1. I think I’ve spent more time in doctors’ offices over the past two weeks than ever before in my life.
It all started not this past Saturday, but the Saturday before that (Feb. 25), with swollen lymph nodes in my neck and tonsils that looked more like what you’d hope to find at your local butcher if you planned to serve guests you wanted to impress steak rather than, you know, boring ol’ tonsils. After experiencing no improvement on Sunday and feeling generally miserable on Monday, I went off to my doctor, who told me I probably had strep, wrote me a prescription for azithromycin (#penicillinallergyproblems), and sent me on my way. Within 24 hours of taking my first two doses of azithromycin, I was good as new, with lymph nodes that didn’t hurt anymore and tonsils that once again looked like tonsils. Being the good patient that I am, I continued to take the rest of my prescribed therapy of azithromycin, because if there’s anything you shouldn’t do with antibiotics, other than taking them for a viral infection, it’s stopping taking them as soon as you feel better rather than finishing out your full course of the medication. I took my last dose on Friday, and looked forward to moving on with my life.
When I woke up Friday morning, I had, what we’re going to call for simplicity’s sake, a cyst on my inner thigh. Now, this is nothing new for me. I’ve had cysts on and off in that area since I started the very first stage of puberty. I’d get a cyst, it’d make me miserable for a few weeks, it would, eventually, somehow, stop existing (either by taking care of itself all on its own or with some help from my obviously medically trained, definitely sanitary preteen hands) and I would continue living, usually forgetting that this was something I experienced until it’d flare up again. This continued through middle school and high school, tapering off in college, and the last time I remembered it happening was during my last summer as a camp counselor, which was 2011. I had a minor flare-up or two over this past summer, but nothing at all like what I woke up with on Friday.
I was annoyed at this turn of events, but figured it’d be like every other time where I’d simply grin and bear it for a few weeks before it took care of itself. when I got ready for bed that night, though, I noticed that the area around the cyst (not the cyst itself) had started swelling. That sent me into a spiral of panic over two things: 1) What was wrong with me? and 2) What would this mean for my planned eight mile run the following morning? (Priorities, people).
On Saturday morning, I thought my swelling might have maybe gone down, so off I went to run eight miles along the lake, as one does when they think they worry they might have an infection in their leg. I returned home, and, during my shower, noticed that my swelling had gone from being perhaps the size of a credit card to being the size of my entire hand. Now in a full-blown state of anxiety, I rushed off to urgent care, where I met a friendly PA who told me that she couldn’t do anything about the cyst at the moment since it wasn’t fluctuant (a sebaceous cyst needs to morph from being hard to soft before you can drain it), but also told me it was infected. She gave me a prescription for clindamycin, which prompted the still-continuing saga of If You Give a Hypochondriac a Powerful Antibiotic That Comes With Warnings About Making You More Susceptible to GI Diseases That Can Kill You, with instructions to take it three times per day for the next week at eight hour intervals, and told me to talk to my regular doctor about getting the cyst removed.
PRO TIP: If a doctor gives you medication you need to take at eight hour intervals, start taking it at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., or 10 p.m., or somewhere in those hours. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, take your first dose at 4:30 p.m., because then you will be stuck getting up at 12:30 a.m. every. single. morning, and you will hate your life and the circumstances that brought you to that point. The only way you can avoid midnight (or mid-night) doses is to start at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., or 10 p.m., so DO THAT. Do not be like me!
Though none-too-pleased about facing ANOTHER week of antibiotics and the prospect of cyst removal, I emailed my regular doctor on Sunday night, and Monday morning made an appointment with the surgeon she recommended. I went to see the surgeon on Tuesday, but which point I was nearly beside myself with anxiety for two reasons: 1) my swelling hadn’t gotten worse since Saturday, but hadn’t subsided either, despite taking the antibiotics and 2) I had, absolutely, totally, and completely convinced myself I was going to die at the hands of clindamycin. I first saw a resident, who eventually returned with the surgeon I with whom I had made my appointment.
(Unrelated side note: I have a friend who’s doing her medical residency right now, so having a resident come in freaked me out not from a “he’s not a real doctor!” standpoint, because I’m perfectly confident in his capabilities and education, but rather from a, “Oh my gosh, I bet this guy is relatively close to my age,” standpoint.)
