Full Stop (Healing in South Africa)
I met with the surgeon again this week, and he said, “I thought the next time I would see you would be in surgery....”
My body put me in a full stop while I was in South Africa. Full stop! This is a story of physical, emotional and spiritual healing, but before I commence, heed this warning. My healing involves a lot of work on my intestines, and I have become way toooo comfortable talking about my bowels. If this makes you squeamish, be warned... Just sayin’.
The short story is that my small intestines collapsed. Yup, it was painful. I’ve had two kids naturally, and if childbirth was a 9, this was a chronic 7. Whew.
The whole situation started with me not wanting to offend a wonderful couple and... I ate meat for 4-5 meals. I’ve been a pescatarian for the last 4 years and constipation followed. But it got worse... a pain in my left hip and back developed and became a bit, well, intense.
Oh, and still constipated another week later.
And a bulge in my left abdomen popped out. Weird. Three acupuncture visits and one physical therapy visit did nothing to relieve what I thought was a pinched nerve.
Oh, and still constipated yet another week.
I drank an epsom salt concoction and experienced some minor relief (sorry, told you it would be graphic). And yes, I finally went to the doctor who confirmed I was really constipated. Geeez. Here’s where the “fun” started...
She prescribed the meds that people drink to prep for a colonoscopy. If any of are over 50, you know what a lovely experience that is. NOT! But wait, it wasn’t just one day or two or even three days, but FOUR DAYS of drinking the colposcopy prep goo. Dear god....
And wait for it.
My brother, the surgeon in Florida had been coaching me via texts in between seeing his patients and suggested I give myself enemas. DEAR GOD HELP ME.... In hindsight I think he was playing a sadistic prank on me. And while texting a friend about the joys of giving oneself not just one, but FIVE - no joke - FIVE enemas, Siri autocorrected “enema” to the name of one of my ex’s. I got a BIG chuckle out of that one.... I was looking for humor under every rock. LOL!
Oh, and btw, NOTHING moved.
By now I felt like I was going to blow up as I really was so full of S#^t.... In a moment of desperation I brainstormed what, other than surgery, could I do to find relief.
I hadn’t tried that modality yet. The family I was staying with knew of a woman and contacted her. Lucky me this angel was willing to see me on a Sunday, stuck a tube up my arse and worked on me for over an hour.
HALLELUJAH! Can you hear the choir of angels??!! I think I shed a tear or two when I opened up a bit. However, the emotional relief was a short lived as I assumed the pain and bulge would disappear.
By this time I had seen the family doc 4x, had an x-ray to ensure there were no blockages, an ultra sound to make sure there were no kinks, a urinalysis to make sure my kidneys weren’t causing the problem, a blood test and a poop test. No parasites. GEEEEEEEZZEE... I have used the medical system here in Cape Town more than I have in the last 20 years.
I made my way to see a surgeon who ordered a CT scan as the pain and bulge told me something was seriously wrong. At least we found out I did have a problem... My small intestine walls were thickened to the point of collapse. No wonder nothing could get through. The radiologist used the scary “C” word, but I dismissed it as way too premature, though I must admit to being more than a wee bit scared for about 24 hours.
The surgeon was going on vacation the following week and gave me directions to eat soft, bland food and take a stool softener. And oh, I had to cancel the next segment of my trip as I was to leave for Thailand the following week....
I had two weeks to heal, so I called in the Calvary. My Calvary consisted of spiritual warriors from whom I gathered input and asked them to direct positive energy my way. An important texting thread with a powerful healer suggested that this felt like past life stuff; that reminder was what I needed to turn my mind back to what I knew to be true. This was simply my souls experience in this lifetime... I realized I had an opportunity to lean into it and do the best I could do to assist my body in healing. I also realized that this was so much more than physical...
My perspective was profoundly changed with the knowing that this was merely something I was to experience. I didn’t and still don’t know the final outcome whether it be good or bad, but I was able to shift my perspective to one of open awareness.
And with that, the Calvary suggestions came through!
Lemon water every morning
Carrot and celery juice
Bland, soft diet
Deep twists coupled with breath work
Wim Hoff breath practice
Tapping on the intestinal meridians (I don’t think there was a spiritual modality I didn’t use)
Nasty tasting enzymes
Aloe laxative (daily)
Movacol (stool softener 3x a day..... the term “sluggish bowels” doesn’t cover it...)
I felt like I had bought the entire frickin’ holistic pharmacy - lol!!
At the onset of this wild ride, the book “The Journey” was given to me by a young spiritual woman (the book was more than profound) and my healing journey continued...
When I began searching for the metaphysical causes of physical illnesses, I came across an article in which a woman found that her ailments were all one sided. That rang a distant bell, and I inventoried what I had experienced in my lifetime.
I started connecting the dots...
Left arm broken as a kid
Left ACL surgery on my knee
Left meniscus surgery
Left ear clogged when my brother died
Left eye stays closed if I wake up in the middle of the night
Left ear clogged in January at the beginning of my trip
Left intestine collapsed
Bizarre. Methinks my body had been trying to get my attention for a long time... The left side represents the feminine, the receiving side, yin. “It responds to your environment. It holds your experiences (past), your emotional self, your memories, and emotional joy or pain.”
