Two Pricks in Three Weeks

I’m just thinking about if I was writing a post with that title ten years ago, the innuendos would have been off the chain. I’ve matured so much since then. I legitimately stopped to think before I decided to type out that I haven’t been on a date in nine years, but, as of tomorrow, I’ll have received two pricks in three weeks, and most likely by two different people. So color me precocious. *self high-five* Actually, I’m going to give myself one of those every time I see an opportunity for an innuendo, but don’t jump on it. *self high-five*

I’ll admit I’m nervous about my second COVID-19 vaccine. As I mentioned before, I did not react during my first immunotherapy session when I restarted treatment, but I now go into anaphylactic shock every time. My immune system is like me where you can attack us once, but that’s all you’ll get. Come over again to fuck around and you will find out. So I’m nervous that my immune system is currently preparing for a viral Battle of Helm’s Deep, and is going to let loose the moment it realizes we’ve been invaded by the COVID19 DNA again. *self high-five* It’d be one thing if my immune system was rambunctious attacking the “invader”, meaning a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and all of that misery, but for fuck’s sake does it have to start attacking my organs, too? Or even worse, take down the ship to kill the alien? I feel that my antibodies really did not think their plan through when… Nope, I can’t type it without making it sound dirty, so I’m just not gonna do it, but I’m giving myself a *self high-five* for restraint. *self high-five*

But speaking of thinking things through, I’ve already made a plan for if I do start to react. They have an EMT in the post-shot waiting area, so if I can just calmly walk over and tell them that my immune system is trying to kill me, then maybe nobody else will realize what’s happening. This is one of the huge things that’s upsetting me. Of course I don’t want to die, but I was just thinking that if I had a reaction and people saw it, then they would tell other people, and chances are that it would make at least one person refuse the vaccine. So I’d be responsible for not only that person, but whoever else they infected with COVID19 all because my immune system is haywire and had to put on a show. *self high-five*

I did consider that I might not be able to get to an EMT before I fell into a state where people would notice that I was having a medical emergency, even if I was calm. If it starts happening too fast I’ll have my EpiPen with me, and I can just jam it through my jeans (*self high-five*) into my thigh. (FYI – This is a completely acceptable administration of an EpiPen because in an emergency you can go right through someone’s clothes rather than wrestling them off.) Those shots hurt like hell though. But I’m pretty sure I can do it without screaming. *self high-five*

You’re probably reading this and wondering if I’m experiencing a lack of oxygen right now by the way I’m rambling. I’m doing this because there are so many emotions to process with getting this second shot. I’m nervous, and I’m happy, and I’m angry, and I’m excited, and I’m scared, and I’m relieved. *self high-five* Believe me, I have another post coming where I hash these feelings out, but I don’t have time to articulate it all right now. *self high-five* It’s almost midnight and I’m tired, but I’m too keyed up to go to sleep. *self high-five* What’s also a shame is that I’ve decided to not make this post public, so I’ve spent all of this time writing something that no one will read. Maybe I’ll password protect it, though that might be awkward. I can tell people who I’m uncomfortable reading this that it’s for my Patreon – which I don’t have, but think I should since everyone is selling themselves whether it’s through Patreon or FansOnly. What happened to just giving it out for free? *self high-five* I blame slut-shaming. There’s nothing wrong with writing like a slut, though I’ll be happy when I can be paid for my writing so that at least I can say that I write like a whore instead. (No *self high-five* here since I just laid (HA!) it out.)

EPILOGUE

I survived.

I decided to make this post public to celebrate (I’m starting to feel like hell which means my immune system is responding appropriately), and also because all of the stress I went through the last two weeks made me forget that I didn’t skirt around death for the millionth time to kill myself attempting to live up to people’s expectations – which somehow included mind-reading and anticipating people’s own mistakes so that I could correct them before they happened. This is the way I write. This is who I am. When I’m scared or upset I make jokes, and all of my jokes are either inappropriate, puns, or inappropriate puns, in that order. If someone wants to take my jokes too seriously then that is a joke. I’m laughing too hard at my own stupid nonsense to hear anything anyway.

