Infectious Mononucleosis: An Absolute Nightmare

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

This past Winter was the hardest term of my college career. I was sick from day one, and I perpetually seemed to be battling some type of cold. Being so sick so often was not normal for me at all, and deep down I felt like there was an underlying reason for it. In January, I went to SHAC three times in one week. Over the course of the term, I was tested for strep and had my blood drawn three times. I was tested for thyroid antibodies, deficiencies, and inflammatory markers. All of my blood work was normal. In fact, my CBC (Complete Blood Count) never even indicated I was battling an infection.

In January, I was also tested for mono and it was negative. Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is a common viral infection with no cure other than rest and time. It’s known for causing a fever, an enlarged spleen, and swollen lymph nodes. The recovery period often includes debilitating fatigue and weakness that lingers for weeks. It’s practically unheard of for a monospot test to be negative after 1-2 weeks of being symptomatic, and when I was tested I’d been exhibiting symptoms for three full weeks.

I had felt how weak and exhausted I was; I knew something was wrong. Without a diagnosis for what I was experiencing though, I didn’t feel valid in expressing my concerns and I didn’t want to come across as dramatic. In March, I was still sick and I decided to visit SHAC yet again. This was right when SHAC started COVID-19 precautions, but I had never worried that I was actually sick with the coronavirus. 

When the doctor asked about my symptoms, I caught myself saying, “Well I’m still staying as active as I was before I was sick.” But that wasn’t really the truth. When I swam, I could barely move my arms through the water. I was so weak that I could barely squat the 45-pound bar and was winded after three reps. If I didn’t nap once a day, I would feel the consequences of it in my energy levels the following day. For a couple weeks in February, my lymph nodes were so swollen that at one point, it hurt if something brushed my neck. I shared this with my doctor, and it may have been the information that convinced them I really should be tested for mono again.

That monospot test came back positive. After eight and a half weeks of going crazy trying to figure out what was happening to my body, I finally knew. In retrospect, everything made sense despite not having a classical case of mono. I realized how I had normalized my continual suffering because I didn’t want to seem like I was overreacting to “just a cold.” I had continued swimming, lifting, and playing Ultimate frisbee. In doing so, I had unwittingly caused myself to relapse again, and again, and again. I’d also put my spleen at risk of rupturing by engaging in a contact sport. I know my body better than anyone, but I let the fear of outside judgment stop me from listening to it. It’s important to remember that a textbook-perfect model is often used in diagnoses, but an actual textbook-perfect case is rare.

Now, I’m feeling nearly 100% recovered. Beyond a couple lingering symptoms, I’ve regained my strength and am back to my usual active self. I’m grateful I never had to move home to recover from mono (which is pretty common), and I continue to live on campus despite the ongoing pandemic. The whole experience has made me value my health more than ever.

Sick of Being Sick

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Each term, I dread the day I’m going to catch whatever cold has been going around. College campus and the city are such germy environments that it feels inevitable. Classrooms, dorms, the gym, and public transit all compete to be the place you pick up a bug. I came to expect that I’d get sick around once per term and fall behind in classes. However, as time went on I didn’t want that to be my normal. 

I started looking into ways to boost my immune system naturally. Barely any research on herbal supplements exists and what does is all anecdotal. I’d dabbled with herbal supplements in the past with no success, so I wondered how people used them successfully.

After digging through the depths of the internet and talking to friends and extended friends I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how to prevent catching a cold. I used to take immune support supplements like elderberry syrup, oregano oil, and garlic just once when I started feeling sick. I learned I actually needed to take the herbal remedies every few hours for them to be effective—kind of like how you would an antibiotic. 

At the earliest onset of symptoms, I start taking elderberry syrup and oregano oil capsules 4-5 times a day. I eat cloves of garlic at night because I don’t want to walk around all day smelling like it. Unsavory as it is to most people, garlic is by far the cheapest and most effective method I’ve found. I believe in it so much that my friends will tell you I’m paid by the garlic commission. 

From one student to another, I know we all hate to get sick. No one has time for that. By no means am I a medical professional, and as a skeptic myself, I don’t like to base conclusions off of anecdotal evidence. But so far, I’ve only been sick once in 2019 (I write as I furiously knock on wood), and I felt compelled to share my method.

