The Mono Chronicles, Part 3: The Aftermath

I really can’t tell you exactly how I contracted mono. It’s something that is nearly impossible to trace.

My only viable places of infection are the water fountain at my gym, which I never put my mouth on but did fill my water bottle up from frequently, and the hospital that I worked at. We all know how filthy and germ-infested hospitals can be and I admittedly didn’t wash or sanitize my hands as often as I should have.

Another contributing factor to my mono case is that the time frame just before I got ill was a very stressful time for me. I was still trying to continue my normal daily routine of working, going to the gym, and seeing my friends and family while also trying to plan a move. I was leaving in early May to start a new chapter in Brooklyn. The weeks leading up to that were filled with job applications, getting my paperwork sorted to leave my current job, packing up my apartment, saying goodbye to my work friends and making travel plans to get myself and my stuff to the city.

So, a lot all at once.

The early weeks of my recovery were okay. They went as I expected, I think. I felt weak still. And I couldn’t exercise mainly because of my enlarged spleen and lack of energy. But I figured that would pass soon enough.

I think for me one of the most disappointing and frustrating longer lasting effects of mono is the way that it interrupts your energy levels. And of course, having an enlarged spleen is pretty scary too (this just meant I couldn’t do any contact related exercise and I had to always be protecting my stomach are, so no ab workouts L).

Being a pretty avid runner and gym junkie, I had to go weeks without setting foot in a gym which felt pretty much like a death sentence.

Almost a month on the dot after I got sick the first time, I had a relapse of my original symptoms. Sore throat that made it hard to swallow, pain in my throat, sinus congestion and of course feeling like I had been hit by a train, this time lasting about another week. I traveled back upstate where my doctor informed me that this could happen and was actually quite common with people who had mono. I also learned that I could relapse even up to a year after my original infection (crazy, right?).

I think I will always feel remnants of my mono every time I get sick. Just this past month I found myself feeling symptoms again, from allergies or the wacky weather in New York, I can’t be sure. But it just reminds me that this illness will always live with me.

If I can give any advice to anyone in order to avoid getting mono, it’s to obviously practice good hygiene first and foremost.

But secondly, listen to your body when you start to wear out. Don’t over-do it, because that’s when your immune system becomes weak and doesn’t let you fight off silly little viruses like mono.

It’s ok to take a break sometimes. Slow down and enjoy the little things.

Life is not about finishing first; in fact it might be quite the opposite.

I hope you enjoyed this little mini series.

Read the first two posts here:

The Mono Chronicles, Part 1: The Infection

The Mono Chronicles, Part 2: The Kissing Disease

Leave a comment below if you’d like more like this but maybe another topic.

Thanks for reading!

The Mono Chronicles, Part 2: The Kissing Disease

Mononucleosis, or Mono, is also widely known as “the kissing disease” for the simple fact that it is mainly spread through the saliva. It’s a viral illness and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics like a bacterial infection. The only cure for mono is some good old-fashioned rest and lots of fluids.

After learning from my doctor that my blood test came back positive for the mono virus, I felt defeated. Not just from the physical exhaustion this illness had havocked on my body, but I was mentally wiped.

I remember my mom hanging up the phone with my doctor and summarizing the diagnosis to me. Unexpectedly, I began to cry.

It was a combination of finally knowing how sick I really was and feeling sorry for myself because of how much work I would miss and how this would affect me long term. I felt silly for crying, but it was the reality of the situation.

Thankfully, I have some of the best parents in the world so I stayed with them and my little brother at home where my mom spent the good part of a week taking care of me.

And since there was no magical pill I could take to get better, my days were filled with cups of tea with lemon and agave (sorry I’m vegan, save the bees), cough drops, salt water gargles and a special gargle my doctor prescribed that basically numbed my entire mouth and throat so I could get food down. Sounds like lots of fun, huh?

The worst of the sickness was over in about 3 or 4 days. My pounding headaches subsided with the help of ibuprofen, my sinuses began to drain (unfortunately it was so much sometimes that it caused me to gag and vomit on a few occasions) and the physical pain in my throat slowly went away.

