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Of Ulcers and Life

Hello my friends! I know I’ve been neglecting you and for that I’m sorry. The funny thing is, during the summer I mostly felt crappy, and therefore didn’t feel like blogging. And then so far this fall semester I’ve been feeling pretty great, and so haven’t really felt like blogging…

But here I am. Back again. Like I said, so far this semester I’ve been feeling so good! I’ve only had one sinus infection and one cold; cold bugs have been flying around school like crazy, but miraculously, I’ve escaped them for the most part. In addition to regular school stuff, I’ve been able to walk and/or do yoga consistently for the last 2.5 months, and I’m working towards starting a run/walk program here in a couple months. My goal is to be able to jog a mile straight by my birthday–a very modest goal, but its something I haven’t been able to do since I was a brand-new 19-year-old–just before I got sick.

This semester I also (reluctantly) agreed to be the French tutor. I didn’t know how I’d be able to do it–I was afraid I’d have to cancel all the time and it’d be too much for me, etc. That’s another little miracle I’ve seen this semester: I’ve only had to cancel tutoring once. Once! And I’ve even moved from once a week to twice a week. Still, very, very modest hours (3 per week), but sometimes it feels like a lot all the same. But I’ve been blessed to be able to do it.

Now I don’t think I’ll be getting any awards for “greatest tutor” or anything–tutoring, like almost anything that includes human interaction, doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. Like the other night I had three students from French 1 and one from French 3 come in all at the same time, and I felt totally overwhelmed. But, in a way, I do feel that living with my nieces has prepared me somewhat for those kinds of situations–four students all wanting their own questions answered, etc. at the same time is kind of like having two to three toddlers talking to you and pulling on your finger, your pants, your arm. Someone wants a sippy cup refill, someone wants to show you something; someone wants to go over the homework, someone wants practice questions for the quiz…. You get the idea. The students are generally quieter and more patient though.

That’s part of what I wanted to write about today. The beauty, the blessings, the little miracles that have filled me to the bursting the last couple months. But strange as it may seem, I also wanted to write about ulcers–peptic ulcers, to be specific.

Ulcers are mainly what made me miserable this past summer–the ulcers themselves first, then the medicines to treat them and of course the avoidance of all NSAIDs–which enraged my migraines. Basically, my stomach stopped trying to kill me, but then my head took up the cause. But then my body adjusted, my ulcers seemed to heal, I was able to go off PPIs for a while–everything was awesome! Until about eh, a week or so ago. I started waking up in the night again with that feeling of a hole being burned in my stomach, and then it evolved from simple burning to straight-up knife-in-the-gut stabbing. And then my stomach started bothering me during the day as well as during the night. A couple days ago I finally admitted defeat and started back on the PPIs–but unlike in the summer, when they gave me almost instant relief, they don’t seem to be helping as much.

Basically my digestive system is very angry with me. And I’m not looking forward to going back to the doctor’s and starting the cycle again–the appointments, the tests, the “let’s try this” and “lets try that.” But I know I need to go, and so I will.

I get so tired of doctor’s appointments.

But let’s not end on that note… Let’s see…. A happy note to end on. Falls out here in the Blue Ridge Mountains are GORGEOUS. Seriously, it’s like living in a painting–the thousands of trees and their millions of leaves each a unique hue of yellow, orange or red. And then they fall off and dry out and make that amazing CRUNCH when you step on them. And the air gets crisp, but not to the point where it stings yet.

Yes. I think that’s a good spot to end.

Summer Update

Hey all! As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been taking a break from blogging for most of the summer. In about two weeks the fall semester starts up and I’m excited to get going with my classes. So here’s a recap of my summer:

MAY

  • Finished spring semester.34859953_10155858655286785_2505407728319463424_o
  • GI appointment- started taking acid-reducing meds and stopped taking all NSAIDs on the assumption my abdominal pain= peptic ulcers.
  • Neurology appointment – talked about trying new migraine drug Aimovig when Dr. L get access, follow up in August for that purpose.
  • First appointment with Urologist because of frequent UTIs.
  • Got job as freelance transcriptionist with Rev. Started doing that.
  • Also got job as freelance copywriter, started doing that as work is available.
  • Went kayaking for the first time!

JUNE

  • Working and stuff.

    IMG_2455

    We did forget to wear our Gandalf costumes though… Next time.

  • Turned 23 (I know, I know, I look like I’m 18 still).
  • Got a sinus infection that took 5 weeks of antibiotics + 1 week of steroids to clear up.
  • Went horseback riding for the first time! What?! It was awesome and it turns out
    I’m not even allergic to horses!
  • Cystoscopy. Umm, yeah not fun, but not as bad as I worked it up to be. Of course everything looked fine so back to square one (no idea) on the UTIs.

JULY

  • Working and stuff.
  • Yeah not too much to report from July.

AUGUST

  • Came to the parental’s for a couple weeks.
  • Appointment with Dr. C (allergist/immunologist). Because of Dr. C and his staff’s tireless efforts and benevolent harassment of Aetna personnel, I got approved to switch to Cuvitru! (I did a free trial of Cuvitru in April and I tolerate it much better than Gamunex)
  • First shipment of Cuvitru, first Cuvitru infusion. No more 3-hour infusions! No more infusion hang-overs and migraines! Woot woot. I really love Cuvitru if you can’t tell.
  • Appt. with Dr. L (neuro) again- got ball rolling to start Aimovig. It’ll probably be 2-6 weeks before I get to start and then it takes 1-3 months to see full effects, but I’m excited to try it!
  • Watched a bit of my little bro’s JV football scrimmage – he scored 3 touchdowns, like a beast, but only after we’d left of course.
  • Next week: get to move into new place at school.
  • Two weeks: fall semester starts!

 

So yeah there’s my summer in a nutshell. It’s been good. Not the most exciting summer, but good. I’ve especially enjoyed working as a freelancer – remote work where I choose my own hours has been so awesome and allowed me to work over the summer for the first time ever!

My tummy is doing better, but after three months I’m still having to take acid-suppression meds morning and night, and stay away from all NSAIDs. Thankfully, I have found some natural remedies that help a ton. I’ll write about those next time maybe.

Hope your summer is going well!

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.