Thursday, February 7, 2013


Paging Clyde Bruckman

You may be a totally normal person, and therefore not sit around worrying about how you are going to die. But, as a super, super-pale person who spent one stupid summer in high school blissfully baking herself in a tanning bed at her gym while they piped in Train's "Drops of Jupiter," I have, for whatever reason, become convinced I'm going to get skin cancer.

My dad, who likes to be weird and mysterious, has been claiming for years that "the means of his death have been made known to him" (idk, in a dream, or something?), so he's not concerned about it at all, and my mom is terrified of carbon monoxide poisoning, so her house has alarms in every corner.

Anyway, this might not sound like a lightbulb moment, but I finally made an appointment with a dermatologist and had my moles checked (for ages, I think I was doing that 'I can't take a pregnancy test because WHAT IF I AM PREGNANT' thing), and my insurance covered it, and they went all over my body like they were looking for evidence of alien probes, and nothing looked weird, and they said to come back in a year and get it done again, and I felt...oh, wow, I felt bathed in relief. Like when you haven't got your teeth cleaned in a few years and then you bite the bullet and get it done.

And then I asked if I could get a Retin-A scrip to prevent signs of aging, and she was all "here you go!" and my insurance covered THAT, so I got a ninety-dollar tube of goodness for five bucks, and temporary reassurance I wasn't going to die immediately from skin cancer.

So, first, I think everyone should go get their moles checked and mapped, if you can possibly afford it, because it is absolutely tearing through young women in their twenties and thirties, and, in general, if you are really worried about a particular thing that might kill you, maybe there's something real you can do to feel a little better about it. Give it a shot.

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*Nodding emphatically* I, too, am convinced I am going to die of cancer since pretty much everyone in my family has had it or died of it (except the two people who died of MS...I have fantastic genetics!). I am absolutely religious about going to get my moles checked every year, and if the dermatologist tries to rush through it without looking carefully at every single one of the 8 million freckles/moles/spots on me, I will say something. I am too pale and have had too many sunburns to sit there in blissful ignorance of my body probably slowly killing itself.


so true so true@n


what i really want is for my doctor to look at the mole on my back and be all "yeah, *wink wink* we should remove this, it looks iffy *wink wink*" because then it will be covered, rather than out-of-pocket. and i'd rather it be gone, really.


@karenb Even if my doctor thinks the mole should be removed because it could be [pre]cancerous, my insurance still won't cover it. They apparently have a very loose definition of "fully covered preventative care."

What's more preventative than getting rid of a spot that could kill me? If I am dead, insurance, you don't get my money anymore, so you lose.


@karenb That happened to me in high school with one on my neck that I really, really, really hated. It was great and I'm still thankful.


@olivebee Yeah, my old insurance had the same backwards idea. If you had a iffy/troublesome-looking mole removed and the biopsy revealed it was not cancerous, you had to pay for it. If you it WAS cancerous, they'd cover it. So like, if you had a way to wait until the very moment the mole became cancerous but that no cancer had spread into your body, you had it made (jk, what a nightmare requirement).


@HeyThatsMyBike Yeah, it's a no-win situation with my insurance. Last year I had a veeeeery iffy mole (the doctor was completely unreassuringly concerned about it) removed, and after two dreadful weeks waiting to hear the results of the biopsy the verdict was: no cancer, and since it's NOT cancer, you can pay us several hundred dollars!
I know I need to get checked yearly, but the possiblity of either having cancer or paying hundreds to learn I DON'T have cancer makes it hard to do the responsible thing.


Did anyone else LOVE LOVE LOVE that song?? Jesus, I drove my family nuts by singing it every hour of the day.


Sometimes when I scrape to find anything good from my years of crushing depression, I try to rationalize all the locked-inside-with-the-shades-drawn time saved me a lot of sun exposure.

I wanted to die but yesterday the lady at the liquor store did say I had a baby face! So.


@JessicaLovejoy sun exposure is the woooooooooooorst, I have the crow's feet of a woman 15 years older because I am too lazy to put on sunscreen.

fondue with cheddar

@JessicaLovejoy I totally relate to that. All of it.


