Why a negative test doesn’t matter

Why a negative test doesn’t matter

If you read my last blog post, I described my first week of living with the Corona Virus symptoms. I promised to update everyone with my COVID-19 test results. I have since learned that it really doesn’t matter if I tested positive or negative and this is why.

My symptoms in week 2

I have continued to have my temperature fluctuate between 37.6 and 38.5 Celsius for the second week. That’s 14 days of a low-grade fever. I continued to battle fatigue, continued to have a dry “asthmatic” cough, continued to be short of breath. My heart raced and I felt lightheaded if I got up too quick. The muscles between my ribs on my chest and in my back ached from the strain of breathing.

On Monday March 30, my breathing was so labored, and I got so tired of breathing that I went to Urgent Care. Luckily, my oxygen saturation was 99% and my lungs were clear. The only real concern was my heart rate at 100 beats per minute. The doctor asked that I increase my inhalers and continue to get better at home.

On Thursday April 2, my COVID-19 test came back negative. The public health nurse suggested I speak to my family doctor about my persistent symptoms.

What my doctor had to say

“This could be a false negative or the seasonal flu.” She said that unless the test was deep enough to make me cough (which it didn’t) then it could be a false negative. Either way, there is a protocol for people with Coronavirus symptoms that persist beyond two weeks and I was started on antibiotics. Continue to take my inhalers, continue to self-isolate, call her back in 4 days if I haven’t improved. The test results didn’t matter for my course of treatment.

Why the COVID-19 test is giving us very little info

Nothing has changed as a result of my test. I am not any clearer on what is actually ailing me. I am not miraculously cured. I cannot kiss and hug my kids and none of us can leave the house. Can you imagine the way I have felt for the past two weeks if my asymptomatic husband went grocery shopping and brought home either the flu or Coronavirus or something else that I don’t already have? It would surely kill me.

My test didn’t inform our medical system at all. I get to sit in the statistic pile of over 98% of people tested in Alberta who came back negative. I wasn’t tested for influenza, so I don’t get counted in those statistics if I do have the flu. Instead of having scientific data to use to advocate for the flu shot, we have anecdotal “it was a bad flu season” that will be overshadowed by COVID-19. And, if this is a false negative, not only do I not get counted, medical science learns nothing from my symptoms, and I don’t get counted in the number of cases that have recovered. Not to mention that someone with milder symptoms and a false negative can be spreading this everywhere.

My lessons

I have some personal lessons I need to sit with including my impatience with being sick for so long. I had a few people lovingly refer to the complications “at my age” which completely threw me for a loop. I don’t feel old physically! But the reality is that I am nearing the half-century mark. My mind may feel like it’s still 30 but maybe I need to listen to what my body has to say too. Slowing down to listen to my body is definitely a new habit.

My lessons for you: Get your flu shot. Take the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes available. Wash your hands and physically distance yourself from others. Rest when you need to rest and practice good mental health hygiene too. And, as always, be loving and kind.

What it’s like to have Coronavirus

What it’s like to have Coronavirus

This is not a medical journal. I am not going to share the latest data or public health information. This is an account of my journey living with all the symptoms of Coronavirus or COVID-19 and how I managed. I will update this blog as soon as I get my test results to clarify if I’ve only been living with the symptoms or the confirmed infection.

Allow me to start with a little bit of backstory. I used to be a registered nurse but now I am a writer. I once worked in a cardiac hospital during the SARS outbreak but now I work in the communications department for a charity. I am a mother of four, but my two young-adult children live across the country. I am a generally healthy and fit individual, but I do have a history of asthma during to allergy season.

My Symptoms

  • ​Friday, March 20: sore throat
  • Saturday, March 21: sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue. Temp 37.6
  • Sunday, March 22: sore throat, tight chest, achy, extreme fatigued, Temp 38.4
  • Monday, March 23: achy, very fatigued, asthma cough, Temp 37.6
  • Tuesday, March 24: fatigue, asthma cough and tight chest, light-headed, Temp 38.1 to 37.6
  • Wednesday, March 25: fatigue, asthma and shortness of breath, Temp 37.6 to 38.4
  • Thursday, March 26: fatigue, asthma and shortness of breath, Temp 37.4
  • Friday, March 27: Drive through test day! Fatigue, asthma and shortness of breath, Temp 37.9

First, I don’t know where I picked up the bug. Two of my co-workers had been out of the country, but I could have just as easily picked it up in the community as there is now documented community spread. Our office closed on Monday, March 16 and I have worked from home ever since. Besides my trip to the grocery store Wednesday the 18th and running to the kids’ school to pick up their textbooks on the morning of March 20th, I haven’t been in public.

