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The Doctor’s Orders...

By Amy Ma | Nov 19, 2009

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The doctor’s orders were to quit my job.

Those weren’t his words exactly, but he certainly gave me plenty of reasons to start daydreaming about my life as a cartoonist, or some other less life-threatening vocation.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The whole thing had started off on a much more reassuring note. I had signed my name onto the emergency waitlist at the gastrointestinal specialist because for three days straight, it felt like someone was repeatedly punching my stomach from the inside at regular intervals.

“It’s probably just food poisoning,” said the kind doctor.

Then, somewhere during the awkward silence when he was pressing down on my lower abdomen, I mentioned I was a food writer.

“Oh,” he paused, grabbing a pen to scribble down a note. “Now I see.”

In films, they call the point when things take a turn for the worse the “Hitchcock Moment”—a strange glance, the room darkens slightly, and instantly, the once safe surroundings seem to pose immediate danger.

I played the role of the dumb protagonist walking straight into the trap. It wasn’t until I had been sent two floors down to a test center that I realized telling your gastrointestinal specialist you were a food writer was the equivalent of telling an airport security guard you enjoyed your vacation frolicking with pigs in Mexico at the peak of an H1N1 outbreak. They treated me like I was an Ebola monkey from the hot zone.

“You drink a lot, don’t you?” asked one of the nurses. I shook my head. “Sure..” she said with a wink. Geez, I said, “food writer,” not human garbage can or the biggest fatty on earth.

Someone pricked me with twenty little needles. “An allergy test,” she explained, adding a totally inappropriate side note: “You must eat all sorts of crap, like bugs and worms and dogs.”

A breath test, blood test, and ultrasound scan later, the entire office was convinced I was patient zero and my stomach was the petri dish from which all mutant bacterial strains would spawn. There was talk that I might have gout or gallstones. I told myself I’d draw the line at any suggestion of an anal probe.

When the results came back, the doctor started off with the good news:

“You don’t have any lethal poisons in your system.” Followed by the bad news: “You’re allergic to certain varieties of onions, wheat, and you’re moderately lactose intolerant.”

Really? Because that’s not what my French onion soup told me when it went down without a hitch a few days ago at a Parisian bistro.

I shrugged off the warnings and went home that night still undiagnosed. Four days of pain later, I was told I may have gotten a “bug”—no further details given—and that it might return one day... with a vengeance.

Sigh, I don’t get paid enough for this.

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