It started out so tiny. But within weeks, the red dot on our newborn daughter's forehead had grown to the circumference of an eraser on the tip of a pencil. As beautiful as Katie was, it was difficult to focus on anything else when you looked at her.
So I did what was only starting to come into vogue, then -- I searched the Internet for answers. I learned that Katie had a hemangioma. Odds were good it would disappear on its own -- likely by the time she was 5, more likely by the time she was 9.
In the meantime? What, if anything, should we do? Already everyone who saw her asked about it. As the months went by I noticed kids teasing her about it -- and it wasn't very long after she started talking she asked me why. She started picking at it self-consciously.
I knew what I'd want my parents to do if it was me. So I found a dermatologist and he suggested a series of laser treatments.
Katie came with us, as she almost always did, on video shoots for a cable-access television show we were doing at the time. One day I interviewed a surgeon who'd recently retired and he, like everyone, noticed the hemangioma.
"You should take her to a surgeon," he said, giving us the impression this would be a simple thing to excise. I'd wondered about that. I already loved the dermatologist we'd been seeing, but I was sure it couldn't hurt to get a second opinion.
I was wrong. Oh, it hurt. The surgeon who came so highly recommended by the doctor I'd interviewed didn't hesitate to give his opinion. Which was that I should come back when I had a real problem. He told me about the children he treated who were truly disfigured, and gave me the impression I was one of those moms -- the kind who needs a perfect child to make her feel better about herself.
I was stunned. "I only came here because your friend insisted," I told him. "I was trying to learn something."
I scooped Katie up and left the man's office in tears. That would've been it, too, had he not sent me a bill for not helping with what wasn't a problem. Then I thought, "What the heck?" I included a letter with our check that reminded him I was trying to learn something, and that what I'd learned was to appreciate even more the compassion of the doctor who was treating Katie.
It's been years since I thought of the disapproving doctor. But can you imagine my surprise when I saw a mention in the newspaper he's now doing breast augmentations? I was tempted to wonder if that's his idea of a real problem now -- a woman who's unhappy with her bra size. But I quickly remembered what's embarrassing -- perhaps painfully embarrassing -- to one person is none of the next person's business.
Have you ever been shamed by a doctor? What, if anything, did you do about it?
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