This is Your Brain on Brain-Eating Amoebas

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I’m a hypochondriac. WebMD knows me by name, and I’ve vaguely entertained the notion that I have cancer because they told me so. However, if I hadn’t looked up my symptoms on the site when I had an inflamed gallbladder, I might not have thought my condition serious enough to go to the ER. (Okay, maybe I would have because I was in a fetal position on the floor of my dorm room, crying, muttering that I didn’t want to die in said dorm room).

Let’s just say the power of the Internet is far too great for people like me.

So, when I experienced painful headaches for a a lonesome string of days, I became a little frustrated and a little too preoccupied with the Internet. I knew my sinuses were to blame, but I could not figure out why my nose sprays or allergy medicines were not working.

Inevitably, I panicked.

I had just cleaned out my nose spray with warm water, and I had taken every precaution to wait until the nozzle dried to make sure that tap-water microbial cysts did not find a home in my nose. But had I made a mistake? Was 24 hours of air drying not enough to eradicate microscopic pests? What would the headlines say? “Blogger Dies, Leaves a Life of Unfinished Writing and Awful Selfies Behind”

Cue brake screeching. With my headaches increasing in severity, the obvious reason for them did not occur to me. A lowly sinus infection had to take a backseat to brain-eating amoebas.

Commence my incessant research into the latter. Unfortunately, brains are a sometimes snack for these amoebas. In fact, when they travel into your nose through pond or lake water, they simply have to eat your brain because there is nothing else to satiate their appetite. But there’s no cure. Your symptoms will show up in 2-14 days, but after that, you’ll most certainly die. And you won’t be almost dead, like in The Princess Bride, you’ll be all dead. WebMD nonchalantly mentions that a couple of teenagers die every year because they go swimming in a pond without their nose plugs. (Oh sure, because people wear nose plugs. Right after they put on their bathing caps!)

With this recent research nestled in my obviously decaying brain, I started to plan my funeral arrangements, deciding on the music that would crescendo into a mournful rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. I worried what my family would do with this blog, if they would let it fade to black. And not once did I stop to think that I might actually be brain-eating amoeba free. Not once.

The point is, we all get caught up in the moment. We all have a flair for the dramatics. We all see the forest for the trees. We all get stuck on the worst case scenario.

But I would never want to know if I was dying or not. Even if I was. (And I don’t know yet because I haven’t been to the doctor. I’ve just been self-diagnosing my sinus infection, as usual. So, let’s hope there isn’t a severe twist of irony in the next couple of days…)

But do you ever notice that we never ask psychics, mediums, or wayward strangers with crystal balls when we are going to die? We ask who we will marry, how much money we will have, if we will turn out alright. Because the knowledge of our death date doesn’t help us right now. You may have a weird realization in knowing when you will die, like in Big Fish, which might ironically give you the strength to go on. But more often than not, it’s just going to depress you. Like I said, there is no cure for the brain-eating amoeba. So, why worry about it?

In fact, live your day everyday like you have a brain-eating amoeba. Hug everyone a little tighter, smile at anyone you pass, and try to leave a legacy behind you. Because our physical selves deteriorate (or are eaten). But our kindness, advice, and passion will live on in others. And if you’re lucky, your awesome recipe for chocolate chip cookies might get passed down, too.

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