When Health Is Not Your #1 Priority

You’ve all heard me say- “ your health is your most valuable asset always." Last week, I abandoned my most valuable asset as I journeyed to Toronto with a fever that, by the time I took off from JFK, was hovering around 102. It was a trip I HAD to take to handle some business that could not wait– my staff had expectations of me to be there as a leader, and I had expectations of myself that I was NOT going to let my body get in the way of the work I had to do. What started a week ago with some strange pains in my head quickly turned to fever. During the days I would work in our office and then return to my hotel room to sweat with chills and body pains. 

I thought I was dying. I have never, as an adult, been so sick. During our corporate retreat a few weeks ago, I was bit by a tick- my assumption was that I had early state lyme disease. When my fever hit 103.5, I was afraid that I was doing permanent cognitive damage and decided to go to the hospital in Toronto. Perhaps I chose the wrong hospital (in downtown TO), but if I wasn’t sick before I would have been dead if I had stayed there for the “at least 3 hour wait" they promised me (of course it did not help that there were mustard colored walls, dim lighting, patients detoxing from all kinds of subtsances around me and a cast of characters that looked like they had escaped the local prison). Finally after returning to NYC via a few cancelled flights, my good friend who is a doctor took me to Huntington Hospital on Long Island (two thumbs up!). After a bag of fluids and a lot of blood tests, I got the results yesterday: not Lyme Disease as expected, but Mononucleosis. I forget my age often- this breakdown was caused (in part I’m sure) by 5 intense workouts in a 7 day period, lots a walking… oh, and there was that night I danced in a club until 2am. Since Mono is most prevalent in children and teens, the irony of this was not lost on me. 

Mono is caused by Epstein-Barr Virus. EBV, although often unlooked, is one of the most common human viruses. About 9/10 adults have antibodies the show they have or have had an EBV infection. It seems as though I contracted the infection as a child (very common), but it finally activated itself once my weak immune system was weak enough. By spreading myself too thin, it was clear why the EBV not only showed up, but took over my body. 

My symptoms were: fatigue, fever up to 103.5 degrees, swollen lymph-nodes and so much more. Although it’s been a week and I’m feeling better, I’ve learned that it typically takes 2-4 weeks to fully heal, although many can feel fatigued for several weeks to a month. There is no vaccine to protect against EBV other than keeping your immune system strong. 

I run my body like a machine. Food, supplements, exercise... all designed to help me work a lot, travel a lot and work out a lot. My brain and body are pretty much always on, or off. I seem to think I’m invincible and revel in my ability to go from place to place, living life to what I consider the fullest. I pride myself on my physical and cognitive health, and felt like I was really losing both.

So my challenge now: work less, workout less, travel a little less. Just because the fever is gone does not mean that I’m healthy. I’m on a quest to rebuild my immune system and find workouts that won’t tap me out during this healing process.

Join my journey – returning to health...

Beth Shaw