It's Not a Tu-mah

There’s a woman I used to know who “had” whatever ailment was on the news that week. When an upturned furniture tack scratched her leg in a restaurant booth, she turned my birthday celebration into her own little drama starring her, as the tragic, tetanus-afflicted heroine. A little nausea? Salmonella, of course. After a summer in Fire Island where the deer and their accompanying ticks march right on up to your doorstep, she bemoaned her myriad Lyme disease symptoms well into the following year. At which point her disease magically transformed into West Nile virus.

No doubt wherever she is today she’s got a bad case of avian flu with a side order of mad cow.

In fairness I think that even levelheaded people have one disease they’re always certain they have: brain tumor, blood clot, the Plague. Nate thinks he has a weak heart. (He doesn’t.) For me, it’s toxic shock syndrome.

I don’t know what it is about TSS that captured my imagination as a young, tampon-using ingenue; I think it is to an adolescent girl what SIDS is to a new mother— inexplicable, indescribable, completely unlikely, and wholly terrifying.

So when I woke up Sunday morning feeling less than wonderful, I did what any thinking person with a computer does: I ran to my computer to self-diagnose on WebMD.

I couldn’t figure out exactly how to describe my symptoms, there being no handy little check-off box for kinda tingly, skin-crawling feeling that radiates up your body, with dizziness whenever you stand up or move or sit or lay perfectly still and just move your eyeballs to the right. So I just typed in toxic shock syndrome figuring I could back my symptoms out of my diagnosis.


That was all I needed.

My mind flashed forward to me setting up a tripod in my living room, vacant smile pasted on my face as I prepare to record a video diary for Thalia to watch after I’m gone. (This is something I saw on some newsmagazine show when I was pregnant, a story inspired by some bad, Mommy’s Gonna Die, tax write-off of a movie. The film looked unwatchable but the story of the real mother branded itself into my brain like some fatal car wreck on the Bruckner. Brrrr.) I tell her to study hard in school, and remember to call her grandma and, and…dammit. I'm not good with those little motivational sayings you find on needlepoint pillows. All I can think of is, "So long, and thanks for all the fish" which of course makes no sense in this context at all.

The more I’m reading WebMD, the more it’s confirming my worst fears. The vertigo is getting more intense as I home in on phrases like SERIOUS, LIFE-THREATENING SYMPTOMS and GET MEDICAL HELP RIGHT AWAY. I shakily click through to the symptom checklist and prepare for the worst.

Dizziness or mental confusion?
Check! Definitely check.

Fever over 102?
Check. Well, possibly. I took the thing out of my mouth pretty quickly after Nate pointed out it was Thalia’s rectal thermometer.

Vomiting? Diarrhea?
Well, no. None of those.

A rash resembling a sunburn?

Peeling skin, especially on fingers and toes?

I have an inner ear infection. It doesn't appear to be fatal. But the U2 song stuck in my head is killing me.

photos: evaisse@flickr


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I swear, Web MD is the worst site ever. It makes a mountain out of a molehill. Type in migraine and it has you having a brain tumor. I try to steer clear of that site, but my fingers are like magnets to just type it in when a medical question arises. Tee hee.

2/20/06, 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always amused and mildly frightened when every symptom that I seem to type in to WebMD or a similar site is tied to a syndrome or disease for which I must SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. Like, symptoms of the common cold.

Thanks for stopping by my site last night. I love yours -- I'll be back!

2/20/06, 10:58 AM  
Blogger Jayne said...

I know! I was convinced I had hypothyroidism (can even spell it now) when I was so run down and yes, my nails were a little brittle . . . just a cold. And my nails just suck. Anyway, over here from Motherhood Uncensored and you've put together a great blog! Love it (and $400 Veuve, lucky you : )

2/20/06, 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TSS always scared the crap out of me. Since having a child, I don't worry about myself as much and now I think she has everything - over the Christmas I thought she had a UTI, and now and then I freak out about seeing her lymph nodes and think it's leukemia.

Nothing like motherhood to bring out the hypochondria (AKA C-m-f'er) in us all...

