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We’d really be hurting if they took away our ‘socialized medicine’


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, January 13, 2018

During a recent gathering of male friends my age, I noticed that our conversations were largely about health issues. A wealth of knowledge and experience was being exchanged concerning everything from joint replacements and high blood pressure to colon maintenance.

Aging friends and family members have always shared medical knowledge. It could be called “socialized medicine,” if that name wasn’t already taken. Call it what you like, but watch it grow in this new era of online ER visits and walk-in drugstore clinics.

Facetime with actual physicians has been shrinking for years. When the general practitioner who served as my most recent primary care physician retired from his practice, they never stopped making appointments for me to see a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.

I was fine with that. And whenever I have needed medical advice on the fly, I’ve been fine with asking my mother, to whom we sometimes lovingly refer as “Doctor Granny.” When Mom’s not available, I can call my sister Sue Ellen, a registered nurse.

I am sometimes called upon to dispense medical advice myself. My expertise in those areas recently covered by my group of male friends is limited, but when it comes to skin cancer, I am widely recognized.

If you could bottle all of the sunscreen I should have worn during the first two decades of life, it would be tall enough to provide shade for two large families with an increased hereditary predisposition to skin cancer.

Dermatologists have harvested enough suspicious spots from my body to build a one-person poster of disturbingly close photographs for their exam rooms.

Sometimes I think I’m better at spotting pre-cancerous lesions than my current dermatologist. He’s a brilliant doctor trained under highly regarded innovators of modern dermatological procedures. But his responses to my initial identifications of “morphologically atypical tissue” run somewhere between radical and dismissive.

When he went after a tiny bump on the inside of my ear, for instance, I thought he was going to scrape and burn his way to China. But what I had identified as a positive precancerous lesion on my temple, he ruled as the beginnings of a harmless age spot.

In my nonprofessional opinion, by the way, there is no such thing as a harmless age spot.

Considering the horrors of dermatology my redheaded father endured, mine have been a cakewalk. I learned a lot from him, and others now my knowledge and experience.

A friend in another state recently texted a graphic close-up with the question: “Is this skin cancer?”

His picture reminded me of the old Far Side cartoon with two mosquitoes—one skinny and one about to explode. The fat one has inserted itself beside tree-size arm hair, while the skinny one is screaming, “Pull out, Betty! Pull Out! You’ve hit an artery!”

My friend said he had three spots like the one in the picture. “They started about the same time, and they all look similar,” he wrote. “I think a witch is involved.”

I offered my stock advice: When in doubt, have a doctor check it out.

Or a witchdoctor. Whichever one is accepting new patients.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.