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It’s not witty or daring–it’s just my life

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

I never thought my life was anything out of the ordinary. Sure I’ve had some random adventures over the years, but who hasn’t?
However, this past month was one I’m ready to put behind me–once and for all. It was an October to remember–and forget.
But I suppose it started a week before that. I developed a little cough, along with a sinus headache. Ah, September, I thought. Allergy time.
Then there was the trial. Armed with water and cough drops, I endured the week,  hacking only occasionally. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was convinced I had hacked up one lung and was starting on the other.
I self-medicated using, among other things, Mucinex to break up the congestion. And so I coughed. And coughed. And coughed. By Monday I had annoyed everyone I came in contact with, including my co-workers and so I did something I haven’t done in years–I made a doctor’s appointment.
The diagnosis? At first he thought it was walking pneumonia since I did not have fever, chills etc. But a chest X-ray showed only a bad case of bronchitis.

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Armed with an antibiotic and inhaler–and instructions to continue with the Mucinex, Tom and I left Tampa for a week in Mexico–a vacation we had planned for six months. Nothing was going to get in the way of sun and fun–even the absence of a lung.
And so I continued to hack. By now the antibiotic had kicked in and I was feeling much better. The coughing bouts were less frequent–that is until I was at 37,000 feet and the air was stale.
I coughed and apologized over and over to my seat mates. “I’m not contagious,” I avowed. A lady two rows up offered me Sudafed, my seat mate from Denver pushed water and bananas in my direction. I just continued to cough.
The dry air, azure sky, clear water and stress-free environment worked a miracle on both my body and spirit.
We swam, snorkled, sunned, played chess, read, slept–all the things that make an ideal vacation.
*****
On Wednesday we were up at dawn to catch first a taxi, then a ferry, then a bus to tour the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. By this time I was no longer coughing and was truly enjoying myself.
Chichen Itza had been on my bucket list for a long time and I was not disappointed. The Mayans were so ahead of their time in the way they understood astrology and science. It was almost too much to take in as our tour guide, Abel, droned on and on and on about their beliefs and discoveries.
After Chichen Itza, we were treated to lunch at an authentic Mayan restaurant where we feasted on Cochinita Pibil, which is pork marinated in bitter orange juice and achiote. After it is wrapped in banana leaves, it is still baked in a specially arranged underground oven.  We wrapped the pork in fresh tortillas and smothered on the pico de gallo, which was liberally doused with habanero chilis. It was ambrosia, the food of the gods.
Most of our tour group was European and each was impressed with swimming in a cenote, or sinkhole. After living in Florida for five years, it takes more than a sinkhole to impress me. I chose not to swim.
We arrived back in Playa del Carmen just in time for dinner and chose a Mexican restaurant, where I had chicken enchiladas and Tom had “one of the best burritos” ever.
We caught the 10 p.m. ferry back to Cozumel and fell exhausted into bed at midnight–about 18 hours from when our journey began.
*****
I awakened early, ready to snorkel the reefs but felt a queasy. Little did I know it was the beginning of what I thought was the end.
For the next eight hours, I did nothing but vomit. Thirty times I threw up. And the pain! The worst pain I’ve ever experienced, including 18 hours of labor with my first child. Tom, the dutiful husband was back and forth between the room and the gift shop, bringing me an array of supplies to alleviate the discomfort. The Pepto Bismol failed. So did the crackers. The Sprite. The water. The grape Pedialyte. I continued to hurl and moan.
At last he said a doctor could be onsite within the hour.
“Call him,” I said.
I crept to the infirmary of the resort where the doctor and his assistant greeted me.
With a nod of his head, he looked at me and proclaimed, “You have traveler’s diarrhea.”
I protested. “But I don’t have diarrhea. I am only vomiting.”
“Ah, but you will,” he prophesized.
Traveler’s diarrhea, or Montezuma’s Revenge, is caused by a build up from bacteria, usually in water but in my case, the food. Because my immune system was already depressed by stress and bronchitis, I was an unwilling victim who just happened to get a quadruple dose of it.
A double injection of anti-nausea medication reserved for cancer patients was shot into my hip and he armed me with yet another antibiotic and muscle relaxers to ease the cramps.
And now it was time for the bill. Neither of us had thought to ask how much relief was going to cost me. I started mentally adding in my head: office visit, three medications, house call. Oh, boy. There went the rest of our money, I thought.
“This is my fee,” he said pointing to a piece of paper, “and this is for the medication.”
I sat back in my chair. It was 1,400 pesos. I had become skilled in converting dollars to pesos and vice versa. My bill was $120 and he accepted Mastercard. Internally I rejoiced as yet another wave of cramps seized me.
The rest of the evening was a blur as I slept on and off until dawn.
*****
I awakened a new creature, ready for food after my unwanted and unplanned fast.
The cramps were still horrendous, but the vomiting had stopped.
We boarded the plan that afternoon to return home, and this time I was not coughing nor was I excreting any other body fluids. I was thankful.
With a layover in Dallas, I was finally ready for real food after a day of yogurt and toast.
All weekend the pain continued but I wasn’t debilitated.
Then Sunday night the doctor’s prophesy was fulfilled. Montezuma’s Revenge, Part 2.
By Tuesday, I was finally over all my ailments and feeling my old feisty self.
Cautiously I stepped on the scale, convinced I was now at least eight or 10 pounds lighter.
Wrong! Only two pounds was missing for all that pain and agony I had endured the last 30 days but oh, the stories I have to tell.Priceless!


A world traveler only in her mind, Carolyn Ten Broeck is editor of the Williston Pioneer. She is ready for another adventure but this time will be prepared with alphadophilus.