This is a rerun of one of Francesca’s popular columns.
Last week, I had the flu.
Rather, the flu had me.
More accurately, the flu ran me over in a truck, reversed back over me, then sued me for bumper damage.
And I’m no baby when it comes to being sick. I’ve soldiered through many illnesses. I performed in my high school musical with whooping cough, and I cracked two ribs from coughing. I had mono in college without knowing it.
I’m a tough cookie.
But the flu waged a sneak attack. It got me last Saturday when I was on a date.
As if a single girl in New York doesn’t have it hard enough.
We were seeing a Russian film, and somewhere between the grim middle and the grimmer ending, my throat started to feel really sore. Then a splitting headache. Soon teeth-chattering chills.
I sent my date home without even a kiss on the cheek.
I’m great at playing hard to get with a temperature.
I thought it was a bad cold. I was sure my home-remedy arsenal would do the trick — neti pots and saltwater gargles, questionable uses for apple cider vinegar — but by Monday, I couldn’t stand up without feeling faint.
And I live alone, with a cat.
I’m at risk for Sad Single Lady Death. You know the fear. It’s the reason we chew our food slowly and step carefully out of the shower. It’s the nightmare scenario where you die alone in your apartment from something avoidable to non-spinsters, go undiscovered, and your cat does something that reveals it didn’t really love you anyway, like eat your face.
I couldn’t allow this cliché to come true. So I did something no millennial likes to do: I found a doctor.
All my friends are the same. We have every specialty doctor in the city — a gynecologist, a dermatologist, maybe even an acupuncturist — but none of us has a regular ol’ general practitioner.
After much effort, I tracked down the number of a medical group, got an appointment, and dragged myself to the office.
Sitting in the waiting room, I had barely enough strength to fill out the paperwork. I slumped in the exam room, sunk into my puffy coat like a fallen soufflé.
I was expecting a Dr. Donna Edwards, but the doctor who walked in was a baby-faced young man.
“Dr. Edwards is the supervising physician,” he explained. “I’m a resident.”
I’m now at an age where it’s possible that I am older than my doctor.
He evaluated me, which, judging by how godawful I looked, didn’t require a medical degree.
“Do you work in a school or busy office?” he asked
“No, I work at home. I barely leave my apartment except to go to the gym.”
“Probably caught a virus there.”
The gym. I knew it. A health sham all along.
“Now this next thing,” he began. “I could do it for you, but it’d be better for you if you do it yourself.”
If only more men my age could admit that.
He handed me a long wooden Q-tip. “I need you to put this as far up your nose as you’re comfortable with, the farther the better.” He didn’t know what a people-pleaser I was. I stuck that thing so far up, I touched my brain.
Five minutes later, I tested positive for Flu A.
I always was an A-student.
He prescribed Tamiflu. “It’s an antiretroviral.”
I gulped. “Like for AIDS?”
“Sorry, I mean antiviral. I get those mixed up.” He chuckled.
“Now it’s not that common, but some people after taking this medication go into anaphylactic shock. So if you feel your throat closing, go to an ER.” Sad Single Lady Death!
“Well, I live alone, so after I take it, how much time do I have before I know whether or not my throat’s gonna close?”
I thanked him and left paler than before.
In the freezing rain, with only a fever to keep me warm, I had to walk from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy, then to the grocery store. As I struggled to carry my heavy bags of canned soup, juice, and throat-healing sorbet, I thought:
This. Is. Really. Hard.
But I made it home. I took the Tamiflu and waited, eyeing my cat suspiciously.
Hero Single Lady. Bona Fide New Yorker. Living Cat Owner.
I got through the flu. All by myself.