Want to Live Longer?

blog1 (1) By: Xylia Lydgate

With a busy lifestyle, it’s easy to fall prey to a sedentary lifestyle. While there are countless factors that contribute to the increased risk of health-related issues, one factor that is often overlooked is cardiorespiratory fitness. This is something I notice in myself when I go weeks or even months with minimal physical activity.

I’ve observed that when I try to get back into an exercise regime after a long absence, I will have a more difficult time catching my breath, my muscles will feel more fatigued, I will feel less mentally motivated—and I’m only 21 years old! Although I’d like to blame this on my full school and work schedule, I know it is inexcusable to not exercise.

One of my favorite videos on the benefits of exercise is called “23 ½ hours: What is the best thing we can do for our health?” by Dr. Mike Evans. He presents a unique case backed with scientific research of how just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and increase longevity. In fact, he shares several studies indicating “low fitness” to be the strongest predictor of death.

While this all sounds like common sense, we may find it awkward to fit in as little as 30 minutes of activity each day. Although level of intensity and length of time contribute to additional benefits, your 30 minutes of activity doesn’t need to be anything strenuous to reap significant health benefits. Exercise can also be done in three sessions of 10 minutes for equal benefit. At Campus Rec, we offer over twenty different 30-minute workout ideas including weights, agility, TRX, cardio, rock climbing and swimming. These can be accessed online or in-person throughout each floor of the gym.

In a society where there is a strong presence of advertisements for over-the-counter medications and where literature on health is often funded and influenced by large drug companies, it is easy to see why many Americans turn to medicine as a quick remedy for all their health issues. However, research shows that exercise is one of the best medicines. As Dr. Evans put it, do your best to limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 ½ hours a day.

Today is the day to commit to an active lifestyle.

Resources Here, Resources There, but Not Everywhere

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By Melissa Pyle

As a student at Portland State, I have often found myself impressed at the available resources on campus that support students outside of our academic needs. For example, there is the Food Pantry to combat food insecurity, the Recreation Center to support an active lifestyle, or even SHAC which provides free and low-cost services supporting health and wellness. However, recently I was appalled to find a lack of resources in a very important and necessary place, the women’s bathroom.

A scenario some of us may be familiar with involves going to the bathroom and immediately being notified of an unexpected monthly visitor. Generally, I would pop a few quarters into a conveniently placed metal machine and graciously grab my supplies and then go about my day stress free. Unfortunately, when this happened to me I was in the Smith Memorial Student Union and instead of finding the trusted “tampon machine” there was just a sign. The sign, pictured above, read, “Feminine hygiene products are available for purchase from the University Market on the first floor of Smith Memorial Student Union and after hours at the Plaid Pantry.” PSU is better than this and should be supporting menstruation more inclusively and not suggesting they walk to an alternative location to purchase the supplies they need. I reached out to the Executive Administrative Coordinator of Finance & Administration who manages Facilities and Maintenance in Smith Memorial Student Union for a comment and they expressed, “we have just started to research best practices and create a campus standard around hygiene products in restrooms.”

As a cis-gendered woman, I know that menstruation is just a fact of life. I, along with many others with a uterus, experience a menstrual cycle, it is not gross, it is not shameful, it is natural and healthy. Providing menstrual supplies in all of the bathrooms around campus would be tangible representation of the supportive resources that PSU provides. PSU Camions of Care is a student club that is filling this gap. They not only provide menstrual supplies to low-income and/or homeless students, they also advocate for menstrual focused institutional change. Would you join me in supporting PSU Camions of Care and their November campaign, “No Shame November” and sign a petition in support of the administration providing menstrual supplies in all the bathrooms around campus? Let me know in the comments section if you are interested in being a part of this movement.

I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT

By: Sharon Nellist

This is it. Ten more days until… FINALS WEEK. I am usually of mixed emotions during this 10258891_10101685513754293_6293913161816303566_otime: glad that the workload will be placed on a brief hold, and sentimental over the ending of classes that I truly enjoyed.

I had the privilege of taking a course in which the grade is solely up to me. It is a beautiful array of assignments catered to different learning styles that I can a-la-carte my way to a guaranteed ‘A’. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh yes, you guessed it, I never cease to amaze myself with my proficient ability to procrastinate. You would think that I would have this worked out now that I am in my senior year. Honestly, I had good intentions at the beginning to use this grading process to do away with procrastination, so I wouldn’t be stressed with a heavy workload at the end of the term. But alas, here I am, and I have roughly 20 pages of writing to do just for this class. And every time I do it well, it gets harder to change habits. “I also work best under pressure.”

