Mono, mono, go away…

My 13-year-old has mono.  Or as we like to call it after 13 long weeks, STUPID FREAKING MONO.

Mono is a viral infection that causes fever, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen lymph glands.  The symptoms of the virus typically last 6-8 weeks. Uh-huh.  Apparently, my son’s mono did not get the memo on the length of time.  Don’t worry, I have contacted an attorney to draw up the proper paperwork to evict the sucker.

How I wish.  Instead, I play mind games with myself.  Maybe it’s no longer mono, but has developed into some terrible disease from which he will never recover.  Ten minutes later…I think he might be milking it.  Seriously, 13 weeks?

It started at the end of January.  He was feeling a bit rundown, but he was playing basketball for his Junior High and the practice schedule was rigorous, so I just chalked it up to the NEVER-ENDING BASKETBALL SEASON.  Then one day, I made a mistake.  A big one.  On the day after the Superbowl (or not-so-Superbowl without the Steelers), I decided that we should all stay home and take a break from the demands of school and work.  It was great.  We slept in and watched movies and did a bunch of nothing, thumbing our noses at the rest of the world and normal routine.  Well, Karma, she is a big ol’ female dog.  That she is.

Around 1:00, my youngest says, “Mom, I have a headache.”  Uh-oh.  You see, despite all of our many afflictions, such as allergies and klutziness, we don’t usually have headaches.  Sure enough, the headache was caused by a fever.  My bad.  I had angered the gods with my reckless abandonment of all things responsible on a Monday.  By bedtime, the cough appeared, and I knew that a trip to the pediatrician was inevitable.

The doctor prescribed an antibiotic and cough syrup for our run-of-the-mill throat infection.  Two weeks later, we went back to the doctor and got a stronger prescription for our run-of-the-mill, lingering throat infection.  Two weeks later we were back, only this time I said, “Something is really wrong.”  In just a few short weeks, I had watched my ever-active, social, pre-teen boy morph into a lump.

It started with his announcement that he didn’t think that he wanted to run track for the school because he was too worn out from basketball.  Oh, okay.  Then he didn’t want to play Select Baseball because they wanted to sign up for too many tournaments and he thought it would be too much.  Huh?  Too what?  Ummm, okay.  Then he decided that Select Soccer was too boring in the spring.  Okay, wait a minute.  Hold the phone.  Are you on drugs?  Really, what is going on?

Don’t get me wrong.  The thought of not serving as Mom’s Shuttle Service and sitting in the stands in the freezing cold or face-of-the-sun heat (it’s southeast Texas, it changes that fast) made me want to dance a jig.  But this was not my child.  My child wants to play EVERY sport.  If you can throw it, catch it, hit it, kick it, dribble it, or chase it, you can count him in.  Every spring and fall, it’s ME that begs HIM to give up one, please just one, sport.  Houston, we have a problem.

Sure enough and its name is STUPID FREAKIN MONO.  We still visit the doctor every two weeks and he runs tests to make sure that all of his levels of something or other are fine.  One week he ordered an EKG because he noticed that his heart was racing.  How?  HE DOESN’T MOVE. Oh yeah, that might be because he’s on a round of steroids, prescribed in hopes of boosting his energy level and re-introducing him to normal or ANY activity.  Oh but wait, a side effect of the steroids is compromised immune system, so look what we have here, another secondary throat infection.

We are actually starting to get into a routine with this illness, which is kind of scary.  On Mondays, he goes to school without much problem.  It’s a little more difficult on Tuesdays.  Wednesday is a crap-shoot.  Either I end up going to the school to get him or he doesn’t go at all.  I lost count of days of school missed once we got to THIRTY-EIGHT.  I choose to live in denial now, since the alternative is hysteria.

All working moms have two jobs – work-work and mom-work.  STUPID FREAKING MONO has taken mom-work to a whole new level.  I have to keep in touch with teachers, principals, counselors, and doctors and even the poor baseball coach that sends regular texts ever hopeful for a miraculous recovery and return to his starting lineup.  At work-work, I constantly check in with my child and monitor his temperature, Gatorade consumption, and ibuprofen doses. And will McDonald’s chicken nuggets for lunch make it all better, baby? In the evening, I get to force the child with a headache to work on all of the make-up work that keeps multiplying.  Are you smarter than a 7th grader?  No, apparently I’m not.

On days when the fever doesn’t seem too bad, I am perched on the edge of the school/no school fence, where I torture myself (and him).  I leave him home because I know that he needs the rest, but this is no vacation, Mister.  My neighbors probably think that I’m crazy when I leave for work with an x-box, laptop, and tv remote in tow.  Let’s face it, if you give a 13-year-old the opportunity to slack off and avoid makeup work, he will do it.  So I head out the door and pull out my last Mom-trick. “I would hate to see you have to repeat the 7th grade.”  Yep, I went there.  I was raised on guilt, so I am paying it forward.

By noon, he calls with his list of homework accomplishments, followed by, “Can I please take a nap now?”  Touche, son, touché.  My turn to feel guilt for depriving a sick child the only things left that he can enjoy.  Argh.

Mono, mono, go away, come again some other…nope, just take your walking papers and get the heck out.


  1. I had mono around May I didn’t know what was wrong with my my throat swelled up til it was almost closed. I couldn’t hardly breath. The crazy thing is it didn’t hurt it itched super bad I couldn’t stand it. I was sleepy a lot too. Tell him to slow down and not to play so many things and push himself so hard. They told me you can get it from just being so wore out and wearing your body down. Everyone thinks you get it from kissing. No one around me had it no one caught it either.

    • They called it the “kissing disease” because it is passed through saliva and it often happens around puberty (the age when many kids start kissing). MonoBoy got it at the right age, but he was devastated because he hadn’t had his first kiss yet. The doctor said that he could have easily gotten it from drinking after someone or even from a water fountain. Nice.

