The morning after Valentine’s Day, I woke up with an itchy, flaky ring on my forehead and a stranger in my bed. My social anxiety prevented me from picking up the phone and calling my doctor, so I went on WebMD instead. Ignoring the daily symptoms of “craving alcohol,” “desolate loneliness” and “excessive crying,” I checked off everything that could describe the burning red circle that had popped up overnight. The list of possible conditions seemed unlikely. I hardly ever ventured out during the day, so sunburn was impossible. I figured if it was a chemical burn, I would probably remember it.
Rejecting all of WebMD’s suggestions led it to prompt me with a few additional questions. “Do you have any pets?” No. “Do you eat a varied diet?” I would say three different types of dessert is as varied as it gets. “Have you recently had sexual contact with a partner?” I looked over my shoulder to the man sleeping in my bed. I mentally congratulated my drunk self for managing to not be alone on Valentine’s Day and checked the box for yes.
Then the questions got weird. “Did your partner attempt to pet or groom you?” I vaguely recalled a hand smoothing over my hair as I fell asleep. “Did your partner refer to sexual intercourse as ‘yiffing’?” He had asked me if I wanted to yiff, but I assumed he was from New Jersey or Texas or something. “Did your partner wear a fursuit during sexual intercourse?” Slowly, I realized the dive bar I was at last night didn’t have a mascot. Why would a squirrel be at a place called “Moriarty’s Pub”? The suit sat, mocking me, in the corner of the room. Its empty eyes stared straight into my soul.
Horrified, I told WebMD to tell me my diagnosis. How many diseases could this person have given me? And how did it end up on my forehead? The page loaded up and a pop-up window appeared…
“You have cancer.”