October Woes: Or the Dark Side-Effects of Losing Weight

Happy almost Halloween!

 

I do have more sketches to post, but I’ve been feeling pretty crummy lately. If you follow me on any of my other social channels, you’ll know that my stomach is doing pretty darn poorly.

The culprit? My stomach.

Now, I can in fact, point to occasions earlier this year that my stomach wasn’t doing well, but the distress passed… Until now.  Its been almost an entire month and my stomach has been in pain the whole time. So I went to my doctor.

  • First we thought it could be appendicitis. But the pain wasn’t in the right location and it didn’t get worse when they pushed in my lower abdomen.
  • Next they thought it was bacterial ulcers (or a pancreatic infection among other things). But we did tests and they all came back normal and negative as they should.
  • Then I went in for an ultrasound.  Now here’s where I struck gold.

It turns out that I’ve got a gallstone about 3/4 in diameter in my gallbladder.  Fun times right?  Well, you’d be right if you likes dull then spiky, then dull constant pain for several weeks in a row. The gallbladder for those of you who aren’t in the know, is a small-ish gland that sits just off the tube that connects both your liver and your pancreas to your digestive tract.  The gallbladder’s function is to release bile so as to digest the fats that you eat.  Basically, the stomach discovers there’s fat, sends a message to the gallbladder saying “hey guy…help” and it sends along some bile to digest those delicious oils and fats.

My first symptom was my sudden reaction to dairy. If you recall back in July while I was still blogging regularly about my diet/exercise.  I very suddenly became “allergic” to all forms of dairy (I love the cheese 😦 ).  And as a result the number of times that I have eaten cheese since July I can count on one hand. Well, there’s a good chance that  this sudden shift was a result of my Gallbladder not functioning normally.  As when it is called upon to work, with a gallstone this size… it would do so, but very, very begrudgingly.

Now let’s up the anti to a nondescript Monday Morning in October and we have us a full day of pain.  It felt rather similar to an ulcer I’d had before and thought if I played nice diet-wise it would go away.  Well… That was October 7th. How do you think I’m doing?

Fast forward through the bullet points above and you have us caught up to today. There’s two distinct possibilities here which read more like Option A and Option A.1 rather than A/B.  A is that I have a gallstone and need to have my gallbladder surgically removed.  A.1 is a combination of A but with the potential of an ulcer AS WELL. Now, there’s a thought that back when I was originally diagnosed with an ulcer, it may have been my gallbladder flaring up.  We don’t know for sure, because I didn’t get an endoscopy (where they drug you and put a camera down your throat, or what folks in California call the “Lo Angeles Standard” *dun-dun cht!*).  That is until now.

I go in Thursday morning first for an endoscopy. You know, to scope out my stomach and see if there’s an possible other explanation for my stomach being in so much pain and then a few scant hours later, I’ve got my gallbladder surgery.  Now, fortunately.  If we find something with the endoscopy, I’ve been given leave to cancel my surgery without penalty.  But that also means that if we find something else, it could be worse. My mind is my own worst enemy sometimes.  I’ve practically convinced myself they’re going to find cancer, massive surgery requiring ulcers, that Lego figure I swallowed when I was 3, or like, a stomach dwelling iguana. The possibilities are endless…  Unless its my gallbladder.

Gallbladder surgery is ridiculously simple these days.  A small incision at the bellybutton, they inflate you with carbon dioxide and the surgeon controls a little robot that clamps and snips and boom. An hour and maybe a tablespoon of blood loss later (if that… and that’s not much) and you’re done. They call it Laparoscopic Surgery, barely invasive and very very very safe.  I should be back to work by Tuesday the following week.  🙂  I did ask about alternatives, I mean… Gallstones are formed when you have a chemical imbalance between the three chemicals that make bile in your system.  This can be caused by shift in diet, fitness, cholesterol… All these things play a factor in how your body stays in balance.  And it appear that when you lose or gain weight?  You’re an excellent candidate for getting gall stones.  Once you’ve got gallstones you’ve got two options.

  1. Use pills… basically for the rest of your life to fix the chemical imbalance.
  2. Get your gallbladder removed. Which is actually both something you can live without pretty easily and a fairly simple process.

Now I also asked about breaking up the stones and this is a no go. Apparently and unlike kidney stones, it has do with what the stone is made of and the location.  Kidney stones are made of calcium and and close enough to the exterior of the body that they can potentially be broken up, then passed through urination.  Because the gallbladder is located on the same track as the Liver and the Pancreas; if you try to break them up you run the risk of clogging a very tiny opening and causing a pancreatic infection or a backup of bile in the liver and this is just… Let’s just say its “no bueno.”  And a lot worse than what I’m dealing with now.

Additionally I asked about medication and while its true, there are medications you can take to dissolve the stone.  But chances are you’d be on them for the rest of your life.  As studies and tests (according to my doctors) have shown that you are guaranteed to have a gallstone again within 1-10 years of getting off the expensive (did I mention they cost thousands a year?) which seemed more like a bandaid than a fix.

And finally, what about simply taking out the stone and sewing my gallbladder back up.  The answer, sadly, is that a stone would just reform and they’d have to do it again.  Additionally, if the gallbladder is infected (which, with a stone this size and depending how long its been rolling around… there’s a chance its been there since at the very least January of 2011) they need to remove the gallbladder anyhow.

So here we are- On Thursday, October 31st I go in for an endoscopy and surgery and come Halloween I will be recovering from anesthesia.  All likely because I’ve lost a lot of weight. Sigh.

The upside? Cortes will finally know some peace. 🙂

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