The Itis…Monster Flash Fiction.

Neither awake nor asleep, she could hear his gravelly voice huffing in her ear: “I’m going to get you!”

She knew that voice too well and flinched. His grotesque form leaning over her bed, she could almost feel his fingertips touching her skin. With the stench of rotting flesh, this monstrous beast came from the very pits of hell.

Trembling, she shrank into a very tight ball.

No! She was still determined to get the bastard. Wring his neck. Finally, destroy the beast.

But there was nothing there.

No monster to slay with her almighty sword.

Yet, there was!

Rowena Newton March 13, 2016.

March 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story. You can pick any perspective, even that of the monster. It can be literal or symbolic; it can be heroic or realistic. Think about the shifting roles of what is a monster and who is a monster-slayer. Consider how easily we give the label to others or to fears we can’t name.


itis: Suffix meaning inflammation.

On the 22nd August, 2007, I was diagnosed with a severe, life-threatening auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis. You can just imagine being diagnosed with something like that. The word itself is bad enough and it took me at least a month to pronounce it let alone spell it. However, the disease itself was far worse. It took 18 months to correctly diagnose after boarding a horrifically intense, medical merry-go-round.

It is hard to believe that someone who is still walking around and indeed still breathing, could have been so debilitated. Most of my muscles had wasted away and I needed help getting dressed and even pulling my blankets over me at night. Yet, I was also mother full time to a toddler and a baby not to mention the crazy afore mentioned Old English Sheepdog, who morphed into an energetic Border Collie pup somewhere along the way.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007. This was 3 months before my diagnosis and despite how I appear in the photo, I was already very ill.

Six weeks before my diagnosis, I tripped over at home and much to my horror couldn’t get up at all. This wasn’t due to injury. Rather, I didn’t have the muscles left to get myself up. The disease had gobbled them up. I rang my husband at work, over two hour’s away. We didn’t even discuss getting an ambulance. He suggested using a chair to lever myself up and when that worked, I simply got on with it. That said, we gave a friend our front door key and tried to spend us much time as we could with my Mum. Our home became the most terrifying place in the world for me.

Dermatomyositis can be difficult to diagnose and yet I had these distinctive tell tale red stripes across my knuckles, which are known as “rainbow hands”. Early on, I received a false negative on a blood test and once you eliminate what you’ve got, you’re in considerable strife. My uncle who is a dermatologist, ended up diagnosing it at my cousin’s wedding. I was obviously severely ill and while I was sort of thrilled at the instant weight loss, I suspected something sinister. Just getting in and out of chairs was murder. Even in that dark, ambient lighting my uncle recognised those rainbow stripes on my hands and was on the phone the next day. Three days later he had results and an urgent appointment with the Professor of Rheumatology at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. He told me to take my toothbrush as I wouldn’t be coming home. Two and a half weeks later, I left hospital in an ambulance bound for rehab for 6 weeks.

The kids went to stay with my parents. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was only 18 months and still breastfeeding.

This wasn’t the case of the kids having a holiday with their grandparents. It was incredibly traumatic and even though I knew I was very ill at the time, I was later told that I didn’t appreciate just how sick I was and that they’ve lost patients at that point before. The long delay in my diagnosis had almost been catastrophic.

I still remember Mister asking me: “Mummy better?” with his big brown eyes and blond curls and saying nothing. We didn’t know. Our son’s development froze for a good six months after that. He stopped doing a lot of things he’d been able to do and regressed. He also got very angry with me. He wanted his old Mum back and how was he supposed to understand and accept what we couldn’t?!!

Before this all came about, when I used to think of monsters, I used to think of baddies lurking in dark alleyways or public toilets grabbing me by the throat. I never thought that the greatest, most terrifying monster I would ever face, would be inside myself. Indeed, the very problem with any auto-immune disease is that it’s your body attacking itself.

The monster is inside you.

Now, that does make things tricky, doesn’t it?!!

You are not your disease and yet it lives inside your body and your cells start attacking each other, themselves. Yet, it’s not you…whatever!!

That’s starting to sound like one of those brain busting conundrums.

My brain hurts. How about yours?

Time for a good old-fashioned cup of tea!

xx Rowena


22 thoughts on “The Itis…Monster Flash Fiction.

  1. merrildsmith

    There are all sorts of monsters, aren’t there? I’m glad you are doing better–and that your condition was diagnosed in time. Thank goodness for your uncle!

  2. roweeee Post author

    He quite literally saved my life. I had finally made an appointment with the rheumatologist I’m now seeing for the following week but anything could have happened in that time and having such young kids in my care was such a liability as well but not having a diagnosis and this thing lingering for so long, made it really difficult to juggle things.
    By the way, while I was in hospital Bilbo who was only a pup and used to the kids and i being at home, went under the house and chewed through all the computer network cables. So,poor Geoff who was working through all of this, came from rom seeing me at the hospital, the kids at my parents to arrive home to no internet and a frantic dog. Apparently, he’d even started chewing on a power cable but must’ve got a mild current and stopped. Thank goodness!
    So good I’m doing better and I’ll be eternally grateful to my uncle.
    Hope you are having a great week!
    xx Rowena

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Jess. It is currently in remission, which is great. I mucked my tablets up last week which worries me a little though. So silly! Hope you’re having a great week xx Rowena

  4. Midwestern Plant Girl

    I’m so glad things worked out. I can’t even imagine going through this with small kids around. You’re a hero to me!

  5. Patricia Gardiner

    Love the monster tale Ro, you conjure quite the bogey-man there! it takes a heroic effort to fight back.. by yourself and your family. Say hi to Unvle L for me 🙂

  6. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Merril. We’ve had really heavy rain here in the mornings and the road outside the high school floods. It was my first time caught up in all of this and Mr encouraged me to drive through it. We made it through but my instincts told me to turn around and the “puddle” was a lot longer and deeper than anticipated. That afternoon, I got a phone call from my daughter’s school…she’d missed the bus. That was a 1.5 hour round trip and she’s home today. Couldn’t reliably get her to school and she also had a tummy ache. We’ve had a very quiet day at home. Tomorrow, I’m off for a neuropsychological assessment to follow up from the chemo. Will be interested to see how it goes. Still don’t feel that my memory is back to what it was.

  7. roweeee Post author

    Hi Trish. Great to hear from you. I’ll be seeing L. at my cousin Lucy’s engagement party soon. It has been quite a battle to fight this illness and while I take good care of myself when I’m under the hammer, I’ve been in remission for two years and doing well and last week I mucked up my tablets and I just hope that doesn’t trigger a relapse. I’m also not walking like I should either. I just wasn’t made to be one of those people who consistently dots the i’s and crosses the t’s.

  8. Charli Mills

    The monster of itis, if only it weren’t real. Autoimmune disorders are a situation where the monster is not something you can slay because it’s the body attacking itself. What a traumatic time for you and your family. You made it into a powerful flash!

  9. merrildsmith

    That sounds like a couple of scary rides! I’m glad you didn’t get stuck. It seems like they would do something about a road right outside the high school.

    Good luck with the assessment!

  10. Pingback: Where Monsters Lurk « Carrot Ranch Communications

  11. kcg1974

    You indeed have a ‘Monster’ inside of you, Roweena. I pray that good days are close to your best days and bad days are few and far between. Your family is blessed to have you in their lives. Through your love and courage, they will learn much more than you ever could have imagined. Bless you, Roweena.

  12. Chanel Bailey

    Make that cup Green Tea; filled with antioxidants 😀 the Itis monster can threaten in our battles but we have the strength to beat him in the war!! I enjoyed reading this.

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