Mental Malpractice

One of the things they don’t tell you when you start dating a med student is that, shortly into third year, chronic hypochondria sets in. Not for the student, though. It’s always the significant other that gets hit hardest. For me, it started with a case of smallpox on my upper thigh last summer. Then in October I was 100 percent convinced I’d come down with Type 2 diabetes. It got so bad that I underwent a day-long battery of glucose tolerance testing, during which a caffeinated nurse extracted blood every hour, on the hour, and I came away with a bunch of heroin-addict like bruises (a constellation where Nurse Ratchet had hastily stuck me, like an uncooperative Voodoo doll).

The most recent self-diagnosis, two days ago, was for cancer of the tongue. A tickle in the back of my throat was the give-away, and after trying to scratch it, unsuccessfully, with both a bottle cap and toothbrush, it seemed necessary for further inspection. I bummed one of the many tongue depressors that have, of late, colonized our coffee table drawers. When I pressed down, there was nothing there. So I pressed harder and, Whala!, little white bumps appeared. “Ana!” I screamed. “I’m not imaging things. There’s definitely something here. You need to look again!”

She walked into the bathroom with an icy, Kevorkian-like skepticism. “Give it here,” she said, extending her hand for the saliva-coated depressor. As she looked in, I held a Mini Maglite to help illuminate the tumors in question. “Farther back, I mumbled, farther back.” Eventually she found what I was directing her for and suddenly her attitude changed. “Oh, honey. Oh, no. This doesn’t look good,” she said. “You’ve got circumvallate papillae.”

“What?” I yelped. “What’s that?” She explained that they were hideous white growths–growths that function as taste buds. Cancerous taste buds? I asked. Nope, she explained, just your run of the mill, factory installed taste buds. “Taste buds?” I said. “Come on. No way. Are you looking at the right thing?” She assured me that she was, and then, to officially debunk my self-diagnosis, she showed me her own circumvallate papillae (aka vallate papillae). A quick Google search revealed that, indeed, everyone has these cancerous looking taste buds at the back of their tongue. Who knew?

Okay, enough time devoted to this silly story. I’ve got a dermatitis on my leg that’s really in need of my full attention right now. From what Ive heard, it looks an awful lot like cirrhosis.