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Long Haulers – The COVID-19 Story You Haven’t Heard Yet

Kim: [00:00:04] Welcome to episode 62 of the Fitness Simplified Podcast. On today’s episode, I’m joined by my friend, Amanda Thebe. Now Amanda has been on the program before — when we are together, the topic of conversation is usually menopause. And I will be having Amanda back on in a couple of months to discuss her new book called “Menopocalypse,” that will be coming out in October. But today’s topic is actually COVID-19. 
Amanda fell ill with COVID back in April and she’s part of a growing group of people we are finding out more about called long-haulers. They are people whose symptoms do not go away in the expected timeframe. 
Here we are. 12 weeks later and Amanda is still quite ill. And so, we’re going to talk about that today.
Hi, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here. 
Amanda: [00:01:02] First of all, I need to apologize. I have this terrible cough. Obviously, we’ll go into that and it’s just your bad today and I just want to cough all the time.
Kim: [00:01:15] That’s okay. No apology needed.
Amanda: [00:01:17] It looks like looks at you had a wash and a shower, too. 
Kim: [00:01:21] I did! I got up, I got ready. I haven’t gone for a walk yet today. I messed around too much to have time for a walk, but I’m going to have a walk after this.
Amanda: [00:01:30] What a slacker. Okay. 
Kim: [00:01:31] I know. I’ve been trying to do my walk early because it gets really hot here now. Like, wet. It’s really humid here and so if you go out for a walk mid-day — watch me later on my story, see how my hair looks now? It’s going to be about 12 times the size when I go outside. 
Amanda: [00:01:46] Well I live in Texas, so what are you gonna do? It’s the same here. 100% humidity right now. 
Kim: [00:01:51] That’s right, I was surprised Texas is humid.
I went last summer and I couldn’t believe. I could not believe. All of a sudden big Texas hair made sense to me. 
Amanda: [00:02:00] Yeah, totally. I have good hair here because I really thin hair and here, I have big hair and I have good skin because the humidity really helps, right? But Houston, Austin, and the hill country is green and lush and Houston is a really green and lush place, it’s tropical almost. But then you go further out Western it’s dry and arid like you would see in the movies, you know?
Kim: [00:02:28] And you all listening might not know this, but Amanda is not a native Texan. I know that’s shocking to hear from her voice. 
Amanda, how does Texas compare to England? Do you like both of them or do you prefer England? 
Amanda: [00:02:41] So the best way to cope with it is not to compare it. It’s not comparable at all. Not at all. I left the UK 20 years ago and so I was there 30 years and I’ve been in North America for 20 years. So, I’m sort of soon going to be here an equal amount of time. But I mean, I do feel British still and I grew up there and I still am very British in my mannerisms and my thought process and attitude to things, for sure. 
Then we lived in Boston for a while, but then we lived in Canada for 15 years and Canada is a really nice transition for a Brit to come into North America because, Toronto, where we lived, was very liberal and multicultural, very diverse on social, economic, and gender diversity, racial, all of those things. So, it was a really good place to bring my kids up. 
I was a bit concerned about coming to Houston because I really need those things in my life, but I find that Houston is very different to what I expected, and it does have those aspects. You’ve just got to actively search them out. It’s very, very diverse in a more segregated way, I would say. People might not like that if they’re from Texas, but, you know, there’s like areas where the Hispanics are, areas where the black communities are, and I don’t like that so much. 
But as far as the workforce is concerned, there’s a massive medical center here, there’s all the oil and gas, so it brings people from all over the world here. The restaurants are fantastic when you can go to them, obviously, in a normal circumstance. The artwork is fantastic. There’s lots of really cool things to do down here. So, to me, it’s just another adventure.
Kim: [00:04:37] That’s a good approach. That’s a good attitude for something like that. I’m lucky enough right now to live where I grew up. I have not always — I have not stayed here in Pennsylvania, but I got to come back, and I’ve been back here a good long time. And I like it. 
I liked that I’m home and I’m where I grew up. But I like your attitude of looking at it as an adventure to be somewhere else. 
Amanda: [00:05:00] And it’s funny because when I grew up, I always knew I wanted to go and travel. I always had that wanderlust. So, it was never a surprise that I left home at 16, you know?
And then I lived in London for a while and then I traveled around, and I do a lot of traveling and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the UK. It’s not on my to-do list. I visit often, most years or every other year. Maybe we’d go back to Scotland. My husband’s Scottish. And I really like the landscape there and we’re big hikers and stuff.  It’s not great weather, but it’s so beautiful that it sort of overrides that. 
Kim: [00:05:40] You know, usually if we’re together talking about something it’s menopause, right? That’s the subject. But today that’s not going to be the topic.
Amanda: [00:05:46] Every damn day in or inb
ox. We’re always DMing each other. If I’m not taking the piss out of you for something, it’s talking about menopause. 

God forbid I say anything nice about you, you know? If I could take the piss out of you first, I will. 
Kim: [00:06:05] So before we talk about today’s big subject, I do want to talk about menopause, very briefly about your book, because I was super excited to see you announce the other day.
