The Upside of Hypochondria

In my mind, I’m constantly dying of things without ever actually dying. Everything is cancer. Lumps are compared for symmetry – “does this ankle look the same as this ankle to you!? The left one is lumpier, amiright?” Every mole is another eye of Sauron. I’m a basketcase most of the time.

I could blame this on my mother and her general sense of paranoia, but I don’t. I blame it on Whiskey. Back in that ever-eventful fifth grade year when we lived in the haunted apartment and everything possible went wrong, mom picked up a Dr. Hippie’s Home Remedies for Ailments A-Z from the library’s books by the inch sale.

Shortly thereafter, Whiskey fell ill. He was suffering from the kinds of vague, “flu-like symptoms” that inevitably trigger death sentence warning from webMD. But we didn’t have the internet yet. We had a shitty doctor who thought everything would work itself out and, closer to home, a general reference guide for do it yourself surgeons. After a few days of wretched fever, vomiting, and body aches, mom took him to the doctor. They said he had the flu and sent him home to ride it out.

After another day of Price is Right reruns and extreme pain, Mom took him back in. The doctor told her to just relax, have a glass of wine, and give the kid more Tylenol. Whiskey, at this point, was in constant agony and mom was afraid of overdosing him on pain meds.

That’s when Whiskey took matters into his own hands and started reading up on Dr. Hippie. An hour later, Whiskey shuffled into the kitchen clutching the tomb in his pale hands. “I figured it out,” he said. “I have appendicitis.”

I think most parents would scoff. Mom did not. The two of them conferred over the manual, heads bowed together. Mom poked him in the stomach. Whiskey screamed. She called my dad.

“Your son has appendicitis. I’m taking him back into the clinic and I’m not leaving until they admit him. You might want to come back me up.” (BTW, all of this is an implied threat to my father’s life, but you need to hear the tone and know my mom really well to truly feel the terror)

She ran us back to the clinic. Dad wisely met us there. The lady behind the glass wisely ushered us back into a nice, private room.

“My son has appendicitis!” mom snapped, before the doctor could say a word.

The doctor scoffed. “You’ve diagnosed him?” he asked, his voice chock full of condescending patience.

“He diagnosed himself,” mother announced with all due pride. The boy was clearly a genius.

“Look, ma’am, I understand that it’s hard to see your son sick, but if you’ll just give him more Tylenol for the pain and plenty of fluids, I’m sure you’ll all survive.”

Mom turned to dad, but he had the look of a man about to side with the doctor. She gave him the option of walking away if he didn’t want to see her completely lose her shit. Then she completely lost her shit.

“I’m not leaving until you get a real doctor to look at my son. I will burn you and this building to the f*ing ground before I take one step, you Grenadian med-school quack. Those were my tax dollars saving your sorry ass from too many rum and cokes and just maybe accidentally learning anything…”*

The doctor began to mutter something about going to school in the states.

“I will stand here and scream like a goddam crazy woman until the cops drag me away in front of all those nice people in the waiting room…”

Conveniently, a surgeon happened to hear the commotion (or was possibly fetched by a wise nurse) and came into our room. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked, as businesslike as if my mother wasn’t on the verge of a good ugly-cry and/or stabbing his colleague to death with his own pen.

“My son has appendicitis,” my mother said at the same time Dr. Dumbass said, “her son has the flu.”

The surgeon knelt by my brother and felt his abdomen. He stood and turned to the nurse. “Get this child prepped for immediate surgery.”

I’d like to say the doctor then choked on his own tongue, but he didn’t. He just looked like he had.

After that little incident, Dr. Hippie’s Guide to Ailments got busted out at the first sign of illness and every lump became cancer of the elbow. It’s a good thing I have decent health insurance, because all this paranoia really adds up. Especially now that the internet exists.

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And that’s how Whiskey’s successful and life-saving self-diagnosis ruined my life.

That’s just typical Whiskey, too. Brothers, man. Selfish. You should have seen him work the recovery process for toys and total control of the TV remote. Nothing but Thundercats for a week.


*(If you understand the Grenada joke, high five Whiskey – it’s pretty f*ing obscure)

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