I detonated an atomic bomb in my tummy. Actually I have dropped 4 bombs since I first arrived in Xela. Each time my stomach lining suffered intense and excruciating burns. The strong army of bacteria in my stomach weakened from the destructive energy of each blast. This little army fought hard. Each time my defenses weakened leaving me vulnerable to another attack (be that infection or sickness). My system really had little chance of survival when faced with not 1 but 4 atomic bombs. The white flag was waved. Surrender.
My digestive system screamed out for help. All I could do was cry while the anxiety and questions built up. I would go to bed with mounting preoccupations. I tried to listen, respond, and care. I would talk with my body:
What do you need? Why are you making that sound? Why does it feel like parts of you are being dragged around? What is this weakness we feel in our stomach? Is your white blood cell count normal? Do we need to go back to the doctor for a 4th time? Do you need another blood test? Will we have to go home? Please, I can’t afford another $300 medical visit at this point.
My first doctor. He came highly recommended with prestigious credentials. He sat a big wooden desk with indicators of his success scattered all over his office. A photo of his daughter graduating from college. Framed credentials. A private medical room attached to his personal office. Expensive vases. A space minimal yet refined. I believed that this would be the person to help me. And he did… well to a certain extent. We ran expensive tests. Figured out the location of my infection. But still this wasn’t enough. He looked over my costly exams with the quickness of a student cramming minutes before a big exam. Scribbled highlighter circled numbers and acronyms that I would never understand. He gave me his prognoses and sent me on my way. I came home nearly in tears. Frustrated. No this is not right. My body is telling me something different then this doctor.
Another round of antibiotics, probiotics and nearly $300 and it happened again. The discomfort and uneasiness entered my system. It wasn’t necessarily the physical pain in my body that was concerning but the worry that accompanied the feeling of not knowing. I began to ask anyone I came in contact with about my results. Do you know what a white blood cell of this quantity indicated? Poop became a center of many conversations. I began the search for my own answers.
Feeling like my options were running out I made a conscious effort to not watch from the sidelines while my health declined. After all I know best how to communicate with my body. It’s language of love and loss. The way it whispers kind words when I treat it with respect. It’s screams when treated disrespectfully. And I was right. Thank you doc for your help but I am going to go to someone else. Someone who will also make an effort to communicate with my body. And that’s what I did.
My questions and inquiries with the nurse at Education and Hope landed me at Center for Health in the town of Esperanza. I knew I liked this nurse when one of her first questions for me was do you know about alternative medicine? Jamaica for the reproductive system. A natural tea to settle my stomach. She told me she was concerned and that she wanted to help me. Her eyes showed that she cared. Not only did she get me to a free clinic but she connected me with a doctor who listened to what my body was saying. It was through this process that I learned how I waged war on my own body. The 3 different types of antibiotics I had taken for various infections, and who can forget the doxy, really harmed my system. All of this created what the doctor labeled as an atomic bomb in my stomach. Now I am on a cleanse, taking probiotics and eating lots of food rich in nutrients for my body. I was unaware of the immense destructive power of this atomic weapon that took the form of a little pill. That was until I found the right help. I hope this story helps fellow travelers and people searching for health solutions. I’ve learned that being sick while traveling can be really scary. Here is some advice I have cultivated over these 6 months.
Take Antibiotics Sparingly
I was unaware of the harm I was doing to my body through taking so many antibiotics. Though at some points they may be necessary think a bit before consuming too many. Antibiotics are not selective about the bacteria that they target and therefore they will kill it all. Yep that means all the good stuff is also under attack. Here is a good article I found about recovering gut health from Food Renegade: How to Recover Gut Health After Antibiotics
Listen to Your Gut
Listening to your gut literally and figuratively was key to addressing my medical problems. Sit within the discomfort. Breath. Take a minute to have a conversation with your body. Ask it what it needs and be patient. Remember that you are the expert of your own healing. Though someone with a nice credential may tell you one thing please remember you are the one living in your body.
Go with a Natural Remedy
In my time in Guatemala I have learned that natural remedies are the way to go. What we put in our body had an enormous impact on what we can put out. Feed your body what it deserves. In my time here I have learned about natural plants used to assist women throughout and during pregnancy. The natural foods that boost the immune system. My host mom has made me tea while sick to settle my stomach. I am not an expert on this but I think there is something to be said for natural remedies. Do your research and decide for yourself.
Find Someone That Will Listen to You
One night after dinner I began to sob uncontrollably with my Spanish maestra. I explained that I wasn’t sure what was happening with my body and that I was scared. 6 months of on and off sickness and a big weight loss. I contemplated going home if my white blood cell count didn’t drop. She was there for me. Having a community of people that listened and cared was important in my healing process. A friend recommended a doctor that she trusted. My host sister accompanied me 3 days in a row to the doctors. The nurse from Education and Hope checked in with me during my consultation in Esperanza. A friend at the project accompanied me to my second round of doctor’s appointments. My family and friends from back home provided a safe space for me to ask questions. It was frustrating not feel heard from the doctor I went to. It may take some time but find someone or something that will help you find peace during, what was for me, a scary time.