Mononucleosis

So I was thinking the other day about an experience in my life that I haven’t ever journaled about or really written about at all… because I was too tired at the time to do so.  That experience was having mono.  Even though it was a couple years ago I still feel like I ought to get it down in writing.  So if you only want to know current stories about me and my family feel free to skip this post 🙂

So we need to jump back to the beginning of January 2007 – it was the beginning of a new semester, and (more importantly) just a few weeks after Eric and I had gotten engaged.  We were enjoying spending time together and getting to know each other even better every day.  We had decided to take one of our General Education classes together – MCOM 320: Written Business Communication.  I remember the first day we went to that class I was pretty excited because our teacher was Sue Boothe.  Sue was the wife of Randy Boothe – the director of the Young Ambassadors – and since I’d been on the YA tech crew for 3 1/2 years at that point I’d traveled all over the world with Sue and spent many evenings at her house for firesides.

Anyways, because Eric and I had dated for… less than an exceptionally long time… Sue hadn’t yet met Eric and I was really excited to introduce her to the wonderful man I had chosen to marry.  Unfortunately, that first day of class Eric was sick.  He had a sore throat and a headache, and wasn’t exactly his most cheerful and charming self.  Not to say that he wasn’t pleasant, just tired, sick and not really wanting to be in class that night.  So, it wasn’t quite the first impression I was hoping for, but there are worse things than that.  Of course, since I was around Eric every so often (read: every possible second we could manage) I came down with the same thing in very little time.  It didn’t bother me too much since my main symptom was a sore throat and I get sore throats fairly frequently as a result of allergies.  So, it wasn’t pleasant, but nothing that I couldn’t handle.

Of course, the end of that week also happened to be when we had scheduled to do our engagement pictures with Rhett Olson (Eric’s brother-in law), and we were both sick.  It also happened to be THE coldest day ever… and we were taking our pictures outside.  But since we knew that the semester was only going to get busier, and we didn’t want to reschedule, we decided to do it that Saturday anyways.  So, if you’ve ever thought that we looked less than entirely our best in those pictures, that’s why.  It was freezing cold, and we were both pretty sick.  I think though that Rhett did an awesome job with the subjects we gave him 🙂

A couple weeks went by and Eric was doing well, but I still hadn’t been able to kick this sickness.  In fact, I’d gotten worse and the glands under my neck were pretty swollen.  So I finally decided it was time to head to the Student Health Center and get myself checked out.  I went in on a Tuesday morning without making an appointment, which was probably a mistake.  I think I waited for at least a couple hours.    Finally the doctor called me in and checked me out.  After listening to my descriptions and feeling my glands and generally checking things out, she decided that she wanted me to go get tested for mono and gave me the paperwork to take to the lab.  This meant that I had to walk out of the clinic, down the hall to the lab and voluntarily get stuck with a needle.  Oh. Yeah. Right.  If you aren’t already aware I have a severe phobia of needles, so I don’t exactly have the capacity to walk myself into a lab to get blood work done.  I tried to be obedient and walked right down to the lab…. and past it, out the door and back to my car.

From there I called my mom and explained to her my situation.  She’d been through this many times with me and understood exactly how severe the problem was.  I really wanted to call Eric up to come with me, but I felt like a complete wuss to make him come watch me have a tiny prick.  It took me swallowing a bit of pride before I actually called him and explained what was going on and asked him to come help me.  Of course, being the awesome guy he is, Eric came up to go with me, even though he was in the middle of a busy day.  Unfortunately, by the time he came up, the Health Center was closed for devotional.  Dang it!  And Eric had class immediately after devotional.  However, he decided that we could go back to his place, watch devotional, and then he’d take me up to the clinic and be late to his next class.  Any wonder I decided once again that he was a keeper?

