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Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Sunday, October 19, 2003


Skin docs are into
wrapping, not package


I went in for my "yearly" skin cancer screening, which I do religiously every three or four years, usually after accidentally sunburning my face to the point where my nose is about to fall off.

I actually like the dermatologist. He's the only doctor who says, "You look great!" He's interested in the condition of your skin, not how much of it you have. Other doctors tell you to lose weight, lay off beer and fatty foods, get exercise and all that depressing kind of stuff. But unless you have a boil the size of a Volkswagen sprouting on your back, the dermatologist is happy.

My dermatologist did find several little "pre-cancer" spots on my face, which is normal for anyone over the age of 40 who has spent more than 25 minutes under the Hawaiian sun. He freezes these spots with a spritz of aerosol nitrogen or selenium or one of those gaseous elements you never learned from the Periodic Table. (Question: Why is there a Periodic Table but no Intermittent Couch?)

While he's freezing sections of your face, he's telling you it won't hurt, which is a palpable untruth. It does hurt. It just doesn't hurt as much as it would if the "pre-cancers" turned to "real cancers" and non-dermatologist-type doctors have to go after them with scalpels.

A couple of days after the treatment, the frozen spots scabbed up and I looked like my wife had beaten me with a shoe, which is what I tell people anyway.

My nose looked particularly crusty, it being a rather massive organ and capable of catching more sunlight than a solar panel. (As Alf used to say, "Big noses run in my family.")

In high school, before anyone invented sunscreen, my nose often burned and peeled and then burned again and peeled and burned until it was pretty much raw cartilage. So when I was joking in the first paragraph about my nose falling off, I wasn't really joking. I often worry about my nose falling off because of the years of abuse this poor appendage has undergone. The dermatologist tried to assure me that noses don't simply fall off. He apparently hasn't seen Michael Jackson lately.

NEVERTHELESS, I'm worried that somewhere down the road I'm going to have to get a new nose, and I've never come across any information about a Nose Donor program. You hear about people donating lungs and kidneys, but you never hear about people donating noses.

Why is that? Noses are one of the more important yet least celebrated body parts. Songs and poems glorify other body parts like the heart, lips and eyes, but you never see any celebratory nasal-related verse.

I think there should be a Nose Donor Program, and not just because I may need a nose in the future. A national database of noses should be set up so the nose needy aren't forced to take whatever honkers are offered on eBay. We should be able to pick our noses, so to speak. (Stop it. You knew that was coming.) Doctors need to become experts in nose transplants, because when you're getting a new nose, you don't want your doctor to blow it. (OK. That was uncalled for.)

The point is to get in to see your skin doctor before you do major sun damage to your epidermis. Beauty isn't skin deep, skin is skin deep. And it's the only thing holding you together.




See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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