In October 2010, I was hospitalized for severe cellulitis after receiving the pneumonia vaccine.
(Fast forward six months after that first cellulitis episode, it recurred in the lymph nodes under my left arm.)
No one could ever figure out if the vaccine had been administered incorrectly, which I believed to be the case, or if I had, had some sort of allergic reaction to it, or both.
But what was certain was that if I had waited one more day to go to the hospital, I would have probably lost my arm, or even my life.
This was my first hospitalization since my diagnosis with lupus and RA.
I had underestimated what immunosuppressed meant.
At the time, I think in some ways I thought it was cool. Not the experience. But the idea that I had cheated death.
And it’s odd because my diagnosis with lupus with RA made me feel mortal; it made me not feel invincible anymore.
But looking back on it now, it’s horrifically scary to know how close I came. And I honestly shudder at the thought of it.
And then I wonder how many times I can come that close and cheat death.
So when I found that a lymph node was swollen behind my left ear, which is the same side of my body where the cellulitis was, I got a bit worried. I did think it would be weird to have a recurrence almost four years later, but the pain felt similar, although there was no heat or redness.
The swollen lymph node had been there for a couple of weeks, although it started hurting the week I went to see my doctor. I went to my rheumatologist and she said she could feel the swollen lymph node, and that it was consistent with me probably experiencing a flare. Later that night, however, almost the entire half of the left side of my face became swollen and extremely tender.
And I was scared.
I just kept thinking how close it was to my brain, so if things spread, that would be bad.
I also worried that part of my jaw would have to be removed if there was some type of infection.
But I could tell that all of the pain and swelling was emanating from the lymph node and not from somewhere else, like the inside of my mouth.
I e-mailed my doctor with this new development, and she suggested I give steroids a try. I didn’t want to do it because I finally got off of them, but I was in so much pain, that I relented.
Every day the area that is swollen and achy gets smaller, with steroids, of course. I can only hope that, that continues because I don’t really want to have a biopsy or anything like that.
I do agree that I’m flaring, because the other morning, I woke up with a swollen elbow. And my doctor contacted me and said that my blood work was normal other than a low white blood cell count, which would be consistent with a flare.
So I’m fairly sure that this time it’s not cellulitis.
But when you’ve been through a situation that you thought was nothing and turned into something really serious – and almost waited too long to do something about it –and you are experiencing a problem that is seemingly getting worse, it’s easy to think the worst.