“It’s called fomentation,” an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in ages, shared from the driver’s side of his SUV, when I remarked that he hadn’t aged a day in the 10 years I’d known him and looked a good 15 years younger than his 70 years. “I do it every morning, and I swear it keeps me feeling great!”
I recalled this exchange because recently, sitting on a rickety chair in front of Forrest’s stall to roll up his leg wraps and goofing around with him, he gave my shoulder a playful shove, which sent the chair scooting sideways and my bony butt dropping hard onto the concrete floor of the barn aisle.
“Ow,” I said, standing and, feeling my upper left “cheek,” could already feel an egg-shaped knot, a probable hematoma, forming.
“The idea behind fomentation,” I remembered being told as I walked gingerly to the house, “is that when you take a shower, you run the water as hot as you can stand it, then freezing cold, then alternate back and forth for 10 minutes. Target the shower head to whichever part of your body needs healing, and the hot and cold water will send blood and nutrients right to that area, and begin the healing process. Lots of athletes and chronically ill people use it for everything from cancer to pulled muscles.”
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I’m a holistic kind of chick and always interested in alternative stuff, so I remembered asking my friend, “Have you been sick? Is that why you do it?”
“Oh, no,” he explained, “I do it as a preventative. I have the water hit me right in the torso, then my back. The hot and cold sensation makes the body think it has a fever so the immune system goes to work to make sure everything’s OK. I mean, you wouldn’t want to have hot water aimed at your chest if you have heart problems, or something like that, but I’m telling you, I haven’t been sick in years.”
Feeling the lump through my pants, I could swear it was getting larger. At least an “A” cup. Another 10 minutes, and I was going to have a new partner for my stand-up act. I hit the bathroom and headed for the shower. I needed some kind of help, fast, before I joined the ranks of Stiller and Meara, and Burns and Allen, as Stone and Lumpy.
Pointing the shower head as accurately as I could get it, I began with water as hot as I could stand. Quickly it was too much to bear, and I grabbed the shower dial and turned it in a flash all the way to “C.”
It was about this moment that Paul came into the house from a bike ride to grab a sports drink out of the fridge, just in time to hear my blood-curdling shriek.
Mounting the stairs two at a time in a panic, he was outside the bathroom door as the water returned to molten lava and my scream was replaced by acute cussin’.
“Are you alright?” he yelled.
“My butt is on fire!” I bellowed.
“Bronco’s?” he asked, naming a favorite Mexican restaurant I frequented for lunch.
My howl leapt up to an octave Mariah Carey could only dream of as a stream of freezing cold replaced the heat.
“Now what?” Paul yelled again.
“Frost bite!” came the shrieking reply. “My butt is freezing!”
“Your butt must have the flu,” Paul muttered, before peeping through the door and seeing I was the instigator of my own misery. “What are you doing??”
Later, toweled off and in my jammies, I tried to explain the concept of fomentation to Paul who was nursing a heel bruise from running to his car in a pair of flip-flops, to grab his ringing phone.
“Why would I want to do that?” he wanted to know.
“Because it’ll help heal that bruise,” I insisted.
“So,” he mused, “in your world, it’s more healing for me to stand, off balance, in a shower, alternating between scalding and freezing water, bringing about the very real possibility of me losing my balance and crashing through the glass door onto the floor, breaking my neck.”
I nodded. “Something like that, but if you broke your neck, you could point the shower head at it and … ”
“Go away,” he said, and held up a damp cloth holding a few ice cubes to apply to his heel.
“It’s been used for hundreds of years,” I tried again, uselessly.
“People who’ve had all kinds of diseases swear by it.” I made a last ditch effort.
This time I received only a glare.
Well, foment me.
Reach PAM STONE at email@example.com.