Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It isn't any big secret, at least among those who know me personally, that I have been facing some pretty significant challenges in the past 18 months. From interpersonal issues to professional issues to school issues, and most recently health issues, I've been dealing with them all. I started out the year by falling down a whole flight of stairs on Christmas day. That's straight down a full flight of basement stairs in the pitch black, landing in a heap movie-style at the bottom. I managed to escape with nothing worse than some bruises, scrapes, and a sprained foot (not to mention a permanent healthy respect for stunt men and for darkened doorways). I count myself eternally lucky, because a family friend did the same thing a few days later and broke her heel which required surgery. And frankly, I was so greatful that I managed to sprain my foot and not my hand that my complaints were rather limited. I can only think that my martial arts training kicked in in my subconscious somewhere and saved me.

Remeber that wonderful trip to Ithaca I took a couple of weeks ago? I promise this isn't quite the non sequitur it appears to be. Well, at the end of that wonderful trip, I happened to scratch my neck under my jaw one night. You know, just one of those vague itches that needs to be scratched, only it kind of hurt when I itched it. Not like my skin hurt. Like my jaw hurt. And I thought that was kind of weird, but I wasn't all that concerned.

Well, the next day, it really hurt, and it was swollen - noticably swollen. And the day after that, even more so. I came home, and I did some research. Swollen glands usually mean that you're fighting an infection and they're not serious. But I wasn't sick. And I'd had swollen glands before - usually on the base of my skull or behind my ears - but this felt different.

I had to go to the doctor anyway, and he wasn't terribly concerned, but after a repeat visit he agreed that it was significant and put me on antibiotics to fight the infection that I must have even though I wasn't sick in any appreciable means. After a few days of medication (which made me feel sick, even though I wasn't) without any difference in my gland, my doctor started throwing around terms like "CAT scan" and "biopsy" and "lymphoma" and "leukemia." Because apparently, it's really REALLY unusual to have a swollen gland without any other symptoms. I mean other than intense, life-interrupting pain. Unusual enough to throw around words like "lymphoma" and "leukemia."

And to put a twist in the already giant mess of my life, on the day that these horribly scary words were getting thrown around with such seriousness my parents were supposed to be leaving on a 10 cruise of the Mediterranean, and I was supposed to be leaving for a summer festival 4 days later.

After some doctor confrencing, it was decided to try a stronger antibiotic before the biopsy (but after the CAT scan). The parents left, and I got better. The swelling went down, and the pain was much improved, and the new antibiotic wasn't making me sick to my stomach. Everything was looking good, and I was packing to leave, confident that it was just an infection of some kind that the new drugs were give what for, and my life could continue on as planned.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, 6:40 AM. I wake up covered in hives. COVERED. Apparently, though I have had no drug allergies to date, I was allergic, SEVERLY allegric, to this new antibiotic which was working so well otherwise. I called my doctor, I called my grandmother to come over immediately, I called the festival to tell them that yes it sucked and there was no notice but I was having a medical emergency and was not going to be able to make it to the festival that day. And I waited and prayed that I didn't suddenly go into respitory arrest while waiting for someone to fix me.

Steriods, massive doses of Benadryl, and a lot of crying.

Monday when I finally got to the doctor, all of the nurses and doctors were in shock. Apparently, they've all seen hives before, but not like the hives I had. I had them everywhere, and they were spreading. They changed my antibiotics back to the original only, like, 4 times the amount I was originally taking.

The hives continued to spread. And yet, the swollen gland? Improving.

In the end, it turns out I'm severely allergic to both clindamycin and penicillin. I spent over a week covered in the worst case of hives any of my doctors has ever seen, and I'm only starting to get better. The gland is back to normal. Apparently, it's not unusual for an allergic reaction to kick an immune system into high gear. They still don't know what caused it. Which I guess means I might get it again without any warning. I'm still itching, and my legs are purply blue with fading hives, but at least I can (sort of) live again. Well, live in a manner than means I don't spend my entire day on the couch watching TV and trying not to move so I don't itch.

Yeah, I lost a lot of money by missing out on the first two weeks of this festival (not to mention the opportunity to study with a teacher I've been trying to get a lesson with for 4 years) and yeah, I'm still pretty itchy. And if you think that doesn't mess with your sanity, think again. But with a little bit of luck, my doctor will clear me to leave this weekend. And then, I don't know what will come next. But tomorrow I might have some knitting to show you.

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