Now I should throw in the dilemma of health insurance into the mix. Fortunately I have travel insurance which covered me when I was out of the US for situations like this, but nothing when I return back to the US.
And another positive is that this happened while in Cape Town which is a very sophisticated city. Yes, it is a very complicated country due to apartheid and has much violence (economic racism remains) but the health care is top notch. The first heart transplant in the world was completed in Cape Town. And, the exchange rate coupled with the reasonable cost of services makes health care in South Africa astoundingly affordable.
4 doctor visits
2 surgeon visits
The total bill for this list of services, no co-pay was under $1,000. UNBELIEVABLE. The average price of a CT scan back in the US is $3,500 alone. If I had to pick a place to get sick and heal, this was a good choice. Thank you universe, god, whatever you want to call it...
Back to the healing story...
I had dinner with a friend, and she mentioned that she was going on a 4 day silent retreat starting the day I was scheduled to leave for Thailand. Now I want to digress about the support I was receiving. Getting sick in a foreign country where I knew no one a month earlier probably sounds a little scary to some of you.
Fortunately I felt incredibly supported. Technology allowed my friends and family to be but a phone call or text away, and I had developed a support group in Cape Town that astounded me... I was staying with an amazing family (within the first hour of meeting them, I learned that the entire family had taken a year to travel around Africa on bicycles) that were the founders of the nonprofit at which I was supposed to be volunteering, and they were INCREDIBLY compassionate and understanding. There were days and days where I sat with a hot water bottle on my back or with my legs ups the wall to relieve the pain; they never made me feel like I was a burden. Shaking my head with gratitude...
So back to the retreat. My schedule was wide open (lol), and the notion of attending a silent retreat seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered. My new friend set things in motion and reached out to the organizer who said she could fit in one more person, but needed to see if accommodations were still available. The stars aligned and I found myself in the car with Nola and her two ole’ pups driving into the beautiful mountains towards McGregor, South Africa. She had told me that the retreat center was beautiful, but that explanation didn’t do it justice.
Healing gardens. Peacocks. Labyrinth. Fountains. Chapels. Buddhas. Flowers. Herbs. 5 star restaurant. Coy ponds.
Surrounded by mountains.
I felt like I had given myself an incredible healing present.
18 women had gathered for this retreat for 18 different reasons. I came to heal.
When I pulled up the spiritual meaning for intestine problems Louis Haye wrote, “Incomplete releasing; holding on the the past...” I was truly puzzled as I felt like I had eliminated all stress and holding patterns from my life. I’d done years of cognitive therapy working on my stuff. Good grief I was living my dream and volunteering around the globe - how much more awesome can ones life get? I do acknowledge that traveling, even though it has been an amazing experience, is stressful on the body, but not to the degree I’d experienced by the nature of this wake up call... I truly couldn’t imagine what I was still holding onto.
The retreat organizer unveiled the theme of the retreat. Of course it was, “Untying the knots.” On day one we sat for our first meditation, and the song “I’m Walking on Sunshine...” started swirling through my head. I couldn’t figure where it came from and when the chorus rang through my head, “It’s time to feel good!” - I know I broke into a big silent smile and felt a lump rise in my throat from an inner knowing that the healing process had begun...
We went into silence on the second day after we were taken through a TRE exercise; this was new to me. The practice was founded to help PTSD patients release stress their bodies were holding through shaking or trembling. It sounded a little strange, but I’m always willing to try something new. As I eased into the pose, my legs began to tremble and memories of stressful events long forgotten surfaced: jumping off a hay loft and fracturing my back, the gun to my head in college, the stress of my business collapse, the pain of divorce...
My bowels opened up that night. ALL NIGHT LONG. I virtually skipped to the loo every time an urge arose. BIZARRE how good it felt to be thoroughly cleaned out. BIZARRE how my body reacted to letting go of held trauma and stress...
The retreat was truly life changing. I finished reading “The Journey” which was a road map to self healing. I had read accounts of healing, and believed that we all possessed the power to heal ourselves (Deepak Chopra, Bruce Lipton, Louise Haye), but felt a bit inadequate as I thought it was a function of how strong you believed; I must not be believing enough... This book showed me my faulty logic and provided a path to healing. And it wasn’t about believing. It showed a path of forgiveness. Letting go of pain of the past and truly forgiving those that have wronged us... That is what allows us to heal at the cellular level. During the silence I took myself through visualization exercises and had many difficult conversations in my minds eye. And, I forgave.
By the end of the retreat the pain had virtually disappeared and my bowels, though still sluggish, were again moving.
Healing had begun.
I saw the surgeon today. The bulge is still present and he has no idea why. I don’t have a hernia, and I have never had stomach surgery which would account for what appears to be a lapse in my abdomen wall... I call my bulge my little baby, and he said I may need a hernia belt to hold it. SERIOUSLY!?!?! He and I then had some spirited words as I told him this woman isn’t terribly thrilled about the bulge in a bikini.... LOL. Methinks I still have some work to do.
I am on a wait list for a 10 day vipassana course back up in the mountains of South Africa. I had told many friends that this was on my list of things to do while on my travels, but I had not found the time or right place to fit it in. Methinks the time might be now...
The vipassana course is scheduled to start Wednesday. The story isn’t done. I have a colonoscopy scheduled for October 24. I’ll keep you apprised.