Chronic Illness And The Common Cold
What’s it like to have a chronic illness and the common cold? When your immune system can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. It’s tough but fortunately, as I have discovered this week, there can be some positives too.
Chronic Illness And The Common Cold
For those who follow me regularly, you may have noticed it has been over a week since my last post. The reason is, I have experienced a very normal everyday type of sickness, which for someone with a chronic illness, can be a bit of a novelty.
I came down with a cold!
My throat began to get scratchy. My nose started to run.
“I think I’m getting a cold!” I announced.
My partner said, “yeah me too”.
My friends cancelled catching up with me
“Can’t meet you today, think I’ve got that cold that’s going around”.
All of a sudden the people in my life are all huddled up at home recovering from the same illness as me, and we can all relate to the pain of having the sniffles.
Oh, the relief of being sick with something everyone can relate to! No need to explain in detail what I’m experiencing.
No quizzical looks when I explain that I’m fatigued and not thinking straight.
I have a cold…enough said.
A Silver Lining
Another part of having a common cold that I savour other than finally having the ability to relate to the majority of the population is that I can get a chance to be the carer for a change.
My partner came down with the cold by the time mine started to pass, so I got to drive him to a doctor’s appointment for once. I made sure he was comfortable and had everything he needed. I helped him remember to take his medication and made him many cups of tea. All the things he does for me. It was good to be able to give back some of the care he gives me. I probably overdid it, but opportunities like this don’t come around often.
My Incompetent Immune System
The thing that annoys me the most about getting a common virus like the cold, however, is with such an overzealous immune system such as mine. One which is attacking the very body which it is meant to protect. How could it let this common virus slip through?
Stop attacking my myelin and go after this unwanted nasty you incompetent oaf! I know you’ve been up to something because I’ve seen your handy work on my last MRI.
Of course, there’s more complexity to viruses and autoimmune diseases than that, my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) medication doesn’t help matters for one, but it makes me laugh to imagine my immune system as some incompetent employee industriously working away on all of the wrong things.
What is it like to have MS and the common cold?
For me, it begins with your usual warning signs, tiredness, sneezing, pains in the joints and a scratchy throat. Fatigue and pain are typical symptoms for me but I can tell a cold is coming on because it just becomes so much worse, and I can’t just work through it like I usually do.
Fatigue is doubled, my pain increases and is resistant to my usual methods of relief. My brain fog becomes smog. Old dormant MS symptoms start rearing their ugly head in what has been described to me as a pseudo-relapse. And unlike an actual relapse, I just have to rest, put up with it and wait it out.
Taking it easy – Doctors Orders
Once having a cold would just be a nuisance and I could still get on with things. Now I have to stop altogether and just rest and recover. I’m sure any doctor would say you need to take it easy even if you don’t have a chronic illness but under normal circumstances, many people don’t. I never used to.
Before I had developed Multiple Sclerosis, I could get by. Now I just can’t. Last time I tried to just get on with it while I had a cold was when I was on vacation last year. I was so determined not to let something as ‘simple’ as a cold stop me
‘I put up with MS every day damn it’…’a silly cold can’t stop me’ I told myself.
But I was mistaken, one on top of the other, their forces combine, and a common cold is no longer ‘merely’ a cold, it becomes an entirely different beast. In the end, I ended up being much sicker and for longer than I needed to be.
I won’t be making the same mistake again, so this week I’m taking it easy. Resting, keeping warm, doing all those things you should be doing when you have a cold. I’m also making sure I’m don’t neglect my self-care and keep doing all the proactive things that help keep my MS in check.