When I was a kid, resisting my mother’s efforts to slather me in sunscreen, she used to tell me to aim for a guy who doesn’t reflect the sunlight or glow in the dark when I grow up and do my kids a favor. If you did a color chart of my family you’d see white, pink, white and whiter than white. The people in Europe who used to hate each other and lived in fog? My ancestors, every one.
When we took swimteam pictures each summer, my irridescent powers were only exceeded by my brother and this kid Matt who was so white he was transparent. They brought him poolside in order to blind the other team. My brother still looked human, but was still a pretty close color match for the bottom of the pool. This came in real handy once when he dove in and lost his suit.
Moving to Germany, land of the blondes, didn’t really change things for me. I’m still the whitest one in the picture thanks to the German obsession for tanning beds and beach vacations. The long winters make Germans so sun-obsessed that the moment it comes out their clothes explode off their bodies and they lay themselves down in the first grassy patch they can find, soaking it up.
There’s a tanning salon on about every corner, each one undercutting the next for the cheapest 5 minutes to keep away the winter pastiness. Older women strut around looking like crunchy bacon and younger women as young as 30 already sport brown, wrinkling bosoms. But this is still seen as better than being pale.
I wear hats, carry a parasol and always have sunscreen.
This makes it ironic that two weeks before my wedding I found this scar on my shoulder, right around where a bra strap usually rests, nestled in a hollow next to my collar bone. It was shiny and smooth and bright pink. Being in a hollow it didn’t seem logical to blame a rubbing strap or short collar. With other more important things to be concerned about, I filed it away for later.
After the wedding stuff was over on both continents, I finally made my way to my dermatologist Dr. W, who took one look and said in his thick German accent, zat it don’t look so good. One test and one stitch later, I was the proud posessor of a diagnosed, bouncing basal carcinoma.
Now I love Dr. W because he has perfect skin and makes loads of money helping other people try to have the same. If there’s two ways to do something, Dr. W will do the more expensive way, especially if your insurance will cover it. He’s pricey and unashamed about it and I love a man with high standards. Unlike a German doc who will tell you he can operate without anesthetic because who wants to mess with drugs anyway? This one won’t cut without trying some more expensive treatment first.
Because of this he offered me the option of Lichttherapie, or (I think) photodynamic therapy, which allows me to pay out of pocket for two visits to get cancer cells blown up on a cellular level, leaving me with a slowly fading red spot on my shoulder that looks like I’ve been making out with the football captain behind the toolshed. But no cutting and no giant scar.
Other no nonsense Deutsch docs would have cut without pushing the alternatives, but Dr. W (the Botox King!) gave me the prettier option and didn’t encourage me to play it safe but scarred with the scalpel. Today was the second treatment, and although it kept me from yoga, it doesn’t hurt half as much as the first. All signs should be gone in a few weeks and if it doesn’t return in the next year, that should be that.
…except that now the next time I say I have to sit in the shade people damn well have to believe me.