Jenguin’s Journey – Facing a Different Front: An Unexpected Visit

September 19, 2020

Written by Jenny Williams (aka ‘Jenguin’) – Head for the Cure Ambassador

With the entire world facing a pandemic, the last place any person wants to end up is in the hospital. During my first eight-week cycle of chemotherapy this year, my only trips to the hospital were either necessary MRIs or weekly blood draws.

One summer night during my second cycle, I decided to go chasing fireflies in our neighborhood with my boyfriend and a friend. Feeling a little itchy afterwards, I figured I was ambushed by mosquitoes, but the next day revealed some familiar large red welts. I was having my second allergic reaction since starting treatment this year. I ran through my artillery of antihistamines to join that night’s dose of chemotherapy. Restless through the night, I eventually realized that this time, we couldn’t dodge a trip to the emergency room.

It was quiet outside as my boyfriend and I walked through the automatic sliding doors of the ER. We were quickly led back to a room, where I laid on a temporary bed with wheels while the staff there hooked me up to a heart monitor and stuck an IV in my arm. Shivering and resisting all urges to itch the minefield of welts on my skin, I tried to lay still while the nurse’s aid covered me with a rough blanket.

Two hours passed by. I closed my eyes, letting the echo of beeping machines throughout the department lull me to sleep, while I tried to ignore the ball in my throat and raging fire throughout my skin. The doctor finally came in and ordered some relief for me in the form of histamine blockers and a hefty steroid. The nurse returned with some small bottles and a syringe. My head went spinning as she pushed the clear liquid through the small tube in my arm. As if on cue, my legs miraculously cleared up, and we were handed some discharge papers. The sun was rising as we headed home to catch up on the sleep we lost during this venture.

A couple weeks later, I was in an allergist’s office describing my experience. Eager for answers, I watched as the nurse drew blue dots up and down my arms, mapping where she would poke me with common allergens to find out if I would react to any of them. I sat in the room with my arms laid out, waiting for the doctor to return. My arms remained silent, providing no explanation for those previous episodes.

My fiery bouts remain a mystery, but I now have more drugs to provide some relief in case they return. I’m staying hopeful that eventually I can solve this mystery. I also look forward to hopefully finishing my second cycle with an MRI showing a shrinking tumor, and stable blood counts.