Ah, Bloody Hell! (Said in appropriate British Accent)

I shook in terror even before the needle touched my skin.
I cried when the needle numbed the first abscess and again for the remaining two.
I kicked a tray table involuntarily. And I tried to remember: deep breaths.
Those yoga breaths didn’t work.
So I cried and cried through it. Large, grabbing sobs. I wiped my shirt on my hospital gown and silently berated myself for being such a wimp.

Still, I couldn't help it. So the tears and sobs escaped me. Until all three hard, nasty abscesses, located right above my armpit, were sliced and drained. The surgeon applied pressure after her scalpel work was done, and she pushed her hands against my arm so hard that I gasped.

There was a lot of gauze and blood on the floor, and I looked to remember, as I always do. I remember the most jarring of medical experiences; my tenth birthday was spent on a surgeon’s table with my face cut open for the same kind of infection. I cried then too, but I was only a child.

The surgeon apologized afterwards for being “vicious” but she had to get everything. She had to get all the MRSA, the infection that has caused so many problems this year. The infection that lives inside my body.

I choked out “It’s okay.” It's not her fault.

I rarely cry. I have an extremely high pain tolerance. I mock people who faint when they get their blood drawn, even though that’s mean. I am trying to get better at realizing that pain is relative (BULL!), but I don’t even feel it when I go for my monthly blood test.

I failed at being strong this time and I failed last time, too. And it pissed me off.

I signed discharge papers and heard a 30 year old woman WAILING because her blood was being drawn. I listened to a girl my age gripe about going for a chest X-ray. 

"Piece of cake", I said, once I reached the hallway. She just ignored me. But I couldn't ignore her and her bronchitis. It seemed simple. Pretty-faced, clean clothes, no hospital gown soaked with snot and blood and tears.

The nurse helped me put on my sweatshirt and I put on my headphones and ducked outside. Inwardly, I wailed just like the grown woman inside, afraid of needles.

I left the emergency room into a New York City storm that soaked me until my mother pulled up with her car. Hail pelted the car as we drove down the turnpike.

And I cried.

I feel split open,
and I suppose today I was.
For the second time in a month,
I was split open.


A Disability Leave Update

I have been on disability leave for well over a month now. (NO WORK! SCHOOL'S OUT FOR THE SUMMER!)

In that time, I spent one day in the emergency room getting an abscess underneath my armpit drained. I was in a wedding. I went to Atlantic City. I spent time in the city and then, tired and out of breath (and money), I left the city for my parents' house, where I was given Gatorade and pretzels on command. It was nice, and it was fun for awhile. Life with Ozzie and Harriet got boring though, and I craved the company of peers, so I headed to my grandmother's. She's not exactly a peer (Sorry, G.) but my two cousins, Colleen and Samantha, live there. And we are close in age and have been raised (sometimes like a pack of wolves) pretty much together, so I spent five days there. I studied for the GRE and wrote. I even went to the Rutgers Library, where I realized that I am old and college boys are loud. And hot.

And then I returned to the city, for more doctor's appointments to devise Kill Lupus, Kill! treatment plans. I was prescribed new medicines and a flu shot and then I spent two days puking and feverishly moaning on the couch, clutching my left arm (now infected) to my side while watching marathon of classic episodes of The Nanny. I went out briefly in Brooklyn on Friday, for Ross' birthday, but Gen punched me in the wrong arm so I went home and took painkillers. On Saturday I went back to New Jersey, to see Katie, Allie and Emma. Aren't they cute?

Now I am back in my parent's house, in my sister's bedroom. Today I will be back in the ER.

This will have come full circle.

I have rested much of this past 40 days, but to what relief? None. There were bright, shiny days when I felt I could do what I wanted. These were days I cherished, perhaps in ways that healthy people do not. I did what I wanted while I was well, but I have spent much of this month with the shades drawn and my laptop humming beside me on the bed.

I am supposed to use this time to get well, or at least better myself in some way. Despite my lack of physical relief, I know I have. I feel stronger mentally and emotionally than I have in the past 2.5 years. I feel loose on my feet, and even though steroids have made my face fat, I think I might be. I did a jig in Grandma's kitchen last week, and I thought it was pretty damn good.

It annoys me that my life is so cyclical--sick, okay (for a week or so), and then sick again. I haven't turned a corner because I have been jogging in place. I have no progress to show and no idea when I will be ready to work again.

But I can at least rest knowing that I'm using this time for some good. Later today will be brutal, gruesome, bloody and unpleasant, but at least I have a better grip on it than I did a month ago.

This time has not been fruitless, after all.

(Thanks, as always, for the emails, Twitter @'s, messages, care packages, and kind words. I appreciate it all.)