Tuesday, May 05, 2009


It was one of those comments that a young man makes and instantly regrets when he sees the reaction on his mother's face.

Thirty or so years ago, I was a hot-blooded, jingoistic lieutenant of Marines, convinced that, sometime soon, I would be sent into combat by and for my nation. I was leaning forward in that expectation--ready, willing, and able. There was not much else on my mind--certainly not any real concern for the distant future. My mother, one of those women for whom a special place in heaven is reserved for having raised nothing but sons, noticed that her fair-skinned first-born was getting way too much sun and commented that if I wasn't careful, I would get skin cancer.

My response, to my mother, stand by to cringe, was: "I'm going to be killed on some battlefield before I'm thirty; skin cancer is the least of my worries."

Yep, I'm an insensitive idiot.

She was right and I was wrong. Big surprise there. If I could give one tiny bit of advice to all of the young men in the 15 to 25 age bracket it would be, "Listen to your mother and keep your mouth shut!" Unfortunately, my quite extensive experience leading young men has convinced me that most suffer reversible brain damage beginning at about age 15 and don't begin to enjoy complete use of their faculties again until they near the 30 year mark. Some of us take even longer...

I've now reached the age at which the only prospect of any more battlefield experience is Armageddon. I've also reached the age at which men become acquainted with a whole new cast of characters with ologist at the end of their job titles--proct, ur, optham, and... derma.

A couple of months ago, I asked my family doctor for a referral to a skin doctor who could take a look at some rough spots on my scalp. My newest ologist friend diagnosed the problem as actinic keratosis and prescribed a cream to be applied three times weekly at beddy bye time. Said cream, he promised, would, in six weeks time, give me a new headbone covering "as smooth as a baby's butt." Oh, and by the way, he warned that this cream would cause the pre-cancerous spots on my scalp to inflame angrily before leaving me with my new baby butt head--both prospects not to be found on my list of things I necessarily want to have happen to my hat rack. But, the alternative was an even less desirable outcome.

Yesterday, the Colonel reported dutifully back to the dermatologist for my after-treatment check-up. I had faithfully followed the prescription to the letter for four weeks, but it turns out that the Colonel (and I take some perverse pride in this) is a tough skinned ole bird whose system is more robust than the cream. The Colonel does not yet have the doctor-desired baby butt head. I now must apply the noxious chemo cream every night for the next six weeks.

If my head melts, I'm not gonna be happy.
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