The last time I went to a primary-care doctor, I left with a lollypop. It’s not just the absence of candy that kept me away all these decades since, although a Mounds bar would have made me think twice. The real reason I’ve stayed away is that I just saw no need to have a doctor tell me I’m healthy as I feel. My gynecologist didn’t agree. After listening to her gripe for years about my not seeing a primary-care doc, I finally gave in. Boy am I glad I did. Turns out, I’d been sick for years and still would be if not for him. Fortunately, I’m responding to treatment. As long as I keep it up, I can expect a normal life. My ailment is rare. Still, an unwitting reader just might be suffering, as I did for so long. I’m relaying the conversation that led to my diagnosis in the hope that those readers might recognize my symptoms in themselves and get the treatment they need.

“Looks like you forgot to fill in the medications section,” the doctor said, looking at the survey I filled out.

“No,” I said. “Didn’t forget. I’m not taking any medications.”

“Well, we can take care of that. Let’s see. No hypertension, no arthritis, no high cholesterol… How about acid reflux?”


“I can prescribe a pill to keep it that way.”

“I’ll take my chances, thanks.”

“What about sex-induced asthma?”

“Only in my fantasies.”

“Any symptoms of madarosis?”

“Probably not. I’ve never heard of it.”

“It’s thinning eyelashes, better known as Brooke Shields Disease.”

“My eyelashes are fine.”

“How about hearing loss?”


“Ah, you seem to have some hearing loss.”

“No, just trying to lighten the mood.”

“So you think this is a joke?”

“Just wishful thinking.”

“How about intolerances. Lactose? Gluten? Peanuts?”

“Only country music.”

“Now I see the problem.”

“I have a problem?”

“Yes. You have a delusion of health. I’ve actually seen this once before, back around 1983. It’s extremely rare.”

“With you for a doctor, I can see why. Seriously, though, I don’t have any delusions; I’m just healthy.”

“Hmm, you do have a stubborn case.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re saying that thinking I’m healthy proves that I’m sick.”


“So if that’s true, what’s the problem with this disease?”

“Now we’re making progress. I think you might even have a shot at recovery. Let me ask you something. How often do you have conversations with people your age?”

“Are you kidding?! I would love to have conversations with people my age. But all they talk about is their iambic pentameter, their lunar penumbra, their hydrothermal fissures. God knows I’ve tried. Sometimes I’ll bring up the time I broke my wrist taking a photo at a New Zealand beach or the two toenails I lost after my last marathon. They don’t want to hear it. I hate to admit it, but I get so jealous when I see women my age yacking up a storm in the prescription line at Walgreen’s. My neighbor even picked up her second husband there. If I want to find people to talk to about something other than their ailments, I have to go to the playground…”

“Excuse me. I hate to interrupt, but I’ve got a waiting room full of patients.”

“But what about my delusions? Aren’t you going to help me?”

“Of course I am. I’m writing you a prescription for some tablets. Take one a day, two if you start to feel healthy. Then come back in three months.”

“What are the side effects?”

“Just about anything that bothers everyone else your age – achy head, achy tummy, achy back…”

“How can I ever thank you?”

“No need. It’s my job. Now if you hurry along, you just might catch prescription prime time at Walgreen’s.”