For Some, Long-COVID Symptoms Mask Something Else
Issues like fever, shortness of breath and fatigue can be signs of other illnesses
It was overuse of acetaminophen that finally led to Nic Petermann's cancer diagnosis. For months, the then 26-year-old had been contending with exhaustion, night sweats, recurring fevers and abdominal pain so debilitating that she regularly woke up in the middle of the night to take soothing baths. Her persistent flu-like symptoms, she'd read online, were probably just the lingering effects of a COVID infection she'd had in January 2021; the pain was the odd symptom out, but an ultrasound had turned up nothing.
Come June, the pain was too much to bear—Petermann called a telehealth hotline and was immediately referred to the hospital after the staff heard how much acetaminophen she had been taking. After extensive testing, Petermann finally had an answer: All her symptoms, including those that seemed to be long-COVID, were due to Stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma. She started chemotherapy the next day.
Today, Petermann is in remission, though she still deals with the long-term consequences of the aggressive, months-long chemo. If she hadn't assumed most of her symptoms were due to long-COVID, she says, she may have received proper treatment and a diagnosis much earlier.
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