The question is, is procrastination a bad thing?

vkuEJZCLets take a psychological perspective; hence, the course with this grading system is Abnormal Psychology.

Is procrastination DISTRESSFUL? Most of the term is distress free with this method as I absorb information like a sea sponge. It is only distressful the last few weeks of the term when I basically live in my own caffeinated-induced bubble.

Is there DEVIANCE? Probably not out of the ordinary. We are all human. I am sure that a copious amount of students at Portland State procrastinate too –  you know, since the library is open 24 hours from March 7-17.

Is it DYSFUNCTIONAL? It can be, if I fail to eat, sleep and hydrate. And, it may not be, if I manage to maintain grades above the GPA that I intend to graduate with.

What is your opinion on procrastination?

The Graduation Blues

Brooke HornBy Brooke Horn

I have a countdown app installed on my cell phone. It has three events on it: Portfolio Due, Thesis Defense, and Commencement, each with their own countdown timer. It tells me that I have six days left to finish my portfolio, thirty-six days left to panic about my thesis, and fifty-nine days until I will (with any luck) walk across the stage at the Moda Center, beaming, having earned a Master’s degree in Writing and Book Publishing.

That day feels both terrifyingly close and impossibly far away. There is so much to do before then, so much that could go wrong. And yet, even though it feels like my two-year degree program started yesterday, I feel confident. My education and experiences have equipped me with both a unique range of skills and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to go forth into the mysterious beyond of post-graduation adulthood.

Never mind that I still waited until the last possible minute to file my taxes this year, or that I opt for pizza and Netflix instead of cooking a real meal more than I’d like to admit.

Over the past two years, I’ve juggled a full graduate course load, 2-3 jobs and internships each term, a serious relationship, and a leadership position on campus. Both of my parents were hospitalized due to medical conditions within the last few months too. To be frank, I’ve been a walking bundle of stress.

Keep-Calm-and-GraduateIf I could pass along one piece of advice to my fellow students, it would be this: learn how to manage your stress. Because you will, inevitably, face a point in your life when everything seems to come crashing down. Knowing how to relax, how to let go and take care of yourself – these are things that I never learned until I really needed them, and looking back, I wish I had learned them sooner. Now I know better: I recognize my limitations, and I listen to my body when it tells me to slow down, go for a walk, or pour a bubble bath.

But thankfully, both of my parents are recovering, my portfolio is coming along nicely, and my friends have been both patient and supportive. I bounced back. I’ve made lasting relationships – both professional and otherwise – and worked with some truly talented authors, students, and educators in my program. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I look forward to the future waiting on the other side of that stage.

Eat like a caveman, become lean like caveman?

paleo dietBy Mario Quintana

The definition of a diet, according to Merriam-Webster, means food and drink regularly provided or consumed, habitual nourishment, or the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason. And for many, that special reason is to lose weight for a specific occasion or for their health. Some will try numerous diets and various exercise regimens to accomplish said goal. A few months ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and started the paleo diet in order to lean out.

Simply described, the paleo diet uses the logic that our ancestors only had access to meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fats from some of these these sources. Therefore, it excludes agricultural productions such as grains, dairy, legumes, refined salt, refined sugar, potatoes, and processed oils from one’s diet. At first glance, the paleo diet makes sense and even more so here in Portland. One month into the diet, I noticed a change in weight. However, I soon began to continuously feel lethargic, exhausted, and weak.

The paleo diet reasons that by consuming little to no carbohydrates, the body will naturally use up all the stored fat one has for energy. You lose weight and become lean like our ancestors were. However, there is no substantial evidence to support that our ancestors followed this diet. Up to 60% of the paleo diet heavily focuses on eating meat and fats. That percentage is simply too high for the average sedentary person, even for those who exercise, and even for world-class athletes. As for the weight that I lost, and much to my dismay, most of it turned out to be mostly muscle.

Eating healthy and exercising daily may be hard to start for many, but perhaps what’s even worse is doing both based on fads or what’s popular. In other words, one needs to research scientifically peer reviewed information on nutrition and kinesiology to understand the human body to successfully change it and maintain it. For those interested, I suggest reading Dr. T. Colin Campbell ‘s research.

You Don’t Know What You Got . . .

Student Insurance . . . plus SHAC is available, too.

Student Insurance . . . plus SHAC is available, too.

