Biopsy Shock Infinite

You'd rather look at a picture of a Reuben than a picture of a biopsy. I know this because I Google Image Searched 'biopsy'. 


“I notice you have very fair skin,” my doctor, who is Indian, said toward the end of the exam. “Do you have any moles?”

In retrospect, I probably should’ve refused to give him any information because racial profiling isn’t cool, but at the time I went along with it, and next thing I knew I had my shirt off and he was poking at a mole on my back.

“Hm.” He said. “It’s probably nothing, but I’d like to get this biopsied.”

Biopsy (n) – A procedure where a dude with a knife cuts off a chunk of your fucking skin.


In retrospect, I’m not sure why I showered before my biopsy. I guess at the time my reasoning was that having a piece of my skin cut off was kind of a big deal and I ought to be presentable – also, the entire room would be medially sterile and I didn’t want to look out of place.

Showering before I left, though, gave me no time to make lunch for myself, so by the time I arrived at my doctor’s office in Sherman Oaks I was absolutely starving. I still had 15 minutes until my appointment, so I grabbed a Reuben to go from a nearby deli and carried it into the doctor’s office with me, planning to eat it (and the side of potato salad) in the waiting room during the obligatory 20 minute wait before any doctor’s appointment.

“Hey Truman,” the receptionist said as I walked in with my brown bag. “We’ve got a room ready for you. Come on back.”

“Oh.” I said, my heart jumping into my throat at the prospect of not being able to eat my Reuben while it was still hot. “I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to eat today before I came over – is there any chance I could just scarf this down real quick before I go back?”

She shrugged. “Oh, you can just bring it with you and eat it in the exam room.”

As she led me down the hall to the exam room, I found myself questioning the safety of allowing a person to eat a smoked meat sandwich covered in drippy thousand island dressing in the room where he was about to have a surgical procedure. Had my doctor done his residency in Tijuana? Or was the reasoning just, “Fuck it, it’s his insurance provider’s money – if he wants to get fatty pastrami particles sewed into his back, let him. The customer is always right.”

None of these concerns, mind you, stopped me from demolishing that Reuben while I waited in the exam room. I had to eat quickly, though, because I really didn’t want my doctor to walk in and see that I was eating a buttery red meat sandwich during a doctor’s appointment.

How’s it going Truma- Oh. Is that a Reuben? Okay, we’ll just skip the blood pressure today – you’re eating a reuben in the middle of a visit to a medical professional; that gives me a pretty good idea of what your blood pressure must be.”

Fortunately, I’d long since eaten my sandwich and disposed of the evidence before my doctor came in, shook my hand, and, after some light small talk, told me to take off my shirt and lie face down on the examining table. He was wearing a polo shirt and slacks, probably from the Tommy Hilfiger ‘Outpatient Surgery’ collection.

I was lying there, a small section of my back numbed, Elton John’s ‘Rocketman’ playing on Pandora, when it occurred to me just how weird this whole thing was. Even after two visits my doctor was pretty much a stranger to me – I didn’t know his first name, and as I thought about it some more I realized I had kind of forgotten what his last name was too. Meanwhile, this guy I basically didn’t know was cutting off a piece of my skin to preserve in formaldehyde.

At least, I assume that’s what he was doing – thanks to local anesthetic and the fact that my back is located 180 degrees away from my face, he could’ve been doing basically anything back there and I would be none the wiser. For all I know I could have a tramp stamp now.

Midway through the procedure, Doctor Somethingsomething mentioned that he needed an extra set of hands for a moment, stepped out of the room, and came back with the receptionist in tow to pass him instruments while he worked. 

I feel like that was a pretty weird moment for both her and I – 20 minutes ago we were pleasantly chatting over the fact that I brought a Reuben to a doctor’s appointment, and now she was watching as someone cut a hole in my back. A part of me wondered: Was she a nurse moonlighting as a receptionist due to short staffing, or a receptionist moonlighting as a nurse? I really hoped it wasn’t the second one, because I’d want way more than minimum wage if I were watching a guy get his back cut open.   

Once everything was finally finished and the receptionurse had gone back to work the phones, the doctor set about bandaging me up.

“Alright, Truman, we’re almost done.” He said, smoothing medical tape along my back. “You’ll need to change this dressing twice a day. You’ve got someone who can help you do that, right?”

“Um…” I sighed. “No.”

He clucked his tongue. “Really? No girlfriend or family or anything?” Now that I’ve cut a hole in your back, I’m going to cut a hole in your heart!

“Not really, no.” I said. Realizing how depressing that sounded, I added, “I can do it myself, though! I’ve gotten really good at doing things alone.” Realizing how much more depressing that sounded, I opted to just shut my dumb mouth before I did any more damage.

“Hm. Well, do your best, I guess. Since you don’t have anybody to help you change the dressing I’m going to want to schedule an early followup so I can make sure you don’t get infected.”

I took issue with the way he said that – like it was my fault that I don’t have anybody to change bloody dressings on my back. If that was such an important component of my recovery, why the shit didn’t he ask me about it before he cut me up? I mean, I didn’t even want a biopsy – he’s the one who thought my moles looked all weird.

I walked out of the doctor’s office with my back ramrod straight, a combination of bandages, stitches, and lingering anesthesia making every movement feel profoundly weird. As I struggled to get into The Mystery Wagon without pressing my bandages against the back of my seat, I reflected on how glad I was to have the whole procedure out of the way so I didn’t have to worry anymore.

Then I remembered that I was still going to have to wait and see if I had skin cancer or not and immediately went back to worrying.

Truman Capps changed his dressing this morning and it only took like 15 minutes.