Disease Notice

I couldn’t understand why my husband got that upset. Diagnosis: benign. Worst case scenario, I grow my hair long.

I reported to my other half that the doctor confirmed that the newly discovered lump on the side of my face was a lipoma, a fatty deposit aka no cancer. He, however, heard lymphoma, a tumor in the lymph nodes which meant the Big C, very bad news. Say lipoma ten times fast on a cell phone with so-so reception and it does sounds a lot like lymphoma.
Which made me wonder, who decided on this name? And, didn’t anyone say, hey Bob, you know lipoma differs from lymphoma only by four letters, shouldn’t we rename it? We are going to cause heart attacks and unnecessary tears.

Discovering new diseases, frequently named with malpractice is commonplace for me. As a parent, I am forced to learn the symptoms, treatment, and prognosis of ailments, rashes, and diseases.

And, any mom or dad will tell you that you find out about the latest epidemic from opening up the red folder in your kid’s school knapsack. There is usually a long letter from the principal describing the latest infection that is going around the school. What disease could my little angel get today? Equally heart-racing is opening up an email from camp or school with the subject line NAME OF DISEASE REPORTED or my personal favorite, ANOTHER CASE OF NAME OF DISEASE CONFIRMED.

Here are the top three:

FIFTH DISEASE

Does your child look like someone slapped him/her? No need to call the principal to find out what is going on in the classroom. More likely than not your child has contracted fifth disease. When I got this letter, I thought I missed the first four letters discussing first, second, third and fourth disease. The practical joker who named this disease chose it because it is the fifth of six rash-forming sicknesses. Rashes numbering 1 through 4 and 6 use their aliases like rubella, measles, and roseola. It is like naming your six children, Abby, Betty, Carlos, David, Five, and Freddy.

COXSACKIE

This blister and temperature rising virus is also called hand foot and mouth disease because that’s where your kid will have these pustules. Don’t fret; it is not foot and mouth disease which farm animals get. Phew. You can go back to the zoo. As this virus was first confirmed in the lovely village of Coxsackie, New York, the town became its namesake. When the mayor got the news that they were chosen to be the name of the virus, did he/she complain or was there a parade?

LICE

Are you itchy? Just getting this notice will make you scratch your head, a lot. I had lice in college, and at that time, you could get kwell, a shampoo that killed lice on contact. It is no longer on the market, I think, because it causes cancer (or maybe lipomas?). I miss kwell. I would buy it on the black market if I could. Now, if you contract the non-jumping crawling buggers, you get them out using a not so potent non cancer causing shampoo and Pantene conditioner (to comb out the dead critters) in several uses. Buy a lot of candy; you’ll need it to get your kid do yet another comb out. A good sign of a lice epidemic is checking the local pharmacy. An empty shelf where the Pantene is supposed to be or a sign “Pantene on order” equals lice infestation.

I think it is safe to say that you won’t just get one letter or email alerting a case of lice; there will be several. Your kid will not have a case of louse; it will always be the plural, lice.

I didn’t need to consult the Merck Manual or WebMD for this contagion. At the very least, this one is aptly named.

Go Fish!

Go Fish

“Mommmmmmmmmmmmmm om” my seven year old doubling as an alarm clock sounded, “the pleco is on the floor.”   That’s odd, the pleco is supposed to be in the fish tank.

Sure enough, my little guy was right. Our beloved pleco (full name: plecostomus) lay motionless: belly down, fins stretched out, suckermouth affixed to the wood floor. Plopped on the floor, our pet looked like a corpse on Law & Order — waiting for the crime scene investigation team to draw the chalk around its body.

Visting the 1950’s, I did what any wife would do. I called for my husband, the man responsible for technology, plants, and all things icky. I summoned him to the living room to remove the body. There, as a family, we stood over our stiff pleco examining the remains. What was the cause of the death? It looked like suicide to me. Did I miss the signs of fish depression? Was he being bullied by his tank-mate, the Oscar (a fish known for its aggressiveness)?

This was not a new feeling for me. Fish and their untimely deaths have been a constant theme in my life. I grew up with fish pets (and surprisingly cats) and an interest in fish was the instant splash between my husband and me. On our first date stroll to a restaurant, we took a detour to a fish store. He, too, had a fish tank, and was in the market for a replacement fish.

“I don’t think he’s dead,” my optimistic son surmised.

“Oh, sweetie,” I said like a police officer telling the family member the bad news, “he is not coming back.” My husband nodded in agreement.

           

My son, however, was not, “I think he is still alive.”

He’ll learn. After all, he comes from a long line of unsuccessful fish owners. Growing up, we had a tank of kissing gouramis. While they sound like pleasant fish, they are known for being bullies and torturers. Like ordering red wine with salmon, my father paired these killer fish with silver dollars, known for their peaceful demeanor.

Ergo, here’s a scene from my childhood:

Wake up.

Check tank.

Yell “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, there’s another dead fish for you.”

Bobbing on the bottom of the tank lay a silver dollar with a kiss- shaped hole on its body. No need to call Columbo. We all knew who the killer was.

My seven year old persisted. To disprove his theory, my husband picked up the pleco and threw him in the tank. And, to the adults’ surprise, the pleco made some movements. He was alive!

When I was single, I thought fish would be the perfect pet. After putting a lot of time but apparently not a lot of thought setting up the tank, I invited some friends over to see my six fish. As I was preparing the hor d’ouevres, a friend commented how she liked my five fish. Uh oh. Five? One, two, three, four, five, where’s the sixth fish? I checked the floor. No. And, then, I realized I did not put the cap on the filter tube. Having that clue, it did not take much detective work to find the missing fish. Number six was sucked up into the filter.

The pleco was alive but not swimming well, like a fish out of water in water. Not shocking, since he was kind of stiff having gone through half the rigor mortis process. And, as expected, the pleco did not make it to the afternoon.

To this day, we get a constant “Nah Nah Nah I was right” from our junior fish owner in training. To further put salt in the tank, he memorialized his findings for a homework assignment. (I feared how I would be betrayed and felt lucky that I did not get a call from the principal). So, perhaps, we broke the cycle of fish killers. And, most important, continued the love and fun of being a fish owner.

EPILOGUE     Should you decide to buy a fish, make sure you can flush it.