Unwanted Guest

by | Mar 24, 2024 | Getting Real: The Blog

A fever came to visit last month; inconvenient, but I didn’t think much of it. Not Covid, not flu, no sickness symptoms packed in its bags. It insisted on sleeping with me, poking and jostling through the night, taking my covers and leaving me shivering, then draping over top of me until I drenched myself in sweat, waking to feel my way to the dresser for a dry t-shirt and underwear, before crawling back into the soaked sheets, pillowcases, and blankets. So many loads of laundry. 

It slept in, quiescent in the mornings, and I navigated my trembling body through the house; feeding the cats, emptying the dishwasher, taking a shower to wash the sweat off, and stripping the bed to air it and wash the bedding. I think it didn’t have enough breath of its own, because it kept stealing mine. I’d sit, dizzy and shaking until my body could function on what seemed to be diminished air and energy. Each activity required an hour in the chair to recover, but I only had until mid afternoon, when the fever woke hungry and fractious, looking for me. 

When it found me again I wrapped up in fuzzy blankets, with kittens in my lap, shaking so hard I couldn’t speak. Heat poured off of me, but like a personal winter, the chill wrapped its fingers around my bones, through my blood, refusing me warmth. It stayed until the wee hours of the morning, when it shifted gears sweating every tendril of cold out of my body. 

I tried to keep my sense of humor. How long could it stay, right? After two weeks I was grinding my teeth, impatient for this rude guest to be on its way. No help from the doctors, who only told me what it wasn’t. Not infection, not recognizable virus, and can we take some more blood please? 

I tried ignoring it once I became convinced it wouldn’t squat at anyone’s home who came close to me. At work, the walk from the parking lot to the lodge, and later down to the covered arena, left me room to breathe or speak, but not both. A trip to the ER, and more things to rule out. The intern with jello red hair smiled as she blew out the veins in my left arm. The right arm was blown from the doc taking blood two days before. The back of my right hand blew out at in the care of an older nurse, with skilled fingers and kind eyes. She coaxed fresh blood from the back of my left hand, leaving a green bubble rising up under my skin. She got an iv into my reluctant right arm as well, for the PT scans. I think she was an angel. 

No blood clots in my lungs, heart, organs. Not a thing I ponder ever. Glad for that news. More calls now, setting up appointments with docs whose expertise I don’t want to need. Cardiologist, hematologist/oncologist, rheumatologist… hoping to rule out other bad uglies. 

At four and a half weeks, the fever tiptoed out. I didn’t see it pack and go, just held my breath as evening fell without uncontrollable shivering. The night sweats stayed longer, still lingering, but without the same enthusiasm they had before. The fatigue and breathlessness still ride my shoulders, making me wonder if I’m just imagining things, or have gone crazy. 

But the real residual gift is the fear. Fear that I won’t get well. Fear that it will come back. Fear that I’ll have to live diminished. Fear that there’s something here that can’t be fixed. And the limbo of not knowing. 

So I celebrate each step forward, and keep the appointments and tests. This is not a world I want to live in. I’ve lived with health privilege my whole life, and I resent the threat that it can be taken away. I didn’t know it shaped my identity. It’s as integral to who I see myself as, as being a woman. I’ve lived with this gift and never questioned my right to it. Without it, I can’t do the things I love. Who am I? What would I become? 

I’m not ready to surrender to this, but making space to ask the questions seems on time. 

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