Unhealthy new year no shock

Sunday, January 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:52 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

It’s just like clockwork. It begins about 2 p.m. on Christmas Day after the presents have been opened, the house has tissue and empty boxes strewn about and the family is kicking back and relaxing. My nose starts to itch. Not the kind of itch that you can scratch. This itch begins somewhere high up in the nostrils, and by now I should know the signal. My annual post-Christmas cold is about to begin.

This year I was prepared. I dashed madly up the stairs to find the new super-duper nasal spray that has been advertised on TV. According to the ad, just one sniff in each nostril and I’ll barely even know that I have a cold.

And it worked — sort of. The next day, although I felt crummy, my nose wasn’t congested or running like a faucet. I figured the fatigue was just the letdown after weeks of working at a maddening pace.

That was the day I noticed that my right thumb was throbbing. It wasn’t red or swollen; it just hurt when I moved it. Being left-handed, I figured I could do without it. I was wrong. It’s amazing how many times I needed it. I couldn’t make a fist or open a jar. So I decided I would tape it. I wrapped the base of my thumb, and although the pain never went away completely, the tape restricted movement.

That’s when I noticed a cold sore forming on my lower lip. I get these sores about four times a year. Unchecked, it can grow to the size of a dime. My lower lip puffs up, and I look like I’ve been punched in the mouth. In addition to the bulging lip, a gland located under my chin right in the middle of my throat swells and I look like I’ve swallowed a golf ball. Again I raced to my medicine cabinet and reached for another modern-day miracle — a tiny tube of cream (that costs almost $20) and dabbed the sore with the potion.

By New Year’s Day, the sore was gone and I had nary a sniffle, but the darn thumb refused to heal. My husband finally convinced me to seek medical attention, so I went to a physical therapist. He moved it back and forth, up and down (to see how much pain I could tolerate) and then announced that I had tendonitis. I asked how that was possible and he said it was probably from doing some repetitious movement — like, say, wrapping presents. Bingo! (See column on wrapping almost 200 gifts.) He told me to heat, then ice, the hand at least three times a day and gave me exercises to do at home. Within 10 days it was better, but I still relied on my trusty tape during the day. Note to readers: When you apply tape directly to bare skin for almost a month the tissue breaks down. The last time I pulled off the tape, about 12 layers of skin came off with it so I had to put a salve on the injured area and cover it with a large Band-Aid.

That was the day my nose started itching again. This time I ignored the warning, thinking I just got over a cold and something about lightning not striking twice. By mid-morning, I knew that I had made a big mistake. The medicine that stopped the first cold explicitly says that it should be taken before the symptoms are in full bloom. By noon, I was so congested that I thought my head was going to explode yet, at the same time, my nose had a constant drip. I must have used a box of Kleenex that day. I told my husband to fix his own dinner (saltines and peanut butter), and I was in bed by 5 p.m.

The next day was worse. By then, the swelling had reached my sinuses and it felt like my face was in a vice grip. I stayed in bed that day and the next.

Then the cough began. I could hack for five minutes without stopping.

On the third night of my suffering, I got up to get a glass of water and somehow my foot got caught on the sheets and down I went. I would have fallen flat on my face had I not shielded the fall with my right hand. Yup! The fall reinjured the same hand that had just healed from the tendonitis. In addition, I had rug burns on my knee and elbow and also jammed my toe. (I can’t make this stuff up!)

I finally got antibiotics, which don’t agree with my intestinal tract, but at least most of my symptoms are gone.

Lately, when my kids call, they don’t greet me with, “How are you?” Instead they have a checklist.


“On the mend.”


“Still bruised, but at least I can wear a shoe.”


“Oh, that reminds me. I need to take my medicine.”

Thank goodness I opted to get the flu shot this year.

If you have a comment or want an update on my health, please e-mail me at

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