Why I Am Thankful (Sort Of?) For This Blasted Cold

I have a cold or some type of bug. Yesterday it snuck up on me right after lunch and today there is no questioning what this is. My first thought is, “I don’t want to be sick. Please don’t be sick.” My second thought was, “I haven’t been sick since last April, maybe I should want this to be something, but small – let’s keep it small.” And my third thought was, “Please, do not let this end in shunt surgery.”

No one likes being sick, but sometimes I am not sure if I should root for my immune system to spare me from the unpleasant experience or actually hope that every now and then I come down with something. For the first 24 years of my life I rarely got sick. In fact, I can count the number of times I had something in my first two decades and not run out of fingers (and that includes small colds). I thought it was the universe’s way of evening out what my body had to deal with. Dozens of brain surgeries, multiple heart surgeries, and even more fractures due to a brittle bone disease (Osteo Genesis Imperfecta) meant I was a frequent flier at the hospital. So, when it came to never getting sick, why not?

Of course on my 25th birthday that question was finally answered. My amazing immune system that was like Superman on steroids fought an infection it had no business fighting, masking a threat that typically only lasts six weeks before it is discovered and treated, but because of my overzealous cells, it was in me for ten months and wreaked havoc. As soon as the infection was treated (many months after discovery) my immune system struck again and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Goodpasture’s Syndrome, which attacked my kidneys and lungs. The nature of the beast is that it is always caught ‘too late’ only affecting one in every one to two million people in the world. Ten grueling months of chemo and other drugs to basically wipe out my immune system… and I bested what ailed me once again.

But ever since chemo, my immune system has been lacking. The first year I was off chemo and I had several infections, colds and the flu (even though I was immunized). Years later, my immune system still leaves a lot to be desired. Of course, when I am sick or think I may be getting sick I hate it. I can’t take a darn thing for anything I get. No aspirin, antihistamines… not even cough drops. Between my kidneys, bone marrow disorder and heart even if it is a natural mineral, it is likely a no-no. Since my immune system has lost its super status, I don’t recycle viruses like I once did. A 48-hour bug used to be an 8-hour bug for me, but now a 48-hour bug puts me out of commission for over a week. Ten days of feeling crappy and there is nothing I can do to either suppress the symptoms or even help it along, so it will run its course sooner. (Right now I am miserable and it is only day two – I don’t do sick well.)

Now that I am sick again, however, I have to pause and look at my immune system as it is now. The last time I was sick was April 2, 2013. What should have been a terrible weeklong cold, courtesy of my niece and nephew, lasted two weeks and just as it was dying down, my shunt decided to fail. I was sick a few times in 2012, but nothing like the 2013 bug. The last time I was that sick was also courtesy of my niece and nephew (you would think I learn, but they’re just too darn cute) and was just after Thanksgiving 2011. Then December 9, 2011 my shunt broke just as I was getting over it. (I am hoping this time my shunt will let me be, I didn’t catch this from them!)

As miserable as I am right now (achy, sneezy and congested, runny nose and sore throat) and as much as I want to not deal with this or have it run its course quickly, I am somewhat grateful for whatever I have. I guess it is just weird hoping to get sick once a year – as if to fill some kind of quota so that my immune system won’t go overboard again. It doesn’t mean that if my immune system spares me from these small things that I’ll get end up in hot water again, just like it doesn’t mean if I go back to getting sick every few weeks, my autoimmune disease won’t come back. This is a simplistic way of thinking that has no use for Earth logic, but it is still my knee-jerk reaction. My immune system made me terminally ill because it was ‘too good’ so if it is not as good now, then perhaps I am in (and will stay in) the clear.

And I am in the clear now. In fact, my numbers have never been better, so this cold or whatever it is, is not as welcome as it may have been four weeks ago (before my labs), but I am still, in some ways, grateful, to be sick. I am thankful that at least after April of last year my health was pretty okay. Hopefully, I can go another year so long as it doesn’t mean Goodpasture’s will rear its ugly head as some kind of twisted balance. I hope I recycle whatever this is quickly and that it doesn’t turn into something serious. Being sick doesn’t remind me that I am human or that I’m not invincible or how much worse it could be, because even if I act like I am unaware of these things; I am only too aware every day. But it does give me some comfort to know that my immune system may still consider itself Superman (a whole year – it is a first since chemo, not too shabby), but it has at least cut out those nasty steroids.  😉

 

-DMW

 

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