The Envelope, Please …
I didn’t sit at the sewing machine at all today. I slept in until 9:00, when Rick came upstairs to remind me that I wanted to be up early enough to have time to check emails and have breakfast and a shower before we would head onto the highway and back to the city. I was meeting with the dermatologist for the three month checkup.
As the appointment was at noon time, we could drive without the crush of early commuter traffic; the roads were easy, the rain was very light, and we were in the city in time to stop at the local cafe to share a sandwich for lunch. We’ve learned that portions in restaurants are always larger than they need to be, and we can save money by sharing a plate. Rick dropped me off at the door of the cafe, and drove on to park the car in the lot next to the doctor’s office. By the time he walked back, I’d ordered the tuna on toast (multi-grain, of course) and had our glasses with ice cubes (real cubes!) on the table. The server brought our sandwich over on two plates, with two pickle spears, and we enjoyed the sandwich. I ate the complimentary coleslaw and gave him half of my half sandwich. He in turn said no thanks to half the brownie. We finished up and left the cafe, happy that the drizzling rain had stopped while we ate.
The waiting room for the dermatologist was very full; six or seven patients were ahead of us. I signed in at the desk and we sat together in the long narrow room: two rows of chairs facing each other with a coffee table in the center of the small aisle between offering a selection of fairly current magazines. All of the patients were men, most my age or older, and most of a similar light skin tone – save one, who was experiencing a very uncomfortable reaction to a medication he’d used on his skin condition. He spoke quite freely about his condition, psoriasis, and said that he’d been without shoes for a week prior to this visit. His feet were swollen and his kegs were bare, as his trousers were rolled up to his knee. His discomfort was as visible as his story was detailed. Another man waiting joined him in conversation, first asking what the doctor would prescribe, and how long had he had this condition, and suggesting this or that might help. The man suffering was very vocal about wanting to be hospitalized, wanting to be taken care of by nurses, and wanting to be admitted that day, having worked for over fifty years and having never needed medical care before this. He was politely angry, and politically frustrated. He had driven many hours down from Canada for this appointment, and did not want to drive back in the same, bare-foot condition. He spoke then of his farm in Canada, his retirement home away from home. His face, red and irritated with swollen eyelids seemed to lighten, and relax, as he told us of his setting: the beauty of the woods, the abundance of the waterways, his fishing and hunting pleasures. But then he returned to politics, and the economy, and his face grew red again. It was a painful sight to witness. I think my face must have given away my thoughts, for he asked me, then, did I agree with any of what he’d said about the economy?
“Yes, some,” I said honestly. Then I changed the subject quickly on him. “Do you know, though, that while you were telling us about your home away from home, the nature, the beauty and the peace and satisfaction you have there, your face coloration lightened, and your eyes seemed more open and relaxed? But when you began talking about the economy again, the red coloring returned and your eyes seemed to swell a bit?” He looked thoughtful for a moment, and said “Really?” And I said yes, and suggested that he might feel more comfortable if he spoke more about that place, and that beauty.
And then the nurse came to bring him back into the inner office, to talk about what his primary care doctor had said about hospitalization, and the door closed, and the room was quiet. In a little while, Rick and I were the only people left in the waiting room, and soon we, too, were called into the examination rooms.
My visit with the doctor was quick – he looked me over head to toe, checked some spots that I questioned, and decided to use freezing on my face. He found nothing requiring a biopsy, and commented that, in the few months he’d known me, we’d already addressed all three types of skin cancer, and pre-cancer areas. He reminded me to call him if the sites he treated today hadn’t cleared within two weeks, and asked me to schedule the next three month check-up. And we were done.
As we left, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the gentleman with bare feet would have his hospitalization request granted. I said a little prayer of thanks that, at least for now, there was nothing requiring more surgery and sutures, and I said a little prayer for him, too. Another soul passing through life on a path that, if only briefly, intersected mine and reminded me that simpler skin conditions could be more complicated than cancer.
I was tired on the ride home, and we listened quietly to the music playing on the radio. Traffic was predictably heavier in the city; Rick was driving, and I was confident that he would get us home safely. I had time to think: if only people could have just one condition to worry about at a time, as I have had this week. Next week we’ll return to the city to visit the doctor who monitors my depression. And in December, we’ll return there again to see the neurologist who monitors the multiple sclerosis status. But for now, for this weekend, we’ll watch the two sites on my face, and say prayers of thanks for a bit of respite, and a bit of grace.