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Saturday, June 04, 2005


Today I sat in the doctor's office and watched while Hala Koudsi MD poked my husband's arm.
"Let me see the spot we tested," she said as Dwayne lifted his sleeve to reveal a large mole with black stitches in the middle. Last Friday, Dr. Koudsi's nurse practitioner punched a small circle in my husband's shoulder and removed a slice of skin. He had a biopsy. Five days later, she called to tell him he had stage two malignant melanoma skin cancer.
Dr. Koudsi pushed the mole and said, "That doesn't look like cancer. It looks like a mole."
I was confused. What did she mean? That they had made a mistake? That the results had gotten mixed with another person's test?
Dr. Koudsi looked at him over her glasses. "You know my nurse practitioner is excellent! Most dermatologists would pass over this mole. Do you know why she stopped here?" Dr. Koudsi asked pointing to his shoulder.
"She said it was malformed," he replied.
Dr. Koudsi raised her chin and smiled.
It is a strange thing to be twenty-five and hear the word "cancer" from a doctor. As we left Dr. Koudsi's office, we were relieved. "This is nothing," she had said. "This is very early, only stage two. A simple excision will cure it." But just to be safe, just because "you are so young, and your wife is so young" she had said looking over his shoulder at me sitting in the corner, "I'm sending you to an oncologist. He'll run some tests and make sure there's nothing else."
She wanted to be clear that this was for our peace of mind, not because she felt Dwayne had anything wrong with him. I remember what she looked like as she spoke to us. She was wearing pink cordoroy pants and tan sandals with a leather flower on the toe. Her hair was long and brown with highlights flowing around her cheek bones. I scanned Dr. Koudsi's face curious about her skin care. It was so moisturized it glistened, even with a heavy layer of foundation and powder. I recognized around her eyebrows and cheek bones a ripe apricot look left from botox.
"She could be eighty-five," Dwayne said as we left the elevator and made our way out to the parking lot. "But she only looks forty," I said. I imagined her, every morning, rubbing oils and vitamins into her face, carefully trying to work herself back to youth.
And then there was Dwayne, who could barely remember to put on sunscreen. For the first time, he is aware of his skin and his lymphnodes.
As I recalled Dr. Koudsi standing over Dwayne's arm, flipping her charts, I imagined two people pushing from opposite ends, facing one another. "Because you are so young," she kept saying. "Because you are so young I will send you to a plastic surgeon." "Because you are so young a little excision will cure it." "Because you are so young your body will survive," she was saying, as if constantly comparing it to her own.
Dwayne and I reached the car and he pointed out, "She looked so weird with those fake teeth!"
But the point was, we were young and still strong, without fake teeth and botox.
"I'm not afraid that I'm going to die anymore," Dwayne said with a hint of irony. We pulled out of the parking lot and rode toward home. No, I thought to myself. Not afraid.
But for the first time I was feeling the meaning of the word "temporary."


Blogger Amanda said...

Yikes, that's scary! I was a freshmen in highschool when I had a "stage-one" mole removed. I keep about a gallons worth of spf 45. I'm done with tanning (except for that fake stuff that comes from a bottle). :)

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Julia Brunet said...

Temporary is a good description of what we are in this world, Christin. It grieves me that I don't do more with my "temporary" life. How short will it all really seem when the Lord comes and takes us? Sometimes the days seem so long, but we are still only temporary. hmm.

4:51 PM  

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