I’ve narrowly cheated death yet again

Re-posting this oldie-but-goodie in anticipation of an epic follow-up that will see my hypochondria reach new heights. And with any luck, I’ll write it before the sun burns out and we all freeze to death.

My tombstone

There are many downsides to being a hypochondriac … but it does have its benefits. Take yesterday, for example.

Yesterday, I headed to my doctor’s office for the third time in about two weeks … which, for me, is unfuckingprecedented, since my immune system is basically on par with Wolverine’s. And yet, despite my mutant healing powers, I’ve had a persistent cough for, like, a month now.

During my first doctor’s visit, he prescribed an albuterol inhaler and a codeine-based cough suppressant. After a week, the inhaler had accomplished roughly jack shit, and I’m pretty sure I was downing the cough medicine only because the idea of legally ingesting an opiate before bed each night seemed appealing.

In addition to my ongoing cough and blossoming drug habit, I then developed a reddish, dime-sized, welt-like thing on my face, just slightly below and to the right of my nose … which, really, is exactly where you want to develop a reddish, dime-sized, welt-like thing, because at least then it’s not very noticeable.

I literally watched this thing spontaneously appear on my face while washing up after doing some work on our porch, and I tried to convince myself that perhaps I’d been bitten by a spider while tending to that chore … but being bitten on the face by a spider seems like the kind of thing a guy would notice while it was happening, so I wasn’t fully buying my own theory.

Last Thursday, still coughing and sporting my attractive face welt, I returned to the doctor, who subsequently prescribed an antibiotic for the cough and a topical ointment for the face welt, about which he said: “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

Four days into my antibiotic-and-topical-ointment regimen, not only was I was still coughing like a barking seal and sporting my ever-snazzy face welt, but also I was experiencing a chronic headache and some general sensitivity and discomfort on most of the right side of my face, head, neck, throat and right ear. Clearly, it was time to do what any respectable, modern-day hypochondriac does to diagnose what ails him: check the Internet.

A brief Google search later, I reached the conclusion I always reach when I use the Internet to diagnose an unexplained ailment: I had cancer. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to be exact.

Certain that my children soon would be fatherless and my wife a widow, I decided I should at least let the doctor confirm my imminent death before getting my affairs in order. Thus, I called his office Monday evening, scheduled an appointment for yesterday morning, and spent the interim upsetting myself with thoughts of leaving my kids behind at such a young age, and of not seeing them grow into adulthood.

And I wish I was kidding, believe me … because I know that some people — “the sane,” you might call them — can’t imagine being so unbelievably fucked in the head …. but I am absolutely terrified of disease and death and my own mortality in general … to the point that it is a full-blown phobia. (This dovetails nicely with my hypochondria, which causes me to immediately assume anything more serious than a brief head cold is terminal.)

As I got out of my car and headed into the medical building for my appointment yesterday morning, I heard someone yell “Dead man walking!” Probably it was me who yelled it, but still … not a good sign either way.

“You don’t have non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” my doctor lied while examining me. “The discomfort you’re having is only on one side of your head?”


“Is your scalp sensitive right here?” he asked while touching a newly sensitive region of scalp on the top-right side of my head.

“Yes,” I replied, impressed that he had predicted that … so much so that I was willing to entertain the possibility he might not be lying about the you-don’t-have-cancer thing after all.

“I know what you have now,” he said. I assumed his next words would be “Terminal [something].” I was wrong. Go figure.

“You have shingles.”

Shingles? Motherfucking shingles? Who the fuck gets shingles? Isn’t shingles something people got in the 1600s after spending a month in a cargo hold while crossing the Atlantic? Or maybe that was scurvy. Either way, I’m pretty sure you have to be a special kind of basket case to contract shingles in 2014.

But anyway … on the one hand, I was all, “Boo! Shingles!” … but, on the other hand, I was all, “Yay! Totally not cancer!”

And so, “Yay! Shingles!” I said.

“You’re probably the first patient I’ve heard say ‘Yay! Shingles!'” replied my doc, who clearly has no idea just how deep my neuroses run.

“So I don’t need chemotherapy?”

“No. I mean, I could give you chemotherapy, but it won’t do anything beneficial for you.”

I decided to skip the unnecessary chemo and instead received a prescription for Valacyclovir HCL 1, which comes in the form of an enormous, blue pill roughly the size of a whitewater raft. With any luck, it will clear up this shingles thing in the next week or two. I hope. Because my fucking head is killing me … which bums me out until I remind myself that I don’t have terminal cancer.

