When Getting a Diagnosis Feels Like a Victory
Since January, I have been struggling with chronic, around-the-clock nausea. The kind of stomach sickness that chooses to either creep up on you in the middle of the bread aisle or hits you like a falling burgundy brick as you buckle up your seatbelt. At times, the nausea has come at me with little to no warning, not even a “hello, how are you?” – how rude! And at other times, it lingered and spun its web into every nook and cranny of my day. The unpredictability of each episode made it impossible to be a reliable member of society since I would feel fine one moment and obliterated the next. To say this symptom bothered me more than my daily migraine or recent battle with nerve pain should tell you something. Body, I almost broke up with you!
When the problem initially started, I wasn’t too concerned as I have endured similar battles of queasiness. The last bout I remember being as bad as this one was during my senior year of college, where I walked around the streets of New York City clutching the germ-ridden rims of trash cans with no tequila shots in sight.
But as the months have muddied by with zero relief (aside from the four to six hours of bliss I receive from my anti-nausea medication, which I can only take sparingly throughout the week), I started seeing my medical team more often out of sheer desperation. I longed for a sense of control. There were lots of “what if’s?” that never came to fruition, and several puzzled faces from my surgeon who said to me on many an occasion, “I wish I knew, Kat.” The conclusion that each specialist came to was this: I just have so many ailments in a certain part of my body (thanks brain/middle ear/facial nerve), that the signals were colliding. Simply put, I was a circuit board on overdrive; a jean pocket fraying at the seams.
Eventually, I gave up my search of answers and wanted to start working on acceptance. Acceptance of this new trial, acceptance of my new-new-new normal, acceptance of this season in my life where I have almost no control over what and how my body responds to simply being awake.
But then, on one last whim with my neurologist, he recommended me to a GI clinic where I went through an upper endoscopy procedure just to see. Highlights from that day include: when I woke up from anesthesia and squeezed my mom’s hand and said, “You’re still here!” as well as the giant stack of blueberry pancakes I don’t really remembering eating post-test.
And here’s the kicker, everyone. They found something! I have an esophageal ulcer! Yes, you read that punctuation correctly. I ended the announcement of my ulcer with an exclamation mark because this feels life-changing. I have always been the type of patient who has defied the odds of medicine and ended up with rare conditions and side effects. That’s me, the girl you read about in medical textbooks but never actually get to see a case like mine in person. But an ulcer? That’s normal people problems. And with a slight change in the foods I eat and a medicine that is currently coating my enthusiastic esophagus, I am slowly starting to feel better. I have gone from vomiting 10-12 times/week to one to two times. Sorry for the TMI, but this is substantial progress.
I tell you this story because there is a vital lesson of persistence in my almost-defeat. I almost rang the bell. I almost sealed the envelope on my own fate. But thanks to someone believing in my journey more than I believed in it myself, I am seeing the other side of what my body is capable of…healing. And that in itself was worth the hefty co-pay, don’t you think?
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Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.