A raised bump on my arm stuck around longer than it should have. I take this seriously. Basal cell cancer has been a mini plastic surgery program for me. The left side of my face is tighter than the right. The two inch scar is almost imperceptible. I shared a photo of it before it healed. I thought I looked like a pirate. No one else thought it was funny.
There’s a similar scar on my left arm. If I forget where it is, I can barely find it. The one on my back is as dubious as the procedure was. The way I read the biopsy report is as follows: A slightly discolored irregularly shaped spot that had been viewed by several dermatologists over the last thirty years could have turned cancerous and killed me long after I was dead.
The bump on my arm wasn’t going to be ignored. I actually had Donna look at it. That’s like opening Pandora’s box, and an indication I actually knew what I needed to do. Medical opinions would begin to flow if I didn’t call a doctor within 24 hours. If all of my doctors in the states hadn’t disappeared, I’d be on a plane.
Finding a doctor in Spain is as easy as opening an app and plugging in a medical specialty and your zip code. A list of doctors pops up. If they speak English, there’s an ‘E’ next to their name. Very few doctors make appointments online. You have to call and there’s a 95% chance the person picking up the phone doesn’t habla ingles. If you’re lucky the phone gets passed around. It’s best to write a script.
Making the actual appointment is easy. Explaining what the visit is for means practicing how to say things like, “Yo tengo una mancha en mi brazo. Me han extirpado varios canceres de celulas basales en el pasado.” It’s all good until you get asked follow up questions. I just keep repeating myself.
Eventually an appointment is offered. The doctor who speaks English had appointments several weeks out. The doctor who didn’t have an ‘E’ next to his name could see me tomorrow. Touchdown!
On the way to the appointment Donna assumes I’m seeing the doctor who speaks English. “No, it’s a bump on my arm. That’s a ‘Yes, or no’ situation. The doctor just has to look. I figure there will be another appointment, or he’ll prescribe an ointment.”
Donna narrowed her eyes and said, “An ointment???” We’d both Googled pictures of basal cell cancers the night before. Of course we didn’t talk about it. It was understood I didn’t want to talk about it then either. “I don’t care what the doctor says. We’re keeping a close eye on this!” That was Donna’s last word.
I was ushered into an examination room and eventually the doctor arrived. He brushed aside my notes and in Spanish slow enough for a four year old to follow he told me I had a tiger mosquito bite. He had seen a lot of them. They are very common.
The doctor prescribed an ointment. I apply it twice a day. If the bump isn’t gone in three weeks, I am supposed to make another appointment. Then the doctor told me I could also put the ointment on the nearly invisible scars on my arm and face. Hmmm?
I thought about this on the way home. I thought about it when I applied the ointment. Then I thought about it again when the ointment appeared to be working. In the U.S. my doctor would have biopsied a bug bite. If your dermatologist can’t tell the difference between a bug bite and cancer, you are in trouble. That bump better be gone in three weeks!