Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Blogger: Keith Blenman

Feelin’ Kinda Hot

An fun thing about being in my thirties is discovering all these new and exciting ways that my body is going to crap out on me.

I’m sure matters would be different if I had taken care of myself more through my twenties.

“Yeah. We COULD go to the gym. That is definitely an option. But let’s really think about this. Have we really explored the possibility of ordering pizza and playing video games.”

I was perhaps not as responsible as I could’ve been. And the result is spotting the beginnings of eventual ruin.

“Oh! I sag in those places now.”

“Note to self: Milkshakes, while still tasty, now cause a day long escapade of gassiness.”

“The thing is, officer, several years ago I could function rather well on two hours of sleep. Turns out that if I don’t get a good night’s rest now I get sort of cranky and am more likely to commit to my idle threats of arson. That said I thank you for your service and for talking me down from cackling over my matchbook and puddle of gasoline. I’ll just be on my way now.”

About eight months or nine months ago I discovered that my inner ears have dramatically increased their production of hair. I spent several tearful hours staring at myself in the mirror, trying to will my body out of this decision.

“I’ll just wear more hats! It’ll be great! Think of all the beanies I could be wearing that’ll work much better than ear hair! Why, there’s black ones. Gray ones. Some of them have stripes or zigzags. I could even get matching scarves so there’s really no need to continue with all this neck hair either.”

After a while I got frustrated and pinched my longest hairs in either ear an attempt to pluck them out. Sadly the roots were stronger than I anticipated. Instead of removing the hairs I only managed to make them curl. So my effort resulted in looking as though I had one of those villainous twirly moustaches sprouting out the sides of my head.

My latest physical change is equally entertaining. About a week ago I was at work and started feeling as though my left shoulder was heating up from the inside out. Of course my initial thought was that I was on the verge of spontaneous combustion. I tried to rationalize it as a sunburn but couldn’t think of when I’d been outside in the past several months without wearing a shirt. Again, I’m growing hair in a variety of places. Some of them more disturbing than others. Between that and my other flaws I find it best for everybody if I stay pretty well covered up. So the sunburn on my shoulder wasn’t making a lot of sense.

I tried to ignore it. That lasted for about a day. I got a fairly good night’s rest. I went to work the following morning where I spent a majority of the afternoon cleaning and organizing a warehouse, moving up and down a ladder and heaving boxes of assorted sizes. And all the while my shoulder felt as though it had a heating pad wrapped around it. As the day went I started to feel the same sensation on the back of my neck. And then moving in waves up and down my spine. Little ripples of heat, traveling along my back. And then a bit in my chest, my other shoulder, and then my inner left thigh. It was about then that panic mode started to set in. Maybe it’s just me but as soon as unusual pains and peculiarities start honing in on the groin area it’s time to consider professional medical advice.

According to Google I was experiencing arterial diseases, diabetes, MS, delusions, early warning signs of a heart attack, nerve damage, and potentially had commit sati.

I started looking at my coworkers’ foreheads and hairlines, trying to spot beads of sweat and redness. I concluded that if other people were showing similar signs I could rationalize the heated feeling simply as result of the humidity. I asked a few people, “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”

“No, the AC is cranked. I’m freezing.”

That was not reassuring.

By the end of the work day I was feeling as though there was something seriously wrong with whatever this radiating from within was. As it seemed to be getting worse, I decided to have a doctor check it out. Unfortunately this was a Sunday night so my regular doctor wouldn’t be available until the morning. I decided that although it’s probably nothing, the “early warning sign of a heart attack” was worrisome enough that I shouldn’t sit on it. So I went to an emergency clinic after work. And after about an hour in the waiting room they took my vitals and the doctor had me take off my shirt.

“Well, Mr. Blenman, that certainly is a lot of peculiar hair growth but I don’t see a rash or anything out of the ordinary.”

My left ear at this point had turned bright red and was also warm to the touch. Evidently this is ordinary for some people. When I pointed that out the doctor said, “Yeah, you really shouldn’t be growing a moustache there but it’s not the sort of thing we can treat here.”

She asked how long I’d been experiencing this burning sensation and it gave me pause.

“No, it’s a heated feeling in my shoulder but spreading over my back and other places. But I’m peeing just fine.”

“Mr. Blenman, what you are experiencing qualifies as a burning sensation. Your body is radiating heat. There are many types of burning sensations that don’t involve sex organs.”



“…Do you feel silly calling me mister after discovering I didn’t know that?”

“…Quite a lot actually.”

“You can call me Keith.”

“The same reason I feel silly also makes me not want to be on a first name basis with you.”

