I don’t like failures. I usually don’t consider failure an option. Not that I have had none (as the multiple attempts to get a Massachusetts driving license stand to prove), but my little ego takes pride in proclaiming so.
So when I got the results from the lab for my Complete Blood Count and C-Reactive Protein, I was surprised. The readings were off the normal values stated in the report. The worst report I had ever gotten. There were so many red marks on the report that it looked like a report card I had nightmares about in school. On hindsight, I should have been happy. I have been sick for three weeks now and there was proof that something is actually wrong and hence can be treated! But when your body is tired and brain is dull from the fever pills and painkillers, you don’t make rational connections (or so I justify myself).
My next step? You guessed it. Google.
See, I consider myself a responsible Netizen, not someone easily swayed by the constant stream of multiple view points that pour through the Internet. For instance, coffee is bad one day and the super food antioxidant the next day. I have learnt that what you read needs to be taken with a big pinch of salt and applied in life even sparsely with a generous dose of commonsense.
But let’s just refer back to my dull brain. Commonsense was not happening and I have already told you why. On the health sites, every reading correlated to a set of possible diagnosis. Two thing were clearly in – Inflammation and Infection (and two things were out – Optimism and Logic). The term inflammation had a long list of possible outcomes, that ranged from anywhere from bacterial infection to leukemia. Yes, the C-word hidden in its medical term, which doesn’t make it any less terrifying.
The Mind, as you know, sees what it wants to see. When you imagine you have something terrible going on, it is quite easy to pull together all the evidences that support that possibility. I just turned 40. This mysterious illness came out of nowhere. I don’t seem to spring back like I usually do, my one course of antibiotics and multiple antics of holistic practices not withstanding. I had no energy, day after day.
Add to it, I am no stranger to falling sick or long bouts of being blue. But I usually know what is going on – like the time I slipped and injured my tail bone. The enemy has a face and I take out all my ammunition and go into battle. This time, I had no clear idea. There were good days and bad days and it seemed to go on.
I was spooked. That is the word. Spooked out of my natural mind and optimism. My heart sank. “What does this report actually mean?” I asked myself.
A question that definitely needs someone with medical knowledge to answer.
Sent the lab reports to my brother (he is a Pulmonologist) and waited until he called me back. The most tense 20 min ever during which I tried hard not to think or plan. Finally, he called me. “You have multiple infections”, he sounded somber, “You need a good dose of antibiotics and rest”.
Such a surge of relief washed over. I wish I could have hugged him! (Next time when we meet bro!)
Why am I sharing this intensely personal and humbling and actually embarrassing experience? It taught me a few things I was too proud (yes, proud) to notice earlier. So after a lot of debate and risking much damage to my otherwise composed and cool image, there it is. And here is what I learnt:
- Get a good doctor and stick with him/her. Internet is good in helping you make some sense of the symptoms and lab test results. But it cannot beat a diagnosis from a good doctor who knows your life style and medical history. Unfortunately the current Allopathy treatment culture does not take the time to understand the patient as a whole human (Patch Adams didn’t help enough) and rush to treat the symptoms. So finding a good reliable doctor is the key.
- Now here is the philosophical bit. It is often the strongest part of you that is also the weakest. You come to rely on that part so much so that you fail to notice what it is blocking from view. In this case, my obsession with health and fitness refused to acknowledge that I could catch a simple infection that needed antibiotics. I was convinced that if I was not getting better, it had to be something bigger that I could not beat with my sheer will power. I sure came to terms with that!!
- Get enough rest. I wish I would heed this advice myself. Illness is a way of your body reminding you to take some time off either from what is chewing your mind or plain physical exertion. Go back to my first statement in this blog. I don’t let go. This was a big hit to that part of my ego as well. We all have our obsessions and these downtimes are actually little breaks that give you a chance to let go off them.
- The fear is real. We unfortunately live in world where lifestyle choices lead to health conditions and the choices are not real choices. We all have to wade through traffic smoke, live with rising temperatures and pesticides in food. While it is not practical to live every minute evaluating the threats from these, when something feels off, trust your intuition. If you pay attention, it is possible to make out the difference between a rainy day sniffle and something more serious. Get it checked out when something does not feel right. I stretched it longer than I should have until I realised it was not going away.
Feel free to laugh at my hypochondriac moment as I live to write this and enjoy another day.