[Although I’ve already posted an excerpt from my diary about those months at the beginning of my illness, I wanted to tell the whole story. It will have to be in increments because it is exhausting physically and emotionally to relive those days. But, I don’t want to forget them. Also, I realise that this was the beginning of what stopped my life in its tracks, but perhaps not the beginning of ME, so I’ll eventually have to write a prequel to this Part 1.]
I was sitting at our dining table at the beginning of November 2011, writing Christmas cards when I was hit with a wave of nausea, chills and exhaustion. Whoa, I’ve been at this too long, I thought. My husband was on the couch watching television, so I curled up on the recliner and fell asleep immediately. When I woke up an hour or so later, I knew something was very wrong. I was shuddering with chills, my teeth were chattering, I felt infected or infested.You have to come to bed, something’s wrong and I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back downstairs if I need you, I told my husband. I crawled to bed, he made me a hot water bottle. I was dressed, wrapped in a blanket, under the duvet with a hot water bottle, curled in a ball, shivering ~ practically convulsing ~ with chills. I tried for about half an hour to cover my ears, I thought if I moved my hand out from under the blankets, shifted my position in any way, I might die. I have found that severe chills are as debilitating as severe vertigo and severe pain. I fell asleep for a brief amount of time and, when I woke up again, I was drenched. There was sweat coming out of every pore in my body. And not just beads of sweat ~ rivulets of sweat. My bed was wet, I could have wrung out the sheets. Sweat ran down my legs, down my chest, pooled in my belly button, my back was slick. My ears were wet, my hair was wet, my knees were wet. I was flabbergasted. Never, ever had I experienced anything like this. Such an immediate and systemic response to a pathogen. I could only hope that this would be it and be thankful that the chills and sickness hadn’t lasted days. If the fever had already arrived and broken, then maybe this would be short-lived. I spent the rest of the night plunging in and out of fever dreams, shaking as violently as I had with the chills. In the morning, it subsided. I was spent, exhausted, traumatised, but I thought it was over. I was able to continue work that week. Besides being a little unnerved, weak and tired, I was able to get on with life. However, the chill/sweats cycle happened again a few weeks later… and a few weeks later. I finally went to my doctor. When this is happening, I told her, I feel like I’m dying. I know that sounds melodramatic, but, honestly, when I’m in the grips of it, it feels like there is absolutely no way I could manage going to work that week ~ maybe even month. It feels like I should be hospitalised. I asked her to test me for malaria because that was the only thing I could find in my research that had such debilitating, but cyclical symptoms.