By Stephanie D. Lewis
When I first heard the phrase “No Worries!” I knew whoever thought it up was definitely not Jewish. Because Jewish people have lots of worries — especially about their health. And if by chance they never learned how to worry, I offer instruction in a special course — “Intro to Neurotic Apprehension 101.” As the local Executive Worrier-In-Chief expert, the internet has not been my friend. I realized this when they invented Web MD. The name was a subtle hint. “Web.” Who has webbed feet? Ducks do! And what do ducks say? “Quack!” Translation: Stay off Web MD, Stephanie!
But this does not deter me from typing my latest symptom, “Sensation of thumbtacks sticking into my arms” into a different medical site and obtaining the diagnosis from hell. Four awful diagnoses, actually. One relates to my brain, one to my heart, another to my lungs, and a final one to my stomach. Notice that none of the diseases have anything even remotely to do with my arms. And all are deemed extremely fatal. Naturally.
Having gotten Bs in my deductive logic classes in college, I know it’s improbable I am afflicted with ALL FOUR of these maladies, which gives me a bit of comfort. Next, I do what I always do at 2:00 am when I need assistance with matters like these. I log onto a local hospital patient support group and post a message about my situation on their board. I describe my symptom in great detail and ask if someone out there has experienced something similar, but everything turned out to be okay? I stare at the screen for hours, awaiting a reassuring response. And then it dawns on me: the reason nobody can answer my question. Everyone who had thumbtack sensations in their arms has already passed away from it.
Should I write my obituary, my will, or my eulogy first? As this question plagues me, my boyfriend convinces me to go to an actual Urgent Care facility for “peace of mind.” They always call it that when you’re resistant to people drawing your blood and using it to run tests. “Just go for the peace of mind!” they’ll coax. It takes me a while to get an appointment because word of mouth of what kind of patient I am travels fast. Finally, I book with a brand-new doctor and fill out his form in the waiting room as several people stare at me rubbing my tingling arms.
Under “Reason for today’s visit” I write, “Look at me! Isn’t it obvious? I just need the doctor to confirm how much time I have left.” And next to “Weight” I put down, “Who cares at this point? Just order me a size 6 burial gown.” (Okay, okay so I’m banking on the fact that loss of appetite kicks in with this particular disease very soon.) When the form asks for my profession, I print, “Writer.” Then I add, “Pssssst! Hot Tip: Publish this form ASAP! Everyone knows a deceased author’s last work will become enormously valuable.”
I’m interrupted by the doctor calling me in. He listens to my heart and pronounces it steady and strong. I ask when he last had his stethoscope calibrated? I describe my symptom (this time likening it to being stabbed with steak knives) and he asks if I’ve ever heard of “Transient Paresthesia?” Petrified, I blurt out, “Oh no! Not that, Dr! I never even ride on trains or busses!”
“Not Transit. Transient! Meaning short-lived,” he clarifies. To which I respond, “Good Lord, you mean I’m gonna go even quicker than I thought?” I’ll never forget his final words (which he dictated into his phone) after he explained to me that Transient Paresthesia = Plain Old Limbs Falling Asleep. As for his final words? “Note to self: Instruct receptionist to block this patient’s cell number and email address!”
Stephanie D. Lewis writes humor for Huffington Post and at https://medium.com/@MissMenopause