Leo had always been healthy, though not particularly athletic. My husband and I only wanted our sons to both be engaged in some sort of extracurricular activity after school. For Drew, that was football in the fall, and baseball in the spring and summers. Leo was more artistic than physical and chose to take guitar lessons instead, and occasionally volunteered at the local animal shelter. That was fine with us, as long as our boys were passionate about what they were doing, and were doing something constructive and positive with their time.
A couple months into his freshman year away at college, Leo got very sick. So sick, in fact, that he came home to convalesce. He couldn’t even make the few hour drive home because he was so weak; he called my husband crying, asking him to come pick him up from school and bring him home.
When my husband drove out and got him, he took one look at his pale face, swollen neck, and dark circles under his eyes, and instead of bringing him straight home, he took him to the doctor first. It turned out Leo had a classic case of mononucleosis, which was very physically uncomfortable and contagious, meaning he would miss some school, but not life-threatening.
The doctor prescribed some steroids to Leo to help with the swelling in his throat so he could breathe better, and to alleviate his other physical symptoms. The difference after a day or two of taking the steroids was almost miraculous. Leo, who had come home looking like a rung out dishrag, tears in his eyes from the pain in his throat, looked to be almost back to himself. He was even able to play his guitar and sing a little bit, although I warned him not to try to do too much with his voice, and he still couldn’t go back to school until he was no longer contagious, no matter how much better he felt.
A few more days into his course of steroid treatment, I came home from work (my husband and I had traded off taking days off work to stay home with Leo, until he felt well enough to take care of himself) and Leo was gone.
I worried, because he should be at home resting, and I had no idea where he had gone or what he was doing. He had left his phone on the table, though, which I took as a sign that he would return shortly because like most kids his age, he could never go very long without his precious iPhone.
About an hour later, Leo came panting in the door, wearing sneakers and an old T-shirt soaked in sweat. He doubled over in the doorway, trying to catch his breath.
“Leo! Are you alright? Where were you? Here, sit down, let me get you some water!”
But Leo just grinned and waved me away.
“Mom, I’m fine! Look, I promise!” he insisted, standing upright and doing a few jumping jacks to prove his point.
“What on earth were you doing?” I asked, pouring him a glass of water.
“I just felt so good, and I had all this pent up energy, I guess from being cooped up for so long, I had to go for a run! I just ran like eight miles I think!”
“Wow,” I said, shocked and impressed. “That’s very good, Leo, but you should still be resting. Wait to exercise till you are all the way better.”
Looking back, Leo must have figured out that it was the steroids that had made him feel so much better, and made a boy who had never worked out a day in his life want to go for an eight-mile run.