Sitting in the lobby of the dermatologist's office, waiting for my name to be called, I passed the time glancing discreetly (I hope) around the room checking out the other waiting patients.
A teenage boy with bad skin. Acne treatment?
A middle-aged woman with a furrowed brow. Botox?
An older man slumped in a chair reading Sports Illustrated. Who knew?
Who were they? Why were they there? What were their stories? Everyone has a story. Most people will tell you theirs if you ask them -- or, sometimes, even if you don't. Here's mine.
About six months ago, I came into this office to have a mole removed from the side of my face. It was just a little dot, had been there forever, didn't bother me at all. But it had gotten darker over time, and while change is good in some things, it is not so good for moles.
The good news, thankfully, is that I had it removed before it became life-threatening. The bad news was that the dermatologist said I had to come back periodically for something called a "full body" check.
Full body? At first, I thought it was a reference to weight. But I realized rather quickly that, no, it meant, like, areas. As in all of them. More or less.
I don't know about you, but this was not something I wanted to even think about, let alone actually do.
However, I have watched cancer in its various forms ravage and take the lives of far too many people, including my mother and my first husband.
Modesty aside, I didn't want to take chances. God forbid my tombstone should read, "Here lies Sharon. If only she'd had a full body check."
Turns out, it wasn't bad at all. If you've never had one, I highly recommend it. I was given a paper robe and sheet to help preserve my dignity, and the physician's assistant who performed the check took time to explain the process, answer questions and put me at ease.
Best of all, he found nothing to be concerned about -- except for one tiny spot on my neck.
"How long has this been here?" he asked.
My heart began to pound.
"I don't know," I said. "I, uh, I can't really see it."
He marked it with a pen and said something to the nurse, who quickly noted it in my chart.
"We'll need to look at this more closely," he said.
Somehow I stopped listening to what he was saying. My mind filled with the faces of my children and grandchildren, and the memory of how happy my husband had looked a few days ago as he filled the bird feeders in the backyard.
"Are you sure you don't know how long you've had this?"
"What?" I said. "Oh, wait!" Suddenly, I remembered. I was in second grade waiting in line to sharpen my pencil. Victor Mathis cranked the sharpener one final crank, then turned to me and, ever so lightly, as if dotting an "i," jabbed the tip of his pencil in my neck.
It had been years since I last saw Victor. I heard last month he had recently passed away. But he'd left his mark on me.
When I told that story to the physician's assistant, he laughed and used an alcohol wipe to remove the ink mark he'd made on my neck. The lead from Victor's pencil would remain.
And just like that -- hallelujah -- I was free and clear to put on my clothes and go back to my life.
Walking out through the lobby, I noticed that the people who'd been waiting with me earlier had all been replaced by another group of waiters.
Who were they? Why were they there? I would never know their stories. But I prayed theirs would end as happily as mine.
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)