The Doctor is the Patient

Me ( White Coat Me That Is)Yesterday I had my first ever “Total Body Skin Exam.” After constantly reminding my patients to get their moles checked, I thought it time to take my own advice. (not to mention the countless summers in the 1980s where laying in the sun wasn’t enough-we had to apply oil and foil to really get a good crisp.)

I got to my appointment a few minutes early. The “reception” I received from the RECEPTIONIST was cool (to be kind.) I had a bad feeling.

Once in the room, I was given a blue paper half gown and a gigantic white napkin “for my lap.” I was spazzy as I undressed. For some reason I felt like if the doctor walked in on me half dressed & half in the gown it would be much more humiliating than if I was fully UNDRESSED. In my panic I hung my clothes on the back hook and realized that my yoga pants had one leg turned inside out. It bothered me for some reason as if he would think I was a slob for not hanging my pants neatly. But, I can’t make myself go to the door to fix it for fear that he will “walk in on me.” Walk in on me doing what??? Fixing my pants?

I really should be medicated.

Keep in mind, in prep for this visit I have done the following:
-showered (this is extra on a Thursday)
-shaved my legs but only to the thigh (this is extra anytime after Labor Day.)
- put on my only set of matching bra and panties.
- a couple extra sit ups (as if 10 sit ups this year will miraculously give me cut abs.)

My appointment was for 9:30.

The doctor walked into my room at 9:25 carrying a large canister/blow torch looking thing. Again, I had a bad feeling.

He was kind, funny, and respectful, reassuring me that he barely ever has to torch anything he just likes to have that thing handy.

Then the exam. If you think a PAP smear or a prostate exam is humiliating, you have not had a “Total Body Skin Exam.”

1. Scalp—Doc combed through my air carefully. Thank God I opted to wash it today.

2.He proceeded to examine literally every inch of my skin from head to toe saying things like “let me see your inner thigh.” I twisted, turned, splayed, and bent AND sweat my ass off–It was a lot like my first (and last) yoga class.

3. He expressed concern over the bottom of my left foot. “Is that a wart?” he queried coming in for a closer look. I regretted my “no pedicure after Labor Day policy” almost as much as the “no thigh shaving after Labor Day policy.” He ran his finger over the “thing” on my foot and announced “Oh no. It’s just a piece of crud. No worries.”

I felt like dying.

So, rather than keep my mouth shut, I did what I do best when I am mortified: I began rambling.

“Huh, crud? Must be from my sock? My kids borrow my socks and…I did take a shower after I ran this morning.” ( I hope he says in his head–Wow. She ran this morning! In the freezing cold!” No wonder she has such strong thighs!–unshaved as they are.)

He didn’t respond and I finally stopped the volcanic eruption of words from my mouth.

3. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did.

My back was to the doc. He had just checked it up and down, including under my adorable purple bra straps and way up into my sweaty armpits (I can’t remember if I shaved them or not.)

I start shuffling around as I really didn’t like standing there in my underwear with a strange man breathing down my neck. He then says, cool as can be “I am going to check your backside now.”

WHAT????

Hold up sir.

I am here to get my skin checked for melanoma. Melanoma is from sun exposure right? Well, I can tell you that not only does my “backside” not get sun exposure, it barely even gets air! I am a full on panty kinda girl–no commando. No thong. Period. You DO NOT need to look there.

Too late.

He had hooked the back elastic of my cute purple panties and pulled them away. I could feel his eyes boring down into the cavernous space. I was convinced he was about to ask me to bend over when, wordlessly, he lets the elastic band snap loudly back into place.

I noticed he immediately went for the hand sanitizer before declaring that my skin was “totally boring!”

And just like that it was over. I wanted to ask Dr. M if he too, had the feeling that my skin examination had taken no less than an hour and a half.

I looked at my watch.

9:35

All that trauma happened in under 10 minutes.

The American Society of Dermatologists really should have some kind of award for that: “And this years award for “Most Humiliation Delivered in the Least Amount of Time” goes to….”

Comments

  1. Katie J says:

    “His eyes boring down into the cavernous space”… this has to be one of the funniest blog posts I have ever read! (Said the redhead with fair skin who understands your dermatological humiliation! )

  2. Sierra says:

    Omg I am laughing so hard, you really have a gift……but I thinki just put off “total body check” til the next time we discuss it …..in ur office……

  3. Krista says:

    I laughed out loud to “just crud”!

  4. This is funny…, like hiding your panties when going to get a PAP. As a fair skinned redhead, I’ve been getting the full body exam long before I was 40. And glad about it too, as I have had some cancer. And I have the same rules about shaving/showering/hairwashing, etc and it ALL gets done on full body skin exam day, which is always a Monday in November for me. This coming Monday, in fact! Glad you took your own advice and went.

  5. Deana ramirez says:

    I must say Dr Meyer, I know exactly how you feel …. I have to get these done every 3 months and it never is fun!!! Although, you make so funny with your reactions..:))).

