Tips On Moving To The Front Of The Cancer Line

The cancer removal on my ear was scheduled for May 6. When the appointment was made last month, I thought the date was too far off but I was at the doc’s mercy. In addition to the ear, they told me earlier that I had loads of pre-cancerous lesions on the top of my head but they wanted two grand to remove them.

So last week, I bought a jug of liquid nitrogen for twenty bucks and instructed my wife to get to work on the noggin’. She needed more than a little urging but I finally prevailed. She must not have followed my instructions exactly because this is what I ended up with:


This is not the first time I’ve self-medicated. Over the last month, I’ve gone through at least six gallons of liquid nitrogen and four or five lbs of dry ice in my pursuit of medical breakthroughs in precancerous lesions. You can see I’ve been a little successful by observing the patches of clear skin I’ve gotten.

But this time, I went too far. I told Michele to push harder and longer with each 350 degrees below zero application.

But with this aggressive treatment, I now had painful blisters. I usually operate on the adage that more is better. But not this time! The blisters you see are not the only ones. The back of my head looked like foxholes on Normandy Beach in World War II, AFTER the invasion.

Remembering that my appointment to have the cancer cut off my ear on May 6, I was shocked when I got a phone call on Friday informing me that they had had a cancellation and could take care of me Monday, April 8th at 2:30 pm.

I thanked the receptionist effusively, happy that the cancer was going bye bye before it had a chance to branch out. But then I realized that I had taken over the Derm Doctor’s job on the area where I part my hair. He wasn’t going to like it. Oh well, I wasn’t going to cancel the appointment just because the doc might think I was threatening his job with my new skin treatment angle.

So yesterday my blisters and I crawled into the pickup and headed for town. My sister Lisa and husband Todd (who is also fighting cancer) called me on the way in. She had seen my blisters and wondered what I was going to tell the doctor about them. I told her I was wearing a hat to hide the blisters.

“What if he tells you to take it off?” She asked. I was ready for that possibility. “I’m going to tell them my religion requires me to keep my head covered at all times. I’m also going to tell them that the round dark spots on the sides of face were birthmarks.” Lisa (with Todd in the background repeating her instructions) told me not to lie. “Just tell them the truth.”

I informed them I was telling the truth. Truthfully, my religion is partially about maintaining my self-esteem and keeping my head covered was required at the moment to do that. And I’d had the skin on the sides of my face since birth so technically, the birthmark line wasn’t a lie either.

“Don’t lie.” They chorused back.

“OK, so what should I do?” I asked.

“Tell him you got a really bad sunburn” Lisa replied.

“Oh, so you want me to lie?” I replied. I decided I would just stick with the hat, religion and birthmark angle. They laughed and we hung up.

I was still a little early for the appointment so I called the snakeskin office just to make sure I had the right time. This operation is fairly substantial, filling all three floors of the medical building. After giving my info to the receptionist, she said they had no record of me coming in on that day and I was still on tap for May 6.

I felt my blistered head rise in temperature. I restated the fact that they had called me last Friday and set the appointment for what I remembered as 2:30. She said they had not. I said they had. She said…

Well, you get the gist. I told her I was a block away and would be darkening their door in about 30 seconds.

I parked, put my hat on and cracked the sidewalk in several places as I stomped toward their building.

Walking in, I made a beeline to the desk. We had the exact same conversation we had just had on the phone. She inserted several times that they don’t do Moh’s Surgery in the afternoon so there was no way they had called last Friday.

On the outside, I was maintaining my firm viewpoint that they were mistaken. Inwardly, I started to wonder if maybe I had dreamed up that phone call and the moved-up-to-Monday appointment.

I decided it was time to go upstairs. “I want to talk to your supervisor” I insisted. She informed me that I literally did have to go upstairs to talk to her. I turned and headed for the stairs while she grabbed her phone to inform the supervisor about the bundle of trouble on the way up.

I have several levels of dialogue I employ in situations like this. They stretch from one to ten. I was on level six as I climbed the stairs to level three.