2/20/06, 11:57 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Rhonda, Nancy and Jayne: thank you so much for letting me know that I'm not the only webMD abuser around. Misery--even the psychosomatic kind-- definitely loves company

2/20/06, 12:02 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

I'm totally with you on the TSS ... BUT, I know a woman who once had a tampon (I am NOT kidding here) inside her for more than a month. Not only that but this was a story she OFTEN told at parties. After hearing that my mind was put a little at ease.

I love your blog, you are hilarious. :)

2/20/06, 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband absolutely forbids me from using WebMD or searching on any medical symptoms. Your friend sounds like she might be me... are you from PA by chance?? ; )

However (and this may be TMI), I did leave a tampon in once for several days. How I did this I am not sure -- it must have been high up there. I started to feel like I might have a yeast infection or something and then woohoo, there it was. I was SO freaked out and called my obgyn that night. He said, "so?" I said, "well don't I have to worry about TSS?" and he said, "nope, just take it out. that is a VERY rare occurrence." I felt like a total moron, but did I move on? No, then I was all weirded out by how I let it happen. I must have some sort of mental issue if I did that... and the saga continues.

2/20/06, 1:30 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Yes MrsFortune, tampon stories always make excellent cocktail party conversation. They clear the room faster so you can bogart the onion dip. Imperfect Mommy, you might want to consider this for the future.

Kristen, oh God, I have swollen lymph nodes too...

2/20/06, 1:45 PM  
Blogger Carolyn S. said...

The internet often tells me sick. Even more often, it tells me I'm pregnant. I am what is known as a hypo-pregniac.

Sorry you're under the weather. Inner ear infection bites the big one.

2/20/06, 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best yet. I laughed so hard my brain tumer didn't have a chance to grow.

2/20/06, 9:12 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Hahahaha... ohhhhhh, dear. I am the complete opposite. I think I'm fine, the baby's fine, we're all fine. I am so completley not worried about anything health-related ever.

I thought I would have a child and turn into my mother but not so much. I'm more like the stoned older sister I never had. "Duuuuude. It's alllllll good. Wanna do a whip-it?"

...Okay, maybe I'm somewhere in the middle.

2/20/06, 11:23 PM  
Blogger the stefanie formerly known as stefanierj said...

Hear, hear to all the comments. Thanks to this post, I've decided I will only start watching "House" again if they get a case of TSS. Every woman raised in the 80s will know what it is within the first 2 minutes of the show but the men will probably run out of time, treating the woman for the plague and smallpox and stuff.

2/21/06, 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WebMD helped me diagnose myself with prostate cancer...btw, I am a woman and all the symptoms of prostate cancer are also the same symptoms (to an extent) of pregnancy. LOL

2/22/06, 3:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally have always been scared to death of spontaneous human combustion. (Talk about your totally irrational fears.) Of course, if that were to hit I don't think I would be looking up any symptoms in WebMD afterwards ... my understanding is that you're just pretty much ashes on the floor .... perhaps I need to spend some more time on this subject?

2/24/06, 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I had the TSS fear when I was younger! I actually asked my gyno if I was at risk and she gave me a weird look and said, "If you're that uncomfortable, don't use tampons." Well, duh. I hate rational people.

5/10/06, 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been always terrified of toxic shock syndrome too! I have no idea what it actually is, but my tampon case keeps telling me WARNING! WARNING!

5/25/07, 1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading this for shits and giggles I went to WebMD and put in my symptoms I've had so far the 2 months I've been pregnant. I got 20 possible illnesses none of which indicate pregnancy.. They are as follows:

4.Gas pains
8.Interstitial cystitis
9.Ovaian cancer
10.Uterine fibroids
11.Medication reaction
12.Unrinary tract infection
13.Budd-Chiari syndrome
14.Lactose intolerance
15.Pelvic inflamatory disease
17.Muscle strain
19.Anal fissure
20.Bladder stones

WOW! I think I may need to address all of these problems with my ob/gyn tomorrow, I may not be pregnant. This is quite bothersome!

5/14/08, 2:08 AM  

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