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Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Black Spot


“You’ve got a black spot,” said my wife when I asked her to scratch my back.

“Black as the tar in the road?” I asked. She confirmed this, but as I quizzed her she realized that black was bad and began retreating. Maybe it was dark brown.

She took a picture with her cell phone. It was an inch in diameter, dark, and lumpy but not obviously malignant looking. Wives always discover things on their husbands which the husbands, being men, ignore. Later they die.

I decided I needed to see an expert. It was Friday, and I didn’t want to spend an anxious weekend, so it had to be today.

The best dermatologist in Los Angeles is Pamela Rand. She does not accept insurance, Medicare included, so I use others for routine skin problems. I wanted her, but she was on vacation.

I like the doctor I see at the UCLA dermatology clinic in Santa Monica, but the clerk reported no openings until Tuesday. When I pressed, she transferred me to a nurse who, after consulting for several minutes, reported she could move me up to Monday. I would have pulled rank as a physician had I been frightened, but I was only uneasy.

A few dermatologists phoned at random were not helpful. I phoned the main UCLA clinic in Westwood and learned that there were no openings except in distant suburban facilities. Thousand Oaks and Westlake were about forty miles; Porter Ranch seemed closer.

The drive was long, but parking was free. The dermatologist took a quick look and told me it was benign. I sat patiently as she educated me on seborrheic keratoses (age spots) and accepted her handout. Doctors don’t learn that I’m a physician unless they ask. It doesn’t get me better medical care, and some doctors feel uncomfortable having one as a patient. 

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