Hope, Affliction, and Prayer

I’ve put off writing this for a long time – several weeks in fact. It’s not because I’m uncomfortable talking about it but because I’m sick of hearing about it and talking about it and thinking about it. I’m writing this only because I’d like to start a conversation that comes from the people and not from the doctors. That’s not to say that I don’t believe what the doctors have to say but because I don’t believe they are talking to each other about what they are hearing from us, the patients. Maybe they are, but too many times in the past couple months I’ve heard, “My doctor has never heard of this,” or “My doctor says it’s not a symptom,” or “My doctor looks at me like I’m crazy.”

We’re not crazy. We’re just hurting, confused, and looking for answers.

Maybe if we can start a conversation about what we’re experiencing, we can find the answers that everyone needs and hopes for. I know that’s my hope and also my prayer.

I am one of the many who is still suffering from the effects of COVID. I was sick for about three weeks with every single common symptom that is listed on all of the websites. I also had other things never mentioned. I’ve been told that these other things are not related, but the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that we still don’t know what all of the symptoms are and that this is why we still don’t have answers. I can’t help but think that nobody is looking at the big picture, at those of us who did not end up in the hospital but have still suffered and continue to suffer.

During the first week of COVID, I lost almost nine pounds. Yes, nine pounds. In one week. Part of it was because I could not taste or smell, and it was depressing, very depressing, to not be able to taste a doggone thing. And yes, to those who question why this is a big deal when people often lose those senses when they are sick, it is a big deal. It’s not your ordinary, “my nose is clogged so I can’t taste or smell.” It’s an entirely different experience that I, a writer, can’t even put into words. It’s not the same, and for many it doesn’t really go away. Three months later, there are still things I can’t taste, and almost nothing tastes the same as it once did. Eating has become something I do to live not something I enjoy. I’ve started baking regularly mainly so that I can remind myself how much I love food. Last night we went out to eat. I had tomato bisque, and it was actually the first thing I ate all day that I actually tasted and enjoyed.

The lack of taste and smell wasn’t the only reason I dropped those pounds. Every single thing I put into my mouth that week gave me terrible heartburn. Terrible. Even a cracker would cause me discomfort. At first, I was confused. What was making this happen? Then my daughter mentioned that she, too, was having the same problem. I called a friend who is a nurse practitioner at Hopkins. She had never heard of this as a symptom of COVID and worried that I was having a heart attack, but I knew I wasn’t. Katie and I were suffering from inexplicable heartburn. After the first week, it disappeared as quickly as it came.

But whatever caused that heartburn, coupled with my incessant coughing, probably led to the worst part of the virus for me. I say the worst because three months later, it continues to be my biggest complaint. From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, before eating, after eating, even during the night when I awake from sleeping, I feel like I have a giant turkey leg lodged between my throat and the middle of my chest. Nothing helps. Nothing makes it go away. I no longer exercise every day because I’m so uncomfortable, and at times this feeling affects my breathing and swallowing. I’m on an 8-week medicine regimen to see if I may have GERD, a condition that can be caused by both acid reflex and excessive coughing. I actually went for three full days with no discomfort this past weekend. By Monday, the turkey leg was back.

The headache that COVID patients suffer is well known. It can be debilitating. I barely moved for three or four days because of it. Two of my girls didn’t get out of bed, complaining that their heads hurt too bad. Three months, later, I still have frequent headaches. At first, I thought it was allergies, but a series of testing confirmed that my allergies have almost disappeared after years of treatments. I can’t explain this sudden influx of headaches other than our pal, COVID.

A relative of ours was just released from the hospital after battling COVID to the brink of death. When she got home, her family was horrified to discover giant sores on her feet. Hospital neglect? Maybe not. In a conversation with someone else yesterday, it was casually mentioned that a mutual friend with COVID had developed horrible sores on her feet. Coincidence? I wouldn’t bet my next royalty check on it.

Aside from all that is the stabbing and piercing chest pains I frequently have. I try to ignore them and go on with my day. I try every day to live as if nothing has changed, as if I’m not in great discomfort, as it I’m not having pains, as if I’m not depressed. It’s hard. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s hard.

But enough about me. I’m sure there are other things that I or others have experienced that have not been attributed to the virus. So, now it’s your turn. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you been told that your suffering is not related to the virus? Do you feel like you’re going crazy every time you have to tell the doctor something else that seems to be going wrong?

I recently took part in a study on COVID that said it was aimed at getting answers. After three days, I dropped out. Why? Because every day, the study asked me about the same old symptoms we’ve been talking about since last March, almost a year ago. It asked if I was going to be tested based on my answers and if I would wear a mask and avoid contact with others. The same questions every day. Not once did it ask if I had actually had the virus. Not once did it ask if I had other symptoms. Not once did it ask if I was currently under doctor’s care for any of the symptoms. Whoever set up the study was not interested in facts or finding answers. Maybe together, we can start a movement that will lead more people in the health community to start looking past the basics. I’m grateful that the doctor I am now seeing is looking for answers, but I worry about what other strange ailments will appear that he might not be able to help me with. Please help me in helping us all to move beyond the obvious and see the bigger picture. What maladies have you suffered post-COVID?

On a high note, the sun is shining today! It’s cold out, but I can hear birds singing. I’m here. I’m alive and living my life the best I can. Every day is a gift from God, and I’m not going to waste it. I pray that you, too, even if you are in the midst of suffering, can find the hope and faith you need to persevere. I will pray for that for you, for all of us.

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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy,  Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).