White Dress, Green Face

Hearing voices might have been my first Lyme disease symptom… or just my overactive imagination. But I date my first clear Lyme symptoms to late November. Specifically… the night of White Dinner.

White Dinner is one of the two formal dinner/dances that Wilson College holds every year. Originally the idea was that every college girl had a white dress–it was like having a Little Black Dress–so you didn’t have to buy an expensive new dress for the occasion. By the time I was in college, the tradition was that only seniors could wear a white dress. And it was my senior year. So on with the dress!


Great, huh? Unfortunately, I didn’t get to wear it long.

I got into my dress–which had a little corset boning in the bodice–did my hair, tried to curl it, failed to curl it, grabbed my mask (it was a masquerade-themed dance) and walked across the green to the dinner.

Almost immediately, I started feeling sick. It felt like a stomach bug. I tried to suffer through it, but I just felt more and more miserable. Then I decided part of the problem was the pressure from the stiff bodice of the dress, so I hurried back to my dorm and changed into a comfy white sundress I happened to have in my closet.

It didn’t really help.

I hung on as long as I could, and then went back to my room to be miserable in peace.

The weird thing was that even though it felt like a 24-hour stomach bug, it didn’t really go away. It improved–slowly–over the course of the next week, but lingered nonetheless. Throughout December, I felt sick every evening after dinner. But I figured there was a reason for that:


A nutritious, balanced breakfast.

It wasn’t that it was disgusting or anything. Our dining hall’s cooking had improved a lot from freshman year–when one of my friends got into the habit of sniffing the food before eating it to make sure it was okay. I mean, people still found live bugs in the salad (the lettuce was freshly picked at the college farm), but since I never eat healthy things like green vegetables anyway, that wasn’t an issue.

Back! Back, you devils!

But I had a friend, Alyssa, who believed that the dining hall food was making her sick. She said she felt ill after every meal. She had thought it was the water, but when she cooked things for herself in the dorm kitchen, she was fine. She had wanted to get off of the meal plan so that she could cook for herself, but for some unknown reason (*cough*MONEY*cough*), the school wouldn’t let her out of it. So she kept eating the dining hall food, complaining to Tim, the head of the dining program, and feeling sick. Alyssa once commented, “What I really want to do is barf in a jar and give it to him, like, ‘Here, I wanted to return this.'”

Sorry for the mental image.

What I’m saying is, it was just a mild malaise every evening, and I figured it wasn’t a big deal. I learned otherwise the week after Christmas.

Two hours every meal I would get sick. And I mean, writhing in pain and crying. It was terrible, and I had no clue what was causing it.

I went to the doctor, and they did a blood test and told me that I had had H. pylori, a stomach virus, and they figured that was what I had gotten before White Dinner. But that didn’t help me now. One doctor got seriously annoyed with me for being sick (or maybe not being a doctor), and asked me impatiently, “Didn’t you think to keep some food in your stomach so it wouldn’t empty out after two hours and hurt?”

No. I’m sorry, Ms. Mean Doctor Lady, I haven’t taken that particular course of advanced digestion yet.

Eventually, after a second visit to the walk-in in one week, the PA suggested I go to the ER.

You can probably guess what a delight THAT was.

I did learn one interesting fact, however: if you lie on the waiting room floor because you’re so sick you feel like you’re going to pass out, you have a higher chance of the nurses taking pity on you and taking you back quickly. Because they don’t want anything that looks like a dead body lying around on their carpet. It looks bad.

I was there for a few hours, got asked some questions, got prodded and examined and scanned, and in the end they told me I had an ovarian cyst, got me an appointment with an ob-gyn for the next day, and sent me home.

Now, this was bull-pucky, and I knew it. It was definitely digestive: it always hurt two hours after I ate. But I went to the ob-gyn.

This woman was AWESOME. She came in, asked what my problem was, and had me lie on my back. She prodded my abdomen over my right ovary. “That hurt?” she asked.


She prodded the other one. “That hurt?”


She looked at me for a long moment, then took me by the shoulder and the leg and shook me back and forth. “THAT HURT??”

I started laughing.

“You don’t have a cyst. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”


And I managed to figure it out even without that advanced course in digestion!

Thank you, Dr. Awesome Ob-gyn Lady. Your snark gives me life.


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