A fish bone ruined my summer.
It all started back in the middle of June, when I began feeling pain on the right side of my throat whenever I yawned.
I tried to ignore the pain at first. It began a few weeks after I battled a cold, and I assumed it was just a leftover from the virus.
The pain subsided by the end of June, but things still didn't feel quite right. I wondered if maybe it was stress brought on by my to-do list before a July visit by friends from Denmark.
Work, kids and preparing for vacation helped distract me, but then it happened: Vacation arrived, and while walking to Times Square during a trip to New York City, I turned my head to get a good look at the cab driver asleep in his taxi with his feet dangling out the driver's side window.
As my head turned, I felt a scraping feeling in my throat. And it was on the right side.
I continued to feel it as I moved my head around. I didn't know what was wrong, but I tried not to think too much about it. Sometimes physical ailments only get worse when you focus too much on them, so I carried on with vacation.
The weird feeling in my throat continued in the weeks that followed. Some days I felt it more than others. As much as I tried to forget about it, I just couldn't. It was always there.
I dreaded going to bed because the discomfort always seemed worse when I placed my head on my pillow. On a few occasions, I grabbed a flashlight, stood in front of the bathroom mirror, opened my mouth, and poked around in my throat. I couldn't see anything.
I mentioned the throat problem to my wife but didn't want to complain too much, so I kept it mostly to myself. I didn't rush to my doctor's office because I hoped the pain would go away.
And I began to wonder if it was all in my imagination.
I must confess: I am a hypochondriac. Beating this health anxiety is easier said than done. I often joke about it with my friends because I really do believe that laughter is the best medicine, but it's still a struggle.
I try to tell myself not to worry, but I still do. Maybe it comes with the job. As a news reporter, I'm often surrounded by people with rare diseases who have a story to tell, people with health scares and victims of accidents and other traumas. I've had every disease known to the medical community - in my mind.
I've made the mistake of Googling symptoms and landing on websites with long lists of terrible things that could be wrong with me. A doctor once told me not to do that, but I still do.
After two months of worrying about my throat, I finally decided it was time to see my doctor. I just couldn't stand it any longer. I had to know if there was something wrong.
After a brief visit two weeks ago, I left with no answers. My doctor took a peek down by throat and didn't see anything. He told me that I could wait it out, maybe for another month or two, or I could see a throat specialist.
I told him I'd probably see the specialist sooner rather than later, but I held off on making an appointment. "Maybe this really is all in my head," I thought.
By late last month, I was wondering if my throat issue had something to do with my posture. I don't have an ergonomic chair, and I'm always slouching when I type. Maybe if I sit up straight, it'll realign something? I tried, but no luck.
Finally, last week, after the kids returned to school, I decided the time had come to make that appointment with the throat specialist, Dr. Gregory Danielson, an ear, nose and throat doctor with Core Physicians.
Much to my surprise, Dr. Danielson was able to see me at his Portsmouth office on the day I called. I explained my symptoms and showed him the area of concern. I also told him I thought it might be related to stress.
Dr. Danielson took a look inside my mouth. "I actually see something," he said.
I didn't know whether to be relieved or freak out.
He then grabbed a metal instrument and stuck it down my throat, wiggled it around, and withdrew an offending object.
A fish bone, about a half-inch long, had been lodged in my right tonsil.
Yes, a fish bone.
"Well, that was a first," Dr. Danielson told me.
It was a first for me, too. A fish bone stuck in my tonsil was not on my list of possible reasons for my summer of throat trouble.
Once the bone was removed, I immediately noticed a difference. I turned my head to the right, and moved it up and down. No pain. No discomfort.
Held prisoner by this bone all summer, I was free at last.
I can't recall when I ate the fish, but it must have been in June. And I'm sure it was a piece of haddock because that's the fish I typically prefer.
Had I suspected a bone, I would have gone to the doctor right after I began feeling pain. Instead, I spent my summer worrying.
I'm now putting the Summer of the Great Fish Bone behind me and looking forward to a spectacular autumn in New Hampshire.
One last thing. To those attending the final day of the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival today, please chew with care.