A few days ago I noticed a hard cyst-like bump near my jawline, and slightly under my ear. My first panicked conclusion was that I had some sort of cyst or tumor. Grainy films of large needles and scalpels played in my mind as I contemplated the draining or removal of the lump.

Until more levelheaded and knowledgeable people explained it is probably a swollen gland. Over the following two days, the lump became painful, and other nearby areas of my neck and head began to hurt. And besides, I didn’t feel sick. I had no sore throat or cold-like symptoms. Just these swollen glands.

I managed to come up with all sorts of fanciful diagnoses. I felt a couple of large bug bites on my head and decided they were made by a particularly venomous spider, and my swollen glands signaled my system fighting the poison. Or I have telepathic glands, and they were responding to a coming virus, yet to arrive.

I decided insurance or no insurance, I was going to the doctor.

The doctor confirmed, swollen glands. She asked questions like, “Have you been scratched by a cat recently?”

To which I said, “No.”

She asked, “Any other complaints?”


She checked my ears and throat. All clear.

I told her my bug bite theory. She laughed.

Then she told me her theories. And *I* laughed.

Her diagnosis? She said I may have mono. Or, I may have TMJ.

Mono because of the swollen glands. TMJ because I was chewing gum when I walked in. I asked, “How else would I know if it’s TMJ?”

She said, “Your jaw would hurt.”

“But my jaw *doesn’t* hurt”

Shrug. She wrote something on a prescription pad and handed it to me. “Go for blood-work. Call me in a few days. Take ibuprofen three times a day.”

So I went and let them stick a needle into my arm (those fever dreams weren’t so far off after all), and here I sit, contemplating my possible illnesses.

The hell of it is, once she told me what it *could* be, I started feeling really tired, and my jaw started to hurt. Like a good hypochondriac, I’ve got all the symptoms to the two possible sicknesses I probably don’t even have.

So, I ask you, good readers, can you solve the Mystery of the Swollen Lymph Nodes? I’ve given you all the facts. Now you tell me:

Do I have mono?

Do I have TMJ?

Do I have a third, as yet unidentified illness?

Write out your deductions in the comments section. I’ll have the answer by Friday, at the latest.

Gosh, isn’t this fun?