We all do it. Google that symptom or health condition and more often than not, it makes us worse. The health anxiety racks up ten-fold and we end up thinking we are knocking on death’s door.
I am a prime culprit, or at least I was until very recently.
I developed bowel disease 35 years ago when my daughter was 2, I had an ileostomy when she was 4. In those days there was no internet of course and so I was often found lurking in WHSmith trying to make sense of my disease in medical books. My consultant found out about this and told me off, telling me to leave the doctoring to the doctors. Good advice but I needed reassurance he couldn’t give so I looked elsewhere. I didn’t find any reassurance of course, in fact, I found lots of seriously scary possibilities of what may or may not happen to me. Most of them didn’t happen but the worry seed was planted.
Fast forward thirty years when a hysterectomy perforated my bowel. My well-behaved long-standing Ileostomy for Crohns colitis, paled into insignificance as I was introduced to a new medical nightmare – Enterocutaneous fistula. Cue Dr. Google. This was a big mistake as I read about terms like ‘catastrophic surgical outcome,’ ‘high likelihood of morbidity’ and basically story after story of shattered lives. In a way what I read was true; it has been life changing and parts of my life have been completely shattered but I’m not sure reading about it in advance helped in any way. The saying ‘just as well we don’t know what’s in front of us’ rang true.
Five years in, I’m still here, my one stoma bag joined by another two and I’m muddling on. There is lots of happiness in my life, like the birth of my two grandchildren, to help me through. Watching my daughter blossom into an amazing mother and my nephews growing up into considerate young boys, fill me with joy. But I still googled…
A few months back I had gallbladder pain and seriously high liver function blood tests. Following the perforated bowel, I spent many months being vein fed and gallstones is a known complication. I had a procedure called a MRCP which is basically an MRI of my gallbladder which confirmed – gallstones! Some had found their way into my common bile duct hence the pain I was experiencing. My consultant ordered some specialised blood tests to rule out ‘some other conditions’ and again the anxiety started and again I turned to Dr. Google to see what it had to say.
I was soon reading about Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) or another condition Primary Billiary Cholangitis (PBC), which filled me with dread. It seemed my remaining life would be one of illness and severe itching with the only cure being a liver transplant. I had the symptoms; I did itch occasionally, I was always exhausted, I did have upper quadrant pain and those elevated liver function tests now made sense. Plus of course I’d had inflammatory bowel disease which was another big risk factor. I was doomed, my anxiety sent my head into some kind of lock down and every thought was overshadowed by very black thoughts. My ipad was confiscated by my long-suffering husband but that didn’t last as my search for reassurance continued in vain. I joined forums, I educated myself but did it actually help me – NO.
I had a phone-call today to say the blood tests were fine, there was no evidence of PSC or PBC. I would need a procedure to remove the gallstones and I go back after Christmas.
Another two weeks of my life whereby I have been completely crippled by anxiety because of Dr. Google, now known as Dr. Death, in my house!
Google is great for many things but if, like me, you have anxiety issues, I would strongly repeat what my consultant said 35 years ago, leave the doctoring to the doctors.
A little knowledge is in my case a very bad thing.