Tag Archives: privacy

Not Enough Information

Please be advised, this post will include clear references to the following sex and gynecological conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing medical advice or fetish eroticism… Heaven knows I haven’t felt all that erotic, and all of creation knows I’m not a doctor and you should not take medical advice from me. I’ve just had an extraordinarily long, frustrating few weeks and I’m jumping back into my blog with extreme candor! Consider this your opportunity to click on to the next blog if you  don’t want to proceed. No hard feelings.

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Except… maybe some hard feelings. The year is 2013 and we females have been around for all of recorded time. Yet every woman I know (including me) prefaces conversations about their own health with the phrase, “This may be too much information, but….” In fact, the title of this post was originally “Too Much Information,” until I took an anonymous, blog-bound, principled stance against such nonsense.  (Color me courageous, hmm?)

I’m not blaming anybody. I am blessed with a husband who will uncomplainingly go to the drugstore late at night to buy me tampons or yeast infection medication, even though I know he is embarrassed by the much less daunting prospect of standing in Victoria’s Secret while I shop. I’m not offering solutions. I don’t know why we still feel socially restricted from speaking of normal (and bloody frustrating) bodily functions, even among good friends. The point is I’m tired of it, I’m feeling cranky, and you’re all about to get an earful of my personal information (custom be damned)!

This story begins happily. Last weekend my beloved Cash and I made love well and vigorously, because despite the stress and anxiety over conception that leaks into this blog making a baby is, in fact, a good time. Yay us! But we may have overdone it just a smidge because a couple of days later I started feeling under the weather.

In specificity, I suspected the beginnings of a UTI. (The last few moments of urination were painful and too warm). Many women are plagued by frequent UTIs, but I am mercifully not one of them. So I did a little research–surfed the internet, quizzed my best friend who is a nurse in training, etc. I did not particularly want to go to the doctor because I was leaving for Italy in 9 days and I did not feel up to the rigmarole of trying to get an appointment/get diagnosed/get formal treatment. Besides, I prefer not to take antibiotics unless they are really necessary; I don’t intend to contribute to the superbug

 problem! My ad hoc research tended to indicate if I drank the equivalent of the seven seas I might (might) be able to get rid of my UTI before it really got started. And so, I began to guzzle. Aside from peeing ALL THE TIME, I did feel quite a lot better!

Sadly, the second day of symptoms was significantly more uncomfortable than the first day, and I found a bit of blood at one point.  So I decided I needed an actual medical opinion and probably a urinalysis to identify the pesky bacteria causing me problems. My OB/Gyn’s office got me an urgent appointment with the nurse practitioner the very next afternoon.

All of day and evening 2 I was stressing out. I was worried that my simple UTI was not a simple UTI. I should be ovulating soon and I was so frustrated that my condition (whatever it was) and subsequent treatment would get in the way of making love at the right time. I also got it into my head somehow that I was suffering from prolapse and would have to have surgery to fix it. (This hypochondriac reaction was probably colored by some medical records I had to review recently, rather than anything to do with my own issues.) I never used to be a hypochondriac. I’m still not much of a germophobe. But gynecological issues seem so wrapped up in my long term happiness that every small thing causes my mind to go into anxiety overdrive.

I woke up on day 3 and my symptoms had effectively disappeared. By my appointment that afternoon I felt 100% normal. I told the nurse practitioner the whole story and she said I might have managed to kick it with my excessive fluid intake. We did a urinalysis just to be safe, and I was told to continue drinking a lot of fluids to ward off any additional symptoms. The test came back negative so it seemed like I was in the clear. I was so relieved! I was also pleased with myself for beating that UTI off with wave after wave of water/tea/cranberry juice/anything watery and unsweetened.

Then that evening, I started feeling off again. This was a really mild “off.” My plumbing just didn’t feel normal. I am not at all sure I would have even noticed the onset of symptoms a few years ago…but over the past eight or nine months I’ve gotten into the habit of paying such close attention to my body. I knew that consuming so much water and cranberry juice can alter your body chemistry–that’s why it helps the UTI symptoms. And I knew that altering your body chemistry can throw off your natural balance in the baby factory. So I thought, maybe I just back off for a few days and everything will return to normal. Sadly, my discomfort only grew.

I felt like it was probably the beginnings of a yeast infection (itching), but I wasn’t sure (zero discharge). I’d only had one before, and the first one had been different and more severe (worse itching, significant discharge). By Day 4 I was freaking out again. Why should I have to go to the doctor again when I’d just been cleared? Of course, my nurse practitioner had not been informed of these new symptoms because I didn’t have them when I saw her.  But the difference between Day 4 symptoms and my prior yeast infection made me nervous. I felt so pressed for time: I was leaving for Italy and (hopefully) ovulating in less than a week. Even if I gave over the counter yeast infection treatments a shot, I wouldn’t know if the experiment was successful until I was in a foreign country.

On the other hand, I had to do something. My symptoms were going to be a distraction at work the next week and I frankly can’t afford to miss out on more billable hours right before vacation. Out of my anxiety, I unfairly yelled at Cash for not knowing more about women’s health. Eventually I sent him to get me a pack of Monistat 1-Day. When he returned, we had a calmer discussion about how I do wish he would take a more personal interest in the medical requirements of conception, even if not women’s health generally. I feel like I’ve explained the ovulation cycle a hundred times and I doubt I’ve explained it for the last time. I don’t think he means to turn off his brain, but he hasn’t really committed the information to long-term memory so far.

