Feeling thankful and trying to stay healthy

stacks of cooking pots

After getting over an illness, I was so thankful for cafeteria soup.

♪♫♪ So move around your furniture or put it all out on the curb / And drive away to something new, yeah watch the skyline sink behind you… 

There is much that I am thankful for. My family and friends. My opportunities. My safety.

I am truly blessed, and I try not to take any of it for granted, even for a second. Time often feels like it’s slipping away from me, and I want to be sure to appreciate what I’m doing while I’m doing it instead of realizing how lucky I was in retrospect. I have everything and everyone I need around me, and I’m making moves to reach the goals that I have set for myself.

Lately though, I realized that there is something I do often take for granted: my health. Over the past semester, my immune system has had quite the rough time fighting off illnesses that never seem to subside. In grade school, I was never sick very often — maybe once a year I would get a cold, which would be a miserable couple of days, but then I would easily move on. But since coming to college, I think my immune system has taken a hit and I’ve been getting sick every semester … I suppose one could easily attribute that to increased stress. This semester has certainly taken an especially significant toll on my body when it comes to fighting sickness. I’ve never appreciated my good health more than I do right now.

Remarkably, in my past three years at UIC, I never actually visited the Maxwell clinic. Back in freshman year (wow, that was 2012 … can’t believe it feels so long ago), I opted out of Campus Care because I was under my parents’ insurance and wanted to save the few hundreds dollars per semester. I was grandfathered into new Campus Care contracts, and as a result, I never had to re-opt out (or in) again. Since my parents’ insurance isn’t readily accepted at the Maxwell clinic, I never had a reason to visit there, even when I was sick. During those times, I went with bed rest and hot tea as my remedies instead of running to the clinic.

Yet in the past month and a half, I visited the Maxwell clinic twice — the first time for antibiotics and the second time for a check for strep throat. Both times my body felt incredibly awful, weak, and ill … even the walk over was treacherous. I was grateful to be in good hands upon arrival. The nurses were friendly and the doctors I saw were caring and compassionate, answering my questions and concerns (and double-checking for me that my visit would be covered by my insurance). Even my antibiotics were covered, which I was thankful for because I didn’t have to worry about pulling from my savings. Now that I’m not receiving any financial aid from UIC, every little bit counts, and saving those $30-50 really makes a difference.

After various bouts of illness for several weeks ranging from persistent colds to mysterious abdominal pain to horrible headaches, my most recent woe was the most dreadful sore throat I’ve encountered in my life. I couldn’t even swallow without great pain and difficulty, let alone consume solid food. Even choking down water or hot tea was an arduous struggle.

At the clinic, the quick throat swab told me it wasn’t strep throat (what I feared), and the medical school resident looked at me with woeful eyes when she told me that it was likely a viral infection — the most she could do was prescribe me strong painkillers while the virus ran its course. For the next week, I took ibuprofen and used an analgesic throat spray between my classes and late into the night, as I couldn’t sleep in the supine position without dreadful dysphagia. It was a long several days before I was able to eat properly again. Never had I been so thankful for cafeteria soup.

But I healed. Slowly but steadily, I recovered, and I had easy access to the health care, warm bed, and lozenges while I did it. And I’m feeling so lucky and thankful now, as I sit here writing this healthy, not hungry, and in my warm pajamas.

I recently heard someone remark that you never realize how wonderful a clear nasal passage is until you have a stubborn stuffy nose. In my experience now, I would say the same thing about basic functions like swallowing and breathing easily, even sleeping comfortably on my back.

I think in the commotion of exams, commitments, and being there for my family and friends, I tend to forget to take care of myself sometimes. Well, if this semester has taught me anything, it’s to take all measures to stay tiptop shape and keep my immune system strong: stop stressing over nothing, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, eat healthy, take Vitamin C. There’s definitely much that I can do for myself that I neglected, and I learned the consequences the hard way.

Take care of yourself, friends. With finals week coming up, keep the thought of holiday break in mind as motivation as you prepare for those looming exams. The finish line is in sight. But most importantly, keep yourself strong and healthy.

Begin again, you’re no calendar, you’re no concrete plan / Begin again… ♪♫♪

(Begin Again – Measure)


Sarah Lee (F)Sarah Lee is a senior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of  life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.

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