I have been keeping a diary since this began...
Day 1: Gee, it seems like I'm a little stuffed up today. Is it allergy season already?
Day 5: This post-nasal drip is annoying. It's making me cough. Drink some hot tea.
Day 7: Where did I put those cough drops I bought last year? I need to buy more.
Day 8: This can't be CoVid - my glands in my neck aren't swelling and I have no fever.
Day 9: This cough is really annoying. Drink some hot tea.
Day 10: Woke up feeling like shit. No energy!
Day 11: First coughing fit. Uncontrollable. Comes from down deep in the lungs. Painful.
Day 12: Need to buy some CoVid tests. Can't sleep at night because of the coughing. Buy a new digital thermometer as well. Drink some hot tea.
Day 13: CoVid test is negative for both of us. WTF? Friends say a bad cold is "going around" takes weeks to recover. Maybe that's it.
Day 14: Fine during the day, but as soon as I lie down, I start coughing. "Stuff" accumulates in the back of the throat. Coughing ensues. Gross.
Day 15: Another CoVid test: Negative. What is going on? You can feel the coughing fits coming on - a tiny tickle in the back of the throat and then.. and then... and then.... it explodes.
Day 16: Had to sleep sitting up. As soon as I lie down, coughing. Feel like crap. Still no fever - 97.5!
Day 17: Another CoVid test: I'm still negative, Mark is positive. We get Paxlovid at the pharmacy for him. They won't prescribe it for me. Drink some hot tea.
Day 18: Tried sleeping on my stomach. Seems to work. That is how they intubate CoVid patients in a coma. Fun thoughts. Drink some hot tea.
Day 19: So this is how I die? Respiratory infection, no treatments available, just wait it out, the doctor says - well, the nurse practitioner anyway. Green snot. ugh!
Day 20: Government announces CoVid Emergency is over as of May 1st. Irony. Who will be the last to die from CoVid? It would be like the last guy to get killed in a war.
Day 21: Doom-scrolling "Long Covid" and getting cheery thoughts. Basically any and all parts of your body can be damaged - permanently. Lung damage, heart damage, kidneys, intestines, brain, even your eyesight. "Brain Fog" sounds like jolly good fun. Long-term vertigo is a possibility as well. What the ever-loving fuck? Coughing can go on for as long as six months!
Day 22: Sure glad to be retired. How do people who have jobs even deal with this? I feel bad for them.
Day 26: Having a good day - almost feel "normal" for a few minutes. Are we on the road to wellville? Drink some hot tea. Enough with the fucking tea already.
Day 27: Two steps forward, one step back. Wake up with a head feeling like cement. Takes about an hour for the decongestants to work. Coughing is on and off. Drink some hot tea. Drinking so many fluids that I have to piss ten times a day (four times at night as well).
Day 28: Uncontrolled coughing fits so bad that it gives a migraine headache. Headache goes away after a half-hour, at which point another coughing fit commences. Is this what a stroke feels like?
Day 29: Covid is now the leading cause of death among children in the USA. WTF? Why isn't this a blaring headline rather than some stupid story about a "cancelled influencer"?
Day 30: Another older friend dies of CoVid. Can't attend the funeral. Went to Sam's club and bought a 50-lb sack of Ricola cough drops. Buy in bulk and save! We also bought enough cold and flu medication to start our own meth lab. Drink some hot tea.
Day 31: Friends have been bringing soup and food and leaving it on the porch. Some had it last summer and offer encouraging words. CoVid is no joke!
Day 32: Gave up drinking 20 days ago - alcohol does suppress the immune system. Don't miss it at all. What am I going to do with all this booze?
Day 33: Haven't lost appetite or sense of smell or taste. Eating regularly - haven't lost weight or anything. Funny, you'd think without all that alcohol... but we are drinking a lot of fruit juices instead. Regular as a clock! Put the kettle on. Drink some hot tea.
Day 34: Being awake and upright it isn't so bad. Middle of the day seems best. Worst is at night, trying to sleep - the coughing keeps you awake. Nighttime cold capsules help, but don't allow sleep, but instead "knock you out." Don't feel refreshed in the morning - feel like run over by a truck, with an old sweatsock in your mouth. Fun.
Day 35: Mark says to sit in the sun when the weather it nice. Too Bright! Neighbor complains of light sensitivity since getting CoVid. Who knows? Weird rash shows up on my groin. Google this, another possible side-effect. Mysteriously goes away overnight.
Day 36: Test positive for Covid using different brand of test kit. Call Nurse practitioner. She says Paxlovid is only being prescribed for "organ transplant recipients" and hung up. WTF?
Day 37: Other nurse calls, says prescription was forwarded to WalMart pharmacy. They say it will take two weeks to get. We've watched the first eleven seasons of Vera on YouTube by now. Re-watching Touch of Frost next.
Day 38: Transferred prescription to Golden Isles Pharmacy (nice folks). In stock, cost $0. Good to leave the house for a change. Will this make a difference?
