Gallbladder surgery….years later

I had my gallbladder removed quite a few years ago. I still remember the time leading up to it. I was diagnosed up in Michigan. The doctor said he could remove it and I would be back to normal. I remember thinking that it couldn’t be that easy. We must have it for a reason??? Taking something out of the body as if it was never there? Never had a purpose? Why do we even have it??

I put it off. Months passed and I found out I was being promoted and moving out of state. I moved and the surgery was pushed out of my mind. I didn’t have a doctor in the new state. I didn’t have the time. I was trying to prove myself.

I pushed the symptoms to the side. The doubling over in pain. The never knowing if it was safe to eat something for fear of getting sick. I always had to allow myself 30 min after eating to see if I was going to get sick or not. Most times, I did. After a year or three of hiding it, causing problems with my job because I was too afraid uncomfortable to tell them what was going on. I never really told anyone.

Then one day, the pain overwhelmed me enough that it had me doubled up in a fetal position. It even hurt to breathe. I went to the doctor and told them I was diagnosed up in Michigan as it being 80% damaged. This was over 3 1/2 years later! Needless to say, it was already done working. They couldn’t believe I had waited that long.

I went in and had it removed. I could not put it off any longer. I looked forward to having my life back pre-gallbladder failure. No pain. No waiting 30 minutes after eating to see if I was going to get sick.

I was WRONG!!! They don’t tell you how your body reacts after the surgery. The stomach pains that stab you as punishment for eating the wrong things. Yes, you have to be careful what you eat or you will regret it. Even that would be ok if you could figure out WHAT is the wrong thing! It never made sense. It was never the same thing. One day I could have a salad and be fine, another time and I would be sick for 2 hours. There were some things I learned to avoid. French fries at Cheddars. I would be fine anywhere else, so I’m guessing it had something to do with their oil but I cannot say for sure. After 5-7 trips there over a span of time, I decided it wasn’t worth it to eat there and I haven’t been back.

I’ve done more research and learned that “most” women are affected for a short time but only a small percentage are affected for longer periods. I think that is a lie. I don’t believe those numbers are accurate. I believe there are more like me. Overweight, mid 30s, that still suffers on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. I reference overweight because I think overweight women are less likely to share their embarrassing symptoms. All too often, the doctor’s response is, “Well if you’d lose weight, you wouldn’t have ______________________ (fill in whatever item to talked to them about). It gets tiring. Sometimes you want to say….NO, I know skinny women that have this problem as well! Instead, you just don’t mention it. It isn’t killing you, so you survive and deal with it.

As I’ve been losing weight, many things have changed. I am still overweight. It’s going to be a long process, but guess what HASN’T gotten better???? You guessed it, stomach pains, unexpected & unplanned trips to the bathroom, sometimes hitting you so fast that you get chills (similar to a fever) and goosebumps down your arms. Sometimes so sudden you don’t thing you are going to make it to a bathroom.

No, this topic IS NOT easy to write about but I’m writing it to be the voice of the women that aren’t willing to say it. If you are a woman suffering with this, tell your doctor. Swallow the embarrassment and talk to him or her and let them know how you’re feeling.

Still not ready to talk to them….here are some tips I have learned help me.

1. Breathe! Deep breaths. When you feel the stabbing pains, take nice deep slow breaths. It had helped to give me some more time.

2. Shut off the phone. I can’t explain it, but if I feel the pain and shut off all sounds and just concentrate on silence while I’m breathing, I can even get it to pass.

3. Pay attention to what you drank as much as you pay attention to what you ate. I have learned that some foods are fine as long as I drink water and not Coke. That’s not as hard now because I’m drinking more water. It sucked before I started my weight loss, but it was better than the pain.
(So the two things that ARE easier now that I’m losing weight really did not play a factor in it being better or worse).

4. Pay attention to what you ate AROUND your meals. For example, too much chocolate can trigger a reaction when you eat your next meal. Again, not a problem as I’m losing weight.

5. Give those around you a little heads up. Yes, it’s embarrassing but you don’t have to give them details. I used to explain to my co-workers that I don’t digest foods properly so sometimes I have to step away shortly after I come back from lunch. That way they knew I wasn’t just being a slacker and taking off for a few minutes so soon after lunch but they didn’t know the full extent.

6. Don’t let it stop you from living. Plan ahead and choose your meals wisely if you feel like it might be a bad day, but still enjoy life and have fun.

Recently I read that there is some medicine available for those that continue to suffer after their cholecystectomy. I have decided that I am going to mention it to my doctor the next time I go in.

If I do and I try it, I will update this post.

Most importantly, for the women that are like me and carry extra weight. I know it’s easy for your doctor to tell you it will be better if you lose weight. If that is their standard answer for EVERYTHING then it might be time to find a new doctor. Make sure that are really listening to you and your symptoms.

I will close with….had I known how bad it was going to be afterwards, I don’t know if I would have jumped at the surgery but then I remember the pain that had me doubled over at times. It’s a lose lose either way. Ugh!

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