Friday, October 31, 2008

The Hypochondria

I have this friend I met in college who is a little like me in his response to and worry about illness. To protect his privacy I will refer to him here as “Seth.” To further protect his privacy, for his birth date and social security number you will have to e-mail me in person. A few years ago, Seth was experiencing a few sort of weird symptoms and quickly sought medical care to rule out anything serious. His medical professionals did a little testing and called him a few days later to inform him that it appeared that he had multiple sclerosis. Naturally, Seth and his wife, who I will call ”Jenni” were naturally upset and immediately sat down to try and process the fact that Seth had just been diagnosed with a chronic, progressive and, most often, ultimately debilitating condition. They had been thinking about having their first child, but suddenly, all of their plans were on hold. A few minutes later the phone rang- it was the doctor’s office saying “Ooops! We inadvertently switched your test results with someone else’s. Good news! You don’t have MS!” Of course, Seth and Jenni were relieved, but it took a few weeks before Seth was back to his old self. It would not surprise me to hear that Seth has some sort of post-traumatic stress reaction to these events, even today. So whenever you see him breathing into a paper bag in public, you should just assume that he is re-experiencing those events and not become alarmed. I tell that story to illustrate the risks of hypochondria, as well as the benefits- you can’t be treated for an illness you don’t have UNLESS you first see someone to misdiagnose that illness in the first place.

As I have mentioned before, my family of origin is all about seeking immediate medical care. And, as I’ve mentioned before, we have a good reason for this and it’s not because my parents are crazy. In reality, I am not a hypochondriac. I’m in reasonably good health and my primary illness are colds and allergy related things. But my family has a fun tradition of calling our various viruses and injuries something more serious. For example, it sounds much less dramatic to say “I have a headache” than “I think that I have an aneurysm rupturing right above my left eye. Be sure to tell them that at the ER after I pass out.” Why say “I have a low grade fever” when “I have horrible chills. I think I have malaria” sounds even better? I forget that not everyone who knows me has known me since the dawn of time and, consequently, might not be familiar with this habit. My friend Gwen, the P.A. was a little startled, I think, when I called her to let her know that I thought my hacking cough was probably black lung. She was quiet for a minute and said in a really interested voice “I didn’t know you had ever worked in a coal mine. Tell me more about that.”

Just about everyone in my immediate family (okay, mostly Erin and I) will call all of the other members no matter where they are, work, church, a wedding, to let them know if we feel ill or have some sort of pain that we wish we did not. It took awhile for Rob and Elliot to begin to participate in this, but I am pleased to report that in the not so distant past Rob was sitting on the couch after dinner and said “The second toe on my left foot is numb. I’d like for us to call and tell Erin about it.” Another fun family tradition is my mom’s symptom book, which she’s had since I was in high school- you can look up your symptoms and it gives you a graphic description of what might (or might not) be your disease. It was through the help of this book that I learned last winter that an enlarged lymph node in my leg was either an infection in my leg or foot OR prostate cancer. You’ll be pleased to know that it was the former and I seem to have recovered fully. Rob especially roll his eyes when any one of us wants to look up something in the symptoms book, not that he tends to be a lot more supportive when I try to google the possible options. We’ll see who’s laughing when he assumes that a simple rash he’s got on his arm is actually a flesh-eating virus. Oh- well, probably at that point no one will be laughing, because I hear that’s really contagious. Anyway, we were visiting my parents recently and when Rob noted the symptom book had been moved out into the open as part of the d├ęcor, we had to take a picture. A lot of people use books this way as a way of being intellectually pretentious, but I appreciate that my parents are not trying to pretend that they sit around reading Thomas Aquinas in the original Latin or whatever- they're just being true to who they are, while having the Symptom book within easy reach:



It seems that our daughters have been observing all of this behavior and that became apparent a few weeks ago. They had just finished their bath and I was putting on their lotion in the living room when E dramatically threw the back of her hand onto her forehead and announced “Eh-wee has a feef-er.” I checked her forehead and stomach and she felt normal to me. So I asked, “You have a fever?”

