In recent months, I had written about the stress of my job. It is hard to know exactly how much the pandemic added to everything at work. Things had been rough due to changes in upper management beforehand and then the addition of a senior manager over our department. It is fair to say they created a toxic environment within our department. I held on, even as I saw friends/coworkers cry nearly every day, given impossible goals, lose their jobs after 29 years and some with 20, on and on. We worked from home for several months, and Brian would see what I was going through daily. He saw me work seven days a week for months in attempts to support and represent the team, do meaningless required spreadsheets and presentations, and adapts to the daily changes in requirements. I did start to save money in case the day came when I did need to walk away, but I did not want to let inept management be the reason I left. I planned to work through it but became tougher as decisions were being made – that were unethical, at best.
Once we were required to return to the office, my anxiety level increased. My diet shit the bed. I started drinking more often and could not come to terms with being around so many who did not wear masks or did the chin mask thing. Most departments had the option to work from home but ours did not.
With all of this going on, last month, I went in for my fifth or sixth 3D mammogram in the past eighteen months. Prior to 3D, I was used to extra ultrasounds (I have dense tissue) and even had a biopsy done nine years ago. 3D was a game changer, though, I would get clear scans, until a year and a half ago. We kept an eye on something during this time. With this last mammogram – if there was minimal or no growth, I was supposed to be moving on to regular yearly scans. This time, there were new things to watch. I came back in once again, for the extra scans. I sat there with a pile of nerves, even as they came back once again during the same visit, getting more pictures at the radiologist request. My stomach was in knots, as now I knew we were looking at multiple things and the words from the technician scared the shit out of me. She returned with a brief description and again said, we need to see you in six months. I could not hide my emotions as I said, why do we keep doing this? She gave me the reasons but also gave me advice, telling me she is a breast cancer survivor. It was a rough day, filled with anger and confusion. I reached out to a friend of mine who is in the medical field and has a strong history of breast cancer in her family. She helped put me fears at ease. I have not really discussed any of this with many people. If I didn’t feel like things are going to be okay, I would not be discussing it now. My prayers and faith tell me things will be good when we look in sixth months. My friend explained things in better ways for me to understand and digest. There is no need to hit the panic button. Just a need to be proactive and aware.
The evening of the last mammogram, I started reflecting on my lifestyle, especially since returning to the office. I thought of all the anxiety I feel every day and how I let that affect my diet and drinking habits. I really thought, this fucking place is going to give me cancer. I then decided to take that Friday off and really evaluate things with work and if I wanted to continue. Thursday I was pulled into a last minute, late meeting, where I watched a strong woman (that I don’t have a lot of direct meetings with), break down and cry after being berated and questioned. I have known her well since I started working there and had never seen her cry. In that moment, I did not need to make a decision on Friday – I knew I was quitting.
There were a million reasons, not to quit – I am half of our household salary. Who the fuck did I think I was thinking of leaving a job, when so many are struggling? I can’t leave my coworkers to go through this alone. We need to continue to put more money away for retirement. We are paying college tuition, swim, on and on and on…. I was thinking of letting everyone else down until I realized, I need to do this for me.
Brian left to fly back to the west coast for my last week of work. We strongly considered me going with him, but the elementary school had just closed for two weeks, due to COVID, and I was afraid the same may happen to the H.S. I didn’t want Cal to be alone for that. He has always taken this thing extremely seriously, as we all have in this house. Brian chose to fly home to help with a family matter, and although we both worried about travel amid a pandemic, it was the right call to make.
The last week of work was emotional in a lot of ways. I take a lot of pride in the job I do. Many people reached out and wished me well and had the nicest things to say about my performance. I am quite proud of the job I did and the positive changes I brought to the company. It’s hard to leave something when the job you do, becomes part of your identity. It became part of my self-worth.
My coworkers wanted to have a going away party at our local watering hole. I have not been eating in restaurants or going to bars since the pandemic began. I did want to say goodbye to those I was closed to and decided to have just a few people over to the house, along with their kids. It was the first time we’d had more than two people in the house. We had a lovely time and I felt really loved and appreciated.
Brian had returned the night before. It was late and he was tired and went right to bed. A cousin had reached out the day before, stating she was in Chicago and wanted to come visit us. It turned out she was able to pick Brian up from the airport and bring him home for me.
