By Trevor Hewitt
I found a lump in my neck when I was 20. It was soft and the size of a small grape. To make matters worse, it was the middle of my exam period.
Anxious and out of energy, I do the only thing I could think of to help calm myself down. I open up Google, find a medical diagnosis website and ask it just what the hell is wrong with me. Just 0.25 seconds later, I had my answer, and I feel the sharp pain of a lump in the centre of my chest. I probably had thyroid cancer. Or lymphoma. Or possibly HIV.
And just like that, I had become a patient of ‘Dr. Google.’
The internet has transformed industry. You can order your groceries, download movies and trade stocks online. Previously these industries required separate commitments. You had to go to the grocery store, head to the movie store or have a stockbroker. Most of these changes have been positive. They help us multitask and complete chores quicker. But the instant nature of Google raises an important question: should all conveniences shift towards the computer screen?
The hypochondriac in me says, no. The ‘Dr. Google’ phenomenon refers to using a search engine to try and determine the cause of your symptoms. Various websites offer symptom checkers. I know, I know. It’s my own fault for freaking out after seeing scary results. It should’ve been obvious to me that they were wrong. At the very least, I should know that Google or some random website isn’t qualified to diagnose me with a terminal disease. Perhaps that’s true for some, but it wasn’t for me at the time. As I scroll through my symptoms that were fine, I latch onto the few that aren’t.
Within 48 hours of finding my lump I was sure it’s early-stage lymphoma – cancer of the lymph nodes. I called my father on the second or third day and shakily explained to him what I had found. Around 24 hours and a train ride later, I sat in a walk-in doctor’s office.
I sat there zoning out and memorizing philosophy terms for an upcoming exam. I was trying not to think about all the problems I’m creating by taking this much time out of my life to go see some random doctor. After what felt like hours (but was probably more like 40 minutes), an impatient doctor took about 15 seconds to look at me. He told me that I’m fine and that it’s just an enlarged lymph node. Probably due to an infection or stress. He says not to worry unless it gets bigger than a walnut or starts feeling hard.
I’m shocked. Is this guy crazy? Does he even know what he’s doing? He hardly even looked at it. I ask how he can he be so sure and he tells me that if it were bad, it would definitely be hard and walks out the door.
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