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The Fire of a Thousand Suns

August 1, 2013


How many of our wonderful readers have been through labour? Go ahead, raise your hand. It’s OK if people are around, you can just raise it a little bit. OK. You remember what that was like, right? Waves and waves of intense pressure and pain (don’t let anyone fool you: labour hurts because it’s not just pressure) that got worse and worse and worse until yay! There’s a baby! Then it was over and you got to ride a wave of delicious mama-baby bonding endorphins. OK, now imagine for a moment that one of those waves of pain that made you whimper, that made you stop everything you were doing and just HANG ONTO SOMETHING, didn’t stop. It just went on and on and on for hours — no wave, no minute or even a 30-second break, just a seemingly endless fire in your body that won’t go out no matter what position you take or meds you swallow.

Friday night that was me. My gallbladder was acting up after I made the enormous mistake of having two hamburgers for dinner instead of just one. In my defense, I make a damn good burger and I was HUNGRY after running after the kids all day. A couple of hours later I was feeling it, and a couple hours after that it was to the point where I couldn’t cope.  Finally at 3:30 a.m., Ryan called me a cab to the hospital for sweet, sweet drugs. As before, not only was the pain horrible, but I was also nauseated. After worshiping the porcelain god twice, I went down to my cab. The hallways to the elevator seemed a mile long and the ride downstairs took a week. Then — nothing. The pain was gone. It was as if a switch was flipped somewhere inside me and my gallbladder just stopped freaking out. Done. Over. I asked the cab driver to bring me home. He was as confused as I was, but did as I asked.

I didn’t start feeling all the way better until late Sunday, as I spent a goodly part of Saturday in pain too, but not so much that I couldn’t cope. When I saw my specialist last Wednesday I mentioned to him that my family doctor said I have the three out of four Fs that mark me for gallbladder problems; fertile, female, fat. The last F is for 40, but I’m only 29. He nodded, but thankfully didn’t make a big deal out of my weight after I told him that I run (not as much as I was a month or two ago, though) and eat a good diet. Yay for being a “good fatty” and my average-sized/small-fat privilege. I’m sure if I was larger he would’ve tried to tell me to lose weight instead of agreeing to remove my gallbladder in 2-6 months. I AM fat, but I don’t think my weight has anything to do with my gallbladder trying to assassinate me in my sleep.Assasins

Staring down that long of a wait, combined with over 24 hours of alternating soreness and actual pain, I was trying to think of ways to ensure I don’t have any more attacks. It looks like a low-fat diet is in the works, and dropping hamburger altogether (it’s the only common trigger I can think of in the months this has been going on). I fear more weight loss is in my future, but in order to keep from getting KO’ed by my own body, I don’t think I have much choice. My body is saying “Listen lady, stop doing X and I’ll stop doing Y.” It’s not a tough choice to make, or at least it shouldn’t be. Listening to your body is one of the first tenets of the HAES movement and definitely up at the top of the list of Ways To Start Loving Your Body. However, as with all the health decisions I’ve made lately, I fear people will conflate running and now this low-fat thing that I’m going to try with deliberately trying to lose weight. Maybe I should stop giving a rat’s ass about what people think so much, but at the same time, maybe people should stop giving a rat’s ass about what other people do with their own bodies.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2013 11:01 am

    I have experienced the gall bladder pain two times in my life…. It *is* as intense as the fire of a thousand suns! And I’m no whimp when it comes to pain.
    The only common denominator for both those instances was nuts- cashews to be specific. After I suffered through the second experience (I was on a 4-day mini-vacation in the mountains and wasn’t about to ruin it by spending 24-36 hrs in an ER — *IF* there was one anywhere locally, that is), I promised myself that if I should ever experience that pain again, I would insist on a gall bladder extraction – immediately! So far, so good…. [knock on wood]… it’s been about 15 yrs since that last attack. I feel for ya, Jen. Stay vigilant, stay well!

    • JeninCanada permalink
      August 1, 2013 12:49 pm

      Wow, cashews, eh? That’s too bad because they’re so delicious! I dont’ know if I could *insist* on an extraction, but Ryan said last night (because I was in pain again for no reason we could figure out) that if my pee went orange like it did during the episode I wrote about, I should go to the hospital ask them to take it out right then. Yellow and red make orange, and he was afraid that maybe there was blood in my urine. Fun times! Thanks for the comment.

