The Emperor of All Maladies
It all began in January 2020, when I was invited by a top international airlines for an interview. Before I boarded my flight, a concerned colleague of mine sent me several infographics regarding the coronavirus, which, by then, was already making the rounds on international flights. Oh, did I mention I was being flown across the ocean business class, just for this interview? 😄
To me, at that time, the coronavirus sounded something like an exotic flu. So I didn’t worry too much, except take a few precautions (you know, the vitamin C tablets, Cetrizine, and the customary Vick’s Vaporub).
After finishing the interview (and bagging the job offer 😄😄😄), I came back all happy, and with a sore throat. The sore throat lasted me close to three weeks. This was when COVID had not yet reached my country. So I brushed off the sore throat as a… simple sore throat.
In March 2020, we started seeing the first couple of cases. Business travel was still full swing, so we gradually found more and more cases in corporate offices. We got a message from my office to start working from home until further notice.
No big deal. This is a precautionary step. That’s what I thought as I packed my stuff and left for home. As days passed and weeks, the number of cases in my city started growing.
By the end of March 2020, I lost my job offer 😓.
It came as a huge shock for me, because I had planned my entire life around my new job. But I kind of had a premonition this would happen a week before it actually did. The job offer was in an AIRLINES company! The first industry to be shaken by the virus outbreak.
I was already serving the last month of notice in my current company. I wasn’t even sure if it would be a good decision to take my resignation back, especially when others were being laid off. I took back my job, also because my boss offered it back to me (they were unable to find a replacement!)
Meanwhile, on the COVID front, there was news coming that the virus was mutating, and now it was attacking the GI tract. This meant that even stomach related issues could point to the Coronavirus! More prolific symptoms, hence, more confusion!
As if all this wasn’t frustrating enough, we heard from our municipality officials that our neighbouring street had Coronavirus positive patients! My grandparents live next-door. And my grandmother went to their house everyday to chat with the lady of the house. 😧😧
My grandparents were evacuated from there to come live next-door to us. The very next day, my mother came down with a fever! The day after, I fell sick too!! We called our family doctor and told him we were developing a temperature and a scratchy throat. He prescribed a few medicines and suggested we use them for 5 days.
The next day both our stomachs were upset. In the next two days, both of us lost our sense of smell! Freaking out opened up a new level! I was worrying myself dead wondering if we had the COVID! We ran to our family doctor, who was still confident we didn’t contract it. He said we would get our smells back, and modified our prescriptions.
I was totally, completely, entirely anxious now. I wanted my sense of smell back, and I wanted my mom to get hers back to. We spent the next two days smelling everything we could smell back in the past. I am a huge foodie! And the thought that I couldn’t appreciate flavours anymore (for possibly the rest of my life) was driving me insane. The thing I started fearing the most was the uncertainty around convalescence. When would we be a 100% normal? Will we ever be normal again? These questions were eating me away. I stopped sleeping. I started losing weight drastically. I stopped eating. I would frantically walk all around the house, worried that if I rested even for a moment, I would slack off on solving the problem at hand.
After two frantic days, we both started slowly getting our smells back. With every new scent we were able to get, we were celebrating! Slowly, but steadily, our stomach situation started getting better. And now we are left with vestiges of the cold we started off with (you know, the cold-y voice, and a light headache now and then).
We still don’t know if what we had was COVID or not (here we cannot get a test without a doctor’s prescription, and our family doctor didn’t prescribe one). But I just experienced an extreme roller-coaster ride of anxiety and stress, ahuge part of which was fuelled by what the media was hammering into my head.
A friend of mine, who is a doctor in one of the top hospitals in the country (who treats patients with COVID, and recently contracted it herself) told me that the virus need not be feared so much. But one needs to have a healthy respect towards the precautions to be taken to prevent it.
I am still slightly stressed, but each time I get all worked up, I remind myself of what she said. Falling sick or not is not entirely in our hands, but taking precautions is.
Also, I realised one more thing. Though my mother and I had the same symptoms, she recovered more smoothly than I did. And the only difference between my way and her way of dealing with the situation was that she chilled out all through the recovery, while I worked myself up so much I was hardly functioning normally anymore. I lost weight, lost my appetite, became completely depressed, did nothing productive or relaxing, developed weakness, just created a miniature catastrophe for myself.
Recovery from my situation will take more time. But realising this was a major breakthrough for me. My mother was constantly proving to me that accepting all the situations life throws at us, and making the most of it is the best strategy to deal with it.