Show of hands: how many of you listen to your body?
Over the years I have been a pretty stubborn person when it comes to going to the doctor. I’m not talking about physicals and womanly checkups and such. Those I do, no problem.
What I mean is, when something out-of-the-ordinary comes up, I typically dig my heels in for as long as possible (Queen of Denial) rather than call my doctor. I usually make the call once Jim and I get into an argument discussion about how hard-headed I am.
Image: Valerie Everett via Flickr
I don’t know for sure why I am the way I am when it comes to this issue. I’m not afraid of doctors or hospitals or medical procedures. I think, over the years, my stubbornness about it has developed (okay, exploded) due to the fact that often when I do end up making an appointment for something, there ends up being absolutely nothing wrong, or it ends up being something so minor that if I would have waited another day or two it would have cleared itself up. (And probably NOTHING to do with my control issues. Ahem.)
Anyway, I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. Then, last Wednesday I started having abdominal pain. During the day I chalked it up to my friend/workout instructor. Her Wednesday morning class was super tough for me, and I thought I might have pulled something.
Blame it on Michelle.
All day Wednesday I was all, “Oh gosh, my poor abs. I must have worked out really hard in order to pull something like I did.”
As evening approached, I wondered if it was something I ate. The more I focused on where the pain was coming from and how it was radiating (and THAT it was radiating), my theory that I had just been too much of a beast during my workout went out the window.
At some point, I became extremely bloated. Though I don’t enjoy the TMI here on Suburban Scrawl – but hey, it’s an important part of my story – I thought it was just painful gas. The problem was, it was so painful that I literally threw myself onto my bed (on my stomach) a couple of times to see if that would, um, eventually make me feel better. And it didn’t occur to me at the time that there was anything weird about doing that! (uh, red flag?) I ended up writhing around for about an hour before I took some pain relievers and found our new heating pad that happens to have a vibrating element, which helped a little bit. (Non-disclosure/disclosure/sidenote: this is not sponsored and Jim happens to work for the parent company of this company, but man, THIS HEATING PAD IS AMAZEBALLS.)
The pain eventually subsided enough for me to function a little bit, but I was up with it half the night. Thursday it came in waves. I went to lunch with a couple of friends and, though I ate, I didn’t have much of an appetite.
APPETITE LOSS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME, yet I brushed it off.
Thursday night, I was in so much pain that I made the decision – before Jim even had to fight with me about it – to call my doctor first thing on Friday morning. It had occurred to me that I have a very, very high tolerance for pain and if this was bothering ME so much, it must be… something.
Friday morning was a whirlwind so I will make a quickie list for you in the interest of time:
1. My primary care doctor couldn’t fit me in but told me that I should go to Convenient Care.
2. Convenient Care took my blood and sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound.
3. I was told to wait after my ultrasound so the radiologist could call the doctor at Convenient Care with the results, and then she would get on the phone with me.
4. Convenient Care doctor told me that the majority of my blood work was complete and looked totally fine, AND that the ultrasound showed nothing unusual.
Remember how I opened this post? THIS is what I’m talking about. Friday was extra-frustrating for me, though, because I know my body and I knew that something was wrong. It wasn’t that I was unhappy about the non-findings; I mean, who wants health problems? (Nobody.)
Little did I know, things were about to swerve wildly in another direction.
Later Friday afternoon, the Convenient Care doctor called. “Hi Melisa,” she said, “My shift is almost over and I just went to check for the rest of your blood work results before going home. No wonder you’re in pain! Your liver and pancreatic function numbers are sky-high.” (Sky-high = bad)
She told me that I had acute pancreatitis (an inflamed pancreas) and that if I wasn’t feeling any pain I could stay home for the weekend and drink tons of fluids. If the pain came back, I was to go to the ER immediately.
A few minutes later my primary care doctor called. She wanted me to go to the ER without passing “Go” OR collecting $200. She didn’t want to wait for something to happen: she wanted me to get on an IV and be under medical supervision.
So away we went, Jim and I, to the hospital. And that’s where I was from 5:00 on Friday evening until 5:00 on Sunday evening. I was hooked up to an IV and not allowed to eat anything for more than 24 hours, and then they advanced me to clear liquids only. (The extreme diet restriction is to give the pancreas a chance to calm down.) On Sunday afternoon I was told I could graduate to a low-fat diet and, if I didn’t have any pain after eating, I could go home. (I didn’t, so home I went.)
We’re not sure what caused this episode. The two main culprits are a poorly-functioning gallbladder and an extraordinarily high amount of alcohol consumption. I drink occasionally but don’t consume nearly enough (by far) for that to be suspect, so we’re assuming that my gallbladder is having some problems. The plan is to follow up with a specialist, do some tests, and potentially remove the gallbladder in a simple outpatient procedure. I also need to crack the whip on myself and make plans to eat a true low-fat diet on a permanent basis.
Listen to your body. If you don’t feel right, go to the doctor. If the doctor tells you nothing is wrong but you still think something is wrong, do what I would have done had I not gotten those results and KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS. Women these days think nothing of setting their own health concerns aside because they’re too busy (guilty), they are looking out for others more than themselves (guilty), and don’t spend much time thinking about the fact that if they don’t take care of themselves in the short-term, the long-term effects are much worse (guilty!).
So do it. Listen to your body. For your family and friends, but mostly FOR YOU.
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