finding yourself way too hilarious

Baby Got a Frozen Back

Before I begin, here is a little back – (ha!) – ground, so that you don’t think that this is just about my booty. The lower part of my back is frozen for a number of reasons, one of which is that the damage to my spine has caused me to lose the natural s-curve of a normal back. It’s most apparent in my lumbar spine where it’s very noticeable how flat it is. (Or at least it’s very noticeable to me, and it makes me self-conscious.) Part of my physical therapy is to strengthen my core enough to keep this from becoming worse. But just “keeping it from getting worse” is not good enough for me, so even though it’s a long shot, I’m working extremely hard to make my core strong enough to pull my spine – at least somewhat – back into shape. I’ve been doing the physical therapy since July, but I started taking pictures in December to document my progress for when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. I was comparing December’s pictures to my current ones when this conversation happened.

“Well, get ready for people to ask if you’re half reindeer,” I told my mother as she blasted past me on one of her laps around the first floor of the house to get in her steps.
“What?” she asked rounding the corner and going into the next room.
“Half reindeer,” I shouted knowing full well that she had no idea what I was talking about, but this is the kind of antagonistic shit I do.

Another bit of back – (ha!) – ground is that I have nerve damage in my spine that extends into my flanks. The right side is the worst, but the left isn’t exactly stellar either. The nerve damage made it so that I was not contracting my glutes and quads – which in turn contributed to weakness that further damaged my spine, and you can see how this is a vicious cycle… But when muscles are not contracting they start to atrophy. This is what happened to my glutes, however I need to point out that my healthy butt never actually got smaller, it just spread lower.

“Oh. Okay,” my mother answered as she turned the corner back into the kitchen where I was holding up my phone.
“Because of my ass,” I finally told her.
“There’s nothing wrong with your ass,” she said as she continued down the hall. “Would you rather have no ass? Those flat asses looks terrible.”
“That would be impossible for me, but look!” I yelled after her.
She went around the other room and came into the kitchen again.
“Look at what my ass looks like now compared to a few months ago.” I stood in her path so that she would be forced to re-examine the side by side picture I had created to compare the curvature of my spine.
“Wow,” she said taking in the picture a moment and then stepping around me to continue walking. “It’s like an Oompa Loompa,” she added over her shoulder.


“It’s like a what?” I gaped at her retreating back. My mind whirled with visions of Oompa Loompas. I could see them in their little white overalls. Did they have big booties under there? Is she saying that my ass itself looks like an Oompa Loompa? What the hell did she mean?
“An Oompa Loompa! You know,” she shouted back. And part of me wondered if this wasn’t retribution for the “half reindeer” I’d thrown at her a minute earlier except that, unlike me, my mother is not a tool.
“Yes, I know what an Oompa Loompa is,” I told her as she came back into the kitchen. “I just did not know that I had one for an ass. I gotta say that’s one I’ve never called before.”

And here is where I would like to pause and just throw it out there how much I take exception to all of the women who are now doing workouts to grow their booties after the hell they put me and my friends through for having an ass back in the day. All you Beckys can just sit down on your Spongebob asses and have a seat.

My mother paused in her stride and gave me a completely affronted look.
“I did not say that your ass looked like an Oompa Loompa,” she insisted. “What I meant was it looked like an Oompa Loompa should appear because of the way it blew up!”
I was dumbstruck.
“You know how they appear and sing a song after Violet blows up? Well it looks like they should be here to do that with how fast your butt blew up.” She didn’t wait for a reply, continuing her walk down the hall.

And that’s when I went rolling across the floor.

via Gfycat

And since it’s mostly just friends (Hi Joann!) that come on here now, I’ll even share the incriminating photo. And yeah, I’ll admit that, even though it wasn’t a goal, my booty does look better, but the reason that I made this side by side has to do with the doorknob behind me. The doorknob is the frame of reference I use to measure the curve of my back, and though it’s difficult to see…

My back is curving slightly more into place than it did three months ago.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

~fin~

If you want to read more ridiculous conversations I’ve had with my mother, you can click the My Family is Crazier Than Yours category. This will bring up stories with all of the characters in the asylum, or you can just jump to everyone’s favorite story about my mother, “When Mothers Yell to Bite Them“.

