Friday, May 6, 2011

Question of the Day #921

It occurred to me while writing QOTD #913 that I’ve never told you the story about The Perfect Summer. It’s super personal, so maybe that’s why I’ve held back, but heck, if you go to the first question of this blog and read all the way through, you’ll know just about everything there is to know about me. And since this blog is all about sharing experiences, this one should not go untold.

The Summer of 2003 buzzed in, carrying excitement every second of the way. We potted new flowers, made a rock garden by the pool, readied the lounge and scrubbed the BBQ pit. It was the perfect mix of roommates, the perfect long Winter psyching us up for what MF and I named The Perfect Summer.

Summer weekends at Mansfield were like little parties. They started on Friday at Happy Hour, when everyone milled in from work and ended Sunday night, with me and GB poolside, talking out the happenings of the weekend. We didn’t go anywhere, except to the store for more food or bevies. We didn’t do anything but lie in the sun, listen to music, play board games and an occasional round of Questions. We didn’t invite anyone over. They just came.

So when Granny died in June, The Perfect Summer got knocked off its launching pad. She was my friend. My confidant. My cooking go-to girl. My phone buddy. My mentor.

I spent a couple weeks in NJ to try and recover and on the first night, went to a BBQ at a friend’s house. In the morning, my back itched and burned. I asked a friend to look at it. She gasped. “It’s a bull’s-eye.”

I went to the in-town doctor I’d seen as a child.

“Classic Lyme disease!” He shouted and gave me a prescription for Amoxicillin.

“That’s it?” I asked. He cocked a bushy eyebrow at me. “What else do you need?”

Two days later, bent over and swollen, I reached around to the center of what was then two gigantic bulging red rings of flesh. Something was sticking out of it.

My friend plucked it out with tweezers. A tiny brown fleck.

“Probably a scab,” we conceded. But I knew something was wrong. I was not feeling any better since starting the antibiotics. In fact, I felt far worse.

I called my brother. “I’ll pick you up in 10 minutes,” he said.

At the hospital, I explained the situation to the doctor, who laughed.

“What? Did you think that was part of the tick? Like it’s running around inside you or something? It’s nothing and your prescription is fine.” He shooed me out of the ER.

I went back to my childhood home and cried.

The next day, my friend, Rock, who has battled Lyme for decades, called me.

“I heard you have Lyme. I called my specialist. You’re going to see her at 2:00.”

After listening to my situation, the specialist pulled tiny bags out of a drawer. A little brown fleck, like a pepper flake in each one.

“Did it look like this?” She asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

“It was the tick. Those other doctors have no idea what they’re talking about. You need to go on six weeks of Ceftin. It’s expensive. $800. Can you afford it?” She asked.

“No.” I said. My prescription plan didn’t cover stuff like that.

“Okay, we’ll try tetracycline first. It doesn’t always get the same results and some people get a reaction from it. But it’s cheap. Call me if you have any problems.”

A rocket couldn’t have gotten me home fast enough. When I arrived at Mansfield, my kind roommates expressed sorrow about Granny. I hadn’t gone there yet. Too much craziness to grieve her. I retreated to the hut and worked quietly. Until I woke one morning in hives.

I called the specialist in NJ who told me I was allergic to the tetracycline. With some help from my father, I began my third round of antibiotics, Ceftin.

The Not So Perfect Summer happened quietly around me. The roomies invited me to join the board games and pool fun. But I was achy. I wasn’t supposed to be in the sun. And I was so exhausted. So I slept a lot and it was during one of those nights that I woke to a stinging on my arm. I remember scratching and thinking, “Don’t scratch,” and falling back asleep.

In the morning, I found a bite on the inside of my elbow and swollen red veins leading up to my armpit. My critique group came over that evening and M, who was a doctor, looked at the bite and told me to go to the Emergency Room.

So I did.

“This is a very bad spider bite,” the doctor said. “A black widow. I need to put you on a very strong antibiotic right away. It’s called Ceftin and it’s very expensive.” He began scribbling on a pad.

“I’m on Ceftin,” I said.

“You’re on Ceftin?” He looked down at me, over his reading glasses.

“Yes. I have Lyme disease.”

“Lyme disease? Where did you get Lyme disease?” He sat down like it was all too much for him.

“New Jersey.”

He picked up my arm and began inspecting it again.

“My god,” he said. “Your Lyme disease saved your life. If you weren't on the Ceftin, you wouldn’t be here.”

He prescribed me another antibiotic to take along with the Ceftin and by the next day, the swollen veins were less angry. And a week or so later, I started to feel better.

Until one night, while I lay in bed and felt a bug on my leg. Then another and another. I turned on the light and searched for mosquitoes, fleas, anything. I went in the house and settled on the couch, but there too, it felt like my skin was crawling. The next day, I bombed my room for bugs, changed my bedding to hypo-allergenic everything.

But my skin still crawled.

So I called the spider doctor.

“Have you taken any Angel Dust lately?” He asked.

“What?! I don’t do drugs!” I said. Plus, what, was it suddenly 1970? Angel Dust?

Finally, we did the math and realized that four courses of antibiotics over more than seven weeks had created so much yeast in my body, that my skin was actually crawling.

After loads of medication to manage the yeast, I eventually got a negative Lyme test. Fall came quietly, and somewhere in October I finally fell apart and grieved Granny, when I was ready.

It was the farthest from perfect Summer I’ve ever had. And I find the events to be really weird, wondering if perhaps an Angel sent me a tick to outwit a spider. That, I’ll never know.

Well, at least not until Granny and I meet again.

Meanwhile, the question is, have you ever jinxed yourself by assuming something will be “perfect”?



  1. Holy CRAP! That is the craziest thing--to think a tick saved you from a spider! I had a friend get Lyme's--it was really awful--it took her FOREVER to feel up to snuff, too. Wow, what a bummer.

  2. What an impactful post. It brought back a lot of memories for me, and it was simply really well-written. I remember that summer, but what a gift to be able to capture all that in this single entry.

    But back to the question at hand, I can't think of a specific incident, but I just know that anything that tends to feel or look "perfect" just leaves me a touch skeptical. The ball is bound to drop sooner or later. Imperfect is where it's at.
    I miss you! And I'm so glad you're here to tell your tales.

  3. Lesson: never assume perfection; hope for the best.

  4. It is interesting that 2003 was a rough year for me as well. I realized back in 1999, nothing was perfect. I moved to berkely and was let down.


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