Reasons why there is less of Fran than there used to be
She peered at me.
Do you ever wonder whether doctors have to bite back quips like, 'Yes, that's your nose' or 'Don't say it too loud or everyone will want one' or 'If we're playing Top Trumps, I have a bigger lump either side of my chest'.
After all, it was 5pm, the last appointment of her day, and by then she must have been gagging for some light relief.
If I were a GP, I'd struggle with this all the time. Which is probably why it's a good thing I'm not. I may not have had a long career.
She found a magnifying glass and put it near my cheek where the lump was. I was pleased it was dark outside because if the sun had been shining into the surgery and caught my cheek at the same time as the magnifying glass, it might have set the lump on fire. I've read my Enid Blyton and my Brownie Handbook, thank you.
'How long's it been there?' the doctor said.
I told her it had been growing for about a month, starting as a flat brown mole and then reproducing daily like a foetus does until it had ended up in its current state, like a pea with crocodile skin.
Except that even though it was only pea-sized, I felt so conscious of it that I was sure people in South America were already talking about it.
She liked my description.
'It's not cancer, anyway,' she said, 'if that's what you were thinking.'
'What is it, then?'
'It's a seborrhoeic keratosis. It's not serious.'
'So why do they give things that aren't serious names like that, as if they were death sentences?'
'It's nothing to worry about.'
I said, 'But I feel like a warty old witch.'
I thought she'd say something sympathetic and soothe my self-esteem at this, but she added, 'We used to call them Old Man's Barnacles.'
I told her that this had made me feel even more like a warty witch now and wanted her to amputate my head.
|What the doctor saw|
'I'm afraid the NHS won't excise this for you,' she said. 'It's seen as a cosmetic procedure which is unnecessary.'
'But I want to die of shame. It feels pretty necessary to me.'
She told me to ring a local skin clinic and thought I'd probably have to pay a couple of hundred pounds for them to deal with it.
'Would you pay that price,' I said, 'if it were you?'
She told me I was still young and pretty (by which time I knew she wanted to clock off and go home for dinner) and that if it were her, she would definitely have it done. 'If it were on my back,' she said, 'I wouldn't bother.'
'But if it's on your face and nearly bigger than your face and you're tempted to name it?....'
At home, I rang the local private hospital, thinking that perhaps a proper dermatologist was a better route. A lady in out-patients told me I would pay up to £250 for the consultation and then extra for treatment.
'I don't really need a consultation,' I said. 'It's a sebor - seborrh - seborrho - it's an Old Man's Barnacle. The doctor told me. No diagnosis needed.'
But, apparently, a consultation was mandatory and the resulting treatment could cost anything up to £1500.
I want a lump taken off, not four limbs replacing and a heart transplant, I wanted to say, but instead rang off and emailed a local clinic.
In the clinic yesterday, the therapist explored my face and identified about thirteen different moles and bumps she'd like to laser off it, which wasn't encouraging, but I said just the barnacle would be fine for now, if she didn't mind.
Ten minutes later I was on my feet with a tiny red scar instead of a monstrosity and only £80 out of pocket.
The treatment involved having hot needles pushed into my face which wasn't pleasant, but by then I'd have had someone jump up and down on my head in stiletto heels if I thought it would have got rid of my crocodile pea.
So now I'm happy, knowing that there are only thirteen other abnormalities on my face that need removing, and I know where to go to have them taken away before they reproduce overnight and become living creatures of their own accord.
More hot needles, but, on the bright side, this could also be a great alternative weight-loss strategy, if I can't keep off the pies.
NB If you're thinking, is the collective noun for 'rabbits' really a 'herd', I know, right?! Who'd have thunk it? But I promise I looked it up.