Pimples… and the case for self-restraint
On Saturday, around noon, I get a message from the dermatologist saying the biopsy report is good.
I have an old pimple on my forehead. Near the left eyebrow. Fairly tiny and forgotten. It is called a blind pimple when it doesn’t volcano up like a regular one but hangs around under the skin. I don’t get many pimples and don’t really care much when one does make a guest appearance- usually around mango season and on the tip of my nose.
So I was on a walk with my doctor friend around the hillscapes of Istanbul when she suddenly attacks me with this barrage of questions about the pimple. She stated that it was not a mere pimple and was cancerous. She insisted that I see a dermatologist.
I get back home and apply a hot compress. I repeat it at night and throughout the weekend. With obsessive checking in the mirror. It looks pretty okay. Meanwhile Gamze has sent the number of the dermatologist. On Monday she tells me that she has taken the appointment for me as the assistant speaks only Turkish. I laugh and make a joke about a storm in a teacup. She is as alarmist as ever and recounts the story of some growth on her nose and how serious these things are etc.
I walk to the dermatologist in a good mood. It’s a bright big waiting room with a great view of a fashionable street. Istanbul is the sacred temple of cosmetic surgery, aesthetic surgery, rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and all types of plastic surgery. It is common to spot several women with bandaged noses and eyelids on the city streets. Fredric will sometimes count and say that men do not necessarily find worked- on faces more attractive. Anyways, I don’t think his voice is really being heard here, as a lot of women don’t even consider lip fillers or jawline fillers as getting their faces worked on. Gamze shares many stories of vaginal aesthetics and related procedures with her naive, wide- eyed Indian friend who then takes them to share with her larger circle of wide-eyed Indian friends.
I am called in to the doctor’s office. She is friendly and speaks excellent English. I tell her that Gamze has bullied me into coming to her. She smiles and asks to have a closer look. Meanwhile she asks me my age. When I tell her, it causes a minor earthquake in the city centre. The assistants are called in to share the shock. She thought I was 25. Bizarre as it sounds, I am used to this reaction wherever I go.Anyways, she then peers in at my teeny weeny pimple and shakes her head looking very serious.Doctor: “Gamze was right. This looks cancerous”.
I feel like I haven’t heard right. I protest and her personality is now cold. She tells me that she can give me a topical ointment but it won’t change anything. The only thing to do is to have an immediate biopsy. She starts asking about my insurance papers. I ask for a few minutes to call Fredric. We agree that it’s better to just finish off with the procedure than have it hanging over our heads. I can’t imagine more visits to this clinic or others like this.
I have a bandage on my forehead to be removed in a day. And on Saturday she will let me know the results of the biopsy. Today is Wednesday. On Friday we leave for a much awaited trip to Rome.The payment procedures take time and translation. And some shock at the extremeness of the expense. She has assured me though that some other (following) procedures will be much more expensive.I walk down to the sunlit pavement. And walk home past the turquoise tile- encrusted houses, minarets in a distance as slender as kite tails holding up domes filled with secrets of dynasties, bakeries with lonely afternoon simits, cafés with sleepy catlike energy… still Zen and comforting but low on adrenalin.
All roads lead to Rome
I try to process my emotions. My mind has already done the math of how many hours I have left for Saturday. Familiar patterns of fear. You live holding your breath for the time- bomb to explode. I try to feel more than my fear. I look at the exquisiteness of the mosque I pass. Gold- painted marching tulips intertwined with emerald calligraphy. A dark cognac, thick leather- sheath- like curtain guards the entrance, but a smiling Turkish guard waves me in.
I am struck by the beauty of the world, of all that the celestial and the human hand has created. I understand instinctively that this is not a time for me to be judgmental or resentful. It will diminish me and take me to victimhood. From there, all roads lead downward in a spiral. But all my roads must ‘lead to Rome’.
I reach home. Our cleaning lady is ironing our selected wardrobes for the Italy holiday. And she has ground a paste of ginger, garlic, green peppers and basil for a Thai curry I will make for dinner. I use my time in the kitchen languorously marveling at how all my senses feel alive with touching, slicing, chopping, breaking, smelling. I also catch my reflection in the oven glass, on the window and see the bandage. I feel utter gratitude to be alive.
All in the mind
I use the increased life energy for a long meditation session. I know that I probably have residual neural wiring from the past where this situation may create a big fat fear demon inside me. I sit on my favourite sofa spot facing the tranquil Bosphorus and webs of encircling sea gulls and invite Fear to sit down with me. I tell him to bring it on, the worst, the most horrific… everything. But I tell him that he has only 15 minutes after which I will shut him out!
I have chosen not to talk to any of my precious loving friends either. There are some bridges whose width allows only one person to walk on it. We walk knowing that this part of the bridge is best crossed alone.
The next day, I peel off the bandage and see an angry little bruise. I smile at it knowing my acceptance will heal anything that needs healing.
On Friday evening, I miss my Daddy and have a childish meltdown, tearfully accusing him of not being there when I need him. And of not connecting with me often enough after he has gone. I carry on with the meditation for the next two days till we reach beautiful Rome.I focus on enjoying myself, learning about the world around me and being appreciative of all that I receive. I lap up all smiles, compliments, meals, wines and dolces greedily.
On Saturday, around noon, I get a message from the dermatologist saying the biopsy report is good. She adds that she has some methods to take care of the scar and asks me to visit her clinic when I return. I close the phone.
I place all my attention on the life in and around me. The gardens with the fat iris, the Botticelli pure fountains, the statue of the she- wolf suckling Romulus and Remus and a mozzarella and tomato salad. And my first spaghetti in Rome.
I feel doctors should be conscious of responsibility before declaring prognosis. As patients, diagnosis is our right but prognosis is unfair use of power. I believe that medical profession is a noble one. We understand the necessity of commerce but let humanity come first.
The human body is a supremely intelligent organism where roughly thirty trillion cells are at work optimally every nanosecond. Adding to that are the less physical but equally relevant energy components of mind and spirit. Our beliefs, emotions and states of consciousness contribute hugely to our sense of well-being and healing.
We cannot stop people from declaring a prognosis or negative fear triggers but what we can do is respond with self- restraint. The body is objective. It will respond to what we believe and the emotion flooding it. Let’s make sure those emotions are appreciation, inspiration, hope, fulfillment, affection and love.