I noticed the sore throat on Friday afternoon while walking our dog. It got increasingly painful over the course of the evening but not so bad as to compare it to strep throat. Just bad enough to be annoying.

Saturday’s weather was beautiful, and we had planned a nature walk as a family. Socially distant yet still out in the great wilderness with mountain views. I told my husband Rod to go ahead with the boys—without me. Anyone who knows me well knows I had to truly be sick to give up a day in the mountains. I felt like I had the beginning of the flu and spent the whole day in bed.

On Sunday I woke up with a fever of 38.4 C (101.1 F). My nursing background told me this was a viral temperature, not a bacterial one. My chest was tight, I had a slight cough. It felt like I had a flu mixed with an asthma flare up except it also felt like none of the flus or colds or allergies or anything I had experienced before.  I called public health and they told me to self-isolate, not to cook for my children, not to share plates, cups, utensils or towels, cough in my sleeve, wash my hands, and that someone would call me back with an appointment to go get tested within 4 or 5 days. “Call back if your symptoms worsen or on Friday if you don’t hear from us. No one is to leave the house.” I forgot to ask for how long, but I assumed they’d get to that when I was scheduled for the test.

I continued to work from home. If I wasn’t moving around, the shortness of breath was tolerable enough to sit at my desk and write or do graphic design. I can see how people could easily go about their everyday routines out in public spreading the virus, pushing through the discomfort to avoid using sick days if they even get sick days paid. I didn’t know if this would get worse and I wanted to keep my sick days in case it did.

Quarantine

I am an introvert who has worked from home for fifteen years. Staying home was not an issue. No one really complained. The kids stayed in touch with their friends online, played video games, slept in as regular teens do. Rod and I managed to share our home office and stagger our conference calls. None of us realized that we were missing the real world until a package I had previously ordered was delivered. When the doorbell rang all 4 of us and the dog and cat all went to the front door. Something different to our day!

Since none of us could leave the house we had to depend on Instacart for our grocery order. What I hadn’t planned for was the three-day wait before they’d arrive. With a bare fridge, grocery delivery was certainly the highlight of our week.

Though being home wasn’t much of a bother, I was longing for the energy to tackle a few of the projects I saw others doing on my social media feed. But I had no reserves left, by the end of a workday all I could do was stare at HGTV.

Avoiding the hospital

Tuesday evening, my asthma-like symptoms got so bad I was starting to consider a trip to the hospital. I wished I had an Oxygen Saturation meter. That being said, the last thing I wanted was to end up in the hospital because I knew full well that I would be in isolation and I wouldn’t see Rod or the kids until I was fully recovered. I have been on the other side of the bed donned in mask, gloves, and gown. I know how little time nurses spend in an isolation room, how much they avoid going in and out. I did not want to be in the hospital. So, I took my inhalers (Thank God I had both prescriptions on hand) and did the breathing exercises I taught so many patients so long ago and prayed that sleep would make things better. That level of shortness of breath became my new normal.

However, we were scheduled for a different hospital visit. My calendar reminded me that my transgender son, Mitchell, was due for his hormone blockers shot. The public health nurse’s voice echoed in my ear, “No one is to leave the house.” I called the clinic to see if we could devise a plan to have the medication delivered to our home so I could give my son his quarterly intramuscular shot. A very good friend picked up the medication from the pharmacy and dropped it on our doorstep. This was the biggest inconvenience for our family. Not bad, right? Throughout this whole thing I have been eternally grateful I had once been a nurse.

Feeling shame

Social media has been absolutely horrible. Suddenly everyone has their epidemiology degree and the rest of them are the 6-feet-apart police ready to shame you into eternity for not washing your hands for 20 seconds every 2 minutes. I am not saying the #StayHome advice isn’t the best advice. It is. It’s just incessant and loud and everywhere. Add to that the regular media. Needless to say, I didn’t want to share with anyone what I was feeling. I even took a long time to share with my older kids that I wasn’t well because I didn’t want them to worry. The news can make this sound like a death sentence. Besides, if I were to have shared this initially, I didn’t have the energy to answer the barrage of questions that would ensue. I also didn’t want to have to defend the fact that I have been socially and physically distant and not in fact a covidiot. I feared that I would be judged as if I don’t know how to wash my hands or cover a cough. I suddenly and sadly identified with lepers.

