Why I missed AWA
This weekend has been sort of crazy. I was supposed to go to AWA, but ended up not going. Crazy circumstances. Probably some crazy decisions resulting from said circumstances. I'm writing this out as an alternative to completely second-guessing myself. (Hopefully it'll also be an answer to all of the "sorry you didn't make it" replies--which I appreciate, but doesn't help the second-guessing.)
(All that said, it's really not dramatic. I kind of wish it were dramatic, otherwise I would be a little more sure of the way I handled it.)
The Short Version
I felt bad and was running a fever on Thursday. I fretted about whether I should go. I went to the Minute Clinic and they said I had shingles. I fretted about whether this was correct and whether I should go. I didn't go. I did nothing but read. It was kind of relaxing and I needed that, so I'm not completely bummed out about missing it.
The Long Version: The Bad Part
Wednesday night. Wednesday was supposed to be my last preparation day, since I was leaving sometime early Thursday afternoon. Work was busier than usual, as I'd had to go on-site a couple of times. Outside of work, I'd let a bunch of stuff pile up before I planned to leave for AWA (some hit me last-minute, and some I just forgot about). On top of that, I hadn't even packed. So Wednesday night was going to be the night I tried in vain to finish them up.
This culmimnated in a late-night trip to Wal-Mart. I wasn't done with my to-do list by a long shot, but this needed to be done. Sometime while I was at Wal-Mart the last-minute pileup (plus some other stuff I'll talk about in a later post) really started to stress me out. I got back home around 11pm feeling unusually worn-out. I stayed up until around 1am finishing up one of my checklist items, then went to bed.
Around the time I went to bed, I noticed I felt really warm... and then really chilly. As someone who is unnaturally afraid of being the bringer of con crud, this worried me. I took my temperature and it ended up being 99.9°F. Uh-oh. I popped two Tylenol, things evened out, and I slept.
Thursday morning. I woke up Thursday morning running a temperature of 98.2°F. Maybe whatever it was had run its course. I was still tired, but I figured that was a consequence of staying up late.
I'd taken Thursday off, and thankfully I realized that, writing done, I'd actually eliminated most of my pre-con to-do list, and it was going to be early afternoon before my sister was ready to leave. Except for packing, everything was going better than expected. I wasted some time to rest, checked work email, sent the standard "out of office" messages and set up my email autoresponder.
During all this, I decided to check my temperature again just to be sure I wasn't going to be Typhoid Mary. It ended up in the 99.5° range. Crap. I started looking for possible explanations, because aside from being tired I couldn't point to anything. I rarely get sick, but when I do I usually just wait it out--in this case, I wanted to know what I was potentially inflicting on the rest of the congoing populace. A few Google searches indicated that it was unlikely you could have a fever from stress alone. Right.
I'd noticed what I thought was an insect bite on the back of my neck the night before. It was itchy--annoying, but nothing I couldn't tune out. Could that trigger a fever? If so I had no worries about being Con Crud Patient Zero. My mind jumped to a huge spider I'd killed in my room just a day before, and while it was a long shot, I started thinking maybe I was dealing with something serious. (WebMD is a horrible, horrible thing if you're easily suggestible.)
Thursday afternoon. The few times I'd taken it, my temperature had fluctuated in the low 99's. When my roommate Jen got home, she took a look and assured me it was just another bite, and that I should probably just go on.
Devan got off work, but had to finish up some stuff before she was ready to leave. I told her the good news that, despite my iffiness in texts before, I should be good to go. Everyone was happy. I finished the last of my packing. I took my temperature again just to be sure.
That threw a wrench in things. While it wasn't technically a fever, it was nothing to ignore. Normally I'd just wait it out, but again, not wanting to be the plaguebringer, I decided to go to the Minute Clinic to get a medical opinion.
The doctor at the Minute Clinic was stumped at first. Low fever (99.4° when I was there), fatigue, mild headache. No congestion or coughing. No nausea, although I hadn't really ate much beyond snacking. Yes, I had been under some stress the past week.
When I asked whether a bug bite could trigger a fever, this changed. Apparently what I thought was a bite was a group of two bumps, plus there were some others up at my hairline. Shingles, she suggested. She wasn't certain at first, but after going over all the symptoms again, was confident enough to diagnose it and write a prescription. Fever, headache, and malaise--it all matched up.
I wasn't fully convinced, but I wasn't unconvinced. It's hard to have an opinion as to whether a photo looks like what's on the back of your neck. But it was better than anything else at that point, so I told Devan I wouldn't be riding down that night.
