For Those About to Be Sick
The following post contains far too much information about my internal organs and my sex life. The management of this blog accepts no liability for any psychic trauma that may occur as a result of your continuing to read. Proceed at your own risk. No refunds or exchanges.
What? Like you don't have CT films in your dining room window?
They say to write what you know, and after many months of practice, I know a thing or two about being sick. Regrettably, I just jumped into this without any training or practice; I'd like to spare you from making the same mistakes I did, so I'm passing along a few tips here.
1. Before you get sick, get in excellent shape. If you need to lose weight, do so. Shape up for your illness as though it were a class reunion. I didn't train. And this is what I learned: If you're already thin, and you unintentionally, inexplicably lose 20 pounds in three weeks, trained medical professionals will exclaim, "HOLY CRAP! You must really be sick!" However, if you really could stand to lose those 20, and you proceed to do so, these same trained medical professionals will note the rapidity as an aside, but will think, and say, "Good for you!" And they will do this even though their professional medical training has surely taught them that NO ONE (with the exception of those people who are eligible to appear on Dr. Phil, Maury, etc., because the walls of their homes must be removed to get them out) is supposed to lose 20 pounds in three weeks.
2. Select your illness carefully. None of us wants to be ordinary. Choosing a common illness is like showing up at a family wedding wearing the same dress as your cousin. However, there are better ways to express your individuality than through your choice of illness. I have always wanted to be just a bit outside the norm. But I admit, this time I've gone too far. My illness is not in their textbooks. It's not even on the freakin' internet. If I had it to do over again, I'd go with something that a movie has been made about . . . or at least something that has already appeared on House or Mystery Diagnosis.
3. Remember, when you're putting together symptoms, less is more. I went way over the top here. I piled on symptoms like I was accessorizing for an early '80s Madonna concert. Just plain tacky. This practice, my friends, will get you nothing but pissed-off doctors. They like symptoms to remain within one major system, say, the digestive system, or the respiratory system. When you start mixing and matching, breaking the rules, you're just asking for trouble. I, for instance, may have been able to stay off the Difficult Patient List if I'd stuck to diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, appetite loss, early satiety . . . even the bloating might have been OK. But no, I had to throw in laryngitis, constant feeling of my throat closing, difficulty swallowing, intermittent mouth sores, chronic low-grade fever . . . And as if that didn't annoy the docs enough, I had to gild the lily by adding pain in ALL my ribs and mysterious, painful small lumps that appear and disappear in my abdomen and flank. Yes, flank. I admit it; I have no taste when it comes to putting together a respectable set of symptoms. (Oh, and "fatigue," as a symptom? Don't even waste your time. The docs just think, "Pfft. I'd be fatigued, too, if I spent all my time going around to doctors listing all those symptoms!")
4. Practice an air of bored nonchalance for when you see words like "cyst" and "tumor" on your radiology reports. Now, this is important, and it's one of the tougher tips I'll give you. You need to know that once you select your too-many, too-varied symptoms, you're going to learn things about your insides that you will wish you didn't know. Because most of us don't have pictures taken of every part from every angle, every other week. But once you've made that bed, you're gonna have to lie in it, sister. I now know that I have cysts on liver, ovary, uterus; a "tumor" on the other ovary; a calcification on my adrenal gland; and intense metabolic activity in the uterus. This is all WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY TMI, people. A little self-knowledge goes a long way when we're talking about your insides. You're not supposed to know these things.
But once you do know them, you're supposed to forget them, or at least pooh-pooh them, when the docs say, "But that's nothing. That's not what's causing your symptoms."
Oh, you'll want to say, "But, but, but . . . we don't know what IS causing my symptoms, and these things don't belong, so couldn't it be that maybe . . . "
But if you do, the docs will say, "Bup bup bup . . . talk to the latex-gloved hand! Stop that whining! We don't know what's wrong with you, but we know what isn't! Pay no attention to those growths inside of you!"
And then you should say, "OK," and go spend hours on the internet trying to find out what is wrong with you. Because you are the only one doing so.
5. Show a little initiative by performing your own self-tests whenever possible. For example:
Susie: I have to be honest with you. That wasn't making love. That was actually a diagnostic procedure, intended to rule out "painful intercourse."
Jif: Oh . . . well, did we rule it out?
Susie: Oh, yea. I hope you don't mind being used as a diagnostic tool.
Jif: You know I'll help in any way I can.
6. Know which symptoms to keep to yourself. This would be anything that falls under the diagnostic rubric of "normal human emotion." Just don't go there. If, in a moment of weakness, after you've been working your symptoms of choice for well over three months, you admit that you're feeling, say, "anxious," or "depressed," or any such thing, you will be sorry. Oh, you'll get your diagnosis alright. The docs will be all over those words like ugly on a hospital gown.
"AHA! It's stress!" (This does not represent a flaw in any one particular doctor; it has become apparent to me that they are taught in medical school, "When all else fails, play the stress card. Your patient will become very agitated and unreasonable, perhaps even verbally abusive, thereby confirming your diagnosis. Never fails.")
7. Have an outlet for the crazy. Preferably one in which kind people appear to give a rat's ass about what you have to say. Take . . . blogging, for instance :)
file under: &Partial Nudity &Can't Make This Stuff Up &WTF Disease