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My View: Alternative facts in the doctor’s office

By Robert P. Simpson

On a recent trip to the doctor my wife came with me, to ensure that truth be told and fiction be left at the door.

The doctor asks, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you describe your pain?" Well, that all depends on whether you are using the male pain scale or the female pain scale. On my scale, my pain is a 9. On my wife's scale, it's a 3. I think my foot is about to fall off my ankle and I will never walk again. My wife thinks I should put a Band-Aid on it and take an aspirin. Knowing this, I lie to the doctor and tell him it’s a 6.

Then comes the question, "How did it happen?" I'm a guy. I used to be an athlete. In my mind I still am. There is no way I am going to answer this question truthfully. I start to grimace as I contemplate the myriad lies I am prepared to tell. I rehearsed some of these stories before I knew my wife was coming with me.

The doctor misinterprets my grimacing as evidence of severe pain. That's fine with me. Just as I am about to tell the doctor a really great story about my climbing a mountain and falling 30 feet into a ragged ravine, I remember that my wife is by my side. I only remember because she utters a single word to the doctor before I can speak – "treadmill!" she says with a smug smile on her face. “He increased the speed from 2.0 to 3.0 mph, and, at the same time, increased the incline from 0 to 5 percent." She points skyward as she describes the steep incline. She was having entirely too good a time with her tale.

"How old are you?" the doctor says. Sensing another opportunity for a well-crafted lie, I hesitate and contemplate. But sensing my wife's stare, I tell the truth, "I'm 62." And then the doctor’s reprimand, out of nowhere: "You're 62 and you decided it was a good idea to walk uphill?"

It turns out I have an "itis." There are 101 "itises" on WebMD. Mine is ranked 99th in importance. Some "itises" are very serious. Some "itises" even sound serious. Mine doesn’t. My "itis" really sounds like it can be cured with some witch hazel and a Band-Aid. I'm thinking of renaming my "itis" to attract the sympathy and empathy I really deserve. I'm pondering new names like "profounditis" or "reallybigitis" or even "painfulitis."

My "itis" can't be cured with witch hazel (I tried). It really hurts. It hurts more to know that I spoke with my sister-in-law on the phone about it. She suffered from the same affliction and we compared remedies and treatments. We spoke for 30 minutes before we realized we had become our parents – calling to talk about our common ailments instead of where we were going dancing tonight.

I had to cut the call short – what if I ended up at McDonald's or Tim Hortons tomorrow morning talking about ailments over breakfast with other old guys?

But before the call ended, I found out that we both treat our “itises” by using cruise control and avoiding touching the brake pedal in our cars. Who knew this was a proven home remedy for our particular "itis?" She uses her cruise control to get out of her driveway, and I cruise down my street at 15 mph, leading a parade of agitated neighbors. I don't care. They are only agitated. I have an "itis."

Robert P. Simpson is a registered patent attorney in Williamsville who no longer walks uphill.

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