Case of the Googles

April 26, 2013 

My infatuation with medical issues dates back to elementary school. Not long after the third grade began, my face turned beet red and I started to rub up against door jambs, window sills, desks, teachers, flag poles, anything that could help scratch the itch that seemed to well up from some evil place within. The wriggling and scratching got to the point where my father determined I could do an effective job of scraping paint off the house simply by holding me against the siding. It was then that my mother decided it might be time to have me checked out.

Fifth’s disease was the diagnosis. The doctor assured my folks that the virus would run its course soon enough, and encouraged them to finish painting the house quickly before my symptoms abated and I would be of no use. Later that night, my mother put me into a bath so hot I could barely sit down. She then went into the kitchen for something I hoped would be a lotion, ointment, or salve, something to put out the fire. Instead of medicine, however, she came back with oatmeal. Yes, my loving, compassionate mother dumped half a box of Quaker Oats into the tub with me.

Even at the tender age of eight, I realized this was not OK. Earlier in the day, I had rubbed my legs together so hard to scratch them, that If I had my corduroy pants on, I could have literally burned down the house. For this agony, I was made to believe the best that medicine had to offer in the late 1970s was to make breakfast out of me. I wondered aloud as to why she didn’t throw in some brown sugar and raisins, maybe poach an egg while she was at it.

It was a clear sign that I needed to take charge of my own healthcare. Becoming medically literate in those pre-Internet days wasn’t easy. I read anything I could get my hands on: books, magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedia after encyclopedia. At the age of 12, I made an appointment with my doctor convinced I had Bora-Bora. The doctor asked me if I had been bitten by a mosquito in French Polynesia any time within the last few weeks. When I answered no, he told me I had the flu and to stop reading National Geographic, just look at the pictures like everyone else does.

The advent of the Internet has made medical research much, much easier. Information on anything, from acne to zygomycosis, is available with a simple click of a mouse. You would think the World Wide Web, this data bonanza, would be a comfort, but in fact, I think that maybe too much information is out there now.

Last week I had been feeling poorly, afflicted with several seemingly unrelated symptoms over the span of a few days. Naturally, I sat down at the computer and punched up Google, the all knowing cyber physician. It is with regret and deep sadness that I must report to you that I have abdominal cancer, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, peripheral nueropathy, glaucoma, spinal stenosis, kidney stones, testosterone deficiency, osteoarthritis, restless leg syndrome, and aggressive halitosis. According to the tombs of information available online, I have approximately twenty three minutes left to live.

With all due respect to Al Gore, I think the Internet was invented by doctors to insure waiting rooms full of co-pays from well read hypochondriacs. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to spend what little time I have left researching the great beyond and brushing my teeth.

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