So, that’s what we did.  Luckily having Eric there gave me the courage I needed to actually walk into the lab this time, and between him holding my hand and the nurse being super awesome at trying to distract me from the needle I was able to narrowly avoid passing out!  We got me back to full consciousness (I did say narrowly avoid passing out, I still came pretty close which takes a little bit of recovery) and Eric went on his way to his class and I went back to the doctor’s office for the follow up with the test results.

When the doctor called me back in she said they’d wondered what had happened to me since the test was supposed to be super quick, and I didn’t come back.  I felt bad about leaving, but I hadn’t had the guts to tell them what was going on at the time because… well I’m a big fat chicken and I didn’t want to do it.  If I’d told her she’d have probably just had some one march me into the lab and get the work done, which would have been effective, but not something I was going to make happen.

Anyways, the test results had come back negative for mono.  So I was expecting the doctor to say that she suspected it was something else, but basically she just said that she thought the test was a false negative and that she thought I had mono anyways.  She instructed me to take lots of ibuprofen and get as much sleep as possible.  I left the health center a bit dumbfounded at the whole experience.  So… the test said I don’t have mono, but we’re going to pretend that I do anyways?  Why did I even have to go through that whole ordeal of being stuck with a needle if we were going to ignore the test results anyways?!  * grumble *

I decided the doctor was basically a hack.  But, since she hadn’t found anything really wrong with me I didn’t pursue it any further and took her advice of taking ibuprofen and getting more sleep.  After a week or so the swelling in my glands had gone down and my other symptoms had pretty well subsided so I figured it was just a cold that took me awhile to kick.

However as the semester continued I kept feeling really tired all the time.  I wasn’t taking a very intensive class load – 12 credit hours, only 3 of which were taking me much effort. I’d attempted 21 credits in a previous semester, so 12 was nothing.  Furthermore, it wasn’t that I was feeling really tired after long weeks where we’d had YA shows or midterms or anything intensive – I felt tired after getting 10 hours of sleep at night consistently.  It was really weird.

So I brought it up to my mom and she said that I was probably just under emotional stress from being engaged.  That this was a pretty huge transition and that because it was emotionally stressful it transferred to the physical side of me as well making me super tired.  That made sense, except that I wasn’t feeling emotionally stressed at all.  In fact, I knew without a doubt that marrying Eric was the right decision and I only wished that it was June so that we could be married already.  I didn’t *feel* emotionally stressed, but decided maybe it was a more subconscious thing, and it was the best explanation I had at my disposal so I decided to go with it.

So I spent that semester trying to allow myself to get as much rest as I needed and kept things low-stress.  Most weeks this meant (unfortunately for Eric) that at the end of the week when we were ready to watch a movie I didn’t have the brain power to really watch anything other than chick flicks or other low-brain power movies.  Luckily Eric was awesome and agreed to watch these inane movies with me to keep me happy.  Since we got married I think he’s been pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoy shows like Firefly, or movies like Sherlock Holmes.  When I’m not too tired I can really get into a good action film or a show with a mind bending plot line.  I remember feeling so bad at the time that I was making Eric acquiesce to my movie choices each week, but I really just felt so drained that I just thinking about watching an intensive movie at the time made me tired.

So, that’s how the semester continued, low stress, lots of sleep, taking the best care of myself I could manage.  Finally the end of the semester came and it was time for me to head on tour with the Young Ambassadors to China!  I wasn’t thrilled to be leaving Eric but I was really excited for tour.  I’d worked hard for 3 years to become the YAs Stage Manager and I was really looking forward to giving that role my all while we were in China and really proving that I could handle it.

