There’s No Place Like Home

This Sunday, I’ll have been home for three weeks. How did the time go so fast? Again, it feels like I just got home, but then again, it feels like I never actually left home. Maybe that’s because I was sick for much of the time I’ve been home… 

Three weeks ago today, I started to get some weird pains in my gut. I remember laying in bed, thinking that my stomach felt really funny. The next day, my last full day in Asia, I felt yucky. I had some stabbing pains in my belly, but otherwise I wasn’t too bad. I just figured something I ate didn’t agree with me. It definitely wasn’t the first time on the trip that one of us had some stomach issues… (There were two of the five that lucked out and had zero stomach issues at all! Overall, I think we actually did really well as a group for avoiding stomach issues.)

Sunday morning came early with a 5 a.m. pick up to cross over to Singapore for the long day of travel back. My stomach was still paining, but I figured it was anxiety over the long flights home. Many times on the six hour flight from Singapore to Beijing, I was sitting as close as possible to a fetal position to try to alleviate some of the stabbing pains. I wasn’t feeling too bad, other than the pain that came and went. But, since I could eat and drink with no real issue, I just chose to ignore the pain, telling myself that I just had to make it to Toronto… I did not want to be left behind in Asia to deal with any medical problems, even if I did have travel insurance. I just wanted to be in Canada. So, as long as I was able to move forward and not cause any commotion, I was fine! 

I made it through that flight. I ate my ice-cream bar served with whatever meal they gave us, and the veggies. I tried to drink any liquid they were offering each time the flight attendants came through. (As an aside, I love Changi airport in Singapore, but I don’t like the way they have security right before your gate. This means you can’t bring water onto the plane, and you can’t use the washrooms after security. Really not great for long flights.) 

Everything went smoothly in Beijing. We had a short layover. They have body temperature sensors that you walk through in the customs area, and I didn’t set it off, so no fever. Score! If I had, I assume I’d have to be screened and they’d tell me if I could fly or not. Once I got through that area, I was relieved as I had just one 12 hour flight left to Canada!

I wanted to buy a bottle of water to take on the flight to Toronto, but we were tight on time, and I had only Singapore, Thai, Malaysian, and Canadian money. And I had no clue what the exchange was, so I passed on the 28 yuan bottle of water. (I now know it was about $5 in Canadian…)

The flight from Beijing to Toronto was pretty uneventful. I watched some movies, ate some food, drank whenever it was offered (including one glass of wine), and continued to have painful stomach cramps every so often. But, other than the cramps, I still felt ok. After 12 hours, we approached Toronto to land. I was in the aisle seat, but I could see the CN Tower  and I breathed a sign of relief. Now, whatever happened, at least I was in Canada! I wouldn’t be stuck alone, sick, in Asia. 

My body knew I was back in Canada as well. In the interest of not over sharing, I’ll just say that the stomach cramps continued once I hit Canadian soil, and other symptoms started as well. But, after a short flight to Halifax, I was back in my own house Sunday night, and I knew all would be ok. 

I wish that was the end of my stomach issues, but instead, it has been a long three weeks of trying to figure out what’s going on in my guts. The stabbing pains continued, and the Tuesday night after I got home, I went to a walk in clinic. The doctor assumed I had picked up a bacterial infection and prescribed antibiotics. The stabbing pains have NOT been back since I took that first dose of antibiotics. When I finished the round of pills, I thought I was better, just tired from jet lag. I had a glass of wine on the Friday night, and went out for coffee, brunch, etc. that Saturday. Saturday night, I started feeling bad again, with a whole new set of symptoms. 

At this point, I was really thankful for Canadian health care. On a Sunday morning, I could call 811 from the privacy of my own kitchen and speak with a nurse. I did that, and she advised me not to worry, but to get to my doctor within 24 hours, just in case. That night, I felt the worst I had in years. I woke up at 2 a.m. and pondered going to the ER. But, I went back to sleep instead, and feeling better in the morning, made an appointment to see my family doctor that afternoon. 

My doctor sent me for tests, and advised that he’d let me know when he got the results in a few days. It’s now been 10 days since my tests were dropped off at the lab. I still don’t have results. I’ve called his office three times. Last Friday, he’d left early and they could tell me nothing. Wednesday, his staff said they didn’t have my results and that they were (1) lost, (2) not back from the lab yet, or (3) sitting in his office, not read yet. She said she’d check with him and (I assumed) get back to me. I called again this morning, and was told that my doctor had his staff pull my file and he was going to call me today. It’s now five hours later, and I’m still waiting to hear. 

While I was waiting for my test results in the last 10 days, I have done lots of internet searches to see what else I could do in the meantime. I have followed great advice from a dietitian friend of adding in probiotics, which I think is why I am actually feeling better.

I’ve been feeling pretty good now since Sunday. I’m still tired, and my body is still acting differently than before I went to Asia. But, internet research and speaking to others who have traveled has shown me that sometimes people have new food sensitivities after traveling. So for now, that’s what I am working on figuring out. My next step (providing my doctor confirms that my test results are negative) will be to see a naturopath to try to figure out how to best go forward. Until then, I will be cutting out (or limiting) all the good stuff – dairy, alcohol, caffeine. Luckily, there are lots of things to eat and drink, even if I can’t have my favorites of coffee, cheese, and wine.