Beware Of Almonds, GI Sisters and Brothers (Part II)

posted in: Confessions, Sicky, Story | 32
I love, love, love macarons. And almond paste. But this is my nightmare. Image: Wikipedia.

 

My post from a few days ago was a real cliffhanger — and then I kept you cliff-hanging. I’m sorry about that. There are a lot of spinning plates right now and sometimes I have to set a plate on the shelf for a second and rest my … what, fingertips? My plate-spinning stick? How does plate-spinning really work? Any actual plate-spinners out there, leave your remarks in the comments.

Also, this post has been incredibly hard to write for reasons that will soon be obvious. I’ve been dragging my feet.

Where was I, before time was up? Oh, right: Raw almonds for breakfast. If you haven’t read Part I, do that and then brace yourself for some extremely unpleasant (and personal) anatomic details.

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is a kind of shop vac: It sucks up the fluid from what you eat and drink so that the body can make solid waste. Then it holds onto … all that for a period of time and then, you know, you get rid of it. My shop vac was removed 10 years ago because it was, in the words of the surgeon who really messed up my surgery, “completely gone on the left side.”

What this means is that I don’t produce solid waste and never will again. I can eat things that are better for my condition and things that are way worse for it, but to go through a list of good vs. bad foods is a pointless exercise in many respects; what works only sometimes works and what doesn’t work for awhile suddenly isn’t so bad. But almonds are bad, full-stop. Which brings us to the second dignity-sucking feature of this tale and honestly, part of the reason I delayed in getting back to it. Let’s talk about fissures.

A fissure is a tiny, usually thread-thin crack between one thing and another. A fissure is relatively (very) narrow and not jagged; it’s not a rip or a tear, exactly. You can see fissures in rocks. Hairline fractures in bones would be a good visual. Fissures can happen in body tissue, too, and when they happen, it is bad. I had a fissure at the tail (!) end of my digestive tract and that is as much as I’ll tell you in terms of anatomy because we all know what I’m talking about.

My fissure arrived in late 2013 and was diagnosed as “acute” and “chronic”. Because I no longer have my shop vac, remember, I go to the bathroom a lot during the day and through night. Way more than most people, even with my J-pouch surgeries. If you have a fissure where I had one, the last, last, last thing on the planet you want to do is go to the bathroom. And at that time, because I didn’t know I was allergic (or had a reaction to) almonds, I was typically going 8-9 times a day and as many times through the night.

The pain of my condition bent my mind. It eviscerated my will, my fortitude, my spiritual condition. I squalled like a newborn. I babbled incoherently to no one as I pep-talked myself into going back to the guillotine, aka bathroom, over and over. The cramps were terrible. I had to go. And when I went, only an acidic trickle would come and I clawed my thighs until they were scraped and raw, too. It was a dark, dark time. And I told very few people about it. I didn’t tell you much about it, did I? Why?

It was so embarrassing. And the doctors said the fissure would likely settle down, though it will probably always be there, I understand?) A surgery that can be done as a last resort, but it’s not always successful; besides, the thought of more surgery in my GI tract — anywhere, anywhere in my GI tract — sent me into further paroxysms of despair, so I did not allow myself to see surgery as an option. Also, I am tough, Midwestern, stoic. Also, I tend to isolate. I’m a writer, by nature an introvert. And you bet I was depressed, for obvious reasons. And when you’re depressed, you just … You know. Nothing.

Look, the whole reason I’m telling this story is because I don’t recall anyone ever asking me what I was eating. And I think that would’ve been good. Raw almonds can cause diarrhea. And when you’re going to the bathroom as much as I was, the fibrous skins are really, really hard on a bottom. Why didn’t anyone help me put this together?

Before anyone gets arch please remember what I have written many times over the 12+ years of this blog: My doctors, surgeons, and nurses saved my life on several occasions and, if I can find new ones, medical professionals will help me live a long time. I’m not hating on doctors. I’m just bewildered, as usual, by the chaos of it all.

Good grief, let’s wrap this up, shall we? I rarely give advice, but here’s some I feel good about:

If you know someone with a J-pouch; IBD; Crohn’s; Ulcerative Colitis; diverticulitis, or any serious affliction related to the intestines, ask us about their diet. But — and this is so important — don’t tell us what to eat or suggest we do this or that. It’s so hard to be told, even by well-meaning people, that you’re doing eating wrong. (For example: The German and the Russian both pushed yogurt on me constantly and made me feel like a failure because I didn’t consume quarts of it daily.)

Telling a person, “You should eat this” or “[X] is a magic food for the gut” is different from just asking what’s in our diet. Asking us what we eat from day to day gives us an opportunity to think about it. Maybe there is something we could do differently. I mean, it’s crazy: If I have even a touch of almond milk or eat something like I did the other day that has raw almonds in it, it’s awful. But I didn’t know for a long time.

There you have it, my suffering GI Janes and Joes. Here’s the question:

“Shh … Shh. It’s gonna be okay. Deep breath. Why don’t you tell me what you’re eating, honey. Let’s start there.”

Uncle, Uncle: My Shoulder Is Not Okay.

posted in: Day In The Life, Sicky | 0
Just look at dem bones! X-ray, chiropractor; photo of x-ray, me.
Dem bones. X-ray, chiropractor; photo of x-ray, me.

