Posts tagged ‘Conditions and Diseases’

EPI: We Can Lick It

Animal Rescue

Image via Wikipedia

Princess Celestia has a dog named Vito that she adopted from the animal shelter. He’s a large dog, probably a shepherd, maybe even purebred. When she took him home it didn’t take long for him to start losing weight at an alarming rate. He was also constantly having little “accidents.” He ate ravenously but suffered from chronic diarrhea, and, worse yet, seemed to be starving to death.

Many of you may read this and assume the dog is diabetic (as would be my first guess) or that the dog has pancreatic cancer. Both are good guesses. But you would be wrong. Vito’s problem is caused by the failure of his pancreas to produce necessary enzymes to digest food efficiently. His disease is serious and life threatening, but it is easily treatable.

Princess Celestia had to pay for many rounds of expensive testing for Vito before he was finally diagnosed. However, once Vito was properly diagnosed she had already found an internet forum for owners of dogs with EPI. EPI is Vito’s disease, and it is an acronym for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency.

The people on the EPI forum were able to put Princess Celestia in touch with other dog owners in the same situation, and they were able to help her with recommendations on medicine and enzymes and how to properly deliver enzymes to Vito. So, working in cooperation with her veterinarian and her friends on the EPI Forum, Princess Celestia was able to get poor Vito back into fighting shape.

EPI is a disease that is often fatally misdiagnosed or looked over. The people on the EPI forum are working to spread the word about EPI so no more dogs are put down or made to needlessly waste away. They are trying to raise awareness among veterinarians and to raise money towards research to combat the disease.

And now I’ve done my part by calling your attention to this website. If you’re an animal lover, then you should go check it out. You never know. You might save the life of a dog or cat one day…simply by knowing the symptoms of a rare but fatal disease.

June 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm Leave a comment

The Gall of My Gallbladder

Physicians perform laparoscopic stomach surger...

Image via Wikipedia

I almost never get indigestion. Last October, around the same time as my dog went blind, I had one violent attack of tummy ache. I left work early and took some Tums and laid down. Since then, nothing, until about three weeks ago, when I dared to eat Jack in the Box for breakfast. I would recommend that if you know that you have gallstones (which I didn’t) that you lay off the Jack in the Box.

Pretty soon after that I was experiencing some discomfort. Then I decided to get lunch from Short Bus Subs. Short Bus Subs are excellent, and they offer some healthier sandwiches. However, eating again aggravated my stomach issues, and I went home early because I was in so much pain. The pain was in my central abdominal area, and it was like heartburn, only it wasn’t heartburn. It didn’t reach that far. What it did do was make me violently ill. I threw up in the women’s restroom before I went home.

The next night I went over to the Mr. Brewsters’ so that I could ghost write a cover letter for a job interview. We had chicken and spaghetti. Again, I experienced discomfort of the same sort as before. I drove home and threw up in my kitchen sink. I couldn’t make it as far as the bathroom. That was a Friday night, and I had pain pretty much every day thereafter. It would go away when I went to sleep at night, and I’d wake up the next morning feeling alright. I never knew what was going to set it off. I would eat something and then live in hell for the rest of the day. That is, until the following Thursday.

Thursday I went home a half hour early because that was all I could stand. I felt bloated all the time, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And I couldn’t get rid of the air. I popped into bed, took a ton of acid reducers and Tums and lay there miserable while nothing happened. The next morning, more Tums and acid reducers, and I was just as miserable. The pain had kept me up half the night. I chatted one of my coworkers who works from home.

i am so sick to my stomach lately; i’ve been sick since yesterday, and nothing i take makes it any better

do you feel nauseous?


could be your gallbladder. you better go see a doctor.

So, I made an appointment with “my” doctor. Actually, my doctor was in India again, so I made an appointment with someone in her office. I rattle off my symptoms, and the doctor says, “That sounds like it could be your gallbladder.” And I said, “I thought so.” This is because I have the internet and can diagnose and prescribe for myself.

The doctor explained to me that he was going to send me to get an ultrasound. The ultrasound was to check out what was going on down there. If it was my gallbladder, then one of two things could happen. If it wasn’t so bad, then I could live with it until I could schedule a surgery. If it was as bad as he thought it was, then I would probably have to have emergency surgery. He gave me a prescription for some hydrocodone. I went in to work for only long enough to explain to them that I had to go home and take narcotics.

After about an hour, the doctor’s office called. A different doctor than the one I’d seen originally advised me to hold off and schedule the surgery for later. Then the doctor I’d seen originally had a nurse call and tell me to get myself to the emergency room where they would be expecting me for surgery. So, I packed my little overnight bag and drove myself to the emergency room.

