04 August 2010

Treponema Immaculatum

A terrible injustice just took far too long to unfold in my life. Shall we start at the beginning?

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling quite sick. A little fever and diarrhoea on the Saturday (I never manage to break out the thermometer when I feel feverish, but let's just say that it was hot and yet I felt the need to pull up my down comforter as I napped in midday). Plenty more diarrhoea and gas over the next few days and the rather disturbing change in colour of my – er – stools. By the time I got to the following Friday, I made myself go see my doctor, who ordered some blood tests and asked me to call in for results the next Tuesday.

Over the weekend, things cleared up and went back to normal. On Tuesday I called and got a bit of a surprise: awaiting confirmation on a test for syphilis.

This might not be a big surprise for a sexually active gay man these days as public health panics us with the pronouncements of a large increase in syphilis cases among gay men (shot all the way up to 300 or so, which seems a little small compared to the many thousands of Chlamydia cases among youth these days). It is, however, a rather big surprise for me, as I have not had sex in approximately 5 years. Except with myself, and I had tests every three months during all that time that showed nothing of the sort.

There is something very annoying about being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection without having had sex. All of the notoriety, none of the fun. It all just seems unfair somehow.

Add to my frustration the amount of time that it took for the confirming test to come back: three and a half weeks after the drawing of the blood. Good thing it isn't typhoid, or my neighbourhood would have been wiped out!

Now I think that we all believe that medical science is a lot more precise than it actually is. Like they pour the blood on a little test strip which then turns a particular colour or flashes a "+" to indicate a positive test. It just isn't that simple. There is interpretation involved and I suspect that someone has misinterpreted this result. Either that or the 20 previous results. Which of those scenarios sounds more likely? I think we'll find out more certainly when I have my next round of regular blood tests next week.

In the meantime, public health gets notified and will likely contact me (can't wait to see how long that takes) to ascertain my behaviour. I honestly don't know how they will react to my account, but I don't have another one: just the truth of my lack-of-self-esteem-bad-body-image-inspired chastity. The interesting twist is that I go to meetings with these people in the context of my work.

So where did it come from? A mystery, one might even say a Holy Mystery (hence my clever renaming of the responsible bacteria in the title). Call the Vatican! This is surely a miracle, albeit a negative one. I credit (or blame) Brother André. I think he got it from one of those young boys with whom he is rumoured to have chastely shared his bed. With saints like that….

Now lest anyone think that I don't have all the theology straight in my head, let me remind you that my short-lasting conversion to Catholicism occurred when I was a young adult, so I am down with the dogma. The Immaculate Conception refers not to Mary and Jesus, but Anne and Mary, so that Mary could be born without original sin and be in a position to say "Let it be done to me" when accosted by an angel or archangel.

And while I may have uttered those words, or at least thought them, countless times in the past, I have not done so in about five years. And therein lies the injustice.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

Odd that we are sisters in this experience. I too have body image issues so hence have not had any sex (again except with myself) in the past 3 or 4 years. Given my history of sluthood it has been a dramatic change. So imagine my surprise about six months ago to get a call from my doctor to come back in because I had tested positive for syphilis. I too have years of negative results taken about every six months. So I explained my chastity to my doctor. It turns out that I have converted somehow so I now show up as a false positive. My doctor said it was connected to HIV/AIDS somehow. Either one of the meds or the virus itself. I've been tested a few times since and I always test positive now. Supposedly they can tell it is a false positive because I only have one marker out of three show up. They told that if I actually had syphilis I would have more than one marker. Unfortunately the first test just says I have syphilis so the other test needed to be done to confirm a false positive. I too was a little pissed because despite my years of sluthood, I had always told people that somehow I had avoided syphilis. Now I am close to sainthood and I get a lifetime of positive syphilis results. I'll have to go through it with every doctor from now on I guess.


Ken Monteith said...

Hmmm. I wonder if the fact that they "confirmed" mine means that they were more diligent and tested for other markers or just looked for the same false positive again. We shall see.

I'd hate to have to go through a quarterly public health panic, although 'Syphilis Kenny' has a ring to it....