04/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Alternative Healthcare from an Alternative Country Band

Click to hear me read this story (wheezes and all) .

The leader of our alternative country band and I pulled up to rehearsal at our drummer's place, glassy-eyed and staggering.

"Got C?" I rasped when the drummer opened the door. After all, his wife was a licensed dealer -- I mean, doctor.

The drummer shook his head, then coughed.

"How 'bout... antibiotics?" I couldn't believe I was saying the word.

Me. The girl who'd failed elective drugs in high school. The believer that time heals all things.
Except for this cold-fever-lung-thing the whole band had come down with, which seemed to cry out for a pill with a -mycine or a -cycline on the end.

"Try one of these instead," The drummer handed me a beer from one of our town's microbreweries.

"Or this," our leader pulled a garlic clove from his pocket. "No prescription necessary."

"Or maybe a detox," our pedal steel player said, sneezing into his rice-cake. "Pass the distilled water?"

"The worst part of it really doesn't last that long," our bass player insisted, glancing at empty mic where our lead singer should have been.

When I moved to Colorado, I knew I'd be happier. And I assumed I'd be healthier. Back East, winter aches and pains were a damp fling. Diseases lasted three days at most. There was so much more air and space out West. That spelled better health to me.

Color me, geo-naïve. As things turn out, Nature au naturelle Rocky is a gorgeous bitch. And she's contagious.

Five days after I moved West, I was felled by a fever.

It's the wind, folks told me.

Then came allergies, a sinus infection, and a six-week stomach flu.

There was a Continental Divide between my ex-city immune system and being truly Rocky Stocky.

That was OK. The mountains' mocking germy majesty ignited the ex-New York fighter in me. Each time something hit me, I'd prescribe myself a few ZZZs and some TLC.

But when the Colorado crud hit my band, all that changed.

The Colorado crud is tougher to halt than an off-duty cab in the rain. It's a Rocky Mountain octopus of immune misery. It has a fever phase, a squash your lungs phase, a burning throat phase and a swollen ear phase. Then, just when I'm sure I've beaten it, the crud replays its greatest symptoms, like some kind of viral iPod.

What is a sensible person to do?

It wasn't an easy question to ask. Everyone here acts so sure-footed. And I'd lost my voice.

Luckily, I had my band to watch, listen and learn from.

Our lead guitarist switched from garlic to plop-plop fizz-fizz Plus and adopted a cat as part of his healing process.

Our bass player smiled his way through it. Our lead singer went home to Texas to see her mom.

Our rhythm guitarist, who was immune to the crud -- and alt-country's charms -- left the band altogether.

I, the band's fiddler, went to my acupuncturist, who diagnosed me as having an excess of heat -- and a seriously infected throat.

If her latest round of lily pills and herbal ENT didn't heal me, she said, she was going to send me to urgent care, or the walk-in clinic, where it turns out you have to present your last month's business balance to be admitted. That idea made me nauseous, but it inspired me to do my taxes.

Meanwhile, the crud played on.

What about the traditional MD/Rx thing? Outside of my fleeting craving for old school drugs, all six of us skipped that option altogether.

In an age when Web MD has replaced Marcus Welby, we knew the basics of self-diagnosis. Green and gooey? Bacterial. Dry and wheezy? Viral. Fever? Could be either. And we'd learned, through painful experience, that the only thing more toxic to our health than the crud was "managed" care.

And so, we tuned up, plugged in and kicked off our first cover song of the night. It was an old Hank Williams tune: "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." Which was pretty fitting.

When Nature has her way with you, local wisdom says, you hold your ground and wait for your body to re-balance.

This DIY approach to healing makes me feel more West-worthy with each passing day and wheeze. But in my heart -- which is currently subletting my sternum with two aching lungs -- it's hard to act truly Rocky tough when my body feels like it has a Manhattan's worth of soot inside it.

I'm not asking for a hero in a white coat or a magic pill to rescue me. But I do wish there was a version of Real Simple magazine for the human body, where everything that ails can be cleaned and mended with a roll of tape, a box of baking soda, and lemon juice.

For now, as our drummer said, the only cure for the Colorado crud is 4/4 time.

Til then, we have each other's misery - and some rockin' Hank Williams tunes to keep us company.

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