Mucous (Even The Word Is Gross)

Kage Baker almost always had a cold this time of year. She caught colds like other people … well, do something both easy and unpleasant. Falling off a log. Something like that.

One year, she was especially hooked on Bartles & James Wine Coolers (anyone remember those?) They soothed her throat, got her a little tipsy, tasted good. Man, she loved those sugary teenager drinks! Then we found out that something in the wine made her sinuses overactive, which meant she had been making her colds worse while she swigged them … but Kage loved candy booze, and was always running into side effects like that. I switched her to hot toddies and at least they didn’t make her colds worse. The advantage is not that they cure you, of course – alcoholic drinks don’t do that, kids – just that you feel, if not better, at least less.

Last year, though, she was totally cold-free! Of course, she’d had flu and pneumonia shots in the fall – people on chemo and radiation  get them early, to try and compensate for their cold-cocked immune responses – but we expected it to sneak up on her anyway. Maybe not the dreaded Swine Flu, but even an ordinary little rinovirus could have had its way with her. Her lymphatic system was like the wall at Helm’s Deep after the suicide orc gets done.

Kage said she had expected to catch everything under the sun – we’d already learned that having cancer did not mean you got a free pass from all the lesser inconveniences of life. Funny, but you really do rather expect that – there’s a feeling , among the medical staff as well as the patients, that, Hey, I can’t have a yeast infection/a cold sore/a headache/a hangnail!  I have cancer! And sometimes, it’s true, the massive amounts of “kill everything” they give you do eliminate a lot of small time contendahs. More often, though, you just catch things you never dreamed were out there – Cenozoic life forms that have been hanging around for millions of year waiting for the human immune system get drunk on duty.

In this, though, Kage got lucky. No cold. And if you think she did not appreciate that – well, you’ve just never been sick enough to find out how grateful you can be for the elimination of even a tiny discomfort, that’s all. And as Kage observed, “After 57 years, you do get tired of blowing your nose all winter.”

Kage’s annual colds had always been exaserbated, at least emotionally, by the fact that I did not catch them. Oh, no one is immune, of course; but I usually go two or three years without a sniffle. I just don’t get colds. Kage found it especially unfair since, prior to my heart attack two years ago, I had smoked since my mid-20’s: not cigarettes (vile things) but a clay pipe, a dudeen. And I never got colds. I stopped smoking the day of my heart attack, but I still didn’t catch any colds. It bugged the hell out of Kage.

Well, now she is avenged. The last year has dealt a fairly major blow to my stamina and immune system, and I have become prey to sinus infections. Kimberly catches them as frequently as Kage did, and my defenses are lying in a corner in a swoon … so today I am sniffling and sneezing and I can feel my skull filling with mucous. I feel like there is a transporter in my head connected to the Planet of the Space Slugs and set permanently to “Energize”. Every time I glance in the mirror my nose and eyes are  glowing redder … and you know what? Those paper tissues with lotion on them are bull. Greasy dish towels would work just as well. And they’d be bigger.

As you can tell, Dear Readers, this has also done wonders for my frame of mind and sparkling personality. I do not possess the blithe and childlike faith that let Kage indulge in the placebo effects of hot toddies. And since I now take a dozen different pills a day for assorted cardiac problems, most decongestants are forbidden to me (they raise blood pressure). The few I can take do not work a lot, although they do make me aimlessly nervous and hyperactive … I drip a bit less, but I also gibber a lot more.

Harry likes that. Parrots are always in favour of gibbering. Kage herself would just have retired to her chair at this point, and watched something goofy with Harry. So I guess I will too.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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6 Responses to Mucous (Even The Word Is Gross)

  1. catharine says:

    May I heartily recommend the use of a neti pot or Neil Med nasal lavage. Uses saline to clean out your nasal pasages. Since I went on it my sinus problems have been righteously reduced. Hope you feel better soon.

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  2. Kate says:

    Oh, that’s an idea! Saline is almost totally neutral. Thank you, Catharine!

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  3. Susan Kramer says:

    Kate, A hot toddy sounds good, but I’ll suffice for a cup of CC tea with lots of sugar. It’s the first cold of the year…complements of the 20 five year-olds I teach every day. Hopefully the sinus infection will stay at bay. There’s a woman on TV right now saying that if you snort garlic, you won’t get a sinus infection…maybe it will work. Susan

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  4. Kate says:

    Constant Comment tea- good stuff. However, snorting garlic? Sounds like one of those techniques that is not really a cure, but is awfully distracting!

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  5. Buffalo says:

    That’s an interesting point you make, about the fact of having, and perhaps overcoming, cancer causing you to think (for a little while) that you have beaten it all. That was my experience, when my prostate cancer went into remission. It came as a shock (I think I was pulling on my socks at the moment) to realize that I was still mortal, and that the cancer’s departure did not mean that I had ducked the well known bullet for all time. There are lots of bullets, and one of them, as the saying goes, has my name on it. The game is rigged. We’re in a game of whack-a-being (to mix my metaphors) and God/dess has the mallet, but the number of holes keeps getting smaller. I’m just grateful that the game, with all its ducking and peeping, is fun (mostly), while it lasts.

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  6. Kate says:

    Buffalo: pulling up your socks is a classic moment for realizations. The fact that the game is rigged and no one (as the poet said) gets out alive was not such a dreadful shock to me. It was the indignity, the insult to injury bits, that really ticked me off. And Kage, too. I mean, you come to terms with the fact that you are dying of a dread disease, but then you get a zit on your nose? Someone has NO sense of cosmic appropriateness!

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