Why I am sharing this now

I am a memoirist. I am a writer. While I am not working the frontlines as the nurse I once was, the least I can do is share the record of my experience in case it helps someone else. My first lesson for you is that you can have Coronavirus and feel well enough to work and spread it to others. I trust why the experts are telling us to stay home. Stay home. You can also have Coronavirus and feel like you’ve run a marathon by climbing a flight of stairs. This virus is not just a walk in the park for some of us. You can live out the duration of the symptoms at home, not every case of COVID-19 will need to be hospitalized. I got the same non-existent treatment at home as I would have not gotten at the hospital. Lastly, be nice to people. You have no idea what struggles people are facing right now—physically, financially, emotionally. Loving kindness to everyone.

 

Walking my Self-Care Talk

Walking my Self-Care Talk

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I have been preaching about self-acceptance and healthy boundaries and self-care for a very long time now. Most of the time it’s because of lessons that I learned, and wanted to help others transition through rough patches more easily, if at all possible.

Here’s another one.

I am not immune to the whole vanity thing that affects all of us. And by being a public speaker, I tend to have to look somewhat presentable on stage…or a least better than without makeup in my yoga gear, as most days I coach over the phone or sit behind my keyboard writing in comfy clothes. The thought of having a mouth full of metal brackets while speaking on stage was not a pleasant one. I’m also, like most moms, not one to put spending $6000 on myself ahead of the other expenses for my family–especially my children. But this year, self-care outweighs a little vanity and requires money being spent on me.

After I broke one of my teeth for the 5th time from my crooked bite, and as I was told an implant would also break less than a year after being replaced… I decided to finally get braces. But not before becoming the most informed patient on the planet. Dr. Andrea Stevens Dentistry, my partner at the Ottawa Makeover Project, was instrumental in my decision making by giving me an in depth second opinion on my best course of action.

So now I have an extra little sparkle in my smile for the next three years. And I’m walking my talk by investing in my oral health so that these pearly whites can last me another 43 years.

Have you had to make a large investment of time or money in yourself lately? What was it for? Do you feel that it was worth it on the long run?

Why You Matter: Permission for Wellness

Why You Matter: Permission for Wellness

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Everything I write about and put out in the world comes from lessons I have learned myself. I share my stories in an effort to help others along their path, as so many have helped me.  When I talk about putting others’ needs ahead of our own, it’s because I have done it and have fallen on my face  before learning a new way.

I grew up with horrible self-esteem issues. I was a people-pleaser, a doormat, and a chronic helper and volunteer looking for a pat on the head to tell me I was good enough and that I mattered. I know what it feels like to think I don’t matter.

It took a huge crisis with my eldest daughter and, through that, coming to the realization that I was losing my health, my sanity, my friends, that  the quality of my work suffered, and I that I was neglecting my other three children and my husband to lead me to realize that I matter. A tiny sliver of my spirituality was the thread that I clung to like a lifeline and from which I was able to pull myself back to ME and rebuild my life.

I matter because all of my children need me and look to me as an example of what it is to have self-respect, to be healthy in body and mind, and to be of service and live with purpose. I also matter because I breathe and have a pulse—I don’t need to be anything to anybody to matter.

You matter because you breathe and have a pulse—you don’t need to be anything to anybody to matter. And you matter because you belong to groups of family or friends, you lead by example and you are of service and you have a purpose.

Out of all of this my wellness programs were born. I wanted to offer women a more holistic way to address their wellness and self-care.  While the flagship Mind Body Makeover is a deep dive into reclaiming your vibrant health and happiness, I wanted a smaller sampling—a quick taste for those who weren’t yet sure about a deep dive.

The Mini Mind Body Makeover focuses on your mindset change, and how your relationships can affect any change you try to make in your life. Of course I also cover healthy body habits and spirituality too. I confess, I created the Mini Mind Body Makeover specifically because I was tired of trying to lose weight the way that 20 year-olds do and I was tired of being sold on pills and shakes and lifting weights 5 days a week.

It’s  mini because it’s only a 30 day commitment to yourself, so if I haven’t yet convinced you that you matter enough to invest six months on you, maybe I can get you to focus on yourself for one month.

