Jamison Hill Has A Cold


This post is about a secondary sickness from cold, which I got on top of my existing chronic illnesses—MECFS and Lyme. At the time, I happened to be reading the famous article about Frank Sinatra having a cold, so here’s my version:

Jamison Hill, holding a shot of Jameson Irish whiskey in one hand and a glass of kombucha in the other, sat at the end of the bar between two gorgeous women who were waiting for him to speak.

Jamison was sick. He was the recipient of an exceedingly common ailment. So common in fact, most people call it insignificant. But when it afflicts Jamison it is very significant. It can throw him into fits of intense panic, paranoia, and even obsessive bouts of cleaning. It can be life-threatening. Jamison Hill has a cold.

Okay, this is the part of the post where you say, “What in the name of Goose Gassage is he talking about?” Well, first off, thanks for tolerating that weird introduction — an homage to one of my favorite pieces of writing. And now let me explain. 

My favorite magazine article ever written is Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” What is most fascinating about the article is that Talese never actually interviews Sinatra. Instead he observes Sinatra from afar for a few weeks while he has a cold. Among other things, Sinatra comes across as a crabby, entitled celebrity. In one passage Sinatra is in a bar and pokes fun at a young screenwriter’s footwear. Apparently he didn’t like the guy’s boots. Come on Frank, not everyone wears Spanish leather, or whatever the hell kind of shoes celebrities wear. 

The two become combative, then Sinatra says the writer’s last work, a movie called The Oscar, was “crap.” The odd thing is that Sinatra was actually in the film, so he was calling a film he appeared in crap. This makes about as much sense as spitting in your own food. But hey, I’ll hold my judgement. He did, after all, have a cold. 

After reading the article I came to the conclusion that perhaps it’s not a good idea to hang out in a bar when you’re sick and then try to make fun of someone who wrote the screenplay for your last movie. That lesson will definitely come in handy for me one day (#ThanksFrank).  

Sinatra’s pattern of arrogance and irritability continues throughout the article. And oddly, I can sympathize with him; well, except for the entitled celebrity part. Having a cold is just about the worst thing that everyone in the world will have to deal with countless times in his or her life. Although a trip to the DMV is a close second. Personally, a cold turns me into the worst version of myself and the world’s biggest baby. And that was before I got MECFS, a disease that makes a hug feel like you just got locked in a basement with that gimp guy from Pulp Fiction. 


Since I came down with MECFS six years ago, the occurrence of a cold has gone from hyperbolic inconvenience to life-threatening siege on my body. Now the latter may still seem like hyperbole, but let me elaborate. 

I’ve endured three colds, or flus, or whatever you want to call them, since I’ve had MECFS. The first, about six months in, was not too bad. I recovered in a week. The second, January 2015, was horrible. It is the reason I became bedridden. I hadn’t been sick in almost four years and I distinctly remember saying I wouldn’t catch the bug that was going around. Jinxed it

While my health had been declining gradually the previous year, the cold nearly took me out for good. One day I was walking around outside, the next I was too weak to brush my own teeth or get out of bed. There were other factors too. I may have taken too much generic cough medicine, which I’ve heard is chemically similar to crack or meth or one of those adult party favors. 

In many ways, 18 months later, I’ve yet to recover from that cold. But I have recovered some; just enough to catch another one. 

Like many awful things, my recent sickness from cold started mysteriously. On Friday, October 7th, my allergies were really bad. Or so I thought. My sinuses were inflamed, eyes burning, all that fun stuff. And now a few days later it’s a full-blown mucous party in my head. And in case you’re wondering: there ain’t no party like a mucous party, ‘cuz a mucous party don’t stop. 

Who would have thought I could fit a Coolio and Sinatra reference in the same blog post? 

Sickness From Cold

Anyway, whenever I get a secondary sickness from cold, I panic. Big time! Maybe not externally, but on the inside it feels like a mix between “Uh oh! I forgot my wallet and the cashier needs me to pay for the 27 bags of avocados I just had her ring up,” and “Whoa . . . I just took ‘shrooms in the middle of the desert. Why did I just take ‘shrooms in the middle of the desert? Hey, hey, guys? Why am I in the middle of the desert? Guys? Guys?! Hey wait, where did everyone go?” Yeah it’s that bad, because being sick on top of being sick with MECFS is a scary thing. I mean how many sicknesses can a guy handle? I already have three active viruses roaming my body like one of those iRobot vacuums (which I really want). Can I really handle a cold on top of it? And if I can’t, what would that mean? 

Well, luckily my body has handled this recent sickness from cold fairly well albeit worse than my pre-MECFS days. Within three days I went from sitting up, talking to my cousins, eating scones, and letting enough light in my room that people could actually see me and my abundance of eyewear, to not doing any of those things. Once again my room is dark, I’m drinking meals through a straw, and while I can still talk a little, my voice sounds like I just spent the last 50 years smoking cigars. 

The good news, however, is I feel confident with my IV treatments I will recover much quicker than my last sickness from cold. A good sign is the fact that I’m writing this post. I may feel like crap, but if this cold were as bad as I expected it to be, I would not be writing this. I would have lost all modes of communication. I would have had to go back to using hand signals and the tedious alphabet spelling system I still have nightmares about. I would have had to keep my eyes covered at all times and my phone would have resumed its depressing status as an extremely overpriced paperweight. None of that has not happened, but the thought still haunts me everyday: I can’t go back to that life. And to think I lived like that for over a year. I’m not entirely sure how I did it, but then again at some point in the future I may say the exact same thing about this damn cold. 


