A mystery fever solved

The symptoms that something was wrong had been a long time. For almost a year I didn’t quite feel like myself. My thinking was foggy, I was chronically tired, I couldn’t get a lot of enthusiasm going to run or train hard because… I was chronically tired and my thinking was foggy.

I blamed it on my broken arm accident.
I blamed it on my hypothyroid condition.
I blamed it on my advancing years.

Then I got a fever in February. “Here we go, it’s flu season!” Except I never catch the flu. But I convinced myself this year I had a compromised immune system, so it was only natural.

I woke up with another fever ten days later. I felt horrible and achy and as soon as the fever passed I tried to muster some energy to get myself out the door. It took a lot of effort and I promise you there was no joy in it.

When I came back from the States in April after a family funeral I had a fever again.

“You’re just stressed,” my husband said. But when a week later I had another fever that lasted twelve hours I knew something was wrong.

My doctor sent me to a special clinic where I was given blood tests and asked a lot of questions about my health habits. The tests didn’t show anything suspicious. Then they gave me a urine test and bingo, there it was.

An E.Coli bacterial infection with a million load count. Not thousands, millions.


I hadn’t taken an antibiotic in eighteen years so the minute that pill hit my system I felt instantly better. After a week I was back to normal.

I couldn’t believe that this year-long ordeal had been a bacterial infection because, I swear, I never felt a thing. But thinking back I remembered when it had started: the same week I broke my arm.

That first week in August the temperatures hovered around 100°F and when I got out of the hospital after my operation I could feel a slight cystitis coming on. I increased my water consumption and bought some concentrated cranberry to flush it out. I think the main problem was that compared to how bad my arm was hurting anything else paled in comparison.

But I never had lower abdomen aching or that cystitis feeling (most ladies know what I’m talking about…) so I didn’t give it another thought. I didn’t even suspect anything was wrong until the third fever six months later.

After a little research I now know that Urinary Tract Infections are more common in menopausal women due to the lowered estrogen levels in the vaginal area. I’ve also been told by various doctors and nurses that older women often don’t feel the symptoms of a UTI until a fever hits.

So, where do I go from here? I’m going to stay on top of the situation by getting a urine test every few months. Here in Italy you can go to a pharmacy to have it done for just $5 and that should give me some peace of mind. I am concentrating on keeping hydrated year round, a habit that seems to slip every once in awhile. I’ve started to take probiotics which should help keep my gut happy and fighting off overgrowing bacteria. Also, I’ll be eating more polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) which binds iron in urine and helps control bacterial growth. Since polyphenols can be found in black tea, coffee, chocolate, cranberry and blueberry juice I’ll totally be with that programme!

Most of all I look forward to running and training again throughout the summer. I’ll literally be starting from ground zero. It’s not the easiest place to start from but then again, it’s a great place to be as long as I’m feeling healthy again.

  1. Tessa
    I've had a similar experience with an undiagnosed yaw infection. It's 'amazing' how bad a couple of teeny tiny bacteria can make you feel. Like you I 'lost' an entire year. Julia, you could also consider ordering some test strips over the interwebs. Even cheaper and easier than visiting your local pharmacy.
  2. Julia
    Tessa, thanks for mentioning that there are test strips, I never knew that! I'll look into ordering some :-)