So, Amanda has written a book it’s coming out October, correct? 
Amanda: [00:06:17] October 20th.
Kim: [00:06:18] And it’s called “Menopocalypse.” It’s now on Amazon and it hit number one for the category of menopause, correct? Am I getting that right? 
Amanda: [00:06:29] Which I think sounds exciting. My kids are like, “Oh wow. Hardly. It was number 10 in women’s health.”
So, I think it’s because I’m always talking about and am very clear about what I’m doing. I’m not overly salesy though. I don’t love blowing my own trumpet, but I’m excited about this because I think it’s going to be such a useful, helpful book. And the only reason I wrote it is because I had this body of work and you are the same with the stuff you put out — it’s really useful stuff that women need to know. 
And so, it’s up for pre-ordering. So, I sort of tugged at people, like, “you said you were going to buy my book. Well you can buy it now!” And I think people did. So, it did well on its preorders, but the launch isn’t until October. 
And the premise of the book is about my experience through menopause, which goes from perimenopause through to menopause. I’m menopausal now. And all the struggles I faced, the challenges with finding valid information, which you know all about, because these are the conversations we have. It’s a little bit easier these days, I think, but 8 years ago when I started going through this — like 42, 43 — it was just like nothing. 
Kim: [00:07:55] Well it’s easier because people like you are talking about it, right? That’s why. It’s getting easier for people because we’re talking about it now and still, I feel like we’re talking about it this much and we should be talking about it way more. But we’re making dents. 
Amanda: [00:08:10] Yeah, we’re making small dense. And it should be a conversation that we could have easily without going like, *whispers* “menopause…” or not mentioning it to your friends.
And now people do talk about it. So, I love that. There’s some great advocates that there — you’ve had Katrina Wilcon. I became really close with her from Sweden. She’s done a great job with her book “Perimenopower.” There’s lots of people out there, Dr. Heather Hirsch, et cetera, et cetera.
And so, the book is in two parts and the first part is really about my experience, what we know about menopause, what the medical professionals and medical organizations are saying about first-line treatment options. I answer the most popularly asked things like, “why am I getting so fat?”
I also have one about dry vaginas. A whole chapter about dry vaginas and everything that goes with it. 
Kim: [00:08:59] There’s something to look forward to. 
Amanda: [00:09:01] Indeed. Give it to your husband to read. I actually think this is a good coffee table book that you could put down. Buy it for your husband for Christmas, I’m telling you.
And then the second half of the book is the, is the work, the solution-based stuff that you and I talk about. You more so, because I don’t have clients and you are actively helping people a little bit more on a personal level. But it’s all of the stuff that you can control that’s not going to just support you.
I’m not telling you anything that’s going to fix anything or amend anything because it’s obviously not something that’s broken, but it’s so challenging that if there’s certain things that you can take control of through this period, through to menopause, and then the rest of your life, it’s sort of like bulletproofing you for longevity, right? 
And so, I have an exercise, strength program that’s just a 12-week basic strength program for those who have never tried it before, or maybe who have and just want to change things up. A nutritional aspect, one all about stress management and sleep. I put those both together because I do feel like they sort of go hand in hand. 
And then the last chapter I wrote with a psychologist friend of mine, and it’s all about resiliency mindset. And this is my Brene Brown moment. And my dream of writing that chapter is Brene Brown lives about two blocks away and I don’t know why we’re not best friends. Why we’re not having coffee. 
Kim: [00:10:27] I can see you being best friends. I could see that. 
Amanda: [00:10:30] You know that movie — there was a terrible movie out called “Wine Country,” and it was awful. It was about these people, like women like her, and they all got together, they were all like, “we’re sick of our lives. We’re going to go to wine country, get drunk, and have a girls’ weekend.”
And it had like Amy Schumer in it and Tina Fey and all of those, and it was a Netflix movie. I thought, “this is going to be great! I’m going to watch this!” And it was awful. I hated it. But there’s one scene where they go to a restaurant and Bree Brown is there and they’re all at the table going, “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. There’s Brene Brown!” And they’re all like, “let’s not say anything. Let’s be cool. Let’s be cool. Let’s not even stare over.” 
That would totally be me. Then they get drunker and drunker and drunker, and then they go over and talk to her and Brene Brown sits and goes, “can we talk about boundaries?” I have a feeling that I would knock on the door and say, “Brene, I want to be your friend.”
And she’d be like, “boundaries?”
Kim: [00:11:28] Maybe you’ll just run into her sometime. 
Amanda: [00:11:31] Yeah, I’ll make it happen. 
Kim: [00:11:33] could start taking your walks in her neighborhood. 
Amanda: [00:11:36] Well, I say two blocks away, but it probably is more like three miles away, but, you know, she’s in Houston. 
Kim: [00:11:41] A long walk away. 
So, okay. Let’s transition here to our subject for today.
Amanda and I are both really passionate about getting good information out there. Usually the subject is menopause. Today it is not. Today the subject is COVID-19, but the idea is still that we want to get some good information out there to you. I want Amanda to share her story. 
