Tuberculosis is (Probably) Not Sexy

About 12 or 13 years ago, I was in the habit of telling people that I wanted to get tuberculosis. I was in college and taking classes like History of Medicine (learning about 19th century ailments, among other things) and reading books like The Awakening (which did not, to my recollection, have any actual tuberculosis in the story but was full of the same generalized, upper-middle class, 19th century ennui that I associated with the disease). I did not want poor people’s TB; I wanted the kind of TB that I read about in a book my freshman year – the kind that was described in a very romantic way. I wanted the consumption. The afflicted – at least in the way I interpreted it – coughed delicately into handkerchiefs, had a gentle and most becoming flush in their cheeks and experienced a heightened sense of *everything* before they, well, y’know, died. None of this was helped by the fact that roughly around this time, the movie Moulin Rouge came out – in which, Nicole Kidman’s character dies of TB. These ideas were IDIOTIC, obviously. I was 19 and precious few of my ideas and fascinations at that time weren’t idiotic, but man, that TB thing really stuck with me for awhile.

To be clear, I did not then, nor do I now, actually want to contract tuberculosis FOR REALS.

I hadn’t thought about the old consumptive dreams until the last couple of days, when, an off/on illness that has been working its way through my upper respiratory system for the last three weeks decided to settle in my chest. I have woken myself up coughing the last few nights in a way that is definitely not romantical and sexy. It is the worst. It started as a wicked sore throat last week that sent me right straight to the doctor as fast as possible for a throat culture. I had strep throat what seemed like every other week when I was a kid, so I tend to have a pretty strong psychological response to a sore throat. The only thing that rivals it in terms of unreasonable panic is the sight of a Toyota Tundra or a grown man wearing a flat-brimmed baseball cap and comically oversized t-shirt. Those things, as well as the possibility of strep that comes with a sore throat are no bueno in my book. All for naught though – strep-free according to the doctor and likely just carrying around a particularly stubborn viral fabulousness that really likes hanging out with me for some reason.

Why am I writing about my brush with the same pedestrian cold that everyone and their mother has been passing back and forth for the last six months? Because I sort of see the crappy way I’ve felt the last couple of weeks as proof that everything eventually finds a way to even out.

At a little over a quarter of the way into 2011, I was thinking last week about all the awesome stuff that has happened so far this year and all the even more awesome stuff that’s yet to come. I was feeling like I should do sort of a mid-course check-in here if, for no other reason, than to be able to look back and remind myself of how good things are. As you’ll perhaps recall, I have a baby niece on the way – which in itself is certainly enough goodness for the rest of the year, full stop. Also pretty spectacular, last week I officially became a published author.

I don’t have many complaints these days, all things considered, but being leveled by illness last week sort of took me down a notch. Not the end of the world, I’m well aware, but maybe a different kind of mid-course correction than what I was anticipating. I think I’ve been coasting a little the last couple of months. Not exactly laurel-resting, but maybe taking some of the good stuff for granted. I think once I cough the rest of this sickness outta my lungs, it’s time for a couple different varieties of spring cleaning and a hearty dose of renewed focus. And honestly, it just occurred to me that I should probably make sure I’m current on my tuberculosis screening.

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2 thoughts on “Tuberculosis is (Probably) Not Sexy

  1. Right now, I’m obsessed with this ITV show, Doc Martin (streaming on Netflix!). In one episode, a little boy and an old lady contract TB from a cat, which had contracted it from a badger. It’s a funny episode, but it definitely intensified my gratitude for vaccines, which are the best. And congratulations on being a published author and decreasing patient mortality. Those things are also the best.

  2. Thanks! It’s been a pretty spectacular experience all around – including all the less dying and infecting of our patients…

    As far as badgers, cats and TB on the TV – that sounds like one show I *must* watch.

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