If you are ready to say “I MATTER” and turn your life around in just 30 days for only $50… Sign-up here and let’s get started.

Get Real

Get Real

diet-398612_1280This blog is about honesty. If you are looking for pie-in-the-sky, esoteric, law-of attraction positivity, STOP READING.

The internet is aflutter with posts about resolutions, vision boards, and goals and this year being “the year”. This is the year you are going to get fit and lose 40 lbs, this is the year you are going to make 7 figures, this is the year you are going to meet Mr. Right.

This is the YEAR.

Yet, come February 1st when you haven’t lost 40 lbs in a month and the cheesecake is calling your name, you give up. So do I. It’s human nature combined with today’s instant gratification mentality.

Yet, we all get sucked into the high priced weight-loss programs, the VIP business consultant who is going to make us millions, and the matchmaker to the stars. After all, they are thin and rich and have a loving husband, surely they can make that happen for you. If you throw enough money at a problem it goes away, right?

This has me yelling GET REAL!

I don’t care how much money you pay for a weight loss plan and consultant, you won’t drop 40 lbs overnight. In fact, the statistics the diet industry is not sharing with you is that 95% of diets fail, meaning you either don’t lose the weight or you put it back on within a year. Next time you go to pay through the nose for a weight loss program, ask them for their real statistics not just the glowing testimonials with the before and after shots.

As for making that million, I can attest to how difficult it is to start up a business and become a successful entrepreneur. There are way too many business consultants out there promising you the answer to a 7 figure business who are not telling you that in reality 75% of start-ups fail.  Many of them are happy to tell you that they made 7 figures last year themselves, but I am more interested in finding out if that was in their first year, third year or fifth year. How many of their own clients made 7 figures and are still in business 2 years later? All of them? Half of them? None of them?

Now, I don’t want to totally discourage everyone from following their dreams, or seeking healthier lifestyles. All of these goals can actually be achieved. I just want you to be clear that most of the time it is through consistency and not an overnight achievement. Yes, we need coaches and consultants to advise us and hold us accountable. Hey I am a coach, I would never say to not use one! But be realistic in what a coach or consultant can do for you in what time frame. Buyer beware. Ask questions about their failures not only their glowing testimonials.

Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to be in this for the long haul, allow yourself to have the expected setbacks that all human beings face, allow yourself to stumble a little, and then extend your hand for someone to come and motivate you to get back into the game. I am always happy to be that person who walks along your path with you for the long haul, holding you accountable and helping you through the obstacles to a success story of your own defining. And you can be sure that I won’t promise you an overnight success, only genuine lasting results.

 

Let’s Make Mental Health Sexy

Let’s Make Mental Health Sexy

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If someone took your 16 year old daughter and tortured, scarred and mutilated her body over and over and over again for 3 years, how would you feel? What would you do? Would you be completely enraged? Camped out at the police office until the person doing this to your daughter was arrested? Would you take matters into your own hands and hurt the torturer back?

What do you do when it’s your daughter doing it to herself, and no amount of yelling or loving words makes the mental illness go away, and you are not allowed in the doctor’s office with her anymore, and you can’t force her into treatment. There’s no police officer coming to take the bad guy away.

If someone took a 35 year old mother of two and slowly poisoned her since the age of 13 with all kinds of chemicals that ate away at her spirit, making her think horrible thoughts, making her body writhe in pain to the point where she can’t hold down a decent job or raise her kids the way she always dreamed of raising a family, how much news coverage would this crime get? What do you think would be a prison sentence for someone who poisons someone else for over 20 years?

What do you do when it’s a family member addicted to drugs poisoning themselves, and no amount of yelling or loving words makes the mental illness go away, and you are not allowed in the psychologist’s office to tell the whole story, and you can’t force them into treatment. There’s no police officer coming to take the bad guy away.

Mental illness doesn’t only affect those who suffer day in and day out battling their own demons, it also affects those of us who have to sit back and watch.

In light of Robin William’s death by suicide this year, I was surprised by how little was said about World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2014. We have got to do better than this.

Turning a blind eye doesn’t make it go away. We need more to be done in terms of earlier detection and better treatments, we need to raise awareness in the public and we need health care professionals to take an interest in curing the mental health diseases with as much energy and enthusiasm as cancer and Aids. Let’s make mental health sexy.

What do you do when there is no bad guy to arrest? You take a stand and you help find a way for the good guy to shine again.