To my INCREDIBLE surprise, the surgeon did not think I have a cyst after all, or at least not the sebaceous cyst everyone up to that point had told me I had. Rather, he had three possible explanations: hidradenitis, an ingrown hair, or MRSA (which, apparently, you can carry around asymptomatically for years. Who knew!). However, he really needed a culture to find out what exactly was going on, and since my cyst was not, ahem, “relieving itself,” as it were, there was nothing available to culture. So, instead of walking out of the doctor’s office with stitches like I expected, I left with instructions to return the next time it flared up and to go about my life as normal in the mean time.
Because I have finally gotten to the point in my life where I’ve realized it’s maybe better to tell doctors I have crippling health anxiety rather than pretend I’m fine, I asked him about the continuing swelling (edema, possibly from a lymph node that my cyst-or-whatever-it-is could’ve blocked from draining), and whether or not I could quit taking my clindamycin because I was terrified I was going to get the bacterial infection it makes you more susceptible to and die (“No, you need to take the full course, and you’re not going to get it and die.” LIKELY STORY.)
So, in the past two weeks, I have seen three different doctors at three different practices, visited two different pharmacies, taken one day off work, and missed/altered three of four scheduled runs and three of three cross training workouts. Yay. I would very much like to not get sick for the rest of the year/my life, please and thank you.
On the bright side, I imagine I’ll be pretty darn close to hitting my deductible on my health insurance by the time my bill for the surgeon and my bill for my appointment with my regular doctor come through, which means I’ll have nearly nine months of free health care! Hooray!
2. I made it all of six days into Lent before breaking my sweets fast. Oops.
I usually give up sweets for Lent, and this year was no different. I had my fill of chocolate, etc. last Tuesday, and then said sayonara to sugar until Easter. Then this past Tuesday, my boss bought me this as a, “Yay, you’re not dead!” gift:
and there went my fast.
Here’s what I figure: the main benefit I get from practicing Lenten disciplines, whatever they are, is an awareness of the fact that it is Lent. Knowing that it’s Lent helps me prepare for Easter, and I think, ultimately, that’s the point of a Lenten discipline in the first place: to interrupt your normal day-to-day life to turn your attention to the liturgical season, as opposed to blowing through it until one Sunday you show up in church and there are palm branches all over the place, and you think, “Oh, guess Easter must be next week.” I don’t think I earn any points of favor with God for giving up something for Lent, and I don’t think it makes me a better Christian than someone else. On the other hand, I did think throwing away the dessert, or even giving it away to someone else in the office just because it’s Lent, would be rude, disrespectful, and ungrateful, none of which I file under “ideal Christian ways of behavior.” I also think there’s a difference between buying myself bags of chocolate at Trader Joe’s, or scavenging Panera cookies from the kitchen after an over-order of boxed lunches for a meeting, and accepting a gift someone gave you. So I ate the chocolate mousse, and now will resume my no-sweets-until-Easter policy.
3. In other office-related news, last week I became the proud owner of a terrarium.
This friendly little ecosystem now lives on my desk at work, where there is space for it, as opposed to in my room at my house, where there most definitely is NOT space for it. I’ve thought about getting succulents for my desk for quite some time, and this certainly fits the bill!
My only concern with the terrarium is how I’m supposed to keep it alive. When I got it, I also got a little spray bottle, and was instructed to give it four sprays per week. What I don’t know, and have not been able to find out, is if that means I’m supposed to to spray it four times in a row one day per week, if I’m supposed to give it four sprays spread out over four days, or if it even matters at all. The internet has been less than helpful in my quest to figure out how to approach this situation thus far. I just don’t want to kill it! 😦 It’s one thing to kill a plant at my house, where I can bear my shame in solitude, but if I kill a plant at the office, everyone who’s noticed and commented on my terrarium will also, I presume, notice that I murdered it, and I would prefer to keep that from happening.
Have you ever owned and/or maintained a terrarium? How do I keep it alive, and how should I be watering it?
Did you give up anything for Lent?