Every family has at least one hypochondriac – the person you can NEVER ask, “How are you doing?” and expect to get a short and sweet answer like, “Fine, and you?” In my family, that person was Nana, my grandmother. I learned at a very early age to skip the small talk with Nana unless I had an hour or so to kill.
On the rare occasion I did inquire about her health, I either got a full run down on her medical history, or if she was having a particularly uneventful week with her doctor, I would hear about the ailments of her family/friends/neighbors/etc.. During one conversation, she must have been at a loss for any real medical drama because she resorted to telling me about her bird’s tumor. If there was ever a man who deserved to be sainted, it was Grandpa because for him, there was no escape from her tales of woe – his only source of companionship was Nana and her cancerous bird.
Apart from Nana, the rest of my family is made up of people who avoid doctors like they’re doling out diseases rather than cures. As long as all our limbs remain intact and our vital organs keep doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we stay the hell away from anyone donning a white lab coat.
Pops (my other grandfather) was an expert at doctor dodging. Even when he had very valid reasons to visit the doctor, he opted to just wrap an ace bandage around whatever body part was bothering him, and keep going. He once “treated” a hernia by tightly wrapping an ace bandage around his stomach – without the bandage, he looked like a turkey whose timer had popped. He walked around for years that way. I’m sure the pain must have been horrible, but obviously he thought going to the doctor was worse. By the time he reached his eighties, he had practically mummified himself.
Genetically, I think I tend to take more after Pops than Nana. I cancel just as many doctor appointments as I make. A few days before my appointment, I usually try to find an excuse to wiggle out of it…. the excuse doesn’t even have to be a good one. I once cancelled an appointment for a physical because I gained five pounds and didn’t want to face the scale during the routine weigh-in.
A few months ago, I went to the doctor’s office to get a prescription filled and he was amazed that I hadn’t been to see him in the last year. Then he went on to lecture me that I hadn’t had an annual physical in almost two years. I felt like he was accusing me of criminal negligence of my own body. Do most people see their doctor several times a year? Or is my doctor’s view skewed because he’s used to having a waiting room full of Nanas? I assured him I felt fine and that I had no reason to see him; but if he would waive the $20 co-pay I’d drop by to say hi sometimes, if it would make him feel better.
If I didn’t need an annual prescription for my crappy thyroid, I would treat my doctor appointments the way I do school reunions – my doctor and I would visit each other every ten years to play catch-up, take pictures, and silently berate each other over how much older and fatter we got.
I think some people run to the doctor too quickly – Mother Nature can take care of a lot of ailments all on her own. Have you ever noticed that when you make a doctor’s appointment to have something checked out, you feel better either the day of the appointment or shortly thereafter? That happens to me more times than not, which is why I play the wait-and-see game with most illnesses. I’m not talking about the life threatening stuff; merely the symptoms that can be treated by taking a shot of Nyquil: sniffling, sneezing, coughing, stuffy head, fever, etc. After a shot of that stuff, I don’t care if my nose falls off, much less if it’s running.
I’ll admit that fear, not of the doctor but of his diagnosis, is what prevents me from paying him a visit sometimes. In the last two weeks, I’ve developed a twitch in my legs and feet. At first, I tried to ignore it; since there was only annoyance and not pain to contend with, I was successful for the first week.
But by week two, my head started to mess with me a bit. With every twitch, images of Michael J. Fox would appear in my head, and I was convinced that I had Parkinson’s disease. I remembered watching an interview on TV where Michael talked about how the disease first presented itself to him (when he was my age!!). I saw that interview over ten years ago, but my brain was kind enough to keep it stored away for me, should the need to torture myself ever arise. Locked up in the same mental file was the movie Love and Other Drugs with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. In the movie, Anne Hathaway’s character struggles with early onset Parkinson’s disease and the emotional havoc it wreaks on her life.
My brain can be a real asshole sometimes….
After telling my brain to shut the hell up, I decided that I might have better luck on WebMD. I typed in leg/foot twitching and out popped a list of possible causes – all of which made what my brain had come up with look like a vacation in Hawaii.
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
- Rheumatic Fever
- Tourette’s Syndrome
WTF?! Thanks for that, WebMD. I won’t be back to that website anytime soon…. at least not while sober. Then I did what any sane person would do – NO not call the doctor – I went to YouTube to see if anyone else was experiencing the same symptoms as me. Not only were there others, they were also more than happy to video tape their twitching for all to see. God I love the internet….
I also love the fact that the guy who posted this video asked his viewers what they thought the cause might be. I was really tempted to say that it might be Parkinson’s disease so that he could join me in my paranoid ruminations, but I refrained from commenting. I did however note that one of the comments suggested that it might be gallstones (something about that digit being tied to the gallbladder). I’m normally not one to buy into all that reflexology nonsense, but the fact that I’ve got gallstones made me think that it was plausible. And since that cause isn’t incurable or fatal, I decided it was the best diagnosis. See that? Diagnosis done, and I saved myself the $20 copay and a trip to the doctor.
Put the phone down Mom and Dad, there’s no need to call and point out the fact that I’m acting like an irrational idiot. I will (eventually) stop trying to self-diagnose the problem and get it checked out by a doctor – assuming time doesn’t heal all wounds (or twitches) first.