Editor's note: Cindy Frazier returned last week from a two-month medical leave. This is her story.
It all started with an itch.
It was mid-February. I was sitting in a staff meeting with our veteran reporter Barbara Diamond when suddenly I couldn't stop scratching my arms, legs, head and feet.
I'm prone to skin allergies — poison oak is my bane — so it's not unusual for me to experience unexplained itching.
But this was different.
"You'd better see a doctor about that," Barbara advised, presciently as it turned out.
I was sure it was nothing, so I kept scratching for another two weeks until I noticed a rash; when I scratched too hard, the bumps would bleed. That finally convinced me this was no poison oak outbreak.
So on March 1, I was at the doctor's office, explaining that not only did I itch from head to toe but also had certain other symptoms, including severe indigestion. I suggested the possibility of shingles.
"Dr. Z." looked at the rash, frowned, and said, "You have bed bugs. Go home and look for bed bugs."
She also filled out a form for a blood test, in case the symptoms were caused by "bacteria."
I went home and checked for bed bugs and found none. I also got my blood tested and waited for the results. In the meantime, the itching got worse and soon I was unable to sleep through the night, nor could I stomach a full meal.
After another week or two, Dr. Z.'s assistant called and said nonchalantly, "Why don't you come in to go over the blood test next week?"
Given the lack of urgency in her tone, and in making the appointment, I assumed the blood test had come back negative.
Great. Nothing to worry about.
But the itching continued and by the time I next visited the doctor, I was pretty sure I had jaundice. I had scoured the Internet looking for the combination of symptoms that now bedeviled me: unrelenting itching; urine the color of dark tea; stool the color of light sand; and I was beginning to turn yellow.
I went to Dr. Z's office and said, "I think I have jaundice, and maybe scabies."
She looked skeptical, but when I rolled up my sleeve to show my yellow arm, she agreed about the jaundice. She prescribed a mild sleeping pill, and another pill to help the itching. She gave me an over-the-counter ulcer medication. I also talked her into prescribing a cream to attack the scabies, which I was convinced was also present, based on symptoms and my Internet research. (The scabies disappeared after the treatment, but the itching continued.)
Why is my skin changing colors?