I have a neighbor that’s a hypochondriac. She’s like a magnet when it comes to germs. If anyone in the neighborhood has a cold, flu, chicken pox or a hangnail, she will have it too. She has the most remarkable story about catching pneumonia from her grandmother in Cleveland – over the phone!
Anyway, when I came back from a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon and couldn’t get my energy back, I dropped by to see if she had any thoughts on what was wrong with me.
“Okay, tell me your symptoms.” she instructed, pulling up webmd.com and a stack of outdated medical books, because you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
“I just feel exhausted.”
“That’s good.” she nodded encouragingly. “And?”
“My throat feels a little constricted. And my head, it’s like it’s waterlogged.” I continued.
“That’s not normal for you?” she inquired.
“No. Not like this. It’s like a head cold. Sort of-”
“I’ve got it!” she said cutting me off. “You were bitten by a snake.”
I laughed thinking she was joking. She stared intently at me, causing me to question whether I really had been bitten by a snake. I sheepishly shook my head. “I wasn’t bitten by a snake. Sorry.”
She shrugged her eyebrows and went back to WEBMD. “Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”
“Do you have a rash? A cough? Blood in your urine?” she fired off. “Tingling in your fingers, ringing in your ears or unexplained teeth marks?”
She continued the medical interrogation another half hour until I was dizzy from shaking my head.
“Do you have a fear of coconuts, beards or flesh?”
“Flesh?” I asked. “Is that a thing?”
“Yes.” she said. “Flesh is a thing. It covers our bodies. The medical term is epidermis.”
“I, I know what it is. I just didn’t know people had a fear of – of flesh.”
She whipped her glasses off, her eyes boring into mine again. I’m not sure why she was wearing an antique head mirror, but the reflection of my eye in the clown-like mirror scared me as much as her look. “It’s called Selaphobia. It’s very serious.”
I nodded obediently. She held my gaze several more moments, then deliberately and dismissively closed her computer.
“You may have colorectal cancer. You’re going to need a rectal exam.”
Terror showed in my oversized eye of the clown mirror.
“You should see a doctor.” she continued.
Nodding rapidly in agreement, I jumped to my feet. “I – I – I – I, I’ll do that.” I said with a Bugs Bunny like stammer and bolted from her house.
I successfully avoided her for three weeks until I ran into her at CVS. She was getting burn cream for a third degree burn she caught from a fire fighter at a fundraiser. She inquired as to my health.
“How was the exam?” she asked raising her eyebrows and gesturing behind her with her thumb.
Horrified she was about to get personal in front of a line of strangers, I quickly explained it had been Valley Fever and I was back to normal.
“Coccidioides.” she said thoughtfully. “Just as I suspected. I thought that required a blood test. Did they-?”
Panicking at her line of questioning, I quickly glanced at my wrist, pretending there was a watch on it and threw my purchases on an open shelf.
“Is it that late? I’ll have to do this later..” I said beating a quick exit.
“I noticed your husband was growing a beard.” she hollered after me, unfazed by the growing distance between us. “Are you going to be okay with that? You should consider Cognitive Behavior Therapy!”