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You Can’t Go Back

The other day I got some good news. When my dad got home from work I excitedly told him about some extra scholarship money I’d been awarded because of my academic performance. My 14 year-old brother, who was in the next room playing Battlefront (and evidently eavesdropping) said, “you should get a scholarship for sports.”

I pointed out the teeny flaw in that master plan: “I don’t play sports anymore.”

Look we all know that teenage boys can be more than a bit obtuse, and my little bro is no exception. Currently he is in the sports, fitness and body image obsessed stage. He tells us how he is “teased” by his friends about his muscles being too big; he works out way more than he should, and he flexes A LOT. Another thing he does a lot is make insensitive inquiries such as, “when you gunna start running again?” Or, “Are you ever gonna play basketball again?” And even,” When you gun’ get back in shape?”

I get it. He misses the older sister that he could be proud of. He misses the girl that ran five miles a day and was known for her white-girl hops on the basketball court. He misses the sister that could do as many pull-ups as the boys and who’s life revolved around the court and the gym.  I get it because I miss her too.

I also get that it’s much cooler to have a sister who plays college basketball than one who gets good grades and blogs about being sick.

I get it, but he doesn’t. I’ve tried to explain it to him several times: “I’ve tried to get back in shape but I keep getting infections.” Or, “I’m trying but my body gets very sick if I work out too hard now.” And even the hardest one, “No, I don’t think I’ll ever play basketball again. Not for school anyways.”

He doesn’t understand how before, even with the PI, I could do all these things (even though he doesn’t realize what a struggle that was) and now I can’t. For a while neither could I.

Then I figured it out: you can’t go back.

I can’t go back. My body’s not the body it was before I got sick. I’m not the person I was before I got sick. No matter what I do, I can’t erase that year.

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My parents weren’t good at action shots, so they had to wait for a FT. Also I think a teammate’s parent took this.

Years of running, lifting, sprinting up and down the court–they’re all gone, unraveled and eaten away by months of deconditioning, sickness and undernourishment. The muscles I worked so hard to build over years of training were metabolized to keep my organs going. My heart, which once propelled me through miles with ease, withered and weakened so much that mild cardio now gives me shaking chills. It’s like the first 18 years of my life never happened–like the strong, athletic version of Miranda never even existed.75051_530260573738353_2147077193_n

On the other hand those long, lonely nights when I was too sick to sleep–they’re with me still. They’re with me when I close my eyes. They’re with me when I walk through the Blue-Ridge sunshine to class. They’re with me as I smile down at my sleeping niece. They’re with me when I feel, as I often do, full to the bursting with a life worth living. Those nights, those hardest moments of my life, they’re a piece of me now.

You can’t go back.

So you go forward.

I can’t play basketball anymore, so I put everything I’ve got into my school.

I can’t run out my feelings anymore, so I write.

I can’t do intense workouts anymore so I do yoga, walk, bike and build up slowly.

I can’t work as hard at a lot of things as I did before, so I work smarter.

I can’t be the person I was before so I try to become someone better, someone stronger, someone kinder.

You can’t go back. It’s hard, but it’s probably a good thing.

 

 

Why I Disappeared for Two Years–A Gastroparesis Tale

July 2014:

“She’s lost over twenty pounds since she was here in May.”

Worry in my doctors eyes.

“It could be cancer, it could be an autoimmune condition–we’ll know more when we get these tests back.”

Fear in my mother’s.

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to go back to school this semester.”

Tears of frustration in mine.

1 Month Previous:

Our health insurance provider did what they do best, that is screw up. The date by which the approval for my infusions expired came and went, and they hadn’t processed the renewal. Because of this I had to go about three weeks without an infusion. I caught a stomach bug–bacterial or viral we don’t know–but it was the worst I’ve ever had.

Once the worst (spewing vomit) was over I recovered pretty normally for a couple of days. Then I just stopped. I was weak. I was nauseous all the time. Eating was agony–hunger pangs were nothing in comparison. Being up made everything worse and I passed out a couple times. I kept expecting it to pass, but it just kept getting worse.

October 2014:

“Miss Macfarlane are you a diabetic?”

Uh no, no I am not.

