For the second year in a row, my dermatologist identified two small skin cancers – one on my left nostril (mirroring a basal cell lesion found the year before on the right side of my nose), and the other on my left thigh (a small squamous cell nodule). Both were caught relatively early and neither was particularly deep, so their removal the other day was quick and only minimally disfiguring.
The worst part of the procedure was the administration of the anesthetic – if you’ve never had a needle jabbed repeatedly into the fleshy part of your schnozz, I don’t suggest you volunteer for the experience. But once my nose, and later my thigh, were properly numbed, the actual surgery took mere minutes and generated discomfort only when the wounds were cauterized to prevent bleeding and I could smell my own burning flesh.
My wife Carol accompanied me for moral support. Afterward, she drove us home from the operation – not that I was discombobulated in any way, but mostly because I had a pressure bandage bulging out from one side of my face and couldn’t have seen any traffic approaching from the left. Since the appointment had been first thing in the morning, we’d skipped making coffee at home and planned to stop on our way back at an outlet of a local convenience store chain that offers fresh, hot coffee for the ridiculous price of 99 cents, regardless of cup size.
Once we’d pulled into the lot, I offered to hop out and get our drinks. I put on my KN95 mask – partly because we’re still being cautious amidst the pandemic, but mostly because it hid my bandaging from public view – and dashed inside to obtain our extra-large caffeine fixes. I take my coffee black (as God intended), and added a splash of cream to Carol’s because she, apparently, is an atheist. I picked up the two containers, but before I could move them to the counter in order to secure the lids my glasses began to slide off my face due to the mask’s slippery earloops. I threw my head back to try and keep my glasses from falling to the floor; my extended arms followed suit and I spilled several ounces of Carol’s still-blistering hot coffee all over my right hand.
While contemplating whether I’d need to return to the dermatologist’s office for an emergency skin graft, I added some additional brew to Carol’s cup and then, regrettably a tad too late, affixed the lids and paid at the checkout. I brought them out to the car; Carol cracked a window so I could hand hers over. I slipped into the passenger seat clutching my beverage and saw Carol examining her cup, which still had some traces of coffee dripping down its sides. I explained what had happened: how I had very nearly lost a substantial portion of the flesh covering my dominant hand and, in my agony, had only been able to pay minimal attention to the extent of any mop-up effort. Carol removed the lid from her drink to inspect it and then informed me that, “for future reference,” she preferred it with more cream.
Fighting to hold back tears as my skin began to blister, I thanked her for clarifying how she takes her coffee and promised that, if I ever were to regain full use of my right hand, I would add enough cream to subsequent pours to meet her exacting standards.
Settling into my seat, I folded back the little tab atop the lid and brought the fragrant brew to my lips just as Carol left the parking lot to accelerate into traffic. Now my throbbing hand was paired with blistered lips and chin as the scalding beverage splashed onto my face. The boiling liquid also soaked my shirt sufficiently to generate a second-degree burn on my chest.
The lesson I learned from all this: the potential for future, painful consequences means you should never skip the application of sunscreen. Also – there’s nothing wrong with iced coffee in the morning.