I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sickness in the rear view mirror

Do you see the star? It marks the trail.
When I wrote this post last week, I was in the throes of a bad cold. It was uppermost in my mind, as I sneezed and doctored myself with drugs. I got some good tips from my commenters; I tried some new things, all of which seemed to help. Of course, we do get over the common cold within a few days anyway, but while we're sick, everything else slips into the background. That's the way it goes for me, anyway.

We had a patch of beautiful sunny days right in the middle of the week. Although I wasn't feeling all that well, I went out into my garden patch and pulled weeds. I noticed that my throat was much more sore than it should have been, nagging at me. After an hour or two, I went back inside and pulled out a flashlight to inspect my tonsils in the mirror. Red and swollen, they didn't look right to me. When I was a kid I got tonsillitis all the time; the memory of how it felt began to resurface. By the next day, Wednesday, I called my doctor to see if he could see me. I was given an appointment with a doctor in the clinic who was new to me, but by this time I really didn't care. I knew I was sick when I should have been getting better.

He told me that a strain of streptococcus is going around our town and that he's seen more cases than usual lately, and apparently I had picked it up. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics. It's been more than a year since I last took any; I really hate to take them, but my compromised immune system must have allowed me to get a bacterial infection after recovering from the cold. I took them gladly, because by this time I had not only lost my voice but could barely stand to eat because of my sore throat. Not to mention I felt miserable. I took the first dose while still at the pharmacy.

By the next morning, Thursday, I was already feeling better. Not well by any means, but the day dawned beautiful and clear, with sun pouring in the windows. It was my hiking day with the Trailblazers, and I knew I had absolutely no business going. I thought to myself that I would act as if I were going, pack my backpack and head to the Senior Center but not actually go. Who was I kidding? When I showed up and saw that ten others were there, I decided to join them. They all knew I was sick and wondered about the wisdom of my attempting a rather hard nine-mile hike. Steve said that if I became too sick to continue, he would be glad to bring me back. That gave me the incentive to give it a try.

Although I was  hiking more slowly than usual and had lost my voice completely by this time, I was glad I went because I felt better for the exercise and being outdoors in the sunshine. It was risky, but then again I've never been known to let that stop me. We were close to town and the consequences seemed minimal. I slept like a log Thursday night and woke on Friday feeling much, much better. Of course, the antibiotics helped too. Yesterday, Saturday, was the first day that I felt like myself again, although I still have a residual cough which is almost gone.

When I am sick, everything I love begins to recede into the background, and I become grumpy and short-tempered. I am not a good patient and tend to forget to appreciate the good food my partner fixes for me and how hard it must be for him. My world shrinks down to the size of my misery, and the blinders of illness make me forget how fortunate I am. And then I begin to recover, the blinders come off, and the world looks bright again. I begin to pay attention to something other than myself. The spring returns to my step. All's right with the world again.

And now I am well, or almost so. I am looking at illness in the rear-view mirror and marching off into my day. Sunday, my Eye on the Edge day, finds me here thinking about the past week and what I might have learned. One lesson is that my mood, my attitude towards life, is very dependent on my own physical health. When I am ill, the world looks quite different. If this is true for me, I wonder if it is true for most of us. Would I become accustomed to ill health and return to my baseline optimism eventually? Since growing older brings more and more physical limitations, perhaps there is some tipping point where it becomes the norm to see oneself as being frail and weak.

I say that, but then I feel the surge of wellness coursing through my veins and can hardly hold myself back from going out and enjoying life to the fullest. In my exercise class, there are some people (we are almost all women) who are more than a decade older than me and are still vigorous and healthy. They inspire me to continue for as long as I can, and I hope that some younger women will find inspiration from my own example.

The sun is rising earlier and earlier, and although it's only 6:00am, there is light in the sky, the birds are singing, all's right with the world. My partner is sleeping next to me; I drank my tea already, and my post is almost done. Today I'll work some more in the garden if the weather permits and doesn't rain. I've got a couple of new books to read, and two of my favorite TV shows are on tonight (Call the Midwife and Mad Men) for me to look forward to. I hope you have a wonderful week, and I'll be right here, God willing, next Sunday morning.


Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are yourself again, though your DJanity posts last week didn't seem grumpy in the least. I took 5 different antibiotics since last August and the doctor thinks I may be drug resistant for that reason. Hope not! Anyway, like you, I am healthy again. Let it be so! Cheers, DJan!

Linda Reeder said...

