I don't like talking about my health. Maybe HIPAA has conditioned me. Maybe I don't want to give haters another excuse for why I shouldn't follow my calling. Whatever it is, in the year of COVID, my silence is not serving me well.
In the last year, after a decade of unexplained pain, and 2 years of not being able to move correctly, I finally got medicine that worked. It took several doctors to get to this point. And I don't even think the doctor has officially diagnosed the underlying cause. Mainly, my immune system has triggered inflammation in my body and if left untreated that inflammation will eat away my joints and bones until they need replaced. Basically my immune system over-reacts.
I finally made it to the right specialist. He said the best medicines for this suppress your immune system. He wanted to avoid that so he put me on anti-inflammatory pain relievers. And he ordered an MRI. The MRI said what I think we both suspected: the inflammation was at a level that required more than what I was taking. So the doctor prescribed immune suppressing drugs.
Before taking these drugs, the doctor had to make sure I was as healthy as possible. There was blood work to confirm I didn't have an underlying disease that needed full immune support. There were x-rays to make sure I didn't have pneumonia. There were vaccines to keep me healthy. There were instructions about ending medication if I spiked a fever. I passed all the tests and began to intentionally suppress my immune system so that I could walk again.
Good news. It worked. The swelling went down. My ability to move went up. I could sleep through the night without pain. I once again acted and looked like a healthy young mother.
And then came COVID. And the thousands of questions. The constant reminding that I am young, and therefore safe. The constant badgering that my boundaries were too strict. The constant assurance that I didn't need to wear a mask this time. But the thing is I do. Every single time. I am on drugs that suppress my immune system. I am on them because my immune system often over-reacts with inflammation. I have had asthma related to that inflammation.
What may feel like a cold to some, may very well put me in the hospital. A hospital stay would take me away from work that supports my family and provides them housing. A hospital stay would take me a way from my children. We moved away from family for my job, so my husband would have to hold down the fort without help from extended family. And there is the chance that I would face more than just a hospital stay. But you can't tell, because I look healthy.
So that is why I wear a mask. Why I stay home as much as possible. Why I insist on distancing myself, even if you do not want me to. Even when you are fine with the risk on your own health. I can't afford the luxury of taking risks. I am not healthy enough too. When I ask you to put your mask on, it is not a political stance. It is so my kids have their mom for one more day, one more week, one more month, one more year. It is because I only look healthy.