Fisticuffs with Ana Phylaxsis

The first thing I noticed was the pounding in my ears.

panic Pete, anaphylaxis

It wasn’t the dull throb of blood pumping into your brain like when you’re nervous or excited. I’ve experienced that pounding, and as deafening as it seemed at the time, it was nothing compared to the subwoofer that had been cranked up in my skull. I felt like one of those plastic dolls where you squeeze it to make its eyes and ears bug out.

I’m going to burst a vessel in my brain, I thought calmly. I think maybe all of the blood vessels in my brain are going to burst. I’ll have a stroke. I’ll be dead and they’ll say how I went just like my grandmother.

I was about twenty minutes into my second session of intravenous immunotherapy treatment when this started happening.

I think I’m having a reaction to something, I continued thinking.

No shit, dumbass.

But reacting to what?

Maybe the medication being pumped into your vein?

‘No, it can’t be my medication because I was fine for my last treatment two weeks ago. Maybe it was the peanut bar I’d just finished eating. It was probably that. Oh shit, I’m not going to be able to eat peanuts anymore. This sucks! I love peanut butter!’ I went to take a deep breath to sigh but found it difficult to accomplish this – which annoyed me. Scowling in concentration, I managed to suck a breath of oxygen into my protesting lungs.

I tried to say, “Ha!”, but all that came out in my exhalation was a cacophony of wheezing and whistling that sounded like a broken accordion. I registered this with surprise that I could still hear anything over the thundering in my ears, though it did make one thing apparent to me.

Well, ain’t this some shit, I thought. I’m pretty sure I’m going into anaphylactic shock. Great. I’m going to be the girl who had anaphylaxis. This is so embarrassing! Hmm. Maybe no one will notice.

I glanced around. Unlike my first visit two weeks ago, when nearly every chair had been filled with a person attached to an IV line, there were only about six other patients, and I was the only person in my row. None of the other patients were paying me any attention, and the lone nurse on duty was busying folding towels.

having anaphylaxis
Taking selfies while literally dying.
Bonus: swollen eyes.

Good! I can bluff my way through this. If I don’t, then they’ll blame the medication and stop treatment. I heaved another painful breath into my lungs to sigh with relief except this time I had as much trouble getting the air out of my lungs as I did getting it into them.

Wait, am I still going to have a stroke? Can anaphylaxis give you a stroke? I noticed that the pounding in my ears was beginning to fade. I don’t think I’m going to have a stroke. If I can just breathe, then no one will ever know.

I arched my back in an effort to manually expand my lungs that were not cooperating at all.

“Are you okay?” The nurse was holding a towel up in mid-fold and staring at me.

Oh fuck! She noticed! Now she’ll tell everyone I had anaphylaxis. I’m going to be that anaphylactic chick. I’ll be that anaphylac-chick unless I think of something. Think, stupid!

“I think…I…just…need my…inhaler.” My tongue felt too thick around the words, so I clawed at my backpack and managed to pull out my inhaler to show the nurse what I meant.

“I think that’s a good idea,” the nurse told me as she dropped the towel and ran over to me.

Now if I can just get this in me, I looked at my inhaler, then she’ll think I just had an asthma attack. I leaned my head back, compressed the inhaler chamber, and breathed as hard as I could. A trickle of air managed to make it down my throat.

To my dismay, I watched as the nurse cut the IV line to my medication. I wanted to tell her to leave it run, that this was just an asthma attack, but I felt too tired to bother – and there she was already injecting my saline with something anyway. I fumbled to put my face mask back on to hide my irritation.

“No, leave that off,” the nurse told me putting an oxygen mask on my face instead. She wrapped a BP cuff around my arm and clipped a pulse ox to my finger. The reading flickered across the screen: 80.

I’d been in medicine for years, and I knew that number was a trip to the hospital if I didn’t do something…I just couldn’t remember what. Then I flashed to a memory of when my brother had anesthesia for the first time and his oxygen was fluctuating in recovery. “I know you’re woozy, brother, but take a deep breath or they’ll never let you out of here,” I’d told him. That’s when I remembered I just had to get in one good breath and they’ll let me go home.

