The End of Feeling Sorry For Myself

A necessary attitude adjustment.

Sometimes good news and attitude adjustments come from unexpected places.

First, said good news: My mono infection has spread from my right tonsil to my left.

I know—sounds awfully like bad news. But to my general practitioner, whom I saw on Thursday, it was a clear sign that I do not have throat cancer in addition to mononucleosis, as that maniacal ENT doc with the bedside manner of a Mack truck had insisted. Apparently it’s concerning to have mono infect only one tonsil. My GP is now about 100% sure it’s only mono we are dealing with. So, I’m taking strange comfort in the fact that each day my right tonsil shrinks and looks less like an alien’s eyeball, and my left tonsil grows and looks a little bit more like one.

Suffice it to say I’m still in the “acute” phase of mono, but my condition is a little less severe each day. Sometimes it’s two-steps-forward, one-step-back, but generally I’m moving in the right direction, and I hope to be in the “convalescent” phase within a week or so. Then I’ll just be flat-out exhausted instead of endlessly headachy and nauseated with a persistent sore throat. I’ve reached 21 days of this shit and I cannot wait until it’s over!

I also very much need it to be over, because I have to be able to work again soon. I’ve been able to read a bit for work, and I’ve had a work Zoom or two. And I’m somehow able to write this newsletter—maybe because it’s an easy, diaristic outlet for my emotions at a time when I’m feeling otherwise isolated. But otherwise, my brain and whichever organs are in charge of my energy level appear to be on strike. I am sympathetic to their cause, because I think there’s no question part of what landed me here is juggling too much, and over-doing everything, always.

Someone commented on one of my social media posts (I can’t remember who or where—my apologies to the poster!) that “If you don’t slow down, you get slowed down,” and ain’t that the truth. It’s time for me to re-evaluate my many gigs and find the courage to say “no” to some of those that take more from me than they give. It’s also a lesson in patience, which I am loathe to learn, but which will come back to haunt me in the form of a relapse if I refuse to learn it.

Now for said attitude adjustment: I’ve officially ceased feeling sorry for myself for contracting mono just as I was emerging from 16 months of sheltering in place. Okay, I’m feeling less sorry for myself. A lot less.

When my GP told me on Thursday that he was now nearly 100% certain I don’t have cancer, my first thought was what a sick burn this was for the asshole ENT doc who gave me an unnecessary scare. My second thought was how fortunate I was not to have cancer. Then an essay by a woman I’m friendly with drove it all home for me.

In her beautiful and devastating piece in the New York Times opinion pages, Tracy Kennard writes about her struggle with what her doctors indicate is terminal throat cancer—specifically about how difficult it has been to feed herself, physically, given how treatment has ravaged her throat, and also to relocate her appetites. Tracy is something of a foodie, the former co-owner of a wonderful wine bar and tapas place in Kingston, where she and her husband kindly hosted literary events I used to put together through Kingston Writers’ Studio. Not being able to easily swallow food, not being able to enjoy so many foods she loves, has been devastating to her.

Reading the piece, I felt utterly heartbroken for Tracy and her husband. I was also overcome with gratitude that Brian and I are not in their shoes. This whole thing could have gone another way for me, and I am unbelievably lucky it didn’t. The stark contrast in our situations took my breath away.

It may have given me the fortitude I need to soldier through this boring-ass, slow-moving affliction, and to get serious about slowing and streamlining my work life so it doesn’t knock me out.

Mono fucking sucks, but it is by orders of magnitude less catastrophic and devastating than throat cancer. My summer might be effectively ruined, but at least I have the likelihood of many more summers ahead of me.