Keepin’ It Real: Terminology For The 21st Century


I have always been a big proponent of calling a ‘spade a spade’ and telling it like it is. I don’t want things sugar coated or watered down to make them sound nicer or less scary. Give it to me straight or not at all. This belief was reinforced during my last doctor’s visit. I had been having one of those days… you know, those days that guy Murphy had in mind when he wrote up his laws. Yeah those days. Everything that could have gone wrong did and a 4 pm doctor appointment didn’t promise to turn the day around. After twisting my shoulder into a pretzel and having me touch my toes (for which I needed a crane to return to a vertical position), the term got flung at me like an out of control curve ball: degenerative disc disease.

My first reaction was a very loud, very unladylike snort. Of course…why not add another disease/syndrome/illness/ailment du jour to the long laundry list of my medical chart? I mean, after all, when you have two or three under your belt, the diagnosis are like eating those first few fresh baked cookies… you’re already screwed so why not eat the whole pan? After the snort, I began to get a little peeved… degenerative disc disease, it sounded so sterile and colorless. What exactly was it? What are discs and what do they have to do with past generations of my family tree? I walked out of there still scratching my head until I was able to Google the condition in my car. Degenerative disc disease = A break down of the discs in the spine that causes gradual deterioration and is a condition that can be painful and can greatly affect the quality of one’s life.

Ya think?

I prefer something a little more straightforward in description, like Pancake Spine = Depreciation of the squishy things wedged in your spine and is a condition that will occasionally shoot a lightning bolt from the base of your skull down to your butt crack.

The new definition (let’s call it a Stephanition) keeps it real, is to the point and lets you know straight up what you can expect. Living with chronic illness is anything but mainstream and routine, so I propose that we change all offensive medical terminology to more appropriate terms that save us from wasting spoons on search engines and monotonous explanations to healthy people. I have listed few of my personal favorites below along with their original name and definition. As you can see, the Stephanitions are clearly the better choice.

ORIGINAL: Alopecia – The partial or complete loss of hair—especially on the scalp—either in patches, on the entire head or over the entire body.

STEPHANITION: Mr. Clean Syndrome – The gradual or unexpected exit of any and all hair on the scalp and/or eyebrows. The hair many come out in patches or all at once, providing an excellent opportunity to craft one’s own winter afghan.

ORIGINAL: Anemia – A condition in which the blood is deficient in red blood cells, in hemoglobin, or in total volume.

STEPHANITION: Systemically Iron Challenged – A condition in which a random drop of red blood cells causes spontaneous exhaustion, freakish white eyelids and carnivorous tendencies towards bovine. Often treated with iron supplements (see “constipated for eternity”).

ORIGINAL: Butterfly Rash – A red, flat facial rash over the bridge of the nose. Because of its shape, it is frequently referred to as the “butterfly rash” of lupus.

STEPHANITION: Baboon Rash – A Kool-Aid stain over the bridge of the nose that extends across the cheeks and who knows where else. Because of its likeness to a misplaced baboon’s butt, it is frequently referred to as the “baboon rash.”. Also impervious to foundation, concealer or household spackle.

ORIGINAL: Celiac Disease – A permanent intolerance to gluten that results in damage to the intestine and is reversible with avoidance of dietary gluten.

STEPHANITION: Cookie Contamination Disease – An allergy to anything that tastes good. Avoidance of dietary gluten can be supplemented by gluten free products, most of which require a second mortgage and taste like couch cushions.

ORIGINAL: Chemotherapy – A therapy that uses toxic drugs to slow or reverse the spread of cancer. The drugs are injected into the bloodstream to poison rapidly growing cancer cells. Side effects include damage to healthy cells and organs. In addition, there are the better known side effects of nausea, hair loss and fatigue.

STEPHANITION: Vomm-o-therapy – A therapy that uses a combination of poison and turpentine to treat conditions such as cancer and/or autoimmune disorders. The drug is injected into the bloodstream or ingested in pill form. Side effects include: bobbing for your spleen in the toilet, dental destruction and Mr. Clean Syndrome.

ORIGINAL: Chronic Fatigue – A debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and most persons with CF often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before the onset of illness.

STEPHANITION: Stair-a-phobia – A very real disorder characterized by an inability to function without a steady supply of No-Doz and an intravenous caffeine drip. Although people with Stair-a-phobia desire to do normal things such as exercise, they often have to take a nap after tying their Nikes.

ORIGINAL: Corticosteroids – A steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex or synthesized; administered as drugs they reduce swelling and decrease the body’s immune response.

STEPHANITION: Satan’s Tic-Tacs – The most evil substance known to man, specifically designed to reduce swelling, as well as stupidity tolerance. Side effects generally include: insomnia, a bloated puffer-fish physique and a transformation into Quasimodo.

ORIGINAL: Endoscopy – The examination of a bodily orifice, canal or organ using a long flexible tube with a lens at one end and a magnifying eyepiece at the other.

STEPHANITION: Patient-ka-bob – The examination of every natural body orifice from north to south and everywhere in between using a hose and a telescope. Receivers of this procedure are usually under the influence of anesthesia so as not to hear the laughter of medical personnel as they are turned into a rotisserie chicken.

ORIGINAL: Immune System – A system (including the thymus and bone marrow and lymphoid tissues) that protects the body from foreign substances and pathogenic organisms by producing the immune response.

STEPHANITION: Cannibal System – A system that is as useful as a sixth toe on a left foot due to the fact that it doesn’t protect as much as attacks innocent by-standing organs. This system is largely considered to be a mythical urban legend along with Big Foot, Loch Ness and Charlie Sheen’s sanity.

ORIGINAL: Oral Ulcer – The name for the appearance of an open sore inside the mouth caused by a break in the mucous membrane or the epithelium on the lips or surrounding the mouth.

STEPHANITION: Craters of Hell – Painful and mortifying sores that appear and multiply inside of the mouth during periods of a flare. Although size and depth may vary, the ability to eat, drink, speak or otherwise do anything but drool is halted for the duration. Sometimes referred to as “best diet ever.”

ORIGINAL: Photosensitivity – Oversensitivity of the skin to sunlight or other forms of light. It sometimes follows exposure to certain chemicals or drugs, resulting in accelerated burning of the skin.

STEPHANITION: Vampirosis – Tendency of the skin to burst into a ball of flames when introduced to anything but cold, dark hall closet light. Its name comes from the Latin vampiro, which is loosely translated as “fun sucking light aversion.”

ORIGINAL: Pleurisy – An inflammation of the pleura or membrane that covers the inside of the thorax. It is accompanied with fever, pain, difficult respiration and cough. The usual remedies are venesection, other evacuations, diluents, etc.

STEPHANITION: Lung-in-a-Vice – An inflammation of the microscopic membrane of the lungs. It is accompanied by medical personnel skepticism, a fifty ton elephant using your chest as a step stool and a repetitive stabbing of your sternum by a dull pick axe. The usual remedies are an Arnold Schwarzenegger size shot of steroids and a 20 hour wait in the ER.

ORIGINAL: Probable Diagnosis – The act or process of identifying or determining the nature and cause of a disease or injury through evaluation of patient history, examination, and review of laboratory data.

STEPHANITION: Shruggable Diagnosis – The act or process of a physician reaching behind him and pulling a diagnosis out of his butt in lieu of research and further detailed testing.


Article written by Senior Editor, Stephanie Kennedy.

Stephanie lives in Fayetteville, NC and is the mother of 3 always hyperactive and occasionally adorable children. She was diagnosed with Ssystemic Lupus Erythematosus in 2001 and in the time since, has added Scleroderma, Hashimoto and Celiac disease. In her day-to-day life she is a Community Relations Specialist (aka, marketing and creative hodgepodge facilitator) and a part-time blogging snarkzilla. She can always be found somewhere in social media-land causing some sort of trouble. Find her on twitter at @steph_in_nc or on facebook at Stephanie Welborn Kennedy.

  • *claps* Love it! Whenever I see stairs, I sigh. I was out at a store the other day with my father, and he wanted to go to the second floor. I looked up at the stairs and said, “Really? You want me to go up those?”

    😀 Thanks for this great post!

  • Thanks you guys!! I’m just waitin’ on that independently wealthy publisher to beat down my door to beg me to let him turn everything I write into a multi-million dollar work of snark. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  • Karen O’Vasquez

    ROTFLMAO! Loved it!

  • Rose

    Hilarious! I had one of those “everything goes wrong” days last Wednesday also ending with a doctor’s appointment coincidentally, and definitely could have used a “Stephanition” to share with the doctor for my additional prognosis given! Great article!

  • Brandy

    If only this article would fit on a t-shirt…. I would buy one and wear it. Too funny! Sorry about your latest diagnosis.

    (Relapsing Polychondritis, Crohn’s, Celiac’s, Meniere’s, Pernicious Anemia, Hypothyroidism, Hypoglycemia…but no, I don’t look sick.)