Unfortunately… I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked to.  As the tour went on I really was trying to push myself and give it 100% but I felt like I was in a fog.  I was super tired (not unexpected on tour, but in retrospect, I was probably more tired than I should have been) and just not able to get through things real clearly.  I don’t think I caused any catastrophes, but I just wasn’t completely there, and Matt Schetselaar (our former stage manager and a technical advisor/resident Chinese translator for the tech crew on this tour) definitely had to pick up a lot of my slack.  I thought that it was probably because I was missing Eric and kept trying to tell myself to pull it together and make the most of the experience.  The worst moment was when everything wasn’t going really well and I finally snapped at our costumer after she’d been late getting back to the bus.  I don’t even remember what I said now, but I just remember that I was pretty nasty in what I said.  I still feel really bad to this day that I snapped at her.  I don’t think it was entirely her fault, but I think I was feeling like I was doing a lousy job and I took it out on her that day.  Becca, if you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure I apologized before, but I’m really sorry I lost my cool with you.  It’s one of the moments that I truly regret.

Finally towards the last week of tour I noticed that the glands on my neck were getting swollen again.  As the end of tour grew closer they were getting bigger and bigger.  It was weird, but since it had happened earlier in the semester I wasn’t too worried and I was pretty sure it wasn’t mono.  It was just something that my body apparently did to fight off infection.

Well, the end of tour came and my mom picked me up at the airport in Los Angeles.  We gave each other hugs and packed my suitcase in the car and started back home.  While we were driving I mentioned my swollen glands again and my mom reached over to feel them.  Her response was something to the effect of “holy cow!”  She was a little bit stunned that I’d been writing them off as no big deal since they were about the size of golf balls and hard as could be.  She made an appointment for me to go in to the doctor’s the next day.  Of course, the only doctor I had back home was the pediatrician that I’d had since I was 10, but they agreed to see me anyways.

The doctor ordered me to go get tested for mono again.  Ick.  But, I’d made it through that ok before and so off I went with my mom to the lab to get tested.  I didn’t really like the lab much to begin with, and I can’t really say exactly why.  The nurse there didn’t exactly make me feel comfortable either, but I really was trying to tell myself it would be no big deal and that I’d be out of there in no time.  It was finally my turn and the nurse got one of those big rubber band things to tie on my arm to help her find my veins.  I don’t know why but those things really creep me out big time.  I think I made it through her cleaning my arm and probably pulling out the needle… and then I was gone.  Like, really gone.  I passed out worse than I had ever passed out before or than I have ever passed out since.  I really wasn’t sure if I was dead, it was not a good experience at all.

When I came back to (after several smelling salts) I thought that at least it was all over and I didn’t have to do that again.  Then they revealed to me that they hadn’t taken my blood yet because I passed out before the needle had really gone in and I was shaking so bad while I was passed out that they couldn’t get a needle in me while I was out.  When I heard that I lost it.  I just broke down crying because that passing out experience had been so awful… and it had been for nothing.  They still had to do it again.  My mom took me back out to the waiting room to get a grip on myself.  I just sobbed uncontrollably for awhile before she decided that we’d just go home and try again some other time.  Apparently she could tell from how I looked while I was passed out that it had been a particularly bad episode and she wasn’t keen on going through that again either.

The next day we pulled out all the stops.  My doctor prescribed some Xanax for me, we made sure that when I went into the lab there was no waiting time for me to psych myself out and Eric was on the phone with me the whole time.  Finally I was able to make it through the whole process without passing out.

When the doctor called me with the results I was actually surprised to find that they had come back positive for mono.  So that hack doctor at the Student Health Center had been right all along!  She wasn’t a hack, the test really did come back as a false negative, but she’d known better than to make me go through being tested again.  Since I had pretty well followed her prescription of resting all semester the sickness hadn’t really reared its ugly head again until I didn’t have time to take care of myself on tour.  Who’d have thought?