Day 39: Starting Paxlovid. Mark is finished with his and seems to be on the mend. He avoided at least two weeks of this misery. Being sick is weird - it is not like sharp pain (Gout, Diverticulitis) but rather just a feeling of, ugh! I'm thinking this would be the most effective form of torture imaginable.
Day 40: Cautiously optimistic. Like I said, two steps forward, one step back. Seems things are improving and then it gets worse. That's the depressing part. Makes you think about life a lot.
Day 41: Took Paxlovid this AM and went back to bed. Had the best sleep I've had in weeks. No coughing. Started coughing in the afternoon. I am told this is a symptom of "long covid" as your lungs try to clear and heal themselves. Some sources say it can go on for as long as six months. Oh joy. Overall, feeling better - a little brain fog and eyes not focusing right, but not ready to die just yet.
Day 42: Two steps forward, one step back. Feeling "better" than in the past, but still occasional coughing fits and congestion. We run into this problem every year with allergies - you get congested and use decongestant pills. But after a while, the allergy problem goes away, but now the decongestants are what is causing the problem (they drain your head, which causes post-nasal drip, which causes coughing, etc. Am I just going through decongestant withdrawal at this point or what? Sweating profusely - that's new.....
Day 43: Pollen season! The car is yellow with pollen, after only being driven around the island. At the airport, clouds of pollen billow off the live oak trees and blow across the road. So, are we done with CoVid and are now just entering allergy season? Will CoVid make allergies worse or better? Or who can tell? Feeling better, but it feels more like a cold, now.
Day 44: Still sleeping well over 12 hours a day. Had enough energy to wash the car, though. Brain Fog has been going on a while now. Go into a room and forget why I went there. Short term memory? I'm sorry, what was I saying? Bad coughing in the evening and when eating. Getting tired of this!!
Motivation is hard. It is depressing, getting sick, and when you are really sick, you don't feel like doing anything but the minimum. You get a little better and then just lounge around. Are you sick, or just lazy, or just depressed? Need to start DOING THINGS again to get motivated! So far, all we've been doing is dishes and laundry. Well, we did wash the car.
Day 45: The hotspot renews next week. We have used 86 of the 100GB of data, for the first time. Usually we consume only 25GB max. We are watching a lot of YouTube - amazing how many movies are on there, although usually edited for television. Watched "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" with Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges. No ads, either! The Paxlovid tires me out. I sleep until 10, get up, have breakfast, take the pills and then sleep for a few more hours and have the strangest dreams.
Tired - and weak as a kitten!
Day 46: Last day of Paxlovid. Cautiously Optimistic that things are getting better. Coughing still there but not at the migraine-inducing intensity as before. Tired. Sleeping for 12 hours, getting up, having breakfast (at 11:000 AM!) and then going back to bed for a few hours. But I feel like I am on the mend. Brain fog still there, though. But today is one of my good days. Maybe by next week, things will be "normal"?
Day 47: Slept through the night with little coughing. The deep lung cough is gone. Now it is just post-nasal drip coughing - but not very often. Woke up feeling... pretty good! I remember feeling like crap only a few days ago, with the worst being right before I got on paxlovid (why the nurse told me not to take this - and the other nurse went ahead and wrote the script is beyond me!). Mark is feeling better, but gets tired. He is working in the studio and I hope to do some work in the garden - as well as attack our sewer line situation (subject of a posting to come!).
All in all, I think we have rounded the corner - but I hate to be premature about this.
Day 48: The first thing that goes away when you get covid is the desire to drink, followed closely by any sexual desire. The former has not come back yet.
We both tested negative this morning!
Day 49: Two steps forward, one step back. Mark is dizzy today and I feel tired. Still coughing, but not as much as not as painful. The literal pain in the back of my throat is gone. But we still do not feel "normal" again - yet. We are trying to walk a mile or so every day now.
Took a nap this afternoon at 2:00 and woke up at 6:00.
Day 50: Sleeping - a lot! Went to bed at 10:00, woke up at 10:00. Can't complain - sleeping soundly thorough the night (no coughing fits!). Mark woke up with a migraine - dehydrated? Feel a little dizzy myself. No energy, brain fog. But overall feeling "good" - better than before, anyway!
This diary is turning into some serious "Flowers for Algernon" kind of shit.
Day 51: Coughing is back, but not nearly as bad as before. Mostly "unproductive" coughing. Both of us are tired all the time. We've been going for walks and I did some work in the garden. Overall feeling better, but just wish these vestiges would go away!
Day 52: Slept for 10 hours in the night. Was going to take Mr. See for a birthday luncheon, but he declined as we were both too tired. Went shopping instead for groceries. Took at nap at 2:00 and woke up four hours later as if from a coma! Coughing again, too! Woke up the next day feeling better, though. Two steps forward, one step back!
Day 53: Almost feel "normal" but normal doesn't feel the same. In a way, I feel I have done a "reset" on my body. I am changed from what I was before. It is a weird feeling. Still tired a lot and the cough is there, but less frequent every day. "Every day in every way, I'm getting better and better..." - well that is, until we die, but no one wants to talk about that. I think we are finally on the mend, though!