Amanda has had COVID, is still dealing with COVID, and that’s really the big part of what we want to talk about here. But why don’t you kind of tell people — before we talk about you actually getting COVID, talk about where you were at with your health and fitness right before. Like, generally what’s your lifestyle like?
Amanda: [00:12:19] You know, perimenopause had been a struggle for me and one of the things that you and I talk about all the time is that when you’re faced with physical and emotional and mental challenges from that huge chemical shift that happens, when your hormones start changing, that you can’t always be on your health and fitness a hundred percent of the time. It’s very, very difficult to have that consistency when life throws you a curve ball, right? 
And I’d faced these challenges for the previous five to eight years and I had ups and downs and I’ve spoken about my struggles with chronic migraines — three months of migraines — and stuff like that and depression and blah, blah, blah, lots of different symptoms.
And so, I’d actually learned to sort of deal with those. And that’s a really important topic of conversation — when I couldn’t do the workout I wanted to do or my eating went off kilter because I wasn’t completely focused, how I dealt with the mindset that helped me get back on the train without guilt, without pressure, without judgment, all of those things. 
So, I think as you go through midlife menopause, these are really important things to learn and to deal with. And I think because I had that attitude when I started to feel good, around about Christmas I just had this big click, and everything just fell into place.
I’m actually menopausal now and I have been probably for a good year to year and a half. And even when you go into menopause, there’s still shifts with the hormones and I actually think mine calmed right down now. So, January to March, I just was rocking out, I just felt really strong. 
The photo shoot for my book was taken then and it really encompasses what I was feeling. I was sort of back to feeling invincible again. I was feeling strong. I was fit. I don’t know, it just felt good. I just felt like myself again and it was a long time since it’s been like that. 
So, literally to the day before I got my first symptom of COVID, I just thought, “I’ve got this.”
Kim: [00:14:28] And then when did you have your first symptoms of Corona? 
Amanda: [00:14:41] So, it’s very interesting — you know, when someone says, “it’s very interesting,” then it better be interesting…  
Kim: [00:14:48] Make this interesting. You said it.
Amanda: [00:14:53] The day before I’d got up at a reasonable time, it was March break, we’d started the stay at home protocol. So, then we didn’t go away on March break, we changed our mind, we decided we would stay at home. The kids’ school had just closed and we were like, “let’s just have the week off. We know they’re not going to go back.” 
I was the one that did everything, the kids and my husband stayed at home. He was working and I was doing all the food shopping and doing the errands and stuff. And at the time, if you remember March break, nobody was wearing masks. I was sanitizing my hands, but probably wasn’t as uber cautious as I am now, or any of us are now.
And so, I just was like, “I’m a little bit bored here. I don’t have a lot to do.” So I got up and had done a big training session in the morning and then my son and I had started that “Couch to 5K” program and so we went out for a 5K run together and I carried on and did a little bit more.
And then when I got home at the end of the run I was like, “ah, it’s allergy season,” and, you know, with menopause, it can change your histamine intolerance slightly. And so, I started getting allergies and I’d never had them before. My eyes were already itchy, and I was like, “I could just scratch my eyes out, they’re driving me crazy!” 
And so, for three or four days my eyes started to just be all swollen and stuff. And then I started burning up, but I checked my thermometer — which I think he might have been broken — but I checked my thermometer and I didn’t see anything, but I would just get drenched in sweat and then get freezing cold. And I was like, “Oh God, I’m getting hot flashes that have just come out of nowhere.” I’ve never had them. 
Kim: [00:16:36] Yeah, I remember you DMed me and you’re like, “tell me about your hot flashes again.” Because that was not a part of your perimenopause experience. 
Amanda: [00:16:42] No, and it is for many, many women. In fact, that’s usually the worst symptom and I’d never had it and I attributed that to the strength training because we ‘ve spoken about the association of more lean muscle mass to less symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. 
And so that was it. For the first few days I had itchy eyes and the sweats, and I just assumed they were menopause and allergies. But antihistamines did nothing. Nothing.
< span>And so, by the weekend I was like, “I don’t think this is allergies,” and I just didn’t feel well. You know, I just had a malaise that wouldn’t shift, and I was like, “gosh, it’s just a bug.” I just thought it was just a bug. I couldn’t work out what it was in the slightest. 
So that’s how it started. So, the day before I’d done this epic workout day because I had so much time on my hands.
Kim: [00:17:36] And when you first went to get diagnosed, when you first went to take the test, it was not smooth sailing, right? 
Amanda: [00:17:45] I feel like I’ve now become like the “fit” person who got COVID and is struggling with it, right? So that’s what this is about. And I think it’s raising awareness that the message that’s out there that initial, “obese, have healthcare issues, underlying comorbidities, blah, blah, blah. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be asymptomatic.” And as we go further on, I want to talk about like the different pockets I see people falling into. 
