I have written a lot about cancer, treatments and the trauma that one has to deal with. But today I write about the Almighty “flu” … not real influenza but the routine upper respiratory infection. It’s an experience that is common to all of us and it is a miserable experience. We all know the sore throat, cold, aching sinuses and hacking cough. This may or may not be accompanied by a fever.

If cancer is the emperor of all maladies, upper respiratory infections are the queen. They make the feeling of misery very common. Everyone has experienced it at one point or the other. Queen grants much more appearances than the emperor does. I have met both.

It follows a typical pattern. You are having a good day and suddenly you just don’t feel so well. It’s hard to articulate what isn’t right but a feeling that you would love to lie down and rest. You don’t appear sick but internally feel that something is a bit off. Few hours later the throat feels like someone grabbed a sand paper and rubbed it nice. Pretty soon the eyes feel like they are a wee bit dry with a little burning feeling in them. And soon enough, all mucosal linings of the head and neck engage in a rebellion synchronized  where they are either secreting stuff or dry as heck . Gradually the burning feeling takes over and oops, there is the fever. Now the entire body is aching and you are sick. It feels like the end of the world but it’s really not and you know it but it certainly feels like there is no point carrying on. I get very depressed with colds. I find it funny that I run around with stage 4 cancer while on treatment or that I worked through my chemotherapies but a cold and 100.4 fever is what gets me miserably laid up.

And because of the cold the nasal septum hurts and feels sore. I can’t stand when the sinuses hurt. It’s a dull malicious pain in the forehead and the bones in the cheek as if your face is pressed into a hard surface. This package of misery at its peak usually lasts 1-2 days and you get surrounded by advice to drink lemon ginger tea and chicken soup. Amazingly hot liquids do help so much, so does a hot shower and a little TLC from the family.

And then you cough, a nasty hacking cough reminiscent of someone at the sanatorium. And with the cough, you feel your brain move and the sinuses that feel full get jostled and the head hurts some more.

And then slowly things get better. Albeit some of us, transition to a bacterial infection and need antibiotics.

We live in this world with many micro organisms and URIs are a gentle reminder that we share this space with others and must be respectful of those we co exist with. We are reminded the facts that size does not matter, the fact that life comes with interruptions and recovery. Its pause and go.

Pause for me. Cancer is treating me nicely for now, recent scan showed everything looked stable. But a little virus has gotten me to my knees.

But then, of course if I can get through 16 cycles of chemotherapy, I sure can get through this.

Here is to Chicken noodle soup and to friends who feel like such on hard days.


  1. Yes, it’s odd how a common cold or flu can actually produce more actual symptoms than cancer. Hope you’re feeling better soon, Uzma. xo

  2. You are not alone my dear! I am recovering from chemo and radiation. I have a upper respiratory infection right now. This is my 3rd one since chemo. I exercised and stayed active during chemo. This upper respiratory is making me so miserable. I guess I need to learn how to stop being so strong and just rest.

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