* * *
Please don't confuse my sense of humor with the abject pain and misery I have been through in the last month or so. Looking back, it seems this chronic cough started up on December - perhaps as early as November. At first it was just an annoying post-nasal drip and cough. Then it got worse. And worse.
A friend once told me that all I talk about is money and death. What else is there? Mindless gossip about who said what about who? Or who is sleeping with who? Or what some celebrity said on a teevee show? The latest controversial "Tick Tock?" People obsess about those trivial things to avoid thinking about the more important ones. They'd rather spend the evening talking about the life of a celebrity than thinking about their own financial situation. The former is fun, the latter is scary.
And death is part and parcel of this - it is the event horizon of your investment strategy. Every investment strategy has an end point - your demise. And I thought about this in the last 30 days, a lot. Because this CoVid thing can putter along as it has and then suddenly you wake up one day and "can't breathe" - and the CoVid is winning. You end up in intensive care and maybe - just maybe - you pull through. It is a pretty sobering thought.
In our 20's we laugh at death - a nervous laughter - but laughter, nevertheless. Young people love to go to horror movies as the idea of death and dying are a thrill ride. Funny thing, all the monsters in the horror movies are deformed old people. Old people scare us, not just because they are authority figures (parents, political leaders, bosses, etc.) but because they have one foot in the grave, and their wrinkled visage is a premonition of the ultimate ugliness to come. They scare us.
As we get older, we think we have a better grip on death. The body starts to creak and moan and it becomes quite clear that the party won't go on forever - if in fact, it isn't starting to wind down. Having a chronic condition reminds you of your mortality.
You get older and realize this is like peeling the layers of an onion. You thought you knew. You thought you had a handle on this. But we are a death-denying society and we all run away from bad news. Your parents and maybe even some of your peers start to pass away. Things that you thought of as permanent in your life, disappear. People. What is worse, is you realize that life goes on after they are gone. In fact, most of us will disappear off the face of the earth (and even the Internet!) once we are gone. I google the names of some lost friends, and it is like they never existed. Even their memorial on the funeral company's website is taken down after a few years. And their obituary? Usually a lot of superficial nonsense. When you die and everyone who knew you dies, it will be like you never existed.
And I'm OK with that. Or so I thought, anyway.
So now, CoVid. A new layer of the onion. I thought I had my handle on this - got all my shots and boosters, wore a mask and so on and so forth. And then CoVid was over - right? But there is a new variant - Omicron. No one seems worried about it and mask-wearing sort of went away over time. But maybe we called "game over" too soon - this is still going on.
"So this is what it is like to get old," Mark says. He's looking at 58 next week and that seems old to him. I'll be 63 a few weeks later - already eligible for Social Security, and only two years away from Medicare. Only about a decade-and-a-half away from the average life expectancy in America. People think you are "old" if you were born before the turn of the century (2000). When you say "1960" they ask if you had electricity back then.
But of course, if you make it this far, you likely will live a decade longer than average - overall life expectancy averages include infant mortality and accidents that claim the lives of the young, disproportionally.
Another layer of the onion peeled back. Even in the best case scenario, we will come out of CoVid with some sort of diminished capacity - in addition to the amount diminished with each passing year. A lot of the plans we made in life may never materialize at this point. We may have ended up where we ended up - crash-landing in retirement as it were (we fortunately landed in a pretty nice place, however!).
I am reminded of the last time I saw my Grandmother. I drove down to Little Silver, New Jersey to see her - by myself. My Dad told me I should go - before it was too late. She was in a retirement home and had "gotten sick" a few times and had to go to the assisted living center to get well. She would get well and go back to the main building - but was shunned by the other old ladies. You never want to be the one who comes back from "the other side" - it reminds the living about their own mortality.
She cried in my arms, which was interesting as we were never that close. "I'm just so tired of it," she said, "I get better and then I get sick again, and each time, the better is shorter and the sicker is longer!" She just wanted to cash it all out and cut to the chase. Life was no longer worth living, or at the very least, getting to the part where it would be. I gave her a big hug and we cried. I drove back home and a week later she was dead. Poor thing.
Am I heading in that same direction? Of course I am. I am only a couple of decades removed from her age when she died, and the decades, at this point, fly by like minutes did as a kid. I'll keep peeling back that onion until I get to that solid core - where Grandma was. Maybe then, I'll understand.
With this latest peel-back of the onion comes a sense of urgency. We plan for a long retirement and worry about "running out of money" and yet, at the same time, we worry about not having enough time to do all we want to do on this planet before it is too late.
But of course, human nature being what it is, in a few weeks (God or Paxlovid willing) we will feel better and wake up one day, refreshed, and see all this cough medicine and tissue boxes on the nightstand and think, "What are those doing there? Time to put that stuff away!" And we will go back to worrying about trivial nonsense to drown out the deafening silence in our lives.
Until next time, of course!