My sons and I were in Mexico for the month of March. For most of that time, the virus was basically absent from daily life there, if not from conversation. Hotels were full, the streets were crowded and no one was too concerned. However, the stories from home (I’m from northeast New Jersey, close to New York) grew increasingly dire. Family and friends were urging us to stay in Mexico, but I decided to return home.

(Side note – I purposely planned to fly when most people had returned already, to avoid crowds. It worked, but too well – our plane of 14 passengers was so light that when we hit a storm the pilots struggled to control the plane. It was a terrifying experience.)

I went home for several reasons, but a major factor was hearing of the desperate need for medical personnel (I was an ER nurse back in the day). Although I had not worked as a nurse for 14 years, when I got home I reactivated my license on an emergency basis and got a temporary job in an assisted living facility. Unfortunately, the facility, which had quite a few residents with COVID-19, was ill suited to safely caring for them. Six days after I started working there, I woke up with a fever.

It was April 20, at the height of the cautionary tales and fearsome imagery, so realizing I had most likely caught the virus was more than a little scary. However, it soon seemed like I had a relatively mild case, certainly less severe , than many others. I had a fever for 11 days, as well as coughing and diarrhea, but none of it was too terrible. I had zero appetite, but never lost my sense of smell or taste. At this point, I stayed alone in my room.

Not surprisingly, the criteria for “no longer being contagious” was hard to pin down. The CDC was saying to quarantine for 7 days and until afebrile for 3 days. Using my best judgment, I ventured out of my room after 14 days.

So far, the course of the illness had been about what I expected. Naturally I felt weak, but otherwise fairly normal. I was able to resume driving and mostly felt on the road to recovery. Soon, however, I began experiencing puzzling relapses after the most minor of activity. Driving a mile to the bank could send me back to bed for several days.

At first, I attributed this to pushing myself too fast, but after a frustrating series of “turning the corner” followed by a return to bed, I learned that thousands of COVID-19 sufferers were struggling with a similar cyclical pattern, many for months after initial infection. There are a number of Facebook and Slack support groups, with some people still sick at 100 days.

Of course, no one really knows why this is happening. The doctor I went to at 6 weeks told me I was just still sick with the virus, and that she had patients who were testing positive longer than that. Others believe it’s a type of post viral syndrome. The consensus is that even with continued positive tests one is no longer contagious, but who really knows?

Compared to many so-called “long haulers”, I haven’t been that sick. My main symptom has been weakness/fatigue, and in between bouts I can often function almost normally for a few days. However, at around 6 weeks I developed shortness of breath, at times so severe I was unable to speak a full sentence. Although it too was intermittent, I had to stop driving or leaving the house for long periods because I risked not being able to make it back home. For someone who rarely spends much time at home, it was sobering to wonder if I would ever be well enough to travel again.

Throughout my illness I had been trying various supplements. Some seemed to help in that I felt sicker without them, but none were the cure I optimistically hoped for. At 9 weeks, I tried bovine tracheal cartilage, a supplement that has been studied in cancer, HIV and autoimmune conditions. After one day, my shortness of breath was gone. I only took it for 3 days (it gave me insomnia), but for a record 10 days I felt well. The last few days, though, I’ve been a bit tired off and on, so it remains to be seen if the improvement was only temporary.