  • Robyn

    I guffawed at the corticosteroids stephanition. i don’t think i’ve ever guffawed in my life before, but that’s what happened. lol. also love shruggable diagnosis — so true!

  • stacia

    Thanks, I’m laughing. Favorite is stairophobia which is exactly how I rate my fatigue. Satan’s tic-tacs also cracked me up completely. Love it, love it.

  • John Johnston

    I experienced an endo while awake; they found polyps and removed them. They claimed minor discomfort. Having an endo while awake was bad enough, but the removal was a lot worse. No painkillers = not good.

  • Lara

    haha! “Patient-ka-bob”!!!!
    Your column reminded me why I’ve sworn off going back to a Doctor. The “practice” of medicine.
    Yikes. It scares me to death.

  • Tammie

    I love this!

  • Carla

    LOVE IT!!! My favorite kind of humor.

  • Christy

    Love the definitions!!! HATE 2 hear you have Degenerative Disc Disease!! I have it & its beyond the pits…Block shots only work for about 1-2 wks max, but at least that is 1-2 wks that I don’t feel like my back is gonna break in half from standing or doing anything for more than 15-20 min at a time! I am going on 7 yrs of this & I am 42. I also have osteoarthritis, idiopathic neuropathy, chronic fatigue, and hypothyrodism…plus I have suffered from migraines my whole life. I had actually outgrown them in my 20’s, after having kids, until last year when I had sinus surgery to correct my deviated septum…lucky me!! I think I have become a permanent part of my couch & may have to be surgically removed from it one day….LOL….Its good to know we are not alone out here….

  • fran

    Roll On The Floor Laughing Hysterically !!!
    Loved it 🙂

  • Carrie

    I laughed so hard I snorted! Thanks for the article – it provided some much needed comic relief.

  • Mirja

    A really good article. I laughed so that almost dislocated something.
    I relate to this matter quite well as I have hypermobility syndrome. Peole tend to think, that it’s the same as hyperactivity (usually a childhood disorder that adults can control).

    So I think that hypermobility should be: A condition which includes dislocating several joints during a 10min busdrive and irreversible damage to cartilage which results in having your knees being replaced by the age of 40.

  • Shirley

    Thank you so much! I am printing this out for my Primary Care doc! Thanks for setting the example of grace and giggles during our issues! Please contine your research of Stephanitions create the first Stepictionary and publish it hard bound. I will be the first in line!!!!

  • Ailsa

    🙂 Ha!

  • This is awesome! I have to use one of your Stephanitions as a post!

  • Alice Adler

    This is my first time to the site, and I’ve enjoyed your article. I’ve had a spinal fusion and the resulting nerve damage that goes with it. I’m doing the pancake disks too. I seem to have a host of other things gone wrong that hhave caused other things to go wrong- so I had to give up pain for Lent. May you have many spoons!

  • Emilie

    Righteous! After just leaving the hospital myself yet again….I wish I had this wallpapered to my body this week 🙂

  • Jo Mason

    Very funny, though i have an alternative to “patient-ka-bob.”

    I work in a GP’s office, and one of the docs told me this one, she says she has it from a friend who’s a gastroenterologist (so at least some of them don’t take themselves too seriously):

    Definition of “colonoscope” : a thin, flexible tube with an asshole at each end.

  • Suzanne

    Love it! You’ve been making me laugh for a long time now, but this is definitely one of the best! I was looking for the narco-skittles, though (one of my favorites). Also, if you get the chance, can you come up with a better term for brain fog? If you don’t, no problem, because I’ll forget I asked within a few minutes!

  • Bravo!!! This is wonderfully witty! Thank you for today’s chuckle.

  • today’s favorite – ‘shruggable diagnosis’ – very timely!

  • Nancy

    Terrific! got to make a copy for my doctor’s nurse and several fellow patients!
    Too funny! Love it!

  • Crystal

    To go with the ‘Shruggable Diagnosis’ there is also the ‘Dartboard of Drugs’. I swear one of my old Doctors must have had a Drug Dartboard on her office wall and she would try meds that way, maybe where each drug is hit would also explain some of the doses I was started on.

    I love the ‘Stair-O-Phobia’ that is exactly how I felt yesterday. Along with Vampiro eyes.

    ‘Attack of the evil miners’ would go well with Nummular Headaches. The flairs of pain feel like someone is trying to dig into my skull with a pick axe, sometimes multiple miners go after the same spot at the same time or just use a REALLY BIG axe.

    ‘Exploding Brain’ or ‘Brain in a Vice’ could work for migraines depending which way the pain is going.

    ‘Bat Ears’ for hypersensitive hearing.

