I didn’t get it, I was literally just telling “Prince Player” when he asked how things were going despite my health that I was doing so well and feeling fine .
….continued from My Trapeze Swings
So there I was all happy after meeting with the Director on Friday, ready for my weekend. Watching my state’s team play in the Superbowl. The viewing party I went to was fun! But at one moment, I felt unusually exhausted.
“Shaz, go home” my friends said thinking it was my liver. I thought it was that too… I went home and watched the rest of the Superbowl and “This is Us” and cried a lot.
Monday was fine. I felt energized. But that night, at around 4am I woke up in the middle of my sleep. My throat had a very uncomfortable feeling- I was gasping for air. I had a big day the next morning so I made myself go back to sleep.
But Tuesday morning I woke up sneezing. Water coming out of my eyes. My nose stuffed. Coughing. Sneezing. But I have a meeting with an Alumni who is Mayor of her city! I go to the event and feel uncomfortable. I come back home after the meeting and take a nap before going to night class. I almost slept through class, I was so exhausted and didn’t know why! When I wake up I go and buy coffee to comfort my throat and keep me awake through three hours of accounting night class. Throughout the whole class, I sit uncomfortably blowing my nose. When I get home, I drink some soup. I get into bed, but the next 12 hours of night- I toss and turn. I DID NOT SLEEP. When the clock said 7:30, I told myself there was no use sleeping and decided to get some Starbucks. Starbucks was the only thing that was easy for me to swallow, I could actually taste, and was comforting. I lay back in bed after drinking my coffee. I sound funny. I look terrible. I feel terrible. I tell my Health Accounting study group I’ll have to join our meeting via Facetime. They allow, but I am able to concentrate very little and excuse myself when I start feeling nauseous. I really feel terrible like I can’t breathe. I quickly go and run myself a warm bath, I put the water on the highest it could go- it doesn’t even feel hot. (I would later learn it was because my body temperature was high from fever during that time!) I sit in the bath and it gives me an immense amount of comfort. As soon as I get out, I feel terrible again. I try to go to sleep. Again, my body is having fits- I jump out of bed every five minutes coughing or blowing my nose.
Thursday morning. I wake up just an hour before my class. I feel miserable. My face looks dry, pale. My body is in pain. And the worst, I feel confused. I forget my zipcode!!
I call my mom. “Ma. I’m not going to class, I’m going to the clinic”. She agrees, “Okay sweetie”. I email my Professor. This is the first time in my graduate school career I am missing a class! She is understanding and tells me to “please feel better”. I hate being absent, but what I would hate more- is to be spread my illness to all my public health colleagues who needs to serve others! And of course, not being able to concentrate in class.
I quickly get dressed, covering myself as much as possible for the cold weather. I call an Uber. I’m not in the mood to talk as I have no voice but the driver keeps speaking to me.
“So Public Health huh. So what’s that? Like you gonna be a doctor?”
Sigh for the 100th time.
“No. Doctors treat the disease. We prevent the disease” I say.
“Like how?” he asks.
“Through things like education and vaccines” I say.
“Oh yea? I’m anti-vaccine”. DUN DUN DUN. Every public health practicioners worst nightmare.
“You got the flu shot didn’t you? You got sick because you got the flu shot” he says.
My jaw drops.
“Excuse me. The only reason why I am not sicker than I am right now, is BECAUSE I got the flu shot!” I say.
He goes into a lecture about how he disagrees and all his life he wasn’t sick and the only time he got sick was when he got a flu shot and blah blah blah.
I don’t have the energy to explain to him that:
a) People are DYING from flu. This is a SERIOUS epidemic. If you don’t want to get vaccinated for yourself, vaccinate to protect public health as you are less likely to spread illness to others if you are vaccinated!
b) Just like all preventative measures, the flu shot is only a certain percent effective. And it only protects against a certain strain. There is flu A, B, C, D (multiple strains!!!) One flu shot can’t protect you against every flu virus/strain that exists.
c) Why the hell would the government and CDC release flu shots if they make us sick???? There are safety protocols you know!
He tries to explain I need to was my hands more because “the hands carry DNA that carry germs”.
OH MY GOD. HE MEANS BACTERIA!!!!
Finally, we reach the clinic and I am soooo happy.
Except here’s the thing. Everybody in Boston is practically there, I am given a 60 minute wait. GAH!!!
Finally, it’s my turn. I tell the Nurse Practicioner all my symptoms. “It sounds like you may have a fever or the flu. Let’s take a look” she says.
