An Inflammatory Response

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is part 4 in a series of blog updates on my health status.

Friends and family have been watching my social media activity closely. Every recent post seems to elicit an enthusiastic response like, “It’s great to see you’re feeling better!” to which I think, “Oh, if only that were true.” Sure, I’ve got energy to do things like cook, bake, and garden again, but the side effects of the mystery virus linger.

In mid-April I had a fever ranging from 100 to 103 for ten days. Doctors I’ve seen recently don’t know what the cause is, but they all agree it was a virus. During those ten days my body, especially my brain, suffered from inflammation. Short term inflammation is good; it’s part of our immune system’s response to harmful stimuli like bacteria and viruses. Long term inflammation is another story, and that’s what’s going on now. My immune system has confused a short-term viral attack with a long-term attack on itself, or an auto-immune response.

This is what caused me to get Type I diabetes more than 42 years ago. My immune system destroyed the beta-cells in my pancreas, thereby requiring daily injections of insulin to survive. Four injections each day to be precise. Having diabetes is fun. Said no one ever.

Many people have asked me over the years why I don’t use an insulin pump. It’s a harmless question to which I refrain from an inflammatory response like, “Because I don’t want a fucking needle stuck in me 24 hours a day, that’s why!” But I never say that. I give polite responses like, “Well, my physician and I have agreed that my control with multiple injections a day is just as good as it would be with a pump.”

As I’ve gotten more energy back, I’ve started leaving the house a bit more often for short shopping trips in addition to my weekly lab or doctor visits. I’m disappointed when I see people not wearing masks, but I come completely unglued when they walk into my personal six-foot protection bubble. I wanted to scream, “Get the fuck away from me,” to an older gentleman in Lowes the other day who walked up to me, stood right next to me, and coughed as I was trying to pick a tomato plant. What was he thinking? Or was he mindlessly wandering around the store pretending everything is okay? Because it’s not.

Part of the viral after-effects I’m dealing with now relate to joint pain in my shoulders, hands, and feet. I saw a rheumatologist the other day who prescribed—wait for it—yes, more prednisone to reduce the inflammation. Prednisone is a steroid that’s been prescribed since the 1950s. It’s a wonderful drug, inexpensive and effective. But it wreaks havoc on blood sugar control. Right now, I’m on a low dose as we work to see what amount will reduce inflammation, as measured by various blood markers, while not having awful effects on my blood sugar.

The rheumatologist discussed side effects with me, including personality changes. I had to laugh. I explained I’d been having some rage issues lately. She listened patiently and suggested deep breathing exercises. Okay, so the next time someone says, “Hang in there,” I’ll breathe deeply and count to ten before responding with, “Okay, but you need to get the fucking rope.” Every time someone has offered that to me the past few months, I think of hanging myself. It’s not the least bit helpful, encouraging, or comforting for me.

The other comment people have been making that elicits an inflammatory remark from me is, “Oh, you look fine. I don’t notice the Bell’s Palsy at all,” to which I want to say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” But instead I say, “Thanks,” and move on.

There have been no changes in the Bell’s Palsy the past three weeks. My next medical specialist visit is with a neurologist to see what more I can do, or if there’s something I shouldn’t be doing, to recover muscle movement on the left side of my face. The Bell’s Palsy has been the worst part of this entire experience. The fever, early inflammation, muscle aches, and swelling made me physically ache, but the loss of the ability to talk normally, drink liquids, chew foods, whistle, sing, smile—or say f-words properly—is emotionally exhausting.

So, if I have an inflammatory response the next time we talk, be patient with me. I’m trying to be polite and well behaved. It’s just not easy for this f-bomb loving woman. For now, we can both blame it on the prednisone.