Good morning. I'm glad that wellness is returning.I don't know if you will be rain free today, but I'll bet you'll find a way to at least get outside for a while. The world is so beautiful and all.

Linda Myers said...

When I am sick everything looks bleak. I try to remember that's how I am so I don't take the bleak stuff personally.

Glad the antibiotics worked and that you're almost back!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I tend to be quiet and sleep a lot when I am sick..probably a good thing as I could be real cranky too.

Good thing you went to the DR...you will get over it without complications that way! :)

#1Nana said...

So glad you are feeling better. I had to make the photo bigger and really search to find the tar. I knew there was a reason that I don't hike trails...I'd be hopelessly lost!

Jackie said...

I'm feeling better that you are feeling better. We don't want our friends and family to be sick, and when they are, we are a little bit down ourselves. I'm so glad that you got those antibiotics, Jan, and that you are on the road to recovery.
God bless your dear partner for so many reasons. He took care of you through sickness....and will be there for you in health. High fives to that sweet man!!
I am glad that your throat isn't hurting any more, that you were able to hike and enjoy the outdoors with your friends, and that you have a warm smile as you look forward to the days and weeks ahead that are bright with sunshine. By the way, even when you are sick and not feeling your best, you always share encouragement and love via your blog. You are a wise, woman, Jan. Take care of you, my friend...

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

A sore throat makes me VERY unhappy. You recommended Throat Coat, and when that doesn't help I know I'm in for a nasty few days. Glad you went to your doctor and got good meds!

Friko said...

Well, of course, DJan, even the ancient Romans knew ‘mens sana in corpore sano’. I doubt that anyone feels bright and cheerful when they are acutely sick.

Glad to see that you are back to your chirpy and energetic self and raring to go. I wish I had a fraction of your energy and zest for life.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so happy you are feeling so much better. I get Greta Garbo'ish when sick. "I vant to be alone." Guess that qualifies as grumpy.
I am glad that your partner didn't catch what you had so you had someone to bring you soup.
Sometimes antibiotics are just necessary.

Red said...

You've given a very vivid description of a nasty cold and infection. The only word you didn't use was rotten. Since I'm superstitious I won't tell you how long ago I had one of those bugs. I take a flu shot every fall and that seems to keep me well. Or maybe it's all the bugs I was exposed to during 37 years of teaching that have given me immunity. Have a great week.

troutbirder said...

I think these relatively minor colds, sore throats etc. leave of free to express our misery. My spouse has fought off two types of cancer with surgeries, gall bladder removal, knee replacement and other major surgeries with nary a complaint.... Recently a bout with "pink eye" left her totally helpless except to complain bitterly for going on to two weeks.... Go figure.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, You are such a good writer. I enjoy reading your posts. This one caused me to reflect on my own profile. If you've read it, you will know that in there I said: Trying to find the gold in the Golden Years. Ha ha. I think getting older is just one more of life's challenges. I know what you mean about health and how smaller pains seem to cause greater concern. Like yourself, I've found that some regular exercise is one of the best things an older person can do for themselves. Thanks for sharing your story and thanks for your kind comments on my blog. Have a great day, John

Dee said...

Dear DJan, the following line you wrote needs to go into an anthology of wise sayings: "My world shrinks down to the size of my misery, and the blinders of illness make me forget how fortunate I am." This happens for me also. Perhaps for all of us.

It's so easy when I'm ill to let myself lost my optimism and feel "frail" and old. I'm glad you've reminded all of us of this. I've always deeply admired people who live with chronic illness and pain and still manage to remain optimistic. A dear friend of mine died in March of lung cancer and he is a perfect example of this. He showed me how to die with grace and gratitude.

I've been absent for a while because of a minor physical problem and it's so good to be back reading my favorite blogs, yours among them. Peace.

Retired English Teacher said...

I am just now reading this, and I am so happy to read you are so much better. It has been days since I read a blog. The reason for that is that I have been sick. Boy, can I relate to what you said here about illness. I am so ready to feel better. I take the moments when I feel well and seize them. I have not gone on a hike though! I hope to get this set back I am dealing with in the rear view mirror soon.

Abraham Lincoln said...

You have a lot of courage to journey out into the wild woods when you are packing a cold. Could it also have been brought on by pollen? I know our white oak tree has turned our patio a pollen-covered-yellow. And if someone here has an allergy they got problems.

Since I take a weekly dose of chemotherapy my immune system is always not up to par but the pills I have to take are probably helping me cope with all the pollen as, knock on wood, I haven't had a problem yet.

Kalyan P said...

Simply beautiful colours...lovely!