Which brings us to: You non-hypochondriacs are missing out on the incredible flood of headache-minimizing relief you could be feeling every time you learn that you don’t have terminal cancer. And, yes, you might argue that the burden of needlessly worrying that you’re about to die a horrible and premature death offsets the benefits of subsequently finding out you’re OK … but that’s only because you don’t know how great it feels to experience the illusion of getting a second chance at life!

In related news: It’s exhausting to be me.

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  1. Tara
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Guess who else has had shingles? This hypochondriac right here!

    Glad you’re not any more terminal than you already were…

    • Posted May 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      I REALLY REALLY hate to not only top ALL OF YOU, however, try 6. Six. Yes, SIX. YEARS. OLD. I got shingles! So, my mother, bless her heart, that she unfortunately escaped Charles Manson and his family of lunatics, thought it would be smart to have me follow in my 5 years older, wiser, multi talented sister, Midas. Not only everything that bitch touched turned to gold, she could tan the same color. Me? Ha ha ha ha. Lettme just say, if I sat in a Dr’s office, bring a pen, my face could be used for multi purpose family fun!! Connect the dots, a fun maze, guess where the Melanoma will strike first when this red tomato hits 35, the list is endless….
      Anyways, back at the cozy, snuggly warm home of Joan Crawford, Joan thought making a clone of my sister (or the very least, ‘the Parts Guy’ if my sister developed kidney disease, NO PROB! She had me! Lung? You guessed it, me! ( you get the picture) Now, I don’t really remember what transpired in the treatment of me to cure it; but if I was smart at all ( I’m not, cause now, I’m lazy too.) I would just attach a picture that sums up my whole life and apparently cured my shingles forever!! ( I know somewhere in this smokin’ hot hellhole, it lingers.)
      It’s a picture of me,in a rockin’ tap dancing outfit loaded with a ridiculous pose and a hand that matches it all. My hand looks like it was somehow crushed in a meat grinder with the way it looked bandaged up. But, Hey! THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!!
      Stan´s most recent blog post: Manulife Floating Rate Senior Loan Fund Announces Monthly Distribution for Class A and Class U UnitsMy Profile

  2. Danielle
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Jon, I’m pretty sure this was the funniest thing I’ve read all month. All year? Maybe. Either way, that shit was funny.

    (Sorry about the shingles. That bites. On the other hand, as you say, it’s not cancer. So there’s that.)

  3. Posted April 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Yay Shingles! Well, Yay Not Cancer!
    I’ve never had either but my brother had shingles and it sucked a really lot. I’ll be nice and not tell you what else he got as a result of the shingles.
    Hope you feel better soon!
    Jodee´s most recent blog post: RealityMy Profile

  4. Posted April 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    That is so 2010:

  5. Posted April 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Do you know what exacerbates shingles and sometimes even brings it on? STRESS.
    Do you know that constant rumination about your health causes STRESS?
    Do you know how I know this? BECAUSE I DO THE SAME THING.
    Have managed to dodge shingles so far….but good luck! Get well soon!
    Allison´s most recent blog post: 2014: UnresolvedMy Profile

  6. Posted April 23, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, I *would* tell you to stay the hell away from the internet with your symptoms but I figure since *I* can’t stay away from the internet (and, as a result, am constantly convinced I’m about to drop dead any minute) with my symptoms; it would just be a waste of breath.

    So, instead, I’m raising my glass to celebrate the fact that you aren’t terminal.

    And now, wigging out about the possibility that I might get shingles. Yeah, thanks for that.
    Gigi´s most recent blog post: Divergent…a reviewMy Profile

  7. Posted April 23, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    From one over reacting hypochondriac to the other: congratulations on the whole not dying thing. I don’t get why folks think telling a hypochondriac that they’re a hypochondriac is supposed to get them to stop worrying. That wasn’t the illness causing the concern. Plus, just because we think everything is cancer, doesn’t mean that some things aren’t cancer. My logic is undeniable…mostly because I stick my fingers in my ears and hum when anyone argues with me.

  8. Posted April 24, 2014 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    I love reading your blogs because they make me laugh…and sometimes get me teary, but they also make me realize what an uncomplicated, stress-less, devil-may-care life I’ve lived all my life. I can’t imagine living at your stress level, wondering what terrible things will befall me around the next corner. I hope you’re one that exaggerates a lot to enhance your stories….and I’m glad it’s only shingles, which I’ve never had in my 79 yrs. Hugs….. 😉
    Rilly´s most recent blog post: Look What We Started……My Profile

  9. Allyssa
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Yay for shingles! I recently had an eye twitch that wouldn’t stop for about 2 wks and I decided I had Parkinson’s via my incredibly complex research on the internet (google). It stopped so I guess I don’t now…or it will come back and I really do have it. All this to say, I get ya.

