Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three times in my life I have been ridiculously sick. Not sick like major illness, scary life-threatening disease sick. Sick like ridiculous.

The first time was twenty years ago. I got sick over Thanksgiving and I stayed sick until February. It was the first Christmas after my grandfather died. We spent it in Florida, and I can remember being absolutely miserable, trying to be a good tourist, visiting Disneyworld, shopping at flea markets and so on, but with the energy of a sloth. I went to the doctor when I got back home with a fever of 103. She told me I had the flu. I said, "but you don't understand, I've been sick for six weeks." She said, "you've probably caught every flu going around." Gee, that's helpful.

The second time was the summer of 2000. We lived in a second-floor apartment. The laundry room was down the stairs, across the parking lot, and down another flight of stairs. I sat on the steps and tried not to cry between loads because I was so tired that the walk felt like a marathon. At one point during that summer, I called to make a doctor's appointment. I wound up spending an hour on the phone with the nurse, because she was very committed to the idea that I should go to the emergency room right away, and I was very committed to the idea that I was much, much, much too sick to go to an emergency room. After about two months of being miserable, I was watching television and saw a commercial for my allergy medication that said "side effects can  include flu-like symptoms." I promptly stopped taking it. I promptly got better.

The last time was in Santa Cruz, right before we moved to Florida. I got sick in March. I went away on a business trip. I got better. I came home, I got sick again. After about a month, I went to the doctor, was diagnosed with a sinus infection, started antibiotics, went on another business trip, got better. Came home. Got sick again. More antibiotics. Went on vacation, got better. Came home. Got sick again. Then got seriously sick with shingles.

Some people apparently have mild cases of shingles. I was not one of them. The pain from shingles felt like bolts of electricity zapping my side. It was ... well, I did natural childbirth. I've got a pretty good pain tolerance. One time, I twisted my ankle and four days later a friend -- a former professional biker who'd quit because he'd injured himself so badly -- told me it was the worst-looking sprained ankle he'd ever seen and he couldn't believe I hadn't gone to the doctor. (I did after that; it was just a sprain.) I'm not really tough -- I hate pain, I do my best to avoid it. But I'm reasonably stoic while experiencing it. Not with shingles. Shingles was hell.

After that, I put two and two together and figured out that my house was making me sick. We had a mold problem, I have allergies, it was a bad combo. We moved out, and I got better.

All of this leads us to now. R and I have both been sick -- with ups and downs, but more lows than highs -- since he came home on New Year's Day with a cold. I am very, very tired of it. I'll be better for three days, start to feel like life is in my control again, and then, pow, back down. I'll have a day or two where I think, eh, I'm just a little allergic and then I try to get something done and have to take a nap halfway through. But it's most frustrating not to know for sure what the problem is. Is it 1) flu leading to colds leading to flu and back again, the viruses simply winning or 2) a reaction to my current allergy pills or 3) allergies or 4) something else entirely?

We are both on antibiotics now. I have a horrible history with antibiotics, absolutely horrible. Emergency room visits and side effects that lingered for months. And yet I'm desperate enough to take the chance because in nine days, we are getting on an airplane and going to Belize. And damn it, I am not going to be sick.


  1. Wow, that sounds terrible. And it is a really long time to not be well. Medicine is an art, not a science, or if it is a science it is specific to each person as far as I (not a medical professional) can tell. I wonder if you are passing it back and forth like people can do with yeast infections?
    I know you will have a wonderful time in Belize even - I suppose - if you are horizontal.

  2. I just scanned the post cause I actually came on to let you know - my absence is due to sickness. Funny, huh? This shit has to go! Ear infections - what am I - two years old.

  3. Do you take vitamins? I'm allergic to almost all antibiotics, so I have to try to nip colds and stuff in the bud, or I'm going to be in a world of hurt for a prolonged period. So, I take vitamins religiously -- multivits, B-comples ("stress formula" because we all always have too much stress), and the biggie: Vitamin C.

    Multivits just for general maintenance. "Doctors" say we don't need them if we eat a balanced diet, but who does that. I ask you? The B-complex, as I said, for stress because we all have it and it takes a toll on our bodies and our health. But Vitamin C is truly the wonder pill. It promotes healing, physical tissue healing, and if you didn't think about this, when you have a cold or sinus infection, your associated tissues are inflamed, wounded, compromised. Antibiotics kill bugs, which lets the tissues heal, but Vitamin C, for most people, jacks up the healing amazingly. It's a good thing to take on general principles, but when you've got an infection going, you can take bigger doses with few side effects (ulcers or other digestive issues, you might want to check with your doc).

    Vitamin C doesn't stick around in your body. You can only use so much, and the rest is processed out by your kidneys. So, if you want to take megadoses, you need to spread them out through the day to really get the good of them.

    I'm telling you all this because when I feel that cold-sinusy-flu thing teasing at me, I double up on the multivits and stress formula, i.e., take them in the A.M. as usual (btw, do this with food or after a meal, not on an empty stomach if you can avoid it). and again in the evening with/after dinner for a day or two. The Vitamin C, I take 1000mg three (or more) times a day, tapering off when I feel better. And let me say, knock wood, that I haven't gone past that premonition of doom feeling in years and years. The jacked up vitamin intake helps.

    Don't be afraid to increase these basic vitamins for a day or two. if it's not working after that, you either have to bite the bullet or let the doctors do their thing. AND, in your case, when you're passing this back and forth between you and anyone you live with, you both (all) need to do it. Or, at least, you both need to get better at the same time, or it will continue pingponging between you for ever. Been there, done that. It was ugly and depressing and made us hate each other. So, both get the cure of whatever variety at the same time and break that cycle.

    And, it's hard not to be depressed/oppressed when you never feel good. So, it's worth trying on many levels. And, won't I feel silly after writing all this if you are already a committed vitamin taker. ;)

    Added bonus on the B-complex? Many people (read this many times) find that after taking it for a while, their gray hair starts to grow back in colored. Yes. My mom was almost 90% grey from in her 20s. In her 50s, after she'd been taking B-complex for several months, she was at about 75% grey. She got down to about 50% eventually. I've had a couple pure white streaks for years, which were rapidly expanding before I went back to taking my B-complex. They are now skinny streaks again. Not why I take it, but, hey, I'm not complaining.


    1. Thanks for the vitamin suggestion! Ironically, R reminded me as we left the doctor's office that we ran out of vitamins a while ago -- like before Christmas probably -- and I had never replenished our supply. They're not enough of a habit for me, but we had been taking them and then stopped. Particularly now, when our balanced diet is extremely heavy on the inexpensive carb-based meals, we probably need them. Costco tomorrow!

      Carol and Judy, I answered your messages over on the new blog. Not sure why I hadn't seen them here, but saw them there, but thanks for the well wishes and I'm sorry you're sick, too, Judy -- I hope you feel better soon!