By Mims Cushing

This summer, I was overdue to have my once-a-year stomach ache. Sure enough the aching began one Thursday night. Was it a virus or had I eaten something weird? I sure hoped it wasn’t a virus because I had been in a crowd of 60 for a couple of hours that morning. Had I given them all my germs?

Or was it my smoothie? I’d made one for dinner and used watermelon and boysenberries and yogurt. Was the smoothie brew a bit curdled? I plopped in 6 ounces of yogurt (expiration date not until much later), a bit of water, and a cup of ice chips. When I noticed it looked funny, (I actually typed “furry” which is maybe more apt) I added almond milk that wasn’t due to expire for another week. I drank it because I couldn’t believe anything that smelled that good could be spoiled.

The night the stomach ache began, I barely slept, tossing every which way. When Lily, my 10.4 pound dog, jumped on my stomach, there were impolite sounds out of my mouth. And out of hers as well when I shooed her off the couch.

When my mother was about my age, she had to be operated on because she had diverticulitis. Her doctor blamed it on the strawberry jam she ate every day. One tablespoon on her Cheerios every morning.

The stomach is a funny thing. Before the ‘80s, people thought ulcers were caused by stress and sufferers were told to relax and take antacids. Then two remarkable physicians, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren from down under, determined that treating ulcers with antibiotics was the way to go because there were bacteria — specifically H. Pylori — encamped in some stomachs. Rubbish, other doctors said. Stomachs were a hostile environment. “Gastric acid is,” they said, “as corrosive as car battery acid.” (from “Catching Cancer” by Claudia Cornwall). We thought bacteria could never grow there. Oh yes, they can!

I took this garden variety stomach ache to a local doc-in-a-shop.

“I guess I should stick to the BRAT diet, right? Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “Eat saltines and drink Gatorade.”

Yuck on the Gatorade, but saltines I like. I bought a trunk-sized box of the crackers and got coconut water to help with the electrolytes, and climbed onto my couch. I was happy for a few days, allowing myself a reprieve from chores.

Recently I stockpiled 1,000 saltines and made friends with diet Gatorade, so I’m set in case I have another episode. I willed myself to get better as I had to fly to Connecticut in a few days for a huge family reunion. I was fine. The person in the seat across the aisle from me was not. He coughed and sneezed the whole trip. I had to will myself not to catch his … whatever he had. Luckily, I didn’t.


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