My hand shakes as I lift the fork to my mouth and take a bite. I count every chew, hoping I’m macerating the food enough for it to slide down my throat undetected by pain sensors. I think to myself, I’m just trying to do what almost every baby fresh out of the womb can: swallow.

My eyes tear up as I feel my meal scrape the sides of my esophagus as it tries to squeeze through the tiny, swollen opening that remains. It only takes seconds for it to get lodged in my chest. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was having a heart attack. I’m it’s just my gastrointestinal track sending searing pain the length of my torso as punishment for me trying to quell the basic human hunger instinct.

I sip, not drink small amounts of liquid to try to force the mass pressing against my sternum down pass my newly repaired valve and stomach opening. I close my eyes and silently pray that I’ll feel relief when the mushy substance binding my insides reaches my stomach. Rather, it feels like I’ve dumped a heavy weight on my gut when it arrives.

Moments later, my stomach begins violently churning and thick mucus coats my throat. I cough repeatedly, hoping I can rid myself of the annoying tickle that I know will soon trigger nausea. It doesn’t take long before my nose begins to run, pushing a clear, dense trail of snot down into my mouth and the back of my throat.

Two pools of phlegm, one from my nose and the other from my stomach, meet somewhere in my chest. All I can do now is wait for the fork full I’ve recently consumed to yo-yo up and down. When it finally gains traction, it moves up my inside back from whence it came. Then, with a final, violent push, it exits through the open I shoved it into.

Tears stream down my face as I expel the remnants of my partially ingested meal. I flush the toilet quickly so I don’t have to look at what it’s turned into or smell the stench of it mixed with stomach acid. Once that’s done, I rinse my mouth out with warm water, remembering how the last time this happened the cold water made me gag. I pause for a few seconds then make my way back over to my waiting plate of food.

Before repeating the entire process all over again, I crush a Vicodin pill and the power anti-nausea drug Zolfran into dust and drink them down slowly. As soon as I am certain they’ve had time to take effect, I lift my fork again and again until I or Mr. Tummy, the nickname I’ve given my stomach, give in.

About the Author:

Nika C. Beamon is the author of the medical memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. In 2009, she published her first non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married (Chicago Review Press). She is also the author of two mystery novels.

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