Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Slippery Slope

Yesterday, I tried out a new dermatologist. Yes, yes, yes--the fun never stops. Skin cancer runs in my family; I have moles checked, removed and biopsied regularly. An ad in the local paper for this dude promised no long waits. The doctor I had been seeing makes you wait for an hour, then rushes you out in 3 minutes.

This guy actually sees patients once a week at a plastic surgeon's office with a very convenient location.  Passing the huge "Plastic Surgery" sign outside, still clad in my yoga clothes, I was mildly worried that someone would spot me. I didn't want anyone to think I am considering having work done. Then the receptionist had me fill out all these forms as if I was in for a tummy tuck, breast implants or some other invasive procedure.

As promised, there was no wait. I was seen by a very young looking man, who declared the spot on my neck a mole, came at me with a needle to numb the area, and then sliced it off for a biopsy. He left a shallow hole that I hope will heal before too long.  The doctor decided the identical looking spot on my knee was a keratosis, which doesn't need to be biopsied, and froze that off with liquid nitrogen, per my request.

Finished with the medical portion of my visit, he commenced with the upselling. "You have a lot of sun damage," he noted. Sun damage seems to be the current medical term for freckles, which I have been covered with since early childhood. "Does it bother you?" Well, not before you put it like that. I don't even notice my freckles when I look in the mirror. I am an Irish Catholic with fair skin and a history of sunburns acquired running around Orchard Beach in the Bronx before the invention of adequate sunscreen. For the past 25 years, I have been vigilant about protecting myself from the sun, and I think my epidermis looks pretty decent considering what it has been through these past 5 decades.

I had to distract Dr. Dude from my freckles. There is barely a square inch of my body devoid of them. (Sorry guys, I'm taken.) "What bothers me are these broken capillaries around my nose," I told him truthfully. When I was at ELLEgirl I saw a fancy NYC dermatologist for one very painful lasering session that did NOTHING. Since then, I usually deal with the situation by not looking in the mirror for very long; sometimes I try to cover them with concealer, which then gets sort of clumpy and noticeable. He took a closer look. "You have rosacea," he said. "You have a generalized redness on your whole face." I do? I thought that was my healthy glow. He suggested two different kinds of lasers to "even out my skin tone."  It would end up costing four figures.

I actually am considering it. So I can sort of see how people become plastic surgery addicts. One minute you're having a medically necessary procedure, the next minute your lasering off this or that, trying to erase your history and your individuality.







22 comments:

  1. "Sun damage seems to be the current medical term for freckles..."

    This. The only time I ever went to a dermatologist, she was disgusted by my "sun damage". I told her I've had freckles all of my life, to which she asked, "You weren't born with them, were you?" Then told me I would need thousands of dollars worth of products and procedures to fix it.

    I have not been back to a dermatologist since. However, I want a prescription for retinol so I may need to suck it up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for commenting, Jen. I like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Despite being an Italian Catholic girl (maybe its the Catholic part) I have had frekles forever - when I was very little my uncle would tease me and tell me every time you tell a lie a new freckle comes out (of course that was during the summer) I am covered head to toe and aways have been - Not surprising given genetics I have started seeing them appear on the nose and shoulders of my 8 year old despite covering him constantly with gobs of sunscreen and keeping hats on him until he was 6 or 7 and began to refuse - maybe I should get him to the doc straight away and get the lasers started early ;-) Unless of course they really do come from telling lies - Ciao

    ReplyDelete
  4. Gah! This happens to me every time I go to the dermatologist to be responsible and prevent my genetically-predetermined skin cancer, too. I'm not up to lasers (yet) but last time I was there for a mole check, she took one look at the breakouts on my forehead (which I thought were pretty run of the mill considering it was two days before my period) and said, "Oh my God, we can't have you walking around like that!" Cut to "prescriptions" for Retin-A, benzoyl peroxide and her personal brand of face wash, which I refused to buy, because for serious? You get to write prescriptions to sell your own beauty products? That is some kind of racket.