  2. Reading your post was like a mirror of what we have going on here. My son is 12 in 7th grade and has been sick with STUPID freakin mono for 6 weeks. Still running a fever everyday and can’t even walk up the stairs with out breathing like he just ran a marathon. He is super active or can I say was just like your son. We are now getting more test ran and will no the results next week. My question to you is how is your son now. How l long did it last.
    Best wishes I hope he is back to a active teenage!

    • I have good news and bad news. My son is fine now. A freshman in high school and active as can be. Here’s the bad news. He had symptoms of mono for 5 months. The fever dropped but hovered between 100-102 almost the entire time. There were days when he couldn’t lift his head off of the pillow. They ordered an EKG because he had an irregular heartbeat. (His heart was fine.)

      • Oops. Wrong button. The combo of an extended illness and the loss of sports and social activities caused depression over the summer. He was also still having severe migraines. I took him back to the doctor a few times to complain that he still had mono headaches. Off to a child neurologist we went. Found out that some teens get tension migraines at the onset of puberty, and the doc said that his mono/puberty combo was the key for him. He put him on a blood pressure medicine and within a month, poof! No more headaches. It was a year by that point. Hang in there! Email me any time!

  3. Hi there – thanks for sharing your story. I’m 41 and have had mono going on 4 weeks. It’s been rough and I’m usually a very active person. In fact I was training for another 1/2 marathon when I was diagnosed and chalked up my lethargy to “over-training”. Once I got the swollen lymph nodes and the rash all over, I knew something wasn’t quite right. The throat pain, headaches and the rash have all cleared up and now I am just tired all the time. I’m out of breath just walking up steps and there are times I just want to sleep. I’m back to work after being out for nearly 3 weeks and I take an hour nap in my car just to get through the day. I’m back in bed around 7pm most nights. I’ve never had this before and I’m typically a very healthy person. I’ve heard once you get mono it stays in your body and there can be flare ups. Have you experienced any of these with your son?

    • Yes, so if you have another virus, mono could come out of its dormant state and knock you on your butt again. The more distance we have from the mono, the less often it has occurred, but it is always there, lying in wait.
      Good luck to you!

  4. Kathy Bedillion says:

    Perfectly written! My son had a brief bout with mono at age 5 & recovered pretty quickly. Everything was going along smoothly…good grades, honor roll, & Beta Club…until last Feb, 2013 when he developed a mild fever & sore throat. Originally his dr diagnosed him with bronchitis. That weekend his fever shot up to 104…his dr ordered bloodwork and it showed the mono had returned!

    He was in 8th grade at the time and had to switch to homebound instruction for about two months. He is now a freshman in high school, age 15 , & barely makes it through the day.

    He has gone from an “A” student to failing classes or just passing. I am ready to pull him out again but afraid this will isolate him. I have had him to multiple doctors and am now developing anxiety myself!!

    • I would definitely think about a pediatric neurologist. It was such a relief to watch him return to normal. The depression made it a vicious cycle. Now he is thriving and with the help of a tutor, he’s caught up.
      Hang in there!!

    • I know how you feel! To be so helpless when it comes to your child. Then there is the cycle of alienation and depression compounded by their hormones. I would strongly encourage you to visit a child neurologist. It seems that migraines from the onset of puberty are pretty common, and the mono doesn’t help the situation. I know that the medicine that the doctor prescribed really pulled him out of the depths of it, and he didn’t have to stay on the medication long enough to worry about it. GOOD LUCK!

  5. Well, I never thought it would be me revisiting this post, but yep, my 19 year old has just been diagnosed with mono. And she’s clear across the country visiting friends to boot. My first mom response is to get her on a plane home ASAP, but reading through your post and the comments, maybe it’s better to wait for some recovery then get her home?

    I’m really grateful you wrote this and consistently refer to this kid as Mono Boy ‘cuz it stuck in my head in the form of “Hey, I bet Stronger Me can help me out with this…”

    • I feel for you!!!! Have I told my Disney World with mono story? I had already purchased the tickets, flights, etc when he was diagnosed. I probably cried in the doctor’s office, so he took pity and gave him steroids to take for the week. Unfortunately, they didn’t kick in until our second day there. He barely made it off the plane when we landed. Then we couldn’t check into the hotel right away, so we went to a restaurant. I thought that maybe food would help. Uh no. He passed out, knocking over a pub table full of drinks. He slept in the booth while I sat there and drafted my acceptance speech for “World’s Worst Mother.”
      If she flies home, make sure that you arrange for airport assistance. The airline will provide a wheelchair and such. Minimize the amount of energy that she has to exert.
      I hope she feels better quickly! I don’t recommend the steroids. Although YES, they definitely gave him the strength to enjoy Disney, I think the trip and energy exertion caused the mono to drag out longer than he should have. He certainly crashed when he was done with them. GOOD LUCK!!!

  6. Good lord, looks like we may be in this for a lot longer. The worst part of this disease is when other people think you should be recovered. My daughter who is 14 is exhausted and she isnt recovering at all, her PE teacher is giving her a D in his class.
    Her friends are alienating her because they think she is using this to get out of school. Her dad thinks she is being manipulative and actually asked her where she got it. I am the only one that watches her sleep all day long and wake up with no energy….why are people so quick to judge?? At least her doctors are on board and I know how sick she is. We are doing everything we can to fight this illness and get her back on her feet…she is so tired of being tired.

    • I went through the same thing! The accusations that he was milking it and that I was babying him. We had some really understanding and helpful teachers and when he got better, I spent a fortune on tutors. It causes you to second guess yourself and leaves a mental scar for sure. Good luck!

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