For me by Monday the following week, I started to say to my husband, “I don’t think I’m getting very well.” And he said, “well, what else have you gotten?” And you can hear my voice is raspy now and it’s basically been like that since the get go. And it feels tight here.
And so, I did the online assessment and it said, “go for a test.” It gave me a COVID test. And at the time in Houston, you couldn’t get them very easily. And I thought, “oh, maybe the things I’m experiencing fall into those categories.” 
So I went to the drive thru, waited two hours, and got right to the front and it was all outside and there were all these tents and there was people in PPE and it was like something out of the movie “Contagion.” It was crazy. And a storm came and started blowing the tent, so the police came and sent us all home. And I was like two from the front. I was like, “you gotta be jesting me.” 
So, I go home and I go back the next day and I get there super early and I’m an hour before it even opens, so I’m the first in line. I get to the front of the line in the car — they don’t give you the test, it was a self-administered swab that you put up the front of your nose.
Kim: [00:19:42] Oh, it was self-administered?
Amanda: [00:19:44] It was. 
Kim: [00:19:45] Because I heard to get a good diagnosis, you have to be practically touching your brain with that thing, right? 
Amanda: [00:19:50] You’ve got to pick a bit of the gray matter out. That’s what I understood. And I was really confused by it. 
Kim: [00:19:55] I’m not doing that to myself.
Amanda: [00:19:58] Exactly, right? It has to be done and so it came back negative and I was like, “fine. I don’t have it. It’s something else.” And that felt good to me, right? And then — I don’t know exactly the timeline, but say a week later — I simply wasn’t getting better. 
And I know you got sick at the same time and I was like, “Oh my God. Oh, my God, go get tested, Kim. I hope you don’t have it.” 
Kim: [00:20:18] I was so sick for the longest. I’ve never been sick for that long. 
Amanda: [00:20:22] I think you maybe had it. 
Kim: [00:20:24] And I think I may have had it too. And you know, when I finally talked to my doctor about it, she’s like, “all right, call me back tomorrow if nothing has changed.” Because I don’t remember what was going on and I couldn’t get in that day. She’s like, “I’ll send you for a test.” And then I was better enough the next day. And then I got worse again. I think I had it. 
Amanda: [00:20:39] And, you know, they were giving you, “these are the symptoms you have,” and it’s obviously all the time now. I mean, we’re six months since it’s all happened, really. If we’re to go back to the January symptoms that people are talking about, I mean, these big Facebook groups with a hundred thousand people — the symptoms are nothing like what they’re talking about that. It’s so big and we’re learning and learning and learning.
We have to be open minded about it, as does the medical profession, as well. I need to talk to you about getting gaslighted by my nurse practitioner during this.
So, I get a negative test, I don’t get much better, so I try to see my own doctor who is only doing video consults and he’s jammed. So, the nurse practitioner — a different one, a great guy — did a video consult with me and he went, “I think that you have coronavirus.” And I was like, “well, no, I had a negative test” and then he went, “those tests are so terrible and we just don’t trust them and your symptoms are so classic, but we need to rule out pneumonia, flu, mono, you need a chest X-ray. Go to the nearest urgent care.”
So, I got to my nearest urgent care and you have to phone ahead. They refused to let me in, they made me sit in the car. They were like, “yep, you’ve got COVID, we can’t have you in here.” And I went, “I have a negative test in my hand.” And he went, “I’m afraid it doesn’t really mean very much to us. We don’t put too much trust in the tests. It’s symptom-based.” 
Eventually I persuaded him, I was like, “listen, you have to. I need to know. If I’ve got a chest infection, I need antibiotics.” So, we go in eventually, they literally huddle me into a backroom. All my tests are completely clear. I do have a temperature, my oxygen is a little bit low, but I’m talking like in the low nineties, not anything crazy.
He says, “no mono, no flu, nothing. Your chest x-ray is fine. I’m going to give you a diagnosis of COVID. I really want you to go home and self-isolate.” And I said, “well, I am anyway.” And I went, “but I don’t think I’ve got COVID,” and he went, “you do. There’s nothing else that you have, and we don’t have the COVID tests here. And even if we did, I wouldn’t give you the test because they’re not reliable.” 
And if you think about it, this was in March, right? When they were just bringing out the test. Three weeks later — so I’m probably at week three-four, I’m now in bed with a fever and I’m coughing and it hurts and I joke now because of what Trump said, but it felt like I’d been eating glass and washing it down with Clorox. Everything hurt. It was awful.
So the only way to get a real assessment was to go to the ER and I’ve always been reluctant to do that and I don’t like that about the medical system here — that if you really want to see someone, you’ve gotta go to that. I didn’t want to overwhelm the system, but it was 11 o’clock at night and my family who work in hospitals in Canada just said, “well, if you’re going to do it anytime, do it at night and then you know you’re not overwhelming it. It should be quiet.” So, I go and they’ve got a special tent set up and I was the only one there.
So, the ER team there were really efficient and I was the only one there. They gave me the full spectrum of tests and they said to me, “so, your oxygen is slightly low and your temperature is a little bit high, but we don’t need to hospitalize you and that’s the main thing you need to know.” And I was really worried about that. My kids were like crying and going, “don’t go to the hospital!” Because at the time everyone was really nervous about going to a hospital.
I mean, now in Houston, 96% of the people going through the COVID wards coming home. They’re really making progress, which is amazing. But I didn’t need that and so the doctor came, and he went, “okay, so we’ve given you a diagnosis of presumptive COVID.” And I went, “Oh, don’t you test?” And he went, “well, we can test you if you want to and the tests take about five hours to turn around, you can’t leave, you have to stay here.” Bear in mind this is midnight now and I’m on Formica chairs in the waiting room. And he says, “and I have to be completely honest — there’s no point.”
And he says, “and there’s no point because, by doing these tests with people with 70% oxygen, who’ve got COVID in their lungs, we can see it on the x-ray, and it’s coming back negative. It just doesn’t matter. Go home and rest.” They gave me the Z pack and the inhalers and all of this stuff. 
So, I went home, was sick for another week. I was under no doubt that I had COVID, and then I started to turn a corner. And then this is where we are now, right? So now we’re at the stage where I was sick for a good solid four weeks, four and a bit weeks, and I’m now at week 12 and I’m still recovering. And I thought I was going crazy, Kim, and think that the conversation has changed now. And I’m seeing this, and I post all the time on Facebook and stuff and Instagram that they’re now talking about us as “long haulers.” 
Kim: [00:26:28] Yeah, I had never heard that word until you said it last week. I had not heard that. That’s not something people are talking a lot about, 
Amanda: [00:26:35] But I think now it’s like everything — once you start talking about it, they are. There’s like tens of thousands of these people going past 28 — I think they’re saying over a month, they’re considered long haulers.
I’m in a Facebook group — there’s two — one is for over 80 days, which is what I am, and one’s called “The Survivor Corps,” and there’s like 65,000 people all exactly like me. And they’re all saying, “I don’t get this, I’ve got positive tests, I’ve gotten negative antibodies and I’ve had negative COVID tests, but I’ve got positive antibodies. I’m so sick. I’m not getting better.” Any combination of those things are in there, right? 
I think I personally am of the opinion that the tests are worthless. Unless they’ve really improved, I don’t have any trust in them at all. And I think the CDC basically said that they’re under-counting because of that.
But I mean, that’s just maybe my conspiracy theory and just my experience, right? But so, people are in that group saying, “why am I not getting better? Why are other people getting better? And why are some people just hanging on to this?” And so, that’s the bulk of the conversation that I think we should talk about today.
Because I see the people that are asymptomatic all the way to people who, unfortunately, don’t survive this, right? And then you have those that are going down, that are hospitalized, and those that are on oxygen. And so, there’s this chunk of people in the middle that are just not recovering or not recovering quickly. And the journey to recovery almost like undulates. It vacillates. So, you feel good, almost normal. Like today, I feel good, almost normal, but I’ve still got really tight chest, I’m still fatigued, but I feel almost normal. I’m puttering around, I’m not exercising, I’m going for little walks. That’s all I can do. But I’m sort of feeling like I’m on my road to recovery, only to do just the tiny bit extra — just like extra load of laundry or something, and then I’m back in bed for days and it’s awful.
The fatigue and the pain are really real, and I just thought it was me going crazy. And so, my doctor was awesome about it. He was like, “it’s probably just post viral syndrome. It’s very common. Even with people who’ve had the flu, they can have like symptoms that last for six to eight weeks afterwards, like say a cough that doesn’t go. And so, don’t be too surprised by it.” 
But then what happened is there is a clinic in New York called Mount Sinai. They’ve got a post COVID unit and they said they’re seeing 30% to 40% of the COVID patients of New York fitting into this “long haul” category. That’s huge. I’ve also read 10%, like 1 in 10. 
So even if it’s between 10% and 30% of people that get COVID to some degree, I would think not those hospitalized, but those on the other end of the scale that have mild to moderate. They’re not recovering. Like, if I was working full time, I couldn’t be going to work right now. I don’t feel well enough to go to work and none of the people do. 
And they’re in situations where they’re not going to work and they’re not getting paid employment. I don’t know what you call it here. Like, you don’t have social insurance, but you do get paid if you’re off sick, right? 
But because the symptoms are so vague and there’s no real diagnosis for it, there’s people who are struggling to get paid. And so, they’re going into work really sick. So, the doctor, I watched this live webinar, and he said, “we’re literally just trying to work out what on Earth is going on.” What we think the viruses doing is waking up old, dominant viruses in the body or it’s going into different systems in the body, like the GI tract or the neurological. 
So, for me, one of the things I struggle with is sleeping. Never, never have in my life, but I’m awake four or five times a night, drenched in sweat and freezing cold. And that seems to be very common. I’v
e had that since the beginning and I don’t think it’s just anxiety driven and a lot of people are going to the doctors and they’re given antianxiety meds, but it feels like a physical symptom, not a neurological symptom to me.

