COVID-19 — on a personal level — had never scared me much. I am fit, eat well, have no major health concerns, don’t take any medications and I do not smoke. I’m also just 41.

I always assumed I’d catch the virus and basically be asymptomatic.

Well, I got the ’Rona this month. And I could not have been more wrong. Simply put, it has taken me down, way down.

As a writer and health consultant, it’s my job to research health related issues, and the past year much of it has involved COVID. I felt confident that, when I did ultimately contract it, my body would do its thing and I would be minimally affected.

The first symptom I experienced was muscle pain in my lower back and legs. I remember thinking how odd it was, that it was significant enough for me to use a heating pad. The following day, more pain — plus fatigue and brain fog.

Because I live with celiac disease, these are symptoms that wouldn’t typically concern me, as they can pop up occasionally. I used the heating pad again, went to sleep early, and woke up with a fever.

It was then I thought I must have caught something. The fever, which came on the third day of my onset of symptoms, did not go higher than 102 degrees. On day four, I woke with all the above-mentioned symptoms and a dry cough. It was then I knew it was time to get tested. I remember thinking, “Wow, I made it almost a year without having to get tested.”

The rapid COVID test came back negative and I was a little surprised at the relief I felt. I told my husband, an essential worker who has been dealing heavily with this pandemic since day one, and he suggested I get the PCR test. Full disclosure, I did not want to do it, but with some nudging, he finally convinced me to go. By day five, my fever had broke, but I was still fatigued and had an annoying dry cough.

On day six, I felt a little tight in the chest, was still incredibly fatigued, but the body aches subsided. And on day seven, I could hardly breathe; if felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Additionally, I was now experiencing upper back and chest pain, an alarmingly high heart rate, and I could hardly move my body because I was so tired.

The PCR test came back positive, and at first, I felt crushed. Quickly though, I felt panic. All the COVID horror stories of the past year flooded through my mind.

At this point, I could only barely breathe if I was lying flat on my stomach. I could not talk, I could hardly walk, and I had a chronic cough. I put a call into my doctor, who told me to take an aspirin every day, prescribed a steroid, an antibiotic, and a strong supplement routine.

For the next four days, I felt more of the same symptoms, each day wondering if I should go to the emergency room or try to wait it out. I was shocked and scared at the way COVID ravaged my body —frightened by the brutal fierceness of it.  

On day 12, I dragged myself to urgent care because I was simply too nervous to go to the ER, but I thought I had developed pneumonia and wanted an X-ray, which showed extreme inflammation in my lungs, but no pneumonia (and I was grateful for that).

I slept my way through the next two days and by day 14, finally, I began to feel slight relief. I write this on day 17, and I am still exhausted, still have a cough and I am overall weak. I lost 11 pounds in the past two weeks, mainly because I just could not eat.

I am well aware that each person’s COVID experience is different, yet I am still astounded at what it has done to me, and I share this personal account solely to spread awareness that even the healthiest of us can have a long and painful COVID experience.

My takeaway: it is critical to make healthy lifestyle choices that keep your immune system strong and important to speak with your doctor as to how you can best prepare your body for a potential hard hit.  

Disclaimer: This is a personal story, and not intended to replace medical advice.