“Yes. Eh-wee has a feef-er and needs med-sin,” she replied. I suddenly saw where this was going.

“What medicine?”

“The o-wange mo-twin.” E and L LOVE the orange motrin. It’s a small step from faking a fever to get Equate brand ibuprofen to claiming that one’s stomach pain is most likely their spleen rupturing. I wonder if this is really all learned behavior or if it’s dome sort of genetic disorder. It’s probably the latter. I’ll let you know what the geneticist says about it.

More and better pictures are coming, but in the meantime,here are some pictures of the girls at the pumpkin patch and trick or treating (as butterflies):

L. at the pumpkin patch:


E picking out a tiny pumpkin:


L thinking through her candy options:

The girls with Grammy:
E with the look she had on her face the whole time she was very seriously trick or treating:

Also: if I haven't personally harassed you into watching this clip yet and you are involved with a man who is sometimes sick, please do so now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz6DktXFvg4

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Long Time, No Blog.

Another way that Tiger Woods and I are not alike is that he probably updates his blog on a more regular basis, because he is not a bad person. But tonight I received what can only be described as a threatening e-mail from a reader, and as I wish to remain her friend, I am posting, even before my carefully crafted, novel-length excuse for why I have not updated is not yet complete. Although I wish to state for the record that I feel that friendships should not be conditional.

Everyone said that having twins would be hard at first (and they certainly weren’t wrong), but that eventually having two children exactly the same age would be easier than having two children close in age. The constant threat of two people having a dramatic public meltdown simultaneously is always there, which once you’ve experienced you totally understand why God designed it so most families have one toddler at a time, but in a lot of ways it seems like I’m dealing with easier things than my friends who have children spaced more than two minutes apart. It’s not like when I’m reading a book one of them gets annoyed because she feels Elmo is for babies or that one of them needs three naps a day while I’m struggling to get the other to take one. Plus, I get to have a lot of moments where I have to hold back my hysterical laughter because of some of the things they come up with that I am forced to come up with a serious parental looking response to. For example, Monday I was making dinner while L and E ran around playing what I call “RUN, RUN!” because of the dramatic shouts of “RUN! RUN!” they make while they run around with the excess energy that they get from the methamphetamines I am assuming that they have somehow managed to acquire. Suddenly, the happy shrieking turned into agonized wailing from the living room. L was crying her “I’m really hurt cry,” while E’s sounded more like her “I’m freaked out by something” cry (kind of an “Enhhh! Enhhh!). Because L was hurt, I made it to the living room amazingly quickly for a non-athlete. L was sitting on the floor by the couch holding her head and weeping; E was sitting on the floor shaking her hands and looking panicky. L’s need was greater at the moment so I pulled her into my lap and asked her what happened. “Eh-wee pull Lah-wen’s hair and Lah-wen feels sad,” she choked out between sobs. So I turned to E and asked, “Why are you crying? Did L do something to you, too?” And she said “No, Momma! Eh-wee has Lah-wen’s hair on her fingers. Want it off.” And looking more closely, she did indeed have a handful on L’s hair tangled around her fingers. She spent a few minutes in time out and then we had the talk about how if it skeeves you out to have hair on your hands, you really just shouldn’t pull hair. Because, frankly, if you have issues with, for example, blood, you won’t receive a lot of compassion when you complain about freaked out you get when you stab someone and they get his or her blood on you. It’s a hard lesson, but one I’m glad their learning now, rather than later.

Speaking of hair, here are some pictures of E and L’s first real haircut. (Please bear in mind that I like longish hair on girls- just the ends need some evening up. I am particularly sensitive about this because I rarely look at pictures of myself when I was small and think “Man, I wish my parents had cut my hair shorter).


E and Colby:

L and Colby: