Fatty Carbuncle

Have you ever heard of Fatty Arbuckle? He was a comedian and silent screen star whose professional career began in 1906. It nearly ended in 1916 when, at a weight of 386 pounds, he got a carbuncle on his leg, which almost required amputation of the leg. Later, Arbuckle was tried three times for the rape and murder of one actress. (To read this extraordinary story, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roscoe_Arbuckle.)

Fatty Arbuckle has nothing to do with this story but his name came to mind and his story turned out to be interesting, and of what use am I to you if I don’t bring interesting stuff to read?

Here’s my story: About ten days ago I began to have sharp skin pains on my chest. I assumed the pain was caused by my bra rubbing on a skin tag but when I looked—or tried to look, it being in a highly invisible place—then I could at least see that it wasn’t a skin tag.

Seven days ago, I asked a friend to look at it and she thought it was impetigo, which is a bacterial infection that causes a sort of blister on the skin. What I had was a spot about the size of a nickel that was red, oozing, and had a peculiar hole in the middle. Yes, a perfectly round little hole, unlike anything I’d ever seen, as perfect as if a miniscule apple-corer had removed a bit of tissue. Usually impetigo is only found in children; my friend, her brother and her daughter had it as children, and it is highly infectious. I am, most emphatically, not a child. Treatment with an antibiotic enables healing in two or three weeks. Knowing my intolerance of antibiotics taken internally, my friend spoke of a topical antibiotic cream, and then anointed the area with a bit of oil of thyme and oil of oregano. Thereafter, as I wheeled out in the community, I was followed by a bunch Syracuse University students who thought I was a pizza.

Six days ago, I had a Reiki treatment, which basically is the Reiki provider calling on the universe for healing—or, as she and I understand it—channeling God to bring recovery. During the course of the treatment, I experienced a brief sharp pain near the bad spot. (I think of this thing as if I am a fruit with a bad spot, a small place of not-good-fruity.)

Five days ago, I had an appointment with a doctor, during which I showed him the offending area. He pronounced it to be a carbuncle, which is a red, irritated lump, usually around a hair follicle. Mine wasn’t. He prescribed an antibiotic pill. When I asked if there was a topical antibiotic, he said flatly, “No.”

Four days ago, I got the prescription filled for doxycycline hyclate 100 mg. It is a tetracycline, and prescribed to be taken every 12 hours for 12 days. I had no intention of taking it that way, and I’m through having arguments with physicians and trying to explain about my intolerance. I intended to take it every 24 hours for six days.

The paperwork that came from the pharmacy said that doxycycline—
• Can cause an upset stomach.
• Do not lie down after you take it.
• Don’t eat or take other drugs with it.
• Keep taking it even after you are all better.
• May cause diarrhea, vomiting, sunburn, difficulty in swallowing, change in amount of urine, intracranial pressure.
• Get help right away if you have sudden blindness.
• May cause a severe intestinal condition months after you stop taking it.
• Can cause bloody stool, thrush, vaginal yeast infection, rash, itchiness, dizziness, trouble breathing.
• Could cause pregnancy.
• This is not a complete list of possible side effects.

And you expect me to ingest this shit? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?

Do people who have been taking drugs—medications—for years develop an intolerance to reading about side effects? Do they become immune to fear? Does cognition cease to respond to facts? How can anybody in their right mind read this stuff and still swallow the pill?

Well, I did. Three days ago, I took the first pill. Three hours later, my face got very hot, except when I touched my face, it was cool. The heat was not in my skin; it was inside my skull. Excuse me, but what does intracranial pressure feel like? Well, that went away, but that night I woke up, as I always do, and checked the catheter bag. It was virtually empty, which was shocking. Ah, this would be the doxycycline causing a change in the amount of urine. Where does the urine go? Are my kidneys not producing it? Is fluid backing up in the tissues? Will I have swollen ankles? Or is urine being produced but backing up in the bladder? I’ve got stage 3 chronic kidney disease—should I be worrying?

Two days ago, I had bloody stool. Well, sometimes that happens. Maybe it isn’t connected to the doxycycline. Maybe. So I take the second pill. And then can’t get out of bed. I cancel the trips to church and the shopping mall and tell myself that this is not a big deal. I’ve been pushing it pretty hard and I just need a day off, so I spend the day reading, watching television and sleeping.

When I got up one day ago, everything swooped to my feet. I felt as if I was trying to drag myself along while wearing lead boots. I got light-headed and my ears started ringing every time I stood up. . .

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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