Avoid the Stomach Flu–Or Embrace It

January 15th, 2009

What to do when a virus races through your house?

Get it.

That’s my answer: get sick and get over it.

I write that as I sit here, trying to figure out whether I’m feeling sick or not.  I’m tired–normal, late morning, I-don’t-feel-like-working-tired?  Or abnormal, illness tired?   I’m alternately hungry and a little queasy–too much coffee?  Or the beginning twinges of the stomach flu which has raged through my household over the last few days?   I look pale and exhausted.  I always look like that, don’t I?  I’m old, for god’s sake.

Or do I look unusually pale and exhausted this morning?

It started with my daughter.  Well, more accurately, it started with a potluck dinner party last Sunday night (I can trace it back because I used to read “Annals of Medicine” in The New Yorker and learned a thing or two about epidemiology.  Plus half the people at this one event have come down with the stomach flu).  Anyway, very early Tuesday morning, my daughter comes into our room, moves around restlessly on the sofa, then sits up–and vomits sideways onto the floor.  She didn’t stop doing that, on and off, for several hours, although at some point I got her a bowl to barf in because I got tired of cleaning up the floor.

Around the time Annie stopped vomiting, my niece who’s living with us  this year called from school to say she had thrown up four times and and needed to be picked up.  Then my son texted me to say he didn’t feel well–he made it through the day of school but came home and went to bed.  But the real excitement came at 1:30 am that night when my husband AND my youngest son managed to awaken and vomit within seconds of each other.

Good times, good times.

A side note: why do kids know they should lean over to vomit, but don’t think about actually doing it IN something?  I spent a good hour cleaning up after my son had stopped vomiting: his room looked like some kind of cholera-ridden battlefield hospital.

All of this is to say: I must be doomed, right?  I mean, the stomach flu can’t sweep through that many members of my family and not get to me.  Can it?  My oldest son has remained healthy but that’s normal for him–he frequently manages to avoid family illnesses (maybe because he frequently avoids the family–jk).   But I’ve been in the trenches from the very first hurl to the last mopping up of the floor, so I have to get this thing.

Only I haven’t yet.  And, frankly, it’s driving me nuts. 

I don’t want to get sick.  I hate vomiting more than I hate pretty much anything else (other than having Bush and Cheney as our president and VP–and THEY’RE ALMOST GONE).  But this state of waiting to get sick is slowly but surely turning me insane.  I keep thinking I’m “about to get it.”  Every stomach gurgle and every moment of weariness jolts me into thinking, “This is it.”  Only it hasn’t been.  Yet.   Or never?

I don’t even know when the statute of limitations runs out on this thing.  It seems to have a short incubation.  But who knows?  And if my last exposure was the one that doomed me, the incubation may well not be up yet.  I’m scared to make plans or leave the house–but I’m probably fine.  Or am I?

So I find myself envying those who’ve simply had the damn stomach flu and are now on the mend.  Sure, they were miserable–really, really, really miserable–but at least they know the worst is behind them.  I don’t know that.  Although maybe there is no worst for me.  But what if there is? 

Besides, if I simply get this stupid virus, I can console myself by reciting my favorite line from the movie The Devil Wears Prada–“I’m one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”  Not entirely accurate–it would take me several stomach flus to get there–but inspiring in its admittedly sick and pathetic way. 

Besides, I’d rather be sick than insane.

As with so many things in life, it’s the not knowing that’s so hard . . .