The amount of times I have been sick during my Peace Corps service is innumerable. During pre-service training, I was sick every month. For a while during my first year, I was sick every couple of weeks. My body was having a really hard time adjusting to the water, the food, climate and bacterias. I would get colds, fevers, chills, body aches, diarrhea, headaches… the whole enchilada. I took lots of medicine and got tested for parasitic infections multiple times.
This might all sound terrible (because it was), but there is a silver lining to it all. One is that my sicknesses never evolved to the point where I needed to be hospitalized. For the most part, I was able to handle each bout of sickness by myself and with some assistance from Peace Corps doctors. This isn’t always the case for volunteers. I know many of my friends have had to go to their local health post or hospital for professional medical attention. Some even had to go to Lima to seek medical intervention.
The other part to this silver lining is that I developed an acute awareness of my body, both when it is healthy and when it is sick. Spending so much time sick meant that I was also keeping track of my symptoms. Eventually it got to the point where I could feel myself getting sick. For example, I knew the warning signs for when I needed to rush to the bathroom (or bucket) so I could vomit. I know when I am feverish. I know how to treat myself when my stomach is upset. I know exactly when I will have diarrhea, mostly from the reality of almost pooping my pants a whole bunch of time (eventually I did).
I also know how it feels to be healthy. How it feels to recover from sickness. How fucking glorious it is to wake up and feel healthy enough to leave my room. I think having a healthy body is something we take for granted a lot. I know I did before. But now I don’t. Our bodies are so amazing. They fight so hard so that we can feel good again. Our bodies are strong and resilient. I love my body so much when it is happy and healthy. I see now that I listen to my body more than ever.