By: Theo Burke

As I graduate, besides memories and friends, I am leaving behind the awesome Portland State student health insurance. I’ve written about this before, now I’m experiencing the difference.

Since I don’t know what job is coming down the pike or what kind of health insurance it might carry, I’ve applied for individual insurance through Cover Oregon, the state exchange that sells private health plans (with federal subsidies to help pay the premiums) under the Affordable Care Act, or “ObamaCare.” The state exchange will alternatively sign you up automatically for the state’s Medicaid program (the Oregon Health Plan) if you qualify.

In the real world, I will have to think more about the deductible. A deductible is an amount you pay each year (usually $250 – $1000 or higher) before any benefits are paid by your health insurer.

At PSU, the deductible was $0.00.

My present doctors might not be covered by a new insurance company. At PSU, the Aetna provider network was vast.

I will have to worry more about whether alternative care is covered. At PSU, naturopathic doctors are treated the same as primary care doctors, and chiropractors are covered up to twelve visits per year.

Weirdly enough, when I heard from Cover Oregon recently, they put me in the Oregon Health Plan, even though I reported enough income to disqualify me from that program. Now I will have to figure out the Medicaid ”world,” which works much differently than the private insurers’ system, or else contest my placement in that program with Cover Oregon.

Students, the PSU plan won’t throw you such curve balls. You have an awesome, generous health plan, and you should take advantage of it before you graduate. As I’ve said before, you don’t know what you’ve got, until you lose it.

Call Campus Security? Maybe not.

HPIM2422

Another “phalanx response”, on Sunday, March 2, in Smith.

Over Christmas, as I returned to my car at 2 a.m., I was approached by four muscular campus security officers, in three patrol cars. It was a little scary.

Someone had called in a complaint about a man “trying to break into the library, wearing a hoody.”  I had returned some books to the Millar Library dropbox, and then carried the library’s delivered New York Times closer to the revolving doors as a courtesy, pausing to read some headlines first. I’m geeky like that.

After a check with dispatch that I was a bona fide student, the four officers let me on my way. I’ve since noticed this “phalanx of four” routine is common with Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO) responses:

  • HPIM2423Last week, I saw a solo CPSO officer patrolling the Broadway. Around the corner, I spotted three more campus security responding to an incident.
  • Later in the week, a young man was panhandling all of us in line for coffee in Smith. Someone apparently reported him, as later I spied one officer stationed by the coffee joint, two more interviewing him by the Information Desk, and a fourth officer by the front door on Broadway.

Clearly, CPSO is prepared for any escape in any direction! Their “I-formation” is as impressive as any our football Vikings might run.

I refrained from calling CPSO on the panhandler, as I also did last week when I saw an unstable young man kicking all of the gravel out of the tree beds in front of the Broadway. I imagined an overreaction from CPSO similar to my experience.

Is all this manpower necessary to keep us safe? A greater risk is created, I suggest, if some students avoid calling security in the first place, concerned about overkill. Money would also be saved if CPSO responded with two-man teams.

What do you think?  In April, the university will have a security discussion that will include the question of arming these officers with guns. Tell the university what you think here, or add a comment to this blogpost. You can bone up on the recent task force report on campus safety here.

A relentless secret at PSU . . .

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There is a secret held by many a Portland State student, closely guarded, but not really secret; not shameful, but not boasted of. We keep it from others, and ourselves as well.

It is the grinding, relentless poverty of the college student. Students push poverty out of their minds, taking loan after loan each term without dwelling on the ramifications, trying to hang on until graduation, concentrating on academics.

wolf howling-md

Our university community may not fully realize how deeply many students live in the quiet perseverance of being broke and being a student. And the weird ways that poverty can manifest.

A busy student I know led a prestigious student group last year while racking up $1800 in parking fines and impoundment fees on her car. She gave up on recovering the car, and eventually purchased a different vehicle. Some students can’t afford their textbooks. I’ve visited ASPSU’s food pantry myself several times this term and in past terms.

The wolves just catch up with you. You feed the ones that must be fed, and try to ignore the howling of the others as you bear down your latest term paper. Eventually, the checkbook gets empty, the next pittance of income too far away.

That is when I have been grateful for the existence of several things:  ASPSU’s food pantry in Smith. The endless help of the Financial Aid office. Emergency loans from the Bursar’s Office. A little help from my friends in my personal life.

I would not have made it through without them.