I got monkeypox - that's how it is

I got monkeypox – that’s how it is

My symptoms started with stomach cramps and sore muscles (Picture: Supplied)

The last fortnight has been poxy, literally and figuratively.

I type these words on the day my agonizing two-week sentence from monkeypox comes to an end, with a confusing mix of sadness and joy.

The first because, as we have learned during the pandemic, mandatory self-isolation leaves its captive with something akin to Stockholm syndrome.

The second because I’ll be allowed out – helping me avoid real jail time for strangling my overly attentive partner. I strongly suggest he doesn’t give up the day job for full time care!

My symptoms started with stomach cramps and muscle aches, which I attributed to an excess of rich foods and a strenuous gym session the previous days, respectively.

Symptoms of fever then joined the party, and although a Covid lateral flow test showed only one red line, I erred on the side of caution and canceled plans for the evening.

The next day, a spot appeared on my forehead. Nothing new, so I treated it with lotions and potions from my millennial mini apothecary.

The first real hint that something more sinister was afoot came when the zit, which had developed a small crater, began to resemble Vesuvius. Oh my god, was that a monkeypox lesion?

Google Images suggested that, yes, it may well be, but a search engine is no substitute for a medical professional.

I called Homerton Hospital, where a doctor initially suspected that I had no acne.

However, she called later to say that her colleague, a consultant, disagreed, and I was told to come for a test.

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Confusion ensued after I was told to walk the three mile distance.

So I masked my shame (another key character in this tale) with a bandage and took the Overground, having been instructed by the doctor to stay in a quiet car and keep my distance.

Upon arrival I was greeted by a nurse and shown to what I believe to be a designated monkeypox ward.

“Don’t touch anything, thank you. Sorry, you understand.

After two years of Covid, I certainly knew this dance, but it still left me feeling a bit like a rabid mole-rat.

A doctor took a sample, confirmed that the spot did indeed look like a lesion, and sent me to self-isolate until the results came back.

Later in the evening, the situation changed from a bit gloomy to downright gloomy, with the discovery of a second lesion, much more painful, and in a much more private area.

There was no doubt about it, I had monkey pox. He stared at me in the bathroom mirror.

I became fixated on the unusual presentation of my infection.

These two lesions had surfaced within days of each other, but most patients, according to the internet, get them in the same place at the same time.

My anxiety, which had been gently simmering until then, reached a boiling point. Will I soon look like a Domino’s order? Will I end up having permanent scars?

Raphaël Castellan in the street

Monkeypox is here, it’s happening, and we can’t avoid that fact anymore (Picture: Supplied)

In the end, no and no, thank goodness.

In the three days it took for the test results to verify what I already had, the lesion on the dark side of the moon quickly went from painful to excruciating.

Neither ibuprofen nor paracetamol allowed me to sleep or work.

Luckily – and I’m very grateful – the team at Homerton were fantastic checking in every day that I was doing. “Cocodamol should do the trick,” I was advised.

And to some extent he did, although the physical and mental distress persisted.

I’ll tell you what I’m not grateful for: the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA). By then, a full week into the monkey pox horror house funfair, they hadn’t been in touch once.

I was expecting a call for contact tracing purposes and maybe even getting my partner to access the smallpox vaccine. Nope! I was afraid he would catch it, but by the grace of a deity, he didn’t.

When the UKHSA finally bothered to drop me, the call handler asked a series of questions, including my sexuality and where I could have contracted monkeypox.

I told them I suspected I had caught it at the gym, where I’m normally surrounded by the greatest concentration of people.

My response was met with a chuckle followed by what I heard as, “That must have been a particularly slutty gym.”

Uh, I must have heard wrong. Could she repeat herself? Same. I was stunned but continued regardless, only processing the incision of what I perceived to have happened once the conversation was over.

Raphael's monkey pox hurts two weeks after initial infection

Raphael’s monkey pox hurts after two weeks (Picture: Supplied)

Then I emailed the call handler complaining, explaining that his question was particularly distressing as it went on: First, in a climate where the current monkeypox outbreak is widely seen as a ” gay disease”; And secondly, just after the UKHSA downgraded its classification of the virus to a ‘serious infectious disease’ despite the rise in cases.

It wasn’t long before a senior communications officer contacted me to let me know that the call handler had, in fact, said, “That must have been particularly sweaty Gym’.

Anyway, this infernal imbroglio aside, my torture finally subsided and I resumed work (remotely).

The long wait to de-isolate began then. Scabs quickly formed on my lesions and, after clinging on like Boris Johnson in Number 10, they eventually fell off.

It gave me the much-needed green light to reintegrate into society, where I found the perfect sunny sidewalk cafe to write this article.

The World Health Organization has just declared monkeypox “a global health emergency”, so I suggest those at risk get vaccinated as soon as possible to avoid my fate.

There are now a number of monkeypox vaccine pop-ups across the UK, but many have been hugely overrun since opening.

Some people were reportedly forced to travel out of their hometown to access the jab, while others say they were turned away.

The government has promised to accelerate the deployment of the vaccine, but it remains to be seen whether this effort will be better coordinated than it is now.

Monkeypox is here, it’s happening, and we can’t avoid that fact anymore.

As told to Steven Allison

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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