My anti-fungal medication has been rough. Basically, my entire body has withered up like a raisin, my liver is confused as hell, and I look like death. My boyfriend recently made a joke about the movie Alien, I think proposing a Halloween costume he saw online that involved a pregnancy belly, doll parts, and red paint. My brain was off in La-La Land and the story has now solidified in my mind as him saying I look like some bizarre and foreign swamp creature.
I have been chuckling to myself almost nonstop. I am a complete and total shit-show lately. This year has been a rough stretch, and the addition of anti-fungals only made things worse. And yet, there is such incredibly release in reaching the point where you can laugh at yourself.
My hair is falling out to the extent that I look like my mom’s childhood doll, and the few remaining strands look awfully drab. The carpetbags under my eyes would make Mary Poppins proud. The dry skin on my face has repeatedly overpowered my prescription moisturizer and homemade oil mixes. Dry lips have led to a perpetual split lip and random instances of blood dripping down my chin. Sexy, I know.
Moving south of my confused little head, my resting heart rate is too high and my blood pressure is too low, but my blood-pump is chugging along like the Little Train That Could. My lungs are filled with calcified fingers that continually reach up to tickle my throat. Whichever organ resides beneath my right rib cage is doing hard time, continually forgetting that its encased by stabbing barbed wire. My liver is method acting the role of Yellowstone, shooting massive amount of bile upwards through my body. My intestines have been stripped of all moisture, making restroom trips a dreaded activity. To much information? Sorry, not sorry.
My joints are achy, my spine is stiff, and my head throbs each time I bend down to beat the five-second rule. Whenever I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that my six-pack-in-progress has been overthrown my the Muffin Marauder. The fungus has begun forcibly exiting my body through the tiny pores in my skin, creating a series of bizarre open lesions on my arms, legs, and face. I legitimately look like something out of Alien!
But don’t fret! I’m under the care of multiple medical professionals, and every single one is acutely aware of everything, from the emerging sores and rectal bleeding to the headaches and long-lost sanity. They’ve reminded me that prior to my re-diagnosis, my primary care doctor surely thought I was a hypochondriac. But now, with “valley fever” scrawled upon my forehead, every single miserable ailment suddenly makes sense.
As terrible as the symptoms are–and yes, everything listed above is 100% true–I’m grateful that I have a sense of humor and that my boyfriend has helped me find reasons to smile, whether by (not) calling me an alien or bringing me flowers on the days where crying seems like the most reasonable response, and my mom for always making time to talk when I need a friend. I’m grateful for my awesome infectious disease doctors who don’t even bat an eye when I begin listing all of the bizarre manifestations of cocci.
Though some of the mildest symptoms, the hair loss, chapped lips, and excessively dry skin don’t do much to help my self-esteem. Since I’ve been on the on the anti-fungal medication for over three months and will be on it for at least another six, I was invited to participate in a clinical trial addressing the aforementioned issues. I have some concerns about the commute and privacy as it relates to the future sharing of my medical data, but I’m hopeful that this opportunity could help me find a small amount of relief.
I was also informed of a second study to assess severe cases of valley fever in previously healthy individuals. Hey, that’s me! This clinical trial seeks to characterize the genetic predisposition of disseminated coccidioidomycosis, particularly looking at mutations in the IFNy/IL-12 pathway. Again, I don’t want “genetic mutation” written all over my medical records or affecting future insurance costs, so participation is very much up in the air.
I look a bit like some mutated extraterrestrial right now, but so what? Maybe–just maybe–I’ve been equipped with some genetic mutation superpower that will set me up to save the world! Or not. A girl can dream.
Maybe, at some point in the not-so-distant future, I’ll begin to look more like myself and less like a pocked and sleep-deprived blobfish. I’m crossing my arthritic fingers and holding my breath (at 85% the capacity of the average person my age!) that I’m moving in the right direction. As the tried and true cliche goes: Life is tough, but you’re tougher. Keep smiling, y’all! Life ain’t so bad, and laughing at you situation will almost certainly ease any tension.