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Epstein-Barr Virus

Posted Aug 07 2009 12:18pm
I just found out that I have Epstein-Barr virus. I KNEW IT! Let me explain...

Last December, when I was right in the middle of my chemo treatments, my son came home from college over the Christmas break. He had just been diagnosed with mono. Then, around the same time, my sister was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus. That's the virus that causes mononucleosis. She was in intense pain. She could hardly walk.

Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes family. It's a pretty common virus. In fact, as many as 95 percent of adults between 35 and 40 years of age have been infected. Mono, is a contagious viral illness that initially attacks the lymph nodes in the neck and throat. Mono is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The virus enters the lymph nodes and attacks the white blood cells manufactured there. As the white blood cells come into contact with the virus, they change shape and multiply. At first, there are no symptoms because it takes several weeks before enough of the altered cells can accumulate to generate infection. The incubation period in adults is quite long; sometimes, 30 to 50 days. I didn't start to notice symptoms until March. Then I started to get really sore. Almost all of my muscles and joints hurt. I've had a lot of fatigue, too, but I thought that was just from the chemo.

I told my oncologist, the last time I went in to see him, about how sore I've been. He had some blood tests done, to check for things like Lupus (which is a chronic, autoimmune disease, which causes inflammation of various parts of the body) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (symptoms can include fatigue, loss of energy, lack of appetite, low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, and stiffness). The tests all came back negative. After I had my blood drawn and went home, I remembered that I had been exposed to mono (through my son and my sister), and so I called the doctor's office and told his nurse that they might want to check for Epstein-Barr as well. His reaction? "If I thought it was Epstein-Barr, I would have tested for that". Yeah. So, NO, he didn't test for it. I got a call back from the nurse a few days later and she reported the negative findings and that was it. No further testing. No ideas on how to help. Nothing. So, last week, when I had my kids into our family doctor for scout physicals, my doctor asked how things were going with the cancer treatments and how I was feeling. I told him about the pain (and that I had been exposed to Eptein-Barr and mono). He was concerned enough to order more blood work to check for that. Today I went to see him, and sure enough, that's what I have. There really isn't much I can do for the pain. I just have to let the virus run it's course. It could take awhile, because my body has to build up the antibodies to the virus, and my immune system isn't quite up to the task right now. I just googled Epstein-Barr and found that it can affect the nerves of the body, resulting in headaches and muscle pain. These symptoms are usually seen in the early acute stage when the symptoms are most severe. My doctor thinks I'm right in the middle - the worst - part of the illness right now.

But, it sure is a relief to at least know for sure what is causing all of this pain. I really feel about 80 years old. My knees, especially, hurt like crazy every time I try to stand up. I'm just so annoyed with my oncologist. He completely ignored what I told him. Geez. Whatever.

I think I'll go get some Epsom salts (high in magnesium - which is helpful in relaxing the nerves and muscles) to add to my bath water tonight. I'm going to soak the pain away. Hopefully it works. :-)
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