At various times, I’ve been convinced I have TB, a weak heart, eczema, skin cancer, AIDS, a bad liver, deafness, the beginnings of Alzheimers’ and so on. I only have to read the Mumbai Mirror in the morning to be convinced that I am perishing of something quite serious.
Though this warrants several checks in the bathroom mirror between midnight and 3 am, it still takes a lot of nagging from Teja for me to go and see the doctor. Maybe because my doctor usually puts my niggling doubts to a definite rest.
In the last few months, 3-4 friends had been talking to me about their thyroid problems, and with my usual empathy, I checked off all the symptoms they mentioned on my own list of ‘yes, I have that’ – dry skin, dry, thinning hair, fatigue, unexplained weight gain. (the unexplained part being that I never explain my weight gain to anybody, the fact that I don’t diet and don’t exercise, yes, that’s unexplained.)
Anyway, after weeks of anxiety over my supposed hypothyroidism, I thought I’d be smart and prescribe a thyroid test for myself. The lab was smarter and gave me back a report that made no sense to me and which I would need to take to my doctor to decode.
Me: “Dr. M, first I must apologize because I took a test without you asking me to.”
He raises his eyebrows.
Me stumbling on my words: “It’s just that I feel so tired these days.”
Dr. M: “Everyone is tired these days.”
I raise my eyebrows.
Dr. M: “It’s the heat. And our diet. The fruits and vegetables we eat are so full of pesticides. The water we drink is unhealthy. The pollution. The stress. Also, you know, there are no movies being released these days.”
I don’t take too kindly to these generalities.
Me: “No, no. It’s not just that. I don’t get sleep. I feel my skin burning. My throat hurts. There’s a humming in my ears. I sweat all the time. My nose feels cold …”
He has heard several variations of this litany from me over the years he has known me, so he just takes the papers and looks at them intently. He turns them around, and looks at them upside down. He looks at the back of the papers. He looks at the front of them once again and then hands them back to me.
Dr. M: “The T4, T3, TSH counts are normal.”
I look disappointed. He feels sorry for me.
Dr. M: “Maybe you should take some more tests. Check your cholesterol, sugar, haemoglobin. Maybe you are not getting enough calcium. Look, let me prescribe some vitamins for you. Take them for a month. And if you still don’t feel well, come back, and I’ll write you some tests.”
I nod happily. I pay him his fees and come away clutching the precious prescription in my hand.
I feel quite alright that evening. Until the next morning, I read of Cushings’ disease and am convinced that my body is reeling under an excess of cortisol. However when I read up Cushings’ disease on the internet, the tests sound way too complicated and expensive to undertake. I decide this time, I will suffer quietly.