Tomorrow, March 11th, 2021, we in Canada will hold our first National Day of Observance to commemorate the lost.
No matter who you are, or where you live, this year has taken something from you. It has taken lives, health, jobs, friendships and money.
It has given many things too. It has given loneliness and heart-break. It has also given gratitude, appreciation and resilience.
A little over a year ago, in February of 2020, I got sick. Actually, we got sick, my little 5-year-old and I.
It was the Family Day weekend in Canada. Valentine’s Day fell on the Friday, and we’d intended to go away to the cottage for wintry good times with the extended family, an annual tradition.
My daughter started to feel unwell at some point after her heart-shaped pancakes, and by Saturday had a very high fever. I slept in her room and cared for her as moms do, fetching, medicating, and cold-compressing.
I wasn’t overly worried, though, because, in my mind, she was “just sick.” No serious respiratory symptoms, and she was staying hydrated. After all, coronavirus wasn’t “in” Canada at that time, right? There were those two cases in Toronto in January, but no one thought it was moving through the community. Not then.
Aw, bless. The level of naivete was stunning.
Two days later, my daughter had made a complete recovery and was ping-ponging around the house. The Tuesday after the holiday she was back at school like nothing had happened.
By the Monday evening, after two days of my girl breathing her contaminated aerosols directly into my nasal passages, I was sick.
I told my husband that he couldn’t go to work because there was no way that I could get out of bed to take the kids to school.
For three days, I wallowed in a state of utter malaise. I have no words to adequately describe the headaches and searing muscle pain. Advil Cold and Flu was on constant rotation. I had a cough, yes, but it was kind of dry and scratchy. Not at all remarkable. Did I have a fever? I don’t know. My mom wasn’t there to take my temperature for me.
After about five days, I emerged from my illness-chrysalis. I was able to resume living my life. Business as usual.
I ran into friends on the main drag of our neighbourhood and told them I’d been very sick.
“Coronavirus?” One of them asked. It was a joke.
Because then, COVID wasn’t real to us. It hadn’t rolled in with its spiky nodes and killed our elderly yet. It hadn’t sent our kids home from school and kept many home from work for, well, forever. It hadn’t shuttered shops and restaurants and bars. It hadn’t tanked the economy and ended international travel as we know it.
So we all had a little laugh, and I said No, I’m sure it was just a bad flu.
Prior to all of this, I’d been training to run a half-marathon. After a decade of false starts, I was finally going to tick that bastard off of the bucket list! I was running several times a week, ratcheting up my long runs, week by week.
On March 7th, three weeks after being sick, I finally felt well enough to run again. I ran a slow-mo 6 km and it felt okay.
That afternoon, we took the kids to see a production of Jungle Book at a theatre in Toronto. (Sniff. Remember “plays” and “sitting in close proximity to hundreds of strangers?”)
I fell asleep in the theatre and woke with a start, having a massive panic attack. I was having a hard time breathing. I sat in the dark, white-knuckling my way through the play, not wanting to ruin it for the kids by asking everyone to leave. When it was over, we went home and I went to sleep for hours.
I tried going for a couple more runs. But, each time, I felt a bit more breathless, and more and more time-for-a-nap-drained by the end. Eventually, I gave up on running.
In the year since, there have been great weeks. And then days when, weirdly, I get out of breath walking up a little hill, or the stairs. It’s nonsensical, and generally, I just try to ignore it because I stubbornly just want to get on with my life.
Occasionally, I read an article about the long-haulers and think, Uh-huh, that sounds familiar.
Naturally, I haven’t consulted a doctor about any of this, because these symptoms are nebulous at best. Is it really impacting my life in any tangible way? Undecided.
I will probably never know if it was the evil virus. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, as suspecting I’ve had it hasn’t made me feel bullet-proof in the slightest.
On the contrary, it’s just made me very cognizant of the fact that if it was COVID-19, and I, a healthy marathon-aspiring woman, spent weeks and months recovering, and still get a teeny bit breathless when I try to talk and walk at the same time, then I have nothing but sympathy for all of those stricken with this terrible illness.
Tomorrow will definitely be a sombre occasion, as we remember the dead.
We’ve been through a lot, haven’t we? We can’t change that, but as a practical optimist, I know that we have the ability to heal.
Spring and VACCINES (can I get a high five?) are coming to sweep some of our blues away.
And will I maybe be lacing up my running shoes sometime soon? Possibly.