June 22, 2008

Paper Underpants

Autoimmune Diseases are like guests on the Jerry Springer show: they all end up being related in some perverse and unexpected way. Crohn’s Disease is supposed to confine itself to the Digestive System, particularly the large and small intestines, but try as it might, it can’t keep its eyes and hands off the sexy reproductive organs next door, nor can it resist the allure of the soft tissue found in, among other places, the throat, the eyeball, and ear canal. When its feeling especially entitled, the disease moves outward, to the skin, and invites its close relatives—the rash and welt—to come for an extended holiday.

The vast array of skin conditions Crohn’s Disease gifted me, plus the fact that my skin coloring is one shade above albino--qualified me for membership in the University of Pennsylvania Hospital’s “Pigmented Lesion Group.” A subset of Dermatology, this “exclusive clinic serves selective high-risk patients” (I’m quoting from the pamphlet now) “in the diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of skin lesions and cancers.”

When I was invited to join the PLG two years ago, I felt the heavens part. I went to a university without a Greek system, and always felt somewhat deprived by the fact that I never got to wear a special pin or short-shorts with Greek letters stamped onto the buttocks. The opportunity to join such an exclusive club, I knew, was my second chance to be part of the “in-crowd.”

Not unlike a sorority, new PLG patients have to go through an initiation process that includes a mental health screening, a chest x-ray, blood tests, and peeing in a cup. Oh, and there was one more thing which the perky PLG nurse failed to mention to me before I signed my body over to science. I had to pose for some pictures.

Though the doctor’s explanation of what was expected of me and why made sense, I didn’t feel that his description of the photo session accurately reflected what, in its most basic form, it really was.

Me: “So you want me to be in Derm Porn?”
Doctor (twitching in his chair): “I don’t prefer to think about it in those terms. What this portfolio will provide is a baseline image of your skin so as to help us monitor subtle changes to your skin over time.”
Me: “I am going to be naked in these pictures?!”
Doctor: “Oh no! You’ll have a covering.”

The “covering” it turned out, was a pair of paper underpants. I was led into a room adjacent to the Dermatology clinic that was set up like a photography studio (imagine a J.C. Penney portrait studio, minus the wicker chairs and plastic Greek columns). Against the back wall was a huge white screen, and mounted to the ceiling and side walls were enormous lights. The paper underpants were arranged by size in a basket on a table next to the screen. I immediately started to sweat. I didn’t know what size to choose. The underpants were individually wrapped in small plastic bags that had no markings on them other than S, M, L, X, and XL. I wondered, "Did the PLG underpants follow Victoria Secret’s sizing or were they more like K-Mart’s?" More importantly, when I opened up the plastic wrapper, would I find a bikini or a thong?

After I assured voices through the door that I was indeed, wearing the paper underpants, a male photographer and female nurse entered the room. After turning off the overhead lights and turning on the stage lights, the photographer asked me to disrobe and assume a series of poses. As the man moved around me, camera flashing, his assistant (the nurse) directed his lens to different parts of my body: “Focus in on that incision scar on her stomach!” “Make sure you get a close-up of that rash on her neck!”

It felt like a Playboy photo shoot gone horribly, horribly awry.

Unlike the Girls Next Door, I was not having the time of my life displaying my wares to the world. After a ridiculously long time, the nurse noticed this. Her voiced softened and she turned all motherly.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, as if she had no clue.
“Nothing,” I replied through gritted teeth. “Just hurry up.”
This, evidently, was the cue for the photographer to set down his camera and take a break.
Sensing (rightly) that I was about ready to bolt, the nurse tried to console me.
“You seem to be upset,” she said. “Why?”
I squinted at the glaring lights above me and then down at my naked body covered only by a napkin with strings and answered her as honestly as I could.
“I have no idea why I’m upset,” I said. “Usually being photographed in paper underpants makes me very happy.”
The nurse was not amused. The nice mother disappeared and mommy dearest made an entrance. “Would you like to speak to a counselor?” she said, more as a threat.

Suddenly the reason for the mental health screening became crystal clear.

“No,” I replied, “I don’t want to see a counselor. I just want you to hurry the *%# up.”

I can’t say that my descent into profanity sped things along any faster, but it did stop the running commentary on my scar tissue. I returned home that evening with my pride and the paper underpants stuffed into my purse. My husband was not interested in seeing me model the underpants. Fortunately, my neighbors were. I put them on over my jeans and reenacted the horrible event in its entirety in their living room. Even though they were laughing, I could tell they were jealous. They wanted their own pair of paper underpants. I mean, who wouldn't?

Yesterday, I went to the PLG for a check-up. The attending physician told me right off the bat that they weren’t taking any pictures, which made my request for another pair of paper underpants a little awkward.

“What do you want them for?” she wanted to know.
Telling the truth (that I was going to take a picture of them and post it on the Internet) was not an option, so I settled on something much worse.