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“The test showed your stomach is emptying too slowly.”

Gastroparesis? What the heck is that?

“It’s common in diabetics because high blood sugar damages the nerves controlling the stomach.”

Ok, but we’ve been over this. I’m not a diabetic.

“Sometimes similar nerve damage can occur from a GI infection.”

Hmmm you mean like the stomach bug from hell I had a couple months ago? That sounds about right.

January-February 2015:

My local GI doc was at a loss. The meds he’d tried me on had helped very little. I was still losing weight, I still couldn’t handle solid food, I was still miserable and sick, sick, sick. He decided to refer me to VCU.

My first appointment at VCU I met with the head of the GI department. He referred me to endocrinology and immunology at VCU as well. I had a consultation with a nutritionist–she was impressed with the shake my mom and I had come up with and didn’t have much to add. (For my gastroparesis shake recipe click here)

The GI said that if I was any other patient, he would put a J-tube (feeding tube that delivers stuff straight to the small intestine) in me right away, but because of my immunodeficiency he was afraid to–I’d be at high risk for a serious infection from it. We agreed that if things hadn’t improved in a month or so when I came back, we would try it anyways. I was desperate to stop losing weight–the more weight I lost, the sicker I became.

By the time my follow up came around I was doing a little better. The scale showed that I had managed to gain a pound. I felt like I had scaled Mt. Everest. It was the first time in nine months that I had not lost weight.

I met with a Nurse Practitioner in the GI department. She tweaked my meds, and was the first genius to think of giving me prescription anti-nausea pills. The changes she made worked. I started being able to eat solid food again in March 2015.

…..

It took me a few months to gain back about half the weight I had lost, which put me at a good, comfortable, healthy weight. The rest of it I still have not gained back as it was mostly muscle I had gained playing ball my freshman year at SVU.

Even once I had achieved my goal weight and was back on a fairly normal diet, my body didn’t bounce back to its former self like I’d hoped it would. It took me another year to get strong enough to go back to school. Even now, after two years with good control of the gastroparesis, I struggle–my body just isn’t the same. It probably won’t ever be, but that’s ok.

I’m learning it’s ok.

 

 

A Post-Op, a Follow-Up, an Infection–Isn’t Summer Fun?

Thursday June 15th: 2 Weeks Post-Op

Today I had my post-op appointment for my gallbladder surgery. Dr. Jones said I’m healing great. He took off the last of my steri-strips and checked to make sure the muscles underneath the incisions are coming together. I’m still not allowed to lift anything over 20 lbs or do strenuous exercise for another two weeks (which includes body weight stuff like yoga- I asked), but after that I’m clear to do as I please. I think that includes life in general–so if you see me robbing a chocolate store on TV or something, don’t worry–Dr. Jones said it’s ok.

I’m hardly in any pain any more unless I try to use or stretch my ab muscles too much. The most residual soreness is in the area where Mr. Gallbladder used to live–it feels like I’ve got a stitch/cramp there underneath my ribcage.

My digestion is also still adjusting to  the vacancy, but is doing quite well over all. After all the horror stories I read about crazy bad diarrhea post-gb removal, I had a very slight case of the runs for less than a week. I have been able to eat cheese, yogurt, lactose-free ice cream, burgers, potato chips, brownies, whip cream, avacado, and lots of other yummylicious foods that caused gb attacks before the op. I am SO happy I got the surgery. I don’t miss the little green fella one bit!

Monday June 19th:

I had a follow-up with my neurologist today. My migraines have improved from daily to 2-3 times per week–much better, but still pretty out of control. Doc L is an awesome neurologist; he listens, talks to me like an equal, and most importantly- hasn’t tried to hold my hand, not even once (my neurologist in HS always held my hand, no matter what diversionary tactics I employed to avoid it). But even he admits that total control–zero headaches for months–is likely out of reach in my case. So for now we are shooting for better control, and we’ll go from there.

Since my body seems to handle the Prozac well, we are doubling the dose (to a normal adult dose) and hoping it will get me down to 1 or so migraines a week. Unfortunately the jump in dose has brought back my favorite of Prozac’s side effects: I can’t sleep! Not a wink. Luckily it should pass in a couple weeks. It did the first time.

