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A history of bizarre ailments.

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:32pm

I almost never get sick, but when I do I manage to get so theatrically ill that I baffle the experts. I've had pneumonia four times. Nobody gets pneumonia four times! I've had a strep infection in a mosquito bite, and when I was 5 I ran such a fever that I burned my own tongue from the inside, leaving it with black, flaking blisters that made my sister gag to see. I have been diagnosed--and un-diagnosed--with a degenerative corneal disease, spending five years believing I was going blind before it was discovered that I am already about as blind as I am likely to get. Mere weeks ago I had to visit the GP to uncover the cause of the huge, stinging bruise that suddenly appeared on my ankle (I was either bitten by a black widow or had a vein explode, which the doctor assures me does not bode ill for my remaining veins). I am allergic to the cold, and break out in hives when I am too chilled.

It appears that I have passed on the ability to suffer bizarre (albeit minor) afflictions to my children. Ezra, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow, befuddled experts far and wide over his total inability to pass the 9-pound mark by the time he was six months old, yet suddenly and vigorously began to grow and is now a 26-pound wonder-toddler. Anya's MMR caused a seven-month milk allergy.

I am afraid of losing my health. I try to maintain a healthy diet for my family, and we take care to wash our hands without obsessing over every germ. When my kids eat something that has fallen on the floor I accept that it is building their immune systems. I am not a hypochondriac, and in fact tend to underestimate any illness I get (which is probably how I managed four serious lung infections), although I am guilty of the terrifying Google-self-diagnosis from time to time. My greatest weakness, though, is the television program Mystery Diagnosis. It's like a real-life House, without the misanthropy. The problem with this program is that it makes you think, wait, did I really only have a spider bite, or was that burst vein an indication that my aorta is a time bomb....

Although I fear losing my health, I do not "ask my doctor about what X-DRUG can do for me." I get a kick out of drug commercials. I particularly like the ones that don't specify exactly what the drug does, but assure you that you might be willing to risk blood clots, liver damage, and possible death (surely more than a side effect) for it. My current favorite is for Restless Leg Syndrome (the symptoms of which I have had all my life although I didn't realize it was a "syndrome" until recently and had long ago resigned myself to having "twitchy legs"), wherein one is warned that in exchange for calm legs one might suddenly become a compulsive gambler. And don't get me started on the unfortunately-named "AciPhex" (go on, say it aloud).

It amuses me to talk about health today, since although I almost never am affected by environmental issues today I have a pounding sinus headache (unless it's really a brain tumor), and my son is recovering from pinkeye. So we have our occasional hives, conjunctivitis, runny noses, burst veins, twitchy legs, carpal tunnel, gastroenteritis, and allergies--but at least we have our health.

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