As mentioned in the past my doctor is a bit on the useless side of worthless. When I finally decided to seek medical advice concerning an assumed cyst which was causing people to ask if I’d taking up chewing tobacco, he suggested he could handle it himself (cutting noises and a finger drawn across the face) but sent me to a surgeon he knew instead. That surgeon balked at the idea and sent me to a plastic surgeon rather than risk a malpractice suit for scarring me. Subsequent trips to see my primary care practitioner have resulted in him asking, “What do you want?” and essentially allowing myself to prescribe whatever I think is necessary to alleviate my current condition. When I recently hit him up for a referral he explained that he couldn’t refer me for this particular problem and sent me off to grapple with my insurer. On the upshot he never expects me to come in regularly and never tries to poke or prod or stick me with a needle.
Unfortunately this just allows me to continue avoiding doctors who may try to take my blood pressure or draw a blood sample. Once I was unfettered from my parents’ guidance (age of 14) regarding these matters I stopped going unless a friend’s mom dragged me in or something was terribly wrong. Strep throat? “You have a really good gag reflex” followed by a blood test. Ulcer? The nurse spent more time trying to convince me to see the behavioral specialist then worrying about my bleeding stomach, followed by a blood test. Food poisoning? Stethoscope to the abdomen: “Yeah, you’ve got a lot going on in there” followed by a prescription for belladonna and two weeks of some seriously bad toilet time. Possibly a blood test. Busted back? A year’s worth of the runaround and ineffective physical therapy where my therapist complained I was being screwed by Kaiser, eventually a hard-won CT scan which proved I was broken, a prescription for an asprin substitute since I was on fifteen a day and bleeding internally again (they would not even consider giving me anything which might have been effective because I looked like a junkie) eventually followed by a series of spinal injections. It only took a couple years but at least I could walk again.
Sometimes things do come up which drive me mad with curiosity if not actual concern. For instance I have infrequently been afflicted with a curious skin disorder which causes small flesh-colored bumps to appear on my hands, primarily in between my knuckles and fingers. They itch once in a while, feel really good under hot water and eventually disappear about the same time I forget to worry. I’ve had various theories about causes ranging from peeling oranges to remembering an old girlfriend suddenly having a reaction to her guitar strings. However, as I eat oranges and play guitar several times a week, it doesn’t stand to reason that I would periodically react to either of these activities. So I did what any true-blue, modern dude would do and consulted the internet for a possible identification of this condition.
Google “bump skin hands” and click on the top link for Skin Rashes and Other Changes, brought to you by the good people at familydoctor.org. This was actually the most useful site as they provide you with a long list of possible symptoms and an idea as to what it may be and what you should try. It begins with ACNE and ends with KAPOSI’S SARCOMA which is a dangerous cancer common in people with immune disorders such as AIDS. That’s a pretty wide range of skin disorders, and many of them indicate some kind of cancer, although fortunately none which match my symptoms. Some of the likely candidates would appear to be INSECT BITES, except I’m not sure insects would find only the flesh between my knuckles particularly wholesome or tasty. HIVES sounds pretty good except I’ve never known someone to only be affected in such a localized manner. If we describe what takes place on my hands as scaly we can investigate the possibility of IRRITANT CONTACT DERMATITIS, which follows my original theories of oranges and guitar strings except for the failure of frequent outbreaks, and honestly I don’t even use that part of my hand when playing guitar. The big excitement really comes when we get to SYPHILIS, except the palms of my hand should be affected and not the backs. But this would not be the first time I’ve considered the possibility of my having contracted an old disease normally associated with behaviors I don’t engage in. But then we get to the symptoms which are concentrated in between the fingers and knuckles!!! Scabies!!!
But I don’t think it’s scabies. I’m pretty sure it’s not scabies. I’ve had weird rashes before and they’ve never been scabies, and I don’t even hang out in places where everyone’s got scabies anymore. My curiosity is hardly satiated and my time invested has so far netted some vague fears about a half dozen possible problems and I am encouraged by faceless strangers to see a doctor (immediately is optional in some cases) for treatment. Imagine a trip to the doctor’s when you have a slight case of weirdness that periodically causes some extremely mild itching, possibly the result of psychosomatic interference. He would look at the affliction and ask me questions not relevant to the matter at hand, such as my age and marital status and what I do for a living. He would nod, lost in thought, perhaps tremble a little in between nods. He could suggest I apply some sort of topical ointment to alleviate the itching and wait for a couple weeks or, if I became insistent, he could refer me to some dermatological specialist who would take another $40 to tell me the same thing after being puzzled and discouraged. Or, if I’m lucky, I could wind up with some gung-ho hack who would want to run an allergy grid across my back by poking me with needles and applying possible irritants such as animal dander or capsicum to see how my body reacts.
I’ve long held the supposition that doctors are mostly shooting in the dark when it comes to diagnosing or treating anything. If it’s a broken bone that can verified with ample evidence then there’s a clear idea of what’s wrong but for the most part they’re making educated guesses and hoping everything works out in the end. This doesn’t make them bad people, it’s just the best they can do and this has been confirmed by many doctors and nurses who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. What’s unfortunate is that the internet, the great meeting place of great minds working together to share knowledge and better mankind, is similarly impotent when administering anything other than the vague notion that I’m dying from syphilis and the only way to prove I don’t have that is to get a blood test.