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Until then this is me

Thursday June 22nd: 

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I have finally accepted it. I have a sinus infection, for the second month in a row. I am frustrated because it’s been just over a year since I had sinus and turbinate surgery and I’m wondering if I’m going to need another soon. With my Ig infusions I shouldn’t be getting infections this much, but they just keep coming one after another.

My immunologist doesn’t have answers for me, but he is trying. When I get an infection I don’t even have to go in, I just message him and he sends the antibiotic script to my pharmacy. This time I’m on Amox-Clav for ten days,which is an optimistically short course, but hopefully it’ll do the trick.

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I know it’s silly but every time I have to go on antibioticsI feel like a bit of a failure. Every time I go over things in my head– maybe if I had done A, B, or C differently I wouldn’t have gotten an infection. Maybe if I ate better, slept more, got more or less exercise, didn’t do this and did do that…

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I’ll see Doc C for a follow-up in a couple weeks and we’ll talk it over, see what more can be done. It’s a constant climb and I’m always just hoping to find a good foot hold or a little ledge where I can catch my breath. But even though it’s hard–it’s so, so hard sometimes–when I stop to look around, man it’s still a beautiful view.

This Won’t Hurt [Me] A Bit

Says every surgeon ever. I’ve had three surgeries now and while they happily describe cauterizing the bed of my liver or cutting bones from my nose there is one word they noticeably avoid in connection with cutting me up: pain. They speak of “discomfort” and “soreness,” and somehow always manage to skirt the “p” word. I guess they’re afraid that ms-8GQ8rTif they’re honest about how surgery makes you feel they’ll be out of a job–as if the general population isn’t intelligent enough to realize that being cut and cauterized and debrided and stitched and stapled is going to cause pain. Of course once they’ve actually had the surgery the patient will be very aware of just how far the term “soreness” is stretching it, but that’s not really the surgeon’s problem anymore right?

I’m being passive aggressive. Maybe I should just tell you the specific reason I am annoyed at my surgeon, and surgeons in general, at the present moment. Of course having had two surgeries in the past I was already aware heading into this one of the surgeon’s code–I knew that “discomfort” meant I’d be in significant pain–but really I couldn’t have foreseen this particular scenario:  I’ve been having a reaction to the pain medicine my surgeon prescribed me. It makes me itch all over like crazy, even when I take Benadryl. Tuesday I called my surgeon’s office and told them this, hoping that I could get a different medicine to help with the pain, but not cause me to scratch myself to death. Their obnoxiously polite response was that I could try taking more Benadryl and if that didn’t control the itching I could try taking Ibuprofen instead of the narcotic pain killer. And let’s not forget the suggestion that I should really be tapering down my pain meds anyways because “most” people experience the worst pain in the first couple days–essentially “stop being a baby.” Needless to say I was unhappy with their insulting and useless advice. Especially when I did try just taking Ibuprofen and discovered that I had not turned the figurative corner I supposedly should have floated around by then–my abdomen still freakin hurt.

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So I was left to struggle on my own–attempting to find a balance between pain, itchiness
and drowsiness that I could handle. Yesterday I think I finally did drag myself around that magical corner and the pain poofed suddenly into soreness (actual soreness not a surgeon’s “soreness”) that can be mostly managed by Ibuprofen.

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Today is one week post-op and I feel a million times better than I did just a couple days ago. I’m eating a moderate amount, although I still feel overly full and a little sick every time I do eat. My stomach has deflated pretty much all the way and I just have a little residual swelling from my insides being poked and prodded. I’m still much more tired than normal, even without pain killers and Benadryl combining against me; if I make it, today will be my first full day without any prescription pain meds whatsoever.

Before the surgery I read accounts of people who said they only used narcotics the first day or never needed them at all–as Hagrid might say, that’s codswallop in my opinion. Or as I might say, that’s stupid. *Steps on soapbox* Everybody on the internet is trying to sound tough and it gives people unrealistic expectations. With my first two surgeries I tried to do the same thing–prove how tough I was by using as little pain killers as possible–but I learned that it just delays healing and makes you miserable. Being in a lot of pain puts extra, unnecessary stress on the body that makes it harder to heal. Plus when you’re in more pain you’re less likely to do things that are good for recovery like get up and walk around, get enough sleep and even eat. So take it from me and just take the meds. Ok rant over. *Steps down*

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Incisions Update:

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1 week post-op tummy–not too shabby eh?

