Sav­ing face while los­ing some of it

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - M I K E O ’ CO N N O R

The English lan­guage is a fer­tile field for eu­phemisms and no word demon­strates this bet­ter than “dis­com­fort”. As an ex­am­ple, I of­fer the warn­ing a nurse ex­tended to me prior to a pro­ce­dure I un­der­went 24 hours ago that might cause, she said, “some dis­com­fort”. As it tran­spired, the dis­com­fort was akin to hav­ing honey poured over your face and then be­ing up­ended in a nest of bull ants.

I’ve had skin can­cers cut out be­fore but this time it was so­lar ker­atoses – sun spots to you. Th­ese, I was told, would be re­moved by smear­ing a gel on my face that would cause the skin to peel, tak­ing the sun spots with it. I read the brochure while I waited and it said I could ex­pect “lo­cal skin re­sponses”. Now there’s a eu­phemism for you. I was half­way home when my face started to burn. I glanced in the car mir­ror and was greeted with a bright red glow where my face used to be.

I walked into the house, poked my head around the door and waited for my wife’s re­ac­tion. I was not to be dis­ap­pointed, her scream echo­ing down the street. “Could you pull the bed­cov­ers over your face,” she said as we went to bed that night. “The glow will keep me awake.” It burnt all night and it was the small hours be­fore I fi­nally fell asleep.

When I awoke, I could barely open my eyes and my fore­head had erupted in pus­tules. I looked again at the brochure, which told me only two per cent of pa­tients suf­fered a re­ac­tion like this.

Skin is now peel­ing from my face in strips. I snuck out for cof­fee this af­ter­noon, wear­ing dark glasses and a big straw hat I bought from Bun­nings. “Ev­ery­one’s star­ing at you,” said my wife. “They think you’ve got lep­rosy. Do you mind if I sit at an­other ta­ble?”

I have re­treated in­doors and will re­main there for a week, shed­ding skin. Two per cent! Mother al­ways said I was dif­fer­ent.

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