Seasons greetings, dear tribe. It’s been a while since I’ve checked in, and I wish I could say that it’s because life has been crammed full of holiday festivities and general merry-making, but I’d be lying and …it’s Christmas.. When I last posted, our household was in the throes of recovering from VOLDEMORT. (VOLDEMORT is the name of our master bathroom toilet that decided to break in the middle of the night and flood the bottom two levels of our home, and continues to wage battle against us during our weakest points, like stomach flu and when we have company.) VOLDEMORT stole the last remnant of my pluck, and plunged me into a dark place I hadn’t visited in a really long time. And I did “all the things” that have previously worked to pull me out of the fog that is depression, which includes medication, meditation, and lowered expectations. Oh, and cake. And it’s working – the cloud is lifting, and my shape-shifting superpowers are returning. (Which is a good thing… because apparently VOLDEMORT has friends who are out to get us, but this time he won’t win because my my spunk is back, and I’m once again able to pivot when necessary, devise Plan B and forge ahead.) Unfortunately, even the best antidepressants can’t alter the reality of health challenges, career changes, and flooded houses, but it can certainly make them more tolerable. This year has provided us with loads of blog material, but because we’ve been in “Reactive Life Syndrome” for months, doing what we can to keep up and tread water, it’s been difficult to find the time to get the words on paper. Or on the screen. You know what I mean….
I’ve written before that having multiple diagnoses is awesome, because it keeps life exciting, and has me wondering about what’s lurking around the corner. I had
recovered from a serious infection before Thanksgiving, and was fortunate to be able to celebrate with my loves. We had the quietest (and smallest) Thanksgiving we’ve ever experienced, and we crossed off all of the Thanksgiving week rituals with turkey and “all the trimmings,”a Gilmore Girls marathon complete with coffee, pajamas, and pop tarts. We found and decorated the perfect Christmas tree, and we celebrated my oldest son’s 25th orbit around the son. The size of our gathering was small, but it was one of our most tender holidays to date because the intimacy of the group enabled us to process the past year and name the silver linings that were a bit harder to find this year.
But back to being boring. Or…not. Apparently it was “all the trimmings” that did me in. I became really sick at the very end of our party for Sean on Sunday evening, and I left the festivities to sneak up to bed. Praying it was just overly dramatic fatigue, I fell immediately into an exhausted, fitful sleep, to be awakened at 5am with intense pain between my shoulder blades, under my ribcage, and severe nausea. None of our typical tricks worked, and it became pretty obvious that I was having a “biliary” incident and needed to get to the ER. I’m technically supposed to go to Sibley where my hepatologist has privileges, but it was a Monday morning in DC rush hour, and we didn’t have time to waste. By the time we left I could barely walk and was much more comfortable rocking on my hands and knees. (BTW – that is a VERY effective way to get immediate attention.) Our biggest fear was that I had a gallstone trapped in my main bile duct (I don’t have a gallbladder, but residual stones can still cause problems.) And the other concern was pancreatitis, a dangerous condition that often accompanies liver disease.
It took a matter of minutes to get an IV placed that provided immediate relief from the cocktail of zofran and dilaudid. Once my pain was controlled they did a battery of tests. (Can someone explain why the word “battery” means “a bunch of” as well as the necessary component to keep my remote controls working? They don’t seem at all related.) Despite what it FELT like, the agony I was experiencing appeared to be nothing terribly serious, just a case of biliary colic. My liver enzyme tests showed elevations confirming that it was indeed a “real incident, but the testing for pancreatitis and gallstones was negative. So wtf is biliary colic?
So because this blog is supposed to be part education and part advocacy, I feel it’s necessary to share my experience with my “livah sisters.” Feel free to stop reading if you are squeamish about bile.
APPARENTLY…it is not good for folks without a gallbladder to indulge in “all the trimmings.” Your gallbladder, which stores and releases bile, helps to process f at, and without it, the liver still has to work extra hard to process the bile to break down those fats. After gallbladder removal, this happens more sporadically. And those “trimmings” put stress on an already overtaxed liver. So, basically, I ate too much and had to pay the $250 ER fee to be told that. Biliary Colic can hang on for a while, and thanks to my deficient immune system,it drained my energy and sparked a bit of a domino effect with all of my other issues. Liver disease is like that….you can be lulled into a state of complacency when your liver function tests are good, and you can almost forget it’s there.
It was a disappointing end to a great week, but in searching for silver linings, I will certainly be more cautious about what I am eating, and my diligence has paid off with a nice chunk of weight dropped in the time since Thanksgiving. I also escaped what could have been a much graver illness. And when you manage multiple illnesses, or “whack a mole” as I call it, the more info you have, the better you are able to WHACK THE MOLES!
So that’s where I’ve been – overeating, paying emergency room fees, dieting, starting aggressive new treatments for the lyme, and learning to love jello again.