Saturday, March 21, 2015

My mystery illness. Solved?

     For the past year or so I've had a ridiculous amount of doctor's appointments. Mostly they are during the work week, too, so on my work calendar above my desk, I write them in, but use special initials or code names like "personal appointment" so that my co-workers and boss wont think "wow this girl is always sick (or a super hypochondriac) and never at work." Granted, I'm in grad school, so I have some flexibility in my work hours, but I still feel guilty about the amount of time I've taken off in my attempts to get healthy.

     I've seen multiple doctors, physical therapists, and a chiropractor, and was not getting any answers to why for months I was crippled with pain from my shoulder and ribcage.

     Last January I started getting constant rib, back and chest pain. The first doctor I saw gave me a range of blood tests, an EKG, and x-rays, only to determine that it was probably a mechanical problem and sent me over to physical therapy.

     After two weeks, the physical therapist said she couldn't help me and told me to see a chiropractor. The chiropractor thought I had sprained ribs, and said that I should feel relief after a couple visits.

     After another few weeks (last Thursday) the chiropractor became impatient, so he brainstormed alternative diagnoses with me. He felt my upper abdomen underneath my ribs and said it felt swollen. He told me to get an ultrasound because he thought the pain was coming from my gallbladder.

    About an hour later, I was able to get an appointment with a second doctor at my school's health clinic, and he was super skeptical about it being a gallbladder problem. I didn't consistently have nausea after eating, so I didn't have typical symptoms. Also being young, a healthy eater, and at a healthy weight, I lacked the risk factors for gallbladder problems. However he ordered an ultrasound for the next morning.

     That night, I stayed with a friend who would drive me to the hospital for my 5 am ultrasound. Her house was located next to a trail, so before dinner, I went for a run. Interestingly, I felt alright for 2 miles, but then that area below my ribs began to hurt. On the return trip, all I could think about is how much I wanted the pain to go away and how relieved I would be to have a diagnosis. Mile 3 was rough, but I ended up finishing the 5K in 31:58. Not bad I think.

    Yesterday morning, I went in for my ultrasound, and the technician immediately pointed out 4 large gallstones. They practically took up my entire gallbladder! And when I moved around a bit during the ultrasound, I could see them rolling from one side of the organ to the other. The chiropractor was right! Interesting, no?

     I haven't heard back from the doctor yet, but I expect I will sometime early next week. I can't help but wonder how long those four bad boys have been hanging out in there, because I've had stomach cramps and stuff for the past year or so. I thought the cramps were from tree nuts, so I stopped eating those.

    I also thought the cramping was caused by lack of fitness when running. I had severe cramping in my shoulder, ribs and upper back as well as nausea during the Portland marathon last fall, but now I'm wondering if all the up and downs of running jostled those gallstones and gave me a gallbladder attack mid race. I just assumed the cramping and stuff was from pushing my body too hard! I blamed myself for not being in good enough shape to handle the run. I had trained for the marathon 4 months, however, so at the time it was surprising that the race had gone so poorly.

Mile 20 of the Portland Marathon. I was feeling severe pain in my ribcage. Gallbladder attack?
But despite the pain I still finished!!

     Most of my runs since then have involved pain throughout my ribcage. I have basically ignored it though because I thought training would make me a stronger runner and relieve me of the cramping.

     At this point, I'm in rather constant pain, whether running or not, and I'm guessing I wont be able to run in April's half marathon or the 100K relay that I had planned on. I'm okay with that though because honestly my health is my first priority, and I'll do whatever it takes to get stronger, even if that means taking a running hiatus. Then after this illness is resolved I will become a faster, stronger runner!