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Close up on oblique incisions 

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Close up on belly button incision–can you believe they got my gallbladder out through that little thing?

A Lap Chol Tale–Nieces Make It Better

Ok so this post is going to be interesting. The plan is to write some today, some tomorrow before and after surgery. We’ll see how it goes. By the way Lap Chol stands for laparoscopic cholecystectomy- which I can neither say nor spell without help so I’ll stick to the abbreviation.

Thursday: Prepping for Surgery

I’ve had a running list this week of stuff I need to get done before tomorrow: laundry, change sheets, vacuum, charge electronics,  shave legs, acquire necessary post-surgery food and drink supplies, do as much yoga as possible (before I can’t for a while), try very hard not to have another bad gallbladder attack, do pre-op interview and blood work,  etc. I am also doing my IG infusion tonight as I doubt I’ll feel like doing it tomorrow.

I’m weirdly excited for tomorrow–the kind of excited I suppose a pregnant woman feels when she’s finally going into labor. No matter the pain ahead, I want this thing out of me! (Except it would be totally weird and gross if they handed it to me afterwards).
My family has joked that I should ask for my gb after the surgery–I could take it home and set it in a jar on my bookcase. They think they’re so funny. *Rolls eyes* Well I have always admired Severus Snape’s interior decorating skills. I guess now’s my chance to get
the authentic creepy-guy-in-a-dungeon look.

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Friday: Surgery Early this morning I woke up and the butterflies hit me hard. I finally gave up on sleeping and watched videos of my six-month-old niece on my phone. My older brother, sister-in-law​, younger sister and I all shared a house up at school this past year. Second semester (she was born in December) if I was really nervous or stressed about something it always helped to hold my little squishy for a bit. Since we’re separated for the summer, videos had to do today. I felt much better after watching her try to sit up and grinning as her parents squished her cheeks with kisses.

I didn’t actually get a chance to write before the surgery. I didn’t wait in pre-op very long before they brought mom back, which was totally not my experience with my other surgeries.

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Making important life decisions while waiting in pre-op

While we waited together my mom drilled me on what I want to get my masters and PhD in. I told her I figured it’d be ok if I didn’t figure that out before they took me back for surgery… We were waiting for a while.

Not long before they wheeled me back my sister sent me pics of her two little girls. My 20-months-old niece was trying to walk in her daddy’s shoes while her new little sister watched her with wide eyes from her swing. I was still smiling when they came to wheel me away.

My doc said the surgery went very smoothly. Unlike my previous surgeries, I didn’t even realize I was going under in the OR. I remember taking some deep breaths of oxygen on the operating table and then waking up to a recovery nurse telling me I needed to breathe slower. I also had a much harder time waking up from the anesthesia than I have from my previous two surgeries. I’m always very clear headed–no funny drugged stories from me sadly–but this time all my body wanted to do was go back to sleep. It was also the first surgery I’ve been in significant pain as soon as I woke up. My shoulder and back hurt really bad from the gas they had pumped into my abdomen so they could see what they were doing. I really wished I had thought to bring along some Gas-X or something. They gave me my first pain pill while I was in recovery but it didn’t do much for the gas pain. I took gas medicine as soon as I got home and within half an hour the pain was all but gone. So far the gas pain has been the only thing to come close to the pain of an attack.

I got home at about noon- having reported to the surgery center at 7:45 in the morning. I got situated in the recliner, and once the meds kicked in and my pain eased up I dozed off and on while Bones solved crimes in the background.

By this time my 20-months-old niece was up from her nap. She saw me sleeping in the recliner and thought I was playing one of her favorite games- “nigh nigh,” where you pretend to go to sleep and then pop up and squeal “wake up!” Everytime I closed my eyes I’d hear the rapid pitter patter of tiny feet come up to the side of the chair, followed by a careful pause as she stood and watched me with her big, brown eyes. Then she’d get her little curl-covered head as close to mine as she could and squeal loudly, signaling me to pop my eyes open and yell “wake up!” It hurt to laugh, but it still felt good, if that makes sense.

