Life happens: It's no fun to get sick as a grown-up

By Aprill Brandon
March 14, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 13, 2013 at 10:14 p.m.

So, I've been sick the past few days. Or at least, I think I have. It could be that I'm dying. To tell the truth, even though I've "technically" never died before, it feels pretty similar to what I imagine dying is like. The only things missing are a tunnel, a bright light and the ability to legally obtain morphine.

Yes, now that I've entered my 30s, getting sick is a whole new ball game - a horrible, horrible new ball game composed of hulked up germs on steroids that get their kicks by beating the crap out of your feeble, decrepit immune system.

It's a pity, too. I used to love getting sick when I was young. Sure, you felt like crap. But the benefits far outweighed the downsides. You got to stay home from school, were completely coddled all day by your mom and were allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast to soothe your sore throat.

By far the greatest part of being sick when you were young was that you could almost immediately identify your malady. Or someone else could, like your mom or your doctor. And even if they couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was, it generally fell under a term like "the crud" or "that thing that's been going around," and it doesn't matter anyway because the treatment is pretty much the same: sipping flat 7UP all day with a side of toast and the occasional dose of over-the-counter medicine (that, judging strictly by its taste, is composed of pure evil) and then dozing on and off all day on the couch while watching cartoons.

And then boom. In a few days, you're all better. No worse for the wear.

But as you age, things become infinitely more complicated. Suddenly, at the first sign of a sniffle, you have to become Dr. House, trying to identify what possible illness or disease could cause the never-ending parade of random symptoms that are wreaking havoc on your body and may or may not be related.

Is this just a cold or is it lupus?

Is this cough related to this random goiter I just developed?

Is this just a headache or the beginning of a migraine or the first warning signs of an aneurysm?

Is this pneumonia or the first stages of cancer? And is it related to the reason that half my face has just swelled up to almost double its normal size?

Is this indigestion or gout with a touch of E. coli? And is it related to this random rash on two-thirds of my body?

And if that wasn't bad enough, you also have to become a detective, retracing your steps the day or two before, since your body can no longer handle the seemingly harmless activities it used to enjoy.

Is this the flu, or am I just hungover?

Is this a heart attack or just acid reflux from dinner?

Is this the plague, or am I just hungover?

Is this irritable bowel syndrome or simply too much MSG in the 12 pounds of Chinese food I just scarfed down?

Is this what death feels like, or am I just hungover?

Is this leprosy, or did I just forget to put on makeup this morning?

So, best guess as to what I came down with? Scurvy with a side of malaria or perhaps mad cow disease with an underlying fever caused by drinking too much last Tuesday, or maybe I've developed a gluten allergy.

I don't know.

But I feel horrible.

And so, I'm going to lay in bed all day with my ice cream (which I had to spoon out into the bowl myself since no one is here to coddle me) until I either get better or I do die. And, to be honest, if I don't start feeling better soon, I'm going to start rooting for death.

Aprill Brandon is a columnist for the Advocate. Her column runs every two weeks in the Your Life section. Comment on this story at



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