One morning in February, singer Meghan Linsey woke up to a stinging sensation on her face. Still half asleep, she looked over and quickly realized there was a large, dying spider in her hand.
She’d been bitten by a brown recluse, a venomous spider found mostly in the south central and midwestern United States.
“The swelling was the first thing, and then I ended up just having crazy, crazy symptoms,” Linsey tells PEOPLE. “I had muscle spasms, then I had a body rash all over. They tell people to not look up things on WebMD, and I had looked up everything on WebMD and I had every symptom. Every day was another thing.”
Linsey a 2015 runner up on The Voice and one-half of former duo Steel Magnolia says she immediately went to urgent care after she was bit, but despite antibiotics and saline, her eye nearly swelled shut. The other symptoms soon followed.
(Warning - photos of the wound below may be disturbing to some readers.)
“I was supposed to be getting better, but I was getting worse up until day nine, which is when the symptoms stopped happening and the necrosis started on my face,” she explains.
The skin surrounding the site of Linsey’s bite began to rot as her skin cells died, leaving what she calls “a hole on my face.”
After consulting with a wound specialist in South Carolina, things began to improve, Linsey says. She underwent experimental hyperbaric chamber treatment, and after three sessions saw immediate results.
She also attributes her quickened recovery to a recent 30-pound weight loss, explaining, “I was very healthy when I was bit.”
Still, Linsey was concerned about the obvious gash on her face as she prepared to get back on the road to tour. A fan - who is also a pharmaceutical rep - reached out through social media to recommended Stratamed, a gel dressing that treats wounds and can be used under makeup.
“That helped me a lot, just being able to get back out on the road and do shows again,” she tells PEOPLE.
Linsey, 31, says it remains to be seen whether she’ll be stuck with a scar forever, and admits she’s still getting used to her intensified makeup routine.
“I’m one of those people that just throws it on and goes, but now I have to put three or more layers on this one area of my face,” she explains. “It’s kind of a pain at this point but, after going through everything I went through, I’m just glad to be alive.”
As for the support she’s received since revealing the scary health situation, Linsey says, “everyone’s been awesome.”
“I think that people appreciate it when you’re real. I’m like, What am I going to do? Be hiding this thing that I’m going through?'” she adds. “And honestly, it’s nice to raise awareness. It’s not talked about a lot and I have a way to get the word out.”
FROM COINAGE: Mind-Blowing American Idol Success Stories
Currently, Linsey is focused on finishing up her next record, which she tells PEOPLE is a little more pop than country.
She also teases a cool collaboration with one of the mentors who appeared during her season of The Voice: “I’m really excited about it.”