Dan is not a doctor.(1) But once he did take a scalpel to my tender flesh and excise a horror I had lived with for years.
Here’s how it happened: I had a recurring cyst that would appear on my torso from time to time, like a giant zit that just wandered off to be alone. Swollen, bright red, tight skin, pain – the whole works. Usually it went away after a few days.(2)
But it always came back. The timing was random, but the zit was not.
A friend saw it when we were changing clothes to go out. She didn’t take it seriously, though, so I told her that I had been to the doctor, who diagnosed it as “polymammia,” which meant I was growing a third breast.(3) It fooled her for a moment. But just a moment. A brief one.
Eventually, it bothered me enough to really see a doctor. He never said a word about “polymammia,”(4) but called it a recurring cyst. “Come back in a couple of days and I’ll lance it,” he said.
So I did. He looked at it and poked at it with a (gloved) finger and said, “It’s not ready yet.”
“You mean it’s not ripe?” I said. “Couldn’t you at least try to lance it? It hurts a lot.”
He allowed as how he could try. And did. And found a pocket of pus lurking underneath. “Wow! That must have hurt!” he said.
I gave him the sideways squint.
“Not that I didn’t believe you,” he stammered. Then he changed the subject. “Let’s put a drain in there.”
Here’s where the linguini enters the story.(5)
I had never had anything on or in my body drained before, so I thought maybe he would draw out the gunk with a hypodermic or at least take a tiny rubber hose and stick it into the cyst so the pus would just run out.
But no. It turns out a “drain” is an object that looks like a piece of knit linguini. He stuffed it in there and bandaged it and it healed nicely (after bleeding through the bandage and my shirt for a while).
Some time later, though, I noticed a slightly raised black dot, about the size of the roller from a roller ball pen, where the cyst used to be. Oh great, I thought. I’ve exchanged a wandering zit for a wandering blackhead.
The darned thing itched at times. It looked like I could squeeze it like the blackhead it resembled, or if I could get my fingernails under it, it would pop right out. I never could manage it, though, perhaps because I bite my fingernails off and spit them across the room as soon as they grow an eighth of an inch.(6)
Here’s where my husband and the scalpel come in. To be truthful, it wasn’t a scalpel. It was an Exacto knife. He sterilized it with flame and alcohol, and swabbed all around the blackhead with more alcohol. Then, since we were both just a wee bit nervous, we both applied even more alcohol(7). Internally.
Wielding the Exacto with surprising delicacy, given the size of his bear-like paws, Dan cut around the blackhead and began to lift it out.
It kept coming. This alarmed us both.
When the Thing was finally extracted, it proved to be several inches of drain, wadded up and solid. The doctor had neglected to remove all of it, the blood had dried and turned it black(8), and there it had resided in my torso for several years.
We goggled at it for a moment, then applied more alcohol(9), and slapped a Band-aid on it. I never heard from it again.(10)
Dan had thought that the skin would heal over smoothly, without a trace. And it did. Mostly. There was no scar, just a teeny little roller-ball-pen-ball-sized depression where first the cyst, then the linguini had been. A linguini divot, if you will.
Which I have to this day. Viewings by appointment only.
(1) Nor does he play one on TV. He has been a medical orderly, back when that job existed. Now he’s just disorderly.
(2) Or wandered off again to someplace or someone else where it didn’t bother me.
(3) I don’t think there is a medical term for growing a third breast. If there isn’t, I would like to suggest “polymammia.”
(4) Which, now that I think about it is a Good Thing. I would have had to throw out all my bras and get new ones custom-made. I assume that’s expensive. Plus I’d probably have to send a picture of the third breast* to the manufacturer and it would be leaked to the Internet, go viral, and I could never be on the Supreme Court.
*I was once presented a serving of shepherd’s pie that had three scoops of mashed potato on top. Guess what it looked like.**
**Three breasts, that’s what. Stay with me here, people.
(5) You were wondering, weren’t you? I can tell.
(6) I grew them out exactly once, for my wedding. The salon used a nail color called “Pepperoni,” which was probably the only time they used it for a wedding manicure.
(8) Cooking tip: If your linguini turns hard and black, it’s overdone.
(9) Both kinds.
(10) For all I know, Dan may have kept it. He always wants the scans from our colonoscopies and the time they took pictures inside my bladder. He wanted to keep his own appendix, but they wouldn’t let him. Unless it’s that thing in the back of the freezer. I don’t really want to know.