All my adult life I have dealt with a debilitating disorder -- it's called "Tell & Show Syndrome." Someone will TELL me about a new rare disease and WHAM! -- all the signs of it SHOW up throughout my body.
To say I am highly suggestible is an understatement. I can read an article in a woman's magazine entitled "10 Female Symptoms You're Too Shy To Discuss With Your Male Doctor (But You Should Before It's Too Late!)" -- immediately I have all 10 of these plus four bonus ones the author wasn't imaginative enough to think of. Fear and panic overtake any shyness. I'm gonna grab that male doctor by the shirt collar -- I might even consider going to second base with him for a second opinion.
I do have a regular physician I call several times a week, and I'm sure the nurses give him messages that go like this:
"That nutty hypochondriac lady (who resembles a menopausal Amy Winehouse minus the tattoos) is on the phone again. Today she claims when she walks, it feels like thumbtacks/paperclips are poking her feet. Should we advise her to proceed directly to her local office supply store?"
So instead I go to my beloved online medical information mecca -- "The Web MD."
First of all, it never occurs to me that the word "Web" in their name is a subtle symbolic tip off that I should stay far, far away. Let's think about this, shall we? Who has webbed feet? Ducks! And what do ducks say? "QUACK!" Hello?
But this does not deter me from typing "thumbtacks sticking feet" into the symptom checker box and obtaining The Diagnosis From Hell. Four horrific diagnoses, actually. One relates to my brain, one relates to my heart, another to my lungs, and the final one to my stomach. Interestingly, none of the diseases have anything to do with feet. And all are extremely fatal.
Having gotten all C+ in my Deductive Reasoning classes in high school, I know it isn't possible that I am afflicted with ALL four of these maladies. That's only logical, right? So which one can I eliminate?
Next I do what I always do at 2 a.m. -- I log onto a hospital patient message board and post about my situation, asking if someone "out there" has ever experienced a symptom like this, but everything turned out to be completely fine in the end? I stare for hours at my computer screen waiting for anyone to give a reassuring response. And then it dawns on me...
The reason nobody can answer my question. Everyone who had this same problem has already died.
Should I start writing my obituary or my will first? And guardians for my precious kids! Why, oh why couldn't my ex-husband and I ever agree on whom to name as caretakers in the event of our deaths? His sister puts ketchup on eggs, doesn't believe in orthodontia, and Danielle Steele is her favorite author. So what?! I should let all that go.
"Please God," I bargain, "I know last week I hated this ugly world and said I'd rather be dead than go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my expired driver's license. But I promise to find gratitude and renew my zest for life -- just please don't put me six feet under before I make it on The Huffington Post!"
There's nothing left to do. Except find a brand new doctor who hasn't heard about my "Boy Who Cried Wolf" past. My previous physicians have issued, "WARNING: Circus Side Show Worrier Freak" bulletins with my picture to the medical community at large, so this will be no easy task.
Finally I show up on the doorstep of an office in a remote, faraway town. I watch as their "The Doctor Is In" sign lights up. I've always believed first impressions are important so here is how I fill out the paperwork on the clipboard.
NEW PATIENT FORM
NAME: (circle one) Miss/Mrs./Ms
I'm divorced so technically it's "Ms." But please call me "Miss," as in "Little Miss Menopause." Although Mr. may be a distinct possibility these days -- can you check my testosterone level?
I just caught a glimpse of you at the reception desk.. .I could be your Moth...er, your big sister.
REASON FOR TODAY'S VISIT?
Look at me! Isn't it obvious? I just need the doctor to confirm how much time I have.
Who cares at this point? Just order me a size 8 burial gown. Okay, yes! I AM banking on the fact that loss of appetite will kick in soon with this particular disease.
Writer (Pssssst! Hot tip: Publish this form. Everyone knows a deceased author's last work commands a high price.)
EVER SKIPPED A PERIOD?
Yes, but I'm working diligently on eliminating my run-on sentences.
WHOM MAY WE THANK FOR REFERRING YOU?
Doncha' mean blame?
PERSON TO CALL IN EMERGENCY:
Um... my two ex-husbands will deny knowing me. Let's see... My kids will just ask, "What's for dinner?" Oh, don't call the neighbors, they'll tell you I've been deceased eight times already. Hmmm, I think you might call Mabel, my hairdresser. But when you say "died" you better spell it. She'll assume you mean my Clairol Nice n' Easy Deep Burgundy Brown.
I'm interrupted by the doctor, who calls me in. He listens to my heart and pronounces it steady and strong. I resist the urge to ask when he's last had his stethoscope calibrated. I describe how I feel (this time likening it to feet stabbed with steak knives) but he cuts me off before I can get to the Web MD part.
DR: Have you ever heard of Transient Paresthesia?
ME: Oh no, doctor. Not that! I don't even ride a train or bus!
DR: Not "transit." Transient, meaning short-lived.
ME: Good Lord, you mean I'm gonna go even quicker than I thought?
DR: Where ya headed to?
ME: Aren't I dying?
DR: We all are. But I think you're gonna survive this one. Transient Paresthesia = limbs falling asleep.
As I depart, I glance over my shoulder to see him sketching a big-haired woman with the caption, "BEWARE OF NEUROTIC HUFFPOST BLOGGER WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON HER HANDS... She needs to be cut off ASAP!!" He then posts it on the Web MD website.
Gee thanks, Doc. Wait till you read my review on Yelp!
Please leave me a comment -- I'd love to know if I'm the only one who worries that the act of worrying itself is gonna be the real killer?