Setting: Starbucks, last week, with my friend Laurie.
Me: "... so that's everything that happened while I was in New York."
Laurie: "Sounds like you had a great time!"
Me: "Yeah, it was super-fun. Well, except for my cancer scare, of course."
Laurie: "Wait, what happened?"
Me: "Well, I discovered a black spot inside my cheek."
Laurie: "Oh, my God, how did you notice it?"
Me: "I was looking at my throat, like I always do."
Me: (clarifying) "In my magnifying mirror."
Me: "What do you mean 'why?' I was looking at my throat like everyone looks at their throat, so, clearly I'm quite familiar with the topography of my mouth and when I saw this spot-"
Laurie: "I'm curious, how often do you look inside your mouth?"
Me: "Is that relevant? The point is I thought I had cancer. But I probably look in there, what? Three or four times a day? When I brush my teeth, when I put on my makeup, when I wash my face, you know, the usual."
Laurie: "Nope. No. That is not 'the usual.' People don't spend a lot of time looking inside their mouths."
Me: "Huh. Fletch told me the same thing. Weird. But as someone who gets strep all the time and has perpetual sore throats, I like to keep up to date on what's happening in there. I've been told I have unusually small tonsils, too. Ironic, right? The one thing on me that's small is my stupid tonsils. And I'm always checking on the status of my porcelain fillings, too. Those things crack like teacups, largely because they're made of teacups. Anyway, when I saw the spot, I was all, 'Shit, I have cancer.'"
Laurie: "You don't smoke or chew tobacco."
Me: "Of course not. And by the way? You do not want to Google the images for oral cancer."
Laurie: "Clearly. So what happened?"
Me: "I called Fletch in a panic because I wanted him to set up an ENT appointment as soon as I was back from New York."
Laurie: "You've been to the doctor?"
Me: "Um... no. Fletch said I didn't have oral cancer. He said... he said I probably had just eaten something pointy and that the spot would clear up in the morning."
Laurie: "I know where this is going, don't I?"
Me: "Yeah. Turns out the problem was less 'oral cancer' and more 'pineapple margaritas and tortilla chips.'"
Laurie: "Well, that's a relief."
The conversation turns to roses and Mad Men and new books, but before we leave, I query her again.
Me: "So... you're saying people really don't spend a lot of time looking inside their mouths?"
Laurie: "They really don't."
Me: "Then how do they self-diagnose?"
Laurie: "Oh, honey... I think you just answered your own question."