I realize I haven’t written much lately.
When I was a senior in high school, right on the cusp of graduating, I contracted mononucleosis. I remember the exact day it set in. I was sitting in the living room, working on a video editing project. This incredible wave of malaise washed over me; there was no mistaking that something was absolutely not right. Some people get this disease worse than others, and I got the mother lode. I was hospitalized, and then spent endless weeks isolated in bed, emerging for only a few minutes a day. My energy level was decimated. It took a very long time to get right after that; months. I actually missed all of my finals senior year and nearly did not graduate. I came back and took them all in the guidance office over the course of two days. Every exam, back to back. This is not an ideal way to do it, and I failed several of them. Fortunately, my ticket to UNH was punched before all of this happened.
Since that time, it seems like every time I get sick, I have the potential to get positively plowed over, where others can typically shrug something off and keep moving. I’ve had many CBCs since this time, and they’re never anything but perfect. But some other meaningful change to my immune system seems to have occurred as a result of that illness almost 20 years ago.
I contracted a gastrointestinal bug from Stella in early November. She shrugged it off in a matter of days and it never truly bothered her, which was impressive since she was throwing up almost everything she ate. I of course was nowhere near as fortunate. I was vomiting out of both ends simultaneously every three hours, and I knew I couldn’t keep it up for long. When this has happened in the past, I become severely dehydrated. It is bad. I get disoriented, can barely move or talk, and I am a total liability. I’ve been shipped to the hospital on several occasions for this. An IV cures it pretty quickly, but until then, it’s a whole lot of not fun. With Stella in the house, I couldn’t let this happen, especially with midnight approaching on this particular Saturday.
I pledged to myself that after the third bout, if I couldn’t even keep Pedialyte down, I would need to take myself to the hospital. Right on schedule, the 11pm train left both stations as I sat on the throne, heaving into a trash can. As soon as I could compose myself, I booked it right for the car, knowing I had about a half hour of adrenaline to work with before I crashed. At the ER I was taken in pretty quickly, explained to them that this has happened before, and that an IV does the trick.
These guys are not interested in IVs. I get this nonsense about not wanting to break the skin and limiting the risk of infection. You have to be shitting me – I’m not asking to be hacked open; I want a bag of saline. You’d think I came in begging for schedule II narcotics.
They’re insistent on treating this with oral medication, which I think is fairly stupid considering I have been throwing up for seven hours, but I’m an optimist so I roll with it. Immodium, and some fucking terrible tasting antiemetic. I sit in an ER bed for a few hours, and around 2pm I still feel awful, but haven’t double-wretched yet. They send me packing. As I sit up from the bed, I realize this is going to be an incredibly challenging drive home. I can barely stand. I sit right back down in a chair for a while, just waiting. Waiting for something in my body to tell me that I’m good to go. Not happening. But I try. I shuffle – literally shuffle – out of the ER. I am clearly in no state to be going anywhere. They’re nice enough to open the door into the waiting area for me.
Within steps of the front door, I realize that I am about to shit my pants. I immediately turn around and head for the nearest toilet, which seems like half a mile away. En route, I grab a trash can, which I proceed to vomit into as I continue my journey toward a bathroom. Once inside, I throw my belongings on the floor and without an ounce of shame, just sit there emptying my insides with the stall door wide open. I press the “HELP” button and explain to the person who eventually responds that I think I need to be readmitted.
Readmitted. The nurse sheepishly concedes that their measures didn’t work, and that we’ll go the IV route. What a remarkable idea. Within minutes, I get plugged in, and they’ve got it ripping pretty good. This is fine.
Then he explains that he’s going to give me dose of something called Reglan. I’ve never heard of this, but I let him know immediately that I am sensitive to medication, and that whatever it is, he may want to be careful. He says its intended to help with the nausea, and that it may cause me to feel a little bit agitated, but “that would be the least of my problems”, given what I’m already going through. In it goes.
The next hour is torture. I am filled with uncontrollable nervousness and anxiety. I become hyper-focused on objects in the room. I want nothing more than to leave immediately. I begin sweating, thrashing. I know I am having a reaction to this drug, and I’m trying to control this panic that is welling up inside me. I want whatever it is they put inside of me out immediately. But I know that’s impossible and I will need to suffer here for as long as it takes for it to wear off. Maybe they could give me something to counteract it. But then who knows what the side effects of that medication may be. I’m in a spiral of hopelessness, begging for it to be over. I’m hitting the call button repeatedly without even knowing it. Eventually they turn off the lights in the room and leave me to myself. The anxiety is unbelievable. What the hell has happened tonight. All I wanted was an IV, and now I have been poisoned for what reason. Why did I come here.
Eventually the feeling stabilizes. I want nothing more than to leave, and after an hour of intermittent pleading, I’m allowed to leave around 4am. I make it explicitly clear that I never, ever want that drug to be administered to me again. It’s recorded in my chart as “Reglan – sensitivity”.
