May is Melanoma Awareness Month
500 words inspired by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt “fear”
Lulu sat fully clothed in her dermatologist’s exam room, staring at the doctor. She must have misunderstood him.
“Melanoma?” she said. “I have skin cancer?”
Lulu found the mole on her scalp a couple of weeks earlier after accidentally banging her head with a hairbrush. Her scalp bled. Pressing the area with a tissue, she felt a small lump. A few days later it was still seeping, so she called the office for appointment to have it looked at. The doctor hadn’t seemed alarmed but said he wanted to send a sample to the lab.
Lulu waited a week for the nurse to call with the results. Then she waited another day. And another. On the tenth day after the biopsy she called the office. The nurse told Lulu to come in to talk to the doctor.
And now the doctor just said she had melanoma, the same skin cancer that killed her grandmother and her father.
No, no, not me, Lulu thought. They were sun worshippers. Not me. I haven’t been in the sun in years. Grandma played cards at the beach, sitting for hours basted with baby oil. Dad spent most summer weekends lying on a lounge chair on the patio, spraying himself with the garden hose when he got too hot. Not me. I hate hot weather. I stay inside in the air conditioning.
OK, she thought, when I lived in Texas I had to walk Lucky, but not in the middle of the day. Neither of us liked the heat. He did his stuff, then dragged me back inside. We took our long walks in the evening when it was cooler and the sun wasn’t beating down.
The doctor was still talking, something about a twenty year lag between exposure and disease.
How do I tell Mom, thought Lulu. How do I tell my brother? It’s Mother’s Day weekend. I can’t ruin Mother’s Day weekend. I’ll fake it this weekend and tell them next week.
The doctor’s saying something about a referral to a surgeon.
Dad had melanoma on his leg removed and we thought he was fine. Then he started having pain in his hips so bad he couldn’t work. When they finally figured out it was cancer, it was too late to operate. Sometimes when you’ve got melanoma on your lower body it spreads to your pelvis. But mine’s on my head. Why do I need a surgeon if it’s just a mole on my scalp? Is it going to spread to my brain?
Did he just say I also need a plastic surgeon, thought Lulu. Grandma had part of her jaw removed. Is mine going to spread to my face?
“You knew,” said Lulu. “You knew what it was as soon as you saw it, didn’t you?”
The doctor nodded and looked away, blinking.
“We can’t handle it here,” he said, turning back and meeting her eyes. “I’m so sorry. You need a surgical oncologist. It’s treatable, but sooner is better than later.”