She looks at my throat and ears and gets my temperature. The thermometer begins beeping.
“Well here’s your answer, you have a high fever!” she says showing me my temperature.
You see. I knew something was wrong!
“Let’s check that you don’t have the flu” she says.
Let me just say, the flu test is really fun. She jabs this thing up my nostril and stirs it.
“OH MY GOD OW!!!!” I say pulling back.
“I know it’s uncomfortable” she says. We laugh. “But I need one more” she says.
Oh fuck me.
“Ok. Go for it” I say. She does it again. “GAH!!! WHAT THE-” I begin screaming again.
“I know I know. All done. Everybody reacts like that don’t worry” she says. We laugh and she grabs me some tissues to wipe my now bloody and mucous filled nose.
She looks at the flu report and smiles. “Negative” she says.
“Yes!” I say.
She writes down the name of medications I should buy and tells me to rest as much as possible and drink as many liquids as I can.
I text my parents. My dad calls immediately.
“How did you manage to get this sick??” he asks.
“I have no idea Dad!” I say. I hadn’t had a fever in two years!
“Well, rest up Shaz. You’ll be home with us soon” he says. “Take some ibuprofen, don’t worry about your liver for now. Treat your fever first. We’ll talk to your doctor when you get here”.
I sigh. It is so hard when you are juggling your health.
I buy some fro-yo and soup and rest all day. I stare at my dress I was supposed to wear to an event I was invited to that night. I sigh. Some other day.
I wake up Friday feeling a little better. I wake up today feeling even more better!
Sometimes, it takes a fever to remind you to PAUSE.
As one of my friends said when I was trying to work on something during my fever, “Don’t over do it Shaz. The world only has ONE Shaz!”
Please stay safe this flu season. Get vaccinated. Cover up in cold weather. Wash your hands and carry hand sanitizer. Stay home if you are sick. Seek medical help quickly if you have any doubts. Practice other good habits such as sleeping enough, drinking lots of fluids, stress management, eating well, and exercising.
I think of my life as a series of trapeze swings.
I’m always doing things. I’m always on the go. Powdering my hands, getting ready for my next jump.
Well that just had to all take a pause.
It all started one week ago. I got offered the one leadership position I never had at any of my schools, Student Government Senator!!! I was SO excited. This was my chance. My biggest leadership opportunity yet!
I looked at my calendar which instantly doubled in events when I wrote all things I had to do and events I had to be at for my position…
And then I remembered.
I have a struggling liver.
I am already President of a club.
I am in 4 classes.
I am job hunting.
I am writing a thesis.
I am a representative for a few other student organizations.
Oh, and, my favorite Professor hired me as her Research Assistant. Eep! A dream come true!!!
Which is why I turned it down.
My words turned into alphabet soup when I sat down with the director.
“What I’m trying to say is-” I say trying to conclude my word vomit (I’m not good at this!)
“It’s okay Shaz. You are trying to say you don’t want to spread yourself too t
hin. I get it. I see it. You have bags under your eyes! I can’t see Shaz like this. I want to see the bubbly, glowing, happy Shaz!” the director says.
I sigh a big sigh of relief.
Yes. That is EXACTLY what I was trying to say.
Phew. The biggest mistake I made in college was pushing myself to do more than I can. This made me lose time with my family and friends. I can’t accept that in my life anymore.
I felt like a good weight was lifted off my shoulders.
But boy, it was just beginning. Only a few days later, I got a bad bad bad fever.
(to be continued)
Man this sucks. When a public health professional gets sick, I guess it’s time to practice what we preach!
Ok don’t panic, just an hour and a half last of health accounting class. I can do this.
Fuck me. Who was I kidding? I made the poor decision of going off of birth control. And now I am sitting in a hot, uncomfortable, graduate school night class. Excessively bleeding. Terrible cramps. Ready to vomit.
WHAT WAS I THINKING???
I have been on these pills for SIX years. These pills helped me be a normal woman. Regular periods, rarely vomit, manageable cramps.
Oh yea. I was thinking, I want to have a kid someday. And I don’t think it’s safe to be on birth control for this long so I might as well “practice” being off the pill.
I am an idiot. 1) I am not having a kid anytime soon. 2) The Kardashians were on birth control pills for a long time and they all had (or are going to have) babies!!!
As soon as class ends, I try to rush home. Not only do I have a 30 minute commute, I have to pick up tampons. The cold 20 degree weather outside does not help. As soon as I get home, I put my hair in a bun. I know what my next 15 minutes will be. VOMIT. Ahhh!!!! I lay on the bathroom floor.
