After a long week of suffering, an entire roll of toilet paper sacrificed to my nasal drippings and more smashed raw garlic than one should rightfully consume, I’m finally over the nasty cold that took hold of me late Tuesday night. I have always believed that there is no better feeling in the world than the first day of wellness after dealing with an illness, and as I sip a beer that I am finally able to taste and enjoy, I feel that statement ring truer than ever.
Hopefully I’m over all of your run-of-the-mill winter illnesses. This past November, I was beaten down by a respiratory infection that rendered me unable to walk to my kitchen (but also gave me the opportunity to plow through my entire Netflix queue, so ya know, silver lining). Thanks to the advances of modern medicine, I’ve avoided what seemed to be a ferocious strain of influenza, but I suppose you’re never really in the clear, so please keep your fingers crossed for me. With the last bits of phlegm ejecting themselves from my system and my voice returning to its normal register, it seems I’m in the clear and ready to open my airways for the arrival of spring allergies.
Oh wait, except for that whole measles thing.
I’m not going to argue about who is right or wrong when it comes to the vaccine debate, because I’m of the firm stance that choosing to not vaccinate your children is wrong and I don’t believe there is room for debate.
Rather, I want you to consider how this outbreak affects me, your beloved HoboTrashcan columnist, Molly Regan. Because fuck, I REALLY do not want measles. I just started back at school to finish out my bachelor’s degree. I work full time and all of my pay is commission, so every day I miss work takes a massive bite out of my paycheck. I handle all of the laundry in my household, so if I’m incapacitated Joel is the one who suffers. Frankly, measles would cramp my lifestyle in a way that I just can’t afford.
Also, it’s a terrible disease that has the potential for disastrous complications, including death. But mostly it’s the school thing. I’m really trying to do well this semester.
When it comes to my work situation, measles and infectious diseases have a bit more of an impact. By night, I may be a smart, sexy writer with a razor sharp wit (and I hope that’s how you all think of me), but by day I am a not-so-mild-mannered massage therapist. I genuinely love what I do and take great consideration and care with each of the clients on whom I have the privilege of working. And part of that care is being mindful of my own health so that I can best treat them.
Knowingly transmitting an infectious illness is an ethical violation in my field. I wear liquid bandages over every little scrape and cut that I can see from my fingertips up to my elbows, as I cannot risk the possibility of transmitting blood to my client. I follow universal health standards for healthcare workers. If I feel an illness coming on, I am knocking at my doctor’s door to get a proper diagnosis, treatment and care plan so that I know whether it is safe or not to go work on my clients. I sanitize the entire treatment room after every work day, and between every session where a sick client has opted to get on my table (because as much as I would like to, I cannot always turn a client away). I get the flu shot not only to protect myself, but to protect my clients. It’s not fair for me to not do these things because they don’t just impact me.
People come in to receive massages when ill on an almost daily basis during these winter months. Often times they come in out of a mistaken belief that my massage capabilities can somehow push the illness – and those pesky amorphous toxins – out of their system. Many are distrustful of doctors and feel more comfortable in my hands. And for the latter sentiment I am grateful. Massage and other alternative healing methods certainly have their place and I’m glad to see them gaining traction and legitimacy in the western world. But this should not come at the expense of modern medicine.
I cannot practice this magical alternative medicine if I am incapacitated by a deadly (or even just inconvenient) disease. Honestly, I’m worried about the next wave of measles outbreaks occurring within wellness centers. Who will speak for the poor massage therapists, acupuncturists and other practitioners who are subjected to constant rounds of sniffling, wheezing, rash-covered clients proclaiming that we are just so much more in tune with the human body. I could go on and on about the horrific potential, but I’ll leave you simply with a note that I once got sick because a client coughed in my face while I was performing a neck stretch on them. People seem to forget that we too are only human with immune systems that are only so strong. (So here’s your friendly PSA to cancel your massage if you’re sick.)
Now I realize that most of you are not booking appointments with me, and you probably don’t give that much of a shit about the inner-workings of MY personal and professional life. I admit that the flaw in my argument is that it is rather self-centered, because in the end, I’m really worried about MY OWN health, MY OWN career and MY OWN clients. My apologies for being so selfish.
I guess what we all learned here is that your infectious illness does not just affect you. That is why it is called a fucking infectious illness. (And yes, I have petitioned Congress to make the official change to FUCKING infectious illness. No response yet.) If you choose to not partake in medically-proven preventative measures for the sake of public health, at least own it and proclaim that you’re an asshole rather than claiming the individual choice argument. Don’t scream about debunked autism links, or try to fix every problem with organic food and, for fuck’s sake, don’t downplay the seriousness of the illness and claim it’s just a right of passage that people totally used to go through in the before time. Ya know, the good old days where polio was king, women died during childbirth and you cured every disease with bloodletting and exorcism. Good times.
I care deeply about my own health and that of my clients. So much so that I am asking to have my MMR titers tested at my upcoming physical because not everyone gains lifetime immunity from childhood vaccination and the recent outbreak has made it necessary for me to ensure my immune status. I understand that my position as a massage therapist puts me at a high risk for infectious illness, and I take care to be responsible for all aspects of my own care. I’m baffled that there are parents who can’t seem to understand that their children are germ factories and take responsibility for all aspects of their care. This doesn’t necessarily mean vaccinate (though it should), but given the obvious impact of refusing to do so, quarantine would be a viable second option.
And if you’re Jenny McCarthy, opt for the latter. Please.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.