Thursday, May 12, 2016

Muere lentamente

I know that I've mentioned in passing that my major in college was English with a creative writing minor.  But my love of language started much earlier.  While I love Shakespeare and the archaic stuff that requires a dictionary and footnotes, I love even more poetry that speaks directly to me.

Anyways. This spoke to me especially today -- now that I'm starting to get my health back on track, now that I am able and have the energy to get my life back on track.   (Ignore any reference to Pablo Neruda for this poem (though he's awesome as well); it was written by a Brazilian writer, Martha Medeiros).

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routines every day,
who never changes brand,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not talk to people he doesn’t know
dies slowly.

He who makes television his guru
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
and the dots on the "i" to a whirlpool of emotions,
precisely those that recover the gleam of the eyes,
smiles from the yawns,
hearts from the stumbling and feelings
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel,
who does not read,
who can not hear music,
who does not find grace in himself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his self love,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck,
about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it,
who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know,
he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let's avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Verdict Is In

If you've been following me on Twitter or Facebook,or even here, you know that I've been off  the past few months.  Not just off but uncharacteristically quiet.  This is what happens when I'm sick, I turn inward and just try to get through what I'm going through. 

The tl:dr (that's "too long; didn't read") of my situation is that I've been sick for 8 months. It started suddenly on September 1, 2015 and it wasn't until May 1, 2016 that we zeroed in on what's wrong.  It's been 8 months of feeling like a zombie -- low energy, terrible reflux, pain in my side (among other symptoms).  

We (hospital, Gastro 1, Gastro 2) ran every diagnostic/test we could think of to figure out what was happening in my gastrointestinal tract that was making me so sick (HIDA, ultrasound, CT, EGD endoscopy, gastric emptying test (yay! nuclear scrambled eggs!), endoscopic ultrasound, and was scheduled for a 24-hr esophageal pH test). 

But I finally caved in to my friend J's offer of help.  His girlfriend (S) is a doctor and wanted to help. I didn't want to feel like a burden or that I was being "that person" who talks only medicine with a person who just happens to be a doctor.  But man, I wish I hadn't waited. 

She zeroed in on something on my EGD results:  
The biopsies show a non-specific response that may be the presenting manifestation of celiac sprue in some patients. If celiac sprue is suspected, suggest correlation with celiac studies to help in the evaluation of the disease process. Other etiologic considerations include toxic reaction to gluten, NSAID use, and infection (including Helicobacter infections in the stomach, bacterial overgrowth, viral gastroenteritis), non-celiac or tropical sprue, autoimmune enteropathy, medication effect (including NSAID's and possibly olmesartan), amongst others.
I had listened to Gastro 1 when he said I didn't have the Big Cs -- Cancer, Crohn's, or Celiac.  But now I felt kinda dumb for not following up on this note.  Thanks to S, we started to look at the pain in my side not as a cause, but as a symptom.  I went to my PCP and brought her in the loop and she said it was worth a shot. 

So we did 2 blood draws (one for my normal blood tests, one for the celiac tests): 





Yesterday evening, I was cuddled up with Jack when I got the message from my primary care doctor: 
The celiac tests are abnormal. The TTG is weakly abnormal but the gliadin test are both abnormal. The reticular antigen is normal. All together I think this is consistent with Celiac...
I welled up with emotion and cried for the next hour or so.  About 95% of the crying was relief in knowing  that I would get better.  Okay, maybe 90%.  10% sad that I wouldn't be able to eat, without modifications, NYC pizza or my dad's apple pie.  (And no I can't cheat: if I have an auto-immune reaction to eating these things, just having it for special occasions can still make me sick.)