“Yeah, I get that. Very understandable.”

So after what amounted to a quick once over the doctor told me, “It’s most likely muscle tension. And there’s two ways people can develop that. Either sitting in one place all day without taking breaks to move around and stretch or it could’ve developed through a lot of strenuous activity.”

I had been up and down a ladder all day while heaving boxes of various sizes. Also, I’m a writer, so my other job involves sitting at a computer all day. In terms of taking breaks, when I’m really into whatever I’m doing I often skip meals and lose all focus of anything going on around me. I started to wonder if that’s when my sati happened…

“What you’re going to want to do is not strain yourself for a while. Don’t do too much activity and also don’t stay in one position all the time.”

Well that’s perfect because you just described my entire lifestyle as wrong.

I was given Motrin and told to essentially not be me for a few weeks. And I felt this was something I could handle. Why, it could even be fun. Who wouldn’t enjoy the medical advice of “Don’t do what you normally would.” I could start wearing a beret and singing in public. And find the writing on CSI shows compelling. I COULD go exercise! I could try getting really, really good at math and pay all my bills on time. And most important, I could learn to enjoy the feeling of being engulfed in flames. Treat it as though it’s a gift.

The next day matters had both improved and disapproved. While the Motrin had diminished the –and I’m going to use this right- burning sensation it replaced it with more typical aches and pains. My arms had also started to feel heavy and I was having a difficult time keeping my hands open. Somehow I continued to go through the day telling myself, “Evidently this is just muscle strain. This is just how my body experiences pain now. It’s so terrible that my mind registers agony as being on fire. That’s just what I do now. Thankfully medication is reminding me of my younger days when stuff just hurt. This is not at all a problem.”

The fact that my hands wanted to stay in weak little fists was discouraging. Writing, working on my fiction, was a burden. It turns out you don’t always have the best spelling and grammar when all you can do is clop your fists against the keyboard. In fact, I’m just going to go ahead and say I was experiencing an odyssey of typos. Somewhere in there I MAY have even attempted using other parts of myself to type but they were all unwieldy. I filled MS Word with so many green and red lines that my computer screen looked like Christmas. A very poorly punctuated Christmas.

A few more days of this didn’t see much change. By late Tuesday my hands were functional again although my arms still felt heavy. The burning sensation was mostly in my bicep and I’d developed a stabbing pain below my ribs on the other side. Not a horrible stabbing pain like Freddy Krueger was trying to rip out my spleen. More like a Chucky doll was insistently jabbing a corn holder into my side. A little painful. A bit scary. But I’d live. Not without questioning the emergency clinic’s diagnosis of course.

I tried to talk myself down from the thought but by Wednesday evening that heated feeling was getting a bit more intense. I tried telling myself, “The doctor said it was probably muscle tension and it’ll go away. Doctor’s don’t just make up random diagnoses on a whim. If she felt as though it was muscle tension, guess what, it’s muscle tension.”

The following morning I made an appointment with my regular doctor. I told him I’d been to the emergency clinic but when he asked what the doctor there had said I only told him I was taking Motrin. This might make me even a bit more weird but when I go somewhere to get a second opinion I generally don’t like the person knowing what the original opinion was. He might focus on that. It might create some level of bias. I want him to approach my case with fresh eyes. Still informed. I explained my symptoms and how long I’d been explaining them. But still, I wanted his take on it.

“I told you the last time you were here that this is a family clinic. We don’t do cosmetic work and you’ll have to go somewhere else to get your ear moustache removed.”

He gave me a more thorough examination.

“Take off your shirt. –Oh my- Put it back on.”

All my vitals were checked. My blood pressure was abnormally high but they chocked that up as nerves. An EKG said my heart was fine. Listening to my lungs showed no peculiarities. He stuck a tongue depressor in my mouth and did the whole turn my head and cough thing but at that point I think he was just messing with me.

“Okay, now bend over and while I do my work start clucking like a chicken.”

“Where did you say you got your degree?”

“Eh. Places. You know.”

In the end he sat back and said, “What you’re experiencing is muscle tension. Come and see me if it doesn’t go away after a few weeks.”

“Hm. Well, okay. I’m glad I got that second opinion. …But just one more question.”

“Burning sensations aren’t always related to urination.”

“Okay. Cool. You’re the doctor.”

So two doctor visits later and the conclusion remains muscle tension. I still haven’t ruled out the possibility of an invisible devil or some sort of poltergeist living on my shoulder, but for the most part I’m satisfied in that this is just another thing my body can do now. Sprouting strange hairs whilst pretending to be on fire and starting to sag.

Yay thirties!

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