Being sick is a lot more troubling than it used to be
I'm going to go out on a limb right now and proclaim that I think I'm going to live.
For a while, anyway.
A week or so back, I wouldn't have made such a statement. You see, I've had a cold since early December, and it has raised holy hell with my personal life. I know it wasn't the flu because I never had a fever, and I never experienced that rock-bottom, wish-I-could-just-die-and-get-it-over-with feeling of utter desperation.
Nope, it was just a common cold.
For the first week, it was a terrifically sore throat. For a week or two after that, it settled in my head, causing my sinuses to be sore to the touch around the eyes and cheek, accompanied by a killer headache. Then, for another couple of weeks, I sounded like I belonged in a tuberculosis ward, with a nasty, raspy cough that could pass for the call of an adult male seal lion.
And just to make sure I didn't forget I was suffering, last week I watched an "American Experience" episode on PBS about the influenza epidemic of 1918 that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. You may recall that I have, in the past, acknowledged my susceptibility to illness simply by hearing about it, reading about it, etc. — so it's a true miracle that I didn't actually contract influenza from that hour-long program.
Back in the 1980s, when I was a bigshot editor at the Herald and News in Klamath Falls, I had to edit five installments of the Dr. Gott medical column every week. And as I've confessed before, it almost killed me because I possess that peculiar ability to instantly take on the symptoms of any disease I read about.
I've also tended to have minor relapses any time I've read true-life accounts of dying musicians who rise from their deathbeds to make their final record albums. It's happened many times over the years — with musicians ranging from country bluesman Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, David Bowie and, most recently, southern rocker Gregg Allman.
It makes for awesome music, I'll grant you, but it almost does me in every time.
As an amateur music-maker myself, I've been tempted many times to make an album of blues tunes when I'm in the final throes of a cold because of that croaky, world-weary voice one gets once the chest cold has almost (but not quite) filed one's vocal chords down to bloody nubs and left you sounding like Tom Waits. The trouble with that, of course, is that a few weeks later, when my actual voice returns, those great old blues songs would sound ridiculous when sung by a girly man like me.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I have had a flu shot this year — not to mention vaccinations for pneumonia and shingles. We old-timers can't be too careful, you know. You'd think I was preparing to embark on an expedition to the headwaters of the Amazon with as many shots as I've had — but I'm not. I'm just trying to survive in the wilds of Multnomah County.
I also take a fistful of vitamins, supplements, medications and potions every day in hopes of eeking out an extra day or two of life on this God-forsaken planet.
So, as stated at the beginning, I do think I'm going to live. My cough is almost gone, though not quite. And I don't feel exactly good, to tell the truth.
Of course, I promptly subjected the other person who lives at our house to my ailment, so she's right there with me, which is never a good thing when neither of us is quite perky enough to offer the other high-quality care.
I'm pretty sure there was something in our wedding vows about sickness and health, but it didn't address simultaneous sickness. Note to self: If we ever get around to renewing our vows, say something brilliant about that possibility.
Mikel Kelly is a retired newspaper editor who contributes an occasional column. If he were in better health, maybe his output would be a little more reliable.