A New Fight
When the novel coronavirus hit the United States in the beginning of 2020 many people didn’t think the threat applied to them. Many people did not consider that their friends and family may get this unknown virus never mind themselves. As the virus spread and became a pandemic, slowly everyone knew someone who tested positive. For our own health and safety we started keeping our distance from those who were unfortunate enough to test positive, and from people we didn’t know. What hasn't been talked about as openly is that many of us, myself included, needed to social distance from everyone. We are "high-risk". At any given point someone could be carrying Covid and show NO symptoms. Many people are asymptotic and go through the whole illness never knowing they are sick. Because I've had cancer, I'm more susceptible to illness even though I eat well, am strong, and exercise daily. My immune system is still compromised. My oncologist kept me isolated from the outside world for almost three months to avoid being exposed. When the virus started to subside I was able to go out in public again, and return to work. As I mentioned in past blogs, as an athlete I’m very in tuned with my body. After working many hours week after week during the Presidential Election with my job, I have been exhausted. Soon after I developed a dry cough and chills. These new symptoms were an indication that I was more than sleep-deprived. I took three separate tests for Covid over the course of a week and they all came back negative. As symptoms progressed I questioned, "Was I tested too soon, or were the tests not accurate?" I took a fourth and different test with my PCP and it confirmed I had Covid. Turns out that despite the negative tests, I had indeed been carrying the virus in my body. Before administering the nasal swab, my doctor believed the results would be positive based on all the symptoms I was now experiencing:
Tired (a dead giveaway since I have more energy than a kindergartener who just ate their entire stash of Halloween candy)
Dry cough (something I get after I climb a tall building, which I haven’t done in 8 months)
Loss of appetite (and I’m always hungry)
Stomach cramps (not the usual ones I get from my daily chemo)
Chest pains (and not the type from from lifting weights).
I also had chills and a nagging headache. Not long after my positive test, I lost my sense of taste and smell. It is important to note that symptoms can vary from person to person, more or less severe than mine.
I was angry, but not surprised the results came back positive. I put my anger aside and went into fight mode. The first thing I did, which I feel is the most important to help stop the spread of this terrible virus, was call everyone and every place I was in contact with or visited during the past 10 days. A sort of silver lining to my heavy work schedule, I only visited one place outside of my job during that time. Unfortunately, I was around many people at work. The only saving grace is that I wear a mask at all times. I was not ashamed, nor was I going to hide I was infected. I do not want to be responsible for spreading Covid any more than I might have, especially to someone who can not fight the virus—another cancer patient or immunocompromised individual! To take care of myself. I am listening to my body and rest whenever it tells me to. I am drinking a lot of fluids, especially one of my favorites, Gatorade Zero. I also have been adding a Zinc supplement to my lengthy list of vitamins, minerals, and prescription medications.
Because my daily maintenance chemotherapy, Revlimad, lowers my body's ability to fight infection, my oncologist took me off of it until after I beat the virus. This is a double-edged sword as this drug helps keep my multiple myeloma numbers from rising. Yes, I am worried that these circumstances can result in the resurgence of my cancer, but I need to give my body a chance to fight off the coronavirus. To supplement the lack of my maintenance chemotherapy, I am maintaining every other part of my health regimen like deep breathing exercises every hour to keep pneumonia from settling in my lungs. When I had difficulty breathing I checked my oxygen level with a pulsimeter my dear friend and nurse, Tamilia Purporo, gifted to me. Tamilia and my doctor check in on me daily to make sure my symptoms do not worsen, urging me to go to the emergency room if they do.
Although I am finding it difficult to have the energy to work out, as usual, I have been doing some gentle yoga and easy stretching every day instead. To keep my mind busy and worry-free, I made a list of some non-physical tasks I could TRY to accomplish while recuperating, like writing Christmas cards and doing some online holiday shopping. I also treated myself to a few gifts! Other than taking care of my health, I want to keep others healthy too. If you don’t feel well, do not go out in public unless it is absolutely necessary, like going to the doctor! The only way we are going to eliminate Covid is if we all come together, and everyone everywhere follows all the rules AT THE SAME TIME. As Aesop wrote in ancient times, then it was later preached in the New Testament, and again expressed in the early twelfth century by English philosopher Robert Grosseteste, “It is written that united we stand and divided we fall”. Heed this advice. Our future depends on it.