I will never forget how absolutely weak my body felt. If you, or anyone you know has ever had mono, I’m sure this point is relatable. It’s the weakest I’ve ever felt in my life. I could barely get out of bed to even go to the bathroom and I remember the extreme strength I had to muster to even get a cup to my lips the first few days.

Some of the things I learned about my illness from googling and researching while I spent days on end in a stationary position is that the only way to be officially diagnosed with mono is through a blood test. Your doctor uses the sample to see if there are certain types of white blood cell in your system that attempts to kill off the virus. And much like chicken pox, most people only get infected with mono once in their lifetime.

The only tricky part is that contrary to chicken pox, although you only get it once, the mono virus lives in your body for the rest of your life. For most of the time, the cells will stay dormant. But in times of intense stress and strain on your immune system, it can resurface and you can have a “flare-up”, which unfortunately happened to me.

Twice.

Lol.

Stay tuned to see how mono affects me today…

Or read Part 1 here if you missed it

The Mono Chronicles, Part 1: The Infection

Thanks for reading!

The Mono Chronicles, Part 1: The Infection

While laid up in bed for days with mono, I joked to my mom that I should keep a diary of the experience and call it the Mono Chronicles. Of course, I said it then as some comic relief when I was feeling like shit. But now looking back, I should have taken some notes. Hopefully what I remember about the experience can help someone out there maybe going through the same thing or something similar.

So here it is, Part 1 of what I’m calling The Mono Chronicles. Enjoy.

Most of the time, when I get sick, I turn to Google to diagnose me. Of course, most of the time, it turns out Google is very wrong and I’m not going to die in 3 days.

So in April of 2018 when I got a sore throat, I figured it was just a symptom of a seasonal cold that would go away in a few days.

Boy was I wrong.

This sore throat was unlike any other I’ve had before. I had weird white bumps all over my tonsils, and it was so swollen that I could barely get food down my throat. Then I woke up one Sunday morning with puffy eyelids that I couldn’t explain. This then happened again on Monday and I felt like a monster so even going to work was a feat. I figured it was probably worth getting checked out by a doctor so I left work that Tuesday morning on April 24th to go to my local Urgent Care.

There they ruled out just allergies being the cause of this eye puffiness and sore throat. The doctor decided to test me for strep throat, a common illness indicated by a sore throat. My rapid strep test came back negative, but they informed me they would send it to the lab for a full workup and call me in 48 hours with the results. In the meantime, I was diagnosed with viral pharyngitis (basically just a fancy name for inflammation in the throat).

The doctor advised me to take Tylenol for the physical pain, suck on cough drops, and drink tea and lots of fluids in order to soothe my symptoms. These were all typical remedies for a sore throat that I’d used a million times in my life.

For the next 48 hours I prayed that I had strep so I could be prescribed antibiotics and get rid of this sickness real quick. I had already missed some days of work and I was feeling worse by the day. Finally, I got the call I had been waiting for. And the test came back negative again.

I was immediately disheartened and quite frankly annoyed with my diagnosis. There was still something very wrong with me and no one could figure it out. I called my mom freaking out, worrying that there was something we were missing. After she calmed me down, we decided it best to see another doctor. Instead of just another ER, my mom called up the primary care physician that my dad went to and I got an appointment for that Thursday the 26th of April.

I showed to my appointment that day in immense pain, exhausted and not myself at all. I explained to this doctor all the symptoms I was having, wincing with pain at every word (at this point it hurt to even talk), and after being tested another time for strep, she wanted to run a test for one last thing. Mono.

The word was already familiar to me. I had a childhood friend who got mono as a young girl. And a friend at work joked that I had mono when I told him how sick I was. But hearing my doctor saying it could be the cause of my symptoms was dreadful. I knew mono was not good.

Before I left the office my blood was drawn and after almost passing out, (I’m not good with needles y’all) I was sent home to rest and continue my regime of throat care. My doctor also prescribed me some mouthwash that was meant to numb my throat so I could at least get some food down.

A day later my blood work came back and my mom got the call from my doctor that I had been waiting for.

And it was both good and bad news.

What do you prefer to hear first? I usually always choose the bad, but that’s just me.

I had mono.

And the good news? At least I had a real diagnosis finally.

To be continued…

Thanks for reading!

Check back soon for Part 2.