Medical mystery

 Medical mystery

I just had my wellness physical, and the results were not all good.

The nurse first asked me a lot of questions and that part was fine. some were quite interesting, such as, “Can you carry a gallon of milk?” I reeled off the answers.

Then the doctor came in and we moved on to the “deeper stuff.” He announced that my blood pressure was fine and I was glad of that. My pulse rhythm was regular and I was happy that it wasn’t elevated, because I know a lot of people who have “white-coat syndrome.”

Nor did the doctor suggest that I lose weight – which was good news for the chips and dips and nuts that I nervously consume while watching the Duck games.

He did urge strongly that I get exercise daily – what does a doctor think a housewife does all day? and he advised that I watch my sugar intake because my blood sugar level was a bit high, although I think I’ve corrected that.

I drank a lot of lemonade last summer, but with cooler weather, I won’t miss it – although I may have to curtail my intake of Moose Tracks ice cream, pecan pie and cream puffs – those wonderful foods.

Even before the doctor came into the room, there was one thing I was worried about. The nurse measured my height and I was anxious about that reading because I’ve been getting shorter every year. her measurement indicated I’d lost another quarter of an inch. I am now less than 5 feet tall, and when I was in high school I was 5 feet 4. Pants I haven’t worn for a while now drag the ground.

And I know where those inches have gone. no other part of my body would accept those avoirdupois inches and they now have settled in my mid area and are “rolls” around my waist.

Now I’m beginning to wonder if I am on my way to becoming a Tom Thumb. That famous little guy was only 2 1/2 feet tall when full grown, and he made the most of it. He traveled all over the world with the circus and everyone knew about Tom Thumb.

My doctor didn’t mention any such concerns but he did suggest that we do another bone density test next year.

And he pointed out that my cholesterol is too high and that I should watch my diet with regard to that. so I have promised myself that I will partake less often of shrimp, which is about my favorite food, and that I shall be content with two eggs a week.

But all of this was quite routine – probably what you hear everytime you go to the doctor. and now we get to the bad part.

When I got home from seeing the doctor, Homer wasn’t there, so I sat down and began reading the information the doctor had given me. it was then that I realized I wasn’t in as good health as I thought. I had a problem.

On the information sheet were reasons for my appointment. one was “osteoarthritis.” often when I get up in the morning my middle finger on my right hand is curled up like a trigger – and I can’t straighten it out. That makes it hard to type, or write, or use the computer. The doctor suggested hand exercises, along with an Aleve or two, and perhaps physical therapy if that didn’t help.

But it was the other item on that sheet, “Problems associated with your visit,” that grabbed my attention. Listed there was “onychomycosis.” What on earth was “onychomycosis”? I hadn’t even known I had it. it sounded ominous.

I was anxious for Homer to get home so we could talk about this affliction. as soon as he came in the doorhe asked how the doctor’s appointment had been.

“Mostly it was fine,” I said. “But I have a problem. I have onychomycosis.”

“My word,” said Homer, “what is that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t any idea.”

“Did he prescribe anything for it? did he give you a new prescription? is there any cure for it?” he asked anxiously.

“Well, he told me to take Vitamin D-3. That’s good for my heart or bones or some such, and we talked about the way my finger is crooked in the morning, and he told me about some medications for toenail fungus, but he said that even if it went away it would probably come back. and he said to stop eating so many sweets because my blood sugar level was a little high, and so was my cholesterol.”

“How serious is this onychomycosis?” he asked. “Is it life-threatening?”

I assured Homer that the doctorcertainly had given no indication that it was – at least anytime soon. “But we really didn’t discuss that,” I said.

“I wonder if it’s disabling,” Homer said. “Do you suppose you’ll have to curtail activities?”

“He mentioned a couple of times that I should exercise daily, so maybe exercise is good for onychomycosis.”

Homer wondered what organs it affected – whether it was perhaps liver, esophagus, heart, lungs.

He suggested then that I go look it up in our two medical books to see if we could learn anything from them. I looked. there was no mention of onychomycosis in either.

“Wow,” said Homer, “it must be rare. Or do you suppose it’s just recently been diagnosed and that as yet there is no cure?”

I had no idea, but then I wondered if perhaps the dictionary could give us a clue.

So I went to my big Webster’s – and there it was.

I went back, shamefaced, to tell Homer what I had found.

“Homer, onychomycosis is toenail fungus.” I said.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at

Medical mystery

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