Take four weeks of incessant coughing.
Add three weeks of chronic fatigue.
Fold in two weeks of profound chills.
And finally combine a bronchial infection, pink eye, stomach cramps, muscle aches and overall mental confusion and whatta ya got?
A truly awful 2018.
It all started on New Year’s Day. That’s the day my wife began coughing, and then proceeded to hack up the ROYG portion of the ROYGBIV color spectrum. Three missed days of work, four boxes of tissue and two bottles of multi-symptom cough syrup later, she pronounced herself cured, and re-entered the workforce, albeit still hacking a bit of YG.
I was still hoping to dodge the bullet, but then I noticed a few telltale signs popping up, so I started comparing notes with Sara.
“Did it start with a tickle in your throat?”
“Did you suddenly start feeling really, really tired?”
“Did your eyes start, um, leaking?”
“Uh-huh. It’s called an eye cold. It should clear up in a few days.”
“Did it hurt to cough?”
“Yes. Also, I found it hurts to whine, so you might want to avoid doing that, as well.”
Following her protocol, I grabbed some tissue and started chugging cough syrup, figuring it would clear up in about three days.
Except it didn’t. Instead the coughing got worse, to the point where it was threatening to go full ROYGBIV. And my “eye cold” suddenly went from mere leakage to fully crusting over.
On a whim, I decided to go to quick care, though I wasn’t sure if there was any point. I mean if it’s a cold, there’s not much they can do about it anyway. And if it’s the flu, they can do even less.
The doctor examined me for about 15 seconds. “You’ve got a bronchial infection and a bad case of pink eye,” she declared. She prescribed eye drops and a 10-day regimen of the Nastiest Antibiotic Known To Man.
The drops cleared up my eyes within 24 hours.
The antibiotic cleared up my lungs within three days, and then proceeded to clear up my entire gastrointestinal system. And by clear up, I mean clean out. And by clean out, to quote a line from “Apocalypse Now,” I mean “with extreme prejudice.”
I managed to get through eight days of the antibiotic before I declared myself cured. Any longer and I would have had to switch to adult diapers.
So. Lungs cleared. Check. Sinuses cleared. Check. Eyes cleared. Check. Gut cleared. Check. By the second week of January I figured the worst was over.
And then I caught a ride on the H3N2 Express.
First they were saying it’s the worst flu since 2015. Funny thing is, I don’t remember even getting sick that year.
Then they said it was the worst since the 2009 Swine Flu epidemic. Funny thing is, I don’t remember even getting sick that year. But then, of course, we don’t even own a pig.
Inevitably, some people have drawn comparisons between this year’s flu and the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, which really was the worst flu ever.
I don’t know about that.
All I know is that this year’s flu is the worst flu I’ve ever had. All the symptoms I had earlier in the month came back with a vengeance, only this time with a fever. Spent the next two weeks shivering under a blanket, staring into space. Can’t say too much more about it, because I really can’t remember too much else.
By Jan. 31 I had recovered enough to drive up to Chicago to see my oncologist for my regular three-month exam. They checked my vitals. Everything looked good. They weighed me. I had dropped about 15 pounds. They drew eight vials of blood. Still waiting for the results.
My doctor finally came in.
“You look awful,” she said.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied, “but I feel great!”
• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.