A whiter shade of pale

If you were paying attention to my last post (take 100 lines if you weren’t) you will recall I was due to have a potential skin cancer checked out. Well here is how it (roughly) played out earlier today.

Cast in alternating order of appearance:

  1. Consultant dermatologist
  2. Me  (patient)

Good morning, I’m doctor *****.

Good morning. I’ve been referred by my GP

Can you show me the problem?




Why not?

I can’t see it.

At this point the CD refers to the notes she has been given by the GP.

I see. It’s on your left lower arm.

CD takes my left lower arm and spends about 20 seconds examining under a magnifying glass.

Right, I can see you have a difference in pigmentation and I know what it is causing it.

Oh! Is it serious?

It’s a watch mark.

A watch mark?

Yes, where you wear your watch your wrist is untanned – pale in fact. The leather watch strap has possibly rubbed the skin slightly too.

What about the cancer?

It’s a watch mark.

Are you sure?

Trust me. I’m a doctor.

Is that it?


Are you sure there is nothing else? What about that?

A scar.

Can I go?

Yes. Have a nice day.


Mrs. Ha and I left and as we walked down the corridor I’m sure I heard laughter in the consulting room. The total time for this exchange was less than 2 minutes. I had waited 2 months for the appointment and it probably cost the health service a few bob. I suppose it is better to be safe than sorry but I am going to go without my watch for a while to get rid of the mark. I shall call it solar surgery.

43 thoughts on “A whiter shade of pale

  1. Forget the admin and the process. Where can I get a watch where the non wearing of it cures cancer. A return to reading your humour is a real treat for me? Hope all (apart from various shades of tanning) is well with you and Mrs Ha.

    • Thanks Simon. I’m gradually emerging from self-imposed exile. Still lots of challenges to work through. Off to Sydney tomorrow which is work but should be enjoyable. It’s been hard to find a sense of humour this year. British politics has been the closest we could get.

  2. What wonderful suggestions to replace the wrist-watch problem, Andrew!
    Living in Colorado for 43 years, I’ve leaned that a price comes with living in the stunning mountains. At our altitude–and enjoying an average of 331 days of sunshine each year–means we have MANY more cases of skin cancer than other places.
    Oh, so many of us would love to have medical response! 😉

    • It’s true Marylin. If you enjoy the climate and clear air there is always a higher risk. My best pal had a hard fight with skin cancer (won) probably due to skiing. It was a very reassuring response for sure.

  3. I have a few suggestions to replace the watch in the interim. Firstly, a pocket watch with a nice shiny fob.
    However, somehow I think this would suit you better.

  4. Whew! Thank goodness it was only the elusive watch strap whiteness 😉
    Maybe wear your watch on the other wrist? 😎

  5. Very happy to hear that you are OK. Appalled at the waste of everyone’s time, not to mention the anxiety caused for you while you waited the statutory two months. Hope you get to have a word with the GP!

  6. Oh for crying out loud! Where did your GP get his degree????

    Anyhow, welcome back after your too long absence. Do you have a note to explain this?

    • Well I suppose better safe than sorry Melissa. My oldest friend had a large chunk of his calf removed and many months of treatment for skin cancer so of course it can be very serious. But a watch mark is a little off-beat as a misdiagnosed cancer.

  7. A watch mark in the UK? I reckon it must have been a Hong Kong watch. There have been a few programs here on unnecessary medical procedures. Just this morning on the news there have been complaints of breast implants ‘exploding.’ One can imagine being on the bus home and a breast explodes!
    I would be weary of many medical procedures. Too many consortiums, all out for one thing only…profit!
    Nice to see you back, Andrew.

    • Undoubtedly a legacy of HK, Gerard. Very little sun in Britain. We did have a warm day recently, warm enough to go without a fleece. Quite a shock to the system.

  8. Was this in Winchester?
    I was told I had a 2cm lump in my breast. Waited a few weeks and had a scan.
    Returned to be told it was my rib. As the lady in the lingerie dept in Galeries Lafayette said, Vous avez une tres haute poitrine, madame.
    She clearly knew more than the locum who had scared me.
    Then the registrar- note NOT some SHO-asked me what the scar was on my shoulder.
    I wanted out of there. It was the mark of my bra strap. You’d have thought he’d have seen a few by then. I thought he was joking. Had heard of grosser versions where medics confused tights’marks with appendectomy scars. Thought it was a kind of urban myth.
    Having criticised the local hospital, Basingstoke was brilliant for knees. Have just had an arthroscopy there on the NHS. Brilliant and anaesthesia wonderful.

    • Yes, local I am afraid. Not my usual GP. Oddly enough our younger girl was also diagnosed with a lump in the breast which turned out to be a rib. I had my knees done about 15 years ago and it was a very smooth procedure – done privately I admit. I think they need doing again. I am not a great fan of the ageing process but I suppose it is marginally better than the alternative.

      • Off to The Cotswolds tomorrow.
        No more Suttonford, but inspiration awaits, I’m sure.
        Giving a talk on 24th October in St Catherine’s, Littleton, in the evening as part of the Faith and The Arts series….so will return. La Revenante!

  9. Andrew, try some suntan in a bottle to get all the arm the same shade! Glad all is ok, it’s always a worry when a doctor refers you to a specialist.

  10. Im amazed that there’s been enough sun to even give you a watch strap mark. You must be having a better summer than I thought! Good news all round 🙂

    • It is a legacy mark, Lottie. It has to be. No chance of that happening here. I’m off to HK & Oz this weekend to get a top up of sun rays. The Great British Summer is proving somewhat elusive.

  11. All of two minutes. I’m so glad that is was “nothing” but in reality you can not be too careful where skin cancer is concerned. I have every “funny” looking place removed because I’m paranoid about melanoma. Two maternal aunts died from the big “M.”

    I set up an appointment for my son when he had an odd looking place on his chest this summer. I asked the dermatologist to do a full body check and he found a place on his right thigh. The report came back that it was a pre-melanoma mole. My son had argued about going and I had insisted. I’m glad that I did. It cost me $450 but I am thankful. (still not able to get insurance). Hopefully soon.

    • It is worth checking for sure Yvonne but in this instance I genuinely could not see anything. I only have insurance for in-patient care so I can choose my surgeon in case of need. Basic health care is free here but its a bit of a lottery who and what you get, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

  12. God what a ride Andrew
    I am glad you got a pass
    But for two months
    I had to wait four months for someone to tell me my gallbladder was a mess

    • Thats awful Sheldon. 4 months is about 3 months 29 days too long. I remember my dad being hospitalised just for gall stones and he said it was the worst pain he had ever suffered. And he had been in the war. I hope you don’t have to go through that again.

  13. Oh goodness! Sometimes I think it’s a huge conspiracy theory to make all of us pour our hard earned money into the medical industry and get us even sicker worrying!!

    • Well healthcare is largely free here but it’s easy to see how efficiencies could be achieved to raise standards. But even though I didn’t think it was serious I still had to wait 2 months for confirmation.

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