December 2014.. Christmas event. Pain after eating.. quite painful. Nausea, loss of appetite, pain under the right rib cage and then radiating pain up the middle of my back and into between my shoulder blades. 4 hours later, it went away. Again, indigestion, I thought.
This type of stuff kept occuring over time, and I never really thought much of it until April when I went in to talk about pain I was having and was asked by the Doctor if I was having gallbladder pain. I was clueless.. I didn't know what gallbladder pain felt like. After I was informed, I gave it some thought and realized that in retrospect, I had been having GB pain all the way back to that Thanksgiving, and probably before. But those attacks were so vivid that the dates stuck in my mind. Hindsight is 20/20. And it's funny because in some of the medical scans I've had, ultrasounds and whatnot, for other diagnosis, the technicians have asked me if I was in pain, but they never really elaborated. So I think I can trace this issue back as far as 3 or more years.
Since April, I've had 17 gallbladder attacks of varying duration and severity. My worst ones were at about an 8 on the pain scale (out of 10), but I never went into the hospital because it's inconvenient to end up in the ER, and I never felt like I was dying. My official diagnosis, this time, is "multiple moving gallstones." Apparently I'm nice and jam packed with them, to the point where anytime I eat anything (not just fatty foods), and I activate my digestive system and therefore, the bile transfer, I can set off an attack.
So I saw my surgeon and will be having surgery on July 2nd. Apparently I'm a PR2, which means I'm not an emergency yet, but must have it out within 6 weeks. Guh. Another surgery. Yay.
Here's what I know about the whole thing now, so you can reference it, not that I'm suggesting you use my words as gospel. This is just my experience, and I know that it varies from person to person to some degree.
- Adjusting my diet has been difficult but as a happy side note, it's a great natural weight loss regime. Cut out as much saturated and trans fats from your diet as you possibly can. I eat less than 2g of saturated fat daily. I also have to cut out sugar, so I eat less than 5g of sugar per day (that's for my candida). Between those two omissions, I've lost 15 or 16 pounds since April. If you're looking to lose weight, pretend you have GB issues and just omit these things from your daily diet.
- Read the labels on your foods. Both the fat and sugar content are right there to see, plain as day. But don't look just at the "Fat" content. They break it down into Saturated, Trans, Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats. Eliminate Sat and Trans, keep Poly and Mono fats.
- Eating more small meals throughout the day instead of 3 big meals is very beneficial for reducing GB pain. I've become a grazer. I'm like a cow.. just munching on stuff every couple of hours. I still eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I'm finding the meals are never as large as they used to be.
- Coffee seems ok, but that's because it's a natural fat and I drink it black. Peppermint tea is soothing, and I drink tons of it, or other tea throughout the day because liquid in the system seems to help. Drink more water, too. Do not drink carbonated beverages.
- My GB pain feels different each time. It can be any or all of the following and of different severities depending on what you've eaten: stabbing pain under right rib cage (or through the right abdomen somewhere), firey burning pain in middle back and radiant upper back pain that sits between your shoulder blades. No position is comfortable and nothing takes the pain away (no home medications anyway). Nausea. Decreased appetite or no appetite. Severe bloated feeling and increased gas. Feeling of being flushed in the face, but not feverish. Chills. Unable to take a satisfying deep breath, shallow breathing.
- I didn't have any real luck with the whole apple cider vinegar/apple juice fix, nor does buscopan really work to take the pain away (I've only tried it twice. Once it worked, the second time it didn't).
- If a gallstone is on the move there are two MAJOR risk factors. It can either block the bile duct into the liver, or it can block the duct connecting the GB to the pancreas. Either situation can be fatal. If it blocks the one to the liver, you will turn jaundiced and you need the ER. If it blocks the pancreatic duct, it causes pancreatitis and you definitely need the ER. If it blocks the pancreas, digestive enzymes can't pass from the pancreas to the intestine, so they begin to actually digest the pancreas itself, causing sometimes irreparable damage. Not cool.
- GB stones can't be laser zapped away. Even small stones can become lodged in places that aren't cool, so blasting a stone just makes more smaller stones instead of one bigger one, and can increase a chance of a stone doing damage just by sheer quantity of stones. If you have GB pain, it needs to be addressed and will likely at some point need to be surgically removed.
- There is a laproscopic option these days for surgery. They will try that first and if it's too inflammed by the time they get in there, only then do they have to open you up with a big long incision to remove it. Otherwise it's 4 incisions that are about 1.5" long and far less recovery time.
I guess that's what I've learned about my current health woe in a nutshell, thought his post probably seems quite wordy by now. I decided to write about this because I know when I wrote about my thyroid cancer, treatment and recovery, it helped a lot of people who were researching it. So maybe this can help other people in this little predicament too.