Monday, January 22, 2018

Day 22 of Cough; Day 3 of Painful Breathing

I started not feeling well on January 1. We got home from our holiday travels and I gave in to the cold and spent January 2 and 3 on the couch. On the 4th, I dragged myself to campus and spent two full days in the office preparing for the spring semester.

Now it is the 22nd. And I have not stopped coughing since January 1.

Perhaps it wasn't the wisest idea to join a mile-long march and chant loudly while breathing in the chilly January air on Saturday, but except for the cough, all my other symptoms had pretty much cleared up. No fever, no headaches, sinuses were fine. I just couldn't quit hacking.

Well, after getting home from the march, I was coughing more and more. I took a bath, which helped, but once I was out of the warm, steamy tub, the cough was back in full force. And finally I coughed so hard that something twisted/strained/broke??? in my chest wall. And now when I cough, sneeze (God forbid--that's the worst), laugh, blow my nose, or breathe fully, I feel a stabbing pain in my ribs. And I don't mean a stabbing pain like "Oh, that was a weird twinge." I mean holy-effing-crap, I need to go fetal position on the floor right now.

This is where I was yesterday afternoon when I finally decided I had to go to urgent care.

Now, I know that I'm a whiny special snowflake with very thin skin, and there is hardly a commercial for the winter olympics that won't make me teary-eyed, but when it comes to physical pain tolerance, it's a different story. Please keep in mind that I've birthed three babies without epidurals. In eighth grade, I tried out for cheerleading with a broken toe (I didn't make the squad, and I cried more over my wounded pride than I did over the painful toe). I've walked around New York City with blistered feet and strep throat and I just clenched my jaw and dealt with it (then I flew home and got penicillin). I sprained my ankle in college so badly that the doctors told me a broken ankle probably would have hurt less, and when using crutches for two weeks was too much of a hassle for my third-floor-walk-up dorm room, I ditched the crutches after five days and just hobbled around.

All this to say, emotionally, I am a very delicate flower. Physically, I can grit my teeth and get through just about anything.

Also, I do not think I get sick very often, and yet when I do, I get very little sympathy from my husband. I try not to whine excessively, but then I feel like he is completely brushing aside my totally legit and very real illness/distress.

So yesterday, when a sneeze had me in tears, on the floor, and then my strategy of only taking shallow breaths so as to avoid the stabbing pain in my chest was making me feel panicky, I decided to ignore his rather dismissive "Why I don't get you a couple advil and an ice pack?" and go to urgent care (special thanks to my nurse friend, Michelle, who encouraged me to get seen). I drove myself, which I probably shouldn't have done, because a coughing fit would have made me a danger behind the wheel.

Urgent Care swooped in with two shots, a chest x-ray, and three prescriptions, so I left feeling exhausted, relieved, and validated. I'm following up with my regular doctor today, though, because this morning was rough. I can't raise my voice without coughing or breathing, and getting my kids out the door on a Monday is never easy. Especially a Monday after I've been kind of out of commission all weekend. I spent a good chunk of Saturday at the March, then on the couch, and most of Sunday in bed or at Urgent Care.

As a result, I was not well organized for Monday morning, which meant that Coco got to school without her pillow and stuffy AND her winter boots. Normally we just keep her winter boots at school and they wear them for outdoor play all winter, but she had an accident on Friday so she'd worn them home because her tennis shoes had pee on them. I did manage to get her shoes washed, but I forgot about her boots. I ended up circling back to go home to get her pillow and stuffy and boots because she was in tears about the pillow and because I didn't want her to destroy the new little shoes she wore today playing out in the mud. But I couldn't find her winter boots in the laundry/mud room and I didn't have the energy to search further. So I took her rain boots instead. She cried again when I showed back up and said she wanted me to stay or she wanted to go home and that is so unlike Coco, especially because her class was celebrating a friend's birthday today. So that was rough. I mean, have you guys SEEN her sad face?

Heartbreaking. And my chest was already killing me.

(I feel the same, but look less cute.)

There was also some shoe-drama with Zuzu before leaving the house because it's not FAIR that Coco has way many more shoes than Zuzu and Zuzu wants to wear a new pair of shoes that are two sizes too big for her and she wants her shoes to match her outfit exactly because today she was a pink and red and purple valentine so her shoes could only be pink or red or purple. (We settled on silver, because her shirt had a silver heart on it, but only after crying and gnashing of teeth on the floor of the laundry room a full five minutes after I'd wanted to leave the house.)

I taught Hamlet even though I wasn't sure I was up for it because I was already in the car on my way to work and I put mascara on this morning even though I barely got any sleep last night, probably because of the steroid shot they gave me? I woke up at 2am and was WIDE AWAKE. Like read a chapter of a book and watched two episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and scrolled Facebook and tried to go to sleep for HOURS kind of awake. I lay there until David's alarm went off at 6 and then finally dozed until almost 7. Brutal. But I took two more steroid pills this morning, so I don't feel tired, I just look like hell.

I was not my best in front of the classroom because (1) my unwashed hair and bags under my eyes and (2) I can't gesture wildly or speak very loudly, and (3) every time I cough (and once I did sneeze), I have to stop and in an effort to hold the part of my chest that hurts the most, I basically have to cup my right boob and wince in pain until the coughing subsides. #totallyprofessional. I did wear a large scarf to deliberately help cover some of the boob-grabbing. It just is a stabbing pain that goes from the front/side of my boob to my shoulder blade. I told my students that it was most likely a strained ligament (per Urgent Care doctor) but could be a blood clot (also per Urgent Care doctor) so if I passed out they should say that when they called 911.

To their credit, they looked concerned and seemed to pay more attention after that.

Anyway, I LOVE teaching Hamlet so it sucked to be in ongoing pain and not able to get as worked up about the potential incest plot. I'm ending my office hours early and heading home to lie down instead of sit and then I see my regular doctor this afternoon.

I will be newly appreciative of pain-free breathing once this clears up, so I encourage you all to take a deep breath and be grateful for it.

P.S. I was skeptical of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and now I'm all in. Thanks for the recommendation!


  1. I found myself nodding along in so, so many parts of this post!

    I, too, have freakishly high pain tolerances and that is partly why no one took me seriously with HELLP. Matt still doesn't take my physical pain seriously enough though if it gets big it scares him into action (sorry for the PTSD husband.) And the scarf, boob grab while teaching. I can just see your student's worried faces and I bet it was one of the most attentive of your lectures. I have seen those faces before and it is funny though a little humbling.

  2. Ugh. I’m sorry for the sickness! Kirk was on week 3 of flu, cough, crud when I finally made him go to urgent care and he got antibiotics for bronchitis (and cherritussen prescription cough syrup for bedtime that has codeine and is apparently the only cough med that works). Meds finally kicked in after a few days and he finally felt better. I hope the new drugs help you feel better too, asap!

  3. Sorry you are having a rough week! Or rough year, I guess! I also have come down with a terrible cough, which I've had for about 5 days, and I'm starting to wonder whether it's time to head to the doctor. As I coughed my way through my classes yesterday, I thought, "It could be worse. What if I had to teach the classes?" You have my total sympathy.

  4. I hope you are feeling better by now! Sooooo many people I know (or their kids) have been really sick over the past few weeks. My own cold was nowhere near as bad as yours, but it was the worst one I've had in a while, and it took me a good two weeks before I started feeling somewhat human again. Hang in there!