I clenched my fists onto the arms of the chair and exerted everything I had to pull air into my chest. It burned like hell, and my lungs screamed at me stop torturing them but I kept inhaling until I thought I’d explode. Finally, I let it go and dropped forward as the rasping breath raced away from me. The pulse ox on my finger jumped to 90.

“I’m fine now,” I wheezed.

“If that number hadn’t just jumped up you wouldn’t have been fine,” the nurse told me. “You’re having anaphylaxis.”

“Yeah,” I gasped as I fell back into the chair. “She’s a real bitch.”

She’s also really fast. The time between the pounding starting to my chest constricting was about 90 seconds. I’m extremely thankful that the nurse wasn’t at her station like she usually was because if she hadn’t been on the floor and seen that I was going into shock, I’d most likely be dead.

As you probably guessed, I did react to my medication. Due to COVID-19 I had paused my treatment, and my body had used that time to make friggin’ antibodies to the medication. It’s not unheard of, in fact, at my first therapy session when I’d resumed treatment, they started giving me a histamine blocker before running my medication line in case this happened. I was fine at that first session, but at some point in the two weeks that followed, my body realized what was happening and went all not-in-my-house-mother-fucker at the next “invasion”.

My immune system is not backing down either because, despite increased measures to prevent it, I’ve gone into anaphylaxis during my immunotherapy ever since, because yes, I’m stupid to keep putting myself through this. And my doctor is fucked up enough to allow me to do it, but he’s a whole other ball of wax.

My family and friends are not enthusiastic about my decision, as I mentioned in my previous entry. A few of them have had a brush with anaphylaxis themselves and cannot understand why I’d put myself through such a terrifying experience, though as you can tell from my writing, I wasn’t scared at all. I don’t know if it was the lack of oxygen to my brain or if I’m just that cavalier about death anymore, but I was more annoyed than anything. To be honest though, I don’t have much choice. My treatment options are very limited due to my insurance, so it’s either suck it up or get sicker. It’s ironic, but in order to live I need to nearly kill myself every six weeks.

Yay, private healthcare.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow aka Thanks Again 2020!

I knew that the week of January 17th was going to be insane. I had immunotherapy on Monday, and then classes started on Wednesday, which was the same day as the inauguration – and I know I wasn’t the only one who was stressed about that. Given all of this, and the fact that the first two weeks of January had been insane, I said that I didn’t consider 2021 starting until after Biden became president. Well, that was a mistake because 2020 saw that it had extra time to do something shitty, and so it did.

On Sunday of that week I had my cousin* trim my “pandemic hair” because, even though I was growing it out, it was looking really ragged after not being cut for over a year. After my cousin trimmed about four inches of ratty ends off of my hair, I decided to cover my silver while I was at it since I was also going to be adding another year to my age that week too. After doing that I was too busy to pay any attention to my hair again until the end of the week when the dye had set enough to wash it. It wasn’t until I went to pull my hair back into a ponytail the morning after I had washed it that I noticed there was a lot less hair to gather than before.

“What the fuck?” I muttered as my hair band wrapped around my ponytail several more times than was required before to hold my hair in place.

Unfortunately I had been getting ready for a Zoom class at work and this was the moment that my professor decided to let me into the meeting and, though my video was off, my microphone was on. It was enough to take my mind off of my hair for about five minutes because throughout the entire session my hand kept reaching back to grip my thin ponytail, hoping it would magically feel normal. When class finally ended I ran into the hall to look at my hair in the mirror there, and it only took a glance to tell that something bad had happened to it.

In the midst of this crisis my phone was blowing up – because this happened to be on my birthday – and I could feel my abdomen beginning to cramp as I tried to field well wishes through my rising panic over my follicular situation, which meant the stress of everything was sending me into a flare.

A few hours later I was able to go home and show my mother my ponytail to get her opinion. I really, really wanted her to say that it looked fine, but she was honest and agreed that my hair looked a lot thinner. 

“Is it the way that it’s cut?” she asked.
“No, she literally just did a plain blunt cut to remove the dead ends,” I told her. “Nothing like layering that would change the way it looked.”
“Do you think it was from your immunotherapy?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve had enough times, and never noticed any hair loss before.”
“But you’ve been having reactions during your treatment. What if it’s from that?” she asked.

