Life isn’t always easy. It is beautiful and frustrating and enraging and joyous, but rarely is it easy. And that is okay most of the time! What kind of journey would it be if it was easy? Probably not one worth taking, I’d guess. And so, we keep going. We get knocked down, get back up again and keep moving. We have to; we can’t just get stuck.
I have mentioned before that I have a circus of a body. I find new and “interesting” issues that need to be dealt with, and visit my doctor to start a new journey as they come up. Since I’m coming down from my most recent journey now, and since this is one of the quotes I remind myself of at these times, I thought it might be time to share. Hopefully those of you who can see yourself in this journey (whether medically or life related) will feel that you have a compadre – because believe me, I get it!
About six years ago, I started experiencing chest pain. I couldn’t explain it, it was truly out of the blue, and I’d never had a problem in this area before. I went to urgent care, where they did an EKG. Everything was normal. I was told (at that time), that the pain was likely leftover medical gas from a surgery that I had about six weeks prior and I shouldn’t worry. Okay, weird, but back to life as usual.
The pain started up again about a week later, so I went to see my primary care doctor. She and I have developed a very friendly and professional relationship, so I knew that it was time to start a real journey and try to assess the problem, since clearly it was sticking around. She knows that my tagline is, “I’ve got stuff to do,” (take care of the kids, my husband, our lives, my job, the house, etc.) but we both know when things need to be addressed. She sent me for a stress test and bloodwork, and all came back okay.
Long story short, after seeing several different specialists, I had my gall bladder removed (it had stones galore) and was also diagnosed with esophageal spasms. Great, can we be done now? Not so fast! The gall bladder being removed didn’t change the pain (but it wasn’t working, so it’s good that it came out), and while I always know when I’m having a spasm, that’s not what this chest pain was. During this time, I saw another doctor who mentioned (in passing) that she’d had patients who have had enlarged livers (as I am also diagnosed with) complain of similar pain. So I figured, okay! It’s my liver. It’s not going to kill me, I have other chronic pain conditions, so this is nothing new, and my doctors know about it. Time to go on with my life.
Over the next four years, my “liver” began to hurt more and more. It was associated with eating, but that was the only specific correlation that I could place. And because I was dealing with some other medical issues, this got pushed to the wayside (by me), and other things took precedence when I saw my doctor.
I am not one who complains too much, and that is probably to a fault. So, during this time of “liver pain,” I didn’t say a word. I figured that I knew what it was, I was dealing with other things that had to take priority, and it just was what it was. Then one day my husband caught me wincing while driving and holding my right-upper quadrant. He asked what was wrong and I told him it was nothing, my liver just hurt. In his most calm and amused manner, he replied, “Honey, livers don’t hurt.” I said, “Well, mine does!” and changed the subject. Secretly at home, I Googled the liver and found out that he was indeed right. Sigh. The sigh isn’t because he was right (he’s right a lot!), but because I wasn’t done. I was tired, I didn’t want to deal with any more at the time, and I knew that I had no choice.
I went to my primary care doctor and began my new journey while ramping down the medical adventure I’d just come from. I was sent back to my gall bladder surgeon for a battery of tests, all of which came back negative. Let me be clear – these negatives are always a good thing! But when you just want to know what’s wrong with you, you’re kind of hoping for anything to be positive.
At this time, I went to a physical therapist for about six months. The thought was that maybe I had adhesions growing in my body cavity. I have other adhesion issues, so this would have certainly fit. My PT was a talented woman who agreed with the diagnosis, and worked heavily trying to loosen (while I laid on my back and she pushed into my chest/belly) any internal adhesions she might suspect through touch. While I felt like I learned a lot about my body from my PT, it didn’t help or change the pain. So, I went back to my primary care, where we agreed that the best course of action was to see if my gall bladder surgeon would go back in and look for adhesions – or whatever the culprit was.
I had exploratory surgery in early 2017, where he found scar tissue from my old surgeries and extremely minimal adhesions. This was good news, yet the journey continued. A week before this surgery, and in passing, a different one of my doctors said that she had had one patient in the past who had experienced something similar to what I’d been describing and as unlikely as it sounded, it ended up being a spinal issue. So, if the surgery yielded nothing, maybe take a look at my spine?
After seeing my primary care for a check-in after the surgery (You see why we’ve become friendly? We spend a lot of time together!), she ordered an MRI of my thoracic spine. Low and behold, I have spinal stenosis and two bulging discs. Because of where they are located, there is no explanation other than genetics and we never would have considered my spine since there was no back pain. Injections in the area helped solve some of the problem, and another doctor is orienting my ribs, which appear to be turned inward (Why? No clue.) and bruising/restricting my intestines on the right side. This is another piece of what is happening, but it’s likely not the last one.
Now, I am taking a break. I no longer have the energy to fly, run or walk in this area of my life, so I will continue to crawl toward the next test/pain/issue until I get back on my feet again. This is a marathon, not a race, as anyone with chronic pain, chronic conditions, and/or body circus issues will tell you. And my bottom line is always “livable.” If my body condition is livable at any given time, that’s good enough for me. I’ve got things to do!
My point in telling you this story is that I hope that you will keep on keeping on when you need to. When you don’t have the energy, lean on the people closest to you. It is your journey, not theirs, but sometimes we need to go at our own pace or hold someone’s hand along the way. I am very lucky to have an incredible support system in my family and husband, and although I don’t talk a lot about my health journey with anyone other than him, having my husband’s hand there to hold helps me get to the next check-in point. You do not always need to be running towards the next “thing” in life – particularly if you’re talking about something that is a great distance away. If you cannot run, walk, and if you cannot walk, crawl. Just hang in there and you will make it.