I knew the holidays would look different in 2020, I just didn’t realize how different they would look until recently. My Thanksgiving featured no turkey, no green-bean casserole, no pie, no family. Just me, Hendrix, my couch and Netflix.
I had decided that a week and a half before Thanksgiving, I was going to quarantine. No work out studio, no restaurants, no being around other humans. Just me and Hendrix (my cat). That way, I would be able to go home to my immediate family for Thanksgiving.
Well, it turns out, I was a little too late.
Even though I constantly washed my hands, took precautions and always wore my mask — the hallways in my building, grocery stores, restaurants, elevators — everywhere you’re told to wear a mask, I ended up with COVID. And I have no idea where I got it.
While everyone’s experience with COVID-19 is different, since I’ve gotten a lot of curious questions, I thought I would share mine. I broke it down by days, since if/when you test positive, you must isolate and quarantine for 10 days from your first symptom.
DAY – 1
Technically this might be day 1, but we’ll call it day -1 for the sake of tracking. I took a spin class at home this day and quickly realized, I couldn’t keep up like I usually could. I would also, easily, get very out of breath and when I did, start to cough.
That morning, I was eating toast and after a few bites realized I couldn’t taste it. The honey, the butter, the bread. Nothing. In a moment, I shot up from my chair and was smelling anything I could find — candles, Febreze, perfume — NOTHING. Not one tiny bit of a smell or taste. Not even my favorite salt and vinegar popcorn.
I went in for a test (the ones that take a few days) over lunch. The test came back positive a few days later.
Symptoms: no taste or smell, tightness in my chest — taking big, deep breaths and yawning (big intake of air) made me cough and I had a headache.
I went for a rapid test that morning at Patient Health. Another nose swab to the brain, 15 minutes later and the test came back positive.
Still no taste or smell, chest tightness and the ever lingering headache.
DAY 3 & 4
I was still feeling pretty good, considering. Not too hungry, maybe a perk for some, but when you can’t taste or smell food, your appetite also goes into isolation.
This is the day when the fatigue started to set in. I hadn’t slowed down much, because, I really didn’t feel that bad. Days 3 and 4 changed that. Picking up my kitchen, showering, putting clothes away. It all made me tired. I also noticed that I very easily got out of breath. Walking to the bathroom or through my apartment, turning over too quickly in bed, moving laundry. It wouldn’t leave me fighting for air, but it made me breathe heavier and faster.
DAYS 5 & 6
The fatigue set in. Super tired these days. Still no taste or smell, tightness in my chest and headaches, focused around my eyes. Did a lot of sleeping. I also had some odd, very brief, tingling in my nose.
DAY 7 & 8
While I was still tired, it wasn’t the fatigue I was feeling the prior days. Though, after cleaning up my kitchen, I quickly realized I still needed to take it easy. Something that simple drained me.
Still no taste or smell, but I could now take a deep breath and yawn, without it causing me to cough. Progress.
I had been taking Zicam daily and I swore this day, I could taste it a little bit. I stood in my bathroom and started to cry. Happy, I can barely taste, but I can taste something. Tears. I FaceTime’d my mom and dad because I was so excited. I could taste and smell an onion and vinegar (gross), I could smell a candle! Crying because you can smell an onion is so 2020. None of it was a full smell, if that makes sense, but I could smell it a little bit.
Then, in a matter of moments, I lost it again. Zero taste or smell. Incredibly frustrating and stressful.
My last day of isolation. I was feeling completely better and had to keep reminding myself not to jump back into old routines, but to let my body continue to rest. I definitely didn’t want to regress.
In the morning I couldn’t taste anything, but in the afternoon, I got a little taste of my chai tea, after I was more than halfway through drinking it, then if faded again. Soon after, I realized I could smell pie and bread, anything that had a scent. My taste and smell lasted 5 or so hours, then I lost it again.
I decided to get retested and my results came back NEGATIVE!
As of now, I’m feeling good. I’m getting my taste and smell back for 5-6 hours a day, mostly in the afternoon and early evening. I would say, it’s about at 50% of “normal”. I know what I’m eating and smelling, but it’s not 100%. My favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to. I’m hopeful my smells and taste fully comes back and my favorite perfume eventually smells like that way I remember it. Making a little progress.
When they do come back to me, all I can think about is how wonderful everything smells and tastes. Realizing I could smell the bakery in the grocery store stopped me in my tracks. It smelled wonderful! Everything. Food, the parking garage (weird, I know), the smell of fall, my lotion. Everything. It all smells amazing.
