The Harried Student Goes to the Doctor

What Can Happen While Avoiding Cleaning The Toilet... The Voice September 11, 2002

It all started with the toilet. There was this discussion about who should clean it. Obviously, it would be impossible for the person holding the anatomy textbook in the portions of her upper limbs distal to the radiocarpal joints, but no problem at all for the person currently taking the toilet duck out of the grocery bag. Obviously. This I boldly argued as I lay my head on the textbook to take a nap on the kitchen floor.

And that led to the next thing: me”?distance ed student in the last year of a masters program, been squeezing distance ed into my life since before Hippocrates took the oath, dragged into the doctor’s office. Pah. My husband says I’m there because he thinks I should relax my schedule, that I am overdoing it, have lost touch, am way caught up in what I am learning, am taking naps in the middle of conversations, etc. I disagree. I think he’s going to great lengths to avoid cleaning the toilet. Regarding my excellent diction, I’m just applying new knowledge. With respect to the sleeping, I happen to have the flu or something. I can hack the program. I just need a pill, vitamin, hormone shot, quick fix miracle Max chocolate pellet, pat on the shoulder, hair removal therapy, hair transplant therapy, whatever.

In fact, in stunning distance ed form, I am picking bare the bones of every second, reviewing my anatomy textbook as I wait to talk to the doctor. She calls me in. I get up slowly, mentioning to her that I’m fatigued today and apologizing for dragging the lower, pedal, podalic, extremities of my legs a little.

Her head does this quirky little sideways thing, and then she calls my husband in, too. I get suspicious, but sit down anyway. She asks what I do for a living. I get more suspicious. I squint a little and tell her that I work 39 hours a day, 14 days a week as a mother and masters wannabe. She doesn’t like my math, but she doesn’t offer me a position in her Amway pyramid, either, so I am relieved. But only momentarily. She pauses 30 painful seconds, flipping through lab reports stacked as thick as my textbook, then abruptly breaks my moment of deep thought as she starts to talk. From under her glasses, in a wholly unimpressed way, she says “Weeeeeeell, it looks like you’ve got lupus, maybe some other autoimmune disease, but anyway, whatever it is, there’s not much to do other than what you do already. Maybe you’ll want to consider a career change to something low stress, where you can rest when you need to.”

I let my anatomy text slip silently to the floor. My husband and I exchange glances. Then I lose it. I shinny up her vertebral column, slam her with a drop kick in the lateral portion of the scapular region (where the scapula joins with the clavicle and humerus and is covered by the rounded mass of the deltoid muscle) and deliver a flurry to her solar plexus on the flypast down. And I say, “Is “?that looks like you’ve got some kind of autoimmune disease but there’s nothing to do about’ it enough for YOU?”

There is a discrepancy in the story here. My husband says that never happened. He says I took the news unruffled. Or maybe unconscious, which was why my book crashed to the floor. But I was not sleeping at all. I was taking the scene in through alternate ports of entry:his eyes and ears. I was meditating on what I’d read in the anatomy book, was merely resting the folds covered with skin anteriorly and lined with conjunctiva posteriorly, bearing eyelashes, and covering the fronts of my eyeballs.

Anyway, we got the news and went home. All the way back, my husband nodded knowingly and infuriatingly. ALLLLL the way home. Readily integrating the doctor’s words into his world, he said the diagnosis is proof positive that I simply have to ease up on the masters thing, that maybe I should take up a lighter hobby, like cleaning toilets.

Obviously much wiser, I, in contrast, refused the doctor’s disinterested diagnosis entry to my cranium. For days I worked on refuting it. With my superior knowledge and insight, and the occasional reference to my anatomy book, I came up with an alternate, much more sensible, and most importantly, treatable diagnosis. It was obviously an infection I’d picked up from cleaning the toilet.

My husband, brute that he be, did not support me in this. Nonetheless, now, in the end, I am pleased with the doc’s original diagnosis and have worked the malady into my schedule. In fact, I embrace the disease. Making extensive use of my retinas, I discovered that a realignment of one’s career goals is a good idea, but what the doctor suggested and my husband reiterated only highlight their fundamental misunderstanding of some key issues. Fortunately, I found a website written by someone with insight, that said patients can take on life’s challenges without going over the bend, where doing things like becoming a distance ed student are on the to do list for recently diagnosed sickees who want to learn but need flexibility. When I read that, I thought, weh-hell, and sticking the muscular tissue bearing the organ of taste and occupying the cavity of my mouth in the general direction of the doctor’s office, I said, I’m good to go now, ain’t I?

And I found extra comfort in some other advice for minimizing symptoms. I found this really great web page that says, basically, that I should rest the prominence formed by my gluteal muscles when I need to. The way I see it, in my house we will no longer need a toilet duck, because we are going to get a toilet dad.

Audrey is a distance ed maven and part-time writer living in the United Kingdom. She is finishing her last year of an honours Master of Health Science degree, in preparation for a distance ed PhD in how to get a distance ed PhD. A mother of four, she sporadically sleeps, is in love with fractal math, and has found peace where neuroscience and Java programming meet.

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