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I’m so grateful for the outpouring of well wishes during my illness! Know that I’m writing this with a smile and increasing levels of energy. What follows is a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) regarding my health, along with my answers. Thanks for your understanding as I continue to recover.  

What illness did you have? COVID.

How did you catch it? Remember how I’d put my hubby Jihong on a plane to Switzerland a while back? Well, he apparently brought the virus home. We didn’t know he was infected when I greeted him at the airport, but we still took precautions, masking and staying distant from each other. Within twelve hours, he was sick, and tested positive. A few days later, I followed suit.

How sick did you get? I didn’t have to be hospitalized. But my body was a hot mess, exhibiting every COVID symptom apart from loss of taste and smell.

How close are you now to feeling “normal”? As of this writing, I’d say I’m 60% “myself.” I’m sort of stalled there. My biggest symptom is fatigue, or lack of spunk. COVID recovery has a learning curve, most of which is labeled “REST.” I’m getting good at that.

What has been your weirdest symptom? Quirks in my hearing! For a couple of days, whenever I’d shake my head side to side, I’d hear movement between two distinct musical pitches. Once I felt well enough to sit down and tinker at my piano, I was dismayed when the music sounded unidirectional and colorless, as if it were a bad recording coming out of a deep well. As of today, the piano is starting to sound like a real piano again, but its true tones tend to pop in and out, like my ears are trying to unplug. (They’re not.)

What helped you through the worst days? Bedrest. Tylenol. Fluids. Tissues. Tender text messages, emails and cards (someday I’ll get them all answered). More sleep. Caring for, and being cared for by, my husband (even if we couldn’t do much). Seeing him getting better. Scrambled eggs and toast. Peppermint gum. Cats snuggling against my legs. Daily calls from our son, checking in on us from college. Sleeping upright against propped pillows. Long, hot showers. Sunlight falling through the windows. Fluids. Remote advice from my doctor. Tissues. Comfort food made by friends, dropped off on our back stoop, even if I had no appetite. Low lights. Low sounds. High heat. Piles of blankets. Bad jokes. A remote healing session, gifted by a woman in California. More tissues. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

Has COVID taught you anything new? Yep. Try these on:

The suffering body has gravity. It seems to suck all your mental, emotional, and spiritual energies down into its yuck. Instinct told me to resist a total collapse: So long as part of me could stay free of the body’s downward pull, I could still have some clarity. I could still exercise curiosity. I could still feel hope. This wasn’t a denial of what my body was going through. It was a recognition that my experience wasn’t confined to that.

Pain can be awful and beautiful at the same time. If you can locate the beauty in the pain, it helps you endure the nasty. Sometimes I sensed the pain coming in waves—almost like music, in rhythms that I could float on, even as they peaked in intensity. If I could ride the waves rather than battling them, even terrible pain had a degree of pleasantness.

Pain can take you to unexpected healing. You may recall that my elderly father died of COVID nearly two years ago. Those tending him said that his first symptom of the illness was terrific pain. Despite being on a regimen of painkillers, he moaned constantly and uncontrollably. Eventually hospice was able to manage his pain and keep him comfortable. For me, this aspect of my father’s final days is no longer an abstraction. I’ve tasted some of his agony. When awareness of this washed over me on a particularly difficult day in my illness, I wept a long time. It was a strong, full-body release of heartbreak and affliction. There’s nothing like a good cry, if you can just find your way there.

When did you know the worst was over? I could tell you that it was when my fever finally broke, drenching my bedding in sweat. But no, it was really the next night when, wakened by a coughing jag, I heard the Muse whispering in my ear. Just a few lines, for a poem. I actually dragged my body down the hall to write them down. Whether or not I ever use them, receiving those lines felt like the main breaker in my body’s fuse box powering back on.

When will you be fully back? Not sure. But please know I never fully left. (Love never does, does it, even when it changes faces?)

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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