I rarely write personal posts — REALLY personal posts and not just “look at my travel pictures” on my blog. I feel like this is my platform for books and most personal things I just discuss with my friends and family… But this morning I woke up and… I don’t know. I just felt like this was something I really wanted to share. I felt like something has made a difference in my life and for the first time, I sort of feel hope again. I feel like maybe if I can help one other person, it might make that really big difference for them too. So *deep breath* here goes nothing!
The Backstory: Some of you may know (okay, really only like two of you who read my blog know because I don’t tell anyone) that I suffer from gallbladder issues. It started about four and a half years ago when I started getting stomach pains, usually at night, and I thought I had ulcers from stress (I had just started my current job at the time). It wasn’t too bad and I just dealt with it, throwing everything I could find in a pharmacy at it and usually it ended up going away. Sometimes I would be up half the night trying to fall back asleep. Sometimes it would go away after a few minutes. I had mentioned it to my parents and I can’t remember at what point in time we guessed it was gallbladder issues, but we had strongly suspected before I ended up going to the emergency room about three years ago when it was so bad that I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t even lay in bed and pretend I could make it go away. I did everything that I could but was physically in tears, somehow drove from my apartment to my parents house, and then eventually when I gave in, my mom took me to the emergency room at three in the morning. They gave me that fancy, amazingly strong hospital medicine that they do and ahhhh, instantly the pain was gone. I got an ultrasound and they confirmed it was gallstones.
The Issue: The gallbladder is connected to the liver and it helps the body digest fats. Apparently many people have gallstones — tiny stones made up of cholesterol that reside in the gallbladder — and never even know it because the stones don’t cause any issues. I am just lucky enough (har har) that mine do. The pain comes from when a gallstone starts blocking a bile duct (ew, it’s gross and I feel gross just talking about it). Why this happened to me? I have no idea. I’ve read up on it and it lots of articles say that many people who are overweight or are trying to lose weight suffer from gallstones. I would LIKE to lose weight before my wedding, but neither of those are my issue. There are all sorts of “reasons” but none of them seem to apply to me (except for the fact that apparently women seem to be more prone to them, according to articles, so that’s about it). I don’t eat a ton of fat — no more than the average person — and I keep trying to find something to blame it on. Is it because I don’t eat as well as I used to? (It’s really about the same, so I can’t think that’s it). Is it because I started drinking coffee in college? Is it because this or that or this or that? And really… I don’t know if there is an answer and to be honest, I’ll never find one.
The crappy thing about gallstones is that it’s not like kidney stones. You don’t get to pass them and then voila! Stones are gone! No. The stones stay there. There is NO way to just “get rid of them” through some magical flush (although there are some flushes out there on the internet but I’ve heard they also don’t really work and it does not sound healthy for your body) and aside from getting them pulverized through treatments at a hospital, there’s not really much you can do to break them up (and even then, they may still come back). So there really is absolutely no easy fix. Yay.
Managing: I have… I’ve been trying over the years. I’m terrible at changing my diet and I’m constantly trying hard and then simply giving up because I LOVE eating yummy and bad-for-you food. I don’t eat terribly and I do try to make sure I don’t overdo it on the bad stuff, but with a busy life, going out with friends, wanting to go out to dinner with Shane… It’s not always easy and it’s very hard to break those bad eating habits and try to live on rabbit food alone. I’ve had some serious pains these past few years and I had reached the point where Advil and Tylenol really did absolutely nothing to help stop the gallbladder pain anymore. I used to try home remedies (apple cider vinegar was one) and those didn’t seem to be work anymore either. I was getting so frustrated and it was really starting to wear on me mentally. Sometimes even when I didn’t eat poorly I would wake up in the middle of the night with gallbladder pain and be up for three, four, five hours in too much pain to fall back asleep and that affected my work days at well because I would be stressed and just SO tired at work.
Why don’t I just get surgery, you ask? That seems like the simple solution! I suppose it is for some people but I just really don’t want to get surgery. I never have. My mom has been a great help through all of this — she’s helped me look up home remedies and she’s even looked into things like physical maladies connected to something connected psychologically/in the brain — but they haven’t seemed to work very well for me (or I just wasn’t consistent enough in doing them to really make a difference). I also don’t feel like surgery is the answer. I’m not knocking anyone who has had gallbladder surgery by any means. Trust me… I’ve wanted to rip this godforsaken organ out of my body many times because I just don’t understand why it’s doing this to me so I get the need to take it out and voila, no more pain. But 1) Shane had hernia surgery a couple years ago and his doctor did a HORRIBLE job. He will now almost definitely have to get surgery again, much more invasive and much more painful, because his doctor didn’t manage to do a “routine surgery” properly and I don’t want that to happen to me. 2) I don’t have the time for surgery. I don’t like taking off work (and I couldn’t really afford to for a while because I was the only person who could do my job), we bought a new house last year, and now we’re engaged and planning for a wedding. I just don’t have time to stay in bed and recover. And 3) I don’t think that’s the answer for me. The more I read about gallbladder issues, the more I feel like I don’t want surgery for actual physical reasons. Some people still have issues afterwards, just not gallstones. Some people’s bile production gets out of whack because there’s no gallbladder there anymore to process the fat like it used to. Sure, some people are perfectly fine… But if I already have this random gallbladder issue, what’s to say that I won’t have some random issue AFTER surgery? And then what did that solve?
