A New Version of Yourself

The experience of love is not what the other person is. The experience of love is how you experience yourself in the presence of the other. – Esther Perel

‘If histology comes back dodgy, you can say goodbye to the Caribbean.’

Trust my mum to get to the heart of the matter. She’d hit me with it just after I’d just had a punch biopsy on a small mole – on my nose. I’d been avoiding going to the doctor’s for years. Finally I went. Urgghh.

The punch biopsy was an unexpectedly bloody procedure. After I finished talking to my mum, I crunched on the paracetamol, put the phone down and drove the two hours home.

The surgeon called me a week later. Usually, the surgeon only calls when there’s bad news to deliver. We did have an interesting conversation before my punch biopsy though. I do like the eccentric model of a surgeon. When he was asking me about my mole – which has the tendency of bleeding profusely if I accidentally scratch it, I agreed with him by saying, ‘Isn’t it?’

He’d turned to me with the sharpness of a raptor. ‘Are you asking me a question?’

I paused. ‘Only a rhetorical one.’

He frowned and nodded as if this was news to him. I realised then that this educated, white-haired man didn’t seem to comprehend the Welsh way of answering a question by asking one back. ‘Isn’t it?’ is such standard answering question fodder that I don’t often notice it – and I’m not even Welsh. It’s a bit like the Welsh habit of naming a person for what he does; like Pete the Meat or Dai the Milk. Meanwhile my plastic surgeon performs complex skin grafts and bone chiselling in this same community but understanding verbal nuance? That’s what I like – people who are so specialist in their skillset that the basic stuff runs unnoticed under their own noses.

I held my breath in my kitchen as he told me I was lucky enough to be clear of any sign of cancerous skin cells. I straight away wanted to end the call and phone my mother. Ha! There goes your Caribbean prophecy, Mama. Hold on. What was that? You say I’m not getting any younger? Thank you.

Then he said, ‘Would you like to come back in three months time so we can check up on you?’

Who said the NHS doesn’t care?

Now I have a repeat consultation in three-months time to enjoy another patient-doctor conversation. With hopefully the added benefit of having at least one more mole removed. God knows I have enough of them. It’s my own special affliction of getting older. My surgeon may not be clear on the term ‘isn’t it?’ but he was sure about the NHS policy against removing moles for solely cosmetic purpose. Unless I start picking the one on my eyebrow and making it bleed accidentally on purpose, then I’m probably stuck with them for now. He didn’t tell me that last bit either. Here he is dealing with horrific burns and I’m moaning about a few moles? Rhetorical.

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