an inauspicious start

5:15 a.m. Thursday, July 16

Any thought I had of my inaugural blog being inspirational has gone by the wayside. After several restless nights, last night I was asleep by 9 p.m. hoping for a good 10 hours. I had drunk a gallon or so of herbal tea between noon and going to bed, so of course my sleep was interrupted to relieve myself, first at 12:30 then again at 4. I was walking back to bed, eyes half-shut, when my hand moved up to scratch my nose and was surprised (yes, hands can be surprised) by finding its way obstructed by an enormously swollen upper lip. The phrase “bulbous overhang” came to mind immediately.

Still determined to go back to sleep and not worry about it until my alarm went off at 7:30, I returned to bed and did everything I could to put this development on the mental back burner so I could drop off again — to no avail. So here I sit at 5:30, starting my first blog. I Googled my condition, and tells me that the cause could be a) a food or medication allergy, b) an insect bite/sting, or c) a muscle/neurological condition. If this were a multiple-choice test, my guess (hope) would be A or B. Likelihood of “all of the above” is vanishingly small.

Each blog entry requires an image. No chance of a selfie for this one. When Richard gets up, I need to warn him before he gets a look at me — it’s startling. I look like a Neanderthal Simpsons character. Not going to show you. I hope it passes.

10:30 a.m.

By 6 a.m., in addition to my upper lip, my left cheek (the one on my face) was starting to swell too, so I woke up Richard, who took one look at me and said, “Oh, spider bite. Did I ever tell you about my 21st birthday?” He hadn’t, so he filled me in. He woke up with the same type swelling in his upper lip and went to see the campus doc at Michigan State. The doc glanced at him and said, “Spider bite. Give him Benadryl and send him home.” So I took the campus doctor’s advice and swallowed two Benadryl tablets.

Since then, the swelling and numbness has crept from the left cheek to the left side of my lower lip and is now extending into my right lower lip and cheek. I made an appointment for a 9:45 virtual doctor visit. He told me to keep taking Benadryl every 4 hours, alternate heat and cold, and keep an eye on it. The last part is easy since I can now see my lips peripherally if I cast my eyes down a little. If I start having trouble swallowing or breathing, I’m to go to the ER. “What if I stop breathing when I’m asleep?” “Unlikely.” I would have preferred “Impossible.” He is available for an in-person appointment in the morning (if I survive until then).

At this point, I can’t think about anything other than what’s happening to me facially. I told the doc that I seem to be going backward evolutionarily, waking up looking Neanderthal and now going full chimpanzee. So I’m afraid this post will be essentially a medical progress report — not what I planned for my first blogging effort. More later.

4:30 p.m.

I think I’ll live. The swelling reached its apex an hour or two ago, by which time my face was finally symmetrical in its distended puffiness. Now it seems to be ebbing in the same sequence that it swelled up. I didn’t really fear for my life, but at my age, any anomaly momentarily strikes me as something that could be the beginning of the end. It appears not, though, and all in all, I’m glad.

10:15 a.m. Friday, July 17

Today, my lips are back to normal, but it looks like I’ve had silicon implants placed low on each cheek. Very Churchillian.

I will write about something more uplifting the next time. Thanks for hanging in there with me through this experience.

On the lighter side, here’s my first chosen quote from a child. There will be one at the bottom of each new post.

from the mouths (or pencils) of kids

When my older brother Andrew was five and in kindergarten, he walked home from school one day to find no one home.  He just sat on the front steps and waited.  Who knows how long it was (it must have seemed forever), but finally our mom drove up with my 3-year-old sister and 1-year-old me in the car.  Mom apologized profusely. Andrew said, “I thought everyone was dead but the kids and the dogs.” 


  1. Susana, even in the face of possible impending death, you manage to be funny. Loved your maiden voyage blog, and I’m glad you survived that scary episode! xoxox


  2. Whoa – that must have been scary. Three cheers for Richard’s reflection on probable cause, Benadryl and your grit. Glad it has subsided. Glad you are a published blogger!


  3. Susan, so sorry to learn about your spider attack. Yikes! Benadryl cures quite a lot of aliments, doesn’t it? A few years ago, I had taken out my contacts and was getting ready for bed when I noticed a couple of small fuzzy spots on the ceiling. It’s just a couple of little bugs, my husband assured me. I decided to go to sleep and worry about it in the morning. When I woke up the next day, the entire ceiling was covered in tiny black creatures. I leapt out of bed, grabbed my glasses, and was able to ascertain that our bedroom ceiling was covered in spiders. I woke my husband up and demanded he look at the ceiling. “Cool,” he said. “No,” I said. “It is not cool. In fact, it is very uncool.” I told him we needed to call the exterminator since we had a spider infestation. He didn’t think I should characterize it as an infestation. We then had a discussion called ‘what is the proper number of spiders needed to constitute an infestation.’ I still can’t tell you what we concluded, but when the exterminator came, he told us a spider had given birth and the ceiling was covered in baby spiders. So if you happen to see the spider that bit you, or any others for that matter, my advice is to not let them outnumber you!


    • That’s a horrifying story! Our son, Sam, would have loved it. He loves both insects AND arthropods and most other living things. When he and Richard were in Belize, he was awakened by a dream of something crawling up his arm. Turned out to be a large scorpion. He didn’t freak out, he got out of bed followed it around and took photos. To his credit, he didn’t mention this to the several other people in their excursion until they were waiting at the airport to fly home. Sam has also chronicled the short life of a female spider that lived in his window — I think on the outside, but not sure, he saw her through several cycles of having egg sacs and offspring and when she died, he posted a moving memorial to her, thanking her for her presence in her life. So. . . to each his own!


  4. Over these many years of our friendship, you have always made me laugh, even during these dismal times. However.

    Dr. Tumolo will tell you that, although your spider issue can be dealt with easily, it can become very serious if not treated. Glad you took an anti-histamine immediately.


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