This year’s flu season is already shaping up to be scary. It’s early, virulent, and rapidly overwhelming many U.S. hospitals and doctors’ offices.
One of the things that makes this time of year very worrisome is the thought of adding a severe case of the flu to all the other health challenges lupus, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other patients have. Getting sicker when you’re already sick poses a number of health concerns, some of which can be life-threatening. When someone lives with a chronic (and expensive) illness, heaping flu upon other conditions brings extra expense – and saps precious, rare energy. It can cause complications, both related to the flu and related to the other illnesses someone has. As I know with lupus, it can take much longer to get over a case of the flu than the average recovery time, and lupus can flare worse, too, raising further difficulties.
During this season, it might seem to healthier people as if some of us with chronic illness are “retreating,” being alarmist, or exaggerating the problem that flu poses. We might avoid crowded places such as malls, theaters, or even church, opt to eat in more often than eating out, or avoid a coworker who is ill. If we do venture out, we might decline to shake hands, hug others in greeting, or distance ourselves from a friend’s children. I’ve been known to beat a very hasty retreat from an elevator or store when I perceive that someone nearby seems ill. I also remind friends and others that, if I arrive somewhere and someone is ill, I will leave (and I tell them that it’d be wonderful if they’d let me know in advance, so I don’t even go out). I don’t mean to be rude, just need to be prudent.
These and other precautions are not exactly convenient, nor are they enjoyable. But chronic illness is not convenient or enjoyable, either. And sometimes, being kind to others starts with ourselves and doing all we can to to take care of the precious bodies and lives we’re given. Avoiding the flu altogether might not be possible, but learning some advocacy tools will be valuable far beyond this current flu season.
Blessings for the day,