“Claus,” I said, “My shoulder hurts really bad.”

In May, the dull ache in my shoulder had gotten bad enough that I had to say something. It had hurt for a couple weeks and just when I’d think, “Aw, I’ll be alright,” I’d move it in some totally acceptable way and realize it was not getting better. Claus gave me a couple massages and that helped, but then he moved back to Germany and now what? I thought.

When I was working in Iowa, I saw my friend Julie, an orthopaedic surgeon. “Julie,” I said. “My shoulder hurts really bad.” She gave me some stretches to do and that helped, but then I went back to Chicago and now what? I thought.

Then a tiny section of my thumb went slightly numb. That was about a month back. Not numb exactly, but numb kind of. Then I woke up in the night from the ache. Then I realized when writing in my journal in the morning that my hand was not quite as strong as I remembered it being. Then, the last straw: the terrible ache extended to my upper arm and I woke up three times in the night from the pain. It’s hard for me to find a good position in bed at night. Okay. I call. It’s time.

Instead of taking the bus up to the hospital where I get all my glamorous medical care, I thought I’d try something else first. Because it’ll be my luck that I get an MRI and suddenly have surgery scheduled for next month. I’m good like that. I decided to get a first opinion and made an appointment at a chiropractor downtown. I’ve never seen a chiropractor before.

My step-dad swears by his; he’ll holler upstairs to me when I’m home at the house, “Mar! I’m headed to the chiro to get cracked! You need anything at the store, honey?” Mark’s back is considerably bigger than my shoulder and he gets good results, so why not.

It’s wild how divided people are about chiropractors. I wrote day before yesterday how I won’t comment on political issues on my blog; this includes my official position on chiropractic care. All I’ll say is that when I left, after stimulation nodes had been placed on my shoulder for 30 minutes, after the nice lady had made my spine do its best impression of Jiffy Pop, and after I opted-in for a 30 minute chiro-massage, my shoulder did feel better and I’m grateful. But I also emailed Julie; chiro or not, I’m going to get a third opinion. (The second opinion came from my neighbor; we were chatting in the elevator this morning and I told her about my shoulder. “Oh, just get a cortisone shot,” she said. “You’ll be fine.” Janine is a real estate agent and has nine earrings in her left ear.)

I took a picture of the chiro’s computer screen when she left the examination room. That’s my shoulder/neck x-ray. Isn’t it amazing? I’ve had a string of a few bad days this week and it was strange: when I saw my straight spine and that there wasn’t broken glass in my shoulder, I felt better. When you’re stressed about this or that, when you walk around with chronic pain and dread that it’s worse than you think, think on this: the back of your skull is lovely.

 

Irony.

posted in: Day In The Life, Sicky | 4
Banded iron formation specimen, Upper Michigan. Image: Wikipedia
Banded iron formation specimen, Upper Michigan. Image: Wikipedia

I’m back home in Chicago! Being in Iowa was great, but whenever I get back to the city, I realize how much I missed the pigeons.

There were so many errands to run. My main task was to go into Northwestern Hospital for an iron infusion. I’ve got another week from today. I’ve been getting cozy with these things since I basically ran out last year; aside from the weird stuff that likes to show up on my CT scans, I’m anemic. My hemogoblins have been hanging out at 9 out of the recommended 14, so I need Fe pumped into Me. I’ve also been eating nothing but filet mignon and steak tartare, naturally. Sometimes I’ll have a porterhouse. Maybe a fox or a deer, if they’re running around. Or your delectable neck, my pretty… Mua-ha-ha!

Getting an infusion of X or Y or Z isn’t that big of a deal. You go in, they stick a sharp object through your skin into your vascular system and gravity assists in transfusing liquid into your bloodstream. I sat in a room with many people getting various intravenous medicine; my infusion took a little over an hour. I spent some time on Instagram, I looked through some papers. The nurses were nice.

There were numerous occasions over the course of 2011-2014 when I would take the Michigan Ave. #147 bus to that hospital from my home, sure that whatever was wrong with me was bad enough that I’d probably be admitted when I got there and I was usually right. I learned to pack a bag and turn off the lights before I left. If you’re going to be admitted, you might not be back for a long time and you’re gonna want stuff like your computer, phone, phone charger, book, couple Diet Cokes, actual shampoo and soap (as opposed to whatever that stuff the nurses give you when you actually are well enough or stinky enough to have a shower.)

I thought about that today because I walked home after my infusion was done. The sun was beautiful today. The walk takes about 40 minutes and on a busy Thursday, there’s so much to see. I remember this one particular time I was in the hospital for the third time in six weeks or something. They had just come in to say I couldn’t go home, that I’d probably be there at least until the next week. I remember freaking out and feeling trapped. My IV was a chain, a bond. My gown was revolting. My hair felt so bad. My body hurt. My body felt weak. I was hot. I was cold. I couldn’t just be in my bed. I couldn’t just go to the fridge. Surrender, Dorothy.

Sitting in my comfy chair on the 14th floor having some really basic, really innocuous procedure done, I felt glad that the infusion was all that was next to my name today. Many people have a longer list and no comfy chair at all. Every time I’m at Northwestern, I think about all that.