(By the way, I'm going to post this kind of stuff in my journal from now on but leave it public, in case any of you wish to read it.)
A nurse came to my house, we filled out a bunch of paperwork, then she showed me how to stick a needle into a mango (usually it’s oranges or apples, she said, but a mango was all I had—we agreed it seemed more like human flesh than the other two, anyway) and then I stuck a one-and-a-quarter-inch needle into my thigh and pumped in 30mg of Interferon-beta-1a, aka, Avonex.
Oh what brave new world is this?
It felt like... next to nothing. How can you barely feel a piece of metal going over an inch into your leg? But there it was, and I was driving it. It hardly felt like anything at all, until I made my way through the upper layer of flesh and pierced the muscle, which was the goal. That second piercing of membrane, with a slight resistance and then give, left a mild queasy sensation in my gut, the kind I imagine a man experiences if you squeeze his testicles just past the point of pleasure. But still, there was no pain.
Then I waited. It was 6 p.m. I watched the clock periodically and awaited the dreaded “flu-like symptoms” that make Avonex so infamous among the MS crowd. I had been dosing myself with three Ibuprofen every four hours since 10 a.m. in the hope of lessening whatever symptoms I might experience, be they mild headache, migraine, chills, fever, uncontrollable shaking, muscle aches, nausea, and whatever else comes standard on the Avonex menu.
The clock passed 7 p.m. So far so good. I had the two-hour post-shot timeframe marked as the moment badness would set in. That seemed to be the point earmarked by many Avonex users.
8 p.m. sailed by, as did 9, then 10. I took more Ibuprofen and went about my business. I felt a heavy fatigue but that wasn’t unusual. I had been fighting a bug for two weeks and fatigue is a common occurrence for me anyway. Whether it’s MS-related or not, who knows?
11:45. My husband and I went to bed. I woke up several times during the night, wondering if I was waking up because of the drug, but impossible to say. At one point, I awakened feeling speedy, as if someone had laced my dreams with caffeine, but after a few minutes of mind-racing, I still managed to doze off.
Morning came. Was the sensation of soreness in my thighs the drug? Was it just too much sitting around working with the laptop on my knees? More Ibuprofen and got busy about the day.
Could it be? My husband and I had refused to discuss the 800-pound Avonex gorilla in the house on shot-night. We referred to it vaguely and then moved on. Could it be that the gorilla had let me pass into the Avonex zoo without throwing feces at me?
As is my way, rather than celebrate, I began to wonder if the drug just wasn’t working. Perhaps it had deteriorated in the five months it had sat in my fridge while I contemplated whether or not to embark on this cure-is-worse-than-the-ailment course. There was also the time when we noticed the refrigerator wasn’t keeping its normal coolness and brought out a repairman who replaced the coil. Had that week or so raised the temperature enough to destroy the delicate protein? Should I replace the three remaining syringes with a fresh batch?
Or perhaps it was the fact that my body was already fighting a bug so it didn’t react out-of-hand to the additional interferon coursing through my musculature.
Or perhaps, the thing is just going to go to work on whatever demon haunts my immune system, whatever ghoulish army is at war with my DNA, has infiltrated my cellular walls, has taken up residence with extreme prejudice in my spinal fluid and the innermost cavities of my brain. Perhaps it’s just going to do its job and let me go on with the business of living. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will set up a firewall between the “virus” and my operating system and let me continue to execute normal commands such as “walk,” “think,” “see,” “evacuate,” and “feel.”
Perhaps we’ll just see what happens next shot-night.