How My Illness Began … Part 1

[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.

As the end of the year approached, I got worse. I was pushing myself very hard at work, trying to wrap everything up so that I could take vacation days when my Mom visited. The episodes were occurring more frequently and leaving me progressively more sick and weak. I started working some days from home, dragging myself to the computer for 8 hours, over the course of the entire day, crawling into bed periodically when I couldn’t be upright anymore. Two days after Christmas, I was told the malaria test was positive, but they wanted to retest because I hadn’t traveled to a malaria country in over 7 years. My Mother arrived on December 30th. I was doing okay, I picked her up at the airport. That night, as we were sitting at the dining table eating soup, I was hit out of the blue with incredible vertigo. It was like being on a tilt-a-whirl, I gripped the edge of the table and looked at my husband, wide-eyed. Oh shit shit shit, WHAT IS GOING ON? Never, before or after, have I felt the room spinning so violently. I went straight to bed. I don’t really remember the next 5 days. I remembering waking up, hearing my Mother and husband downstairs watching the ball drop in Times Square. I lay in bed, nauseous, dizzy, chilled and sweating. I couldn’t eat, I clung to the walls walking to the bathroom, I just kept thinking, I don’t want to die. In the past, I had had food poisoning that could have killed me, gone into anaphylactic shock that should have killed me, passed out and had vital signs so low the EMTs’ field notes say they couldn’t get a blood pressure reading, but nothing made me feel like I was truly going to die like this did. I wrote goodbye letters to my family. I wrote down all of our passwords and account information for my husband, I wrote instructions for my funeral. I did all this with a pencil, lying on my side, under the covers, sure I didn’t have much time. At some point, in the middle of some night, my husband took me to the hospital to get my blood drawn because parasites are more evident in the middle an episode. But, from the beginning of the chills to the time they actually got around to taking my blood, 6 hours had passed, so I knew it was a wasted trip.
This took me a month to write. Stay tuned for Part 2.

5 thoughts on “How My Illness Began … Part 1

  1. Patrick says:

    I am sorry to hear of your plight – what you are writing is my experience, and I have many years of failed treatments which I am happy to share with you, I suspect based on your symptomology that what you are suffering with is a parasitic problem, more specifically a protozoa parasite. I have an extensive forum pptu (dot) lefora (dot) com that has many resources – If you would like to talk further please email me.


    • akaemilo says:

      Thank you — I agree that I probably have a parasite. I had acute bronchitis, a horrible diarrheal sickness, the flu vaccine and then, bam, I was sick. I’ll look at your website. Thanks for the comment!


  2. Jocelyn says:

    Emily, thank you for leaving me a link to this entry. It is absolutely eerie how much our prodrome symptoms resemble each other.


  3. Your experience is so much like mine that it seems like deja vu. I am very sorry to hear that you went through this, but I appreciate the affirmation of my own experience. Thank you for sharing this.



  4. […] is my new year. It has been two years since that fateful night when I went to bed so chilled I couldn’t speak and woke a few hours later drenched in sweat […]


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