How Illness Changes Things

Mon 10 – Sun 16 April 2023

‘We make plans and God laughs’. A quotation I love as it hints at our superficiality as human beings as well as the unpredictability of life, though this is what makes it interesting. I had started writing a blog about the need for identity but then illness struck. The identity one will do for next week.

The week in the run-up to Easter and over the main Easter weekend was wonderfully quiet, orderly, and as I had planned. You can read about this here. And that gave me a blitheness that the week following would be no different. And perhaps that was a bloody good thing in terms of making me appreciate when things are going well.

Health and Efficiency

Illness strikes

Human beings are bundles of cells and we are surrounded by an infinite number of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites as well as ‘lifestyle diseases’. Regular readers will know that I am dealing with several chronic illnesses. This is a reality that so many of us face particularly as we get older. It is also a reality that my life is very much defined by my health and the meds I take. But you learn to live with this. Then something comes left of field and changes things.

Last week I was completely screwed by a relatively minor and opportunistic infection. I don’t think it was linked to my compromised immune system nor stress but it demonstrates how illness changes things. A heavy cold / light flu hit and messed up my plans for the whole week. Probably caught from Dave with his coughing fit the previous week. Pretty sure it wasn’t Covid as there was a lot of mucus.

teddy is ill

Basically a write-off week

Had felt tired after coming back from lunch with Dave at the UJC on Bank Holiday Monday so fell asleep for a couple of hours. Then woke feeling rough on Tuesday morning. Pottered but was forced to simply sleep for the afternoon.

Wednesday morning, I felt really rough – full of catarrh, coughing, sneezing, tiredness, aching, and light-headed. No option but to skip the gym. Lots more sleep during the day as well as at night. Though the latter was fitful and Dave reported that I was shivering a lot.

Thursday and Friday were more days to forget my plans and just focus on trying to ride through the illness and recover from it. No jog-run, no gym, more sleeping. Pretty similar pattern on Saturday and Sunday though I did start to feel better and managed to do some more normal things. But also felt very dehydrated and full of dead viruses. Meanwhile, all through this I was getting through handkerchiefs and tissues at a rate of knots.

spreading disease

The frustration of time lost

Illness is so bloody frustrating because of the time you lose. I feel like my life is ticking down and there is so much I want to do. But I am stuck simply trying to get better and losing out on things I enjoy like going to the gym. Suppose I should be grateful it’s a disease or accident where recovery is possible and there is no long-term impact. And I need to look at the positives of my ill period like being able to do more reading.

Take sick days when you need them

It is interesting to look back on how I dealt with illness when I wasn’t on this career break. Regular readers know I have a big ‘Protestant work ethic’. Basically in the past I very rarely took time off work when ill. I realise now that was a big mistake. You need to look after yourself in order to work effectively and no-one ever really notices nor appreciates if you carry on working through illness. Some big advice to younger people – don’t be afraid to take sick days when you need them.

“Any idiot can face a crisis: it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

Anton Chekhov

The recuperative power of sleep and hot lemon drinks

Like dieting, we all work out our own best ways to deal with illness. For me, it is by simply sleeping; putting my body into a semi-comatose state and letting it heal itself. Basically every day last week saw me having some sleep during the day. This was in addition to my night sleeps which weren’t always easy. Several times I woke during the night me very dehydrated and had to get up for water.

The other thing that really works for me are hot lemon drinks. I take the ‘ultra’ ones which contain various painkillers that don’t interfere with my warfarin in particular as well as decongestants. I know many don’t like the taste but I’ve tasted a lot worse in my mouth during my life. One before bed and one in the morning seems to be a key aspect of my recovery.

when only bed and rest can help

Gym

So in the week gone, turned out I only got in one gym session which was really disappointing. That was on Bank Holiday Monday. Initially I was the only person in the gym. But this rapidly changed and there were four of us in my little gym. Hilarious that my thoughts were ‘What are all these people doing in my gym?!’ LOL. Still a good workout though I may have let it go on too long as I felt really knacked afterwards though that could also have simply been my illness kicking in.

Too ill to go to the gym on Wed when my illness was at its peak. I had a hope to get to the gym on Fri morning. But I still felt bad. All very frustrating but I took some inspiration from watching the European gymnastic championships on the TV.

lighter than air

36 gym sessions since the start of 2023 divided by the annual membership = £13.75 per session.

Jog-run

Thursday’s planned jog-run was a total write-off. No way I was going to be able to give it the energy it needed with my illness. At least my knees got a good rest. Sunday came and I decided to push my luck. Did a 28 min jog-run as part of the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme. Slow and steady though did leave me really tired for the rest of the day.

Weight: a leap forward

A positive of being ill is that you will lose weight (in most cases). And I have shifted down again last week. TBH I didn’t feel massively hungry with my illness, often I just felt sick and could only manage small bits.

But there have been real and hopefully permanent changes in my eating habits. One is that I am really comfortable skipping breakfast. And if I do want anything then a plain croissant suffices. The idea of a full English first thing in the morning genuinely makes me feel sick.

One of the pleasant things last week was a nice surprise when I had to buy a new pair of jeans. I had gone down a size so can now fit into a 34 inch waist. Though this may also be linked to clothes shops catering for middle aged and older people by being generous with their sizes plus giving their clothes more stretch fabric and generally making them ‘comfort fit’.

man weighing himself

Family and Friends

Mum

Didn’t spend as much time with mum last week as planned simply because of my illness. One of the realisations from the pandemic was the importance of quarantine. She has only just recovered from a prolonged period of illness and I was very worried about infecting her after again. Thus I spent most of the week quarantining myself at Dave’s.

