“Hindsight is 20/20.” Millions of people have had the reality of that saying, as they learn they’ve lived with Valley Fever for weeks, months or even years before proper diagnosis. More are learning to live with it everyday, because Valley Fever is at epidemic levels across the southwestern United States.
To learn more about how this disease is spread and why you should know about it – even if you don’t live in the southwest, see: www.associatedcontent.com/article/186322/valley_fever_its_nothing_like_spring.html
One woman’s 20/20 hindsight hit her in February of 2007, as a result of two respiratory infections she caught between November of 2006 and January of 2007. By February, coughing, fatigue, and joint pain were unbearable. Several visits to the family doctor with blood tests, chest x-rays and CT scans later, the cause revealed itself: Valley Fever. A nodule discovered in one lung, due to pneumonia caused by the Valley Fever, had to begin monitoring for a two year schedule of CT scans, at two and six month intervals.
Her 20/20 hindsight realization? She had been living with Valley Fever for at least a year before diagnosis. Vague symptoms of fatigue, headaches, joint pain, coughing, and shin rashes, she thought were just more intense manifestations of chronic conditions she had diagnosis and followed daily medical protocol for already. She had chalked-up the symptoms to stress . The symptoms came and went, sporadically, and were never intense, just a bother for a few days at a time, until she caught the two respiratory infections in the winter of 2006-07.
Then came the really hard part: Getting beyond that 20/20 hindsight and looking ahead to life with Valley Fever. “Diligence” became the key word. The goal was to keep well-rested and boost the immune system. Fatigue was her enemy. A quick Google search showed her how common it was for Valley Fever victims to lose their jobs and health insurance, because they were too fatigued from their Valley Fever symptoms to do their jobs properly. Focus on dietary choices, specifically eliminating carbohydrates and adding proteins to eliminate fatigue, could go a long way in preventing that tragic result of Valley Fever.
Communication with her physician was paramount. Prescription anti-fungal medication was an option. The only prescription she used was Benzonatate. The hope was that by getting the cough under control, the fatigue would lessen over time, and the other symptoms might become more bearable. The gamble paid-off for her. Within about eight weeks, the cough was gone and the fatigue greatly lessened. The anti-fungal prescription was not part of her medical protocol. The decision was made to allow her body the opportunity to fight the infection on its own, considering the factors to her specific case.
To learn more of what is being done about Valley Fever, see:
Her present life? The muscle and joint aches remain, but she learned that warm compress often soothes them, as does a leisurely walk and swimming. The fatigue comes and goes, but going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning helps. The coughing returns when she lets herself get overly tired or overly exerted. Short naps after work help her get through dinner a a light chore or conversation with family and friends in the evening. “Coping” is her new key word these days
Her future life? A follow-up CT scan on the lung nodule occurred two months after diagnosis, thankfully showing no growths. Another CT must be done in six months – it is watch and wait – and further CT scans will follow for a minimum of two years. Even though her symptoms have improved, she must continue to be diligent in monitoring her health, and reporting the Valley Fever to health professionals throughout her life. Relapse can occur. The infection can attack any part of the body, including the brain and spinal cord. Some people have died from Valley Fever.
20/20 hindsight regarding her Valley Fever was not about prevention. It is about awareness.
It was about self-advocacy and active participation in her own health care.
Content Producer’s personal experience, 2005-07
Arizona Community Physicians, La Cholla Blvd., Tucson, AZ, 2006-07
Valley Fever Center For Excellence, Tucson, AZ., 2007