As you might imagine, this was a bit alarming. We all pretty much expect our bodies to do its thing without much input from us, right? Breathe air; sleep when needed; digest food. I was pretty angry when my body stopped holding up its end of the bargain without so much as a courtesy call.
It’s been an ongoing problem since then, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here, I present to you the five things you’ll quickly realize when your body stops working right:
1. At first, you’ll rationalize it. As you might imagine, not being able to eat anything without immediately feeling nauseated and/or having to run to the bathroom was something I picked up on right away. Instead of being alarmed, I chalked it up to stress. I’m always under stress. I tend to take on too much, and I figured my body was just telling me to knock it off. Except then, when my stress load eased up a bit, it didn’t stop. And the pain got worse.
Did I go to the doctor at that point? Heck, no.
I stopped eating dairy. No change.
I stopped eating gluten. No change.
I stopped drinking caffeine. No change, except I was a cranky, miserable porcupine, and all joy was gone from my life.
2. You won’t want to tell anyone. But eventually, you’ll have to tell everyone. You may find this hard to believe, but it’s a bit embarrassing telling people you can’t meet them for lunch because you can’t be more than two feet away from a bathroom at any given time. Plus, the pain that now came with eating was kind of hard to mask—no matter how hard you try, sometimes it’s just plain impossible to keep from groaning while wincing in agony. So I had to tell some people—my family, of course. Some of my friends. I cancelled all social events and stopped going to the movies. And the store (grocery shopping held little joy at that point anyway—shelf after shelf of food I couldn’t eat). Pretty much anywhere except work or home.
Eventually, I had to start telling more people. I was avoiding everyone, and some of my friends were getting mad. I was falling behind on editing jobs because I couldn't balance my computer on my lap while in the bathroom. I was losing weight, and it showed. My mom looked scared. And everyone I told asked when I was going to go see someone about it. So I finally called the doctor.
3. Your doctor won’t care. My primary care physician got me in right away, but after she said things like “you need to see a specialist immediately” and “if you dehydrate any further, I’m putting you in the hospital,” the concern stopped. I called the specialist. Keep in mind that by this point, I’d been reduced to eating only broth and rice (and not always successfully) every day. I was nauseated all the time, and was running to the bathroom two to three times after every meal, broth or no.
The specialist gave me an appointment for two weeks out. TWO WEEKS. Fourteen more days of this hell, I thought. Then I’ll have answers.
Except I didn’t get answers. After those two weeks, I then had another ten days during which I went for a bunch of tests. All while still being unable to digest much of anything.
My specialist called to tell me she had the results from all those tests and procedures. Finally, an answer! She wanted me to come in to get the results and a plan of action. Twelve days from now.
I lost it. At this point, I’d had issues every day, every time I ate, for sixty days in a row. I cried. I begged them to tell me the results over the phone. I threatened to vomit and crap my pants while on the phone with them.
They moved the appointment up to three days later.
4. You’ll be terrified to get your results. There’s a word that nobody ever says, but always shows up in the WebMD symptom checker: cancer. I thought I was afraid of that. But as I was driving to the doctor’s office, I realized I was more scared of something else: what if they didn’t find anything wrong?
The good news: they did find something, and what I have is treatable and curable (and NOT cancer). The bad news: it takes three months to cure. My copay for one month’s worth of medication is $1,287.55. My doctor, incidentally, does not care (see number 3 above).
5. You’ll appreciate the little things much, much more. I had one evening—May 25, to be exact—when I was absolutely starving, and therefore ate an egg for dinner. One egg. And my body ... digested it appropriately.
I danced around the kitchen that night, singing made-up songs in honor of that egg. I called my mother. “I ate an EGG!” I announced, like I’d just won a Pulitzer. (She clapped.)
I also started being much more finicky about what I put in my body. I know there's going to be pain involved with anything I eat. I want to make it worth it. Gone are the days of dry chicken breast with a side of green beans. Hello, chocolate mousse cake for dinner.
Along the way, I also discovered one food that never gave me an issue: jelly beans. I can’t explain it. I don’t need to know why. Here’s what I do know: if you do find something like this on your journey, go for broke. Jelly Bellies, I salute you.
I’m happy to say I will soon be on the road to recovery. (I’m still fighting with the doctor to get a different medication that won’t cost more than my mortgage. They're ignoring my phone calls; see #3 above.) But here’s what I know now: don’t take anything for granted. If your body starts to malfunction, go to the doctor sooner rather than later. And thank God for the little things, like that wonderful, wonderful egg. And a supportive family. And understanding friends.
And bubblegum-flavored Jelly Bellies. Those are the best.