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Tonsillitis, my old friend

I'm not feeling well today. This bad feeling started over the weekend, when it felt like I was starting to get tonsillitis, an affliction I hadn't enjoyed since childhood.

Before I was ten or so, my tonsils would be inflamed on a regular basis. It got so bad that I would know it was summer when my tonsils were besieged by the familiar fiery sharp, scraping swelling that often had me crying myself to sleep.

Later, as an adult, I would find out during a company physical exam that my tonsils were "abnormally large." This solved two lifelong mysteries: why I had gotten tonsillitis a lot and why I had often had fish-bone getting stuck in my throat.

The discovery also made me think of how long it had been since my tonsils were last inflamed. For some reason, as I entered my teens, tonsillitis became a stranger.

Getting this painful visit now throws me back to the days I had to battle the affliction on a regular basis. My mother was my tonsillitis-fighting champion. I would whine and cry, with the latter making the pain worse, and she would push all manner of cures that didn't involve antibiotics.

She had me eat raw papaya dipped in salt and vinegar, saying the vinegar would kill the bacteria. I didn't like the taste of raw papaya, but the acidic vinegar cleaning my tonsils made sense to me, so I dipped with gusto and ate the papaya, until I learned to ditch the fruit and sip the vinegar instead.

My mother wiped me with water and alcohol when I got feverish. And she had me gargling warm salt water that I all too often ended up swallowing, making me fearful that the bacteria was moving deeper into my body, never to leave -- until I learned in school that stomach juices, like vinegar, are acidic.

What do the tonsils do anyway? This is the explanation I remember: the tonsils block the bacteria; they act like a gate to stop intruders from coming in. If they are inflamed, it means they blocked really harmful bacteria, locking them in battle to prevent a bigger war. That explanation painted me a gruesome but pretty picture, and thinking that way, believing that, made me enjoy the illness more than I would have.

I also remember reading as a child how the human body had some parts left over from evolution, parts that we can now live without. The appendix, for example, and that extra bone we have from what used to be our tails. And yes, the tonsils.

When I found out that my tonsils were "abnormally large," I toyed with the idea of getting a tonsillectomy. I even went as far as checking out tonsillectomy videos on YouTube to prepare myself psychologically. But tonsillitis hadn't bothered me for so long, so I decided I could do without the procedure.

Unfortunately for me, who panics at the sight of a needle, if tonsillitis again becomes a frequent visitor, I might have to reconsider.

For now, however, I'm enjoying the body memories -- how delightful that pain can make me remember so many things -- and making some warm saltwater.


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