@iceberg I have undereye wrinkles of a woman 15 years older and I DO wear sunscreen everyday, so as far as I'm concerned it isn't helping much. (Although, I guess the case could be made that I would have the wrinkles of a woman 25 years older without it).

fondue with cheddar

@KeLynn I think genetics has as a lot to do with it. Anyway, wrinkles are better than melanoma, right?


@JessicaLovejoy YUP


Ugh, I should do this. I have a few moles that are tiny (like, freckle-sized?) and probably okay (knock on wood) but every time I see a new one, or a new freckle appear, I'm like ehhhhhh, gut-wrenching fear and doubt!

On a similar gut-wrenching note, my mom is seeing a surgeon today about the atypical cells they found in a breast biopsy of calcification they saw in a mammogram. I dunno what it's going to be (probably more scans and tests, really) but ughhh I just want to hug her forever.

RK Fire

@yeah-elle It's kind of worth it. I had a suspect mole for a number of years (blue-black, fuzzy edges, people tended to think it was a tattoo that I chickened out of) but I let it go for awhile because it was pretty round. Then it started growing and became slightly amorphous, and I got really paranoid, so off it went!

Apparently blue-black moles are normal and I have a keloid-ed scar now but now I rest easy knowing that it's not skin cancer.


@RK Fire You got a tattoo? Yeah, but just a little one. Phoebe got the whole world!

RK Fire

@itiresias EXACTLY. I liked the mole too, until it went rogue on me. Now I'm thinking about getting a tattoo in the general area.


@yeah-elle Look for weirdness! There's some acronym I can't remember (GOOD JOB, HIGH SCHOOL HEALTH) but keep an eye out for changes, fuzzy edges, weird colors, blotchiness? Somebody give me the assist here. I'm totally anal about mine and track them obsessively. Of course, my body likes to freak me out by occasionally having freckles puff up and drop off (apparently birth control hormones??) so my skin and I have a weird relationship.

This has been TMI Off The Subject with The Everpresent Wordsnatcher.

Oh, squiggles

$5 for retin A? Damn, having health insurance sounds nice.


@Absurd Bird Also, having health insurance IN CANADA.

Nicole Cliffe

I have Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah, which is not through my job, so it was a hassle to get it, but as long as you go to in-network providers, it's really pretty good.


Also, Nicole, obvs your dad meant you'll somehow cause his death but he doesn't want you to feel bad about it.


@JessicaLovejoy And that she will inherit a cute little dog, which should maybe be kept away from lakes.

Nicole Cliffe

Oh. Wow. That's it, isn't it??


@LacunaKale I misread that as "a cute little dog, which should maybe be kept away from latkes" and I was like "What did that dog do to latkes?!" But then I thought maybe "ate them all" because latkes are delicious.


@BoozinSusan I ALSO READ LATKES! But I am one hungry shiksa.

maybe partying will help

One time I was at the gyno and the doctor, whilst busy down below, glanced up at me and was like, You should have those moles on your stomach looked at.

Which. THANK you, Dr. Gynecologist, I have had them looked at, because my sister and mother have both had cancery moles cut off them, I am superfreckly and pale and never go in the sun without SPF One Billion, now please go back to making sure my junk is ok.


@maybe partying will help But that's better, isn't it, than having a doctor who recognizes that your mole looks suspicious, but thinks 'Maybe I should say something...wait, no, I'm only getting paid to ensure the health of her nether-regions - as long as she doesn't die of vagina-related illnesses, I'm in the clear."

I get not wanting random strangers to comment on your body, but surely we need to rely on doctors to be the sole exception, accepting the possible hurt feelings or or stress that might follow.


I am so afraid of the sun, but apparently more afraid of looking like a doofus for calling up the dermatologist and saying "Can I have an appointment for you to look at my moles? No, none of them look weird, I'm just paranoid. I'm not sure exactly what I'm supposed to be asking for here but I read on the Internet that you would look my skin over and it wouldn't be weird."

So I am glad to hear it is a real thing.