But the next thing about it is I recently had some blood work done, like four days ago, and I got the results back yesterday. And this is, I think, the most fascinating thing about this is my blood results came back with a positive for me having recently contracted Epstein BARR virus, which is sometimes known as mono. The kissing virus. 
And it’s a member of the herpes family. My kids were like, “eeewwwww!” But apparently Epstein BARR virus — and if I’m talking shite, then people can write in and tell you — it’s my understanding that the Epstein BARR virus sits in about 9 out of 10 people. Most of the population have it. Because it’s so very easy to contract from exchanging drink and each other’s cups. It’s saliva transmitted and most people in their lives are asymptomatic. 
I mean, you hear of teenagers getting mono and get knocked out for three months and stuff, but mostly, the majority of people are asymptomatic. I don’t, in my life, I think I’ve ever had it. The only time I feel like I’ve ever been unwell was through perimenopause and then here. I’m not a generally sickly person. 
I happened to speak to a virologist yesterday who did his PhD on the Epstein BARR virus, which is just coincidental, and he emailed me back and he went, “this makes so much sense because the Epstein BARR virus, like other viruses in that family, herpes, their job is to sit dormant in the body, waiting for an opportunity to come out again.” And he said just the crushing sense that the COVID-19 destroys the immune system, like, it depletes it completely, wakes up those viruses and they’re now seeing this. 
It was published in the Lancet Medical Journal this week that — it’s not peer reviewed, but it’s definitely going through the system — that they did a study in China of 67 people and 57% of them, I think it was, or 53%, had the Epstein BARR virus. And I’m wondering if this is what my long tail symptoms are because it makes so much sense. Because I have this crushing fatigue and soreness and everything, which is very typical of mono. And if that’s the case, then it’s time, rest, and it should be fine. 
Kim: [00:34:33] But we’re talking a lot of time. This isn’t a little bit of time. 
Amanda: [00:34:35] Three months here so far. But just the nature of that being a possibility to me is fascinating, right? Because if people are then struggling with things, the doctors should be so open minded and be looking for other things and not just looking for COVID. Because my antibody tests were negative.
I haven’t had a positive test. I’ve had three positive diagnoses, but no positive. But I have had COVID. Without a doubt in my mind about it. 
Kim: [00:35:17] Interesting. And so, are the people in these groups that you are in, are they having similar experiences to you? Are the symptoms similar as far as what’s happening to them over a long period of time? 
Amanda: [00:35:30] They’re almost identical. I mean, there’s variations of them. Some people are having skin issues and black toe and things a lot. It’s crazy, the COVID toe is a thing.
Kim: [00:35:41] I’ve never heard of COVID toe. 
Amanda: [00:35:43] Yeah, you’re not in the COVID rabbit hole that I’m in.
The main things are the shortness of breath as well as the crushing fatigue and the pain in the chest — the weight, the pressure, that type of thing, and the coughing and stuff.
So, I mean, I might have some residual COVID stuff happening, but then maybe because I’ve now got the mono, it’s just something else. It’s a pretty harsh virus. And I think that one of the things — the reason I’ve been really vocal about it is one, because I’m so curious and I want to know answers, right?
I’m always looking for answers, right? They were talking about blood type. They were talking about immunizations against rubella, that estrogen was protective, and all of these different things they’re looking at. So, it’s really, really curious to me because I want to know why all the time. Why, when I was so fit and healthy and I was going to say young, but I don’t think we fall into the young as far as COVID’s concerned. 
Kim: [00:36:59] Speak for yourself!
Amanda: [00:37:02] Whatever! I’m like a month older than you! 
Kim: [00:37:04] I know, you’re so much older than me! 
Amanda: [00:37:08] But, I mean, I even had blood work done too — just my annual checkup — just before I got COVID. And my immune response was good, my health markers were good, my weight was good. All of those things were good.
I wasn’t a candidate to get sick considering what everyone’s talking about in the media. But now they’re saying younger people are getting sick and they’re really worried that they’re going to have these long-haul symptoms because they just simply don’t know where this virus is going. And so, I mean, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
It’s been a real, real slog and it’s been horrible. And it drives me crazy when I see the ambivalence of people. I mean, I’m in Texas for Christ’s sake. I just don’t understand why there’s so much mistrust from public health officials and mistrust about the science. These people we never have ever seen in our lifetime on TV, they don’t come on TV and talk about things because their place is in a lab doing their work. They’ve worked on this all their lives and we’re in such a serious situation now that they need to come on and talk to us and we don’t believe them. I just, I literally don’t understand that.
Kim: [00:38:26] And so what do you want people to know?  What’s your message to people? 
Amanda: [00:38:32] I don’t want to be the prophet of doom and gloom, but I also just don’t wa
nt to assume that because you’re fit and healthy that you won’t get sick. And so, I was on a Facebook post the other day with a mutual friend, you know, Josh Hillis? I love him. He’s such a great guy. And he was just posting about something and some “FitPro” went on there with arrogance that drove me crazy. And he was like, “we know that 99% of those that die are obese, have diabetes, have comorbidities that they could take control of, diet and fitness and taking control of your health is number one right now in fighting this disease.”

