3 December 2008

I was going to call this entry 'conspicuous consumption' but events have rendered the title inappropriate and now I can think of nothing to replace it

First of all, apologies for more of this but it's all that's going on right now and I still need to get stuff off my chest.

There is a lesson in all of this somewhere.

Every time I have needed to contact some medical professional about my illness they have upped the ante and given me something a little bit worse than last time.This hasn't always been the worst thing in the world. When, for instance, they upgraded my asthma to atypical pneumonia or tuberculosis, I wasn't terribly unhappy about it. Asthma can be a life-sentence, it can be a death-sentence, whereas pneumonia or tb are very treatable. To be honest, and this will sound very stupid, I secretly wished for tb rather than pneumonia because, it seemed to me, there was a bit of dark romantic glamour about tb - it was the slayer or poets, composers, actors - whereas pneumonia is what old people take with them on that last visit to hospital before they shuffle off. So, once again, the news that it was tb after all didn't particularly perturb me, especially as all the contact tracing began to confirm that I hadn't passed it on to anybody else. I did expect it to be the last bit of health news I was likely to receive for some time.

gimme medication

Following the diagnosis of tb, a nurse called round to my house with a supply of powerful anti-tb drugs. For the next two months, these would be my start to the day. Eleven tablets on an empty stomach followed by nothing to eat for an hour. Meanwhile, the lab would grow my sputum samples to identify my specific form of tb. Assuming it wasn't a drug resistant strain, my daily intake would be reduced to two drugs after two months and I would take them for a further four months. This first lot of drugs would turn my urine purple or pink, depending on what you read (in the event, orange like SunnyD). This was normal, okay, and to be expected. They might make it difficult to see red or green or make my joint aches. This was not normal and if either of these happened, I should contact them immediately. So, when various joints did begin to ache after about a week of the treatment, I called the nurse and they made an appointment for me at the TB Clinic.

At the Clinic, I notice that for several months, my life has resembled that awful show with the boxes, Deal or No Deal. Somewhere back in October or November, I really should have said 'Deal' but I played on and watched while my luck and all the big numbers drained away. I knew I should've dealt after 'chest infection' or 'asthma' but I thought I could do better and chased my losses. Or perhaps I should stop consulting members of the medical profession. Every time I do so, they just tell me something worse. The trick is to pretend they don't exist, don't answer or return their calls, abuse the receptionists so they remove me from their lists where I can once more lead a life free of the health risks regular contact with medical professionals exposes you to. Sounds like sense to me.

At the Clinic, they tell me that the lab have reported on my strain of tuberculosis and it isn't actually tuberculosis after all. Hurray! It's something called non-tuberculosis mycobacteria (ntm). Mycobacteria illnesses include tb, which I haven't got (hurray!) and leprosy which I also haven't got (hurray!). The good news is that ntm isn't infectious so there was never any risk to others (hurray!). The bad news is that it's just about identical to tb only not so glamorous, not so well known or studied, and a lot more stubborn to shift. Which means that I'll be taking a new set of drugs for at least a year instead of six months. When I get home, I make the mistake of Googling ntm and stumble onto a debate about whether it's best to remove the infected area of the lung with surgery straight away or give the drugs chance to shift it first.

So that lesson I mentioned. Whenever, and before, any member of the medical profession tells you something about yourself that you don't already know, ask them if it's good or bad news. If they say it's bad news, hang up or say 'BLAH BLAH BLAH' over whatever they say. If they say it's good news, don't believe them and do exactly the same. If you find out you've got something, never Google it. Learn to say 'Deal' when they offer you 'Chest infection' And never ask a doctor if he needs to chop your lungs up.

Vesper (sort of) in bits