  • Narda

    Thank you for the laughter! I too, appreciate that direct response and the ‘Stephanitions’ are perfect!

  • I feel like Sally Field… “You like me….you REALLY like me!” lol! 😉

    You guys rock.

  • Cori

    What a riot… Satan’s tic-tacs and lung in a vice are a riot… maybe cause it hit close to home.
    You always make me laugh!

  • Ivy

    What a LOL article! “Shruggable Diagnosis” is one of my favorites! And of course, the delights of “satan’s Tic Tacs” Hahaha.

  • Amber

    LOVE IT!!!! Also laughing out loud…at work. It’s ok, they already know I’m crazy here! 🙂 But seriously, I love your “Stephanitions.” They are dead on and way more accurate than any medical or dictionary definition. Thanks for the laugh & for letting us know we are not alone!

  • I laughed like a mad crazy person while reading this! Loved it!

  • Erin Talley

    Nice job!!

  • Kirsty

    absolutely hysterical stephanie, brilliantly written. thank you for making me really really laugh.

    i have degenerative disc disease, i’m only 36, and had ridiculous numbers of operations on it. if you want to chat about it, feel free to drop me a mail sometime.

    kirsty x

  • nancyj

    Really laughed at your Stephanitons! Having many of those diagnoses, I truly appreciate your humor. That’s what we have to do-laugh or the alternative is even worse. I’ll keep laughing with you! Thanks.

  • natty

    Very good
    How about :-
    Irritable bowel as ‘where’s the loo disease’
    Arthritis as ‘joints gone to hell’
    Autoimmune as ‘your body hates itself’
    Fibro as ‘try it and you’ll regret it disease’
    and Diabetes as ‘no sugar, I’m sweet enough thank you’

  • Courtland

    Great Article Steph!!!

  • HA! Fabulous – I especially agree with the Stephanitions of Celiac Disease and Satan’s Tic Tacs!

  • Annette

    Oh my gosh, I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time… my husband kept asking “what’s so funny?” each time I let out a big laugh (outloud), and as the tears came down, I couldn’t even begin to answer him. Thank you for these — your Stephanitions are brilliant!
    I have DDD X3, but in my lumbar, so that bolt of lightening goes from my butt down my leg to my foot, which is numb, giving me foot drop (AKA clodhopper syndrome). My sympathies are with ya girl!

  • OMG! This is HILARIOUS! I soooo needed to read this! Totally LMAO at the celiac one! So true!

  • Carol B


  • nancy

    I can so relate to Satan’s Tic-Tac. I can remember the last time I entered the hospital with both my ‘lungs in a vise’. I waited for the CT scan to actually see the vice on both lungs. (LOL) The dr told me he was admitting me to CCU, starting IV steroids and blablabla… All I heard was steroids and the tears erupted!

    It seems just as I ‘F I N A L L Y’ shed my steroid-moon-face, I get hit again. Now I have a mental tool, the Satan’s Tic-Tac, to keep me grounded and keep the staff entertained with my wit.

    Note: even when I was admitted the dr said, “You look fine, let’s do some test.” Yepper, i didn’t look sick but ended up in CCU for 3 days and on the rehab floor for 4 days. (I have Common Immune Deficiency Disease CVID).

  • Rachel Jones

    I love what you have written here!! I am still chuckiling over “Satan’s tic tacs” LOL. What you have written is so true and yet it’s hilarious!
    Om a serious note, I hope your back feels better. I know someone with “degeberative disc disease” and I can see how painful it is. I have RA ansd myalgia so I only have a glimpse of what you may feel.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and keep on writing! Those posts made my day!

  • ROFLMAO!!! I love it! This is fantastic! Your Stephanitions are wonderful.

  • Darla

    Awesome Article!! I havent laughed that hard in a long time!

    Love and spoons to you and everyone!

  • great article and i am pretty sure we can find more ‘stephanitions’

    as for your back i hope the pain isn’t too bad yet and that it will stay this way for a long while and that you manage to manage

  • I soooo needed this laugh. Thank you!

  • Chris

    Truer words have not been spoken. I seriously, LMAO reading this! 😀

  • laughing so much I have lung-in-a-vice! Satan’s tic tacs is SO perfect!!! Sending this all around the web! You’re so gifted with that sense of humor Steph!
    Gentle hugs,
    Sheila (Penlady)

  • Laura

    This is the first to actually make me Laugh out Loud. Why do medical terms have to be so damn confusing. Glad I can use your Stephanitions from now one. As long as I cite the terms as being from you it should be okay, right? RIGHT?!
    Love it!