Ouch!

December 14, 2006 at 11:26 am (Uncategorized)

“Why haven’t you been writing?” a few people have e-mailed me.

The short answer: it hurts to type. The longer answer: it’s been a heck of a couple of weeks in chronic town.

Here’s the full version. As soon as the temperature drops below sixty degrees, every child in Montana seems to become a veritable petri dish of viri and bacteria. My pre-schooler is no exception and brings home every bug, which he kindly passes along to me. Because I have a compromised immune system, I have a hard time shaking off the colds and flus that come my way. My latest respiratory infection became entrenched in my sinuses. One powerful antibiotic proved unable to kill the thing off, so, for a while, I was on two doozies of drugs– Levaquin and Biaxin.

Just when I thought I was emerging from the land of the sniffely and the headached– and was thus feeling well enough to return to my daily writing– my sarcoidosis decided it had been neglected for too long and reared its very ugly head. On Saturday, I had a heart “episode,” as I like to call them, that left me sweaty, nauseous, and damn near on the floor. It passed, but was followed by some wicked chest pain. My first rule of thumb with such things is to ignore them and assume they’ll go away on their own (I also practice this, with a surprisingly high success rate, on broken appliances. You’d be amazed how many blenders and microwaves have fixed themselves when just left alone for a few days). Alas, my heart is not a blender, and the chest pain persisted and began to spread into my shoulder. I broke down and went to the emergency room, mainly because my friend Molly came along, so I didn’t have to go alone. (I refuse to drag my husband and son along on every one of these all-too-frequent crises.) It ended up being a not bad evening. Molly and I got to catch up and talk about books, and she was so nice about me ruining her Sunday evening that I only felt moderately guilty. Even better, the EKG and the chest X-ray came back normal – well, normal for me, which is only slightly abnormal. The doctor hypothesized that my chest pain was caused by prednisone withdrawal, since I am tapering off the drug. This made no sense to me, since I’ve been tapering away merrily for quite some time, and have yet to feel like I’m going to keel over.

Unfortunately, I also began to develop incredibly painful joint pain and inflammation. Moreover, my sarcoidosis specialist wasn’t satisfied with the prednisone explanation for my chest pain. She called my primary care doctor and ordered a smorgasbord of tests – various blood panels, CT scans, and an echocardiogram. My local doctor confirmed that my joints, particularly in my hands and feet, were visibly swollen. Maybe it’s the sarcoidosis popping up in my joints; maybe it’s a severe reaction to less prednisone; or maybe I have a new and exciting condition like rheumatoid arthritis. They can’t give me anti-inflammatories because those drugs are hard on hearts. So they prescribed percocet, which is basically useless for me during the day, since I am not going to take a mind-numbing narcotic when I have an almost-three-year-old to watch.

In the meantime, it’s hard for me to type, to hold a pen, and to press down on the clutch and drive. The bottoms of my feet and my toe joints are sufficiently inflamed that I am gimping around the house like I’m walking on hot coals. I’m overwhelmed and sad, and chronic pain only seems to exacerbate my overwhelmedness and sadness. In fact, I started blubbering in the doctor’s office yesterday. I don’t cry very much – and never in doctors’ offices.

My prediction is that this will end up being a tempest in a tea cup, that, most likely, my body is freaking out on less prednisone. However, knowing that it’s probably not a heart attack causing the chest pain or a strange new disease suddenly attacking my joints doesn’t make the experience any less frightening or painful. So, I do what we all do in chronic town. I wait and see, without a whole lot of typing or driving to distract me.

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