It is amazing to me how quickly life can change when you’re sick. One minute you’re working, making endless To Do lists that you tackle with wild abandon; food shopping, house cleaning, returning phone calls and the next your only thought is I’m siiiiiiiick. I don’t care about anything right now.
The last time I became sick, I awoke with a sore throat. Something to be concerned about? I forgot about it an hour later as the soreness faded and I jumped into my day. By the end of the day it returned. Uh-oh! Well, I’ll take some Emergenc-E and maybe a salt water gargle and maybe that will knock it out. But, my face was tired. How does one’s face decide it’s had enough and wants a nap when the rest of you is still pushing on? The cells in my face called out for a pillow. My eyes were heavy and I was sensitive to light. Uh-oh, am I getting sick? No, I can’t accept that, too much to do. My face had accepted what I had not. I said I just have to get home to myself repeatedly until I pulled in the garage.
When I got in the house, I undressed with each step and crawled into a much needed bed, where I slept for 2 hours as if returning from a 100 day hiking holiday. I awoke, shivering, feeling exponentially worse. Any light in the house looked an unnatural yellowy-green and my good natured tone was replaced by a whiney ”I’m siiick” as if repeating this would help me believe it. I still thought at this point that maybe it was just a head cold. And this is always where I am in a quandary. Stay home and leave my co-workers in the lurch or go in and possibly expose them to germs. Stay home and it’s a cold? That ruins my work cred. Piss off co-workers by giving them a virus to sport around during their holiday festivities? I managed to get through one day more at work with mild symptoms and armed with Ricola cough drops and some tissues but I could tell as the day trudged on and by the heat emanating from my face that I had fever. The key to working with a fever is to not check my temperature because if I haven’t confirmed that I have a fever I can limp through the day. If I know, my body goes on strike the moment the digital display hits my retinas. I thought it was strange that I had chills and broke into a sweat if I walked a few feet around my chartreuse infused office. The end of the day could not come fast enough and I climbed into my car mumbling again, just get home, I need my bed, oh God, gotta get home. I quickly changed into pjs and every brush with my skin caused cataclysmic goose bumps all over my body and wave-like shivering. As I eased myself onto the sofa, I took my temperature, the thermometer flashing, 100.2, an official fever. Like dominos, I saw my work and social obligations falling off. I’m out, I’m down for the count. It’s the flu!
By 7:00pm I’d forgotten everything I needed to follow-up on at work, at home and anything else for that matter. My sister-in-law once said one way to discern if it’s a cold or the flu is to consider the following. If you have a cold, look out the window and see a $5 bill on the lawn, you will go outside and pick it up. If it’s the flu and you see a $100 bill on the lawn, you won’t and won’t even care.
I coughed and sputtered through Tuesday night, waking every hour or so with a pounding head and a face so hot that I thought my eyeballs were cooking in their sockets. My focus turning ever inward, my throat sending minute by minute reminders to my brain-I’m hurting, I’m sore, I’m very, very sore. I’m raw! Ok! Ok! I know. Tickly movement was felt in my ears and throat which sent my throat and stomach muscles into a sort of convulsion followed by coughing fits, which lead to more throat pain and cursing. An unproductive cough they call it. What is the purpose of this? I would cough with an ungodly force that turned my throat into a razor lined passage to hell. I’d apparently sheered off layers of tissue, well it felt like it any way. When I sneezed, it was so strong that I thought my teeth were going to fly out of my mouth as well. Which lead to more head pounding , eyes throbbing. Even my heart was pounding from the fever and every time I touched my skin it set off a chain reaction of chills and trembling in my body. My temperature settled at around 101.5 where it stayed for a couple of days. So many sensations at once like a band playing in my head that drowned out everything else in my life.
I made the necessary phone calls to family who offered to get me anything I needed. I want chicken soup I said to a father who is the reigning king of chicken soup but alas he was not feeling well himself and unable to oblige. I want chicken soup I said to a husband who was at work but who did bring home containers of soup from Publix along with a cute get well card. As some of you may know from other posts, I’m a foodie. I don’t do canned soups and really meant I wanted someone to make me a pot of chicken soup. So, I spoke with my mother who, God love her, has an irrational fear of the kitchen. “What can I do, what do you need?” She is so sweet and always willing to help. I want chicken soup.
“Uh (silence) chicken soup? That takes a long time doesn’t it? What else do you want?” I want chicken soup. With my throat the way it was that’s really all I could think of. “Anything else?” Chicken Soup. She offered to take me to my doctor appointment.
I went to the doctor who said the good news was it wasn’t the flu. The bad news was it a bad virus and she had nothing to give me. Recommendation? Lots of fluids, rest and guess what she suggested? Chicken Soup!
My mother ran into CVS and came out with my over the counter meds, a humidifier and a case of water. She turned and looked at me with love and as if to say I’m so sorry you’re sick. “Are you sure you’re going to be ok?” Yeah, I’ll be fine I just want to lie down. “Anything else I can do?” Well, if you pass a Panera can you get some chicken soup? That is all I had to say. My mother, who would do anything for me, except cook, was off like a shot and within a half hour I had chicken soup and chicken stew!
I’m reading this as I’m writing it and can see that my demand for Chicken Soup may seem a bit much. When you’re as sick as a dog though, you really can’t bear the thought of eating a whole meal and chicken soup is the most sublime thing in the world. It is sweet and salt watery goodness with bits of carrot, onion and celery and manageable bits of chicken floating around. It calms a sore throat, works as a vaporizer and makes my insides feel cozy and warm. When I smell it cooking away on the stove it feels like a big hug in the house. They don’t call it Jewish penicillin for nothing! Something about it just works.
That got me thinking. Isn’t it funny what we hold dear at these times in our lives? No amount of money could have made me feel better but a $10 pot of soup and some TLC? Priceless. I honestly wanted or needed nothing else. When else am I able to say that? I always want something. I wasn’t thinking of things I don’t have but want as I had a few days before. I wasn’t thinking of the next meal or the next day. Everything went out the window and this virus that brought me to my knees made me grateful for the little things; pillow, warm bed, cozy throws, family and chicken soup.
Though an insidious virus that strikes at the most inopportune times can hardly be considered pleasant, there is a calm and a peace knowing that this is it. There is no place I need to be, no place I could safely go anyway and let’s be honest, nowhere I’d be welcomed. When others treat you as though you have the plague, social niceties and obligation become unnecessary. It is more than easy to make ones apologies when met with a here’s-your-hat-what’s-your-hurry response. No one wants to get sick, especially around the holidays. Where before I was a lovable friend, co-worker and family member, I was now reduced to Host of Airborne Illness status. Oh, people feign interest and helpfulness. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything” they ask whilst holding bits of shirt or a scarf up to their face or talking to you with wide eyes from the confines of the doorway. It’s difficult to think when your head is filled with fuzz so it takes me a minute to say, Go! Save yourselves, leave me here with my germs. So, I surrender eventually and as the guilt and demands of life melt away and I fall into a coma like sleep.
Those first few days were rough. At first it was all I could do to walk to the kitchen or bathroom without passing out. But then the soreness goes from a 10 to an 8 and the coughing and chills subside. Though, I could almost sense the breeze as the world passed me by and tried not to feel too sorry for myself, I began to appreciate the surrender. So, take it from me. If a transient illness does befall you, don’t power through it, don’t curse it or get upset. Put on your coziest pajamas, get comfortable and let it take you to that quiet place. As my co-worker said to me, “be one with your pillow.” And it goes without saying, don’t forget the soup!