“My husband wants them,” I said.
That got me a raised eyebrow and a smirk.
“He wants proof of my suffering,” I clarified.

The doctor said that she would “see what she could do” and left the room. A few minutes later, she returned with the prize. As she tossed me the plastic bag, she said, “Have fun with these.”
I wanted to punch her, but violence is grounds for expulsion from the club and I can’t risk that, so I settled on a “knowing wink” and a respectful acknowledgment of her authority.

“Will do, Dr. Porn.”

40 comments

princessofsomething said...

Um, you seem to have forgotten the picture. I really must see it. Perhaps you could, again, put them on over your clothes and pose for the camera. Because that would just make my life so much happier.

BTW, I have an autoimmune disorder too. Psoriatic and/or Rheumatoid arthritis (the jury's still out). It's such a happy life.

Lisa said...

I agree-- I need a picture!! I wish I was wearing paper underpants as I read this since I nearly peed my pants laughing!!

Mindy said...

Oh, Jana...you make me laugh. What a crazy life!

Stoker Family said...

OH my goodness. I totally need a pair of those....for Dave. You should see if the university needs a model for the art department, you could bring those along.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Victoria Secret really needs to start stocking these things.

Just reading this gave me horror chills. I can not imagine having to go through that. I probably would have punched the poor camera guy.

HM said...

When you first modeled them, you said you would get me my very own pair. Alas, I am still waiting...

Mari Burgess said...

K..You don't know me, no I'm not one of those stupid spam thingy's that let you know your blog is interesting and how to invest in some weird pyramid scheme, Aurelie Pahnke is my cousin and I now and again click on the links that post...and I don't know you either, but I think I laughed harder at this post than any other time in my whole life. You are seriously hilarious. Thanks for the laugh!

linda said...

Janet is my sister and told me about your blog and I have to say "THANK YOU". My life is better just reading your blog everyday. you are hilarious. I am super jealous of the photo shoot by the way. that would be my dream...

thwurth said...

I think you should have been more sensitive to the feelings of the cameraman during the photo session. He was trying to provide an important service to you. Cursing at him probably ruined his day. I hope you will instead say thank you when it's time for your five year follow up mole mapping. And, by the way, referring to mole mapping as "dermporn" is simply demeaning.

The medical encounter should not be a joking matter. By implying that the dermatologist thought you were up to some monkey business with your modesty garment (as they are technically known), you have tarnished the sacredness of that encounter.

You really are the Meanest Mom!

WendyJanelle said...

Okay, I followed from Ice-Cream.
This is hilarious. Hilarious! Not that I'm laughing AT you....(I sure hope you are laughing!!!)

Anonymous said...

oh my heck. I would have NEVER.

E

Anonymous said...

Okay, who is thwurth? Lighten up, whoever you are. She's trying to make a frustrating experience bareable. (no pun intended) Get it?

WendyJanelle said...

I will echo that. Thwurth needs to remove the stick. The "cameraman's feelings"? Oh, dear me. The poor cameraman.
Psha. Hush up and let the woman get through her story the only way she knows how. And that is with humor, which a wonderful God-given coping method.

Kimberly said...

Oh you poor thing.

But I'm quite happy you made mention of The Girls Next Door--my shameful secret.

Taylor Clan said...

Wow. I just clicked on a link on another blogspot because you stole my title (I am truly the meanest mom) and I'm quite certain you now have a stalker. Perfectly benign; suburban housewife in Utah who LOVES your writing style and sense of humor. You have earned a spot on my "Family and Friends." I know. You should feel honored.

The Mother said...

All sororities have hazings. Even medical ones.

Anonymous said...

That is hilarious! I have crohn's, so I've been through medical "humiliation" in the name of science. I almost peed when I saw the paper underpants. I work at a spa, and we carry those for when women get bikini waxed. I think that goes against the spa theme, wearing paper underpants and having someone rip hair off with wax....
Thanks for the laugh!!

Megan B said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I am SOBBING with laughter!!

Sarah said...

That sounds so humiliating! I can only compare it to the time I went to this breastfeeding clinic when my son wasn't gaining well and the woman asked if she could see my breasts.

I said, "Why?"

"Well, we find that the shape of the breasts affects the milk flow."

"But I've breastfed two other babies successfully."

After showing me a diagram of various breast types and asking which looked the most like mine, I really didn't know, so she repeated her "need" to see them.

I muttered, "Everyone wants to see my rack ....."

I very hesitantly lifted up my shirt and she commented on my sagging being "not too bad".

I told the pediatrician I wouldn't go back there if they paid me. And she said she wouldn't refer another mom there after the experience I had.

Holly said...

My husband always said that the worst part of his skin cancer was the mole mapping. I thought he was crazy. I totally get it now. You are awesome! I love your blog!