My mind was racing as I tried to think of all of the things that might have caused my hair to suddenly disappear. Was it because I was underweight? Or because I’d been very anemic since Christmas? I did notice that I’d been shedding a little more hair than usual, but this was so dramatic it didn’t seem likely. Was it the hair dye? It was the same one I’ve used for several years, though in a darker color, so I didn’t think it could be that.

“I don’t think you shouldn’t continue the immunotherapy anyway,“ my mother pressed on. “There has to be another treatment that won’t give you anaphylaxis.”

I shook my head because we’d been through this discussion a number of times. “My insurance won’t cover another option. You know this. It’s either deal with the reaction, or rely on pills that make me feel like garbage every week when I take them. The immunotherapy is only one day of feeling sick every six weeks. And it hasn’t killed me yet.” I paused. “But if it is what’s causing me to lose hair then I might rethink it.”
My mother looked at me.
“Yes I will accept the possibility of having a lethal reaction to my treatment but I will not accept losing my hair!” I huffed, then stomped down to the bathroom and closed the door. 

It was the first time that I was alone and could really examine my hair at all angles. The mirror above the sink was long enough to see down to the tops of my legs so I twisted around to see how my hair looked down my back. I could easily see the grey of my shirt through the thin curtain of hair laying against it. And yet I still couldn’t believe I was really seeing correctly. I ran my fingers through the hair on my scalp. It didn’t seem any thinner there, but as I continued down just past my ears there was a dramatic difference in volume. It was like half of my hair broke off from there.

I took my hands out of my hair and just stared at myself. Staring back at me was a person with hollow eyes inside a gaunt face, with cheekbones that looked cadaverous, all framed by lank hair hanging in thin ropes like broken party streamers. Someone whose right hip was now noticeably higher than the other due to a crooked spine. Someone who was too skinny, and yet had an inflamed abdomen that was starting to distend like a starving child’s.

Someone who was now another year past forty.

I was too upset to even cry. I felt like all of the hard work I’d done, and all of the progress I’d made, and everything I’d been proud to have accomplished over the past six months to put myself back together, to try to be normal, was bullshit. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I was never going to be normal. I was never even going to look normal. I’d been trying so hard to become who I had been prior to my health crash, and now my long hair – one of my defining characteristics – was gone. It’d be at least a year until it would be long “enough” again. Another year to add to the nearly ten I’d already spent getting my health under something that resembled control.

But I’d never have control. And even if I’d found some way to be – or at least resemble – the person I’d been, I’d never have that time back.

I came out of the bathroom and threw myself into scouring the internet on the best ways to make hair grow faster, and though there are things I can do to facilitate its growth, the final answer was the one that I feel I’m always working against: time.

It’s been about six weeks now and I think I’m finally ready to make the jump and cut the handful of hair that did not break. (Explanation of what happened will be added separately since you’re probably already sick of hearing me whine about something so stupid as hair.) I’m not thrilled, but I’m trying to not be a big baby, and to keep it in perspective. I know it’s only hair. I know it’s ridiculous, and it’s vain. I know it’ll grow back. I know I should be thankful that I haven’t lost my hair the way that others have. I also know that I should be thankful that my hair was long when it broke because it could’ve happened right after I got sick and I would’ve had nothing. 

But it’s another aspect of myself that was taken out of my hands. And I’d been growing it out to donate, so if I’m cutting it then I’m going balls in and cutting the full 10 inches required. It’ll bring my hair up to about shoulder length which is “longish”, but shorter than I’d planned. (And then I just pray that my hair is still donatable because if it’s not then I don’t want to know.)

In a way it’ll be a relief to finally make the chop because I’ve done nothing but obsess over my hair these six weeks, and when I do that I ignore or disparage how much better I’m feeling and functioning today than I did a year ago at this time. Which horribly ungrateful of me. I’m honestly very thankful to have made it to where I am now. It’s not perfect or “normal”, but I’m blessed because I’ve come further than I thought possible. And I’m not done yet.

*Cousin is high risk, already vaccinated and I’ve lived in a bubble for a year now so we were following COVID19 safety guidelines.