I finally made it to the third floor out of breath. This was not good as I lose some of my impressive conversation skills and powers of persuasion when I’m huffing and puffing and hanging on to the desk trying to breathe.

The chick in charge appeared and I steeled myself for the exchange. I knew that in the 15 minutes it had taken me to climb the two flights of stairs, everything had been communicated between level one and level three. I could tell by the look on her face that she knew all about me.

Just as I grabbed a breath to begin, she told me to follow her. I trailed her back into a room, still trying to grab some oxygen.

“We’ll operate on you here” She said kindly.

Right about then, I saw this sign on the wall. I was grateful I had kept my dialogue at level six instead of ratcheting it up to nine or ten.


If I hadn’t I might have ended up in a straight jacket or jail cell instead of a far more friendly operating chair.

I forgot about breathing and started being amazed that the approach I often take had worked. It usually doesn’t and my wife always tells me it never does. But it must have. I was sitting in the op chair with my hat on.

A nurse appeared and asked for my hat.

“Can’t I keep it on?” I asked. “I’m not comfortable if my head’s not covered.”

She said she was sorry and grabbed my University of Virginia Law School cap. Little did she know one of my sons had attended the school in Charlottesville. Little did either of us know that a few hours later, Virginia would win the national college basketball championship. Or maybe she did and that’s why she wanted the hat.

When she saw my dome, she asked what had happened. I was tired of confrontation at that point so I just told her I was trying to save a few bucks and take care of the pre-cancerous lesions myself. She took the news better than I thought she would.

Soon, the doctor appeared and said “I’ve got to see this!” I thought he just wanted to see the guy who had been causing all the trouble. But when he zeroed in on the big bubble blister I was sporting, I realized he was sizing up his competition. He handled it quite well and said “Very interesting.”

The next couple of hours flew by, far better than I thought. I even started worrying what doctors do when they’re operating on a patient that they were at odds with. Do they start cutting perfectly good body parts out of the cantankerous curmudgeon to sell on the black market? Do they throw a bunch of bad bacteria or canker sores into the wound just so they can charge you more to fix it?

But it was great. Everyone was friendly and efficient. I especially liked the vibrator the doc put on my ear. My ear was shaking so much that I didn’t even feel the needle go in. I decided I’m going to buy a vibrator and use in whenever I get in a painful situation (which is quite often). I wonder if they make a vibrator case I can wear on my belt so I have it at all times. Whenever I break a bone, I’ll have the vibrator on hand to take the pain away. I might even be able to use it for a defibrillator since I’m sure sooner or later I’m going to need one.

They had to cut a chunk of skin off behind my ear to transplant on the jag they took off my ear.


I have to admit. This is the best looking portrait I’ve ever had.

I drove home and told Michele the story. I was still amazed that I was able to walk in off the street and get operated on. This outfit was awesome. They screwed up and still made it right. I was glad they recognized the fact that I was not trying to scam them.

This morning, my phone rang. It was a recorded call stating that I had missed my dermatology appointment yesterday. I called them back. They told me the appointment I had requested last December and reaffirmed last Friday had been missed by me.

All of a sudden, everything cleared up. We were in Arizona for Christmas and I called up a couple of dermatology clinics in the Tri-Cities. They were booked up for several months. A few days later, one of them called and scheduled me for January. I called the other outfit back and cancelled, telling them that I had gotten in somewhere else. They said that was fine.

Then I went through the extended process previously outlined in this blog. When the cancelled clinic called me Friday, I just assumed it was the doctor I had been working with since January. I don’t know why they jumped back in and scheduled me for yesterday.

I guess I’ll just keep my mouth shut and leave things alone since my cancer is gone, I’m taken care of and never once told an untruth about my appointment and UVA hat all through yesterday’s events.






One response to “Tips On Moving To The Front Of The Cancer Line”

  1. Doug Smith Avatar
    Doug Smith

    Awesome! Perhaps we should combine my Theological Degree with your medical degree and go into business together,

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