Tag Archives: sickness


19 Mar


A few weeks ago, I got hacked.

Not cyber-hacked. (That was my mother. She started tweeting out messages about Beyoncé’s weight gain…which made sense to me because my mom is in the one-percent of people who really are not Beyoncé fans. But even still – that would have been way harsh.)

I mean “hacked” like Hacksaw Ridge hacked. (No. Just kidding. I don’t. That’s way too aggressive an analogy for what I’m about to describe. I just wanted to sound cinema-fluent and current.)

About a month ago, I went to the dermatological surgeon for a “brief,” “routine” procedure.

“You have a weird mole,” my dermatologist told me. “It’s probably nothing! It’s probably less than nothing! In fact, it’s probably not even there! This has probably all been a dream!”

She’s a nice dermatologist, and she has really nice shoes. But she was dead wrong about this one.

One biopsy later and BOOM: you have “problematic skin cells.” Not cancerous, or even pre-cancerous cells – just “problematic” ones.

The way I see it, problematic cells are like problematic children: if left unattended, they may grow up to be problematic adults – people who don’t recycle, or who start bar fights, or who only talk to their parents when they need money (to be bailed out of jail).

If you remove problematic cells, then you’re at a much lower risk for developing pre-cancer, or cancer. (I’m not suggesting we kill off problematic children. I’m suggesting we nip them in the bud, with a firm talking to, or a good, thorough PowerPoint on recycling.)

As I understood it, I was going to this dermatological surgeon to remove a few “problematic cells.”


I showed up to the doctor five minutes late, but chipper. It was the Friday of a long weekend! I was home for the weekend! My parents were taking me to Papa Razzi, where the breadsticks are firm and the focaccia bread is moist. So I’d be a few cells fewer…what’s the big deal? What could go wrong?

Would you like to know what the surgeon said to me, as soon as I walked into the “operating room”?

“I’m really sorry about this,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty.”

What wasn’t going to be pretty?

“It’s a tough area to heal. You’re probably going to have a pretty big scar. Again, I’m sorry.”

The surgeon was preemptively apologizing to me. Save an oral surgery procedure and one rogue colonoscopy, I don’t have much experience with surgery (*knock on wood*). But I knew this was not a good opening line.

I was nervous, and he could tell. As he numbed my leg, I tried to answer his questions about my life and my studies. I tried to tell myself that scars build character and besides, wouldn’t I rather have a scar over “problematic” cells?

The male nurse came in to assist. He was cute. I noticed. My toenails were unpolished and kind of gross-looking. I worried he’d noticed. He probably had.

I’ll spare you the details of this procedure, but let me say this: I am NOT a fan of surgery. I nearly passed out, peed, barfed, and cried, all at the same time. I think the doctor could tell I was about to up and run, because he started asking me if I watched…WAIT FOR IT… The Bachelor.

I must’ve lit up like a Christmas tree, because he looked like he’d struck gold. We talked about this season. I pretended I was too good to “fall into the trap” of the show. (I crossed my fingers underneath my butt because of course I’m not too good to “fall into the trap” – I jump in, every season, head first!)

When all was said and done, they mandated me not to exercise for two weeks (no problem, gentlemen) and to clean my stitches. HA! You think I’m taking that bandage off? Think again!

The day after my “surgery,” my grandmother showed up at my house with a present. Not a stuffed animal, or some soup, but…a “leg condom.”

What is a leg condom? Why does my grandmother have a leg condom? Who coined the term, “leg condom”?

These are all very good questions.

A “leg condom” is a big, plastic stocking that you wear over your leg when you cannot wet it in the shower. It cuts off your circulation with a big rubber-band and makes it impossible to wash from the knee-down. It also creates a safety hazard in the shower because it is very slippery against a porcelain tub.

My grandmother has a leg condom because she, too, had a skin procedure that mandated she keep the area dry.

The term “leg condom” was invented by my grandmother. It was the topic of conversation at at least two family dinner parties that I can recall. And now, it had re-entered my life with a vengeance.

After a long explanation about leg condom usage, and a lot of weird looks from my poor father, we had a cup of tea and my grandmother was on her way.

I received several texts that day, asking how the “L.C.” had worked out in the shower, and if everything had stayed dry. These texts were sent under the assumption that I am someone who showers over a long-weekend. Am I? You’ll never know; a lady never reveals her bi-weekend shower rituals.

Two weeks passed quickly, and I again found myself at my dermatological surgeon’s office. I waited 45-minutes for him to take a snip to my stitches and say, “Looks great! All done!” Couldn’t I have done this myself? I have scissors. I know how to congratulate myself. I’d make a fabulous dermatological surgeon.

I told the doctor that I was to leave on a trip to Guatemala the following morning. He told me to be careful and to avoid any intense activity.