Back to the point, the Monistat seems to be working even though it’s only day 2. Next time I will actually be going for the less potent 3-day dose, because the 1-day dose felt very strong and uncomfortable for the first few hours. Fingers crossed I’ll keep feeling better! The instructions in the package recommend against intercourse during treatment, but unhelpfully they don’t indicate how long treatment lasts. The dose itself is administered just once, but it takes up to a full week to fully cure an infection, so it’s anybody’s guess. Anecdotal internet reports suggest waiting until a few days after symptoms subside.

Vacation is in 4 days. Estimated ovulation is in 3. I might still miss the mark on ovulation and that makes me pretty unhappy. After the past several weeks, I was really looking forward to the chance to build my family. But, the consolation prize is a trip to Italy with my husband and two good friends, and that ain’t too shabby! So, the story ends happily, too. I hope this post will help someone out in the future, although it is anecdotal and unscientific and can’t offer a whole lot more than moral support. Then again, let’s not underestimate moral support.

UPDATE:  I woke up the morning after this post feeling fine. Less than 12 hours later my UTI symptoms were back with a SERIOUS vengeance, bad enough that I left work to go to the nearby urgent care center even though I have a doctor and good health insurance…COULD NOT WAIT. Then I peed pink. They’ve diagnosed me with a UTI and this time I took the freaking broad-spectrum antibiotic. Let’s hope it works.

UPDATE 2: On the second day after starting the broad-spectrum antibiotic, I feel better again. I don’t feel totally normal, but I am not suffering anymore. But I got a call from the lab that did my second urinalysis today and they said they really didn’t find “much bacteria at all” in the cell culture. The person I was talking to was the nurse at the urgent care center, so not the doctor, and not the person that actually analyzed the cell culture. She couldn’t tell me what the heck “not much bacteria at all” is supposed to mean. Does it mean it was a UTI? It wasn’t a UTI? WHAT? Because whatever it was, it was not normal. At this point I’m not sure what else to do but wait any see…and I’m leaving the country in 2 days. Urg.

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Big Data & the Future of Critical Thinking

It’s 3:58 on a Friday, I’m having a pretty bad week, and can’t muster the wherewithal to do more work right now. So I am going to sit here with my Joy tea (need some Joy in my life) and my shiny new blog and write about something that I find fascinating: data collection and targeted perspective in the information age. Inspired by the comment thread to this brilliant post.

parents

parents (Photo credit: goto10)

There’s always a lot of talk about how important it is to guard your information online. There are so many people you’d want to keep it from–thieves, the government, retailers, your boss, your parents… Plus, I’m a technologically sophisticated, legally trained individual and I know full well the myriad dangers of putting too much out there. And yet, I opt in to almost every data collection scheme I come across.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go looking for data grabbers that have nothing to do with me otherwise. But if I enjoy a service, I virtually always permit them to share my data anonymously to “make their service better.”  Think Hulu,  Amazon Kindle Store. Netflix. Google products. Phone apps. Et cetera and ad nauseam. I love that technology is advancing to the point where I am increasingly confronted with only the things I enjoy seeing. It’s beautiful! Fun! Interesting! Gratifying! Why shouldn’t I take advantage of what targeted services can do for me? This guy gets me.

Well, there are zillions of reasons why I shouldn’t.

For one thing, how can you guarantee your data is anonymous when it leaves your grasp (or that it will stay so?) You can’t. With enough data, and enough computer power, virtually any set can be traced back to its “anonymous” donor–recently scientists released a study showing they could personally identify anonymous DNA donors with the power of the net.

And another thing, do you know what your data even says about you? Trust me, you don’t. The level of information that a third party with swaths of your prior behaviors can predict about your future behaviors is staggering. We have many laws (and in the U.S. a handy Bill of Rights) to help protect you from the government extrapolating about you based on this information. But what is to keep a multinational corporation from determining your future based on your past? Nothing. Chances are, most of the online resources you use track every single click and keystroke you do–and sometimes they might release it.

In today's society, there's a price to pay for...

In today’s society, there’s a price to pay for critical thinking (Photo credit: cesarastudillo)

There’s also the more philosophical argument–that when you permit yourself to be confronted with only the things you already enjoy, you stunt your personal growth. You fail to encourage critical thinking or creative collaboration with differing perspectives. You splinter your universe into a tiny niche where you and all of your friends are the most important, most correct, most infallible possible patrons. Is this a word we want to live in? Not in the long term. This is why critical thinking is, to my mind, the most powerful skill you can learn. It requires affirmative practice and daily tuning, but once you have it, it won’t matter how “targeted” an argument anyone can throw at you. You’ll be able to evaluate it effectively and make an informed decision about its impact on your life.

I’m still going to opt-in to targeted data collection schemes for services I use. But I hope that I can continue to stretch my critical thinking muscles and not let them atrophy. It’s the best available weapon against the gorgeous and terrifying future.

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