DNS / Defer

20 July 2018, 15:18

I had one goal for 2018 – qualify for Boston again so I could run it next spring to celebrate my 40th birthday.

I’ve qualified a few times already, but never quite had the chance to actually run it, but with it being an off-year for the World Transplant Games and my marathon PB sitting untouched for the past 4(!) years, this was going to be my Year of the Marathon.

And my training was going really well right up until mid February, too – good strength training, I was fitting in run commutes to work, and I even got down to my target race weight a few months early, too.

And then I got sick.

At first, it was just the seasonal flu that went around my office. Seasonal flu, but one that multiple people told me was the worst they’d had in decades. So with my medical history, I determined that I’d probably be laid low for 3-4 weeks since it was taking normal people out for a week to ten days. Six weeks later, and I was finally starting to feel about 75% recovered, but missing six weeks at the height of marathon training meant that I’d now have to defer my London marathon place (having already DNSed the Big Half during the height of my flu) and I started looking around for other options over the summer to qualify before the Boston cutoff in mid-September.

And I’d just signed up to run Reykjavik marathon in August when I started to feel very, very unwell all over again. This time, it turned out, I’d come down with three other viruses simultaneously, all three of them very long-lingering and particularly nasty.

Culprit one – Parainfluenza. Despite the name, it’s not actually a type of flu, it can hang around for months, and knock you absolutely flat. And there’s no treatment.

Culprit two – Adenovirus. Apparently there is a treatment for this one, but you’ve got to test positive for it in more than one area of the body to qualify, and I (only) had it in my nose/throat/lungs, which count as one place.

Culprit three – my old pal the Epstein Barr Virus, aka mono, aka glandular fever. Nearly everyone has EBV laying dormant inside them at all times, but only special, immunosuppressed flowers like myself get to experience the joys of multiple EBV reactivations (for long-time followers, this is what took me out of action for 3 months in 2016).

So if you’ve ever had, or known anyone who’s had mono/glandular fever, imagine having that for, ooh, three months on top of two other nasty viral infections, after six weeks of horrific flu, and that’s been pretty much the whole of my 2018. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for days at a time, let alone go to work or anything social, and even just walking to the corner shop took an extreme amount of effort that would leave me in bed for the rest of the day. It was so bad that I had to get a “Please Offer Me a Seat” badge for the bus, as I couldn’t stand up for more than about ten minutes. I was beyoooooooooooond bored, beyond frustrated, and literally so jealous of everyone who was simply getting on with their life that I felt angry all the time, too.

Eventually, after being monitored, swabbed, tested, and spending days in hospital (having to fight not to be admitted at one point!), I eventually convinced them to give me the treatment for EBV, because I was simply not getting better on my own, and I had waited more than long enough.

The treatment for EBV is Rituximab, which is actually a pretty cool piece of bioengineering – they take mouse cells and graft human receptors onto the outside, which then bind to your lymphocytes, which are then targetted and killed by your immune system. Rituximab is given for a wide variety of auto-immune disorders, but since EBV lives inside your lymphocytes, it also works for that, too. And by “works”, I mean, it kills off half your immune system while also killing the virus. Yay. But at this point I would’ve drunken yak vomit if someone had said it’d make me feel better, so off to the chemo day unit I went, every Tuesday in June (and then into July, after the parainfluenza came back for a week and they postponed a treatment).

Oh yes, they can give you chemo for a viral infection! Rituximab may not make your hair fall out, but seeing as how they’re pumping animal cells all around your veins, people have a tendency to react badly to it the first time. I thought I’d be safe, since I was given it for my first EBV reactivation right after my transplant, but no, four hours into the first dose, and I started to feel the cotton ears, dizziness, and weird vision that I recognised from my years of reacting to platelet transfusions, so I slammed my hand on the nurse call button. The nurses paused the treatment, gave me two lots of IV piriton while they watched my blood pressure recover from a low of 80/40 (no, that’s not a typo). After an hour’s break, they restarted it, and another four hours later I could finally go home.

Luckily the other three doses were uneventful, and by the start of July, I actually started to feel a bit more energetic! Like, I could walk places and not need a lie down, and I could finally do a full day’s work, and I could cycle commute without feeling utterly awful (as an aside, taking it really slowly on the bike was WAY less energy and stress than taking a rush hour train). But not enough to ride 100 miles on a bike this weekend, so my ballot place for Ride 100 has also been deferred for next year.

So I’m at the point now, in mid-July, that I actually feel about 80% recovered, and I went for my first run back this week – a nice 5km around my local cemetery/park. But this does mean that I’ll be lucky to even run the 10km in Reykjavik next month (they host the marathon, half, 10km, and fun-run on the same day and you can switch between at the expo). And likewise, no British Transplant Games this year for me, as I was too sick during the registration period to have any hope of passing the physical.

And the dream to run Boston next spring is over, as there’s no way I can rebuild from this and qualify in time for September. And more than that, I feel cheated out of 5-6 months of my year. I was sick during the “Beast from the East” blizzard, and I was still sick during the heatwave, for godssake!

And the punchline to all this? I’d actually had the flu jab.

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Comments:

  1. Hoe awfull Whatsapp happened tot you. I understand tour dissapointment. It is best to look on the miles you can run instead but IT is nog do easy. As a runner you care a lot about tour body andere this probably feels as if it is letting you down. Ik cross my fingers foto a real good recovery and I send you a lot of patience from the The Netherlands


    Dorothé    20 July 2018, 18:06    #
  2. I was wondering and worrying about the impact of multiple viruses in an immunocompromised patient. And, yeah, it is so hard not to fall into a complete funk when you can’t do all the active things you’re used to doing! I know! What a coincidence…I’m going to shoot for the Reykjavik Half Marathon on our way to visit our son in Sweden (ongoing overuse injuries are making that a long shot….at least Im still able to bike to work tho!) Anyway….it can only go up from here right? Knock on wood!!! Glad to hear you might finally really be on the mend!!!


    — Kelli    21 July 2018, 02:54    #
  3. As Wordpress blogger on a mobile device I have to laugh about all the dutch autocorrection mistakes. But you understood
    Dorothé    21 July 2018, 07:51    #

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