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Odyssey of the Body

Getting sick is like taking a trip. Not a pleasure cruise. Quite the opposite. Nevertheless it can be an interesting experience, even educational, if you look at it the right way.

Wednesday morning of last week I went to the doctor for my annual physical. Because of various complicated bicycle and weather contingencies, I walked there. They poked and prodded me, took some blood and a urine sample, had me squeeze a funny device for a little bioelectrical impedance analysis. Blood pressure 109/63. Pulse 67. (I’d just had a brisk walk.) Weight 179 lbs, down from 194 last year. Body fat 19.1%, down from 27% in 2008.

Afterward as I walked to campus, I stopped at the Brown Derby #3 for some breakfast, since I’d been fasting for the sake of the blood work.


I got some buttery grits, scrambled eggs and sausage. It would be cooler if they offered at least one healthy option. But I digress. My point is that I was feeling pretty healthy.

I felt even healthier when I got up before dawn Thursday morning and went for a jog. Have I mentioned that I started back up with the jogging recently? It’s been a few years, and I’m still not back in the habit. It felt good.

Weighing less, eating less, drinking less alcohol, exercising more. Yes, I was feeling more hale and hearty than I have in a while.

And then, Thursday night, what’s this? Do I feel a little feverish? I ignored it.

But on Friday afternoon the feeling crept up again. I went home from work a little early and took my temperature. Sure enough, above normal. I promptly began resting.

Alas, I had a very tempting invitation for that evening. Should a wee bit of fever keep a man from sampling single malts at a friend’s house? I gave discretion the finger and went down to Michael Homan’s house in my night clothes. There were a bunch of theologians gathered around sipping scotch. I limited myself to one dram plus a couple tastes. By the time I made my way back home, I was not feeling bad at all.

On Saturday the fever was still there, still mild. I tried to take it easy, resting and napping as much as possible. I was still functioning more or less normally, and I made it through the day without incident. I was drinking lots of water too, trying to stay hydrated.

That night I noticed something peculiar. Naturally, since I drank a ton of water before bed, I had to get up several times during the night to urinate. The weird part was, I noticed: It kind of hurt. Come to think of it, it hurt the night before too, but my fever-addled mind ascribed this to some kind of temperature differential from my overheated body. Makes no sense, I know. But now it hit me. I must have (drum roll please) a urinary tract infection.

So, Sunday morning, I went to the nearest doc-in-a-box. I was poked and prodded some more. They took a urine sample, but detected little evidence of bacteria. They X-rayed me but didn’t find any stones. The doctor pounded on my back, but it didn’t hurt, so the kidneys probably aren’t infected. In the end, he decided to treat it as if it was a bacterial infection of the lower urinary tract. He prescribed me a course of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (also known as Bactrim) and sent me on my way.

The fever kept coming and going. I took some ibuprofen, but even so I was feeling mentally muddled. I was also baking that morning and had my worst bread disaster ever. The fever may have been a contributing factor. But I was well enough at least to participate in a little parade with the samba drum corps Boombador, from City Park to the bayou, to celebrate Earth Day.

Maybe I should have rested more. Monday the fever was worse. I stayed at home. I tried to rest, but I also feel compelled to bake more bread to redeem the previous day’s disaster. I was feeling pretty miserable, but the bread came out very well.

Tuesday I finally stopped trying to do anything and slept ’til noon. By evening I was feeling halfway decent, and the fever had abated. The doctor had said the medicine would take three days to work its magic. I guess he was right.

I felt well enough to go in for a half-day of work Wednesday. But I was not out of the proverbial woods. That evening I found myself being a little short with Xy and Persephone. I chalked it up to my latent impatience.

Thursday morning my mood was worse. I was out of sorts. I was anxious. This was unusual. I am not a nervous person as a rule. Sure, there were plenty of things to worry about. Aren’t there always? My mind kept hopping from one to another. I was falling behind on so many things because of this illness. Fortunately I was able to take a step back and observe the panicky madness that seemed to be growing within me. I was not feeling myself. Perhaps it was a side effect of the antibiotic? I didn’t think antibiotics affected mood.

I noted I was supposed to drink plenty of water with the medicine, so I drank a big glass of water. It felt good, and I drank another. I felt even better. I could feel the anxiety dissipating with each swallow.

I don’t know how that works. I can only report that I soon found myself drinking what felt like gallons of water, and feeling better but still not normal. A call to the doc-in-the-box and I got a new prescription for some Cipro, which I’ve taken before without adverse effects.

Finally, the next day, I felt back to my old self again. So that was one full week.

Lessons learned? I felt that my mindfulness practice helped me to deal with the bizarre mood swings, and to identify their source — if indeed that diagnosis was correct. I also was given pause to realize just how fragile my cherished equanimity really is.

It only takes a feather to upset the balance.

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