WEGO Health challenge, Day 5 -- Ekphrasis Post

Today's assignment for the 30-day WEGO Health Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge is to view the photo of the day on Flickr.com/explore and write a post inspired by the image, and see if you can link it to your health focus.  Here is the image that popped up when I clicked on flickr.com/explore:  

This is the Tower of London, in London, England.  

When I looked at flickr.com/explore a few days ago, and yesterday, and looked at the images, I thought OMG I am never going to be able to relate to these images (one was a collage with two peacocks, a man shooting a photograph and some European-looking buildings, very confusing and I thought that was the image I was going to get today).  Was I thrilled when I clicked on the link this morning and up popped the Tower of London -- a place I have visited many, many times.  Does it inspire me?  Anymore?  Well, since I was prompted to be inspired by the image, I suppose it does, but I never would have thought I'd be "inspired" by the Tower of London.  The by-night photo is stupendous, I must say.

London:  I've been to the great city about a dozen times, maybe more.  It's fun, it's old, very easy to get around on The Underground, everything is wicked expensive, the people talk funny and drive on the wrong side of the road.  It's one of my favorite cities in the world.  There's Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, the Changing of the Guard, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, Oxford Street, Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussaud's wax museum and the most breathtaking parks anywhere.  

Inside the Tower of London (which was once a prison) one can view Traitor's Gate, the Bloody Tower and "The Block" where King Henry the VIII sent a couple of his wives to be beheaded.  There's also the White Tower, and of course the Crown Jewels are kept here.  A Beefeater will greet you and take you to visit the Royal Chapel if you are so inclined.

But enough of all that!  How does this image link to my health focus?  From the very first time I went to London (which was my first overseas trip -- and I write about this on my web site www.fibroworks.com) I became very, very sick.  While it was the first time, it would not be the last.  On every subsequent visit to England, I'd get sick again.  I discovered that I became very sick when I travel.  I'm not talking about motion sickness (although that happens, too) I'm saying that I "catch" something.  I blame it on the germs on the airplanes and in the subway stations.  Sometimes I blame it on the food (I had the worst case of food poisoning EVER during a trip to London in 1995.)  This is one reason why I think fibromyalgia may be an autoimmune problem ("they" may figure that out years from now).  A person's immune system appears to become compromised when you travel across time zones.  Couple that with people sneezing and coughing all around you and you're stuck with them all in an enclosed metal can hurtling through the air at several-hundred miles per hour with the heat blasting and then the cold air -- heat/cold/heat/cold -- it's a recipe for sickness.  I became so notorious for being sick during our tours that my traveling companions would try to "prep" me to prevent me from getting sick, or, worse, they would just tease me and say "Oh, Kathy's sick on tour AGAIN!"  I carried with me a bag of American over-the-counter medications that I called My Apothecary, since I never knew WHAT I would need:  Cold medicine, pain medication, maxi pads (yeah, that happens when you cross time zones, too), anti-nausea meds, anti-diarrhea meds.  You don't want to rely on foreign medications, over-the-counter or not, they are different.  If you "swear by" a certain OTC medication you use here in the States, better be sure to take some with you when you travel overseas because chances are you WILL need it, and you WON'T be able to buy it there!

Despite getting sick every time I traveled, I continued to go to Europe every year.  On a 2004 trip to Dublin, Ireland (close enough to London), I became so terribly ill that I needed to cut the trip short and return home.   The flight home was awful, as I needed to use the bathroom repeatedly -- and if you know me (germaphobe) you know that I avoid using airplane bathrooms unless absolutely necessary!  It was a disgusting and embarrassing experience.

Once home, I remained very ill for about 3 weeks.  I missed a ton of work, and then developed a toothache and went to a dentist who prescribed antibiotics and said I needed a root canal (you can read all this on fibroworks, so I won't repeat it).  Let's just say I became even MORE ill from the antibiotics (people don't believe me when I say it was the first time in my life I'd ever had them at age 44, but that is the truth) I lost 9 pounds in one day from being so ill.  It threw off my electrolytes so badly I was not able to eat real food for weeks afterwards.  And even though I've had episodic chronic pain my whole life (migraines, menstrual cramps), this very episode was the defining moment that began my having to contend with chronic pain and fatigue on a daily basis.

Today, although my symptoms are far less severe than they were in 2004, it remains a daily struggle.  I have learned to "live with" and "manage" the syndrome they call fibromyalgia; its pain and crushing fatigue, brain-fog and mood swings.

I have not gone back to Europe since.