“A ‘Hallelujah!’ Moment,” column for Sept. 25, 2012


Sitting in the lobby of the dermatologist’s office, waiting for my name to be called, I passed the time glancing discretely (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 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 back yard.

“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 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 with 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.


  1. Love it!

    And here’s mine: they had to carve an inch out of the center of my scalp to get at my basal-cell cancer. And yes, a year later most of the hair there is growing back in (yay!) in an odd clump sticking out over there (eh).

    But so now I have to go in, like you, every so often to get checked. And on one of those checks I told the dermatologist I’d noticed a new little mole on my face. Totally freaked me out.

    Till I realized that when I’d splashed my hot cocoa that morning, and an ever-so-tiny bit of it had landed on my face.

    Best mole removal ever.

  2. Sharon
    Glad yor spot was a memory and not a problem. I recomend that if you haven’t already (or even if you have) sit down with a bowl of your favorite ice cream and celebrate.

  3. Paula Davies says

    I got a kick out of this column! And it got my hubby and me “re-living” our own pencil points! I think alot of us got them in the 50’s and 60’s when students were actually still using pencils and pencil sharpeners! I have one in my knee as my pencil poked through my straw-bottomed purse as I was walking home from school and swinging my little-girl purse in the 1950’s!
    I always look forward to reading your column! Thanks for taking us back in time now and then.
    Sincerely, PaulaI

  4. Yeah! Glad to hear you are ok. As we get older, all kinds of scary stuff happens. I think it is important to attack the enemy before he can attack you!

  5. Another reason I relate so well to your stories. I, too, have one of those pencil-lead reminders of childhood; this one inflicted on me by my younger sister. Pencils must have been the weapon of choice in the early 60’s among fighting kids.

  6. I love everything that you write. You make me laugh and you make me cry. I have been reading your articles for at least 13 years now. This one made me think of my daddy. He always carried a pencil in his shirt pocket because of his job. I always gave him a hug and kiss when he came home from work. One day when I was about 10 years old I went to put my arms around his neck and hit the tip of his pencil with my little finger. I still have the lead in that finger all these years later. I look at my finger lots of days and I have to smile. I’m sure he looks down from heaven and also remembers that day. Thanks for making me think of my sweet memory.

  7. Sharon,

    I just marvel at how similar our lives are. I just visited the dermatologist today, too. Like you, my outcome was nothing to worry about. But given the location, I sure can’t write about it.



  8. Oh, thank you, Lord. I just held my breath there for a moment there. Took Bubba to the Derma-vet today…We are sympathetic! Mostly, we adore you.

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