When Gallbladders Attack

This post could alternatively be titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation at the Doctor.”

Hi, folks. Been a while.

I didn’t mean to take such a long hiatus from writing. It just sorta happened. You’d think that when life gets nuttier, I would run to the soothing salve of writing. Instead, I tend to bury my head in the sand. For any of you who have followed me for a long time, this probably isn’t news to you. I was on a really great streak for a while though, wasn’t I?

Okay, let’s get down to business. I’ll try to recap what’s happened since last summer and what has kept me away.

First and foremost, I started a new job, which took just about every ounce of energy I had for almost the entire year. Seriously. It wasn’t just ordinary stress of starting a new job, either. It was a doozy because the department I work in was going through a major transition. Myself and my colleague (who turned out to be awesome) just kind of grabbed on to each other for dear life and had a “make it work” moment à la Project Runway, except that it was twelve months of make-it-work moments. Things are much better now. Our office made it through the first year of transition and I am hoping the really rough stuff is behind us.

On top of that, Kevin and I finally left the house that tried to kill us. We moved into a great place and are very happy. Naturally, because it’s us, I have a story to tell about the adventures in the new place, but I’ll save it for later.

Adding insult to injury, our former landlords turned out to be giant pieces of crap in human form. The home’s condition probably should have tipped us off but we really didn’t know that we were dealing with legitimate scam artists. What I’m hoping happens, thanks to karma, is that they get back what they did to us and presumably countless others. They claimed we damaged their home to the point where they felt it necessary to hang on to our security deposit. They know it’s bullshit, we know it’s bullshit. But in the end, it would have cost way more time, money, and energy to prove we were in the right (which is exactly how they exploit their student tenants), and it ended up being more important just to get the hell out of there and never look back.

I’ll put it this way: the dog food in the oven was definitely not an accident and it was definitely in retribution for these people being truly awful. Even worse is that their daughter, who assists with their real estate business, is in on the whole scam. It’s like all three of them ripped off their human masks and underneath were writhing piles of rotting flesh. Graphic? Yes. Apt? Yes.

In general, 2012 ended up being a continuation of more bizarre health issues for me, as well. I’ll say this: being in my thirties has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for cell turnover rate in my twenties. By June, I was having some serious pain in my stomach, particularly when I would eat fattier foods. I don’t experience nausea very often–hardly ever–so when I started having nausea and dizziness (and confirmed that pregnancy was definitely not a plausible scenario) on top of a really full feeling in my stomach after eating, it got to the point where I went to an urgent care center on a Sunday.

The nurse practitioner ruled out appendicitis but ordered me to get an ultrasound after having an appointment scheduled with my primary care physician. Oh, that’s another thing–I finally got away from a really crappy doctor.

I was all over WebMD and Googling all my symptoms until I could figure out what could POSSIBLY be wrong with me. On the way home from the urgent care center, I came across some symptoms of a problem that mirrored exactly what I was going through: those of having a gallbladder attack. I had pretty much every single symptom on the list and it explained a lot, including having inexplicable pain on my upper right abdomen.

When I talked to my doctor later in the week and told her I was strongly suspicious I had been having gallbladder attacks, she dismissed this hypothesis of mine but ordered me to get an ultrasound, anyway. (She was a real winner.) The ultrasound was a really non-traumatic albeit expensive experience, which ended up not showing much. I didn’t have gallstones but my gallbladder was also not functioning, either. They give you this shot of stuff to stimulate your gallbladder and then monitor how it works while you’re in the ultrasound.

My doctor was smart enough to send me to a surgeon to talk to me about my gallbladder issues, however. Long story short, the surgery was scheduled in August and I had it taken out through the magic of laparoscopy. It’s hard to describe the pain when your gallbladder is giving you the finger and refuses to work, but essentially, if you aren’t properly digesting fats in your diet, your whole digestive system just like, shuts the hell down. So my little gallbladder had become inflamed and was throwing a shit fit and needed to be removed altogether. I am in the rare percentage of people, around 5%, who have their gallbladders removed without having any gallstones. Makes me feel special, all right.

I had never had major surgery before and the whole notion of having something I was born with, a formerly functioning ORGAN just totally removed, really scared the bejeezus out of me. Kevin was a trooper and waited until after everything went smoothly to tell me he had been terrified, too. I was glad I didn’t know at the time. Being wheeled on a gurney into this cold, sterile room filled with trays, bright lights, and stainless steel utensils that you just know are going to be inside of you had me tearing up something fierce. I was and am so incredibly grateful that everything went routinely and I was just another successful gallbladder removal case. The surgeon had a sense of humor and was from New York. Somehow that was comforting to me as a scared patient.

After I got the little bugger removed and I was finally on the mend, I thought I would magically bounce back to some supreme state of being. 2012 laughed and said, “Oh, Zoe. You’re cute to think so.”

I had been experiencing all kinds of whack things that I just attributed to having a faulty gallbladder: acid reflux, tinnitus, incredible fatigue, and on and on. As life would have it, all of those things continued. Not one of them changed.