Meagan and John said...

I wanted to say I appreciate your ability to find comedy in even the most humiliating of circumstances, I only hope I can learn from your example. I myself have been through a lot of medical testing since becoming disabled in Aug 08, granted the doctors still don't seem to know exactly what wrong with me, but if you know doctors like I do, if they don't know what is making me sick then obviously it is mental and I need to consult a shrink....anyhow, I did post this blogs link in one of my article written at www.lewis4higher.blogspot.com so I hope you don't mind

whimseycreations said...

OMG I nearly fell off my chair laughing. You have a way with words! LOLOLOL

Kevin and Holly said...

My friend just tipped me off to your blog, and I love it! I am ROTFLOL! Thanks for the laugh. I really needed it.

BTW, is it just a bizarre coincidence that the word verification for my comment is "hotindis"? :)

Lissa said...

I CAN NOT stop laughing! Your sense of humor is so refreshing and must make all the horrific things that come along with this disease a bit easier to take. God bless you for your courage and strength! And your blog is one of my new favorites!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely hilarious! Thanks for posting this

Kim said...

This post is soooo funny! I loved it! I really enjoy your blog, I love your sense of humor and the way you tell stories. Thanks!

Melinda said...

OMG that is hysterical..asking for another pair. You so deserve the funniest blog award.

Wayne Howard said...

That was quite a hilarious story! Thanks for sharing your misery with us lol.

jeluoto said...

My word this was hilarious. Maybe even more do be side I go in for a full body photography next month. I wasn't warned about paper panties. Good to know! Question though...so were the bikini or thong?:)

Brooke said...

I feel your pain. I had a plastic surgeon take pics of my breasts for my insurance company to try to get them to pay for a reduction. The Dr.'s office sent in slides, which is what they said they always send to insurance companies. Well MY insurance company had the audacity to say that they hadn't gotten the pics. I finally said something to them about the Dr. saying that he was going to send slides and they said, "Well, we don't have a slide projector, so we need real pictures." I wound up borrowing a Polaroid camera from work and a female co-worker and I went into the bathroom so she could take some pics to send to the insurance company. EVERYBODY knew what we were borrowing the camera for and we worked at a company with a lot of men. To add insult to injury, after fighting with the insurance company for 6 months and jumping through a LOT of hoops, we found out that our company was closing our office and we were all being laid off. There's no way that I could afford COBRA coverage, so the insurance company won. :(

knielsen76 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
knielsen76 said...

You are TOO funny for words! My best friend turned me on to your blog and I am now a loyal follower!

Yvonne said...

This is the funniest blog I have read. I am sitting here boobless, hairless, and brainless due to cancer and chemo and laughing so hard the tears are streaming down my face. I can hardly wait to read more. It reminds me of a radio program in Canada called the Vinyl Cafe.

Kissie said...

I've been here before, courtesy of Melinda and although this is an older post, it's right on time for me. I was in need of a good dose of medicine. I needed the chuckle, thanks!

coffee addict said...

This is SO funny! To all of you who have been"Diagnosed" with all of these things...

Have you ever heard of candida? Many things mentioned here are misdiagnosed when all you really have is an overgrowth of yeast in your body, making you sick, achy bones, bowel issues and misdiagnosis' A simple diet change can save your life, clear up rashes, cysts that have grown under your skin, chronic yeast infections etc. Just wondered if anyone else had heard of it.? Sugar feeds yeast, so if you eat a ton of sugar, try 2 weeks without it and see what happens. :)

Elizabeth said...

Ok, so I'm a 36 year old married mother of one and I'm usually totally and completely annoyed by some "mommy blogs" that rave about their homemade organic dinner menus and doting perfect husband...blah, blah, blah. I have finally found a blog that I can read and laugh my head off! THANK YOU!! Your writing is refreshing and hysterical. I could have used a pair of those paper undies to provide some extra coverage when I was, quite literally, almost wetting my pants reading your post!

brit said...

Wow, what a story! Thanks for sharing your miserable story with us. I think the best part is you going back for more underwear!

The Laundry Queen said...

A friend of mine just sent me the link to your blog-- very funny. I am a mom of 5 and I don't have Crohn's, but my husband does. The whole time I read this post, I struggled to erase the rather startling graphic in my mind of my husband wearing those panties. I love him, but I may be scarred for life.

keymomentsmom said...

I'm amazed that you can find humor in your suffering! My poor hubby has been struggling with skin issues (gluten/allergy related)--though I doubt he'd ever wear paper undies! :) Thanks for reminding us not to take ourselves to seriously!

Anonymous said...

Karma came back to bite you. The way you discipline your children is full of humiliation -like making your daughter wear the same pair of pants for a week. Kids are mean and will viciously taunt a child for this and you intenionally set her up to be embarrassed. Now, you know what it feels like to be humiliated youself.