There’s a reason I didn’t go into the medical field besides the fact that I faint if I look at a needle. I don’t do well with illness, disease, or sickness of any sorts, or thoughts of being attacked by a killer species. I do fine with driving my car, walking down dark alleys, crossing bridges, and climbing high places, just can’t deal with physical health conditions—well at least not rationally. The common cold sends me into a tailspin: worse case scenario, worser case scenario, worsest case scenario.
In the course of my four decades plus of living, I was certain of my imminent death at least five times a year. Looming demise total equals 200 times, give or take a death or two. And I’m not talking a passing thought. I’m saying a good two- to three-week sickness-induced death-terror cycle. And with the invention of Google God, the all-knowing search engine, I’ve also had hours of adrenaline-pumped investigative research.
Last year, about this time, I was certain, dead certain, that my heart was going to explode from a genetic disorder. I was so convinced I had the syndrome that I was continually analyzing myself for symptoms, even in my dream state. In fact, in a comical attempt to self-diagnose, I compared my attached earlobes to others’ attached earlobes and even wondered if my large Italian nose could feasible be considered pinched.
When I was younger, rabies was my big fear. I never ever should have watched the depressing classic Old Yeller in third grade. Why?! Afterwards, my hamster-bit finger led me to check my mouth for foaming saliva hourly, for a month! Watching Hitchcock’s The Birds was another faux pas. Remember the killer bees? Well I do. I believed for years the bees were approaching in swarm.
Bloody noses are notorious fear-buttons, ever since I saw that character on a television show with a bloody nose bleed-out and die.
My fear of the C word started after my kindergarten teacher died; and I still can’t write the word out on paper. Which ironically-sucks because it’s my astrological zodiac sign. Four times during my life, twice as a teenager, and twice as a young mother, doctors suspected I had C or pre-C. No cause for alarm in all four cases, but the panic that ensued during the waiting period was insurmountable.
You know what really bites? Working at a homeless shelter and having a child infected with AIDS bite my leg through my jeans. The doctors assured me my chances of contracting AIDS was almost zero; still they wanted to be certain. I checked my tongue for a white-coat and my skin for sores for a good year.
My most laughable approaching-doom-fear happened when I was nursing my firstborn in the late hours of the night, and I’d stare down at the dirt in the corner of my toenail, and know I was going to die of toe fungus. If you bring in the big guns like MRSA, I so freak out. Any infection is MRSA. Hives? I’m certain I’ll suffocate from severe allergic reaction. Menstrual cycle off a day—I have growths on my ovaries.
To make matters worse, doctors have wanted to remove my uterus and my gallbladder, and to biopsy my kidney. None of which happened. But the fact of their recommending such procedures makes me think I have bad parts to begin with.
If you’ve got your wits about you, you’ve probably gathered I have a wee bit of a phobia to illness in any form—real, made up, imagined, or non-existent.
What many do not understand about this illness phobia is that no amount of exposure makes a dang difference. With exposure therapy, if someone is afraid of bridges, you can slowly and decisively assist him or her in overcoming the bridge fear. A common therapy strategy might be first showing pictures of bridges, next playing with toy bridges, later taking photos of bridges from afar, and then crossing a small bridge over a creek. If therapy is effective, then the person eventually will cross a bridge as a passenger, then drive assisted, and later cross alone. Sounds logical.
Doesn’t apply to illness: First look at pictures of people who are sick, next play in filthy area, later… not helping! And getting sick and sick over and over again, doesn’t help either. Done that.
I haven’t been feeling myself, lately. Which is significant. Generally speaking my self, due to a host of syndromes and conditions, is relatively fatigued, a little melancholic, and a bit sore in the muscles. So, I hadn’t taken too much note of my intense fatigue, until I could barely function most of the day. My doctor had in the meanwhile sent me my annual blood test forms in the mail (twice), which I avoided like the plague (or in my case the common cold). I finally dragged myself to the doc when the heart palpitations and shortness of breath kicked in. By the day I got my stubborn self to the doc’s office, my forehead was peeling like a rattlesnake sheds.
The good news is it turns out those eight extra pounds are not my fault! And either is this depressions cloud I blamed on the Washington winter weather. Turns out I have hypothyroid.
Guess what this hypothyroid reckoning does to my mind. Here’s the conversation I had with my doctor. I kid you not.
Me: “Well, now that I know I have hypothyroid, I guess I should mention that I’ve been having trouble swallowing. I read that’s a symptom, too.”
Dr. “Oh.” She pulls out a lab slip. “Well then we better get an ultrasound for nodules.”
Me: “Nodules? Can I die from nodules?”
“What is the worse case scenario?”
“If they find nodules, the protocol is to keep a watchful eye on them. If they grow, they’ll likely drain them. But nodules are not deadly.”
“Oh, good, but what about cancer? Could I have cancer? Or did my blood tests rule that out?”
“No. Your blood tests didn’t rule that out. But thyroid cancer is very, very rare.”
My eyes grew super big and I swallowed hard.
Dr. added: “And the cure rate for thyroid cancer is 100%.”
“Oh!” Huge sigh. “Thank you so much for adding that. How long will I have to take the pills?”
“For the rest of your life.”
Me: “But what if the end of the world comes? How will I get my pills?”
Side Note: (euphemism for I can’t stop babbling)
Taking into consideration the four types of thyroid cancers, I recently researched, the combined cure rate is only 95%. For better effect, in the writing above, you’ll note, I fearlessly overcame my fear of the word cancer. The title Me in Parts means I feel as if I’ve sorted myself into parts with all my constant sickness analysis. The good news is, I always live like I’m dying.