One of my earliest memories is of standing on the toilet seat in the bathroom of a ranch-style house outside of Rockford, IL. My little brother is there, too, waiting by the sink for his turn. We’ve been swimming, you see, which means a sunburn. It is the seventies, in the era of stretch-n-sew, and so my mother has dutifully made tiny weenie-bikinis for both of her boys, and a complementary bikini for my sister as well. The fabrics all match, of course.
That’s a lot of exposed skin, and so the procedure is thus: a can of Solarcaine (an aerosol topical anesthetic designed to relieve the pain of sunburns) is pulled out of the medicine cabinet, and the cap is cupped over our ‘privates’, and we are sprayed head-to-toe with this magic elixir. The relief is instantaneous, trading hot pain for cold numbness, and we shiver with the shift. In the seventies, sunburn is normal, and so is Solarcaine. It’s just the way we roll.
Almost 40 years later, I’m supposed to be listening to my new dermatologist, but I’m just reliving this memory as she delivers the pathology report from the mole she removed from the front of my left thigh two days earlier. Not that she needs to say anything, the truth obvious enough when her assistant called the house several hours earlier, requesting only that I stop by the clinic. Today.
There’s a lot of talk that follows that one word, talk of treatments and further excision and of the incredible melanoma specialty clinic she’s referring me to across town. Lots of questions that remain, too, but which will hopefully be clarified soon, as we move quickly to remove more tissue and biopsy the lymph nodes in my leg. Soon. Very soon.
I notice myself leaning back from my left leg, it feeling suddenly somehow foreign. It’s been my leg for 43 years, and it has certainly served me well, but I now view it with suspicion. Because it houses some invaders, and no one is quite sure how far they’ve gotten just yet. Like little warriors pouring out of a Trojan Horse, I imagine for a moment that I can see them and I want to make a tourniquet to stanch the flow.
There is a word that’s been around me my whole life, and I’ve never applied it to myself, but I need to start soon.