I was talking on the phone to R today, and she told me about her hometown best friend who has a terrible blood disease. What is it? I asked. I was pretty sure what she would answer. I was right: Polycythemia vera. Oh, I have that, I said. Mine is almost asymptomatic, except that I get pins and needles from taking a shower or bath with water that hotter than warm, and I often have red cheeks. Oh, and I have to get my blood sucked out and disposed of every couple of months. The technical term is therapeutic phlebotomy. Her friend has it bad. Her friend's mother has it worse. She's had small strokes. Her friend had been feeling tired for the past two years and so now when she sees her mother's symptoms she imagines she's seeing her future. PCV isn't usually hereditary but in her case it is.

I felt very lucky and charmed even though I had terrible pins and needles for about 90 minutes after physical therapy one day for my Achilles tendonitis, caused by the rousing of my circulation.

The thing is we are all getting older and we are getting more and more diseases and injuries and conditions. R has had many, many health problems and said she's disconcerted by having so many of her friends cross the line to the illness side.

I found out last week that my friend P had had a month of bad reactions to a dental operation. I don't mind hearing about everyone's bodily status. At least not yet. I don't believe there's such a thing as TMI (too much information).

In grad school my friend D found a letter on the street written by one nun to another. The letter-writer detailed her bowel movements. At least in my circle, we haven't descended to such detail.

But I have to admit that PCV (I think that's the abbreviation used) does worry me. I fell on ice last week and got a huge bruise across my arm and it was warm to the touch. After panicking, which started after midnight, that it was going to turn into a blood clot, and talking to two emergency room nurses and then in the morning, to my hematologist's assistant, I calmed down.

For those of you who get midnight health panics, I recommend calling the Northwestern Memorial Hospital emergency room. The nurse at Illinois Masonic wouldn't give out any information.

Don't tell NMH that Cancer Bitch sent you.