Well, one of my “special moles” is gone.
I’m a very freckled person. Several prominent moles have been with me since birth: one on the inside of my pinkie finger; a large birthmark on the back of my right hand. My arms are veritable constellations. I thought I knew them all — until I had kids.
Children tend to note people’s differences with curiosity instead of concern. My daughter, especially, has been pointing out my moles since before she could speak. One at the base of my throat has always attracted her attention.
“What’s that?” Hadley would ask.
This always felt like a test. My husband Spencer and I want to raise inclusive, kindhearted kids — the ones who protect others and celebrate differences. I want both our older son Oliver and little sister Hadley to grow up believing bodies come in every shape, all skin tones are gorgeous, and weight is a number.
In that vein, I answer questions with matter-of-fact cheerfulness.
“Oh, this? That’s my special mole,” I said.
The moles have been less exciting at various points in my life, but I’ve definitely grown to accept them — and didn’t want Hadley to think there was anything wrong with them. My girl herself has prominent strawberry birthmarks and, though she is too young to have faced derision, I fear the day something unkind is said.
My explanation satisfied her, and my girl has become rather attached to my moles. She will press a finger to each, counting those that seem to form the Big Dipper near one elbow.
There was one, though, that she’s had her eye on — and for good reason, it turns out.
I’ve been putting off seeing the dermatologist for ages. I didn’t know I was even supposed to get my skin checked out until I began working at a hospital, where — for good reason — the conversation often turns to health.
I learned a coworker’s sister had been diagnosed with skin cancer very young after noticing a rough patch of skin on her face. “How did she even know to get it checked out?” I asked, and the office reaction was swift.
Didn’t I have a dermatologist?
This has been the year of tackling long-put-off projects. I dealt with lingering paperwork issues like transferring retirement accounts and using gift vouchers for events I’ve had since Christmas. I planned to find a dermatologist, and even got as far as putting a friend’s recommendation in my phone. But I didn’t call.
At a family gathering in August, I was chatting with my cousin Karen in between chasing my toddler and begging my 4-year-old to eat something other than hush puppies.
“Can I go ‘mom’ on you for a minute?” Karen asked. To be honest, I was worried she was going to give me advice on my parenting — as in, stop doing a terrible job. Don’t many of us have that fear? For the record, Karen would never, ever do that.
Instead, she took my right hand and began manipulating it.
“I’m a little worried about this,” Karen said, indicating the mole. “How long have you had it?”
I didn’t know. The large, round dot was definitely on the newer side, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it until she pointed out its dark, ominous-looking center. It was raised, and definitely discolored. And that, I believed, was recent. Having dealt with skin cancer herself, Karen made me promise I would follow up.
I finally went in two months back, meeting with a friendly dermatologist who began a thorough skin inspection with what looked like a high-tech magnifying glass. She made it all the way to that hand before making a puzzled sound.
“Hmm. I’m not sure what this is,” she said. “But I think it needs to go.”
Though half expecting this, I was still anxious as the assistant returned to numb my hand. The removal was very quick and painless; I was bandaged and on my way.
I’m glad I finally went — and that I have another story to tell my kids about bodies. Because of course they noticed the bandage immediately and wanted the full story.
“Ohhh, Mommy. You got a boo-boo?!” Hadley shouted. “What happened?”
I briefly explained that one of my special moles was “hurt,” and the doctor had to remove it. Oliver freaked out when he first saw it without a bandage a few days later, but I told him that it would continue to get “better and better.”
That’s a phrase we use a lot around here: better and better. When Hadley scraped her knee and cried for an hour; when Ollie got stung by a bee.
Tomorrow is a new day. We will take care of it together.
Follow Megan Johnson on Twitter @rightmeg.