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Gallbladder Pain, But No Gallbladder…

A few months ago I started having episodes of intense abdominal pain, often accompanied by nausea, that were reminiscent of the gallbladder attacks I had last year. The only problem is, obviously, I had my gallbladder removed. So it shouldn’t be hurting…

It Feels Like a Bad Gallbladder, But Doesn’t Act Like It.

This pain was a little bit different than with my gb. There were no consistent food triggers I could find. Sometimes any food would cause pain, sometimes lack of food would cause pain. This is in contrast to gallbladder attacks being fairly predictably caused by food, especially fats.

Like gallbladder attack pain, this pain almost always started in my upper right abdomen, under my rib cage, but would spread towards the middle and to the left. And I swear it felt almost exactly like the intense, stabbing, bursting/pressure type pain I would get from my lousy gallbladder. It was seriously so weird.

By April I was waking up every night with pain that would keep me up for at least 30 minutes, often a lot longer. During the day my stomach seemed to disagree with everything and I was taking Zofran just about every day to manage the nausea.

I even ended up in the ER for an episode of pain and nausea the evening before my finals started (around the same time of year I went to the ER last year for gb stuff, though I didn’t know it was that at the time). The folks at the ER were also confused, because my pain sounded just like gallbladder pain, but… no gallbladder…

Hmmm, Ulcers Maybe?

867FF43D-D3F6-4849-8020-98D406B7BD07.gifWell I got in to see my GI shortly after finishing my finals. I experienced some serious dejavu–one year later, same time of year, same office, same GI, same symptoms. She even said basically the same thing as she had one year before: she suspected ulcers. So she wanted me to try acid suppression medication to see if it helped and we would also schedule an ultrasound of my biliary system.

The thing is last year I tried the acid suppression medication and it didn’t help. In fact it made me feel lousy. And then we found out she was wrong and it was my gallbladder. So I was not surprised, but not thrilled when she said the same thing again.

This time though, the trial ulcer meds really helped. The first day I was on them I slept through the night, without being awoken by pain, for the first time in weeks and weeks.

So we’re doing a month worth of treatment with Prilosec in the morning and Zantac at night and then we’ll see where we’re at. If my symptoms return I’ll probably need to have an upper endoscopy to actually see what’s in there and test to see if I’m infected with H. Pylori–one of the most common causes of peptic ulcers.

No NSAIDs For Me. Good Thing Tylenol’s So Effective…

In the meantime I’ve been instructed to stay away from all NSAIDs. My frequent use of NSAIDs for migraines is one of the things that has caused her to suspect ulcers (twice). Certainly they could be a problem. But staying off them is no easy thing. Even though my migraines are doing better with a preventative regimen of Prozac and Verapamil, and especially since I started Concerta for my ADHD, my head still hurts a lot. And Tylenol is not super helpful. But so far I’ve been able to manage. Thank goodness it’s summer.

Scars

I’m part of the Harry Potter generation–I grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione–so when I think of scars, I think of this quote from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

“Yes,” said Dumbledore. “He’ll have that scar forever.”

“Couldn’t you do something about it, Dumbledore?”

“Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground.”

As it happens, I also have a scar on my left knee that is a perfect
map of the London Underground–providing that the London Underground is a single, straight tunnel. I got it from IT Band surgery I had at the end of my last season of bball (not knowing it would be my last season of course).IMG_0260

I also have scars on the front of both of my knees and my hip bones from years of court burns. I have a scar on my right leg from slipping off my bike as a kid. I have faint scars on my upper arms from girls nails scratching me during games. Now I have four teeny scars on my abdomen from gallbladder surgery. All together it’s a pretty decent collection I’ve got going.

I love each and every one of my scars. Each one tells a story of pain. Each one is a daily reminder that everything passes eventually–that wounds heal, tears dry, and the sun never fails to chase away the night. Each one is proof that life is worth living, despite the pain. Each one is like a little, shining kiss from life–proof of what you’ve passed through and overcome.

That’s why I’d have to agree with Dumbledore–scars are useful, even if they are not, like mine and Dumbledore’s, a perfect map of the London Underground.

Of course we all have scars that are not visible–hidden holes inside us from something missing. They’re a little harder to love. They hurt longer, heal messier. But maybe that’s why we should love them all the more, because they’re evidence of something worth missing.