03 October 2007

i promise i will not be talking about my stomach all the time for the next six weeks

I just enjoyed a meal. I mean, I was hungry for it, I enjoyed eating it, and my stomach felt happily full when I finished.

I had forgotten that such a thing was possible. Hunger, I know. This miserable parasite has been lots of hungry this last year. But enjoying eating? Feeling full rather than sick afterwards? These are new sensations.

I am maintaining low expectations, but tentatively allowing myself to hope that my stomach problem might be gone come Saturday. Tentatively only, because you never know. And even if the antibiotics work, you never know when my little parasite friend might come back. I live in a swamp in Africa, y’all.

Mostly, I feel pretty good. I was fully prepared to milk the malaria for all the sympathy and bed-rest it could get me. When I got the diagnosis on Monday, in the middle of the day, I asked someone to buy me some water and sodas on the way home that night, and I took the medicine and went to bed. Only… I felt fine. So people keep asking, all concerned, “How are you FEELING?” and I have to say, “Well. Fine.” Often I add a hurried, “But I feel dizzy if I stand up for too long!” which is true but not really necessary. I could just sit down when I feel dizzy, which happens, oh, once a day. Whiner.

It’s just so anti-climactic. First of all, I didn’t even know that I had malaria. I wasn’t sick. I didn’t have a fever. (I know, because I’ve been obsessively checking my temperature morning and evening since I got to Southern Sudan. JUST IN CASE – okay, mostly on account of the stomach thing.) Then I take the malaria medication, which is supposed to wipe a person out, and I feel just fine. Okay, I’m exhausted by four p.m., and I feel a bit shaky. I can’t sleep. But I have nowhere pain, so in that sense I feel better than I did the day before I found out about the alleged malaria. I am just pain-free and sort of weak. I find this to be much better than pain-filled and strong, actually. It’s much more comfortable. I float. It's remarkably similar to the post-wrist surgery vicodin.

And when I compare this to my last bout of malaria, circa 1988, well, there is no comparison. That time, my mom and brother were both in the hospital with malaria that broke through the cloroquine prophylaxis, and on the day that I took my own temperature and found it to be 99.1, my dad started dosing me with quinine. That stuff is trippy. I couldn’t even read a book while on that nonsense. It’s a hallucinogenic drug. You see stuff. You hear stuff. You throw up. And that’s from the drugs, not the disease. This Coartem? It’s like a picnic in a gently sunlit glade in early June.

I feel a bit of a fraud. I make this big malaria announcement, and then I continue on participating in things merrily, while my clinic-visit-mate lies moaning feverishly on a sofa. I almost question my diagnosis. (Okay, her parasite count was 14. Mine was only 8. Still, I should have symptoms at 8.) But how about instead I credit 1. the Larium I was taking as prophylaxis, 2. catching it early, and 3. perhaps some lingering immunity from the malarias of my childhood?

In fact, I think I will.

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