My life as I know it started with My Girl. That movie was a wake-up call. When I saw Macaulay Culkin get stung by those bees and die, I realized that I, too, might have a fatal allergy to bee stings, and might not even know it until I got stung by a bee and died. Right then and there, I decided to live my life as if I could die at any moment.

And I developed a terrible phobia of bees.

Much later, I got stung by a bee. Not only did I not die, as expected, but it didn't even really hurt that much. For the first time in years, it occurred to me that I might not have a life-threatening condition.

I couldn't let that be. I needed the intrigue. And I finally got it.

There's a word for people like me, people who have WebMD.com bookmarked on our laptops. We're the ones who say things like, "If you want it done right, do it yourself." And we're so far up the American Medical Association's ass, they'd need a colonoscopy to get us out.

We're the cyberchondriacs, the new 'it' neurotics: hypochondriacs for the computer age, web-savvy self-diagnosers with chips on our shoulders and pressure on our sinuses. We have our fingers on the pulse of Western medicine, and some of us are feeling up holistic on the side. In our world, there are no waiting rooms full of snot-nosed toddlers playing with that thing that looks like an abacus on crack. Screw health insurance, we have message boards.

Ours is a neurosis born of need, and we rise to the occasion.

I felt the calling strongest when I first came to Penn. At home I had a family doctor, and though I sometimes felt an onslaught of the early symptoms of thyroid cancer (which, in retrospect, were probably just sympathy pains for J.T.T. in that one episode of Home Improvement), I mostly believed her when she said nothing was physically wrong with me.

But then, I left behind my parents, unlimited excused absence notes and that boundless cabinet of goodies: thermometers, advil and gauze, oh my!

And I found Student Health, that hotbed of incompetence, where an asthma inhaler is the solution to every problem. My beef with them started when they misdiagnosed what was obviously a case of dining hall-incurred food poisoning as a stomach virus. But that whole conspiracy aside, the fact remains that you could rot in that waiting room before they call you.

So instead of eating an apple a day and hoping for the best, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And I suggest you do the same.

But before you just leap right into the web, do some basic research to make sure you don't confuse anemia for a brain tumor (don't worry, it happens to the best of us). I recommend The Hypochondriac's Handbook, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance and Sex: What You Don't Know Can Kill You.

And use your discretion: if it's bad, like ebola or pinkeye-bad, then please, for the love of God, stay away from me.


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