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18 thoughts on “Jamison Hill Has A Cold”

  1. You’ve described my reactions to any potential (or evolving) ‘extra’ illness very well. I flat-out panic because, times almost beyond counting in the past 25 years, some ‘little bug’ has left me unable to function for months or even years.

    Flu season is coming where I live, and I’m going to move soon to an isolated location where nobody will be bringing germs into my living space daily, as happens at home. Last time I had the flu I lost the whole winter before I could stand up and walk across a room again unaided. I was unable to write coherent sentences for 2 full years of ‘recovery’, which is agonizing on multiple levels for a fiction writer.

    And yeah, aren’t IVs life- and sanity-savers?

      1. I live in Western Canada. It’s already winter around me (snow and freezing temps).

        After a decade of being too ill to write even short emails to friends reliably, I came back strong enough to have published my first book (Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, a Steampunk adventure for girls aged 10 and up) last year. Now I’ve got a 5-book deal for that series and a major incentive to keep myself as healthy as humanly possible.

        What else do you write besides this blog?

        1. Oh wow! Congrats. Sounds like a fun book and series. Can I find it on Amazon?

          I just finished a memoir about my battle with MECFS and a fatal car crash. It’s very similar to my blog posts. I have four agents considering it at the moment, hope I hook one.

          1. My reply to your comment vanished into the aether, Jamison. Congratulations on getting the attention of agents. More exposure for our illness is always a good thing.

            Yes, “Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond” is available on Amazon. It’s a lighthearted and frivolous story, definitely escapist reading. I’d post the link but if you’ve got that feature disabled it might eat my comment again.

          2. Oh I just saw it. Looks like such a fun book to read and to write.

            MECFS read does need more attention in the literary world. Hopefully more comes soon. I’m gonna get your book for my little cousins. They’ll dig it!

        2. Good on you for getting attention from agents. I hope one of them takes it.The ability to write well and compellingly (to mainstream readers) about our own trauma is rare and valuable, and much needed to open eyes about our life-altering illness.

          My mystery manuscript (that’s being considered by a couple of agents now) has a CFS character struggling with medication and lifestyle decisions like whether to accept using a wheelchair in order to save energy for more important/interesting things than simply walking. It was cathartic to write although I had to tone down the in-her-head despair in rewrites. I have one character explaining to another, briefly, some common misperceptions about CFS and a bit about the state of current research (which may need to be updated before the book goes to print, at the rate new info is coming out about mitochondrial slowdowns and gene expression).

          Yes, Maddie’s on Amazon. http://amzn.com/B015NIB0KM

          Book 2 is at the publisher now and Book 3’s outline has just been approved. I am having such fun writing this frothy series. After so many years where every small decision every day could have drastic health consequences, freedom to revel in the frivolous is wonderful.

  2. GEEZ. March 2015 I got a cold. I have had a few whoppers in the 30 years with ME. I thought – OKAY – I can do this. I got over the cold in about 10 days. At least, I could go out of the camper. (We spend winters in Las Cruces , NM.) We returned to WI in early April. Our granddaughter’s birthday is the 14th, so the plan was to get her from school and take her to the mall (She had never been to a mall.) I went to the wrong end of her school building and had to walk to the opposite side. I was late. She was just turning 6 and I did not want her looking for me. By the time I landed by her classroom door – OMG the pain in my legs sent me to the floor. WHAT IS THIS! AGAIN???

    That was the beginning of my last relapse and I haven’t crawled out. I can do things, but walking any distance is not one of them. Before that cold in March 2015, I could climb the incredible sand dunes at Alamogordo, NM, plop onto my sled and slide down the hill. It is a beautiful memory. I did it. Yes, I did.

    In March 2016, I was able to walk around the campground once a day. It is a beautiful spot, 100 feet above the city, twinkling lights below, the Organ mountains in the distance and the peace of our little camper. We returned in mid April and within a few days, I was in ICU for 6 days with all this unrelated junk. An ordinary cold that made my body a wilted mess.

    We will go again in December. I don’t know what I will be able to do, but one can always hope.

    Someone out there might be thinking – slap that woman upside the head. It’s an environmental trigger like dust or some damn desert thing. I will find out.

    1. Dang, this sounds bad but you sound so strong. I know it feels hard to say things like “I have a cold” to healthy people with any conviction or without feeling like a whiner. It’s just so hard for outsiders to understand how severe it can get, and how fast you can go down. Don’t push, don’t let anyone pressure you. Just rest and drink electrolytes and take your vitamins and do things from bed that make you happy or make you laugh. I know you’re a stranger, but I feel like any time I’m talking to someone with this disease we automatically understand each other in a deep way without trying that hard. That said, I’ll keep you in my prayers. Hang in there.

  3. This is awesome, you’re writing is so clean and unpretentious. Really happy this cold didn’t imprison you this time. Though some people say prison isn’t that. Jk no one says that. Rest rest rest, talk soon.
    Tic tac toe,

    P.S. I have a cold too. #effcolds

  4. Pingback: Confessions of a Chronically ill Germaphobe  – Jamison Writes

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