Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
TOO MUCH SUN IS NO FUN
Well, I knew this day was going to come. The doctor looked over my medical chart and said, “The results came back from the lab. That spot on your back is a melanoma.”
“Whoo, that’s a relief, doc,” I replied. “I was afraid it might be cancer.”
“Umm, Bill, it is cancer. Skin cancer. But don’t worry. We caught it early. Oh, by the way,” the doctor continued, “were you exposed to a lot of sun as a child?”
Now, let’s see, I thought to myself, how should I answer him? When I was a kid my father worked as the head life guard at the town beach. We were at the beach every day from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Additionally, our ancestors hailed from County Albino, that region of Ireland which is perpetually shrouded in fog and has not seen sunshine since a freak weather condition in the 4th century caused the sun to appear for almost 20 minutes. Each year our flesh would turn bright pink in June, then change to ruby red in July, and finally settle on a festive shade of florescent maroon by August. We never got tan. All summer long our skin would blister and peel, and similar to snakes, we would periodically shed our skins, leaving behind crusty one-piece outlines of ourselves. When beach-goers saw one of those skin carcasses blowing across the sand, they’d comment, “Looks like one of the Dunn youngins shed again.”
I finally looked up at the doctor and nonchalantly said, “Sun? Nah, not really. I spent most of my childhood indoors.”
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “My guess is that you were exposed to too much sun as a child, and now you’re paying for it.”
“Hey, whataya mean I’m paying for it?! I have health insurance.”
“No, I mean you’re paying for it by developing skin cancer now that you’ve reached middle age.”
“Oh, I see— Hey, whataya mean middle age?! I’m only in my early thirt—, uh, my late … umm, how old am I again? Oh, never mind. So, what’s the deal with this skin cancer thing?”
“Don’t worry, Bill,” he said. “I want to send you to a specialist to have the melanoma excised, and then we’ll do a complete skin exam on a regular basis to catch any new ones early.”
I went to the specialist and discovered something very important: I should have asked what the word excise means. If I had known, I would have had time to think up an excuse to miss my appointment with the specialist. It turns out that the official medical dictionary definition of the word excise is, and I quote, “Carve a Chicken McNugget-sized chunk of flesh out of the middle of Bill’s back and then close it up with a bunch of Frankenstein stitches.”
As I was leaving the specialist’s office, he offered a sinister smile and said, “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again verrrrry soon.” I think I heard the rumble of an approaching thunder storm and the crackle of electrical sparks jumping between metal poles in his laboratory (pronounced: “la-BORE-a-tor-ee”). As I drove home, I envisioned my back, shoulders, and face looking like the surface of the moon—assuming the surface of the moon had Frankenstein stitches running across each crater.
I discovered something else very important: when the doctor said “complete skin exam,” he meant COMPLETE skin exam. I had to remove every bit of clothing, and then, with a flashlight and a magnifying glass in hand, the doctor proceeded to explore every square inch of my skin. After a while I said, “Um, excuse me, doc. But why are you looking … there? I mean, it’s not like I ever got sunburn … there.”
“You never know,” he said. “Some ultra violet rays might have reflected off the sand and up the leg of your bathing suit.”
I didn’t have time to dwell on the notion that the sun might be a Peeping Tom because I was too busy panicking over the prospect of Dr. Franken-specialist excising a Chicken McNugget from … there.
So the moral of the story is: stay out of the sun. And if you can’t do that, at least make sure that you are born to parents of Italian ancestry.
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