Friday, May 21, 2010

Glandular Fever

In November 2009 I felt like I was in the prime of my life. I was rid of emotional and spiritual parasites, I was pursuing my new-found dream of working with children by becoming a teacher, I was healthy – something I have learnt to value to a large degree due to my undiagnosed illness stemming from Pneumonia a few years ago, which lasted for 2 years, and I was fit from paddling running and being up for anything else that was on-the-go. On top of all this, I felt loved and accepted by my friends and family – who could ask for more? Life was busy and brimming over with plans and excitement – the way I love my life to be. I felt SO good and it was radiating out of me – people said so and I could see it.

Why is it then, that this was the time that Glandular Fever hit me? When I had never felt better? Was it because I was over-doing things? Was it because everything caught up with me at the end of the year? Was it that my immune system was caught off-guard while in this blissful state of health and happiness? I don’t know – there are plenty of stories that I’ve told myself to try and find the cause – mainly so it won’t happen again – and it is probably a little bit of all of these. I didn’t recognise myself at Christmas time – one of my favourite times of the year – I was absolutely and utterly exhausted. I couldn’t face Christmas shopping – I couldn’t move my neck further than 45⁰ either side of looking straight ahead and there was no apparent reason for this. Every joint in my body ached and screamed in pain. My neck was visibly larger with inflamed glands and swallowing caused physical pain.

Two weeks later the symptoms had only become worse while I tried to fight this ‘flu’ and get back on track with my training for the ‘big canoe race’in January. I was adamant the last 7 months of training were not going to go to waste because of this ‘silly cold’. By this time my eyes were totally swollen as well – there was no doubt about it I wouldn’t even have blended in in Singapore! When my doctor called to say I’d tested positive for Glandular Fever and that my big canoe race was off, I felt like my world was crumbling around me.

Sooner than I knew it, it was time to go back to work – I was sure I’d put in more hours of bed rest than was humanly possible and my mind said – “I’m over it – let’s start 2010 with a bang!” I went back to paddling – slowly as recommended by the doc and only ran every second day. It wasn’t long before I was sick again and in severe neck pain. I took a break for a couple of weeks tried starting even slower and the same thing would happen. I was beyond frustrated. Once, while paddling, I was trying to make it to the quarter-way mark of my usual training route and the pain was the only thing holding me back – I had the will power, I had the drive, I had the mind power but nothing right then could push me through that pain and complete absence of energy. I broke down in tears – right in the middle of the river – out of pure aggravation of not being able to do even a portion, at uber-slow pace, of what I used to. I got off the river that day and decided that I would see my doctor again and tell him that I was prepared to do anything for as long as it took, in order to get better. He said, ‘No sport until further notice’. He referred me to a Neurosurgeon for my neck, who sent me for an MRI scan. Two of the disks at the base of my neck were putting pressure on my spinal cord, which caused inflammation in the membrane and acute muscle spasm. I knew it wasn’t a deathly serious injury from the beginning – which made it all the more frustrating that I couldn’t continue with my life as I always had and had to take (for me at least) such drastic measures like stopping sport.

Essentially, it is the fatigue and neck pain that I have been left with as post-Glandular Fever symptoms. I have had to sit up and take serious note of the fact that every cell in my body was inflamed with a serious and potentially very harmful disease and that I could be overdoing things without even knowing it. The effects will only be visible in my body not recovering. I haven’t done any sport since early February – in the beginning I was grumpy, agitated and short with those close to me but my mind, for the most part, came around. My emotions would fluctuate between being strong mentally and knowing I could take this on to the frustration to a disgruntled, miserable feeling. I came across a website ( )which was written by someone who has had Glandular Fever for the past 15 years. He has a lot of readers who have written in to tell of similar stories( It was a great relief to find others who have experienced similar things to me and who all desperately want to feel ‘normal’ again. One person said “I miss my life. I miss myself.”

What really made me sad was how many of these people had been told by doctors, friends or family that they were looking for attention or that it was all in their mind. I’ve always known how great you all are but it is when we face adversities such as this that we learn who our friends are and who we want to be standing at our side in times of trouble. I am so blessed to have such a strong network of friends and family who believe in me and support me. I know I am on the mend – this week I started to feel some of my old energy seeping back into me when I had energy to wash the dishes! I cannot explain the elation I felt to feel some of the old me coming back!! It may be a long slow road of getting back to where I was and I’m fine with that. So long as I’ll get there, I will say ‘slowly…slowly…slowly’ while I’m walking before I’m running and swimming before I’m paddling again.

To my friends and family, Thank you for your love, support and encouragement – a lot of you are scattered across the country and even the world but when I hear from you my day lights up and in that, I am healed a little more, a little quicker. Thank you for being so special and caring for me the way you do. You have no idea how much it means to me.