Three weeks ago Tuesday I got a flu shot. I even congratulated myself for being a “good” patient; having a chronic condition means that I avoid all optional (or, even, non-emergency) medical interactions wherever possible. This is why when I called to schedule a Pap smear last month the receptionist and I both got the giggles when she said, “Darlin’, you haven’t been here in FOUR YEARS.” So I knocked that out, got a mammogram (haven’t ever had one) and then thought I’d top my “I’m a Good Patient” sundae off with my flu shot.
By the end of the day, I had a fever and hives. The fever lasted exactly three weeks. The fatigue, headaches, and general malaise lasted a few days longer. Just Monday, I woke up with a butterfly shaped rash on my face. This suggested Lupus, naturally. So that kicked off a festival of tests and other appointments. I had this basket of symptoms that all began with the flu shot. Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, dry eyes, eye pain, headache, an episode where I briefly lost consciousness for a few seconds, rash on MAH FACE, fast heart rate, arrhythmia.
To be clear, I don’t want to have Lupus. But, I did want an answer, because if you name things you can quantify them and sometimes even treat them. Unfortunately, my cardiologist doesn’t feel my need to be seen is pressing so that won’t happen until Monday, the dermatologist thinks I have (spontaneously) gotten rosacea, the blood work shows no inflammatory anything, no infectious anything, no positive ANA. The gatekeeper at the rheumatologist’s office didn’t even think my referral was valid and said so. “Why aren’t you seeing a dermatologist, then?” “Why don’t you already see a Rheumatologist, then?” “Have you had ANY X-rays?”
I don’t think I’ll be pursing that relationship. Yesterday as I tried not to cry at my PCP’s office, I explained my frustration. He agreed, he’s frustrated, too. He wishes he’d told me not to get the flu shot. (Also, if you are a vaccine wakaloon, bugger off. I believe in immunizations, I know they work, and if you don’t think so you are a Luddite troll). Neither of us realized that it would create this autoimmune storm that can’t be measured or quantified.
The thing is, if you are a middle aged woman with invisible illnesses and symptoms with no findable cause, you are……hysterical. It’s all in your head. You need to try to lower your stress, maybe take a walk, do some yoga, meditate. See a shrink (the double edged sword because if you admit to seeing a shrink well, you’ve just negated anything valid about your experience and will now be placed in the “Crazy Woman” category). Whatever you are experiencing isn’t real. My PCP thinks it’s real, but he is a nurse practitioner, and even so, we’ve got no evidence to support a hypothesis. We’ve got nowhere to go.
I actually feel better today, so I guess I should be grateful. And I am, but I still don’t know for sure why any of these things happened to me or if it’s over or just pausing to ramp up again. I have reached a balance of boredom versus fury. “I don’t care anymore” I say to myself, but I say it angrily. I feel like punching someone, but I also feel totally over trying to do anything about it. I feel like I once again wasted time and money on the same old answer: We don’t know what’s wrong with you and we can’t do anything. Why did I do this again? I ask myself. I waited until it had been over 2 weeks of being sick from the shot to seek care, because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something I should have waited out. Except I guess it was. Or my crazy gets better with attention. Jesus we have to live in such tiny boxes.
Insert eye roll. I’m tired of all this already, and again.