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The Dialectics of Cures

A friend of mine read an excerpt of Hank Paulson’s account of the bailout and expressed dismay at discovering that Paulson was a Christian Scientist who didn’t want to take pain-killer for a headache. Prior to this, he seemed to find Paulson entirely reasonable.

Trying to decide rationally between what’s a medicine and what’s food, what’s literature and what’s pornography, what’s investment and what’s speculation, what is an effect and what is a side effect — it all sounds tough to me. But lately I’ve had a long run-in with medicines for a persistent sinus-y kind of cough and cold that made me think maybe no medicine was the way to go. I’m going to go green.

Everything I took the past month seemed to not only not cure me, but actually exacerbate something else. Pseudoephedrine eventually and paradoxically causes the runny nose it ‘s supposed to suppress. Antibiotics upset your stomach. Eventually people start suggesting new medicines to offset the old medicines, yoghurt capsules against antibiotics, etc, which I declined.

Finally, seeking a happy to end to it all, I agreed to take some methylprednisolone for a few days, a kind of steroid, to beat down the residual allergy. They give it to you like some kind of shock-and-awe treatment: a 6 tablet bombardment on day one, 5 on day two, 4 on day three, etc. On day 6, it requires no more drugs at all: then the Saddam Hussein bad cells come out of their foxhole with their hands up.

It helped a little, but then, on the very last morning I woke up scratching at what I saw were small hives on my inner forearms.

Then I had my Proustian recollection.

When I was about fifteen years old, I had allergies, and eventually went to an allergist who almost killed me. He injected grass pollen into my arm veins with such deadly accuracy and ill effect that not only did my arm swell up, but so did my air passages and throat etc, so that they had to give me adrenalin on the spot and a few weeks of methylprednisolone.

Then I embarked on desensitization: for two years our family doctor whom I still recall fondly came by to inject concentrated grass pollen into my forearms in increasing doses. Somehow what doesn’t kill you is supposed to make you strong.

I don’t think my allergy to grass pollen ever went away, but what did happen was a new problem. For more than ten years thereafter, if I wore wool or nylon against my bare arms, hives would appear where I had once been injected with grass pollen. Somehow, deep inside my skin, something remained that remembered the insult of the allergist and grew angry every time some minor external occurrence reminded my body of it.

Why did those hives suddenly appear a few days ago? (They are gone now).

My theory is that in taking the methylprednisolone now, many years later, my supposedly desensitized cells on my arm, experiencing once again a cure, remembered their ancient insults by the allergist and family doctor and decided to rebel again. Experiencing the cure again, they also remembered the disease.

Sometimes nice words can remind you of a time when there were were harsh words too.

Well, that’s my theory. I scoff at your unscientific beliefs but mine seem perfectly reasonable to me.

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