02 November 2007

day 2 :: same thing all over again

I haven’t mentioned this here, partly out of paranoia of making it true, but I’ve been really worried about lactose intolerance lately. I love milk. I live on milk much of the time. But that stomach problem, which I said I was done writing about but I’m not, because the problem isn’t gone, kept right on going through the medicine that was supposed to cure amoebas and the medicine that was supposed to cure worms. I spent far too much time with google, and came up with a list of possibilities. It included: ulcer, gastric cancer, lactose intolerance, schistosomiasis, Hepatitis C, irritable bowel syndrome. Also any other stomach ailment in existence on this earth. But those seemed like the most likely.

Notice that, of that list, including some deadly things, I am most worried about the lactose intolerance. I’ll take the chemo, but let me keep my milk. Please. The real reason is that most of those things I can’t test for here in Southern Sudan, but I can eliminate things, to see if I have an intolerance. Nine days ago, I gave up caffeine. This wasn’t too hard because it’s just too hot for tea, which was my only real caffeine. The stomach problem continued unabated. Five days ago, I gave up dairy. Four days ago, I started feeling good.

I will not lie. I started praying to feel bad again. I really don’t think I can live without milk. I don’t like soy milk much, and milk is crucial to so many foods I love. Cereal, for example. What would cereal be without milk? Also ice cream, and cheese, and more cheese, and cheese with pasta, and cheese with bread, and milk itself. I love a nice cold glass of milk. I decided that if it turned out that I was lactose intolerant, I would just keep consuming milk anyway, and deal with the stomach issues.

But I still wanted to check out the other possibilities. Enter free hospital run by a European organization, again.

At the risk of giving too much detail, here’s the problem: testing for anything tropical and intestinal requires stool samples. I don’t know about you, but when the hospital here gives me a little cup and says, “Bring this back tomorrow morning with a fresh stool sample,” well, it doesn’t work that way. Is there anyone who can just stool sample at will? I guess if you have serious diarrhea, but what about if your body is in revolt against the concept of going into the latrine? What if it just refuses? What then?

So I waited until I had, well, something, I’m not going to specify what but I think you know, in hand before I went. I talked to the nice American doctor, and I sat outside the lab, praying that they would find something. Stool samples are an iffy business. You can have many a disease actually prancing around in your intestines, but they might not show up in every stool sample, and even if they do, they might not show up in the particular bit that the technician happens to put under the microscope.

Please let them find something. Please let them find something.

The technician came out and handed me my paper. They found something. SAME EFFING AMOEBA AS LAST TIME. (Yes! That was another implied swear word! After all this time of keeping things G-rated for my grandmothers, my true self, which enjoys implied swear words, is being revealed. “Oh, we swear.” You have to admit, after an entire 14 months of torturing me, this amoeba deserves it.)

Let’s recap: in the last three months, I have hit my poor body with the following medications: tinidazole (amoebas), mefloquine (malaria), coartem (malaria), cipro (bacteria), metronidazole (amoebas), mebendazole (worms). And I’m still sick. In fact, I still have amoebas.


(Again, an implied swear word. I NEED that swear word right now. I need it.)

The nice American doctor reappeared after a very long time, holding a very large book open to a page on intestines, and explained. “Ideally, with amoebas, we would treat them with two medications. One penetrates the bowel and kills the amoebas in the tissue. The other one kills the amoebas in the open spaces. The problem is that we don’t have the second medication here. So the amoebas in the open spaces are just re-infecting the tissue. I’ll give you tinidazole again, in a higher dose, but if you are still having problems, you might want to buy the two medications together in Nairobi.”

“So basically,” I said, “the same amoebas are just sitting around in my intestines.”

“Yeah, all we’ve done is make them mad,” he said.

I thought for a while. “So, does this mean that I can go back to drinking milk?”

1 comment:

bee said...

i found your blog through the blogroll at nablopomo. i've always wanted to go to africa, so the title brought me here, but the writing will make me come back. (the way you described the southern sudan twilight, the naked toddler boys...wallace....i got drawn in.)

thank you.