Turns out they weren’t expecting me. In severe pain, I walked, with my loaded suitcase and my purse, back and forth from the emergency room to my doctor’s office and back again, twice. They could not admit me. The doctor’s office hadn’t sent the ultrasound or anything they needed. Well, it turned out that the doctor’s office had sent it. I was just asking the wrong people, apparently. When I finally got a bed in the emergency room, after nearly two hours of waiting, a doctor told me that he’d been waiting on me and asked me what took me so long. He was under the impression that I was in my doctor’s office when my doctor called him. No, I told him, I was in the comfort of my own home, enjoying my pain pill. Then I packed my little bag and drove myself here.

Now, when I finally got a bed in the emergency room is when life started to get better. They hooked me up to an IV and gave me morphine. Morphine? I thought that was what they gave to people who were about to die, like terminal cancer patients. Morphine! But seriously, I love morphine. I didn’t even realize how much pain I was in until they gave me the morphine. Wow! This morphine stuff is great.

They moved me to a bed in the hospital. I was going to have surgery the next day. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. Seriously, I think you’ve never had a gallbladder attack if you think I want anything to eat or drink. Go ahead and hook me up to that saline. I hadn’t eaten since just before noon of the day before. I never wanted to eat anything again for as long as I lived. What was eating but pain and misery? Eating: it’s so not worth it.

In the hospital, they wrapped my legs in these leg warmer pump thingies that they give you to prevent blood clots from surgery. When the orderly came to get me for surgery, first off, he helped me get my computer in my suitcase ‘cause he felt sorry for me, trying to keep the back of my hospital gown closed and close my suitcase at the same time. Then, he grabbed my fancy leg warmers ‘cause he said that they would charge me for new ones unless we took those with us. I am going to spend the rest of my short-lived life paying for this surgery, and every little bit counts. I loved the orderly.

I really don’t remember much about the first procedure, which was the gallbladder surgery itself. I was “under” before they put me under. It was a laparoscopic surgery, so that means that they cut a small incision on the right side of your abdomen, just under your rib cage, just right of your sternum. Then they poke two holes under the incision, further right. They pump you full of gas. They stick a camera inside of your abdomen, along with a light and a tiny vacuum cleaner, I think. Then they basically suck your gallbladder out of you and glue you shut. No kidding. They don’t sew or even staple anymore. They glue you. Someone should redo Operation as a video game and make the players perform simulated laparoscopic surgery. I think there could be some serious money in that.

After they sucked out my gallbladder, there was more! Once I woke up from the surgery they explained that they needed to do a second procedure to remove some gallstones stuck in a duct, along with some bile. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention. There was something about a wire going down my throat, and then a balloon, like an angiogram, and somehow the balloon was going to pick up on this bile and the stones. I wonder how that works exactly. Static electricity? When I woke up the second doctor (the balloon guy) said he “flushed” it four or five times, so he was pretty sure he got the last of the stones and crap. How do you flush something with a balloon? Maybe it was a water balloon. I think it should definitely be a part of the new Operation. Sounds fascinating.

That was Saturday afternoon, and I was told that it was possible that I might get out by Sunday. I called Lubbock, and she insisted on picking me up and having me stay with her for a night or two, and that’s what we did. I called the Mr. Brewsters, and they would have come to visit me on Sunday, but I got released from the hospital before they could make it there. Lubbock drove me to her home where I promptly swallowed two hydrocodone tablets and passed out on her couch. I slept right through the Charlie Sheen special on the Biography Channel. I slept right through a neighbor coming to visit. I slept until sometime in the early morning.

I didn’t get much sleep in the hospital. Someone was always waking me up to change an IV bag or monitor vital signs or poke me with something or other. Not to complain or anything, but I liked the day nurse better than the night nurse. At least he let me sleep some.

On the Tuesday following my surgery I had to go back to the hospital for some kind of test involving kidney function. I gave blood again. Then I decided to go to my doctor and see if the back pain I was experiencing was normal. My doctor couldn’t tell me if that was normal or not. So, I went to the balloon dude’s office, and that doctor’s nurse also didn’t know if it was normal to have back pain after gallbladder surgery. Seriously, haven’t these people heard of the internet? The balloon dude’s nurse sent me to the surgeon’s nurse, who just so happened to be a really hot guy.

Here is one foolproof sign that I am now a middle-aged woman. When I was in my 20s I remember delivering an entire comedic monologue while I was out to dinner with some friends, over pizza at EZ’s, about how I hated that doctors were always wanting to see me naked. I have a cyst on my face. The doctor wants to see me naked. I have chigger bites. The doctor wants to see me naked. I have hives. The doctor wants to see me naked. What is up with that? Why do I ALWAYS have to be naked? My modesty was offended. But on the upside, that little rant is how I came to date Dr. Mark, who found it amusing.

