You notice a pain in your left elbow. Now that you think about it, the pain has actually been there for a few days. Maybe even weeks. You don’t remember hitting your elbow, or doing anything to injure it. What could be going on?
You Google “pain in left elbow” during your lunch break. The selection of websites that flash on your computer screen are overwhelming. You had no idea the subject of elbow pain was so important. You click on a link, one that has the word “medicine” in its web address. According to this website, your elbow pain could be due to anything from bumping your elbow, to arthritis, to cancer.
Cancer? Your fingers freeze, suspended over the keyboard. You are absolutely certain you did not bump your elbow. In fact, now that you think about it, you’re very careful with your elbows: tucking them in when you walk through doorways, never resting your hands on your hips so your elbows aren’t protruding like wings. And arthritis? Bah! Just yesterday you carried a laundry basket overflowing with dirty clothes up the stairs and never broke a sweat. You’re in your prime.
It must be cancer. You can’t recall anyone in your family history battling elbow cancer, but isn’t everyone getting cancer these days? Because of the food we’re eating … or not eating. And doesn’t cancer spread? You sit back in your chair. Maybe your elbow cancer has spread to your shoulder and now you have shoulder cancer. All at once your left shoulder seems achy.
You need to have this elbow (and now shoulder) examined immediately. You call your doctor to schedule an appointment. After listening to the options in the prerecorded message, you accidentally hit the wrong option and get the medical records department instead of the scheduling department. The medical records person transfers you, only you’re disconnected and need to call back and start all over again.
After choosing the correct option you are put on hold, though a friendly recorded voice reassures you that your call is very important to them. (So important that you are made to wait several minutes.) Finally, your call is answered. You inform the receptionist that you need to see your doctor as soon as possible for serious elbow pain. She tells you that your doctor’s schedule is booked. You feel that making an appointment with your doctor is some sort of race and you have lost.
The receptionist manages to “squeeze” you into your doctor’s busy schedule, making it sound as if it’s a favor and you should be grateful. You are, because since you’ve been on hold your elbow pain has grown worse.
The two weeks until you see your doctor seem endless. Mentally, you have decided who will inherit your most valuable assest. You wonder if you should make amends with the cranky neighbor you haven’t spoken to for three years. Or better yet, wait until he reads your obituary. How you died from elbow cancer. Won’t he feel bad then!
When you finally see your doctor, he seems rushed. You remind yourself that you were inconveniently fit into his schedule, after all.
“Does it hurt when I do this?” he asks, bending your arm at a ninety degree angle.
“No,” you say sheepishly.
But it had hurt when you did this same movement five hundred times the past two weeks to verify if the pain was still there.
“How about when I do this?” he asks, moving your arm in a different direction.
“That’s okay too.”
“Everything seems alright to me. I don’t see anything to be concerned with. Maybe you just whacked it.”
“I’m certain I didn’t hit it,” you say.
But he’s not listening. He has written in your chart and left the room to see a patient who was not squeezed into his schedule.
That night you tell your friend about your elbow pain, and how you fear it is cancer that has now spread to your brain. She commiserates, and recommends you see her doctor. But her doctor is a holistic doctor, not a medical doctor.
Your friend’s holistic doctor answers the phone on the first ring. Not only are there no phone trees or being put on hold, the holistic doctor will see you first thing in the morning. When you arrive at her office, there is music playing. She smells of patchouli oil. The holistic doctor takes your elbow pain very, very seriously. She explains that discomfort in any part of the body indicates inner pain … as well as a deficiency of vitamins and minerals.
When you leave her office, you have spent two hundred dollars on a monthly supply of vitamins and minerals. You have also bought a manual that will guide you towards inner peace, and a packet of tea bags whose name you can’t pronounce. The holistic doctor promises that, in time, these will heal your elbow and shoulder pain.
As you drive to work, you think about your elbow and how it used to not hurt. Then suddenly you realize it is no longer hurting, as you remember hitting it on the banister while you were carrying that load of dirty laundry up the stairs, without breaking a sweat.