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I got holes in ma belly

Saturday: Day One of Recovery

Last night I didn’t get much sleep. It hurts a lot to lie my side, which is how I always sleep. When I finally did fall asleep I woke up a couple hours later because my body was complaining that it was overdue for another dose of pain medicine.

I haven’t been hungry at all. Yesterday I just drank Gatorade and ginger ale; today I forced myself to eat some Jell-O and Cheerios because I was getting a lack of food migraine, but I’m still not hungry.

I spent most of the day in the recliner watching Harry Potter and Bones and napping. My abs definitely hurt when I move, but it’s not agonizing. It feels a bit like when I put my IG needles in a bad spot on my tummy and they rub against the muscle– at least that’s how it feels as long as I keep up with the pain meds.

They put water proof bandages over the 4 incisions in my belly so I got to take a shower today. It especially felt good since I’ve been feeling itchy from the pain meds–apparently it’s a pretty common side effect of narcotics. Just another reason not to like them I guess.

Sunday: Day Two of Recovery

Last night I slept much better and today I finally felt a little hungry–so we’re making progress. Otherwise it was pretty much post-surgery business as usual: recliner, tv, naps; I was not surprised, but still a little bummed I didn’t feel like going to church.

My incision sites are more sore today and I’m beginning to see nice little bruises blooming under the edge of the bandages. So far I haven’t actually been feeling a ton of pain where my gallbladder used to be, which surprises me. But hey, I’m not complaining.

Monday: Day Three of Recovery

Last night I fell asleep about an hour before I was up for my next dose of pain meds and then I slept for a good twelve hours, so I was seriously feeling it this morning when I woke up.

Once the meds kicked in I had a small cup of cheerios with blueberries and I am seriously stuffed.

A nurse called to check on me this morning and told me I could take the water-proof bandages off. As you can see my tummy is still pretty swollen–I’m having a hard time getting all the gas out. I thought my belly button incision would hurt the most because it’s twice as large as the others, but actually the little ones on my right side have been the most painful so far. Yesterday I was also running a bit of a fever, but the doc said that’s normal as long as it’s below 101.

Ok who’s ready for a nap? I know I am.

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These holes are so much smaller than they feel

When It’s All Too Much

Saturday night my gallbladder was in a bad mood. All it took was a small cup of oats and a tiny bit of chocolate chips to send it into the worst tantrum it has had so far–two hours of screaming at the top of its lungs and three more afterwards yelling and banging doors shut like a teenager. As I was laying in bed–trying and failing to sleep through the waning wrath of Mr. Gallbladder–I thought of something my sister said when I decided to start this blog: “you should write about what you do when it’s all too much.” Why would I think of that during a five hour gallbladder attack? Eh, no reason.

Honestly I do feel a little bit small, writing about when my little life is too much for me on a day we remember and reverence those who gave their lives for family, friends and country. But I’ll persevere in the simple knowledge that life is hard and no matter what our circumstance, we all have moments when it’s all too much.

The last time I had one of these moments was towards the end of February. I was sitting in French class. I was having a hard time hearing because my ears were so stuffed up; my face and head throbbed in time with my heartbeat. I had just finished the second two-week course of antibiotics I had been prescribed for this sinus infection, and my strength slumped at the realization I would need a third. There I sat in the middle of class, when all the sudden I felt I couldn’t take another second as myself. To my horror my eyes started to sting. “Mama prépare un bon dîner.” We chanted as a class. I will not cry I pled to myself. “Ma soeur Lise attend un coup de téléphone.” Not here, not now.

I made it through class. I made it to the car. I could make it no longer. I drove home with dangerously blurred eyes and when I got to my room I had a good cry.

That’s the first thing I do when it’s all too much–I cry. I don’t like crying–it makes me stuffy and gives me a headache–but sometimes there’s nothing for it. Sometimes life punches you in the gut and you just gotta cry about it.

Once my eyes were sufficiently red and swollen that the tears slowed their onslaught, I got on my knees and bowed my head. I thanked my Father in Heaven for everything I could think of; I thanked Him til my heart was as swollen as my eyes–but with gratitude instead of pain; I thanked Him til the storm inside went still.

