Alison Berkley: The Princess’ Palate
August 4, 2010
“Are you a fainter?” the nurse asks as she walks into the examining room.
She is clumsily armed with syringes and gauze and vials for my blood. She looks like someone at the grocery store who probably should have grabbed a cart.
“No, I’m good,” I say. I hadn’t actually thought about fainting before, but now that she brought it up, I’m not so sure.
I do know this is only the beginning of what I’ll probably have to go through now that I have decided to submit to the ways of modern medicine.
I have always found the best medicine is preventative medicine: stay away from doctors and you’ll never get sick. More often than not you go to a doctor and they either misdiagnose you or they prescribe medication that does nothing more than riddle you with side effects that are 10 times worse than whatever ailment it was you had in the first place.
Whenever I have some persistent ailment, I’ll call my dad. He’s a shrink, but he’s also a medical doctor with the power of the prescription pad. More often than not he’ll say, “Take four Advil.” He thinks Advil will fix anything, especially when it’s washed down with a quadruple espresso.
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My last run-in with the doctor was a few months ago, when I had something stuck in my eye.
“Sounds like you got something stuck in your eye. You should go see an ophthalmologist,” my dad says. He does not say anything about ibuprofen so I’m thinking this could be serious.
I go to the doctor the next day. After examining me, the doctor sits slumped in his chair, sighs and says, “I’m really sorry.”
“What? Do I have cancer or something? Am I dying?”
“No. You have herpes,” he says.
“I have herpes. In my eye?” I say, almost laughing. “Not like the STD herpes, though, right? Because I know I don’t have that. I recently had an annual exam at the gyno-“
“No, it’s not that strain of herpes, but it is herpes.”
“That’s ridiculous. Who gets herpes in their eye?” I say. I don’t know why I think this is so funny, but I do.
“I wouldn’t talk about it if I were you,” the doctor says. “People aren’t comfortable with the ‘H’ word.”
I’m perplexed by this attitude, especially because he tells me something like 95 percent of the population carries this virus. All I can think about are cartoon-like images of me tripping over my shoelace and landing on someone so I smack them with my eyeball and then they end up catching my disease. I imagine running around like a pirate, screaming “Arrrggggh” and smashing my eyeball against people I don’t like.
It stops being funny when I go to pick up the prescription he’s given me and it’s $360 for the medication.
“I think you need to get a second opinion,” my dad says. “I don’t like the sound of this.”
This coming from the guy who told me “Yep, those are red bumps. That’s what that is,” when I went running to him with a painful rash all over my side that turned out to be shingles.
So I go to this other doctor in Steamboat who has much fancier equipment and takes all these photos that I can see on the screen, which is pretty cool.
“I think you’ve got something in there,” he says, pointing it out on the screen. “See that shiny thing right there?”
He numbs my eye and uses a blunt instrument to get it out and bam! I’m cured.
So you can understand my reluctance to go down this road of fertility medicine. I know these people are very well educated and all that, but if one doctor can’t get the sand out of my eye, how is another going to be able to solve the great mystery that is the female reproductive system?
So far it’s been a series of riddles that only lead deeper and deeper into the maze of mind, body and heart. It’s a game filled with questions that can only be answered with more questions.
It usually goes something like, “What does that mean?”
And the doctor says, “Well, this may or may not affect things. You may or may not be at risk for giving birth to a child with three eyeballs and 17 toes. There is an increased risk, but we can’t know for sure.”
You get to learn all about the complicated minutia that may or may not affect your reproductive system, only to hear 23 stories from friends about how they knew 45 instances where the doctors were wrong and it was the Robitussin/acupuncture/evening primrose oil/drunk night in New Orleans that did the trick.
Instead of getting a “better picture of where I’m at,” as was originally suggested, I’m right back where I started, only more confused and afraid than I ever was. It’s like, “OK, to get to the pot of gold you’re going to rappel off the side of this cliff, but this rope may or may not hold your weight based on your body temperature, your astrological sign and your mother’s blood type. It could work though.”
What’s worse, there’s an emotional element to all of this that no amount of will or yoga breathing can prepare you for. It might even shed some light on religion and war. Human beings just don’t do very well with the unexplainable: what happens when you die, where we come from, and how we got here. There are plenty of theories out there but no one really knows the answer, even if they are willing to fight to the death for their ideas.
So now that I’ve been blindfolded, spun around a few times and pointed toward the donkey, the least I can do is have fun trying to play the game. I can only hope it’s not my ass that’s pinned to the wall.
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