The Medicine of Friendship

As I flipped the calendar over on the first day of October, I felt a little nervous.  Since getting ill, I haven’t had the easiest time in the tenth month of the year.  In both 2013 and 2015, October was the month when my PH worsened, and my health spiralled down.  Hospital visits and emergency GP appointments, decline and deterioration.  I was a little nervous that history might repeat itself this year.  So I took extra precautions to boost my immune system: dosing myself in Vitamin C, eating healthily, and hiding from ill people!  And I tried to help my lungs by continuing to lift weights, and walk regularly.  October brought the arrival of Autumn: Cooking soup, leafy dog walks, collecting squashes from our vegetable patch.  And October brought the arrival of my newest nephew: Beautiful, delicate Joe-Yien Isaac.  My precautions seemed to work.  For the first three weeks of October, I felt good, I felt strong, I felt healthy.  My energy, oxygen saturation and activity levels were all stable.  I hoped I’d broken the pattern of the last few years.

But then one day during the last week of the month, I woke up feeling ill.  Nausea.  Lower oxygen saturations.  Unable to walk more than a few metres without being breathless.  Purple and white fingernails.  Shaky hands.  Exhaustion.  Sweating and then freezing.  Achy body.  Headaches.  My body demanded to sleep and rest and recover.  So I retreated to my bed, donned pyjamas all day, and food was brought up to me.  I hoped it would all get better.  But it continued for the next two weeks.

Was it an ordinary bug or virus, that was lasting longer as my immune system is slightly suppressed?  Was it just a normal PH blip, that would ground me for a couple of weeks but then let me bounce back?  OR was it the start of another decline, my PH getting worse?  Only time would tell, so I spent the two weeks resting, monitoring and hoping it was nothing serious.

When my illness entered it’s third week, I sought advice.  The only measurable symptoms were a high temperature and increased neutrophils in the blood.  However as I’m on immune-suppressants, my body would not show the normal tell-tale signs of an infection, even if it was battling one.  We couldn’t decide whether I was fighting an illness, or having a deterioration in my PH.  My GP suggested antibiotics, in case I was harbouring something nasty, or as a prevention due to my weakened state.  However as I’d have to come off the transplant list whilst on them, I choose not to.  Both my GP and my PH team at the Brompton were keen to reassess and examine me after the weekend.  So it was to be a wait and see until Monday, to observe which direction the illness was going to go.

During the wait-and-see weekend, I had an overnight trip with my best friends planned.  I debated whether to cancel it, and spend the weekend in bed.  I hate people seeing me when I’m ill.  I would rather isolate myself from everyone and see it out myself.  But they promised to look after me.. and even spend the whole weekend in PJs, in solidarity, if need be.  Nervously I agreed to meet them still- happily it was the right decision!  It was a weekend of gossiping and chatting and catching up.  It was a weekend of laughing and crying and giggling.  We talked babies and boyfriends and jobs and houses, families and hobbies and holidays and plans.  We toasted good news.  We ate freshly baked olive bread, decadent homemade chocolate brownies, and the worlds hottest seafood paella.  We sat in the window of our converted barn watching the village bonfire night celebrations; warm and cosy, and safe from the smoky fumes.  We oohh’d and aahh’d at the colourful fireworks, and slightly panicked at the size of the enormous bonfire, amid the thatched cottages.  It was all lovely.

And I was alright.  My best friends looked after me.  They did all of the cooking and tea making and washing up.  They did all of the suitcase carrying and phone fetching and furniture reorganising.  They let me save my limited energy for the chatting and catching up.. so I just sat on the sofa resting.  And amazingly I was ok.  I was still slightly tired and weak, but I was ten times better than the day before.  Hanging out with my friends seemed to help push me upwards.  Thankfully I have continued to improve this past week.  Although I’m still not back to full health, I’m hopeful that I’m moving in the right direction.  The antibiotics and hospital visit were cancelled.  Instead I will just attend my routine Brompton appointment in three weeks time, unless I deteriorate again in the meantime.

So maybe I was going to get well anyway.  Maybe it was just a coincidence that I improved when I was with my friends.  But, actually, I like to think that being with them started to mend me. Sometimes illness can be helped with a dose of antibiotics.  And sometimes it can be helped with a dose of friendship.  A little spoonful of the warm comforting feeling of being surrounded by love.  A tiny tablet of the relaxing confidence of being your true self, warts and all.  A chunky pill of laughs and smiles and bonding.  Coming away from spending quality time with the ones I love, inevitably rejuvenates and revives, boosts and buoyances.  This weekend highlighted to me, that when I’m feeling ill and want to hide from my friends… sometimes they can be the medicine that helps start the healing.

I’ve now been ill 3 out of the last 4 Octobers!  Next year I’m going to hibernate for the whole of October, unless I can persuade my friends to join me for a month long girlies holiday!


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