The feelings of nervousness and anxiety persist for days. When I would sit down in a chair, I couldn’t stop myself from bouncing my legs. It was just something they automatically wanted to do. I read about this reaction, and I learned that in some cases it can be permanent. These were dark days and nights, wondering what might come of all this. My first day back to work, I had to leave mid-day and see my PCP, the symptoms were so bad. To counteract the reaction, they had me take Benadryl (it absolutely knocks me out as you might guess) while my wife observed me at home to make sure I was ok. After a few days, slowly, I felt normal again. What a fucking nightmare trip.
I enjoyed about two days of health, and then contracted a sinus infection. I generally cannot shake these without antibiotics, but I have really tried this year to get through them without. This apparently was not the time for such heroics.
I had unavoidable commitments at work, and was absolutely run ragged for the better part of a week. The illness escalated into pneumonia, which I’ve never had before, and hope to never have again. Day after day of 100+ fevers, persistent malaise, reminiscent of mono. An absolutely retching cough. Even though it has been a month since the worst was over, I’m still not right. My appetite is nothing like what it was before I was sick. The fatigue is there every day, my lungs do not feel right, and in the cold they are horrible. I quickly get a spasmic cough that I have to work to control, or else use an inhaler. Which I try to avoid, as I get jittery from the Albuterol. Medication and me are just not a great combination.
I haven’t been on a bike since October 28th, and that has had effects I did not anticipate. I never realized how much I needed to ride than these past two months without it. It truly is my drug. It diverts my workplace stress and my daily life stress, levels me, grounds me emotionally. It gives me the strength to be up in the middle of the night feeding my daughter, which my wife has selflessly done alone since I became sick. It keeps me healthy – healthier than if I were not riding for sure. I need it.
Riding keeps me positive, optimistic. Relevant. Right now I feel useless and teetering on depression some days. I want so badly to feel like I could take just a half hour and spin up the backside of the ski hill near our house. Not yet. It has been so slow. Some people say this takes months. I’ve been very sick before, but I have bounced back. There’s just no bouncing this time, and it is so frustrating. I think of things like xc skiing and wonder how my lungs would even be able to do that this year.
It’s so funny, I actually put the finishing touches on my singlespeed ‘cross bike in late October; finally changed out the entire cockpit just the way I always wanted it; there isn’t a stock part on that entire bike except for the headset and it has sat in my garage ever since, ready for its maiden voyage. I haven’t even test ridden it yet. Now I’ll be putting it away for a year.
I hope there’s some day maybe in January where I wake up and feel like today is the day we turn the corner and start getting back into things. I honestly just go through life right now waiting for that day. My wife and my kid are the only two things that get me through a lot of days right now.
I don’t know what the solution is to my horrible immune system. I need to find one. I can’t get sick like this when I am older; it will kill me. I’m sure if I had a personal chef I could eat amazing meals every day and that would help. I don’t take vitamins, but started about twenty days ago in an act of desperation. I really want to do more research into mono, better understand what it really does, and find out if what I theorize about immune system changes makes any sense. Not that I expect that to change much of anything. I guess it’s just something to do while this thing runs its course.
2 thoughts on “”
My goodness, Chris. What does your PCP say about all this? And do you have a shrink you can talk to about it at the same time? Sounds like there's both a physical and psychological component, even if the latter is simply and effect of the former. You need someone to help you figure out what's fixable and what you have to live with. Be well.
I have followed your blog since last year when I started CX racing for the first time. You are hysterical. This post, not so much. I understand how you're feeling. I suffer from ulcerative colitis and was diagnosed about twelve years ago. Every couple of years, I suffer from a flare and lose about twenty-five pounds (in the ways you listed above) and all fitness. The first time it happened, I didn't know how sick I was, and being the stubborn avoider of all things health related, I waited a couple months to seek treatment for my severe dehydration. At my worst I couldn't even walk to the end of my driveway to take out the trash. I know how hard it is for you right now. I know that feeling that you won't ever be able to ride your bike anytime soon and when you do what's the point. When I'm sick I drive around and see everyone out riding bikes, running, and doing all that CO fitness fanatic crap. I even get depressed when I see someone with a bike on a roof rack.
That first ride when you feel somewhat healthy again will suck, but you're riding a bike. You might be able to do 30 minutes. When I'm recovering I run two miles and have to stop every 1/4 mile. It sucks, but I'm doing something. Then I register for a bike race. And I suck. And then I register for another. And I kinda suck, but not as much. And then I'm racing again, and I feel like I'm back. I'm competitive. While racing I think back on being sick, and it gets me to the finish line. And who cares if I suck, I'm not lying in bed or on my bathroom floor feeling like I'm dying anymore.
Sorry for the repetitive use of the word “suck,” but I couldn't come up with a more descriptive word for this situation and my riding and racing abilities. -Kim