I swear I’m getting to the point of this: So about a month ago, I had TERRIBLE pain again. Like, pain as in I was up all night, for hours and hours. Nothing helped. I couldn’t ignore it. And then it started radiating through my back. I ended up throwing up multiple times from the pain and I just couldn’t handle it. I tried the hydrocodone that had worked in the past but at this point in time, it was also three years old because I had saved the ones I hadn’t used from my last prescription after gallbladder pain for this exact purpose… Except it WASN’T WORKING. When hydrocodone doesn’t work, that’s bad, right? So finally I went up and downstairs about three times, changed my mine four or five times, and then finally told Shane I really did want to go the ER. Same routine as last time — pain relief, another ultrasound, same diagnosis, but I just had to go to get rid of that pain. It was there for SO LONG and I honestly couldn’t take it anymore. Of course, the doctor recommended surgery in the future and of course, I still said, “Thanks but no thanks.” I got another fancy prescription for hydrocodone so that was the big bonus there but oh yay… Then all the medical bills started showing up. And I’m still planning and paying for things for my wedding. The hospital visit was a HUGE drain on my bank account and yes, my insurance covered a lot of it but it doesn’t cover everything. I had to pay for the visit, for the tests, for the medicine… It adds up. And that even made me want to have surgery LESS because then I would have to pay for the stay and the procedure and the medicine and I wondered if I could even really afford it. (Not like my parents wouldn’t help me pay if I needed to, but I don’t like to ask — oh, and they had paid for my ER visit last time because I was still under their insurance and they’re awesome parents like that so HA HA joke’s on me that I had NO idea how much that ER visit would cost because I couldn’t suck it up.)
OKAY. SO THE POINT OF THIS IS that after all of that, I started taking vitamins. Specifically one that I bought for aiding in digestion and one that my mom gave me that she said might help too. I’ve been taking them not with every meal, but close to it and at least the heavy meals or high-in-fat meals to help digest my food and sort of… “train” my gallbladder how to get back on track. This is the ONLY long-term solution to my problems that I could find. One of the reasons I didn’t want to have surgery is because I don’t think the issue lies with gallstones… I feel like they ended up there because something is fundamentally wrong and for whatever reason, things are not being digested properly. If I get rid of my gallbladder, I get rid of the organ but that doesn’t really solve the issue of digestion, so I started taking the vitamins to help that process. Trying to manage gallstones is a VERY LONG process. From what I’ve been able to read up on, it can take anywhere from six months to a year to YEARS to even just NOTICE progress and the gallstones may be smaller but never fully go away. To me, it was worth a shot. Since I know I’m not having surgery any time soon because of the wedding and I really don’t want to have it at all, I’m willing to try something new and that MAY actually work. If I have to take vitamins for the rest of my life because they actually do work? THAT is totally manageable.
THE WHOLE POINT TO THIS WHOLE POST is that I feel like these vitamins have been actually helping. I don’t know if this is all in my head, but I feel like it’s making a difference and I finally have HOPE again and isn’t that the most important thing here? I still have gallbladder pain from time to time, but for the past month that I’ve been taking these vitamins, I feel like it hasn’t been nearly as bad. It’s a twinge of pain, the discomfort I usually feel, but I can take some Advil or Tylenol and I’ll be able to fall back asleep in about 20 minutes or so. It’s not a solution, but it seems to be an effective way to manage what I’m going through and maybe it really will work. Maybe taking vitamins really will help my digestion. I’m willing to take them forever and ever if it means that I won’t have to have surgery and I can finally be (mostly) free of this pain and mental stress that my gallbladder has been inflicting on me.
I woke up this morning after very minor pain last night, treated with extra strength Tylenol (which I know, I don’t want to take too much Tylenol because I know that’s bad for you but the Advil was downstairs) and for the first time, I really felt like what I was doing was making a difference. If anyone else has gallbladder pain like I do and they see this and feel hope like I do now, that makes all the difference in the world! Or maybe it’s someone who doesn’t suffer specifically from gallbladder issues but another ailment that maybe they can look into treating naturally. Or maybe it even sways them the other way to actually finally get surgery. I mean, any way you look at it… If ONE person feels hope or if this post helps one person make a decision, isn’t that totally worth sharing my story? (And I apologize, it was very, very long. I suppose five years of not telling anyone you’re suffering from something that affects your life so much and I guess I couldn’t really stop the words from coming.)
I’m not saying vitamins are a cure-all, but they did make me feel like a solution might be out there, or even just a way to manage this malady. There may be something out there for you that you haven’t tried yet or didn’t think would work, and I just had to share that hope with someone else. I mean, I was bringing hyrdocodone to BEA because I was afraid I’d have a gallbladder attack and I can’t very well run off to the ER in New York City or on vacation. Living in fear of my gallbladder was no way to live. I still do fear that it might randomly flair up and I really hope I won’t have another attack as bad as the ones in the past, but I really, truly feel like things are looking up and I hope that’s true progress.