Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I went out with a friend last night who I don't talk to all that often, but we were roommates in college and I consider her one of my longtime pals. She's a pediatrician and a mom of two small children.

I was a bit surprised by something she said. She told me this story about a six-year old in her medical practice who came in after starting Zyrtec, an allergy drug. The mom noticed the kid was drinking more, and said the kid's mouth was always dry. But the kid wasn't peeing more and my friend had thought the dry mouth was a side effect of the new medication. (She was not the doctor on call when this kid came in.)

Instead, the kid had to provide a urine sample and couldn't do it in the doctor's office, so the mother went home and brought a sample back to the office. It was four-plus, which I remember as bright orange from my urine testing days. That afternoon, the mom was called and the kid brought to the hospital. The kid's blood sugar was 450.

"Can you imagine?" my friend asked. "The poor mother. She was out running errands. And she had to turn around and go straight to the hospital."

"Of course I can imagine," I replied. "I lived it. My mother lived it." Perhaps I was surprised by her surprise.

My friend talked about her older son, who's three and a handful. "I really hope nothing like that ever happens to (my oldest)," she said. "I can't even get him to brush his teeth."

"If it happens, you'd learn to deal with it," I responded. "And frankly, it might not be diabetes. There's all sorts of things that can happen. Cancer. Asthma. Epilepsy."

I continued.

"Maybe this sounds cynical, but personal illness doesn't really faze me anymore," I said. "What I've learned over the years is that something happens to everyone."

"Do you feel like you're diabetic, so your thing has happened to you," she asked.

"Oh no," I said. "I was treated for cancer a few years ago."

"Wasn't that benign?" she asked.

"Mostly, but it didn't matter. I still have follow-up CT scans to make sure nothing's returned." And I still have to deal with infertility issues that have nothing to do with either the diabetes or the cancer thing.

But dealing with constant doctor's appointments (saw the eye doc last week, the endo yesterday, and the infertility doc today. It's a wonder I get any work done!) has made me accept that I will always have a lot of medical intervention. My endo and I talked more about laser eye treatment yesterday and I was much calmer.

"The benefits of laser eye treatment far outweigh the risks of not ever having it done if your eyes need it," was her sound-bite, takeaway message.

Medical intervention doesn't scare me. For years, I was surprised when I went to say, the regular gynecologist for a Pap smear, and my results were normal. "Are you sure?" I once asked. "I'm just not used to hearing "normal" when I go to a doctor's office."

And sure, one could argue that most people don't get chronic conditions or freak tumors growing in their stomachs. The majority of people have children when they want to.

But, to paraphrase REM, everybody hurts sometimes. Maybe it's bad parenting or unsupportive relatives or a crap job that sucks you dry. Maybe it's a car accident or alcohol or jealousy or bad self esteem or poverty or the death of a loved one. Or whatever. Fill in your own blank.

The thing is not to get dragged down by these circumstances and live your best life (to steal from another pop culture reference, Cheryl Richardson) in spite of all the challenges you are dealt.

I'd like to think that doesn't come across as cynical, but more wise.

And even my pediatrician mommy friend has her challenges: besides the fact that her oldest is a handful and some of her relatives drive her crazy, my friend has no sense of direction. She gets lost easily and doesn't trust GPS systems in cars. I may have to prick my finger every two hours, but I can get from Boston to New York blindfolded. And back again.

We all have our strengths, too.


Nicole P said...

I really enjoyed this post -- its matter of fact nature appeals to me on all sorts of levels.

Hope everything is well.

Shannon said...

I really love this post. I've been thinking about this subject lately.

You're not cynical at all, in fact I take it that you are optimistic because you're able to face "life's challenges" head on and with a positive outlook to take care of the problem rather than ignore it or feel sorry for yourself.

Rachel said...

"The thing is not to get dragged down by these circumstances and live your best life (to steal from another pop culture reference, Cheryl Richardson) in spite of all the challenges you are dealt."

yep. too bad it took 29+ years for me to realize all that. Ah well...for some people, they never get it.

julia said...

I didn't know Kerri was a pediatrician. *ducks* ;)

Great post. I tend to get rather condescending when people say "Oh, I could never give my kid shots." Ok. Guess it's easier to just let them die, then. Dimwits. Oy.

I, too, am loving the matter-of-factness of your post.

Erica said...

I didn't find it cynical at all either. In fact I admire your response to the conversation you had with your friend, I'm not so sure I respond to my friend in such a positive way.

LOL about the sense of direction - that is me. It really should be considered a handicap... Spin me around once and I'm totally lost.

art-sweet said...

The next time I see a blindfolded person driving down the masspike, I'll honk and say "hi Lyrehca!"

And then I'll swerve out of the way, because, dude, you're driving blindfolded!

Lyrehca said...

Ha! Watch out, Art-Sweet, I'm driving to NYC tomorrow for my grad school reunion.

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Scott K. Johnson said...

Hi L,

I liked this post too. Like you say, everyone deals with something.

I think it's a great attitude towards it and will help keep you moving through it.

Kerri. said...

Lyrehca - I don't think you're cynical, either. A realist? Yes. And a hopeful one at that? Yes again. But cynical? No way. Your core of strength is not cynical but instead steely.

And Julia, I'd throw something at you if I could just find my way out of this damn paper bag ... :)


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