  10. Posted April 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I got the shingles vaccination in May 2012. One afternoon in January 2013, apropos of nothing at all, I developed a small blister in the geometric center of my forehead. By the next day, I appeared to be trying to grow a headlight. Soon afater, I looked like I was hosting Rudolph’s parasitic twin.

    That was gnarly and revolting enough to send me to a dermatologist who confirmed: Shingle. One. A single shingle. A whopper to be sure, but just the one. And it never hurt AT ALL, itched a tiny bit at first but that was the extent of that. And thanks to the OTC stuff she suggested (google scaraway roll-on – it also comes in sheets and a spray), it left only one very tiny scar.

    She said the fact that it was so incredibly not-as-bad-as-most-shingles-cases-are was directly and completely attributable to the vaccination; it was going to happen anyway but the vaccine “intercepted” 98% of it. Ask your doctor when you can get it, to shift the odds in your favor from here on our.
    Jan´s most recent blog post: one voiceMy Profile

    • Posted April 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Derp. “After”, not “afater”. Also, “from here on OUT”, not “from here on OUR.”
      Jan´s most recent blog post: one voiceMy Profile

  11. Julie
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Lil Daughter got shingles the night before a class Outward Bound trip to the Everglades when she was eleven. Big to-do to make sure all 60 other kids had already had chicken pox or been vaccinated. (I guess you know from your sophisticated research that it’s the chicken pox virus.)

    Glad you’re not dead and really glad you wrote a blogpost…you know I’m a rabid fan! xoxo

  12. Julie
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Lil Daughter got shingles the night before a class Outward Bound trip to the Everglades when she was eleven. Big to-do to make sure all 60 other kids had already had chicken pox or been vaccinated. (I guess you know from your sophisticated research that it’s the chicken pox virus.)

    Glad you’re not dead and really glad you wrote a blogpost…you know I’m a rabid fan! xoxo

  13. Posted April 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for my first laugh of the day:). And hope those shingles go away soon!
    Kristine´s most recent blog post: A funny thing happened on my way to a midlife crisisMy Profile

  14. Posted April 25, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I am trying hard not to laugh, but I have to because only YOU can make SHINGLES FUNNY. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me laugh in Texas, because NO ONE HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR here.

  15. Posted April 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Is Chemo anything like Gama Radiation? You want want top reconsider that line of treatment because a wolverine/hulk hybrid sounds pretty awesome. Plus I’m pretty sure both are immune to cancer. Win/Win
    Ronnie´s most recent blog post: Ninja ResumeMy Profile

  16. Posted April 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    This is exactly why i can’t ever look up any symptoms on the internet. Not. Ever. Such a funny post!
    Sparkling74´s most recent blog post: There’s A Circus In My HouseMy Profile

  17. Posted April 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I had Shingles a few years ago at the ripe old age of 29. It was unpleasant but manageable with medication. Hopefully you won’t get the common side-effect of having Shingles, that is, the whole “ongoing pain due to damaged nerve endings” thing. Mine lasted for a few months after the Shingles had cleared.
    John´s most recent blog post: I’m Only Happy When It RainsMy Profile

  18. Posted April 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Just had to say I’m really enjoying your writing.

    p.s. hope the shingles go away soon!
    Megan´s most recent blog post: making :: home {sew fresh}My Profile

  19. Posted April 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    New follower here.
    Found you on Bloggess because you are always the first one to comment. Bravo to that!
    I like your style. And maybe your moves, if I saw them. And my husband loves that you love Howard.
    Tia @ Hands on, Pants off´s most recent blog post: The day Bayou decked a gooseMy Profile

  20. Posted April 30, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Just found your blog, Daddy (May I call you Daddy? Or do your prefer Mr. Scratches?) I look forward to some fun reading and no working at my place of employment.

    The internet is a horrible blessing for hypochondriacs. Just yesterday I was convinced I was dying of pancreatitis — the doctor insists it is either an unruly ovary or gas – I’m convinced she forged her medical degree.
    Jana´s most recent blog post: Monkey Balls are Delicious!My Profile

  21. Pejibaye
    Posted May 2, 2014 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I went on a whitewater kayaking trip in the Costa Rica jungle, where certain parts of my body stayed wet for two weeks. About a week after I got home, my butt developed two of those itchy welts and I was convinced I’d caught some dread jungle disease. I, too, was happy that it was “just” shingles. By the way, there’s also a cream that will help dry up that welt fast. Ask your doc for zovirax cream.

  22. Posted May 5, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Yay shingles! A friend of mine had shingles and in the middle of the night she had chest pain so bad she was convinced she was dying of a heart attack. It was on a botanical art expedition and we were sharing a room, but she was all like “I’m dying but ffs don’t wake Lesley” and she only told me about it ages afterwards.