I said, lightheartedly, “Ok, but, it’s not like the scar is going to split open, right?”

“That’s exactly what might happen,” he said, before patting me on the shoulder and walking out.

I panicked to my mother. I told her I’d never be able to pose for leg photographs again. I worried about my leg modeling career. I worried about my potential marathon career. I feared I’d never have an article written about me, titled, “Leg Model Wins Marathon.” I also worried I’d do something rash on my trip to Guatemala, like sky diving or bungee jumping, which would cause my leg to explode and me to be evacuated in a dramatic helicopter scene.


And so, we reach the present-day. Guatemala has come and gone, and while I thought my scar would be my biggest health concern during the trip, it was not. Nothing split open or necessitated medical evacuation.

There were, however, some *other* medical issues.

There’s nothing like a little Dengue Fever to distract yourself from an overreaction to a minor skin procedure and its scar.

Did I actually contract Dengue Fever? Of course not. Did I convince myself I had? Of course.

What our group learned in Guatemala is that one day, you’ll feel fine – you’ll sip strawberry daiquiris and eat side lettuce and wonder why Guatemala gets such a bad rap for its food safety because my God, this food is delicious!

The next day, you’ll feel like an army of trolls is trying to make its way out of your insides. You’ll run five minutes down a lakeside trail to use a nearby public restroom because both toilets in the house where you’re staying will be clogged.

You’ll walk back to the house, feeling “off,” but convinced there’s nothing a little oatmeal and some fresh air won’t solve.

You’ll spend your day in the sun, riding on boats between villages, trying to not act sick. You may even eat an entire Hawaiian pizza, just to prove to yourself how totally not sick you feel.

Then, you’ll get home, and you’ll get in bed with a fever. You’ll ache and feel cold and then hot. You’ll notice a petit bug bite on your cheek. You’ll remember that one time your friend was sick with Dengue Fever. You’ll wonder if Guatemala has a Dengue risk. Because you’ll – unfortunately – have Wi-Fi, you’ll Google such questions, and will discover that yes, Guatemala is, in fact, a Dengue country. What harm could a little Dengue research do to a feverish young woman? Much. Much harm.

You’ll read the symptoms for Dengue and decide that you, too, have been stricken by the D. You’ll text your mom and make her panic. You’ll tell your roommate that the incubation period for Dengue is “three to 15 days,” and that you’ll surely be bedridden for the remainder of the trip. She’ll walk in on you wearing a dramatic mosquito net as a veil, and will laugh openly in your face. You’ll consider what to eat for your last supper. You’ll ask her to bring you back a full fish meal, with cake for dessert, from the group dinner you’ll miss. She’ll do so, kindly, and you won’t touch a bit because you, of course, have the Dengue.

The next morning, much to your surprise, you’ll wake up feeling totally fine. You won’t have a fever. You won’t even have a stomach ache. You’ll smell like someone who sweat through a mosquito net all night, but other than that, you’ll be back to normal.

And so, here is my recommendation: if something, such as a big leg scar, makes you feel at-risk and slightly uncomfortable, simply convince yourself you have a far worse issue plaguing you. Act as dramatic as possible and get everyone around you to worry. Do not consider alternative causes for your discomfort. Let your imagination run wild.

That, my friends, is what I call, “getting some perspective.”







Two Turkeys, One Swine, and a Duck

29 Nov

turkey eat-ham.png

It’s the day before Thanksgiving 2010. I’m sitting in my “American Rebels and Romantics” literature class and it hits me: a fever. Aches, chills, hot and cold, all at the same time. Luckily, I’m wearing two North Face fleece sweatshirts because this was the height of the “Mountain Man Meets Suburban Woman” fashion trend. We all showed up to school looking like we were expecting to “weather the elements,” eat a Cliff bar or two, and then take a nice nap in our polartec sleeping bags.

I go to take my Pre-Calc test and numbers and formulas are whizzing through my head. This must be how Einstein felt on the regular, I think to myself. Feverish with a passion for CALCULATIONS.

(It was the best grade I ever got on a Pre-Calc test. I think we can thank the fever.)

When I got home that afternoon and told my mom I wasn’t feeling well, I threw my entire house into a state of panicked delirium.

“SHE COULD HAVE SWINE FLU, MIKE,” my mom yelled. “We need to keep her isolated!!”

Yes, this was the height of le Swine. Everyone was on high alert.

“Did you hear that Rosie got…swine flu?!” the town’s mothers were whispering, as if Rosie were pregnant and dating a teacher, all at the same time.

My sister has severe asthma, so my family was – understandably – on high alert.

And so, they forced me to wear a mask and gloves and to stay in my room like some kind of walking contagion. (My mom will be mortified that I’m recounting this story. Onward.)

And so I sat, in my room, like a shorthaired, brunette princess. This was my Sleeping Beauty story.

