My mysterious spewing disease

It is 2006 and I’m in Thailand with my on-again-off-again boyfriend who’s training and fighting Muay Thai out of a gym in Chiang Mai. Our relationship is pretty unstable but I’m too much of a wuss to address it head-on; I’m too scared of losing him. I’m doing a little bit of Muay Thai myself, but mostly I’m there to be with him. I’m buying food from the street vendors every day, and every now and then I eat something dodgy and get sick for a few days – it’s pretty normal for that to happen over there. Sometime during the three and a half months I was there I picked up a bug of some sort, probably through something I ate, that was to haunt me for the next four years.

I remember the first time it happened; it was while I was still over there. I had a crook tummy and was throwing up over and over again, despite there being nothing to bring up other than bright yellow gastric juices. I don’t remember there being any pain during that first episode – the pain came later. The next time was almost a year later. This episode, and all the ones that followed, started with pain in my upper abdomen which intensified over a period of several hours and radiated out over my entire abdomen, making it feel rigid and tight and burn like ice.

Eventually the pain was severe enough that I would spew because of it. Spewing would temporarily relieve the pain, for a minute or two anyway, and then the pain would build up again until it made me spew again. Each episode, from the onset of pain through to the pain and spewing subsiding lasted for six to eight hours. For some reason, each episode almost always began in the evening, which meant that the spewing was happening in the middle of the night. While every single person in the whole wide world was surely peacefully asleep I was dragging myself from bed to toilet and back again, sweating one minute with my head down the toilet, and shivering uncontrollably the next. All I wanted was to be asleep. I knew when I was through the worst of it because I would doze off for a second between a spew and the pain coming back. Eventually I’d be able to sleep and the next day I’d be pain free and on the road to recovery, not knowing how many weeks or months would pass before the next encounter.

I saw doctors, had blood and faeces tests and ultrasounds done, I described my situation to anyone who I thought could help me. But the tests didn’t reveal anything, and the reaction I got from most doctors was “well that’s very interesting but I have no idea what it is or how to help you”. I had acupuncture and drank foul-tasting Chinese medicine, I had neurolink sessions; I tried everything I could think of. In my desperation to try and make sense of what was happening to me I even considered that maybe I was creating my sickness myself and that it was a manifestation of my negative thoughts, or something crazy like that.

At first I just endured the pain and allowed the process to run its course, but this got old after about 10 episodes. So I started presenting myself at the hospital’s emergency department so a doctor could actually see me in the throes of an episode rather than me trying to describe it after the fact. Aaaah the morphine. I can’t even begin to describe how good it felt to have my pain taken away. All of a sudden I felt human again, freed from my private prison of pain.

I take my hat off to people that live with chronic pain. Nobody can feel anybody else’s pain, and nobody really wants to hear you go on about how bad your pain is. I’ll never know if my ten-out-of-ten pain was more or less painful than the next person’s, I’m just glad it’s over.

My trips to the emergency department always ended the same way: the morphine took the pain away, the blood tests revealed nothing, so, pain-free and no longer spewing I was sent on my merry way, none the wiser as to what the hell was wrong with me. Somewhere along the way I was prescribed codeine, probably to keep me out of ED so they could focus on real emergencies. This turned out to be a big problem though. The codeine was powerful enough to alleviate the pain for a few hours, which meant I wasn’t throwing up. But the throwing up was an important part of the bug’s cycle, as I found out later, and by interfering with that I was drawing out six to eight hours of pain and spewing into about four days of temporary pain suppression and reliance on pain killers and their side effects – anyone who’s taken codeine will know how it binds you up.

Everything was coming to a head in 2010. The episodes were increasing in frequency, nothing I was doing was helping, and I was feeling increasingly frustrated and worried. Each time the now-familiar pain would set in I would feel crushed inside from knowing what the next few hours and days would entail. I was beaten down both physically and emotionally – as someone who has always been fit and healthy it was devastating for me and left me feeling very vulnerable and fragile.

Mum was also really worried about me, and seeing as conventional medicine had failed me big time, suggested I go and see and old flame of hers who happened to be a medium. Now this is where my story might start to challenge your belief systems a bit, but it happened to me, despite being dubious about it myself, so I know that it’s true.

So I went to visit this fellow, whom I had not seen or spoken to or had any contact with for at least 20 years. He immediately informed me that I had a tropical parasite living in my digestive system. It was something uncommon in the Western world and wouldn’t have shown up in a faeces test, which only tests for a few common parasites. It was also very small, about the size of a match head, so an ultrasound wouldn’t have picked it up either. He said that for most of the bug’s life cycle it happily lived in my intestines without causing any discomfort to me, its host. But about every six weeks or so it needed to reproduce, and during its reproductive phase it moved from my intestines into my stomach and (somehow) caused pain so that it could be vomited up and spread into the world.

