Sailor, the Nose Knows!

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April 30, 2008

Sailor, the Nose Knows!
By John G. Denham

After spending most of my younger days at sea and standing topside watches on open bridges in all kinds of weather and places, I was tanned, weathered and a prime target for basal cell carcinoma. It took a while. I’m now 82 and I had added twenty some years of golf and tinkering in my yard in the sun without a hat. At age 75 I visited a dermatologist, got stung, scolded, given a hand full of reading material and I obtained a wide brimmed hat, but too late.

During my annual physical, that I get every 4 years, I was informed that on the port side of my proboscis was a not tiny recurring sore. “It is called Basal Cell Carcinoma; it is a cancer,” the dermatologist reported. He added, “ Its gotta go man!” The biopsy was painless and I departed with a small bandage that fell off by the time I got home; but not to worry I was in no danger. I had an appointment with a specialist. My first appointment in three weeks was with a Mohs Micrographic Surgeon. The evaluation took a few minutes including a half-dozen pictures of the damaged area and meeting several very proper and efficient assistants; each smiling and doing something with my nose. A week later I was back and a friendly masked man bent over me, smiled, stuck my nose with a harpoon, put a paper bag over my head, hummed and asked if I was O.K. every 5 minutes. I felt nothing but I thought he was working on my eye or ear. I had heard about orthopedic cases were they worked on the wrong leg, so I confirmed he was working on my nose.

The Mohs process requires verification that all the cell is completely removed, therefore after the initial excavation, one is ejected from the O.R. and settled in the waiting room, amongst the other bandaged victims. Less than an hour and I was sacked again and “Mohsed” once more, ejected and waited. Shortly thereafter, “Sailor, you’re outa here,” the sweet young thing said as she gift wrapped my nose and said come back on Monday. “Can I drive?” I asked “ Yes, but don’t stop and talk to anyone.”

The dog barked, my wife gasped and I nearly expired when I saw the results. I felt nothing but couldn’t believe I had driven home. I recalled the sweet thing saying, “You might want to ice it a little, but don’t get the bandage wet.” I kept wanting to walk around the big white building in front of me.

In three days the white building was gone and a small bandage with a Neosporin base took its place. It was exactly one week after the masked man took his first divot, the bandage was gone and I was told I was fixed, but stay out of the direct sun and wear a wide brim hat.

It’s a great adventure, but you can avoid meeting nice people and looking foolish for a few day if you wear a wide brim hat. I was a lucky one; the nose knows! JGD

John Denham is a retired USN Captain, Licensed unlimited Master and Pilot, maritime academy teacher,and author with extensive experience as a marine consultant. He is also author of The Assistant and DD 891.

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