In A Spot Of Bother

, , , , , | Healthy | February 19, 2019

(For a month or so, I’ve had a very small lump right at the base of my hairline on my neck. I don’t worry too much about it, as it doesn’t seem to be growing and isn’t painful at all, until one day it very suddenly floods with blood, like a blood blister. I have a very strong family history of melanoma, so anything on my skin that changes color rapidly is cause for alarm, so the next morning I go to the emergency clinic for an opinion as they are the ones that will see me the soonest.)

Doctor #1: “Okay, let’s have a look

Me: *tipping my head to show him the lump* “It was the same color as my skin before last night when it turned red like that.”

Doctor #1: “Hmm… Well, it sort of just looks like you may have broken a capillary, but because of that, it’s a bit hard to see what might be under it… Oh, and what’s all that?”

(He points to my shoulder, which is healing up after a nasty acne breakout)

Me: “Oh, I went and visited my home state a week ago; I always break out something awful while I’m there, and it’s just healing up. And besides, the lump was there before then.”

Doctor #1: “Hmm… Well, I think we should still get you on something for that. That lump could still be acne-related.”

(This seems reasonable enough, so he prescribes me an oral medication for acne and a cream for topical use. He tells me to use both for three days and then come back to check the progress. I do so, and when I return we have the following conversation)

Doctor #1: “Oh, your shoulder looks much better!”

Me: “Er… Yeah, well, it’s had a few more days to heal.”

Doctor #1: “So, we should definitely keep you on the acne medication.”

Me: *pause* “Sure.” *with no intention of actually keeping up the entirely pointless medication* “But that lump hasn’t reacted at all.”

(He checks to see that I’m correct)

Doctor #1: “Huh! Well, then, do you want it off?”

Me: “Well… I mean, I don’t know what it is.”

Doctor: “Oh, well, that’s called a nevi. It’s just a harmless skin growth for the most part, but given your family history of skin cancer, I very strongly suggest you get it removed.”

Me: “Well… All right…”

Doctor #1: “Great! I’ll be right back!”

(He does the procedure right then — which is not fun, by the way — burning off the “nevi” with an electrical current. I’m honestly a bit hesitant, but I don’t want to be that patient that insists I know more than a medical professional. After he’s done, he starts poking me in the shoulder.)

Doctor #1: “Oh, what’s this here? You should really get this looked at, too.”

(I think about the spot he’s poking. It’s what I know for a fact is a completely benign mole. It’s perfectly healthy and I’ve had it for ages, and I’m beginning to suspect that this doctor is just of the opinion that I shouldn’t have any sort of blemish anywhere on me.)

Me: “Er… Thanks, but I think we’ll leave that one alone.”

Doctor #1: “Are you sure? I really think you should have it looked at.”

Me: *now feeling even more uneasy about the whole thing* “I’ll keep that in mind, but I think we’re done for today.”

Doctor #1: “All right, suit yourself!”

(I go home and let the burn start to heal, but I also look up the word, “nevi.” It means, “mole.” I cannot express how much my complaint was NOT a mole. I kick myself for letting this guy burn whatever it was off, but it quickly becomes apparent that what he ACTUALLY did was burn off the layer of skin covering whatever was causing my complaint. There’s still a bump there, and now it’s much more obvious as it’s turned into a bright red nodule. I do the thing you’re not supposed to do and start Googling, as I figure I can’t cause more harm by looking things up. The theory I land on is that the bump is actually an inflamed lymph node — which I did not previously know could be that near the surface — reacting to some previously unnoticed infection. This is further backed up when, after about another week, I start noticing some more lumps further under the skin, as well as developing a headache localized to that side of my head. Finally, I make an actual appointment at my regular doctor’s office and explain the whole story to him. He actually stares at me for a moment after I tell the story.)

Doctor #2: “He… he tried to burn it off?

Me: “Yes. So, you know, that particular lump is going to look especially bad, so you might want to look at the others for better reference.”

Doctor #2: “Yeah, I’d better.”

(He comes to the exact same conclusion I did, and further traces the issue to a tooth I was preparing to have a crown put on. I hadn’t connected the two because, while the tooth definitely needs work, it wasn’t really painful so I wouldn’t have thought it was infected)

Doctor #2: “Okay, so… we’re not going to be, you know, giving you any freaking creams for this because, you know, they’re your lymph nodes… I just… God!”

Me: “Yeah, I figured not. Antibiotics, then?”

Doctor #2: “Yes. And we’ll do some blood work too… I just…. He tried to burn off your lymph node!

(I left feeling rather vindicated, and as of writing this up, my lymph nodes have finally started settling down, and my headache is gone. Would have been nice not to have a chunk of my neck burnt off first, though.)

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