Getting Sick While Chronically Ill

This article is not giving medical advice. I am not a doctor. This is just observations from someone who has walked a path of illness and the problems encountered. Please consult your doctor before trying any new medication or making changes to them. 

Having been chronically ill for well over 5 years now has been a journey. I have talked about the five stages of grief that you have to survive, the horrors of trying to find doctors that believe you, and even the opioid crisis that has swept the nation and gotten the attention of Congress. One aspect I have not touched on is getting a common illness while being diagnosed chronically ill.

The common cold or flu is debilitating for most people. The coughing and fever run havoc on your body and the aches and pains are terrible to deal with. People take these times to call in sick and take time to recover with grandma’s chicken soup. Others try to prevent it with the flu shot or a Z-pak. The most common option is to stock up on cold medicine and cough drops and power through it while not missing a day at work.

How I wish it was that easy to do.

When you are already taking 5-7 medications (or more), it is very difficult to just grab a box or bottle of cold medicine. You have to check the ingredients in each medicine as you need to compare it to what you are taking to avoid an overdose. I end up having to mix and match different basic medications in order to find the right amount to help. I always cringe when thinking about the liver or kidney damage that is done by the abuse of these medications and since I have been taking mine for many years now, I worry about the stress and damage I have done to my own body in taking what I need to get through each day.

On a good day, I still deal with aches and pains on a level most people would find extremely uncomfortable. While sick with a cold or flu, this pushes my pain tolerance to the limit. Having the wheezy chest and the sinus pressure that makes you fall back into the pillows is hard enough, but add in my fibromyalgia muscle and nerve pain and it hits a whole new level. Factor in that I might not be able to take my normal medication and it just gets worse. Symptom on symptoms will break you.

Common beliefs say that you can just use a sick day and take time for your body to recover. Unfortunately here in the US, that tends to be difficult for many people as sick days for people in jobs in retail, fast food, or the service industries don’t have many days we are allowed to take off with pay. Balancing the options of taking an unpaid day off and the possibility to getting better by not working is difficult. Chronic illness survivors will run into other issues on this as well. We tend to use sick days on particularly hard flare days when your medicine doesn’t help, when your medication has run out and you can’t get more yet, or when your medications have made it too difficult to function and you are in a haze. We tend to be extra cautious in using sick days because we never know “How will I feel tomorrow?”

Having a chronic illness and being medicated as such also invites reinfection. With weaker immune systems due to medications, inability to fight off infections like normal, and body fatigue all factor in to a rolling cold that can last many times longer than a normal person. We take joy in feeling “better” because the cold is gone but in the back our minds we worry about getting it again once it comes back around the office or store.

It can be especially difficult during cold and flu season. I want to say to each and every chronic illness “spoonie” out there that you are a gladiator and deserve the recognition as such. You fight your own body on a daily basis and having an outside invader makes it even tougher. You are a survivor. I see you an I salute you for your bravery and courage for making it each and every day. May you stay healthy this cold and flu season. Those of you who are sick, grab some hot tea and chicken soup, huddle up with your plushie and blanket, and may you get better soon.

#hugaplushie my friends

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