I vow. Never to go off of these pills, unless it is time to have a child.
I get up off the floor. Thank goodness I have no class tomorrow I thought. But how am I going to deal with this pain? I look at the Advil on my counter. “No painkillers” the doctor said.
Ok well. She forgot about my monster cramps. I tell myself I’ll just have two today. And two the next day if needed. That’s it.
I take the Advil and sleep a solid 8 hours. I wake up and something feels very wrong. I lift up my sheets.
BLOOD EVERYWHERE. I jump. My poor bed sheets. My poor Victoria’s Secret pajamas. I slept with a tampon AND pad for goodness sake what gives!
Jesus no wonder why I’m anemic.
I shower and then I go to CVS. I buy a box of overnight pads because clearly the other ones are not working. And the cashier is the same woman as the day before!! Lord, she must think I have a serious issue. But, then, the dude cashier who is overly flirtatious comes to ring me up. I give him my pads and look down. Ugh.
I come back home and watch Real Housewives of New Jersey. I drink some soup. That’s what I’ve been having for the past three days :0
I converse with some of my guy friends. I wonder if “Prince Player” or Yassin ever had girlfriends who had monster periods like me. Gasp. Why am I thinking about Yassin’s past girlfriends? Why am I putting Yassin in the same category as “Prince Player”?? It’s because he’s showing all the signs “Prince Player” showed when he was interested in me.
“I don’t want to be in a relationship right now because of that other guy” I told him in reference to my last partner who emotionally abused me.
“I understand” he said.
But that conversion was 6 months ago.
Gasp. It is so like fate to have Yassin move back to Boston just as I am graduating. But I don’t like Yassin in the way. He’s just a great pediatrician who loves children as much as I do. But I like how he always checks up on me and supports my work around sexual assault.
And what about “Prince Player” jesus.
I close my eyes. I think way too much on my periods.
“My… liver? I ask in shock.
My doctor nods. “Yes. It’s not too bad right now. But don’t do anything that will increase your levels. No painkillers, no alcohol, no unhealthy foods”.
I close my eyes. Life can be unfair sometimes. Most of my graduate school friends are walking high in energy, ready to graduate. I am sluggish, my body hurts. Now I know why.
“Why is it that something new is wrong with me every time I come in here? First the vitamin deficiencies and now my liver?” I ask.
“That’s how most autoimmune disorders work Shaz, symptoms go and symptoms come” she says sympathetically. “But the good thing is, we can treat the symptoms. You had a vitamin B-12 and vitamin d deficiency, and we fixed both of those!”
“So remember. No alcohol, no painkillers, and implement a good diet! I need to see you back here in a month to re-check your levels” she says.
I go home and tell the news to my Mom and Dad. They don’t worry too much, which is comforting.
But when I leave the day before school ends, my dad pulls me in a hug. “Don’t worry about your liver. It will be all okay. If you need extra money to buy healthier foods, I’ll send you some. Come back soon so we can re-check the levels and see if you are healthy again”.
I go to school the next day. I see my friends. They talk about going out, I say I can come, but I can’t drink. I explain why.
“Wow what unfair bullshit. This girl is the one that has a drink once a season, and something’s wrong with her liver???” my very outspoken friend Linette says.
We all laugh.
My friend Susan gives me a ride home. She just lost someone and we were talking about it. When I leave I give her a hug and say “If you need anything, and I mean anything, I am here for you. I can bake cookies or bring you alcohol!” I say.
“Only if you can have some!” she says.
And it makes me laugh. Because. Here’s the thing. My friends are standing with me in solidarity.
Through the last semester of graduate school, through the period of writing our thesis, through this intense time of endless job applications and interviews- I’m not going through it alone. We all have our problems, and we help each other out. Not like where I went to college.
When one of my pediatrician friends Yassin asked me to dinner this week, I told him I couldn’t because I wasn’t feeling well. He asked me what was wrong. I told him the same old fatigue.
“I think you have Anemia!” Yassin says. “I’m convinced I have Celiac” I say.
“What did your doctor say?” he asks. “Pernicious anemia” I say rolling my eyes.
He laughs. “You need to trust us!”
“If I felt better I would!” I say laughing.
Welp. So that’s that. Another day in the life of Shaz. Along with this, school has really picked up. I am taking a few hard classes, working on my thesis, and applying for jobs. Regardless, I’m not afraid. I’ve come a long way. And there is no stopping now!