That’s the second thing I do when it’s all too much–I choose to see all the goods things in my life that I take for granted when I get discouraged. Bit by bit I replace self-pity or self-loathing or whatever darkness I’m feeling with gratitude.

Eventually I rose from my knees. I grabbed a couple pieces of dark chocolate. I went into my sister’s room and we teased my brother’s little beagle, Bruce, by hiding his favorite ball. We laughed as he sniffed intensely at the blanket, completely oblivious to the bright orange ball sitting in plain site on the desk.

Those are the final two steps. If at all possible, eat chocolate. Then go find someone I love and goof around with them. If the world’s-worst-ball-hunter Bruce is around, well that’s a bonus.

 

My Top Ten Tips for Tummy Troubles

Intestinal cramps, gas pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, heart burn, bloating… The list of ways your digestive system can cause you discomfort goes on and on and on, and pretty much everybody suffers under an unhappy digestive system at one point or another. As one who has racked up some serious frequent flier miles at the GI’s office over the last few years, I have learned a lot of insider tricks that I wish I would have known from the start–they would have saved me some serious misery. So here’s to hoping I can at least help some of you when the occasional (or not so occasional) digestive woes hit.

  1. Ginger, Ginger, Ginger!
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Not that kind of ginger Ron, don’t worry

A couple of years ago I sustained some serious nerve damage in my digestive track from an infection that left me with “mild” gastroparesis and constant, crushing nausea amongst other things. I found ginger seriously helps with the nausea. Fresh ginger is best–I like to heat up water and put some cut up ginger in it. Let it soak, add a little honey and then sip til your tummy is happy again. Ginger Ale is also good, but make sure you get the kind with real ginger in it. You can also get ginger “candy”–I like Gin Gins Ginger Chews–but those are pretty spicy so I wouldn’t use them when your stomach  is seriously upset. They are awesome for motion sickness though. Really ginger is just all around a life saver when that sick feeling hits your stomach.

2. Peppermint Oil

Guess what else happens when you have nerve damage to your digestive track–cramps! Horrible, wrenching, gut-twisting cramps that leave you gasping in agony. Seriously, some of the worst pain I have ever experienced was from intestinal cramps. Luckily I eventually found peppermint oil, and we are very happy together. Nothing–no prescription or OTC meds–cut the cramps like peppermint oil does. It also helps with relieving gas, nausea and diarrhea. When I start getting that tugging feeling in my intestines I rub 3-5 drops of peppermint oil into my entire stomach area, moving my hand in a clockwise circle. Every essential oil I have ever bought says not to apply it directly to the skin, but to use a carrier like coconut oil–I have never not ignored that and so far I have lived. If you have super sensitive skin though, you might want to heed their warning and try it with a carrier oil first.

3. Probiotics 

This is an especially important one if you ever find yourself needing a course of antibiotics; before I learned about probiotics I would get really bad diarrhea whenever I was on antibiotics (which was almost constantly before I got diagnosed with PI). This is because antibiotics, in addition to killing the bad, infection-causing bacteria, wipe out the   good bacteria in your intestines. Probiotics help replenish these good bacteria so you can digest your food properly. Even outside of antibiotic use, probiotics are helpful for promoting proper digestion and boosting your immune system–70-80% of which is in your gut. I take a probiotic supplement everyday, and if I’m on antibiotics I double or triple my normal dose. Unfortunately probiotics can be pricey, but you don’t need the crazy expensive kind to see benefits–just be wary of super cheap supplements with a low cell count and only one type of organism. I stick with middle of the road supplements like Accuflora and Phillip’s Colon Health. Supplement this with probiotic rich Kefir and/or Kombucha and you’ll be on your way to a happy gut! Kefir probably wins out in functional probiotic content, but Kombucha has the added benefits of digestive enzymes. So I use a mix of both.  (My favorite Kombucha is GT’s btw).

4. Fennel Oil

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Fennel oil is great for relieving gas. Apply to the abdomen in the same way as the peppermint oil and fart away! You’ll feel so much better- let it go!