    But yeah, I also went home totally paranoid about how I'd been walking around like that, blithely unaware of my hideousness. So I hear you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I work in melanoma research so this post really interested me. Melanoma spreads swiftly, often aggressively, and in short, is a sucky cancer to die from as it's often preventable and can be essentially cured when caught early by screening. My advice, esp. if you have a family history or any of the risk factors (e.g. pale, lots of moles, history of sun exposure in childhood, etc.): find a dermatologist connected to your local research hospital and avoid the ones who push the cosmetic procedures. Hard to find them but these more medically inclined derms do exist. And, as for the other issues, just wear a bit of make-up.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post, Christina. My bro-in-law is a pediatrician and Casper-like and obsessed with sun-avoidance, and I went to his dermatologist a few years ago for a mole check. I was lazy about going back (i'm olive-skinned, don't burn easily, wear sunscreen, blah blah) but I did after a friend was diagnosed with melanoma. And holy crap, in the intervening years the dermatologist had been taken over by the pod people. Suddenly I was being upsold like crazy. Super-demoralizing. My friend in Boston told me she switches dermatologists every time they try to sell her Botox. She's on her fourth one.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, I never realized how lucky I was to have my dermatologist. My mom had a couple melanoma scares when she was younger, so I've been going to see him for regular mole checks since I was about eight and he has never even hinted at any cosmetic procedures. (He did prescribe me all my teenage acne medications, but I don't think that mind-numbingly detailed discussions of different treatment options really counts as a sales pitch.)

    Anyway, I say find someone else, even if the wait is longer. The last thing you want is to fall into the clutches of a doctor who profits off of making you feel bad about yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Incidentally, I went to a dermatologist here in LA who was ranked "best of" by LA magazine, and was referred to by another doctor. She tried to get me to buy a wrinkle cream that included babies' foreskins as an ingredient-I guess the human growth factor was the active ingredient. I was grossed out by her upsell, the foreskin cream, and the ridic price of it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ha! In my capacity as Journalist of the Jews I keep meaning to do a story on the commercial uses of baby foreskins. I wish I were kidding.

    ReplyDelete
  10. In LA these days it's very trendy to NOT circumcise your child (even if you're Jewish). We're home to Dr. Fleiss (Heidi's dad), who won't accept you as a patient if you circumcise! However, it's also apparently trendy to rub foreskins on your face here. Clearly those foreskins must be harvested elsewhere in the nation...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Damn, just the idea of such a cream makes me freak out...

      Delete
  11. Do the laser! Just did it about two weeks ago and years of sun damage are GONE! Some recovery time involved - I had a lot of sun damage and little capillaries so it's been fully two weeks for the swelling and redness to diminish but totally worth it!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I went home for Christmas this year. It was the first time in three years I could afford to go, and hadn't seen my family in about a year and a half. I love my mom and everything, but there are times when I am thankful I live in a different country. Like when my brother pointed out that my face was really freckled and my mom told me that I should get them looked at because they can probably be removed. Of course that comment totally deflated me because I actually like my freckles.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Since the skin cancer gene is also present in her bloodline, my friend Becky also gets her moles checked by a derma regularly. I find liquid nitro as a fun way to get rid of moles. My derma used that for a mole on my elbow some months ago. Hmmm... I think it's good to try laser. Why not go for a procedure that will make you enjoy looking at the mirror, right? =)

    -Tobi Fistcher

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tobi, do you work for a plastic surgeon?

      Delete
  14. Christina! (this is actually Deb) hopefully you have not gone and lasered yourself in the 3 weeks since this post has been up. I've been seeing the same dermatologist for years, about similar stuff, and he's never tried to laser anything. Message me on FB, would rather not go into all the complexion details online (for the sake of your readers).

    ReplyDelete
  15. Petunia/Deb, and everyone else, I did not laser myself.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Freckle is the circular spots on face. It make the face cruel in look which so irritating. This is not dangerous for any one and the fecklessness can be overcomes by Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery. So go for Plastic and Cosmetic surgery if you suffering from.

    ReplyDelete