At my bi-yearly dental appointment, the hygienist began with the usual arsenal of questions: Any pain or sensitivity? Any problems? She then asked me to update my medical history form, where the list of my medications is so long it doesn’t fit on the lines provided. Once the paperwork was completed, she reminded me that I was behind schedule for my x-rays. I reminded her that because of the numerous CT scans and MRIs I had experienced, I had intentionally postponed my dental x-rays. Then she nonchalantly asked what was happening with my legs. I told her, as succinctly as possible, that it’s a chronic medical condition that I just have to learn to live with.
And that’s when her mis-use of language, her faulty word choice, caused me to flinch. “Autoimmune diseases are funny.” Funny. That’s what she said. Billy Crystal is funny. Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Cosby are funny. Autoimmune diseases? Not so much.
I had to ask, “How so?”
“Well, they just show up. People just get sick.” I told my dental hygienist that’s the way it is with many diseases. Who knows why one person gets cancer and another doesn’t? There’s no logical explanations. That’s life. And life isn’t always funny.
Granted, she meant no harm or insult with her offhand remark. But as a writer, someone who is always browsing through a thesaurus looking for the optimal word to convey a certain meaning, and as someone who is still coming to terms with living with an autoimmune disease, I was disappointed with her word choice.
I know it helps to find humor in life’s challenging situations. However, it’s been three years now, and I still can’t find the humor in my medical condition. I admit that I can see some positives. I am no longer working and am spending more time with my son. I’m writing more. I’m trying to take better care of myself.
To me, autoimmune diseases are mysterious, curious, perplexing, and puzzling.
I just can’t see the “funny” part yet. Maybe, years later, I will. But not now.