Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Week That Was

This week, I went to see a dermatologist. Going to the dermatologist should be unremarkable and not worthy of a blog post. Should be. 

I visited the doctor because I have a lot of freckles and moles and I thought it was time for a full body inspection to check for irregularities. I also went because I am not happy with my face, specifically the skin on my face. This is a little game I play with myself and the medical profession. If I go to the doctor for something medically important I also reward myself with something quasi medical and less important. So in this case it was go to the doctor to have my moles checked and walk away with a miracle cream or pill that will make my face radiant.  

The appointment began normally enough with me filling out forms and being called in to see the doctor but from there it degenerated into the strangest, longest and least helpful medical experience I've ever had.

The doctor began by asking me where my family was from, not as in America, but before that. I said Eastern Europe and when she asked specifically where, I said Russia...which I then realized isn't Eastern Europe so I felt like an idiot. In fairness to me I wasn't expecting a geography quiz. Mr. Deep, upon his review of this post, informed me that part of Russia, the part west of the Ural Mountain range, is in Eastern Europe, so that's good. I hope the doctor is aware of this. She asked if Russian was the same as Celtic, which should have been my first clue that something wasn't right. She said she had just come back from a conference where she learned that gene therapy is the next big thing and that it's important for me to know where my family is from. Keep in mind she hadn't yet examined me or determined that anything was wrong with me that would require gene therapy so this discussion may have been premature. Also, if medicine is advanced enough and doctors can treat your illness by addressing at the gene level, can't they also "map" your genes? Does knowing what former Soviet town some of your family is from really matter in this case? 

She took me into the exam room. While we were waiting for my gown to warm (it's winter now remember) she said she'd start by examining my face which as I've already explained was my top priority as well. Unfortunately, she couldn't get the giant lighted magnifying glass to turn on. After five minutes she eventually gave up on the light and had me put the gown on. Once the gown was on instead of examining my body, she instructed me to return with her to her office. Fortunately I was still wearing my pants and my bra (and the gown) so I wasn't returning to her office completely naked. Back in her office she used some giant gun like camera to closely examine a spot on my face. She called her assistant in to help her load a close up photo of this spot onto the computer and then they both tried to figure out how to use some software to determine what the mystery spot was. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to know how to use the software and it took quite some time for them to come up with a diagnosis. It was finally determined to be dermal melanin. I don't have any medical training but I'm pretty sure dermal melanin and a freckle are the same thing. However, the doctor didn't seem sure and she removed a book from her shelf...A BOOK FROM HER SHELF! I suppose the reason for the book was to look up dermal melanin but she got sidetracked telling me about pills that contain Amazon tree bark extract that I should be taking to help protect my skin from the sun and she never actually opened the book. She left the room to get the pills to show them to me, not a new bottle because the pills were out of stock, but her own personal bottle. 

Meanwhile, I'm starting to feel nervous that this appointment is taking a very long time and I'm thinking that if we have to spend five minutes on every mole and freckle that I'm going to be there for two weeks. I decided that if she attempted to examine my body that I'd tell her I was out of time. But she never got back to my body...even though I was still wearing the gown.

Remember I'm vain, so I was still holding on to hope that she'd prescribe me some great serum for my face and I decided to stick it out and try to turn the conversation back to my face. Big mistake. 

She looked at my face and stopped just short of declaring it the biggest mess she's ever seen. She asked if I had allergies. Even though I said no she prescribed some kind of blood test to check. She then asked about my skincare routine but as I tried to explain it, she kept interrupting me to advise me that everything I was doing was wrong. She took some lotion and demonstrated how to apply products to the face. She said you press instead of rub. OK press instead of rub could be valid but she also told me that I should only be washing my face with water. I asked how I would remove make up using only water and she said I should use a face cloth, but hadn't she just said no rubbing? The whole conversation was making no sense. When I said that I sometimes use an RA cream, she asked me "what is RA cream?" At that point, I knew for certain that she had absolutely no grasp on reality and that I had to get out of there. What dermatologist doesn't know what RA cream is? She continued telling me all of the things that might be causing my problem face including saying that I had a bad habit of putting my fingers into my mouth. Only I don't think I do have this habit as I no longer bite my nails. She told me I might have streptococcus.   

The real kicker came when she asked me about my mattress and how old it is. I replied that we'd purchased it in 2013. She asked me if I vacuum the mattress. I should have lied and said that I do, because she then told me that she could see DUST MITE BITES ON MY FACE. Honestly, I have never in my life been told something so horrifying. Can you imagine? I couldn't escape this woman's office fast enough. It was all I could do not to go directly to a shop to buy a new mattress and then firebomb my entire house. Even though this doctor was clearly a bit off could I really take a chance on being eaten alive? I pulled myself together though and didn't buy a new mattress or a new bed or have my house fumigated and here's why.

Two days before this medical madness Gift, his sister and his brother came over for dinner. During the course of the evening I became aware that Gift's brother, Wiseman is his name, doesn't own a bed or a mattress. He sleeps on the floor of a shack where he has been living for the past few months. If the shack has a floor. I couldn't bring myself to ask if there is a real floor or a dirt floor. He also doesn't have electricity in the shack. Since then, I have been obsessed with the thought of Wiseman sleeping on the floor of a cold, dark shack.  At night when I am in my recently declared imperfect but still functional bed I am thinking of him and feeling concerned. And no, Wiseman is not an ex-con or a recovering drug addict trying to get back on his feet, he's just poor and he can't afford a mattress or a bed with the money that he earns from his job. It's that simple. 

I decided I am not going to let this doctor lead me down a path of craziness. Even if it's true that sunscreen is rendered ineffective if there is orange fragrance in it, I don't have time for this insanity. I don't need the pills the from the Amazon, I don't have streptococcus, I'm not going to get a full blood test and I certainly don't have mite bites on my face. Dust mites don't even bite. I looked it up. I will not become any more self-involved than I already am and will not start creating personal medical problems where there aren't any. Instead, I will find a bed for Wiseman and even if the bed is used, I think he will be really happy to receive it. Dust mites and all. 


  1. That has to go down as the craziest experience ever. This person doesn't seem to have had a single clue about anything at all, much less about skin issues or possible melanoma. I'd probably seek out a real expert on that subject. As far as the mattress goes, I'd most likely just try to not worry about it, and get a plastic mattress cover.

  2. Yes, it was crazy. You'll be happy to know that since I moved to Geneva I visited a real derm and had a full check. All my freckles and moles are fine. Thanks for reading!


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.