I no longer have any sense of shame or modesty. And I haven’t even had a baby. Now I practically volunteer to strip in front of anyone who says he’s a medical professional. The dermatologist who removed my cyst was really, really cute. And I remember being embarrassed about that somehow. With the hot nurse, I no longer care. I’m flipping up my shirt for the whole world to see my scars. Yes, the back pain was normal and was from the gas they pumped me full of. Both the hot nurse and the surgeon poked at my abdomen and declared me healed, then helped me up off the examining table.

After my hospital trip that Tuesday I went to Lubbock’s and hung out, watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie on cable. It was my last day to play hookie. I was going to work on Wednesday. When she got off work I nuked a dinner I’d purchased from Wal-Mart earlier in the day, while I was waiting on my prescriptions to be filled, and we ate dinner together. I think we were watching another Charlie Sheen special on TV.

I said, “You know what I love about surgery?”

Lubbock said, “Pain medicine.”

“That, too. But I was thinking about the sense of accomplishment that you get.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that everyone gets excited about milestones that you first achieved when you were a baby. Like, look, Ma, I can walk and eat solid food and pee in the potty by myself. Just wait ‘til I have my first bowel movement after the surgery!”

“I think that’s too much information.”

March 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm 3 comments

The C Letter

When I was in elementary school we spent some of my formative years living in the world’s smallest town – not really; it just felt like it. It was a town of less than 2,000 people. In this town, there was a boy in my class named Mark Mattson. Mark Mattson was a really mean kid, and he was particularly mean to me. He was a downright little jerk.

Now, looking at this from the attitude of an adult, I can see that the kid had a lot to be a jerk about. Since we lived in a small town everyone knew everyone else’s business. Mark was the youngest of three brothers born to an alcoholic lawyer father who had since sobered up, and an alcoholic mother who had not. His father left his mother for a younger woman, and Mark was the only kid young enough to still have to live at home with a bitter drunk. This might have been enough to make any otherwise nice kid mean. When you’re a kid, though, you just think that other kid is mean, mostly because the kid was MEAN.

When I was in the third or fourth grade, poor Mark Mattson got cancer. He had lymphoma to be exact, although I don’t remember any details about it beyond that, and I’d be shocked if we knew them. Mark went away for an extended stay at a children’s hospital that specialized in treating pediatric cancers. During this time everyone in our class at school had to write a get well card to Mark Mattson.

Mine read like this:

Dear Mark,

You know that I don’t like you very much. I cannot tell a lie. You’ve been mean to me.

Even though I don’t like you, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, and I hope you get well soon and don’t die.


Gooseberry Bush

Yep. I was like George Washington with axe, ahem, I mean pen in hand. Mark Mattson recovered from his bout with cancer and returned to Tinytown. In fact, you’ll be happy to hear that I can find him on Facebook, which means that he survived to live to nearly forty years of age so far, a kind of remarkable feat for anyone with childhood cancer.

When Mark came back to school, there was much fanfare and hoopla and cake and a party. Mark got up and spoke to everyone and thanked us for our letters and well wishes. He gave a special shout out to me. He read my letter outloud to the class and teachers and parents who were present and then collapsed in hysterical laughter and thanked me personally.

Who knows? Maybe laughter really can cure cancer.

To my credit, I was at least embarrassed by this scene. And all kidding aside about the healing power of laughter, maybe I learned a lesson that there is such a thing as too much honesty. Maybe some things should just remain forever unsaid.

October 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm 1 comment

Food Revolution


Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

Image via Wikipedia


I don’t write much about my diabetes. This is mostly because it’s not one of my favorite subjects. The fact that I suffer from diabetes that, in part, is probably attributable to my own lifestyle choices, is shameful. I do eat more healthful fare since I found out, but today is not the day to give you a rundown on what I’ve eaten. I’ll do it anyway. I think I’ve probably eaten a typical American diet today.

1 plastic Solo cup of Lactaid skim milk with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate syrup

1 chocolate frosted donut (I didn’t buy it, but my boss did, and I could hardly be rude)

1 Gala apple

1 Double Stack hamburger off the Extra Value Meal at Wendy’s

This is not a diet of which my doctor would exactly approve. Now, to be fair, I don’t usually eat this badly most days. The fact is that most Americans eat pretty poorly. We don’t get nearly enough fruits and vegetables. The “grains” we eat are usually found in sugary cereals and bleached white bread. We eat processed foods: processed meat, processed cheese, fake everything. News flash: fruit “snacks” are not fruit, and pop tarts do not provide your daily serving of fruit. I don’t care what the package says.

In case you haven’t heard enough about our country’s growing obesity crisis, I’ll add to the message. I won’t lecture you, though. At nearly 200 pounds and 5’3” tall, I have no room to talk. I am America’s obesity crisis, even after a recent significant weight loss.

What I do want to write about is changing things around for America’s children. It’s too late for me. High blood pressure and diabetes are something I’m going to have to live with and manage for the rest of my life. But it’s not too late for America’s children.

