I’ve decided that one of the worst things about chronic illness is a complete loss of dignity. Never mind the misery of nausea…and the pain and discomfort of a digestive system gone rogue…let’s talk about the fact that I have discussed my bowel movements in infinite detail with a multitude of complete strangers. Let’s talk about the fact that my bodily functions are now more newsworthy than earthquakes, hurricanes, and dictators. Yeah, you think that’s bad enough…now let’s talk about what happens when I don’t wax my upper lip for over two months.
I’ve been poked, stabbed, drugged, and interrogated by a legion of doctors and nurses…and I guess, eventually, the inevitable happened…I just started to feel less human. I mean, not inhuman like a zombie or reaver (Firefly fans?). Although, I’m sure given the right lighting…I could be mistaken for either. I don’t really walk anymore. I shuffle. I have huge dark circles under my eyes and a pasty complexion from malnutrition. My brain functions are shoddy at best…and my hair is a hot mess 24/7. Ok, so, yeah…I totally could be mistaken for the undead. Huh. Note to self.
So, I guess all this to say…when Dr. Schiller (the specialist in Dallas) spoke to me like an intelligent woman who was NOT losing her mind…I felt human again. I was almost more grateful for that than I was to finally have a tentative diagnosis.
He spent almost 2 hours with me…coming in and out of the room between examinations and his review of my huge stack of medical records. When he finally came in to tell me his conclusion the first thing he said was: “We doctors are trained to find the one thing that is causing all your symptoms. In your case, I think you have several things making you sick.” He used a chart to describe in detail how my biliary system was in full trauma (probably triggered by a stomach virus)…because of my lack of gallbladder; my bile acid was retracting into my stomach and playing hardball* with my stomach acid. And because I wasn’t eating (eating=nausea) the bile acid most likely started to eat away at my stomach lining. In addition to the napalm in my stomach, the bile was running rampant through my intestines overnight, where instead of being recycled…it would instead pool in my colon. These two things alone are enough to cause constant, unrelenting nausea. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of his diagnosis.
If you remember, I said I’ve been experiencing off and on bouts of severe nausea for the last few years. Dr. Schiller also diagnosed me with a somewhat rare condition called Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (CVS). It’s common among children and pot smokers, but not that common with regular ‘ol gals like me. Researchers have linked this syndrome to migraines. Yep, that’s right…I have migraines that manifest in my stomach without an actual headache. Apparently, we all have two receptors in our brain that are a direct link to our stomachs…I know, right? Who knew? CVS “episodes” have the same triggers as a migraine…stress, hormones, fatigue, or even something as simple as a sinus infection. It helps a lot to know what could trigger my CVS…but, ultimately, it’s a chronic condition with no cure.
Dr. Schiller prescribed me a huge cocktail of drugs designed to counter the bile acid and CVS. He mentioned that he would probably be able to wean me off of a few of them eventually…but that they could take up to a month to really balance my system. I was optimistic that my new gold-studded drugs would work faster than that…and I would be back to normal in two winks. Heh. I’m sure by now you’ve noticed my use of a past tense verb. I was optimistic.
Turns out, taking a lot of new drugs comes with its own set of somewhat brutal side effects. One med makes me feel like I’m walking through pea soup for about 15 hours after I take it…and one med wreaks painful havoc on other aforementioned stuff (see: bodily functions). Needless to say…it’s slow going. I have to set alarms to take my medicine because they have to be swallowed in a well-orchestrated schedule designed to make me feel like a ninety year old. But despite all this…the nausea has loosened its grip. And for that…I am excruciatingly grateful.
And because the nausea has lost its intensity…I have seen small glimpses into the return of my humanity. I registered the feeling of boredom the other day…that was awesome. And I tweezed my eyebrows. My mom and dad are lovingly forcing me to walk around more…so, that I can regain strength to my atrophied muscles. And the other day, I woke up with the need to shop. I know, right? Totally a good sign. I know that I have more recovery ahead of me…it’s going to be slow going (which is counter to my personality, by the way), but feeling human again gives me hope. And where there is hope…there is healing.
But the truth is, I’m not writing this blog entry to torment you with the details of my recovery…but to offer you my profound gratitude for your prayers. I started this whole blog in order to expound on the glory and wonder of God at work in Joplin, Missouri in the days and months after a devastating tornado. I thought that meant I would tell the stories of struggles and victory in the lives of those around me. Heh. I totally got sidelined. I guess Abba wanted me to know how it felt to be carried on the shoulders of the saints…so that instead of witnessing His mercies…I could experience them personally. So, to all my friends, family, and strangers who have been interceding on my behalf…thank you.
Dr. Schiller diagnosed me. The medicines will eventually heal me. But God is still good…I still have dignity...and you are all my personal heroes.