You gave it to me!

That’s right, I’m blaming you. Ya, you! You gave it to me. I didn’t want it and now I’m stuck with it and it’s all your fault! I’m stuck in bed and you are out doing … well, whatever it is you do every day …

“…is an infectious, widespread viral disease caused by the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), one type of herpes virus, to which more than 90% of adults have been exposed. Occasionally, the symptoms can recur at a later period. Most people are exposed to the virus as children, when the disease produces no noticeable or only flu-like symptoms.” – Wikipedia

Little known fact:
“About 95% of the population has been exposed to this virus by the age of 40, but only 15-20% of teenagers and about 40% of exposed adults actually become infected.” – Wikipedia

hmmmm …. Do you know what I’m talking about? Take a guess … I dare you.

Less known fact:
“In every case, the person excretes the disease intermittently in saliva throughout their lives.” – Wikipedia

hmmm … that means that if you are one of the 95% of the population who has been exposed, then you continue to spread the virus throughout different times of your life whether or not you have ever been sick from it.

So, that’s right. YOU gave it to me! You may not have even known you had it, but now I have it and I’m one of the adults who actually become infected and it sucks.

Now, before I continue, let’s not freak out here.
I’m not dying. I’m alive. I’m not gross or disgusting. I’m not promiscuous. You don’t need to avoid me. And please please please don’t think poorly of me!

Let’s get to the point.

I am a 33 year old, single white female and I have Mono.
Yup, Mononucleosis, glandular fever or often known as ‘the kissing disease’.

Get all of your laughter out now. Think of all the crazy comments you can make about how many boys I must have been kissing. And ‘what were you doing in the Dominican?’ and ‘Oooohhh was it worth it?’

Ha ha ha have a laugh at my expense, but don’t you dare stop reading until I’ve explained! If you are going to laugh at me, the least you can do is listen to me. Ok? Do we have a deal here?

I’m going to tell you a few things that you might otherwise not know and I want you to know … so I’m going to talk about it just like I talk about having my period on vacation and using the diva cup, and about attacks of traveler’s diarrhea.

And ….. Go!

I had mono as a kid when I was around 12-14 years old. For a long time, we were told that if you got mono as a kid, you would build up the antibodies to fight it off when you were older. Therefore, most often, you would not get mono twice.

After talking to my family doctor today, she simply told me that maybe the antibodies wore off and the immunity to it was gone. Or, now, doctors know that many previous mono tests were actually false positives in children and teens, so it is possible that I didn’t have mono at all then and it was something different. Although, I’m pretty darn sure it was mono.

And, and, and … well, I guess we will never know for sure. But, in my non-professional opinion, I truly believe I had mono then and I believe that I have mono now. And, apparently I have had the ‘new’ blood test done … the one that doesn’t give false positives. So, it is confirmed to be mono. You know, until 20 years from now when this test is proven to be wrong as well.

I have been traveling a lot in the past seven months. I’ve been in other countries for a total of 11 weeks out of 28 (Ecuador, Peru and Dominican Republic). My mom would like me to believe that all this traveling is stressing me out and causing me to get sick. I think she just wants me to stay in Canada … But, truth is, other than a small cold and traveler’s diarrhea, I haven’t been sick while I was traveling, but magically when I hit Canadian soil I’m ill beyond belief! To me, that means I have better chances at being well in other countries than I do here. But, whatever, I’m not going to argue with my mom … for now.

My last trip was for seven weeks to the Dominican Republic.

The sad day (September 2nd) arrived when I had to return home from beautiful Dominican Republic to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had already changed my flights and extended my stay by five days, so now it was really time to return. I left Santo Domingo on a 6am (7am Halifax time) flight and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia that night at 8:30pm. 13 and a half hours in transit. Oh, why didn’t I go when there were direct flights? (4 hours total)

Fast forward to September 3rd, 7:30pm (23 hours after hitting Canadian soil), my throat was getting sore, I was tired and I knew this feeling. I knew that I was about to be hit with something bad. I knew that the next day I was going to be sick. And, I ‘knew’ it was strep throat. There’s a feeling. When you’ve had strep throat as many times as I have in my life, you know when it hits. (but I was wrong … and so were the doctors!)

Sure enough, I woke up the next morning and couldn’t move. Literally.

I went to the bathroom and barely made it back to my bed without falling down. I was weak. I couldn’t swallow because of the pain. My head felt like 500 pounds. I literally could not lift my head into upright position. I had the worst headache I have ever experienced in my whole entire life. I was nauseous. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t even roll over in bed because my head, back and neck were all in so much pain. I thought I was dying.

Now, I’ve had strep throat a lot and it does hit hard, but let me tell you, I have never been hit as hard as this.

At 8:30am, I delicately and very slowly rolled out of bed, balanced by leaning on my bed and tried to keep my eyes open. I knew I had to get to the doctor, but I had no idea if I could make it down my stairs!