Sidenote: In case you were wondering, I figured out a year or so later why my passing out episode was so bad that time.  Because the mono had taken over my system pretty well at that point I wasn’t getting as much oxygen to my system as I needed.  This made it so I was much more susceptible to passing out in the first place, and didn’t help me recover quickly either.  It’s good that I figured that out because the experience tripped me out pretty bad and made it exceptionally difficult for me to go in and get any bloodwork done the next time it was necessary

So the next couple weeks leading up to the wedding I spent mostly sleeping.  This really bugged me at the time.  I’d never wanted to be the kind of bride that left everyone else to do everything and just showed up at the last minute expecting it to be perfect.  But I didn’t have much choice.  My mom was so awesome to plan most of the wedding since we were getting married in California and I was in Utah or China up until just the two weeks before the wedding.  Then when I finally was physically there to help, I slept while people ran circles around me downstairs.  I cried over my lack of participation more than once, but in the end I mostly just felt super loved.  It was amazing to me to see all the friends and family that I had that were willing to put their time and energy into my wedding, while I just laid around and slept.  Like when I’d come down because I wanted to help chop vegetables instead of nap, Sister Smith would shoo me right back upstairs to get more sleep.  There were countless people there that I could name who pitched in to make that day wonderful for me, while I slept that whole week away.  I can’t even describe how grateful I feel for the selflessness and caring of all those wonderful people I have in my life.

So the wedding day came and it really was a beautiful and perfect day, I couldn’t possibly have asked for anything more.  My glands were swollen up ginormously, but we never did get a picture of just how bad they were.  Rhett once again did an incredible job of taking pictures that didn’t make me look like Frankenstein.  I’m not sure if it was just the positioning he had us in or if he did some magic with Photoshop but you really can’t tell.  I should have taken a picture though for posterity, oh well 😛

So, from there on out I at least knew what was going on with me.  Eric and I had a wonderfully relaxing honeymoon.  He unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) got sick right after our wedding as well so we spent the first week just hanging out at the hotel and being bums.  We watched movies and just laid around all day, which was pretty wonderful to just be able to spend time together with nothing pressing to do and a good excuse to stay put.  From there we went to a Hansen Family reunion, which was really fun.  We were able to still take it pretty easy and get plenty of sleep and I finally got a chance to really know all the wonderful people in Eric’s family.

After the reunion we completed our honeymoon in Paris.  After taking 5 years of French going to France was definitely a dream of mine and I was super excited to go.  I don’t know that we really took the best advantage of our time there however.  We never even truly changed to their timezone since I was still so dependant on my sleep.  We would sleep in until the afternoon and then go out and see some of the city and then come back to our hotel and stay up until late at night.  But I thought it was awesome.  It was so freeing to be that far away from everything with my husband and just have that time together.  We were able to see all the things that we really wanted to, and we had some really cool experiences that I’ll never forget.

Then it was home and back to real life.  After about a couple weeks of being home I was feeling pretty good, but probably not up for what I had in store next.  I’d been casually searching for jobs, knowing that I was going to be a counselor for YASE for two weeks out of July and didn’t really want to be working two jobs that week.  However, on the first day of YASE I had an interview at Axis41 and they wanted me to start immediately.  So I spent two weeks of waking up in the morning, getting my girls up and ready for breakfast, sending them to their activities for the day, racing home to Eric to quickly shower and dressing in more professional attire, driving to Salt Lake City, working at Axis41 until 3:30pm, hopping back in the car, driving home again, changing back into camp counselor-ing attire, going to all of the evening activities with my girls, and then staying up all night doing camp stuff (and by camp stuff I think I mean talking to Lexie).  Yeah, with mono.  It was an insane couple of weeks.  But somehow at the end of it I wasn’t dead and I had even secured the position at Axis41, where I still work to this day.

After that, life was more manageable.  I kept myself on as low key of a schedule as I could to avoid any flare ups of mono.  I’m not entirely sure when I really “got better” from having mono.  I was taking a birth control at the time that also made me tired, and when I finally got off that I started to feel better.  But of course, then I got pregnant and now I don’t know that I will ever not feel tired until we’re done having kids, and those kids are out of the house.  Maybe having mono was just supposed to get me in the practice of simplifying my life, taking care of myself, and just being tired 😛

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