My gallbladder isn’t happy. It reminds me of this on a daily basis. This displeases me. It’s annoying, very uncomfortable, and frankly, not very kind to its host (me!). It took me years to figure it out. I’ve always had food sensitivities, now they are more intense.
Over the last three years, I’ve had four strange, painful abdominal kind of attacks. The doctor decided I must have IBS, even though I didn’t exactly present that way. When the attack would happen, I would have what felt like horrible gas, and occasional sharp pains that radiated all over. He gave me a muscle relaxant and told me to take one when it happened. These attacks happening about once a year, along with some “potty problems”, so it seemed like a good answer at the time. Fortunately, the attacks were few and far between. There were other…potty type things, but hell. I thought that was normal!
The Big Thanksgiving Event
Last year, the night before Thanksgiving, I went to this little place in town called PDQ. They are a fresh, fast food chicken place that is…kind of amazing. They use fresh, quality ingredients to make their chicken strips. They hand bread everything AND they make their own sauces. To say they are the most delicious chicken tenders ever is not an exaggeration.
Enter their seasonal turkey sandwich. The sandwich is everything a girl loves in fried food and sauces and bread. The huge , double-stacked turkey is battered in the super special batter and fried. Its placed on this fancy kind of bun, I don’t remember what it’s called, and it has some kind of special sauce, cranberry sauce, lettuce, tomato, and I don’t even remember what else. It is the epitome of Thanksgiving on a bun…and fried. I wait all year for this special sandwich to make its short lived, seasonal appearance.
I ate the sandwich…the entire sandwich. Then I ate the waffle fries and went to bed a couple hours later. I woke about 3 AM with the familiar pain.
This time, it seemed a little more intense. As usual it lasted several hours, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable, and I just was at my wits end. What the hell could it be? This was different. This couldn’t be IBS, could it?
The next morning I was chatting with friends and they suggested that perhaps it was my gallbladder. Interesting. Then my brother called to wish me a happy Thanksgiving and I mentioned it to him. He reminded me that he had been diagnosed with a gallbladder problem many years ago and had taken the dietary approach to avoid surgery. His daughter had hers out not long after having her son.
The mother of my brother and I had hers out when she was 15. Gallstones appeared to be the problem with everyone. Dammit. So, I called upon Dr. Google and learned everything I could in one day about the gallbladder. I then followed up with a traditional turkey dinner and things got interesting again (but not as bad as the night before.) Was that a smart move? Oh hell no. But it was tasty. I’m a picky eater, but what I will I eat, I love!
Since Thanksgiving, I’ve experienced what I call discomfort. It’s not really pain, but it’s sort of pressure? Ya, pressure. I also have had mysterious back pain for about a year. Dr. Google told me that some people experience back pain when their gallbladder is in bad shape. Fascinating. How long has this been going on? More importantly, what IS a gallbladder?
What Does a Gallbladder Do?
I have learned what the gallbladder does and doesn’t do. The gallbladder is a four-inch, pear-shaped organ that’s tucked under your liver in the upper-right section of your tummy.
The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver that helps break down fat from food in your intestine. The gallbladder delivers bile into the small intestine. This allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
When things aren’t working right, a person can develop gallstones. Think of them as mineral deposits, which form when the system isn’t quite working right. They can develop slowly over several years and go undetected until they cause trouble. That’s what I believe has happened with me.
They will start to cause blockages as they try to pass that can be most problematic. In fact, sometimes when a bile duct gets clogged and bile production is severely impaired, a person will turn yellow because now the liver is involved. Hmmm. Note to,self, be sure to look in the mirror each day!
Doctor, Bloodwork, Sonogram, Oh My!
As the months have progressed, the uncomfortableness has become an every day occurrence. In March I finally saw a doctor who had me get a whole bunch of bloodwork and an ultrasound. The results? She said I am incredibly healthy. If it wasn’t for the fact that the ultrasound shows my gallbladder full of gallstones, she wouldn’t think anything was wrong with me.
“You are incredibly healthy…” Well crap.
The Mother’s Eery Warning…Or Was it a Curse?
Let’s backtrack a little so I can share the strange item on my bucket list. I wanted to get through life without ever having to have any kind of surgery. I’ve never been under anesthesia, and have no desire to do so. Needless to say, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that, whether I like it or not, surgery is in my future. It really pisses me off.
Growing up, The mother and the father had a lot of surgeries between them. The mother’s first surgery, at 15, was Gallbladder removal due to gallstones. Her list was impressive. Childhood appendectomy, having a finger tip sewn back on, gallbladder surgery, hysterectomy, carpel tunnel surgery on both wrists, sinus surgery, strange, large growth in her abdomen that wasn’t cancerous surgery, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.
She told me on more than one occasion, “Don’t ever have surgery. Once they cut you open it just never stops. It’ll be one thing after another until you’re dead. Avoid it.“ Special moment, right? She also said that surgeons were “cut happy.” She said a lot of things (insert eye roll.)
What About My Healthy Eating Plan?
There’s a whole list of foods that you should not eat when you have a gallbladder problem. There’s also recommended dietary changes. The issue for me is, most of the food I like is on those lists. I’m a picky eater, so that doesn’t help.
If you recall, I’ve been on a fairly clean eating plan, counting macros, losing weight, improving my health, and seeing wonderful results. This damn gallbladder? She’s not making it easy to stay on track. Not at all.
I Shall Name Her Sadie
I’ve named my gallbladder Sadie. Anything that has this much control over me gets a name. Sadie, meet Herman. He’s the bump on my head that also wreaks havoc. You two have a lot in common.
So, now I wrestle with the decision to call a surgeon and figuring out what I can and can’t eat. How long can I go on like this? Is surgery really the only option? While I grapple with all that, I’m tracking my food and symptoms. Stay tuned for the next part of this saga.
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