 

 

5. Yoga

Yoga can help digestion in a lot of ways, but I especially use it when I’m constipated, bloated or gassy. Type “yoga for digestion” into the youtube search bar and you’ll have tons of digestive friendly routines to choose from at a variety of difficulty levels. My go-to is Yoga with Adriene–she has several digestive/detox flows that help me every time! There are also some specific positions that can be utilized on their own to provide quick relief–like the figure-four stretch to relieve gas quick.

6. High-Calorie Shake for Gastroparesis and Gaining Weight

For my gastroparesis buddies or people who need to gain weight here’s my top-secret (not really) shake recipe that I survived on for eight months when my stomach couldn’t handle solid food:

  •  1 banana
  • 1 Ensure/Boost (high calorie kind)
  • 1 serving of favorite protein/nutrition powder (I like Orgain and VegaOne)
  • Several scoops of soy or coconut ice cream (or regular if you can tolerate it)
  • About a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter (could use peanut/almond butter)

Blend together and enjoy. Of course, I always used chocolate flavored everything, but you can use any flavor you like I suppose.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV is great for indigestion, heart burn and a sour stomach. It’s really important that you get the organic/all natural kind with the mother–it’s way more effective. The taste is pretty potent, so I always mix it (1-2 tablespoons of ACV) with a glass of water (heated), some lemon juice and a generous amount of honey. Sometimes I add fresh ginger for an extra kick of stomach-calming power.

8. Miralax

When you have to reach for a laxative, Miralax is your best bet. It’s not painful or habit forming like other laxatives because it doesn’t stimulate your colon to contract, it just draws water into it to make everything flow easier. A trick I’ve recently learned is that, especially if you’re like me and have to take Miralax on a regular basis, it’s best to take it at night. When I took it in the morning I had to take double the normal dose to make things flow normally that day; now I take a normal dose at night and things always run smoothly the next morning. So essentially you can half the dose you need when you take it at night, because it gives it more time to work. Also don’t pay for the name brand if there’s a generic–they’re the exact same thing but you pay extra for the “Miralax” on the bottle.

9. Allergy Friendly Foods I Love

ms-NX1khDWhether you have actual allergies or intolerances, eating the wrong foods can bring on a lot of bodily distress. I have a long list of foods that I avoid–some allergies, some intolerances. Here are some of my favorite allergy/sensitivity friendly items:

  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips: The only completely dairy and soy free chocolate I’ve been able to find (also gluten-free and nut-free)
  • Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter: This stuff is seriously awesome. It tastes like a nut butter, but it’s made from golden peas! No nuts, soy, or seeds!
  • Luna Bars: If soy is a no-no for you then so are these, but they do have a couple totally nut free varieties (with 8 grams of protein)
  • Kind Breakfast Bars and Healthy Grains: Also have some totally nut free varieties that are also gluten and soy free.
  • Cheerios: Almost all types of Cheerios are now gluten-free! Mmmm tastes like childhood!
  • Annie’s GF Bunny Cookies: Gluten-free, not crazy high on the sugar or fat content, and delicious! These are my newest addiction.

10. Tummy Drops

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I saved the best for last. I first tried tummy drops a couple years ago and they’ve saved my tummy many a time. I always keep both ginger and peppermint tummy drops on hand–some at home, some in the book bag, some in the purse–wherever I go, they go with me. They were created by two doctors–one a GI specialist, one an avid cook–so they taste good, but more importantly THEY WORK. Ginger tummy drops are wonderful for nausea and motion sickness; they work better than anything short of prescription anti-nausea meds. The peppermint kind are powerful against intestinal cramps, urgency, bloating and a mildly upset stomach. They’re great as a tag-team with peppermint oil application or for when you’re in a situation where you can’t exactly lift up your shirt and start rubbing oil all over it. Sticking a drop in your mouth is a tad more discreet.

So there you go. My top ten tips for tummies are now yours to try!

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Mom and Me Freezing for a HIDA

Yesterday I had my HIDA Scan. Apparently Nuclear Imaging technology can only be operated at arctic temperatures. For someone who is constantly cold in anything less than eighty degree weather (me) this easily overlooked aspect of the test was by far the most trying. It took most of the car ride home in a sun-baked car for mother dear and me to thaw.