@KeLynn You should psych yourself up and make an appointment. I am convinced that people become dermatologists because they are themselves intensely paranoid about All the Moles and Most of the Spots, and this way they don't have to wait and ask somebody about their own spots. They're basically like mad scientists who are all "Show me all the spots that I may judge them!", so I guess it's hard to look at someone else like they're a doofus for being concerned.


@KeLynn I've been wanting to go to one because I developed eczema over the past five or six years, and it gets worse every season (extreme hot and cold bring it out), and every time it gets worse or a new spot forms I'm like OH MY GOD I'M DYING FROM THE INSIDE OUT AND DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT, when really I would probably go and they'd be like "here's some cream".


@KeLynn Several years ago I called up a dermatologist and basically said that very thing. I am a very mole-y person and she went over just about every inch of me, and said everything looked good, which was a huge relief. When I have real health insurance again (hopefully within the next two months!) that's going be be one of the first calls I make (to a new doctor in the city I now live in). Seriously, it sounds much stranger to you than to them!!


I have a mole on the base of my right breast that has been there longer than my breasts have been. Everytime I get a breast exam, the doctor asks about it (which is good, that is his job). I have also had people assume it was a tick or something else unsavory when they glimpse it nestled into my cleavage.


@Blushingflwr I have some moles basically in my crack (which I only discovered in the past year or two when I started bikini waxing myself), and I'm constantly worried my boyfriend is going to think that I like, didn't wipe thoroughly after pooping or something. Even though they never move obviously, so I guess if he has noticed them he has hopefully also pieced together that it's my skin, but STILL.

ETA: TMI? I think I'm in a TMI mood today. Apologies, 'pinners. I can't be stopped.

Blackwatch Plaid

@Blushingflwr I have a similar mole under my left breast (there since I was a kid!), but now my boobs are so large that it tends to be hidden. Maybe if it were visible, my doctor would be concerned? Idk.


@Blackwatch Plaid I have a raised, very regularly shaped mole under my right boob that I was TERRIFIED, for a little while, was a third nipple, because it was right on the "milk line" of my real nipple. I am fairly certain it is a mole and not a nubbin, but the fear occasionally pops up.


Both an Anne of Green Gables and an X Files reference today? I am a lucky lady. I heart you, Hairpin.

J Walter Weatherman

@solvingaproblemlikemaria Except WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT CLYDE BRUCKMAN

Pariah Carey

I spent the summer after graduating high school working the 3 p.m.-11 p.m. shift at one of my hometown's (2) grocery stores. My schedule for 3 months was like this: wake up 11 a.m.; cereal and tv; sunbathe in bikini noon-1 (strongest rays, man!); shower, waste time on the internet, work 3-11.

Thanksgiving break of my freshman year of college: spent Wednesday afternoon before the holiday in a dermatologist's office in my hometown, terrified because the perfectly round mole above my navel had changed shape, size, and color.

One youthful biopsy was all it took to transform me into a 24/7/365 SPF-wearer. I am Paled to Perfection.


"for ages, I think I was doing that 'I can't take a pregnancy test because WHAT IF I AM PREGNANT' thing"

I'm glad that this is actually A Thing and not just something I've done.


@meetapossum Genuinely just came to the comments to say this thing about being glad that it's A Thing.


Yes, do this! Except, misdiagnoses of skin cancer (melanoma in my case) are fairly common so get second and third opinions before you freak out.


For me the constant terror is a brain tumor? With little basis, I've basically already accepted that I have one, and won't know for sure until it's way too late. I do get migraines, which basically feel like my brain's two sizes too big and throbbing inside my head, so that has to do with the assumption.

RK Fire

@itiresias Brains are terrifying. There's just so much we don't understand and things can go wrong so easily, you know?

Another scary thing: blood clots.


@RK Fire
Yea, an old friend from high school dropped dead at 26 or so. Brain aneurysm. So weird for it to just be a blink of an eye.

Though I skew towards hypochondria I've already had a So You Have a Terrible Thing That Will Eventually Kill You moment, which at least in this respect is kind of comforting. Because, seriously - what are the odds that I get a rare disease AND cancer?