I've spent the past week trying to educate myself (I've been listening to Dr. Tom O'Bryan a lot) about Celiac and gluten sensitivity.  First of all: it's real.  For so long I rolled my eyes at people going gluten free as a fad diet, but studies are starting to show that many people have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (that is, they show an inflammatory response, but no damage to the lining of their gut (the defining characteristic of Celiac)). It's just that some people's bodies can tolerate the inflammatory response better than others.  So while some people may be doing it as a fad, they may actually be doing good for their body, but only if they're eating a healthy GF diet, not a crap GF diet (not just ice cream, diet coke and tequila).  (Tangent: interesting study comparing response to modern vs "ancient" wheat varieties.)  

Apparently, Celiac Disease is just one of over 200 ways that gluten sensitivity can manifest in our bodies (the gluten sensitive end game):  GERD and gallbladder inflammation, for instance.  It perhaps can also explain why my iron, vitamin D, and vitamin Bs are all low (celiac-related malnutrition).  It could also explain why I have bad menstrual cramps, could also have an impact on my spine health, etc.  I'm hoping to see improvements in those areas as well. 

So yeah, the verdict is in:  

FatGirlvsWorld is Gluten Sensitive, possibly has Celiac Disease

The sentence: 

FatGirlvsWorld is now Gluten Free

Friday, January 29, 2016

....And a million miles...

Hello, It's Me




To [run] over everything



...

Hello from [my back] side
At least I can say that I've tried.



Monday, January 4, 2016

Heavy

I had an appointment with my primary care provider, Dr. F today to touch base on all of the fun medical stuff going on with me (tl;dr -- 4 months of pain underneath my right ribs, reflux, vomiting, etc.).  

She reaffirmed that I'm doing everything as I should be doing, but that I might be one of those "medical mysteries" that you read about in the Post.  In other words, multiple doctors have run all the standard diagnostics (blood, CT, ultrasound) for the most likely causes for the pain (friggin gallbladder), but they're not yet able to explain why I am in pain.  Doctors even did the next level of testing (HIDA, EGD endoscopy, gastric emptying study) and couldn't find a cause for everything going on (just confirmed some symptoms).  So we're moving into more focused tests (abdominal MRI (Jan. 13), endoscopic ultrasound (Jan. 25)).  We briefly discussed the possibility of needing surgery down the line to help with a diagnosis.

It could still be my gallbladder, could be a Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction, it could be an alien just biding his time in my gut before he breaks out in song, it could be (though unlikely) a muscle tear in my side. 

One moment that kind of took me by surprise was the concerned face she made when we talked about my losing weight.  She knows that this number represents 2 months of throwing up (September/October) and 4 months (September–present) being skittish around food and not exercising.  She knows that I haven't been taking vitamins, feel really weak/tired because I'm not eating enough calories, and that generally I feel like shit.  She'd rather me weigh more and feel better than to see the scale go down and me feel so broken.

In other fun news, based on my blood work/pap smear at my annual obgyn exam, I got to have a colposcopy on 12/23.  They took two cervical biopsies. I got the results back today and.... benign squamous epithelial cells. So we'll keep an eye on that going forward, but a little good news today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#GoTheDist 2016


Stephen King wrote in his book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,"  "You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will." (emphasis added)  He called this a "permission slip." Couple this with Ranier Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" (which I talk about here) and the whole picture emerges:  when faced with the questions of who we are and what we want to be, we need to harness our passion (Rilke's "I must"), couple it with the strength of our heart (courage), and not get in the way of our own potential.

Excuses become victories to overcome.
Obstacles become challenges to meet head-on.
Failures aren't disasters, but stepping stones.

That last one is important.  I know so many people who are afraid to evolve, to try new things, to go new places, to meet new people because they fear the failures that may await outside of their comfort zone.  That's an oppressive way to live -- and it's self-inflicted!  There's such great freedom in detaching yourself from expectations (of failure or even success).  It a beautiful blank canvas where anything can happen (Bob Ross: "We don't make mistakes: we have happy accidents"). 

#GoTheDist 2016's theme hopes to inspire and encourage the greatness that is within all of us.


Are you ready?




How to Join #GoTheDist 2016