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When I scheduled my scan they emphasized that I had to have another person there to drive me home. I did not understand why until an hour into the scan. The timer on the machine went off and the nurse walked in announcing “no gallbladder.” She told me to get up and move around for a bit and we’d try again, but if that little bugger was still hiding she’d have to give me…morphine! Suddenly the necessity of a driver made complete sense. I guess the morphine makes it easier to see the gallbladder- I’m not sure how. Luckily I didn’t have to find out because after a few minutes of pacing back and forth and doing the well known gallbladder-get-your-crap-together dance-chant combo, the tiny organ finally deigned to make an appearance. So no morphine for me. The rational part of me was extremely grateful, but my curious side was a little disappointed. I doubt–or that is I hope–I will not have a reason to be administered morphine again in my lifetime. It would have been an interesting experience to say the least.

Other than that small hiccup, my scan was by and large uneventful. I got in at 7:30 am and I walked blinking, frozen and stiff, but otherwise unharmed, into the welcome sunlight just after 10:30 am. So yeah, it took forever. Or three hours. The two are basically the same when you’re starving, thirsty  (I had to fast for it) and freezing. Still, if you have to get a HIDA scan, don’t sweat. It’s not fun, but there are definitely worse things out there–like math. Math is the worst.

fyzODLrZORdUAPlus as it turns out, the scan, unlike math, can be very useful. Mine showed that my gallbladder is functioning at 25% where the low-normal is 35%. So now I get to go talk to a surgeon Thursday about cutting the sucker out! I know surgery is never fun, but when I’m in the middle of a gallbladder “attack” there is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do to ease the pain. So all in all, I’m thrilled. For once, my body is misbehaving in a straightforward manner. Way to go body. You finally did something wrong, right.

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How to Start?…Jump Right in I Guess

I have been trying to get this blog started all year, but a combination of school, sicknesses and just normal life stuff kept me struggling to stay afloat. Body, mind and grades having survived finals- just barely I might add- I am now ready to finally get to write something that is not a paper.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of finals this semester surfaced in a trip to the ER one Sunday evening two weeks before they began. For the past year or so I’ve been experiencing weird “attacks” of severe abdominal pain that for the longest time I believed to be gas pain. Well naturally, my body decided to hop on the crazy train that is the final weeks of a semester and the attacks suddenly became much worse and much more frequent. This culminated in me laying on my bedroom floor, using my cell phone to call my brother- who was downstairs- to come help me after about an hour of some of the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. Poor guy. Mysterious medical emergencies are not part of the typical brotherly responsibilities, but he handled it like a champ. To make matters worse, my blood pressure had gone all funky because of the pain–I almost passed out when I tried to sit up, so brother dear had to carry me to the car. I suppose it’s lucky for both of us that he is my bigger brother in more ways than age alone.

The ER, was just about as helpful as usual. That is to say they gave me some pain medicine and a saline IV for the bp, made sure I wasn’t dying right that second and sent me on my merry way. Pretty typical. I generally avoid the ER at all costs, but the look on my brothers face when he found me pale and sweaty on the floor encouraged me to accept his proposition of a trip to the hospital.

A follow up with a GI (gastroenterologist) and an abdominal ultrasound later the finish line on this one still looks to be in the distance. On the ultrasound they found gallstones in my gallbladder, but my doc is convinced that they are not the problem because I am a far cry from the typical gallstone patient (Fat, Forty, Female, Fertile). So now I am waiting to get scheduled for a HIDA scan, which looks at the functioning of the liver, gallbladder, etc. I’d like to say it’s the first time I’ve laid on a table for hours while a machine followed radioactive material through my body, but I cannot. While it’s not painful, it certainly is a pain- it takes forever, it’s boring, cold (but to be fair that is my usual state), and you have to fast for it, which is fun. Oh well, as the weird crab thing in Moana sings ,”c’est la vie, mon ami.” (That’s life my friend)

So there you go. I guess you could say I’m starting my blog En Medias Res, which as I recently learned and will soon forget, is a convention of epic literature, meaning they start in the middle. So I guess that automatically qualifies my life as epic. I knew it.