A Lengthy Reboot

By Richard Hsu
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On Health

(Written in very late December, 2023.)

During my school years (90s), I fell sick often. I remember being sick before exams (pressure?). I remember going to the pharmacy to get specific medicines for malaria because I had it many times before. Another problem I often had was a sore throat. In class 5, my sore throat problem (tonsilitis?) became so bad I had surgery to get it removed. I don't think it completely solved the problem because I continued to have a sore throat and avoided cold drinks/popsicles/ice cream. The funny thing is, after the tonsil removal, I got an ice cream to soothe the soreness from the surgery.

For reasons I still don't understand, when I moved to Canada, I didn't have the sore throat problem anymore (except when I got the flu). So, I no longer avoid cold drinks or ice.

During my school days, when I was sick, it was often a total rest situation. No school, no chores. Just bedrest. I guess the symptoms were severe, or maybe, mentally, I was unable to handle the symptoms.

It changed when I started to work in my 20s, or maybe even earlier during college when I had obligations (like giving tuition). I still fell sick, but it was no longer a do-nothing-else situation. I would still go about what I had to do. I guess that's what growing up means. I developed resilience and mental toughness, enabling me to overcome pain, weakness, and other symptoms.

For most of my working life, including the last 18 years in Canada, I have tended to take a sick day off as a rare exception. I continued to work through the symptoms. It helped that I worked from home.

I write this while being sick (flu-like symptoms) since Christmas day. So, the week between the 25th and the 1st was spent in bed watching Netflix or sleeping. Unfortunately, I had to cancel three dinner invitations.

The kids aren't allowed to skip school if they have mild symptoms (except when it's contagious). They don't like it. Often, I would make them go to school only to get a call from school that they are sick and need to go home. You can't win with kids. They will get their school to do what they can't. When she gets home, she is fine! I said "she" because, in recent memory, it's just been my daughter who's pulled this trick, not my son.

Fortunately, my kids are healthier than me.

In early 2020, when the COVID pandemic started, I fell sick again, and after a few days of trying Tylenol and not working, I finally went to the doctor's office. Dr. Raj, my family doctor, was fully clothed in quarantine attire with a face mask covered by a face shield! It was maybe March/April, we were in the first lockdown. COVID testing had just started. So Dr. Raj asked me to get it tested.

I went to a temporary portable office on the parking ground of a hospital for testing. All the nurses were similarly covered in extra layers, with masks, and face shields. The nurse inserted the swab down my nose beyond what I thought was possible. It was very uncomfortable. I was in tears. But she was gentle, calm, and friendly, and it helped. She had glasses, and I remember her telling me her glasses and face shield kept fogging all day. We don't deserve our doctors and nurses.

Days later, I got called and told that it was negative.

It was a relief, but at the same time, it was another push I needed towards getting healthier. I started doing cardio from YouTube videos from an Australian couple. Their channel is called Team Body Project, and their mantra: "Progress, not perfection" was the right message, at the right time for me. It helped me get started, and kept me doing cardio even today, some three years later.