    The moral of the story is, if you think you’re dying of a heart attack, it’s probably just the shingles.
    Lesley´s most recent blog post: EphemeralMy Profile

  23. Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    You don’t know hypochondria until you’ve gone to the doctor with a stomach tumor and been diagnosed with a xyphoid process (look it up. normal part of the body).

    Oh, the shame of the head pat.

  24. Amanda
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    This post was hilarious. 🙂 I had the shingles too. I thought only “older” people got them, as in, like 70 years old as I was 36 at the time. Super stressy and so unGodly painful. Hated life. Glad they were on my lower half though instead of my face 🙁 Feel better!

  25. Posted May 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I can relate. I come from healthy pioneer stock. I’ve never had a serious illness or broken so much as a finger, but ever since working at a hospital I have found all kinds of new diseases. I once thought I had a Gastrointestinal Bleed but it turned out I had just eaten a lot of beets.

  26. Posted May 22, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    You have no idea how normal you sound to me right now. I’ve had fake cancer at least half a dozen times. I’ve also had to cancel dinner plans once because I thought I was having a heart attack and walked into the Dr’s office screaming “this is it. I knew it!” (It was gas, btw)

    I also have had the flu for over a month so i announced at work today that it was either SARS or Swine.
    Jawa´s most recent blog post: Are you a thinker or a doer?My Profile

  27. Posted May 23, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Totally just creeper status-ed you and added you on all the social media things. You’ve got some funny shit.
    Samantha´s most recent blog post: Tuesday 10My Profile

  28. Posted June 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I was sleepily stumbling around the global chit-chat bazaar when my startled eyes scanned ‘red welt’. Here’s a post I can sit down and luxuriate over. ‘Hopefully this facial beastie is suppurating’, I mused, to my mild shame (love that word and I’m grateful for the unlikely opportunity to use it..) Thanks for the fleetingly grotesque and finally exalting ‘shingles’ confession, fellow fella. What a piece of work is a man! Ever get the impression some of our milder health setbacks deliberately mimic their death-dealing cousins, if only to flood us with phony relief when the diagnosis goes ‘better’? Your cheering ‘shingles jamboree’ is such a bait-and-switch; more proof, if we needed it, that even shingles want love, even if it be earned through frank deception. Yours is likely a tale your doctor shares with his circle at the country club. They are lounging about the pool in their smocks and sipping martinis through their stethoscopes. Pure conjecture and I don’t actually know if one can suck anything through a stethoscope. Thanks for your patience. I’ve just gulped coffee and I’m afraid you’re paying the price. Keep up the confessional, DS. More welt stories, please. I shall delve. You have a great written tone.
    Jeff Wing´s most recent blog post: The Wonderful World of DizzyMy Profile

  29. LS
    Posted August 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  30. kat
    Posted October 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    My dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins-Lymphoma when I was seven (after he had fallen down 100feet while mountain climbing, where wonderously he had only broken one leg. In about a billion pieces.). He was told by his doctors that he had about three years to live. He died when I was 23, a good fifteen years after the diagnosis. He spent those years fighting for his life and still slowly away. So this post hit home for me. Badly. And he never had a face welt.

  31. Gail Burgess Wix
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I had shingles that surfaced Christmas Eve 2015. I still have 2 spots on my torso that are causing me discomfort. Hope yours didn’t last as long as mine did.

  32. Posted October 11, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    When I had shingles, it manifested as one ginormous blister, like 3″ across, right in the middle of my forehead. I told people I was growing a headlight. I had gotten the shingles vaccination about 8 months before and my dermatologist told me that was absolutely why my “episode” wasn’t any worse than it was. It didn’t even hurt that much, although it did itch all to be damned.
    When I expressed concern about scarring, which shingles definitely can do – my face isn’t all that much, but it’s the only one I have – she pointed me to something called ScarAway. This is the version I used and really liked, but you can search Amazon (or Walgreen’s, for that matter) for ScarAway. It was pretty freaking amazing. Instead of it leaving my forehead looking like a relief map of the Grand Canyon, which is what I was afraid of, having consulted with Dr. Google Images, I have one tiny little divot.
    Jan´s most recent blog post: It lives!My Profile

  33. Posted November 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Exhausting to be you, sure. But think of it this way: you’re not only living your own life, raising the kids as quickly as possible before you die of Swahili bird flu (and secondary dutch elm disease) but you’re also busily providing medical staff with the stories they’ll tell their colleagues, friends, and family for years to come.
    ACWMH´s most recent blog post: (More) Scenes From A ShopMy Profile

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