He didn’t say it with any compassion. It was literally like, “you’re fat and overweight and unhealthy and you’re going to die.” It was just gross. Everything about it was gross. So, I was like, well, what about somebody like me? I was never going to go to hospital because I have a healthy immune response.
Like, despite being still sick, my immune response is what’s kept me out of the hospital, right? And I said, but what about somebody like me that’s got sick enough that three months later, I’m still not well? And all my health markers got the tick in the box, right? And even the shaming — I don’t want to get away from the fact that you should never shame somebody about being overweight or have an underlying health condition at all ever — but what about those that have underlying health conditions that are genetic? That are something that they’re predisposed to anyway? Auto immune diseases, diabetes one, anything like that. It’s such a terrible, terrible attitude to have. 
And what I would just say to people is just don’t make the assumption that you’re just going to be fine and so therefore just go about your life without thinking about others and taking precautions and doing the right thing. 
So, for me, I have had COVID, in my mind. I don’t know that the antibodies stay around. They now are saying that they don’t think they’ve got a long shelf life. Who knows?
I wear a mask wherever I go, I sanitize all the time. One, I don’t want to get it again. I could, right? I also want other people around me to feel secure and safe and know that I respect them, right? It’s really, really important that we do that as a whole. 
So, that’s the first thing: just really be precautious. Like, the countries that have nailed this, you know, they’ve put this virus to bed and they’ve done what it takes to make this happen, and this country is just heading in the wrong direction and it scares me. And so, I think that if we can just all do our part and just get back to some sense of normality, whatever that might be, you know?
And then the other thing is: just really steer clear of harmful people like that guy that makes you feel bad about yourself, that you may be a candidate because you are overweight or whatever. Like, if you want to do something proactive, then yeah, you can take control of your health and highly encouraged that and so do you — that’s what we do, right. We do it without shame and judgment every time. 
And then stay away from the shills and the charlatans that are selling you bullshit immune boosting diets and gimmicks that are not proven. There’s so much that they don’t know about this virus and there’s people selling you absolute measures to be able to protect yourself and there’s no protection against this apart from the social distancing, sanitization, wearing a mask, and staying at home if you’re sick.
Kim: [00:42:33] You know, the shame thing is so interesting when people try and take that tactic. But I was thinking: it doesn’t even work. Like, people still smoke when they know that they can get cancer, right? Like, that doesn’t work. It’s not like, “Oh, thank you for telling me. I didn’t know.” It’s not an effective tactic, so I don’t know why people do it. And then the last part you said there about the people trying to shill stuff — it was fast that people started.
People came out on Instagram, all the people who were “gut health experts” were now all of a sudden “immune system experts,” right? And they had all the solutions for what you needed to buy from them. And it was fascinating how fast that moved. Did you see that? 
Amanda: [00:43:17] Oh, yeah. And that’s a big red flag for me.
If somebody is telling you something and that comes with a product, that’s all they care about. And you know, immunologists and gut experts are not telling you this. Doctors who do this for a living and who are experts on this don’t go on Instagram and tell you. That should be also a red flag. 
Kim: [00:43:42] They don’t go on Instagram or anywhere else and tell you to buy something. There’s nothing like that. They’re saying the same things Amanda is: wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance.
Amanda: [00:43:52] And the idea that you can boost an immune system that is innate in your body — so we’ve both studied nutrition. We know nutrition well enough to be able to advise people the best things they can do to support their body, to eat well, to lose weight if they want to, to build lean muscle mass, we can do all of that. The immune system is such a complex system that it takes people 13-14 years of their medical lifetime to get a grasp on it. And they still don’t know a lot about it. But they do know that you don’t “boost” immune systems by drinking a green smoothie.
You can support your immune system and that’s completely different. You can support your immune system by eating a good, healthy diet that’s full of nutrients, right? Clearly, that’s going to be better for your immune system than eating hamburgers every day and sweets and crisps and stuff like that. Obviously, right? 
But it doesn’t “boost” it. So, when someone’s selling you turmeric and green shots and stuff to tell you to take that in order to beat a disease, then just unfollow the fuckers. It drives them crazy. 
Kim: [00:45:12] It’s a huge red flag. As soon as I see somebody like that, I’m just like, “okay, not credible. Not a credible person to listen to on any subject.”
Amanda: [00:45:20] There’s a great person to follow on Instagram and she’s called @vitaminphd.
Kim: [00:45:25] Oh, yeah. Gabrielle Fundaro. She’s been on my podcast before. 
Amanda: [00:45:30] Right. Right. So, look, there is someone who will just tell it like it is straight. And she’s a myth buster as well. And I think th
at if you’re going to follow people like that, she’s invested her educational career in understanding gut health and how it impacts the immune system and everything.

So, follow people that are reliable. 
