The Autoimmune Flare Trifecta: COVID, Mastitis, and Aunt Flo

Nine days ago we found out that my daughter has COVD-19, and eight days ago I tested positive as well. This is my second go-round with “the VID,” and I was optimistic that my symptoms would be mild, and it would be a chill week home with Davie.

For the first few days we went out for a walks, played and read books, and I only felt mildly symptomatic. I was getting winded and out of breath easily, but compared to my COVID symptoms the first time I had it, this was no big deal.

Per the recommendation of my rheumatologist, I skipped my Enbrel injection to help give my body a boost fighting off the illness. Historically, I either don’t really notice a missed injection, or my body screams at me by going into a flare- and there is rarely an in-between. I was crossing my fingers that this time would be the former, and that I’d be right back on track next week.

Unfortunately, that night I woke up to some nasty period cramps and lower back pain. As most women with chronic illness know, for whatever reason, flares and symptoms tend to be worse during this wonderful time of the month, and for me this has always been true. Now, combining a missed injection with the symptom-amplifier that I lovingly refer to as “the red bitch,” I was feeling very anxious that my 10 days home wasn’t going to be as easy as I originally thought.

Almost a week after testing positive for COVID I started experiencing flu-like symptoms: aches, chills, hot flashes, fatigue. I had expected symptoms to peak within the first few days, and was now feeling incredibly confused. I was already feeling a lot of back pain and spending hours with my heating pad, so this new hit was extra frustrating. About 24 hours after these new symptoms sparked I noticed a pain in my right breast and knew immediately what was going on.

Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue associated mostly with breastfeeding- and I had already had it once since Davie was born. The first time I dealt with the exact same host of flu-like symptoms, and getting mastitis once makes you more prone to get it again (I also have a hunch that being on a biologic makes me more prone…but that’s never been confirmed by a doctor). I called my doctors office, and based on my symptoms + their desire to not see a COVID positive patient in person, they prescribed antibiotics over the phone.

I’m now two days into the 10-day antibiotic prescription and thank god the mastitis is clearing up and the symptoms are feeling SO MUCH better. The down side is that my ankylosing spondylitis is FIRING, and a 10 day antibiotic stint means I’ll be skipping another Enbrel injection.

The period flare + COVID + mastitis + missed injections has sidelined me a little bit. I’m having a hard time getting comfortable in any position with my back. My right hand, wrist, and elbow are noticeably inflamed and stiff, and the fatigue is very real. I hit the point last night that many of you probably know all to well where I started feeling afraid that I would feel like this forever. Would the inflammation in my elbow ever subside? Would the stiffness in my hands ease? What if it doesn’t?

Lots of sleep has been lost this week trying to silence my autoimmune-brain mid-flare, but I’m trying to give myself constant reminders that this will pass, and a flare isn’t forever.

So for whoever else needs to hear it: this will pass, and your current flare isn’t forever ❀️

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