Thursday, February 24, 2005

My Own Health

At some point in my life I’ve been convinced that I have: brain tumor based on headaches and fatigue following call nights, leukemia based on a bruise for which I could not identify a clear cause, HIV (despite no risk factors) based on the flu, brain tumor again based on brief semi-vertiginous episodes which I took to be seizures, innumerable heart attacks based on seconds of chest pain, parkinson's disease due to difficult to define feelings in my hand with some weakness finally, necrotizing fasciitis based on a puncture to my finger with some swelling.

None of it panned out. My deadly brain tumor, which I created in my own head, did not exist in my head at all. It may have found another home, since I’ve seen several cases of brain tumors in the young since then. But I myself have outlived these cases and my own case of brain tumor. My leukemia never had another manifestation. My HIV/flu resolved. My punctured hand is A-OK. The odd feeling was due to carple tunnel, better with some tylenol.

I’ve never been to a doctor for any of these complaints. Being a doctor myself I have the benefit of knowing, rationally, that none of this has a basis in serious disease. Being rational is slightly useful in these cases and keeps some of the insanity contained, but it does nothing for the underlying cause: I’ve seen too much death, disease, and suffering. And when I'm sitting around, bored, my nonspecific neck ache becomes a carotid dissection. For just a moment I wait for one side of my brain to get stroked out. Horrible moment, and then my higher brain functions kick in and say we're actually safe. Just do some gentle massage.

Oddly, it the things I do suffer that I do not regard with any level of seriousness. I’m sure many times during my internship and residency I fit the criteria for depression. I’ve had the sleeplessness, the lack of interest in life, anhedonia, loss of energy, concentration abilities combned with a mood that could be best described as resigned to my learned helplessness. But I never cared much for any of that, and certainly never sought out help of any kind.

Now I am twitching. I have a twitch in my eyelid over the last few days. The muscle gives off a few high frequency and low amplitude spasms, then returns to it’s normal quiet self. The obvious answer is ALS. Despite the fact that the twitching doesn’t really bother ALS patients (this twitch is very bothersome), despite the fact that I have no weakness, no other signs (I’ve tested them all), my mind leaps to diagnose myself with ALS. It is something I’d never have even considered if I presented my symptoms to myself. Yet there it is, with the twitch, the thought that this could be ALS.

I won’t go to the doctor, but I’m still monitoring myself for progression. I know a good twitch man. If it’s ALS, I’ll maintain my life until I cannot move my limbs, and then ask for a combination of morphine and weighted pillow. I require movement. Or at least I think I do, but as Camus' Meursault says, one can get used to anything, even the ever present threat of phantom disease.


Blogger marybishop said...

Ah the dreaded blepherospasm. Not ALS but rather FCS - fatigue, caffeine and stress.

Not all spasms are bad though...some we actually pursue!

6:34 AM  
Blogger laurenbove said...

You poor creature. I can't imagine what seeing all that you do, would create in my pshche. Sadly, I do not need any of that to be neurotically predisposed. I've thought I had AIDS, when a reaction to Naproxen Sodium went undiagnosed for 1 full year. (that and guilt over college carelessness) I discovered the correlation (duh) myself and stopped taking the stuff. I remember bone cancer scare b/c I had undiagnosed R.A. I didn't test pos. for it but was diagnosed eventually after symptoms were just obvious.

***(flashback alert) That was a crazy day: Visit to doctors are typically blah office settings, white coats, and all that. This visit took place on Dr.'s veranda with a glass of his private reserve. It seemes he was expanding his expertise to wine importing. Hmmm.... Whoa was I suprised when he slipped me a gold shot w/o my say so. It was really fun when my allergic reaction sent me to the emergency room.

Good times...good times...

Anyway, I really think it relates to the fact that we both know (for different reasons) that disease really does happen. It's not just on tv or remote. It's a real, in your face, destructive possibility.

That is why I like wine. It makes me happy and not worry about these things. I think I'll get some for tonight. Why don't you do the same? There really is something to the "no brain, no pain" theory.

10:22 AM  
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