I can’t remember the last decision I made, or the last piece of knowledge I affirmed, without using the World Wide Webbery, the George W. Bush Internets, the newfangled technological wonder that is our docking station in cyberspace.
I have Internet capabilities on my cell phone, which means that no trivia contest goes unresolved for more than a few minutes before I retrieve the answer and report it smugly — or, in rare cases, concede it deferentially. I don’t remember what people did before data was so readily accessible, and can’t imagine being party to a wager that goes unsettled for hours, even days.
As a totally gnarly Web surfer, I spend more than my fair share of time browsing the online spheres, researching phenomena and reading blogs, browsing products and ordering gadgets I don’t really need.
But where I really excel — please forgive my lack of humility — is in the realm of the Internet physician. I am able to diagnose, with only a small margin of error, any ailment that befalls me. I used to have to consult the ink-and-paper Merck Manual — oh, all that burdensome flipping of pages, risking a paper cut at every turn.
The most chilling part of medical research was then, and now remains, tracking a condition to its next stages and related complications, on through to that most horrendous pronouncement: the dreaded ”may cause sudden death.” I followed a heart murmur to my death certificate once, in the early ’90s, and joked with a friend — using mathematically appropriate hieroglyphics — that one stop along the way was ”roughly equal to the mange.”
I never developed the mange, and the heart murmur did not cause sudden death. In fact, it was recently downgraded to ”no big deal at all” — pardon my proclivity for slipping into medical parlance. It’s a side effect of my Internet physician training.
Through the plethora of online health resources, I self-diagnosed a nasty breast infection before mammography and ultrasound confirmed it, and I had a pretty darned good hunch about shingles when they erupted on my leg. Conversely, I was certain I’d be dead of bladder cancer within a year as a result of some microscopic hematuria — Google it, people — that turned out to be, as the urologist so reassuringly pronounced it, ”unexplained.”
As age takes its bitter toll, my physical gripes grow greater and more interesting in number. At any given time, there is at least one nagging issue that requires follow-up or monitoring. Right now there is something about an ovarian cyst and, charmingly, a strange itchy rash that appears suddenly and with a vengeance on the left side of my face and then recedes as dramatically as it arrived.
Naturally I have figured out the certainty of sudden death from either of these conditions, with the ovarian cyst having a slight edge over the mysterious facial rash.
The cyst, though, is invisible and asymptomatic. The urologist happened upon it when he ordered a CAT scan of my innards as he tried to explain my medically unexplained microscopic hematuria.
But the rash, good lord, the rash. It announces itself to the world, flared up and angry and snarling about how it’s not going to put up with anyone’s crap. Like all good rashes, it itches, and when I scratch it, it spreads and worsens, creeping toward my neck and flirting with the right side of my face. It stops short of crossing the rhinal divide, because to offer me symmetry would be too generous.
No amount of Internet research will resolve it. I’ve revisited the friendly shingles sites time and again, but I’m unconvinced. Rosacea? Eczema? Contact dermatitis? Yeast infection of the pores? Medically unexplained pustules?
The possibilities are endless, but their mere existence brings me no relief; I need a cybersalve, an online unguent, or at the very least a point-and-click placebo.
There is, naturally, the old-fashioned course of action. Like in the days of yore, I could visit a healer and acquire a potion from an apothecary. But wouldn’t my healer appreciate it if I marched in with a PowerPoint presentation and a flashdrive full of PDFs detailing the most likely culprits?
I know what some of you are thinking: The solution is, you believe, plain as day. ”An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” you’re saying to yourself, a smug smirk on your self-satisfied face. My platform of choice is Windows, though, and buying Macintoshes would get expensive after a few days.
Two reassurances: 1) I happen to be scheduled to see my healer an hour and a half from the time of this writing. 2) I have not yet Googled the mange to see if I fit the profile.
But something must resolve this affliction soon; this is my face we’re talking about. And the embarrassment may cause sudden death.
Kristina Campbell is dangerously computer literate and ridiculously vain. Read her occasional ramblings in this space and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.