The Scandalous Story of Love: Kissing Disease

It was November of 1993. I hopped onto the stairmaster at the gym for my afternoon workout. My legs felt noticeably weak. I wrote it off as one of those days when you initially feel fatigued. I just needed to push through. Get warmed up a little. But I barely finished my routine and headed back to my dorm, legs still terribly heavy. Later that evening, my throat grew sore. I peeked in the mirror to discover a few white spots on my tonsils. Clearly I had strep throat.

I considered the possibility that I might need to visit the infirmary come morning. Perhaps get a rapid strep test done and pick-up some antibiotics. The sun came up, and I could scarcely swallow. I scooted into the bathroom and visited, my friend, the mirror.


My throat had exploded over night into a swollen mess of infection, like nothing I had ever seen before. I could hardly swallow my own saliva, never mind eat. (And that’s saying a whole lot about my condition at that moment.;)

Off I went, in search of medical attention.

I really can’t recall if Duff accompanied me or not. But I’m pretty sure he did. He’s just that kind of guy. You know, the good kind.

The doctor gasped at the sight of my tonsils and gave them a good swab. He felt my glands, noted my elevated temperature, and ran a quick blood test.

I left the infirmary with an envelope full of steroids, a note excusing me from my upcoming mid-terms, and instructions to get plenty of rest.

I had infectious mononucleosis, more commonly known as the kissing disease. You can imagine I caught a lot of flack about this one. ;)

But it is in moments of need, when the character of a friend is fully revealed.

And I was pretty much in the middle of a whole lot of needy, sick, “not fun” moments.

And he served me, catering to my every need.

He brought me drinks and drugs.

He procured ice cream.

He snuggled with me and watched movies.

He stayed home with his girlfriend…

AND acted like he didn’t mind at all.

Now you might think it was my feminine allure that was responsible for his behavior over those couple of weeks.

But then you’re probably not too familiar with the ugly side effects of steroids.

‘Moon face’.

Does it ring any bells?

Aptly named, because your face puffs up until your cheeks resemble those of a chipmunk.

So you can imagine, I was looking quite adorable during this time.

And insomnia?!

Like I’ve never experienced.

So here I was supposed to be getting lots of rest, and instead my body was revving at full-speed all night long.

It wasn’t surprising, as Thanksgiving break quickly approached, that I still hadn’t kicked this thing.

And we had plans.

I was supposed to take the Greyhound Bus home with Duff to New Jersey.
We would spend the holiday with his family and I would meet his relatives for the first time.

I explained to Duff how I couldn’t possibly go:

I’m sick.
I’m potentially contagious.
I wouldn’t make a good impression showing up ill.

He insisted.
“Just don’t be kissing anybody.” I can imagine him saying.

He must have been pretty persuasive back then, and I must have been some kind of looney…

because I went.

I packed my bags with all the essentials, despite my reservations.

Chloraseptic throat spray? Check.

Cepacol throat lozenges? Check.

Advil? Yup.

Prednisone? Got it.

Something slimming, to offset my extra-plump face? It will have to do.

We headed out to the nearest Greyhound bus station and settled down in a pair of cozy seats for the four-hour ride.

Have you ever met someone you’d tag along with to the garbage dump, just for the opportunity to chat?

That was Duff for me.

In between spraying my throat with cherry flavored Chloraseptic, we had delightful conversation, snuggled, and caught a snooze or two.

It wasn’t long before we arrived in ‘The Garden State’.

I thought Duff’s family was adorable from the first time I met them. His dad was entertaining and funny. His mom was just as sweet, kind, and loving, as she could be. His sisters were the nicest, and immediately treated me like part of the family. His little brother Russ was charming and more subdued. And his Nanny, well she was simply precious.

I stayed in the downstair’s bedroom which had apparently been painted red after Duff left the nest.
The aromas that drifted from the kitchen, down the staircase, and into my room, were intense.
They left my stomach growling. Duff’s mom was busy preparing everything Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, Duff’s aunts, uncles, and cousins would arrive to partake in a feast of turkey, sausage stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, gravy, cheesecake,…the list went on.

And with each passing hour, I seemed to be feeling worse.

Thanksgiving Day was a little awkward. I managed to greet his relatives from a ‘safe’ distance so as not to contaminate them, all the while sensing their apprehension in getting too close to me. They all seemed really nice, and though I enjoyed visiting with them, I belonged in bed. My throat had worsened, so that eating had grown all but impossible, and the food spread across the table, served only to torment my angry stomach. I disappeared downstairs after dinner to lay down and rest. Duff would come in and out of my room throughout the evening to visit. Dessert time came and I was forced to turn down cheesecake. I was perplexed. Why was I getting worse instead of better?

Friday morning arrived and Duff’s mom insisted on calling her family doctor to see if she could get me in for a visit. She scheduled
an appointment with Dr. Mudry and then drove me in to his office. (If Duff hadn’t yet made an impression on me, well I knew I had to have this woman as my mother-in-law!)

The doc diagnosed me with a secondary bacterial infection. He prescribed antibiotics, took me off the steroids, and put me on Codeine for the pain. Off we drove to the pharmacy to pick up the precious drugs. One hour after popping the pain killers, I felt like a new woman. I gorged my starving-self with some Burger King. By the following day, I found myself raiding the fridge for leftovers. An extra-large helping of sausage stuffing, followed by a generous slice of oreo-crusted cheesecake, left me speechless. This woman could cook.

My visit ended, and I felt so loved and foolish all at the same time. We carried a brown bag aboard that Greyhound bus, carefully packed by Duff’s momma. It contained her famous chicken casserole, which we would devour, from a disposable container, with two plastic forks, on our way back to Boston.

This kissing disease, I had it bad, because I had been bitten by the love bug, from which there is no cure.


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