Thursday, February 12, 2009


Warning: This post is about the joys of having a compromised immune system. It’s going to get a little, um, personal. It’s also not for the squeamish. So why am I sharing it in public? Because, unfortunately, it’s part of my autoimmune journey. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

My immune system is not, in fact, immune. With two autoimmune diseases, my immune system is actually quite confused about what the heck it’s supposed to be doing. And, since the Remicade is purposely confusing my immune system more so that it stops attacking my joints, it’s no wonder that infections have become a new and joyous part of my life. My immune system is so confused that it no longer seems to operate normally most of the time. For example, two little scratches that I got on my arm while canoeing last May left a scar because of my body’s inability to heal properly. Before the age of 25 I never had a yeast infection in my life, but now I have a standing order at the pharmacy to deal with them. (Told you this was going to get personal).

In October I was taking an antibiotic for a rash under my arms. It started out just as little red bumps, which I ignored for a while, figuring they were from shaving. But then the little red bumps started to spread out of my armpit and down my side and across my chest. At that point I told the rheumatologist about them, he gave me some antibiotics, and eventually the red bumps went away.

Months later, the little red bumps came back under one arm. Then they spread out until there was one on my boob. It didn’t hurt and it didn’t seem to be getting worse, so I ignored them for a while, hoping they would just go away. But they didn’t go away. Especially the one on my boob. So finally I went to see the doctor who gave me some more antibiotics. The bumps under my arm disappeared, but not the one on my boob.

One morning I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror while I was putting my bra on and realized that the red mark on my boob had actually gotten worse. Bigger. Redder. It still didn’t hurt, but it looked like that scene from Mallrats (which I just watched last weekend with my brother and sister) where the boys go and talk to the crazy psychic that has three nipples. So back I went to the doctor. Again.

The doctor decided that my rash had become an infection and now needed to be “drained.” That’s right: cut open with a scalpel so the infected pus could come out. Gross. Gross. Gross. They did numb my boob before cutting into it with the scalpel, but having a needle in your boob is not a pleasant experience either. Luckily, the procedure went really well and the doctor thought that she managed to get it all clean. I think the doctor said that the abscess was about a centimeter deep, which is again: gross, gross, gross. They had to “pack it” with gauze and I have to go back on Saturday for them to check it again.

But the infection didn’t go down without taking some prisoners. Because I’ve had this procedure done (i.e. there’s an open wound on my boob) I am forbidden from getting my boob wet for a couple of days. No swimming or soaking. Which means that the romantic hot springs getaway that APL has planned for us (we’re leaving tonight) won’t be quite as perfect as we pictured it.

I’ve had to deal with quite a few disappointments since I got diagnosed with RA. Trouble using chopsticks. Missing the Obama rally. Trouble sewing. Missing snowboarding with APL. Not being able to eat pierogis and kruschiki because of the diet I am trying. I’ve become a lot better at dealing with disappointment.

I know that sounds sort of depressing, but I don’t mean it to. I’m adjusting to the fact that I simply can’t have everything I want in my life anymore. There are bound to be things every once and a while that I simply won’t be able to do, for whatever reason. Instead of brooding about my disappointments, I’m choosing to focus on what I still have to be happy about. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to get in the hot springs above my waist (the doctor did authorize me to put my legs in), but there are still plenty of things to enjoy about our little getaway: the massages we’re getting on Friday, gorgeous mountains, hot chocolate, outlet malls, dinner and relaxing. Holding hands with APL while we walk down the street. My immune system may not be perfect, but it is teaching me a good lesson: be grateful for what you have. And I am. Or at least I'm trying to be.


Sylvia Zebrowski said...


KCFitch said...

Z - You are definitely on the right track... I saw this line and it really inspires me:

"Instead of brooding about my disappointments, I’m choosing to focus on what I still have to be happy about."

I hope you have a great time this weekend!

A said...

Yea for APL and a fun weekend getaway! I hope you two have an amazing time...

~Mariah~ said...

Thanks for the good wishes - I appreciate every single one. APL and I did have a good time at the hot springs, despite all the disasters! (

Sarah Z said...

don't worry! i once had a staph infection (okay make that two) that drained itself!!!!!! hooray!!!
love you

Little Red said...

Only you could make discussions of yeast infections and boob wounds palatable for the masses. Well done, Z. :-)

~Mariah~ said...

Yes, it takes a special kind of crazy to somehow find happiness despite yeast infections and boob wounds. ~;o)

~kelly marie~ said...

So sorry for your boob wound! If it makes you feel any better, I will also get all TMI on everyone. Since the auto-immune take over I get non stop urinary tract infections. Fun times. Weird how we've both gotten unfortunate infections. I hope you are feeling better!!

~Mariah~ said...

Yeah, unfortunate infections SUCK. Good thing my immune system has a cheering squad! The stitches come out Friday and hopefully the infection will be gone then. Keep your fingers crossed for me!