I’m a big proponent of NOT looking for medical advice on the Internet.
Even though I’m aware that many of the people who find this blog find it because they are doing exactly that.
(In fact, the most popular search that leads people to the Brain Chancery is “How would you know if you had a brain tumor?”)
Somebody thinks they have a brain tumor, and this is where the Internet sends them. How terrifying is that! (It certainly makes me an even stronger proponent of not looking for medical advice on the Internet…)
Anyway, despite my misgivings about the Internet’s reliability when it comes to medical advice (It said I would be dead in 14 months– nice try, Internet!), I recently found myself ignoring my own advice and scanning through a bunch of websites, looking for information on a weird medical condition I thought I might have. And when I say “weird medical condition,” I’m actually not talking about brain cancer– I already know I have that. (And I already know enough about it– there isn’t much the Internet would be able to tell me about what it’s like to have a Brain Chance.)
No, so the weird medical condition I was searching for information on is called *******’* ******** (NAME REDACTED SO OTHER PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY HAVE *******’* ******** DON’T WIND UP FINDING THIS BLOG BY ACCIDENT, THINKING IT MIGHT HELP THEM. BECAUSE WE CERTAINLY WOULDN’T WANT THAT.)
And as it turns out, having *******’* ******** would totally explain a lot of the strange symptoms I’d been experiencing. And these were symptoms that probably had nothing to do with brain cancer.
Stretch marks, for example.
“Stretch marks?!?” I’d find myself almost saying out loud as I looked with disgust at my newly (and oddly) fat belly, sitting atop newly (and oddly) skinny legs. “How the hell did I get stretch marks!?”
It was a real mystery. I mean, I had clearly put on some weight over the preceding months, thanks to the medication I was on (as well as the fact that I could barely tie my shoes, let alone go running).
But I hadn’t put on that much weight! So how the hell did I end up with stretch marks!? Even my friend who is seven months pregnant doesn’t have stretch marks!
(POINT OF CLARIFICATION SO SHE DOESN’T KILL ME: She is not fat. At all. But she has a human being growing inside her belly! And still, no stretch marks!)
As it turns out (and as my doctor confirmed, since I certainly wasn’t going to just take the Internet’s word for it), these kind of stretch marks are called abdominal striae, and they are a very common symptom of *******’* ********.
And so were a bunch of the other weird things I’d been experiencing, like the dry skin, and that oddly fat belly sitting atop those weirdly skinny legs.
(They call this “central obesity,” and if you’re smart with your Internet searching you’ve probably already figured out what *******’* ******** is.)
So that explained it! That is what I had! I had *******’* ********!
I felt better already.
Funny what a relief it is to be able to pinpoint causalities– to be able to put a name to a thing that ills you. In this case, the symptoms of *******’* ******** had already begun to fade, but what really made me feel better was knowing what the hell had caused them.
This, I realized, is why people search for medical information on the Internet, and it’s why I wound up doing the same thing: just being able to put a name to the disease gives you a small, desperately needed, sense of control. By knowing what it is, you are no longer just being wantonly pushed around by some Mysterious Ghost Illness (M.G.I.?) that could, the fear is, do anything to you. Whenever the hell it wants to.
Oh, I suddenly have purple stretch marks on my belly? Well then who knows– tomorrow I may just sprout a tiny set of hands out of my forehead!
It’s terrifying being a big fleshy ball of physical, mental and medical unpredictability. It’s terrifying, because you have no idea what the hell might come next.
Much in the same way that you wouldn’t want to have someone standing behind you all the time, randomly blaring an air gun and scaring the shit out of you– having a disease that you can’t name, or don’t understand, messes with you on a fundamental, instinctual level. We’d like to be able to at least predict the air horn, or the stretch marks, or the tiny forehead hands before they happen. Because then we could prepare ourselves.
Or, where applicable, run for our lives.
Speaking of which, I can’t wait to go running again. I just realized that the last time I went for a run was almost a year ago, when I ran to the hospital for brain surgery. I can prove it, because we filmed it!
But since then… well, I’ve just been too sick. But I am getting better. (I hope, at least!) And the desire is there– I remember how good it felt, how much it helped me. How much it made me feel better, even though I was sick.
But I look at that picture, the one of me running with Dutch, wearing my “RUNNING (out of time)” t-shirt… I look at that picture, and every time I think “How the hell did I do that??”
Wait, I know… I just put my sneakers on, and I went outside. And I started to run.
That’s how I did it.
And it always made me feel better.
30 minutes ago I sat in this chair, I picked up a pen, and I started to write.
And it definitely made me feel better.
Maybe I’ll get up and put my sneakers on…