Fast forward a few more months and I finally do more research and plan to go back to get more lab work done; this time with a different clinic system. Evidently my iron levels have been in the toilet for quite some time and when that happens, it sends your entire functioning-as-a-human-being thing out the window. Extremely low iron levels can not only mimic hypothyroidism, which I thought I had, but can cause a whole slew of symptoms as I was experiencing, including but not limited to digestive problems and inflammation of organs, causing them to crash and burn.

Ding!

There is always the chance that I was always going to have my gallbladder out because all of my mother’s siblings have theirs out. So, shittygallbladderitis runs in the family. But since I’ve been my own medical researcher for a few years now and I’m still making a comeback with my health, I’d venture a quasi educated guess and say my low iron levels are the culprit of my chronic ailments.

The upshot is I was not only able to switch to a primary care physician who treated me like a human being and is a nice person to talk to, but my lab results confirmed that indeed I need to consume lots and lots and LOTS of iron to get my levels back to where they need to. As I’ve been taking my iron supplements diligently and consuming lots of delicious red meat and spinach, I’ve noticed a reduction in some of the symptoms that have plagued me for a while. By no means am I out of the woods but at least there appears to be a proverbial trail of bread crumbs for me to follow.

While it’s scary as all getout to go to the doctor, even and especially when you know something is really, really wrong, as I did, it is so much better to figure out what the heck is going on and get it taken care of. It also made me a hundred times more thankful for the healthcare plan my employer provides, because I had been without a healthcare plan since I left New York City. Having consults and labwork and endless blood drawn and a surgery still cost me a lot of money we didn’t have immediately on hand (thank you, Discover Card), but looking back from the privileged standpoint of hindsight gives me reassurance that I absolutely did the right thing by paying attention to what my gut was literally telling me.

2013 has already been a better year on the health spectrum than the last two years combined. I am hopeful the streak will continue but I have come to realize how much my health lies in my own hands. It is all about the daily self care, even down to something seemingly simple like taking iron and vitamin supplements to make sure my cells are functioning properly, which then means I can hold down a job, pursue hobbies, and walk around and do stuff like spending time with friends and family. You know, little things like that.

Last but not least, I want this to be the rebirth of getting back to mental and spiritual side pursuits, as well–like writing!

For now, je suis revenue.

Until next time, friends.

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Triumph of the House

The last time I wrote on the subject of the home I’m living in, we had just discovered something bizarre (and gross) in the oven.

Prior to that, I lamented quite a bit on the struggles of living here due to the home’s age and lack of upkeep on the landlords’ part. I also ascribed to the house a somewhat sinister personality, as if it were taking a page out of a Stephen King novel.

I really wish that were the end of the shenanigans. Since my last update, we discovered we had a mouse in the kitchen (January 1, in fact). He’d created a “nest” at the bottom of our trash can. We have a “fancy” trash can that has a separate inner liner than the outside of the can where the pedal is. The mouse had figured out a way to get in through an infinitesimally small vent hole on the underside of the trash bin and began chewing larger holes on our inner liner.

We laid some poison traps and the little guy liquified shortly after that at the bottom of the can. I really wish I could talk sense to mice instead of having to kill them outright but it’s just not how it works. A month or two later, we discovered another invader had found his way in but he liked to crawl around on our kitchen counters. A fast-acting mouse trap did the trick then, and ever since, we have been blissfully mouse free.

Oh but I’m not done yet.

A couple of months ago as I came home from work, I had another lovely surprise awaiting me. As I crossed the threshold of the front door, an eight-inch green garter snake fell from the door jamb above me and fell onto my neck and shoulder before falling to the floor. I promptly proceeded to scream bloody murder. Thankfully, Kevin was already home and was just in the kitchen, so he came running. He managed to grab the snake by its tail and throw it out into the front yard. Why was there a snake in the door jamb? Why, indeed. It’s just this house. It’s “quirky” like that. It’s not because it wants us gone or anything.

As you can imagine, between the recent rodents, the snake(s), the bugs, our strange landlords, and the fact that we can barely keep from getting hypothermia in the winter, we put up our white flag.

White flag

Courtesy of gct_ch on Flickr.

You win, house. I just don’t have it in me to battle this shit for another year, particularly in the winter.

By the end of January, we’d made up our minds that we’d be signing a new lease elsewhere, vacating sometime in July. Due to the competitive nature of rental homes in our area because of the influx of students and professors, we started immediately. Turns out tons of people prefer to have a relatively spacious place to live with multiple bathrooms, a great location, a driveway and/or a garage, updated appliances, and a decent landlord who allows dogs.

If we really wanted to get everything on our wishlist, we were going to have to compromise in rent. By a LOT.

After being let down with a few properties and at least one landlord, we incorporated apartment complexes back into our housing search and to make a long story short, we eventually found a townhouse apartment at a place that was reputed to have great service and actually maintained the premises. The entire experience of working with them is how things should go with a prospective landlord.

So our little housing fairy tale has a happy ending, after all.

We’re counting down the weeks until we move. Even Kevin is thrilled and moving is his number one most hated activity. We also successfully endured our landlords showing the place to potential renters for five weeks, which is a separate story unto itself. A set of new people rented the house by some grace of God. I wish I could leave them a note of how best to handle winters and everything else here but I know it’s not my place to do so.

The house may have gotten the best of us but I couldn’t be happier about surrendering.

SEE YA!