  6. Joanne Ryder says:

    I haven’t gone for my appointment yet – now I’m not so sure I want to!!! Everything you thought/did sounds like what I am sure I am going to do! About the melanoma on your bottom issue – our neighbor thought she had a hemorrhoid – it turned out to be melanoma. She passed away two years ago. Moral of the story: it is worth the humiliation. She put off an appointment for over a year. Don’t know if they had caught it earlier her situation might have turned out differently. :(

  7. Jan says:

    This is hilarious! And, as a fair skinned person I have been having them done for years and can completely relate to the anxiety associated with the exam. What makes it even worse is when they use their little magnifying glass to scour your body. My policy – I will only ever see a female dermatologist. You are a great story teller!

  8. Katrina says:

    Dr. Meyer you crack me up! I have been getting the full body scan for over 10 years now and can relate to everything you described. Thanks for the laugh!

  9. Richard says:

    After my melanoma experience last year I learned that while we guys have to worry about our heads and shoulders it is worse for women. You can get it anywhere on your body, including bits that never saw the sun! A lady friend in Scotland just lost a toe!

  10. Tricia says:

    I can relate!However, for me it is even worse- because I have so many moles, my derm wanted me to have full body skin photographs taken so we can more accurately monitor for size/ shape/color changes.Talk about humiliating and I have to bring my “glamor shots” book of photos with me for each checkup every 6 months! When we look at them together, I feel like I should be at the cosmetic surgeon’s office looking at the “before” pictures….. but sadly, there aren’t any “after” shots!

  11. Linda says:

    I have to wonder why you would not have a female doctor do the exam? I learned years ago that when it comes to gyn and dermatology exams, women are much more empathetic and considerate when performing the exams.

    • Linda I am not sure a doctor of ANY sex could have made that exam any more comfortable. I was very limited by my “Thursdays only” requirement. All in all, still so glad I went and was found to be “boring”

  12. Sheila Meyer says:

    OMG Christine I needed that laugh today. I can totally relate except my dermatologist is a woman so not as embarrassing. I remember the first time I had a full body check and she said to undress and I will be right back. Then she came in, with her nurse in tow and carrying a camera….WHAT? You are going to take pictures of my naked body to keep in my chart. Yikes.. I was not expecting that. She takes pictures so she can track all my moles, etc. to see if they change from year to year. This is topped right up there with the yearly Gyno exams..
    Thanks for the laugh!

  13. Maria says:

    What a riot! I was laughing hysterically….. This was your best yet!

  14. Cathi Thompson says:

    This is why I always go to a woman skin doc and one that you recommended to me! She’s fab and never comments on my “crud” or looks down my “cavernous space”! I love you, you always keep it real and make my day with your blogs!!! Keep em coming doll xo

  15. Shannon Stanek says:

    Twice a year for five years after the first skin cancer diagnosis and yearly before and since. Used to feel the same way before the cancer dx. Guess since you did this I need to go get that mammogram. Thanks for another laugh.

  16. OMG I laughed all the way through this. Story telling is your thing. I have had MORE than my fair share of these exams. I ALWAYS go to a woman, for that reason!! And also… often melanoma DOES show up where the sun don’t shine. Ironically enough. So yeah, they do have to check it all. I have had tons of moles removed thru the years, and I go for a check every 6-12 mos. (Melanoma is on both sides of my family and I am blessed with “suspicious moles”.) Good times!

  17. Lauryn says:

    I can not stop laughing! And, it reminds me that I need to go make that appointment:/ Glad I know what to expect and very glad you are “boring”! :)

  18. John Green says:

    Just what I needed one week before my colonoscopy!!

  19. A Banterings says:

    Your story was funny, but how did you really feel during the exam?

    I use humor to deal with stress, fear, and pain. Sometimes it seems in appropriate.

    I feel that this is what you are doing here.

    Please share, how did you really feel?

    Thanx

  20. Hi! So I felt embarassed, self-conscious, anxious and flat out SCARED–scared that my derm doc would find an abnormality. I suppose I felt exactly as most patients do. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my “banterings.”

  21. wbrasky says:

    Dr Meyer,
    Thank you for posting your experience of the total body skin exam. My wife and I both enjoy the sun and were thinking we need to make a derm appointment but didn’t know exactly what to expect.
    I am a bit concerned however about when you said the dr pulled away your undergarment to check your backside. This doesn’t sound at all appropriate, as a doctor should never disrobe a patient and jespecially one of the opposite sex. At the very least, he should have asked you to do this for him when requesting permission to check a private area.
    I know my wife would be upset if a doctor did that to her, as would I. I think we may each request same sex doctors, but it’s good to know the details of the exam.

  22. Meir says:

    Great article but you should have been covered except for the area being examined. Also, the doctor had no business moving any clothes. You should have been asked to do that. I’m glad you got a good report but the doctor was improper.

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