My uncle stopped by that night and brought me a little stuffed animal. I waved to him sadly at my window, in a scene fit to be a Lifetime movie trailer.

I thought Thanksgiving was going to hell in a hand basket.


No one was keeping me up there. In fact, I think everyone had forgotten by that point and was eating pizza and watching the latest Twilight movie. But melodrama is my thing.

The next morning, I awoke and felt…completely normal. My fever was gone, my appetite was back, and I felt like myself again. Whatever mutant illness had attempted to enter my body the day before had clearly been scared off by my incessant whaling tantrum.

“She’s fucking nuts, I’m outta here!” it probably said. Kind of like the Mucinex commercial.

And so, I rejoined my family – sans gloves and mask – and we celebrated Thanksgiving as normal. And by “normal,” I mean that every time my parents asked me to “please pass the___,” I responded with, “WAIT, HANG ON, let me put on my gloves.”

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2015 and I’m in bed, with a fever.

The day before, I was waiting to try to register for a French Pilates course (which luckily was at capacity), when a familiar yet unfailingly uncomfortable feeling hit me: aches, chills, hot and cold, all at the same time. (Plus the kind of stomach pain that you just know will lead to that scene from Bridesmaids.)

Oh shit, I thought. I think I’m getting sick. It must have been the duck I ate for lunch.

What do people do when they feel themselves getting sick? I’m not sure. I decided it was necessary to run – not walk – to the nearest produce market and buy clementines and oranges. There’s NEVER a bad time for citrus. The fruit man looked at the glassy-eyed, sweating and shivering girl in his store and definitely thought he was selling to someone in the heat of drug withdrawals.

When I had my fruit fix, I ran home and jumped in bed.

Because I’m an adult (kind of) and living in France, there is no parental supervision to force me to wear a mask and gloves. There is just me, myself, and I. (Plus my kind roommate, who bought me Powerade, and the other really nice people here who check in on me.)

The most gratifying part of getting sick is being able to whine and complain about it. Because when you’re sick – especially on a holiday – it’s like you’re the ONLY person to have EVER been sick in the history of the WORLD. No sickness has EVER been worse than the one you’re experiencing:

Why is this happening to me?? I love Thanksgiving more than literally ANYONE ELSE on this planet. This is SO unfair! Is this happening because I accidentally tripped that six-year-old last week so as to avoid stepping in dog shit? Or, is it because of that one time I lied about being sick in high school so I wouldn’t have to go to chorus dress rehearsal? The universe is SO unkind. I’m swearing off reading horoscopes for at least the foreseeable future. The universe doesn’t deserve my business!  

When you don’t want to drive your roommate insane, there is no one to whom you can bitch and moan. That’s when hallucinations come in handy.

Is that a fly on my wall? No, it’s a stain. It kind of looks like John Cena’s head:

john cena head

*John Cena’s head then starts talking.*

Omg you’re so funny, John Cena’s head, hahaha you kill me! Omg STOP, you’re crazy! You’re so bad! I loved you in Trainwreck!

Then comes the realization that maybe you should see someone. No, not John Cena. A real “someone,” like a doctor. Just to make sure it was, in fact, the duck you ate at that quaint little “Shop local, Eat Local, Smoke a Local Cigarette and then Don’t Wash Your Hands Before Cooking,” café.

And so, that is how I ended up in the one American doctor’s office in my town.

Dr. H, as we shall call him, wears suspenders and trendy glasses. He moved From the U.S. to France many years ago, and so kind of speaks English like a Disney cartoon character – with a mildly British accent. He said he recognized my slight “Massachusetts accent” and was thrilled to meet me, another American.

(Is speaking French with a slight “Massachusetts accent” more prestigious than speaking with a slight American accent? How is that detectable? I mean sure, I can ramble on about baked beans and tea parties for hours, but that’s more a question of content than sound…)

Dr. H took 30 seconds to examine me, told me that “life is beautiful,” wrote me three prescriptions (without really telling me if anything was actually ailing me), told me to eat a lot of “quince paste, boiled thyme, cooked cheese, and toast,” and then asked me to talk about my life in Boston.

In what will go down in history as one of the most heroic attempts to converse through the desire to shit oneself, I told Dr. H about my hometown, my friends, my family, BU, and what I’m doing in France. He told me he’s an “outdoors” person who enjoys a beer and pizza on a Friday night. (This statement confirmed his heritage. I then confirmed the truth of this statement by checking out his Match.com profile.)

When I checked my phone later that evening, there was a voicemail waiting for me from Dr. H, wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving. My parents thought this was weird. I then told them about John Cena’s head and they decided it might be best if I have a “doctor friend” close by.

Even when ill and in a different country, it’s nice to know there are people there for you. Let’s all be each other’s John Cena.

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