Jennifer Clare Burke chronicles her struggle with lupus, and the challenge to keep on keepin' on.
You wouldn’t think I’d have to learn this the hard way, but since I did, let me share: Never schedule an anal probing on Friday the 13th.
July, 2012: Moments before my colonoscopy, two techs on my right and an anesthesiologist on my left gazed benevolently at me as I tensed in the gurney.
“There’s a puddle of blood near my butt,” I said. “I don’t want you to be concerned by that.”
“You’re bleeding?” asked the older tech.
“My IV malfunctioned when my wrist was near my tush. It was all blood spurts and hilarity. The nurses wrapped the bloody stuff in a pad so I wouldn’t see it.”
“I’m in the mood to take a nap.”
“We’re in the mood for you to take a nap,” agreed the anesthesiologist, as the three of them gently rolled me onto my side. When the whitish stuff they injected into my arm began to irritate the vein, I felt at least a half-second of empty, divine falling before the nothing.
In the summer of 1998, I still thought of myself as a healthy 24-year-old. And yet I often felt an increasingly nagging, nondescript sort of awful as I walked to class from the parking lot of the university where I taught composition to aspiring med-school students. I felt feverish and oddly fatigued.
On a gut level, I knew something was wrong. Still, I looked for mundane explanations. Surely my busy schedule or my workouts were causing the joint and muscle pain that had been gradually getting worse. With fair, sensitive skin, I blamed the unusual rashes on any number of irritants. Finally, though, I had to admit that there was simply no justification for why schlepping students’ papers and books to and from class created an agony in my hands, elbows and shoulders.
I went to see my primary doc. Finding my joints red and swollen, she tried to manipulate my knuckles; I jumped and instinctively pulled my hands away from her. “I think,” she said, “you need to see a rheumatologist.”
“Someone who treats autoimmune disorders like lupus, which might be going on here.”