Very very slowly, like a 90 year old woman, I descended the stairs with my eyes half closed, my head hung low and holding on to the wall and the railing for dear life. One step at a time. When I reached the bottom, I explained to my roommate that I needed a favour. I needed her to drive me to the walk-in clinic.

There was a two and a half hour wait at the walk in clinic. After not being able to hold my head up, sitting with tears in my eyes because of the pain, I finally went out to my SUV for an hour and laid down in the back seat so that I wouldn’t have to hold my head up.

Finally, when I saw the doctor, she took one look at my throat and said ‘Wow, that’s not good. How long have you had this?’ When I said ‘since yesterday’, she told me it was strep throat, I got a prescription and went on my way.

A couple of days later, I hadn’t improved at all. The pain was unbearable. Ibuprofen and Acetamenaphen were not even touching it. I was sleeping 16 – 18 hours a day and the other four to eight hours I was in bed moaning and wishing I could just go back to sleep. I couldn’t even hold my head up to use my computer for more than two minutes!

I went to my family doctor and although she agreed that it looked like strep, she did swabs and sent me for all kinds of blood work, just in case.

The first results I got back said that I did NOT have strep. hmmmmm … interesting … and scary! If it was not strep, what was it? And, no wonder it was so much worse that I remember strep ever being (and strep is bad!).

The next call I got from my doctor (at the end of the second week of being sick) was to say ‘Surprise! You have mono. And, by the way, you can stop taking the antibiotics, they aren’t doing you any good.’

Wow! 33 years old and I have mono … for the second time in my life.

So, here’s what you need to know about mono:
*Disclaimer – I am not a doctor, just a girl suffering with mono who has asked a lot of questions to find out ‘now what?’

1. Mono is a virus. This means that there is no drug you can take to get it out of your system. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, but they do nothing to fight a viral infection. The common cold is a virus – you cannot cure it with antibiotics. Strep throat is a bacterial infection – this, you take antibiotics to treat!

2. Mono is spread various ways, but always through saliva. This is how it got the name ‘The Kissing Disease’. Mono is most commonly found in teenagers and teenagers kiss a lot apparently!

3. Kissing is NOT the only way to get mono. Because mono is a virus and almost everyone carries it, it gets passed around everywhere all the time, but only ‘infects’ some people. It is passed the same ways as the common cold. (and you would never call that ‘the Kissing Disease’!) You can get it from improperly cleaned dishes and utensils, or from breathing the air after someone sneezes or coughs. The thing is, that most adults are immune to it, so it isn’t as prevalent as in teens.

4. It is contagious, but not quite as contagious as everyone thinks. My doctor told me that when someone gets mono, often their spouse or partner does not get it. This is probably because of the high prevalence of people who are immune to it. Where as, when you are a teenager if you come in contact with it you may not have built up the antibodies to fight it yet.

5. Many people who get mono also get strep throat. However, often strep throat is diagnosed and sometimes (like in my case), it is actually the mono virus. The two look much the same with white patchy spots on the back of your throat. Strep is more common in adults, so the doctor assumed that is what it was for me. But, when tested, it turned out to be the mono virus causing those white patchy spots, not the strep bacteria.

6. Mono is a crappy virus to get. Unlike the common cold that lasts 5-7 days, mono stays in your system for months. The initial outbreak of sore throat, extreme tiredness, fever, nausea etc lasts 2-4 weeks. And then, you are stuck with extreme tiredness and weakness for 3-6 months as the virus works its way through your body. On top of that, if you over work yourself (stress or physical labour), you can relapse and start all over again.

7. The only thing you can do to treat mono is to sleep. You can take pain medications and drink lots of fluids, but there are no pills that will help you get better faster. You just have to sleep, relax and not get stressed.

Now, after all of that explanation, I hope you will understand that I am sick, and tired … and I have a good reason to be sleeping A LOT. There is no way for me to know when or where I got the virus or why I am one of the adults who gets infected by it. Did I kiss someone who was infected? hmmm … maybe. But, more likely, I probably ate off of unclean utensils (in the not so clean countries I’ve been visiting) or breathed in the wrong air at the wrong time, maybe on one of my million plane rides. Or, maybe I got it right here in Nova Scotia during the time when I wasn’t traveling. The only thing we know is that a blood test confirmed I have it.

I have been sick for three full weeks with a painful sore throat. I have been sleeping 12-15 hours a day and avoiding people in general. The first week was unbearable, the second week I was mobile and then the third week was hit or miss depending on the day. Here we are at the beginning of the fourth week and I am happy to say my throat does not currently hurt, I am wide awake and actually feel like getting some work done. I suspect a mid-afternoon nap will still be required on a daily basis for the next few weeks and I will be being careful not to over work myself as I definitely do not want a relapse!

So, my dear business contacts and friends … it is ok. I am safe to be around. I will try not to slobber on you, make out with you, spit on your face or force you to eat after me. And, if all else fails, remember that you probably carry the virus anyway and are immune to being infected.

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