To this day, I don’t know if this is true, and if it is true, what this parasite is called. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that the advice he gave me worked and now I am free. It was pretty simple really, he said to take colloidal silver, and if that didn’t work to take ascorbic acid – dry and undiluted – when an episode was happening, as this would come in direct contact with the bug while it was in my stomach and scorch the mother fucker to smithereens (my words not his).

So I took the colloidal silver dutifully each day, and it stirred things up a bit but it wasn’t powerful enough on its own. One evening an episode was coming on, and as I waited with grim resolve for the first spew, instead of the pain increasing to spew-point it started to recede and then went away entirely. I was ecstatic! I wasn’t completely clear yet but something was changing. During the next episode, I decided to give the ascorbic acid a go. It burnt like fire, but it was easily tolerable in comparison to the pain I was used to.

The last episode happened in September 2010. I felt the pain coming on and I just sat with it, no interference with codeine or morphine. Immediately after each spew I swallowed about half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid. I visualised the bug in my tummy being killed by the ascorbic acid and I guess that’s what happened. I’ve been completely clear for four years and counting; not a murmur or a hint of the shit times that plagued me for four long years.

The day I visited the medium’s house he told me that his guides had been particularly active that morning, informing them of my condition, amongst other things. One even stopped by while I was there, causing his eyes to narrow to thin slits and flutter about as he sat in his armchair. He proceeded to tell me some things about me, personal things, while he was in this altered state. He told me that I have a heart like a marshmallow and that it gets hurt more easily than most, which is true. He told me that I’m like a fox terrier: once I get impassioned about something I can’t let it go, which is also true. Then he said that he could see me at a crossroads; I’d been walking along a path with someone for a long time, we’d come to a junction and the person I’d been with had turned and started walking in a different direction. I knew that I couldn’t follow this person on the path they’d chosen, but I didn’t know which path to take myself so I was left standing alone at this junction, unable to move at all, in any direction. This, of course, summed things up perfectly. The person was my ex, the path was the path we’d taken together, and the crossroads symbolised him moving on and me being left behind, unable to let go or move on.

In time I did let go and move on. And I’m eternally grateful that the information came to me to allow me to heal myself, regardless of its source.

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my epiphany

My epiphany took place in the seaside town of Padang Bai, on the island of Bali, Indonesia, sometime in July 2011. I’d completed my Master of Science degree the year before, and this mid-winter getaway from the Dunedin cold was my reward to myself for my academic achievements thus far. I had three part-time jobs waiting for me at home, none of which spun my dials all that much.

Kate, my friend and travel companion, and I had spent the evening at a bar drinking tequila sunrises. Upon arrival back at our room Kate immediately passed out. I, on the other hand, was wide awake and full of energy. It was probably around midnight and the temperature and humidity had both dropped in comparison with the oppressive days. The guest house where we were staying had a rooftop balcony so I proceeded up there with my iPod and yoga mat and had an awesome workout consisting of shadow boxing interspersed with press-ups and sit-ups, with plenty of stretching at the end.

I usually can’t go without exercising for more than a few days at a time – I start to feel agitated and irritable and lethargic, so this holiday was proving to be a bit of a challenge for me in this regard, as I had no access to a gym and wasn’t exercising much. I was also coming to realise that days spent lounging beside a pool eating and drinking is not my idea of a dream holiday. The late night rooftop tequila fuelled workout was exactly what I needed and I felt more alive in my body and clear in my mind than I had for a while.

This was also a fairly pivotal time in my life; I’d finished my studies and felt like the reality I wanted to create for myself was right at my fingertips. So I asked myself this question: what is the most important thing to you right now? And this was my answer: having a good body. Now I know this sounds incredibly shallow and vain so please let me explain. To me, having a good body means eating for nutrition not gratification, exercising regularly, and feeling completely happy and at peace with the size and shape of my body. I wonder how many people are not in this state right now. My next thought went something like this: if this is the most important thing to you, maybe you should find a way to turn it into a career. Becoming a personal trainer seemed like the logical next step.

So I enrolled to do the best personal training course available in New Zealand, tied up all my loose ends in Dunedin and moved to Auckland. A bit of an about turn after studying geography at Otago for five years, to say the least. At this point in time I should probably mention that I’m totally ruled by my emotions, and make most of my decisions based on how I feel, rather than what’s logical or practical. It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do or be, but more that the goalposts keep moving. Every time I think I’m sure, something new comes along to distract me. That said, health and fitness has always been a massive part of my life and always will be. Turning it into a vocation however, is another matter. Wish me luck!