Monday, May 17, 2010

Disease Week: Like Shark Week, but Horribler

Friends, it has been too long since we talked about really horrible diseases.

Sure, the plague comes up every once in a while, but as a dread disease it's kind of lost its novelty. We do talk about schistosomiasis statistically more often than probably any non-medical blog on the internet, but it's been two years since that was really a theme here. And there was that botfly scare Ivan had last April, but it turned out to be poison oak, which doesn't count.

I propose the following. First, I shall post a book review of Frigyes Karinthy's A Journey Round My Skull, which is a memoir of the famous Hungarian writer's experience of having a brain tumor in 1936. (I say "famous" because I am told he is.) Believe it or not, it is pretty funny. I particularly like the part where Karinthy sticks it to a friend who doesn't believe he has a brain tumor by producing the exact evidence the friend demands. And the friend, seeing the evidence, is like, "OH." And Karinthy is like, "Somehow winning this argument does not lift my spirits." Don't worry, he lives. Otherwise it would be less funny. Anyway, I shall post this on Wednesday or Friday, depending on how quickly I finish it.

Second (or first as the case may be) I shall announce Simon & Ivan's Disease of the Year, chosen from that delightful tome: Plague, Pox, and Pestilence: Diseases in History. (Side note: I recently had occasion to use a wonderful etymology site to look up words with a Greek root of temnein, "to cut." These words tend to have -tom- in them, like anatomy, lobotomy, tracheotomy, phlebotomy, tonsillectomy. I learned three things. (1) "atom" basically means "unsplittable." Oops! (2) "tome" is the least alarming word coming from this root, and (3) you should not just Google any old word that has a Greek root meaning "to slice and dice the human body" because while curiosity may not kill the cat, it may make the cat want to hurl. I have since diagnosed myself with tomophobia, a fear of surgical operations.) So after a consideration of the candidates and consultation with Ivan, you can look forward to learning something new and disgusting that, if all goes well, will make you regret reading this blog. Hopefully this does not include Ivan, to whom I have not yet divulged my plans. Surprise, Ivan! She is always diagnosing people with brain lesions, so I think she'll be up for it.


Pandora said...

In your disease-ridden blog-fest would you be so kind as to include a count of the number of times the doctors on "House" try to diagnose a patient with "sarcoidosis"? I believe the quantity may be close to the number of episodes they have produced.

Simon said...

That is so true. Makes you wonder how sarcoidosis ever gets diagnosed if its symptoms are the same as every other disease ever discovered. Recently, Foreman has been trying to give everyone schistosomiasis, which pleases me greatly as it is of course one of my favorites. And I will never forget the episode in which I diagnosed the plague before House did. (If you have swollen lymph nodes in your armpits, go to the doctor!) Every medical show has to have the plague on it eventually, or it's not worth watching.

Pandora said...

I fear that when aliens receive transmissions from our planet they will believe that we have a disproportionate amount of death due to plague and other horrific, rare communicable diseases, a terrible problem with infant mortality, children mysteriously disappearing after they age past infancy and reappearing with a different color hair and suddenly aged ten years, and a strange fascination with forensics.

Also, today I was more excited than usual when I updated my new podcasts and saw that WNYC's RadioLab was all about "Famous Tumors"! I'm sorry to say that Frigyes Karinthy's tumor was not discussed, but they did talk about the tumor that killed Ulysses S. Grant. And the woman whose tumor cells were the first to grow outside the human body and resulted in amazing medical advancements in polio, chemotherapy, and were the first human cells to travel into space - before a human being dared to try it! Check it out:

Katya said...

sounds wonderfully horrible. I can't wait to hear more.