I usually do not get sick, but when I do, I don't always feel it. During seventh grade, though, I would wake up at six, go to school, come home, sleep, eat dinner, and be in bed by six and still be exhausted the next morning. I thought this must be normal, that I was just stressed out with all the new teachers and lots of homework.
In eighth grade, I was pretty much back to normal. I still tired easily, but it wasn't too bad. Then one night I woke up when the muscles in my left leg tightened and hurt so much that I couldn't move it. I iced it, heated it and stretched it, but nothing seemed to work. I tried going back to sleep, thinking it must be because I had been so active. The next morning I was sore, but better. It was like that for a week, and then one day my wrists stiffened up whenever I moved them. I couldn't write and it was difficult picking things up. When I got home the stiffness had moved to my neck and elbows. When I told my mom, she didn't know what to do, and told me to lie down and relax.
By then I was in tears. The stiffness had moved through my entire body. Whenever I moved, my muscles would tighten and hurt like crazy. I had trouble walking, and once I sat, I was down. I walked with a very bad slouch because I couldn't stand upright or straighten either of my legs. My mom decided to take me to the emergency room, and I couldn't even bend down to put on my shoes and socks.
The doctor was dumbfounded; he had never seen anything like this. I was checked for Lyme disease, strep, and tons of other things. The strep came back positive, but the blood work showed that the infection had been there for a long time. I hadn't even noticed I had it. I went to see my regular doctor, but he had no idea what was wrong either. He told me to go to a specialist. By then I had gotten a rash that was perfectly symmetrical on both hands. We were pretty sure I had Lyme disease, and didn't know why the doctors couldn't diagnose it. By now, I was really scared. What if I was like this forever?
It took several blood tests and many more doctor visits before my illness was diagnosed. I had post infectious reactive arthropathy. It's not as confusing or as bad as it sounds. My blood tests showed that at some point I had had mono and strep. We think I had mono in seventh grade and the strep was more recent. Because I did not show any signs, both illnesses went untreated, which caused the arthritis symptoms. I was lucky, though. The doctor said that since I got the arthritis all at once, it would go away faster and I would not have it my entire life. He also said it could take as long as to a year to recover.
I still feel a few side effects, but am basically back to normal, except for occasionally being tired and stiff. It's funny to see people's faces when I tell them the long name of the illness which most doctors don't even seem to know.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.