Posted by: Kate | June 24, 2010


I woke up yesterday morning with a cold. Nothing huge, really… a low-grade fever, an uncomfortable cough, some GI involvement. The kind of thing that would normally be shrugged off as an inconvenience.

Instead, I flew into a daylong flurry of anxiety, because the last time I got just a little sick, things went very, very bad. Very bad. Life-support-and-health-care-proxy bad.

I just don’t trust my immune system anymore. The mere thought of illness completely throws me off balance, in a way that it never did before. I suppose I could consider this as one more uncomfortable side effect from the whole experience… loss of toenails (which are actually already growing back, yippee!), hair loss (which they tell me, “they” being my hairdresser and PCP, is already beginning to grow back, but I don’t see that… I just see the huge clumps of hair I’m still losing every day, well over 200 strands per shower – and, yes, I’m miserable enough about it to count – and I keep wondering when the falling-out process will slow down, if not stop altogether), and now pathophobia: fear of illness.

I spent much of Wednesday in my bed, trying to sleep but mostly unable because I was so uncomfortable with that 99.9-degree-skin-crawly fever, not to mention the pterodactyl-sized butterflies, wielding baseball bats and pitchforks, swimming around in my stomach. If I allowed myself to think, at all, I would burst into tears, just certain that I was on the verge of another life-destroying infection. So I avoided thinking, with my little Nintendo DS (which, when Jenny bought it for me, I was a little skeptical: would I really use this thing? The answer is, yes, I use it every night, with Sudoku replacing my former crossword puzzles as my going-to-sleep method of choice, and I’ve bought Tetris for myself so it sucks up plenty of daytime minutes, too… so, I apologize for my unexpressed uncertainty, it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten), or with mindless television, or just staring blankly at nothing in a miserable-but-Zenlike state.

It was a long day.

Today, I woke up feeling much better; not fully well but enough better that the butterflies had disarmed and I was able to get through the morning without a crying jag. I had a regularly scheduled VNA (nurse) visit this morning, and she was extra-thorough when listening to my lungs, etc., which was reassuring, too. I’m getting better. My body can still handle this stuff the way it’s supposed to… at least, sometimes.

Happily, this anxiety has not extended to a full-on OCD-level fear of all germs, so I’m not washing my hands for hours at a time or dipping the kids in bleach when they walk in the door. I recognize that life involves germs and I can’t avoid them. I’m just terrified when one overwhelms my immune system, because I just don’t trust those white blood cells to do what they need to do.

(Also happily, I’m mostly better, now. A bit hoarse and such, but well enough to travel to New York this weekend as planned, for Isaac’s baptism.)


  1. I had pathophobia myself after spending 60 days in the hospital with pneumonia in 1973. Every time I got a bad cold for years I thought I was going back on “death watch” in some dark ward in a hospital. ugh.

  2. Yay! for baptisms! And Yay! for cold recovery, and spirit recovery. And a special Yay! for sudoku on the DS. Seriously, I’m down to micro-pennies per play on my DS; sudoku is almost all I play but it’s so relaxing, I play it almost every night. And I play games on my iPhone too, all the time, but sudoku is the best on the DS.

    Might want to try Cake Mania, it’s a whole lot of fun too…

  3. I’m sorry to say, but it takes a while and some therapy to regain that sense of “I’m OK” — and after all you’ve been through, I don’t see how anybody could possibly blame you for being scared. Hang in there. It’s a cold. You can handle it. And computer games are my anxiety goto as well — they suck you in, they’re fun, and you forget to be scared.

  4. I’m glad you’re feeling better, and this will of course continue till you ARE better!
    It’s amazing how much time you can waste with computer games… even some of the simplest things just allow the brain to switch off….

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