Friday, May 15, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Mole, and the removal of said aberration

It's funny sometimes what does and does not affect our self-confidence. When I was 17, for as long as I could remember (until the end of this story, as you'll see), I had had a medium-sized mole just above my right eye. It was same color as my skin, so it didn't stand out too much, but it was still quite visible. Especially if you knew it was there, which I did, since it was my face.

Still, it didn't bother me. Not at all. I never worried about it, not even during those sensitive teen years. The mole was larger than a large pimple and it was on my face all the time, and yet I couldn't bring myself to care about it.

The Mole and I, at high school graduation. Can you see it? I had some smiley pictures, too, but you can see it better in this angry one.

Until an adult intervened. Just after I graduated from high school in 1999, I went to the doctor to see him about something completely unrelated to the mole on my face. During the course of our conversation, he said - rather suddenly, as if he'd been contemplating it the whole time (or my whole life) but had only now found a chance to say something about it - "So, how much does that mole by your eye bother you? It must be hard to have something like that being a source of self-consciousness and low self-esteem all the time, right on your face."


Let me just say that within a week, my mom had scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist to have the mole removed, by my request. I was a bit scandalized - my whole life, I thought The Mole had been kind of inconspicuous at best, a little quirky at absolute worst, but a detriment to my sense of self? Never! But after what the doctor had said to me, it had to go. All of a sudden I felt hideous as long as that mole was still on my face.

My mom took me to the dermatologist for the outpatient procedure. They numbed the area around my eye and cut out the mole. It didn't hurt so much as it was...uncomfortable. I couldn't feel pain, but I could tell what they were doing and it grossed me out.

It was even grosser after the anesthetic wore off and I was left with a nasty bloody crater right by my eye. I spent the first afternoon after the procedure practically comatose on the couch watching documentaries on PBS, mostly (and strangely) about the Donner Party.

A few weeks after the removal, with my brother Blair.

Did I mention this was the summer before my freshman year of college? In a few short weeks, I would meet the set of people who could help me get through the next few years and instead of a vaguely noticeable flesh-colored mole above my eye, I had a gaping wound. It wasn't exactly doing wonders for my self-esteem.

In the end, the area healed up nicely before I left for college. I have a small white scar where the mole was and sometimes I feel like the mole is still there until I reach up to feel it and discover it is gone. It's been ten years now, and I'm glad I had it removed. Apparently, I was the only one who didn't think it made me grotesque and hideous, and I was the last one to figure that out. Thank goodness for my caring doctor who was so sensitive to my tenuous hold on a positive self-image at the delicate age of 17!


Jennifer said...

I've known you since we were 3 years old and I don't remember ever noticing it. :)

Nancy said...

I actually can't see it in the picture, either. :) Not that I knew you back then.

Britney said...

Don't remember it. Don't see it, either. I DO think it's funny your doctor made such a fuss over something so small, though.

Liz Johnson said...

Doctors can be so manipulative, man. I knew a plastic surgeon in my old ward who once said to me, "You're going to get a tummy tuck after you're done having kids, right? I mean, having all of that obvious, loose, flappy skin must be awful!" Uhhhh nope, I'm not, doc. But I'm a little irked that you are apparently holding me (and probably all women) to a falsely high standard. Arrgh.

Amanda said...

Like Nancy, I cannot see it in either picture, but I like your Blue Steel look in the first. Also, I too have had doctors bring up things that are totally unrelated to the actual problem at hand: 1. I went in because my knee was bothering me and the MD diagnosed me with OCD and recommended I take medication for it. 2. I went in for my 6-week postpartum check up after Lillian and the MD diagnosed me with scoliosis, which (unlike OCD) I'm pretty sure I don't have.

Bridget said...

All right, I added closeups. I'm sure you can all see it now.

Nancy said...

Well, now that there's a big, red circle around it, yes. :)

Susanne said...

Ah, Bridget, you're so stinkin' pretty, the mole was likely a "beauty mark" if anything! I hate your doctor did such a thing...blah!

Kristen said...

I have no recollection of ever noticing The Mole, and even in the close-ups it's hard to see. But I am VERY glad you had this surgery Bridget. Because perhaps watching those documentaries is what encouraged you to pick up "Desperate Passage," then review it on your blog. I am reading it now and hardly have the words to explain how deeply affecting it is. Thank you for the recommendation.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Though the mole wasn't very noticeable being skin colored and all, I figured that in the future if you went to the doc for some other procedure they could just take the mole off at the same time. But I was floored when Dr. J. said something like "why don't you do Bridget a favor & have that thing removed," and then gave me that look that said "you are the world's worst mother for letting your otherwise lovely child grow up w/ this HUGE THING right on her face!

Bryce said...

Great story! I loved how the Donner Party was integral to your recovery (or not). I do think doctors tend to exaggerate such minor blemishes. After all, they are paid to care about and scrutinize what things MIGHT be wrong with our bodies.

Beth said...

That doctor was definitely a dud. I worked with a dermatologist once (in a non-derm setting) and she told me that one of the first things she learned was not to assume she knew what was bothering the patient. Her example was, "I'd go into the room and say something like, 'I'm sure you want that gigantic mole removed from your face' and the patient would say, 'What mole? I'm here about this ugly thing on the back of my neck'--which was practically invisible."

When dealing with moles, bumps, etc. as long as it doesn't concern something potentially malignant, a doctor should practice good listening skills, which would help him differentiate his opinion from his patient's concerns. (Then it helps for him to remember which is more important...)

JosephJ said...

So what you're telling me is that I didn't have to get the two dark freckles cut out of my shoulder and neck this week? If you had only posted this last week, I could have spared myself these gaping holes.

---well, maybe not, since at my physical the Dr. said, "We should probably get those biopsied" and when Jen got wind of that, there's no going back. I'm married to somewhat of a worry-wart. HA!


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