors office was decorated with a dozen or so chairs lining the walls. No magazines or piped-in music, only a table displaying enough carbohydrates to choke a horse. A doctors office with fruit and glazed donuts? Really? Something about that just seems wrong, especially since my newest untimely decision was not to eat carbs. However, I do have string cheese and seven peanuts in my purse to look forward to if I get hungry later. It’s excruciatingly painful looking at the chocolate covered, glazed donuts. Even with my eyes closed, I can still smell the sweet sugar in the air.
The majority of the occupants that filled the room were in their sixties with a few hipsters in their seventies and eighties. Someone must have given them the wise guy advice about Cocoa Butter and Baby Oil too. Were there no doctors in the 60’s for God sakes?
I sat down next to an attractive woman dressed in modern looking running gear. She was diligently working on her computer but took the time to move over to give me some room. She introduced herself as Suzette. Just when I was about to introduce myself, out of nowhere Mr. Grumpface bolted out of his chair and barreled across the rug to the receptionist desk. His voice exploded into the otherwise silent room. “I CAN NOT STAY HERE!”
“Why, Mr. Grumpface, you know that you have to wait your turn.” Ellie, our receptionist responded in a calm voice. “Right now you’re number five and if you would like to walk or wait in the hallway we would be glad to call you when it’s your turn.”
“I HAVE THINGS TO DO! He shouted back at her as he plopped back into his seat looking at the rest of us for assurance.
I closed my IPad slowly and glanced up over my glasses in anticipation of some excitement. I said nothing, just watched to see how this story would unfold. I was number nine, I had plenty of time.
Several new patients came into the office. Each time the door opened everyone would look up to check out our new compadre. Finally the last patient entered the room, it was a man wearing a Hawaiian print shirt, khaki shorts and slip on deck shoes. He checked in and joked with Ellie then sat down in the only empty chair that was available, right next to Mr. G.
The old man winced and scooted over so the last member of our clan wouldn’t touch him. I named our newest friend Jimmy Buffet. Jimmy smiled, looked around the room at the dozen misfits that filled the chairs around him and asked “Are you all here to go under the knife too?” He laughed out loud, slapped his leg and turned to Mr. G expecting a smile. He didn’t get one.
“Okay” he said. “So have any of you been here before? We all nodded. “Okay then, let’s get this party started!”
“I’VE BEEN COMING HERE FOR TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS!!! ” Mr. G shouted. “EVER SINCE THEIR OTHER OFFICE OPENED AND THIS IS RIDUCLOUS!! WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO WAIT! WE’RE TREATED LIKE CATTLE HERE! WE NEED TO WALK IN, GET IT DONE AND WALK OUT….. I CAN’T SIT HERE!!”
“I get it!” Jimmy said to Mr. G in a compassionate voice. “What are you in for?”
My ears perked up, halfway expecting him to say, Killing my wife! Instead I watched as Mr. G’s shoulders began to relax and a slight smile began to show in his eyes.
He replied, “Well, I had a little dark spot on the back of my hand and my wife told me to get it checked out, and when she says to get it checked out, then I damn well better get it check out!”
Just a few kind words from Jimmy, I thought. It changed Mr. G in an instant, but I didn’t change his name.
As they chatted quietly, the door from the inner sanctum opened and Suzette’s husband walked out donning a bandage that wrapped around his entire head. It started at the top of his scalp and came down around the bottom of his chin and back up again. From what I could see the mummy was a good looking man of about sixty-five. He too was wearing shorts and a Luau shirt. I began to see a theme here…I named him Brian Adams.
As the morning progressed we were each called into the ghoulish room one by one where the doctor would attempt remove the cancer one tiny layer at a time. This was the first go round for Brian, as it would be for the rest of the numbered guests sitting in front of the Krispy Kreme’s.
When Mr. G was called in for his turn. I shared with Jimmy that I thought this was the highest and best use of this doctors time and how fantastic that we didn’t have to go home and wait for weeks just to find out we’d have to come back for a second or third appointment. He agreed, but when Mr. G came back into the waiting room, Jimmy told him of my theory. What a tattletale, I thought, now Mr. G’s is going to yell at me. I decided not to talk to Jimmy anymore. I watched Suzette cover her mouth and hold back a laugh but her bouncing shoulders gave her away.
After she regained her composure she began to tell Mr. Whiskey a go-go about the procedure we were all doing. “This surgical technique is called the Mohs treatment, it’s where they progressively remove and examine the tissue until only cancer-free tissues remain. I think it was named after someone named Dr. Moh’s whom I’m sure was a surfer in the 60’s. To make it even more exciting, each patient gets a new injection each time they go in. It’s a piece of cake!”
Easy for her to say, I thought. She was the only one in the room not getting the Mohs treatment besides Ellie.
Mr G had found a common ground with Jimmy and they became so engrossed in their conversation and donuts that he stopped yelling at Ellie who was quite busy escorting one of the dirty dozen in for their next turn at this macabre experience.
There were four small rooms in the inter sanctum. In addition to Ellie, the office had three assistants who administered shots and bandaged the wounds. The High Priest was Doctor Fronkinsteen who sliced, diced and sewed us up. He was magnificent!!!
It was quite the assembly line, Henry Ford would have been proud. We were summoned into the room in the order in which we arrived and by mid morning all twelve of us had a bandage somewhere on our bodies with the exception of Suzette. Some on their face and a few on their ankles, arms and legs. It reminded me of the doctor scene in the movie Beetlejuice minus the shrunkin’ head.
Damn you SUN!
I prayed that nothing would happen to the High Priest before the entire tribe was stitched-up. I wasn’t sure if any of the twelve year old looking assistants had the capability of finishing the job in an emergency. There might have been some possibility that Mr. G could have done the job based on his personal experience. The only problem with that theory was he probably would leave me unstitched because of my radical comments earlier in the morning.
Mr. Whiskey-a-go-go kept us entertained with his wild stories of his owning a bar in Hollywood in the sixties and of his songwriting friend, Dobie Gray. When he was done reminiscing about Beverly Hills he moved on to his escapades as a Basketball Coach at Saddleback College. He kept everyone entertained. He showed me how to look him up on the internet and I was surprised to see his smiling face on my I-Phone. I asked for his autograph, he was in his glory. We were all so engaged that even Mr. G forgot he was so miserable.
One by one we went back in for our review. Some would come out smiling and all stitched up, high fiving and ready to go home – waving goodbye like movie stars as they took their stage exit. Others would shake their head and sit back down to wait for their name to be called again.
All through the morning we played musical chairs and the four hours flew by. It was comforting to know I wasn’t in this alone. The procedure was amazing and also seemed to be a very lucrative business, one of which I should have thought of when I was being thrown in the air on the beach blanket so many years ago. If I only knew then, what I know now!
My last turn finally came and I got to have my personal victory. I held my head high with my badge of courage bandaged on my cheek ready to tell my new friends goodbye, however by the time I arrived back in the waiting room it was already empty.
What fair weathered friends!! I thought. Oh well, I’ll probably never see them again anyway, unless of course I detect a new souvenir from my days in the sun.
I wasn’t the only person in the family naming people today, when I arrived home from my exhausting ordeal Terry asked, How’s my Little Scarface today?
Evidently, compassion doesn’t run in the family😏