On my last day, I left work after lunch and came home to take a nap. I was having a terrible cycle and needed to rest before people came over. When I got up, it was the first time I had really seen Brian since returning the evening before. He looked and felt awful. I knew two of the people were already on their way over from Wisconsin but considered calling the gathering off. He always gets sick when traveling and we chalked it up to that and he chose to stay in the room - only coming out briefly to say hello to everyone.
My cousin was to leave Saturday but decided to stay longer. It was nice to see family but knew the following week was going to be tough – a lot of emotion about leaving the job and money.
Brian was still sick on Monday and his cough was getting much worse. He kept assuring me it was just his regular sickness from travel. Tuesday, I called the Dr and set up a tele-visit for him. He went to get tested for COIVD that day.
Twenty-four hours later, we learned he had COVID. My heart sank. I had dread to tell the boys, who had been so careful and taken everything so seriously. I knew Cal would be panicked. My cousin was still here, so it broke my heart to tell her, as she had been the one to drive him the one and half hours from airport.
I immediately reached out to the coworkers who had been to my home. Brian reached out to his two closest friends who he had spent time with, in Washington, along with their spouses and kids. Brian also told his folks, who he had spent a few days with in the same house. I was in shock. I’d been telling myself, I was worrying for nothing – as I do – that this was not COVID. Brian had worn two masks on the plane as well as gloves. He most likely got it in the airport or on the plane. I told a couple friends that night and over the next few days as different friends text or called to say hi. It was a shock to all, as I hadn’t told many he traveled or had been sick.
Brian’s cough continued to get even worse and he had no energy and was tired all the time. His body ached and had no appetite. He ended up losing ten pounds.
I was panicked everyone in the house was going to get it. There was tons of door handle cleaning, Lysoling of toilet seats, etc.
Brian was quarantined to our bedroom, my cousin downstairs and I slept on the couch.
I began to feel quite sluggish and eventually would have fluttering of the heart and often became lightheaded. I immediately took a test, which would take several days to come back. One night I got woozy in a way I’d never felt before. I nearly passed out face first into boiling water. I began to feel much better after only four days or so. My face broke out with a couple of rashes and bumps all over the rest of my face. Thankfully, a good friend is also my dermatologist and the meds are working well. I have a bit to go but have come a long way. With all of this, my test came back negative. I was shocked. I still don’t know if it was a false negative, as has happened to a few people I know who went on to test positive only days later – or if I my body had been reacting to all the anxiety of the COVID situation in our house. I was worried the boys would become sick, had guilt about my cousin picking Brian up at the airport. I was worried about myself – obese with high blood pressure. My heart broke with every coughing fit from Brian. I’d just left my job. It was election week and there was tons of stress about that, and having a house guest on top of it all. I didn’t bother to re-test as it really didn’t change anything, if I had it or not. We were in quarantine, regardless.
Nothing over the counter, touched Brian’s cough but prescription cough syrup did help a bit. It took quite a while for the cough to really calm down. Brian’s complexion was grey but is getting better by the day. He still has a bit of a cough but it is not bad and sounds more normal.
Brian did pass it along to his friends and their families. Thank God, none of them got as sick as Brian. I also prayed every day that Brian’s folks did not get it. They did not test, so I am not sure if they did not get it or were, for the most part A-symptomatic. My cousin tested negative and after ten days was able to leave our house. Our boys also remained healthy and did not get tested. It is said that COVID is most contagious in the beginning. We feel like this is why a lot more people didn’t get it after that first few days of Brian contracting it.
Brian has worked out nearly every single day of 2020. He is in the best shape he has been in years. This virus kicked his ass. He was able to start working out again this week but has a while before he can get back to where he was pre-virus. He kept saying, he could see how it could be so hard on the elderly. It is awful shit.
I am not making any political statements here. I am just telling you, first-hand, what we have gone through. This virus is a mother fucker. Please, please, please take it seriously. Please wear your mask and please keep your bubbles small. Please stay home over the holidays. I say all of this with love.
This last month has certainly been life changing but there is a lot of good here. The anxiety from my job is gone. I have not had wine in 2 ½ weeks, when I was sometimes drinking 2-4 times a week, after returning to the office (not easy to admit). I have not had Pepsi in a week and a half. There has been a lot of hiking and appreciation of every little thing, including my friends who were truly there for me through this. One sent elderberry syrup, another grocery shopped and cooked for us, while another left me some wonderful goodies last weekend. I had a few friends who checked on us every single day, during this COVID stuff. I have a smile on my face as I finish writing this post, that was not easy to write. I have the last of a candle burning that my auntie sent me and am taking it in.
Please stay safe my friends,