A chest cold, I figured. I could handle that.
Except a few days later, I woke up so miserable I wondered if it was a mistake that I’d even woken up. Every muscle in my body ached, from my ears to my toes. I was dizzy, feverish, and disoriented. I couldn’t remember where the bathroom was or how stairs worked. Was I dying? I knew I needed to turn to an expert for help. So (of course) I consulted our on-call doctor: WebMD.
I entered my first few symptoms: congestion, cough. WebMD came back with a litany of results. I immediately found reasons to dismiss them all:
Common cold—too boring
Pneumonia—don’t feel like having this right now
Viral Pharyngitis—sounded intriguing at first, but turns out it’s just a fancy way of saying “sore throat,” which is a symptom, not a diagnosis
Asbestosis—would require expensive home repair, which I don’t want to do
Plague—intriguing, but unlikely
You may be shocked to learn that WebMD was not being helpful at all so far. I went back and added more symptoms: fever over 102 degrees, muscle aches, complete lack of will to live. This returned three results that matched 100 percent: the flu, meningitis, and ricin poisoning. Now these were diagnoses I could live with. I tried each on for size to see if they suited me. “Do you like it?” I said aloud to nobody. “It’s my new meningitis. I don’t even know where I picked it up.”
It didn’t fit quite right. The word was too tight and uncomfortable. I tossed it to the side and slipped on the ricin poisoning. This was a little more my style—after all, I write horror. But after a few minutes of trying “Oh, this old thing? It’s ricin poisoning,” I had to admit the diagnosis didn’t look that good on me. It clashed with my coloring (I’m a “warm spring”) and offered no hope of recovery. With a sigh, I took the only thing left that WebMD was offering: the flu. It wasn’t exotic or fancy, but really, nothing in my life is. I settled in for a week of drinking hot liquids, feeling woozy and feverish, and generally moaning in misery.
Now, perhaps you think a proper diagnosis by a real doctor would be more helpful, but with this kind of thing, I’m here to tell you, it’s not. A doctor would tell me exactly the same thing WebMD did (drink hot liquids, take Tylenol, get plenty of rest) plus charge me a co-pay to boot. And, as I’ve learned from past visits, most physicians don’t even like to entertain discussing the possibility of ricin poisoning. (Me: “But, it’s like, possible, right?” Dr. Katie: “Please go away.”) Seriously, not once has my doctor even said the word “plague.” She’s absolutely no fun, and when you’re dying of the plague, sometimes all you want is a little fun.
So thank you, WebMD. It wasn’t too serious this time, but I know that come the next illness, you’ll have a delightful menu of diagnoses to choose from.