Probably the same, but... really.

the roughest toughest frail

@RK Fire I've been petrified of blood clots since I was 6 years old and had to attend a funeral for a 23 year old guy who dropped dead of an aneurysm. I was in grade school at the time, and the entire school turned out for the mass because he was an alum and well-known in the community. I was too young to really understand the significance, which was further hampered by the fact that the nun that taught my class had a really thick accent and I misheard "blood clot" as "black clock" and spent the majority of my childhood terrified that a "black clock" would reach my brain or heart and kill me.


@RK Fire exacly,

@abetterfate I've had the fear since my favorite aunt died when I was 12, having been recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer even though she didn't smoke and ate healthy and stuff. so I did a school project on lung cancer for health class, and found out that cancer can grow in your body for many years before it's detectable.


@itiresias I spent 5 years (5 years!) terrified I had some kind of horrific intestinal cancer, and then finally went to the doctor and...turns out I have IBS. I don't even have to pay to go to the doctor or anything - I was clearly just going by the 'I can't see you if you can't see me' school of medicine.

de Pizan

Skin cancer/sunscreen is one of those issues I'm completely militant/soapboxy about. My maternal grandpa, and every single one of his 8 kids, and some grandkids have had basal cell skin cancers (thank you so much Scandinavian/British ancestors). My mom just had a chunk of her nose carved out and a skin graft put on. An aunt by marriage had a large mole on the back of her leg that she didn't get checked--by the time they caught the melanoma, the cancer had spread to 19 of her lymph nodes, and caused tumors wrapped around her spine they couldn't get rid of. It was a horrible way to die and so incredibly needless.
I'm sure your dermatologist told you, but Retin-A causes major sensitivity to the sun; so definitely slather on the sunblock.


This also raises the very important question: if you had the opportunity to find out how you were going to die, would you want to know? For the sake of argument, let's say that the time, place, and manner of death were all absolutely unavoidable, no matter what decisions you made in the intervening years (months? weeks? MINUTES?!).


@MoxyCrimeFighter Well, you could avoid needless worry about other methods of death, and it would also be helpful to know like, if a specific person is going to kill you. Save yourself some money on birthday presents and Christmas cards, you know?


@wharrgarbl Excellent point. But not to get too Freudian, so much of life's joy comes from laughing in the face of inevitability, that dance between embracing and denying your mortality. If you know the ending of a movie - not just that it ends but how and why and when - isn't it a little less fun?

If you knew that a specific person was going to kill you, and there was nothing you could do to change that, would you be more or less kind to them?


I had kind of a similar thing, where in December I wrenched my neck so bad I couldn't move my head for at least a day and was stuck looking slightly down and to the right. It has taken me until this Monday to finally go see a chiropractor. You know what? He's nice. It's like insurance covered massages and back cracking. Why did I not do this sooner?!


Years of working as a lifeguard and wanting to look soooo tan.

Followed by two years of working in an office all summer so this summer if I'm FREEEE it will be back to square one.

Sure I have skin cancer on both sides of my family.

But I do wear a hat, so at least the most important area is covered RIGHT?!

(wrong probably)


@redheaded&crazy although at my last physical I got all my moles checked out and doc said they look good! And I booked my physical yesterday so I'm on! top! of! my health!


@redheaded&crazy I'm a person who should be more worried about skin cancer. It's not on either side of the family but I do at least a month of unlimited tanning each winter when there's a groupon and maybe wear sunscreen once a summer (and don't reapply it in the 6+ hours I'm at the beach).
I'm pretty sure I'm going to either:
A. Die in a horrific car accident (I have a 90 mile commute each day), or
B. Be murdered (nothing has ever spoken more directly to me than http://thehairpin.com/2011/08/make-your-own-%E2%80%9Cin-case-of-investigation-discovery%E2%80%9D-file )
So I'm not too concerned about it. If I live long enough to be sad about crows feet, that'll be a success in my book.

Heat Signature

Obviously I'm now going to start saying "The means of my death have been made known to me" like, all the time and apropos of absolutely nothing.

Nicole Cliffe

@Heat Signature I will ask if he is willing to do an interview about it.


@Nicole Cliffe Is your dad a witch, Nicole?

My mother has actually said something similar. My mother is not a witch, though. To the best of my knowledge.


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