You read about people losing their taste and smell with COVID and think, oh that’s too bad. Then you lose yours and damn. It sucks. I tried the onion trick, biting into it like an apple and I tasted nothing. Losing 40% of your senses. It’s very stressful and frustrating. I realize how extremely fortunate I am that losing my taste and smell was my main symptom. I’m so thankful it wasn’t worse.
Praying that, along with my energy, my taste and smell come back, all day, at 100% soon.
I am incredibly thankful for my support system. I was on the phone constantly with my mom. She and my dad have gotten enough calls and FaceTime’s from me to last a lifetime. My friends that called and texted to check-up on me, offering to bring me food, groceries, whatever I needed. One extremely thoughtful friend, who cooked me an entire days worth of food. My co-workers and clients, with texts, calls and emails. It meant so much to me and I won’t ever forget it. And of course, Hendrix. My wild orange, Christmas tree climbing kitty cat who snuggled with me through it all.
There is a light, we are so close. I cannot wait until I can hug my 92-year-old Grandmother, who I haven’t hugged in almost a year. Visit my family and friends without worry. Travel. Go to sporting events, concerts and out with friends. I will never take those moments or my taste and smell, for granted again.
UPDATES (to help track)
I am still working to fully regain my sense of taste and smell. There are some days when it seems to lack more than others and almost felt like I was regressing around days 16 and 17. When I first wake up, I don’t have either, but some mornings, I can get a little whiff of my body soap in the shower. Not strong, but a little tinge of it. When people have commented about being able to smell someone cooking dinner or the pizza place next to Define, I haven’t been able to smell that. I could though, smell the nuts at the zoo last night! The scent of lemon is hit and miss — some days I can smell it, others, I can’t.
Taste seems to be moving along faster than my smell, but that also ebbs and flows as well. Tastes aren’t as strong as I know they are, but they are there at times. I try to seize the moment when I do have taste and allow myself to eat whatever sounds good. I’ve had a few drinks and haven’t been able to taste my beer at all. Fingers crossed I can taste (and smell!) Thanksgiving when we have our redo soon. I’m hopeful to have full taste and smell soon!
I’ve also noticed some pain in my lungs at random times. When I get really out of breath and a high heart-rate during spin/rev and bounce classes, I sometimes can feel some pain. I have to remind myself that I’m still working through recovering and it’s okay to back-off. I also felt some lung pain walking around at the zoo lights.
Overall, I’m feeling pretty good. Walking around the zoo and going into work the next day did wear me out quite a bit. I’m continuing to listen to my body and take breaks when needed. While it feels good to start getting back into a rountine, I have to be better about pacing myself and being patient.
4 weeks in and my taste and smell is still touch-and-go. Some days it feels like both come in very strong, other days, they are pretty weak. My taste is still stronger than my smell. I did for the first time, smell Hendrix’s litter box on day 28, the pee, not the poop .. to be super specific 🙂 That is some progress. My cloves seasoning, eucalyptus and rose oils sit on my desk. I smell them multiple times during the day, hoping it is helping. I’m also continuing to take zinc.
I still have some pain when I work out and I get out of breath. I had a chest x-ray taken on day 23, to ensure the chest pain wasn’t in my lungs and thankfully, it wasn’t. Seems to be muscular skeletal inflammation in the muscles around my lungs.
Update from 7 weeks out from my first symptom (day 1).
Taste still seems to be further along than my smell. I’ve really stopped paying attention to how much of something I can taste, maybe it’s because I don’t remember what 100% taste feels like or maybe it’s just because I’m not thinking about it is often. I do know there are times when it’s not at 100% and it’s very minimal, but most occasions, I can at least taste a majority of what I’m eating or drinking.
Smell is still taking time to come back to me. I have noticed that I can smell the sharpness to my cinnamon candle – meaning, when I could smell it before, I had an idea it was cinnamon, but it wasn’t the strong smell I knew it should be. At certain time, I can get that strong edge. I still can’t smell the litter box — the smell of poop and pee hasn’t returned to me at all. Overall, my smell is usually the weakest still first thing in the morning and seems to dwindle at the end of the day. I did my my shampoo, in my hair, when I rolled over this morning (yay!).
I’m guessing I’m still missing on the scent of Dewey’s pizza and other random smells, that I just don’t know I should be smelling. I did smell some of the cooking when I was home for the holidays, though not fully. I continue to remind myself to be patient and thankful that I can smell at all.