Surviving my recent “Cold of the Century”

I am finally recovering from what I not-so-fondly dubbed the “Cold of the Century.” Three weeks of lingering misery, brought on, I am guessing, by my beating my chest and bragging to friends that I hadn’t experienced so much as a sniffle over the past two years. Guess I should have knocked on something other than fate when I made that claim.

Since we’re only 11 years into the 21st Century and I can’t recall being this sick since I’ve had children, the oldest of whom is 11, it’s safe to classify my recent illness as the “Cold of the Century.” All I know is that my recent feeling under the weather definitely over-compensated for all the illnesses that have bypassed me in favor of other victims.

But why did I get sick during an especially temperate fall when I didn’t even have many allergy-related problems over the summer? My guess is stress. I’m still out of work, the fuel oil tank is nearly empty, the winter tax bill just arrived, both cars crapped out on me the same week and my husband jumped partnership before any more icebergs could appear on our horizon.

With stress defined as “perceived lack of control over one’s circumstances,” the above combination and timing of events might have slightly lowered my physical defenses against bacterial invasion. Do ya think?

How bad was my cold? Well, it kept me away from the gym for 17 days, prevented me from visiting elderly friends and infants for two full weeks, forced me to cancel one job interview and to dash out during another due to a tear-inducing coughing fit. It also put me to bed prior to 8 PM for several nights, where I slept with a towel over my pillow to sop up the fluid that kept draining from my eyes. That said, I still hosted the extended family Thanksgiving dinner. Eeeeew!

“Tough it out” is my typical illness mantra. I get that from my late father, who eschewed medical treatment as an unnecessary luxury and time-waster. Could be why he was at stage four lung cancer before noticing and reporting any symptoms, but that’s another story. It’s not like anyone was going to do his farm chores and cow milking for him anyway, so why bother acknowledging debilitating illness?

My mother leans more in the direction of hypochondria, sometimes seeking medical attention in anticipation of actual symptoms of an illness to assure she gets a seat at the doctor’s office and a jump on recovery. I behaved similarly when I was pregnant: Started walking in the direction of the restroom before I needed to use it in anticipation I would need it by the time I got there. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are important.

Typing in one’s symptoms online is my favorite SOP. I highly recommend to the hypochondriacs out there for hours of self-diagnostic fun! My efforts yielded a nifty chart that differentiated between cold and flu. Gradual onset of illness, absence of massive body aches and presence of excessive sneezing classified it as a cold. Nevertheless, I took some flu meds because that was what I had the most of in the medicine cabinet. Any port will do in a storm.

The store brands of Thera-Flu Nighttime offered great physical relief, plus the added mental relief of knowing I’d spent less on the same magical powder. Stirred into a cup of boiling water, it relieved my symptoms during sleeping hours. Unfortunately, there were still 16 remaining daily hours to endure.

About five days into my self-diagnosed cold, I noted complications. Pain in my ears, fluctuating fever and the fact I had some leftover antibiotic ear drops from a kid’s infection last winter indicated an ear infection, so I treated it accordingly. When it responded, I knew I was right.

Nevertheless, I mandatorily continued using Bounty paper towels in place of Kleenex and coughing in self-propelling spurts for several more days. As I write this, I am slowly de-toxing myself from menthol-laced cough drops and nasal sprays. With any luck, an illness of this magnitude will bypass me for another century. If not, I’ve got some cat wormer pills to test on it.


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