Herb Benham: Panic is skin-deep

·4 min read

Dec. 4—I saw the dermatologist earlier this week. I hadn't been in almost two years. Like any reasonable person, I dread going and thought about putting it off for another six months, but then, if I had anything, it could have grown faster than bougainvillea.

I knew one thing: I hadn't gotten any prettier. My face is like one of those relief maps of the Sierra you used to be able to buy at Joven & Co.

With skin, with age and between visits to the doctor's office, you wonder, stew and ask questions like "Is that bump, blemish or barnacle new or has that always been there?"

Then you say things like, "It doesn't look like it's gotten any worse."

Fat chance. For all you know, it might have tentacles longer than a giant octopus. Tentacles that are now wrapped around every major organ and a few minor ones you didn't know you had.

"Can you ask the doctor about the red bumps you have under your eyes?" Sue said.

Which bump? Which eye? I have a set of red bumps, with one bigger than the other like a papa bear.

Andrew, our oldest grandson, is concerned about those bumps. He's mentioned them several times. Bumps like those are one more reason to enjoy being 6.

The dermatology office is on Truxtun extension, close to Truxtun Lake and located next door to the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center, which is both chilling and convenient because if things don't go well at the dermatology office, they can shoot you next door.

I decided to walk to my 7:45 appointment, about 2 miles on the bike path. Besides the exercise, if the news was good, the return would be a victory walk. If it wasn't good. I could try to walk the blues away.

I gave myself 45 minutes, which was not enough. When I realized I might be late, I picked it up and started high-stepping. By the par course, I was sweating like a prisoner breaking rocks and when I reached the office I smelled like the wrestling room at South High.

This wasn't a problem until the nurse asked me to disrobe so Darren, the P.A., could do a full cavity search to see what was lurking in the crevices. After I took off my shirt and the nurse closed the door, I looked at the sink and the powerful disinfectant soap and considered giving myself the equivalent of a hose bath. I didn't want the doctor to say, "His skin is fine but he could use a shower."

I like Darren. He's young, fit, has a family and he doesn't waste any time getting down to business.

"Nothing to worry about there, you're OK here, but we're going to nip that bump in the bud so 12 months from now, we don't have a problem."

He wielded the can of liquid nitrogen like a mole-freezing maestro. Should Stilian Kirov be unable to perform, Darren could conduct the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra with that can.

I asked him about the larger red bump under my left eye.

"That's an easy one," he said cheerfully. "I'll shave that off."

You want your dermatologist to be cheerful. Cheerful rather than gloomy and down in the dumps.

"Son, you don't have long to live. Not only are you going to die but you are going to die ugly."

There was some sort of bump on my lower back that he took a photo of in order to check it out.

"I'd like to take a closer look at this one," Darren said.

It's OK to have one bump that could be life-threatening, but if it is not, will give you a major burst of energy when you realize you may live to see another appointment.

When he examined my feet (make sure they look between your toes because those little devils could be hiding), he mentioned that I had athlete's foot. Does that mean I'm an athlete or that my sweaty feet are going unattended?

Twenty minutes later, we were done and I'd made a new appointment for May.

"Make sure you put Vaseline on the bump I shaved off so you won't get scars," Darren said.

I will. My looks are important to me. No one wants to frighten a grandchild.

Contact The Californian's Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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