Kim: [00:45:59] Absolutely. That’s really good advice. Well, Amanda, I hope that you continue to recover, maybe even at a faster pace than you have already. Gosh, it will be interesting to see how long it takes you to fully recover from this. And what your comeback is like. 
Amanda: [00:46:14] I mean, it’s fair to say I haven’t been so positive all the time. Like there’ve been days where I’ve had a pity party and I’ve been full of tears thinking, “am I ever gonna feel well?” Because nobody knows. Like, nobody actually knows what’s going on. Am I going to be riddled with chronic fatigue syndrome for the rest of my life? That would just be dire for me.
And nobody knows these things. I understand how being positive can help you through these things, but, for me, the hardest part, and especially when I was really sick with the COVID, is how isolating it is. My family basically closed the bedroom door on me, and I just felt abandoned, alone, and scared because of all of the symptoms I was having. And lots of people do that and I’m not blaming my family — although they were a bit turdy and at one point I said, “you are allowed to bring me a cup of tea, you know? I’m not a leper.”
Kim: [00:47:14] Well, yeah, it’s hard because people are scared and, you know, trying to socially distance, especially when somebody has it, but that does leave a person feeling very isolated and alone, you know? And you think about all the people who died in hospitals alone with just, you know, their nurse there. 
Amanda: [00:47:31] Exactly.
And so, when I’m having a pity party, that’s where I go — straight to where, “this could have been so much worse. This could’ve been so much worse.” And I feel like I look at the numbers today, 127,000 people have died in a four-month period, since we started counting in the U S.
And that’s terrible. And if we can do something to stop that trend, then we have to. And I don’t know when numbers like that became acceptable, but it almost feels like they are to some people. I still don’t understand it, but there we go. 
So that’s it. My whole thing is: really advocate for yourself. Like I said, I’m not going to go into the story, but I’ll just sort of say the second nurse practitioner I saw basically said, “you look okay and all your tests are negative. So, I don’t know what I can do to help you.”
Kim: [00:48:25] And that’s when you were feeling really bad. Like you were extremely ill. 
Amanda: [00:48:29] Yeah, and so I just was like, “no. This isn’t okay.”
And that’s happening a lot to people. The doctors don’t know and so they’re either dismissing or giving antianxiety meds and stuff. So, push, push, push for someone to listen to you. Find these community groups that are talking about their symptoms. They’re really just trying to share stories and it’s really quite fascinating. 
And then just, the quicker that we pull this all together, the quicker it will be over, hopefully. I just want to start traveling again, don’t you? I want my holiday. 
Kim: [00:49:07] Yes. All my trips were canceled, except for going to the Jersey shore this coming week, which is, you know, two hours from my house. But I had big trips planned this year and I’m not going anywhere.
Amanda: [00:49:17] Don’t talk to people. When you go to the Jersey shore, don’t talk to anyone. Avoid humans. I hate humans right now, anyway. 
Kim: [00:49:26] You know, something you said just a minute ago — before the “hate humans” part — it reminded me back to menopause. When you were talking about advocating for yourself in this area and how a nurse practitioner was dismissive of you, I’m thinking like, this reminds me of my own personal story with menopause and of so many others. You know, we’re sure there’s something wrong, we’re sure I don’t need antidepressants, we’re sure that’s not the issue, right? And medical professionals dismiss us. 
Amanda: [00:49:54] But what did it do to you? How did it make you feel when she did that? 
Kim: [00:49:57] Oh, horrible. And that’s the point, right? Like, that I had to actively go out and seek knowledge, figure out what good next steps would be to go in. And it’s terrible that I had to do it, but I had to really stand my ground and argue with the doctor about this. And had I not gone out and done the research to advocate for myself, I would have not gotten well, because that doctor just totally dismissed how I was feeling and what I needed. And I think part of the issue was she was not educated well enough to actually help me — which is sad because she’s an OB GYN. 
Amanda: [00:50:33] We know that that’s a big thing here of course, right? 
Kim: [00:50:37] Yeah. And I think that’s the same thing we’re seeing with COVID. A lot of doctors, you know, nobody knows which way is up. 
Amanda: [00:50:43] It’s so hard, isn’t it? And I actually sympathize a little bit because how can they when they don’t know? They’re learning on the job. Literally. But it doesn’t mean that you should be dismissive of your patients. You should still try and help them.
Kim: [00:50:58] Yeah. So, advocate for yourselves, people. And wear a friggin’ mask. 
Amanda: [00:51:03] Yeah, don’t be a dick, wear a mask. Everyone should. 
I know it was a different type of conversation today, but yeah, I just think that I thought I was the unusual one, and there
was a lot of blame and judgment on myself for that.

When I found there’s hundreds of thousands of people like this, I’m realizing that this is something that people need to be aware of. And thankfully, you know, there’s newspaper articles out there, some news coverage about it. So, you know, just be safe. 
Kim: [00:51:39] Absolutely. Thanks so much, Amanda.
Thanks so much for being here and listening in to the Fitness Simplified podcast today. I hope you found it educational, motivational, inspirational, all the kinds of -ational. 
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