However, I did get to spend time with mum at the weekend. She is currently doing fine and was really happy with my nephew paying her a visit during the week. I also called the Housing Association about our never-ending window repair and, as per usual, they promised to follow up on the delay and call me back which hasn’t happened yet – surprise, surprise. Why are social housing services so crap?

Friends: current and past

Obviously illness meant there wasn’t much inter-action with friends last week. Me and Dave did meet up with Patrick on Saturday morning for our usual coffee as I felt my infectious period was over by then (even though I was still felt ill in myself). His knee is really painful and Dave is going with him next week to an appointment about it.

However, I set-up a meeting for next week with my old pal Emma. Me and Dave are travelling out of London to see her as she has to keep an eye on her parents. So pleased we can meet her before she returns to Australia.

Perhaps I have been a bit morose but I have also spent time thinking about friends who have passed. I have talked about my best friend James before and how much I miss him. But I was also thinking last week about Sara my old work colleague and fitness trainer. This arose from a memory photo from 8 years ago of her and me coming up on Facebook. A genuinely beautiful person who is very much missed.

Books and Reading

In trying to look for a positive about being ill, one of the main ones I can think of was that it gave me more time to read. Though, of course, that was only possible because I’ve missed out on my gym sessions in particular.

‘Bewilderment’

This is a recent and much acclaimed book by Richard Powers. Indeed, it was shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. There are definite links to his brilliant ‘Overstory’ with the common thread of the battle to save our environment from catastrophic decline. Overlaying everything in ‘Bewilderment’ is the stampede of so many animals and plants to extinction matched with the search for life on other planets.

But this book has so many other things going on – pretty amazing really for quite a brief book that is so easy to read. It’s also the story of an autistic child finding his place in the world, a single parent trying to ensure he doesn’t get too hurt, and of dealing with grief in general.

But this is also a novel set in our near future; it could be seen as near sci-fi. The story includes ‘health tech’ with a radical new brain-implanted therapy, a Trump-type demagogic presidency destroying American democracy, lives dominated by social media, and a powerful anti-woke / pro-religion / anti-science lobby.

I really enjoyed this book, adored the characters, and didn’t want it to end. It’s complex and yet easy to understand. One of those books I am so pleased I have read. It is up there with other books I would highly recommend simply for the pleasure of reading like David Mitchell’s ‘Utopia Avenue’ and ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell.

Extinction Rebellion fighting climate change

‘Amongst our weapons’

Also got through this book by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s the next installment in the ‘Rivers of London’ series which is building up into a wonderful literary ecosystem in its own right. The total opposite of ‘Bewilderment’ in that it is ‘crime fantasy’ following the adventures of the Met Police’s Special Assessment Unit which brings magic to the battle to tackle serious crime. Wonderful fun escapism and brilliantly written. It’s a simple pleasure to catch up with each new book in the series.

be grateful for books

The 50 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time

Came across this wonderful list compiled for the American magazine Esquire. Definitely one to refer to in the future when thinking about which book to read next.

Sustainability

I have been reconciling myself that one of the good things about illness is that it curtails activity. This is inevitably good for the environment by restricting consumption and waste.

Quarantining at Dave’s, I have spent a lot of time watching the birds on his balcony. The usual delightfully frenetic blue tits but also a big fat pigeon who is bane of Dave’s life, ‘He’s sitting on my fucking plants again!’. Mr pigeon manages to just squeeze himself onto the floor of the balcony and pick at the seeds tossed about by the tits. I’m always worried that he may hurt himself because it is a tight squeeze.

Personal Development

With my habit of doing Duolingo at the gym but not going to the gym this week due to illness, so I didn’t get as much Duolingo as I have been doing recently. But with the less I did, my decision was to focus on German last week. I have been thinking and I would like to travel in the future more in Central and Eastern Europe where German would be useful. But I definitely ain’t giving up on the Spanish and French totally either. Hopefully the pace will pick up again next week when I am back at the gym.

Art and Culture

My illness completely kiboshed any chance of getting to artistic places or events last week. I had a plan to get to the cinema on Thursday for a nice French film. Till the actual day, I thought it might happen as I believed just an hour and a half in an empty cinema would be manageable. But ultimately I felt too ill and it was probably the best thing for other people who would have been in the audience.

The Week Ahead

  • After a week of illness, I just want a nice normal week getting back to the things I enjoy
  • I will be really happy if I can get 3 gym sessions in as well as a jog-run on Thursday; next Sunday is a no-go as the London Marathon will be taking place around my usual route.
  • Looking forward to Thursday when me and Dave are travelling south to see Emma
  • Need to sort out meetings with other friends including old work colleagues Irene and Fang Fang
  • Looking forward to getting on with some new books
  • Big Extinction Rebellion event next weekend and it should be a nice atmosphere on the streets of Central London
  • Another QPR defeat. We lost 3-0 at home. Fucking awful. All the other relegation facing teams also lost and a win here would have given some clear blue water. A midweek and Saturday match next week (Norwich and league winners Burnley), both defeats I would bet.

And Finally…

Putin and Trump

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.