I read an article about a bill that some people were trying to push through Congress to increase the funding for school lunches. The quality of school lunches in America has been abysmal since before I was a child. I grew up in the Reagan era, when ketchup was actually declared to be a vegetable. Seriously.

The British chef, Jamie Oliver, is trying to change things for America’s school children by teaching school districts to create healthy meals for children using real, whole and nutritious foods. He wrote an article on The Huffington Post about this school lunch bill, and I agree with him. It’s appalling that we haven’t increased the funding for school lunches in how many years? I think his article said that it had been over thirty years. Considering that the school lunch program is the only “decent” meal that some kids get in a day, it’s scary that the meals aren’t actually decent. As an adult, I can make my own food choices, but our children are forced to eat what we provide for them.

I would urge you to contact your congressman and let him know that you think that our kids deserve decent, healthy food. Whether you have children yourself or not, this involves our health as a nation. Think about it. When you and I are old, who’s going to be contributing to our Social Security (if it survives that long)? The same young people that we’re now forcing to eat crap, that’s who. Don’t you want them to be healthy enough for you to enjoy your sunset years? I sure do.

October 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment

Diabetes, Diabetes

Diagram shows insulin release from the Pancrea...

Image via Wikipedia

The other day someone mentioned the word and sang it like the chorus of the old beloved standby, “Diarrhea.” I’d love to make up verses for that.

When you’re feeling really tired

And you’re pissing like a racehorse

Diabetes, diabetes

Okay. Maybe I shouldn’t be a songwriter. I just couldn’t think of any symptoms that rhymed. You try it.

I was diagnosed around two years ago, and I was very lucky because the worst complications I endured were a huge unexplained weight loss (What a bummer. I’m still eating, I’m not exercising, and I’ve lost six dress sizes!) and a yeast infection. That was the first yeast infection I had ever had, and if keeping my blood sugar under control will keep me from getting yeast infections I will do whatever is necessary to keep my blood sugar under control, even if I do have to work at losing weight now.

My blood sugar was hovering at around 400 at the time. I had a co-worker who was married to a diabetic man. Her husband’s brother was also diabetic but didn’t bother with diet, exercise or medicine and ended up in the hospital, temporarily blind. His blood sugar at the hospital was found to be 500. So, I consider myself lucky.

I should have known I was diabetic before I was diagnosed. Actually, I did suspect it. There is a strong genetic factor on both my father’s and mother’s side of the family. My parents are also diabetic. I knew that I had gained a huge amount of weight by drinking alone and feeling sorry for myself. I was getting up to pee in the middle of the night. Sometimes I would get up to pee more than once in the middle of the night. I was unbelievably thirsty. Nobody thinks anything is weird about this during the day in the spring, summer and even fall in Austin. It can be hot. But when you wake up in the middle of the night to pee and then are so thirsty that you drink an entire two liter bottle of Squirt, let me clue you in on the fact that this is not normal behavior.

I was also tired all the time. I didn’t even realize just how tired I was until I got on medicine and started eating better and making an attempt to exercise. (Being intrinsically lazy, exercise is the hardest part of this equation for me.) Once my blood sugar returned to near normal levels I started to feel good again. I didn’t get happy overnight, but I had more energy, and I felt better.

When you’re diagnosed as a diabetic nowadays you’re given a blood sugar monitor and all sorts of diabetes education, a consultation with a dietician. What I learned is that when you are diabetic your pancreas either doesn’t make insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin, or your body has become resistant to insulin. This causes your body to be unable to remove the sugar from the food you eat that is in your bloodstream. Your body needs that sugar for energy, for the fuel it uses everyday to survive. Without insulin, the sugar can’t get to the cells where it’s needed. When it can’t get the energy it needs your body feels tired. The sugar must be removed from your body if it can’t be used, and that’s what causes you to pee all the time. You could think of the sugar in your body as being like food that’s expired. You can’t eat it. You get rid of it by throwing it away. An untreated diabetic’s urine will contain so much sugar that insects are attracted to it, for the sweetness.

I’d be lying if I said that I was happy to be diabetic. What sort of moron would wish that on herself? It did cause me to have to confront my own mortality and forced me to make certain lifestyle changes. It even caused me to change my mind about certain dreams, like children. It also came with medicines that I don’t enjoy taking. I never wanted to be one of those people that’s a walking pharmacy. However, I know that I need to take these medicines, for now, anyway. Maybe that will change at some point in the future if I continue to make changes for the better.

Some days are better than others, of course. I have days where I eat too much or don’t work out or drink too much. Alcohol, being full of sugar in all its many forms, is something I have to watch now. But perhaps the fact that something came along that really forced me to take a look at the quality of my life is a blessing in disguise.

June 17, 2009 at 10:40 am 2 comments

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