‘Do you mind stripping down to your under-pants please so I can have a look?’
Words that, said in a different setting – say by Mrs Canavan at a romantic hotel in Venice – might have been quite exciting.
But said in a small, cold hospital room by a consultant with very large hands, it wasn’t quite as alluring.
I was in this position because I had been to see a GP about a mole on my arm. I’ve had the mole for ages – he’s called Malcolm – but recently Malcolm has changed shape and colour.
Aware that this possibly isn’t a good thing, I decided to do something no man ever does and booked a doctor’s appointment.
Instead of saying: ‘Don’t be daft Mr Canavan, that mole is absolutely nothing to worry about, now excuse me but I must dash as I’m playing golf at half past’, the doctor seemed to take it quite seriously.
He examined it for a minute or two with some kind of odd-looking magnifying tool, grunted, measured it with a small ruler, grunted, took a photo of it, grunted again, and said to me: ‘Right, I’m going to put you on the Cancer Pathway.’
It was at this point I fell off my seat and began to regret recently setting up a new pension policy, when he added that this was nothing to worry about – it didn’t mean I had cancer, just that I’d be seen by a consultant within two weeks.
Just a few days later – the NHS, flippin’ marvellous – I found myself in hospital talking to a female consultant, who I was surprised to learn was German.
She looked at the troublesome mole and almost immediately, and with slight disappointment I felt, told me it was fine and absolutely nothing to worry about.
I stood up to leave but she said: ’I can, if you wish, carry out a full body check’.
To which I agreed – It’s like a mechanic offering a free MOT as opposed to just looking at your tyres – and which is why I was, as I alluded to at the start of this diatribe, asked to strip to my undies.
At this point, however, something slightly perturbing happened.
‘We’ve got some students in today,’ she remarked casually, and asked if I’d mind them observing.
This request unnerved me as the only people who’ve ever seen me in my underpants are Mrs Canavan and an alarmed-looking Jehovah’s Witness when, after rushing downstairs to answer the door following a shower, my towel slipped – embarrassing for me, but it was very effective in getting rid of him.
I didn’t really want to show my body to a group of students but how are the next generation of medics meant to succeed if people like me don’t allow them to get in a bit of practice?
I selflessly agreed and was ushered behind a curtain and began to undress, cursing myself when I took off my trousers and realised I was wearing the baggy red Y-fronts I’d purchased from Morrisons about 11 years earlier.
I heard the door opening and footsteps, then the consultant asked if I was ready.
She drew back the plastic screen to reveal that she was now accompanied by four young nurses, all female.
I did what any man would do and immediately drew in a big breath in a futile attempt to flatten my stomach and make myself look, if not chiseled, at least slightly less derelict.
‘Wish I’d worn better underpants now,’ I joked, cheerily. Nobody laughed. It was an awkward moment.
I lay on a hospital bed while this group of woman peered at me like tourists studying a museum exhibit. An exhibit they weren’t, judging by the looks on their faces, particularly impressed with.
There was complete silence in the room, which felt uncomfortable, but unable to think of suitable small talk – what’s the most unusual mole you’ve ever seen? What’s your favourite make of stethoscope? – I just lay there, awkwardly.
They would occasionally give me a poke, frown, then scribble notes in their little books. They spent a lot of time, I noted, examining a spot just above the right buttock where I have a large mole that looks uncannily like the outline of Poland, and at one point the consultant wrote on my back with a pen.
Finally the students trooped out and – after being asked questions like ‘is there a history of skin cancer in the family?’, ‘have you ever been badly sunburned?’, ‘who should open the batting for England in the Ashes?’ – the upshot was that I need a couple of suspicious-looking moles removed.
I’ve got to go back in a couple of weeks to have it done. For that appointment, I will wear nicer underpants.