  2. vesta44 permalink
    August 1, 2013 12:54 pm

    My first gallbladder attack happened when I was 32. I thought I was having a heart attack, until the pain didn’t quit. I had two attacks in one week, and went to the doctor to find out what was wrong. Was told I probably had gallstones, and that my gallbladder needed to come out. But, my doctor told me I was too fat to have surgery (I weighed 350 lbs at the time), and that he wouldn’t recommend surgery until I lost at least 100 lbs. Told him it wasn’t happening, that I had dieted before and not been able to keep the weight off, so dieting was out! He referred me to a surgeon, and said it was up to him whether I was “healthy enough” to undergo that big a risk (because fat people take longer to heal, have more bad reactions to anesthesia, and every other thing they can think of to keep fat people from having any surgery but WLS). I talked to the surgeon and the anesthesiologist, and neither of them saw any problems with my health that would keep me from going through with the surgery (surgeon said he would rather take it out while it was just acting up, instead of waiting until it burst, which was a distinct possibility with the severity/frequency of the attacks I’d been having). So I had my gallbladder surgery, and was out in 7 days, instead of the two weeks that my doctor had predicted. My staples also came out sooner than he thought would happen, and I also took less pain medication than he thought I’d need (I love proving doctors wrong). I was hospitalized for it because they didn’t do it laparascopically back then (this was 28 years ago), so I also have a huge scar that runs from the center of stomach around and below my ribs on my right side. But I’d rather have the scar and no pain, than no scar and that pain. It was definitely worse than childbirth – had me curled up on the floor, trying to find a comfortable position (there wasn’t one). And there was no relief from it while the attack was happening, the pain didn’t quit until the attack stopped (and nothing I took worked to get rid of the pain, either).
    One of the things the surgeon told me was that for a lot of fat women, gallbladder attacks can be brought on by repeated weight loss/weight gain – our infamous yo-yo dieting. He told me after the surgery to quit dieting, and worry about keeping my weight stable since I seemed to be really healthy and healed well (now why aren’t more doctors like him?). Wish I’d remembered that when my NP recommended WLS. . . . .

    • JeninCanada permalink
      August 1, 2013 12:58 pm

      My doctor said too that rapid weight gain or loss can cause gallbladder problems; in my case I think the big weight loss after Kat was born is what’s triggered it. I love love LOVE that you proved your doctor so wrong on so many things. I’ll be having the smaller laproscopic surgery with four small incisions when it’s my turn, and it’s only a day surgery (or so they tell me). Thanks for sharing!

  3. Elizabeth permalink
    August 1, 2013 1:51 pm

    I’ve known several people of various sizes with gallbladder issues, some of whom have had their gallbladders removed then been introduced to a new world of problems. I have yo-yo dieted — blessed be the fat people who have been more sensible — and never had a problem. There is some nutritional information available if anyone is interested; I think it would involve supplementation. Doctors, of course, will tell you supplementation does no good.

  4. Michelle. permalink
    August 1, 2013 9:41 pm

    For me, my gallbladder pain was worse than when I was in labor. I went to the ER and had to be put on Demerol. I instructed to undergo an abdominal scan by my primary doc, but they were unable to locate my gall bladder. But, the attacks stopped since then, so I haven’t followed up with any further tests. Maybe someone stole my gallbladder. If so, they can keep it. 🙂

  5. lifeonfats permalink
    August 1, 2013 10:24 pm

    I had my gall bladder out in 2001 after dealing with what I thought was extreme heartburn. The last attack was so bad I went to the ER and the doctor there immediately suspected it was my gall bladder and told me to get an ultrasound. Weight was never mentioned and I was never told to lose weight for surgery (I was about 320-330 at the time). I recovered quickly, was back to work in a week and only took Tylenol and ibuprofen for pain. Bad gall bladders run in our family. My grandfather, mother and brother all had theirs removed. I always wondered we were born with it if so many have to have it taken out! 😉

  6. August 1, 2013 11:31 pm

    Don’t forget recent pregnancy as a common trigger for gallbladder attacks, too.

    I’m sorry this happened to you! We haven’t experienced gallstones in our family, but DH had kidney stones and he was practically immobile from the pain. Awful awful awful stuff. Hope you feel better soon.

    I know money is beyond tight for you all right now; wonder if you can find a community acupuncture place? That might help you cope until surgery. You can’t find community acupuncture everywhere, but many larger cities have it. Works on a sliding scale and sometimes they will even barter for treatments. Acupuncture is not a cure-all but it’s amazing sometimes how much it can help.

    Hope you feel better soon.

  7. August 2, 2013 4:30 am

    “Maybe I should stop giving a rat’s ass about what people think so much, but at the same time, maybe people should stop giving a rat’s ass about what other people do with their own bodies.”

    Yes. This. Good luck with it and hope you’re well sooooon.

  8. Vic permalink
    August 5, 2013 9:45 pm

    I remember when my Grand-mother had her Gall bladder removed, my Mom has had many attacks but is terrified of surgery so never has had hers removed, she does follow a low fat diet. I had my 1st attack in my 30s and finally had my gall bladder out a few years ago. The pain–yes–really bad. Strangely I did not have stones, just sludge and it appeared that my gall bladder “died” –So the surgeon kept referring to “that pizza you eat” I told him I don’t eat pizza, when I want Italian I make lasagna or egg plant parmigiana. None the less he kept talking about Pizza. Weird. Anyway he clipped an artery while doing the surgery and I nearly bled out before he repaired the damage. Of course it was because I was fat–220 lbs–NOT because he was inept. So the out-patient procedure turned into 11 weeks of recovery and months of pain meds. A few months later my 30 year old daughter had hers out and oddly just last summer my 19 year old tiny grand-daughter had to have her gall bladder removed. When the Dr in her case ordered the tests, the nurses and other Dr thought he was nuts, how could a thin, young, healthy woman possibly have gall bladder problems?
    But she did. When I talked to the Dr and asked why he had those tests run, he said something I thought was very profound “The patient will tell you what is wrong if the Dr will just listen.” I wish they were all so open and concerned.
    Any way gallbladder problems are awful, so do what you can to minimize them, like I said my mom has avoided the surgery since her 30s (she is 80 now) with a low fat diet, so if that is what it takes, and you can tolerate it, go for it.

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