Somewhere in my mind, I started wondering if I'd brought all of this on myself, or somehow fabricated it. I knew the high temperatures were correct, and I was fairly certain I wasn't crazy about the chills on Wednesday night that made me take my temperature in the first place. But as to the rest, I wondered if it was just psychosomatic--if I became so worried about spreading con crud that I made myself sick when I wasn't really. Mixed in was a healthy dose of guilt that I was either making myself a martyr or a victim, and it got worse everytime someone asked me if I was going or said they'd miss me. After all, I got a pretty bad cold on the first day of DragonCon. (This isn't odd; I'll occasionally worry that I'm indirectly responsible for something as long as there are a few dots I can find a way to connect.)
It didn't help that, on Sunday, I'd filled out a medical survey that asked how many times I'd had shingles. I distinctly remember having to stop and think about it, because I could remember the number of times (1) but not the age (very young). What are the odds that something I haven't thought about in years gets mentioned twice in the same week?
Thursday night. When Nikki (my roommate Geoffrey's girlfriend) got home, she immediately said that I either had to sequester myself or get to the emergency room. It turns out two of my four roommates have not had chickenpox. At the hospital where she works, they treat shingles as an airborne contagion, despite what the doctor at the Minute Clinic had said. And, having looked at my neck, she agreed that it might be shingles. At this point, there was definitely more involvement than just the bug bite.
At this point I stammered like an idiot because I didn't want to go to the emergency room, but I wasn't in a position to totally quarantine myself. I ended up choosing the latter.
Because of the (newfound) severity of the diagnosis and the fact that the doctor at the Minute Clinic wasn't 100% sure at first, I thought maybe I should talk to my primary doctor on Friday.
Friday. The MC doctor told me to rest, so I figured, since I'd already taken the day off, I'd just stay off the computer and stay in bed. To be honest, I was staying off the grid out of shame as much as out of relaxation. I didn't want someone to ask me, "aren't you supposed to be gone?" and then have to explain the above.
For what it's worth, I stayed under 98.6° for the rest of the weekend.
Nikki read up on shingles, and determined that it was only transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. (My guess as to why it's treated as airborne is the potential severity.) I was out of quarantine, and she agreed with the doctor I could probably go. She'd also looked at some other pictures and reassured me again that, yes, it did look like shingles.
I called my doctor's office, explained the situation, and was redirected to my primary doctor's voice mail. I explained the basics of the situation (in retrospect, no details) and wanted to know if I could go over what I told the MC and see if I should come in for a second examination.
In retrospect, I should have called again and asked to speak to someone else, given that the voice mail message said my primary doctor is only in the office on Fridays. But I hate making phone calls and I was uncomfortable to begin with. They never called back. I had no less than three people text me throughout the day asking if they had called back.
With Nikki's opinion, I was willing to accept that the diagnosis was correct. I was told I would probably be safe if I didn't have skin-to-skin contact with people who hadn't had chickenpox or were immune compromised, but that didn't make me comfortable. This being a con, and therefore a massive crowd, I wasn't willing to take that chance, so I made the decision not to go with Jen and John.
The Good Part
... is that it was a nice break for me. I have a hard time shutting down and not worrying about what I "need" to do unless I'm sick. And I was sick. Even though I felt good. So I used the loophole in my own logic and got in some much-needed rest and de-stressed as much as is humanly possible (well, for me, at least). I have a lot of stuff lined up over the next few weekends, and I have a lot of stuff (in one way or another) hanging over me. So whether it's shingles or just a random bug, I figure stress played into this one way or another.
I read five books, which is good, considering I haven't made much of a dent in my to-read stack lately. I re-stringed my electric guitar (harder than you'd think). I watched the Weird Al Comedy Central special and Transformers 3. I'm slightly disappointed it's over.
I've been to enough conventions to know that there will always be another convention. I don't feel like I've lost much by missing this, seeing as I went to DragonCon, will be going to GMX, and will be going to AWA next year.
A lot of people encouraged me to come and said they'd miss me and wanted me to feel better (to which I tried to explain that I already did, that wasn't the issue). I understand and I appreciate it very much. At the same time, it was more pressure and attention that I'd really have liked. But, I'd do the same thing if I was in their position.
(Ironically, no more than a week ago I'd said, in reference to other people, "let them do what they decide to do--if they are already worried, badgering them will just make it worse." Can't help feeling like I was prepping them to deal with me.)