TRIED AS AN ADULT: Making a Hypochondriac

My dad is a recently retired physician who specialized in internal medicine. Basically, he was the guy you go see if you’re sick and don’t know who to take your clothes off in front of about it.

I’ve talked to lots of people with at least one parent in the health care community, and we share varying degrees of hypochondria. Think of it like this: If your dad is a mechanic, you can guess a simple reason why your car is making that noise, but the first thing that pops into your head is going to be the most time-consuming and expensive possibility.

Transfer that concept to the pile of warm meat that’s keeping you alive and conscious. Now add coming to grips with mortality before kindergarten because your dad’s conversation about his day at work involved the sound an 80-year-old woman’s ribs made as they splintered like kindling when he administered chest compressions.

I can give you 10 lethal reasons your stomach hurts before I get close to saying “gastroenteritis.” Headache? Back pain? Frequent sneezing? You have no idea how fucked you are.

Doctor’s kids get this way honestly. Our homes are filled with books full of naked people for us to slake our pubescent hormones with. Naked people with transparent layers you can peel back one page at a time to reveal the muscular, skeletal, and endocrine systems. Naked people with lesions and massive tumors. Naked people with trauma that should have killed them. But no, there they are, eyes wide open and clearly conscious as an exposed lung inflates for the camera.

I can give you 10 lethal reasons your stomach hurts before I get close to saying “gastroenteritis.” Headache? Back pain? Frequent sneezing? You have no idea how fucked you are.

In middle school, I was coupling Stephen King’s It with Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die when I bumped into another thing about growing up around a medical professional that makes us nuts. I fell off of a rope swing and broke a rib. I heard it crack when I hit the rocks in the stream below the tree I was swinging from. However, when I told my physician dad and former NICU nurse mom I broke a rib, they laughed at me.

“It would hurt worse if it was broken. You wouldn’t be walking around so easily.”

Those were my mother’s exact words before she started tickling me to make me laugh because it hurt. For medical professionals, pain is as common a symptom as a runny nose or a headache, so that whole 1-to-10 scale they give you in the exam room is for their benefit. It’d always hurt worse if it was broken.

It was broken. Three months later, I discovered a lump on my side that turned out to be a calcium deposit around the knitting bone. This is still a running joke in my family.

It’s a two-sided coin of doubt. “This could totally be cancer or a stroke or blood leaking into my stomach. Then again, it’s probably just the result of me sleeping weird. Then again, I could be ignoring the beginning of something that will kill me in a month unless I get it looked at right now. Then again, it’s probably just a deep bruise that mom will poke when she asks to see it.”

Every symptom is simultaneously easily explainable and the last thing you’ll notice before you die.

When I was 5, I learned that smelling burning hair can be a symptom of a stroke. To this day, every time I smell it, I start reading the first written word available to make sure it still makes sense, and then I run through all my old phone numbers in my head.

Same thing with burning toast.

Or oranges, and I love oranges.

Every symptom is simultaneously easily explainable and the last thing you’ll notice before you die.

So yeah, I was a little hesitant about asking my dad about the possibility of me having a cancer — that I thought I was two years out of the woods of possibly contracting — that also required me to talk about my balls. Plus, everything I’d read pointed toward epididymitis, a fairly common inflammation of the epididymis, that little tube I told you to check when I explained testicle self-exams two articles back. You can listen to me talk about it and the dubious reason I may have caused it at length on “Dorque Podcast, Episode 99.”

I did end up talking to my dad about it, though; and as always, he was totally cool. He agreed with what I thought it was before prescribing some antibiotics to knock it out, and that was all she wrote. Although, he told me to keep a proverbial eye on “things” and gave me the name of a couple of urologists to see if things didn’t improve.

After a couple of days, my left testicle started feeling better for the first time in weeks. Cancer averted. Nerves calmed.

Then, no shit, the right one started hurting like it felt I was ignoring it.

 

“Tried as an Adult” is a series by Knick Moore chronicling his recent health issues. You can follow the entire series here.

About Knick Moore

Knick Moore
Knick Moore hasn't been a smoker since 2007. However, this picture is just too stylish to replace.

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