This ‘n That ‘n Spoke Too Soon…

Greetings, my friends,

My, what a busy September it’s been…

I guess my first news to report is that when I reported last month that I’d discovered a “magic pill” that helped so much with my gastroparesis, I apparently rejoiced prematurely.  For the last few weeks, despite taking the HCL, I’ve been back to vomiting almost daily.  I also found that even though the HCL is supposed to help digest food and move it along out of the stomach, I’m back to being able to eat just about nothing except grilled cheese sandwiches without feeling incredibly sick.  I have noticed that over the past few weeks, I’ve also been under a more-than-usual amount of stress, so as I reported before, I definitely believe there’s a direct correlation between stress and the gastroparesis.

So, in addition to toilet hugging being my pastime these past few weeks, I’ve been freezing despite the upper 90+ degree weather, I’ve been exhausted, and my hair’s been falling out again.  However, despite these annoying little things, it didn’t occur to me until last week that they are actually “symptoms” and put together, they likely mean I’m anemic again.  So, I started back on the iron and B-12, and I have an appointment for bloodwork coming soon.  My hope is that once the stress goes, the gastroparesis will flee, I’ll stop puking, and I’ll be able to eat a better variety of foods and get nutrients so these things will stop happening.

In other news, I entered a caption contest for The New Yorker, but I was not selected as a finalist.  However, the finalists that were selected were all really good, so I don’t mind losing to them.

I ran across a Halloween decoration a couple of weeks ago that was similar to a Christmas village… Only this wasn’t a village, per se, but more like an interactive creepy carnival.  Well, needless to say, the carnival theme reminded me a lot of the “Zombiefest” setting for my book Thou Shalt Not, so between my sister and a couple of friends at work, I was persuaded to buy this carnival and make it my own.  I can’t find a great video that shows everything, but this one isn’t too bad:

To tell the truth, I didn’t actually plan on spending that much, or on even owning so many Halloween decorations in the first place, but once I went to the store to price them, it turned out they were already picked over since I visited the store the week before, so I had to have them at that point.  Then, when I realized the store I was in didn’t have everything anymore, I then made it my mission to drive all over Central Florida until I had successfully collected every available piece.  And now, to justify spending WAY too much money on a decoration I’ll likely only be able to display a couple of days because if left up any longer, my cats will surely destroy it, I’m afraid I’m going to have to host a Halloween party so that people can see it.  If you think you’ll be in Florida near the end of October, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you an invitation. (I’ll post photos once I have it all set up.)  If anyone has any favorite Halloween recipes to share with me, I’d sure appreciate it.

I entered four short stories in a Writer’s Digest contest earlier this year, and I was notified that one of them received an Honorable Mention.  Woo Hoo!  No, I wasn’t a finalist, but that was still pretty cool news.  Yay, Team Rachel!

Since my last post entitled “The Raven,” I’ve actually taken on the project of trying to memorize Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.  So far, I’ve learned 11 out of 18 stanzas.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

And finally, I wrote an opening sentence in a Writer’s Digest contest where you are to write one opening sentence only based on a photo that they give, and my sentence was selected as a finalist in that contest.  Squeeeeeee!  And THIS is where I could use YOUR help…

If you’re registered at the Writer’s Digest site, would you please vote for me in the comments section?  (Mine is Sentence “B”:  b. Paralyzed with fear, Cole didn’t even have to look over his shoulder to know the kayak that’d been following him for miles was empty.)  The link to the contest is here: http://www.writersdigest.com/your-story-competition/your-story-76-submit-now

If you’re not registered at the Writer’s Digest site, would you please send an email to: YourStoryContest@fwcommunity.com with “Your Story 76 Vote” in the subject line and write SENTENCE B in the body of the email?

Thank you so much!  I’m forever grateful to those of you who vote.

So tell me… How do YOU celebrate Halloween?

East Meets West

Greetings, Friends,

As you know, I’ve had more than my fair share of health issues for the last several months.  I vomited daily for almost a year.  I had a severely infected gallbladder that had to be removed.  I had a calcified gallstone dropped inside me during surgery which caused some horrific aftermath.  I had every test known to man to find the root cause of my digestive issues.  And I had some of the rudest, most unhelpful doctors I’ve ever had the displeasure of treating with in my life.

I’m now happy to report that I finally have some answers.  I was diagnosed with idiopathic gastroparesis.  Of course idiopathic means there’s no known cause.  For those of you who don’t know what gastroparesis is, it mostly occurs in people with diabetes, which I do not have.  (Hence, why it’s idiopathic in me.)  Basically, it’s when the vagus nerve is damaged and your digestive system is sort of “paralyzed.”  (It’s actually more complicated than that, but essentially, that’s the short version of what’s going on.)  (Also, although it’s technically idiopathic – or of unknown origin — my personal observance tells me it’s stress induced.  My whole life, I’ve tended to get physically ill when under extreme stress.)

(WARNING: If you have a weak stomach, skip this paragraph.)  So essentially for the past year, when I’d eat, I would not get that queasy, nauseous feeling like when you have a stomach bug.  Rather, the food would sit like a hard lump in my stomach for hours, causing a lot of pain unless I made myself throw it up.  So, since vomiting was the only thing that felt better, I had to make myself puke after most meals.  And it would come back in “layers.”  i.e., if I ate, for example, a grilled cheese sandwich, French fries with ketchup, and chocolate pudding, I’d first throw up the pudding, then the ketchup, then the bread, then the cheese, then the potatoes.  And no matter how long after the meal, the food was always recognizable as whatever I’d eaten, even if it was the next day.

(The weak stomached can continue reading now.)  The doctor who diagnosed me really gave me no advice other than to eat several small meals rather than three big meals, puree my food or eat baby food or have liquid shake meals when possible, and avoid fat and fiber.  However, because I have so many “idiopathic food allergy symptoms” (meaning I have food allergy symptoms even though the blood tests say I’m not technically allergic) likely because food was sitting undigested in my gut for so long, I can’t even have much of a variety in the first place.

So, I was left to research my condition on my own.  Now normally, I’m a believer in Western medicine.  But there was no known Western help for me that I could find in my research.  However, what I did find was in the Eastern medicine world.  Basically, I deduced that I have a condition only known in the Eastern medicine world known as hypochlorhydria, which means that my body doesn’t produce (enough if any) stomach acid.  (Quite coincidentally, the symptoms for too little stomach acid are almost identical to those of too much stomach acid.)  Having little to no stomach acid means that my food can’t digest, and therefore, it literally sits in my gut until it rots or until I vomit.  (I still have no idea if the hypochlorhydria caused the gastroparesis or the other way around, but there’s definitely a connection, at least in me.)

gastroparesis cureSo the Eastern “cure” for this condition is this magic pill called Betaine Hydrochloride with Pepsin, which is basically artificial stomach acid coupled with a digestive enzyme (the Pepsin).  A person should start off taking one with each meal.  If, after the meal, your gut burns like hell, then you don’t have that condition, and you should not take any more pills.  But in my case, I was to then work up to increasing the pills by one per meal each week until I’m digesting well.  I’m now up to eight pills per meal.  But even though that’s a lot of pills (and I HATE swallowing pills!), I’m so happy to not be hugging the toilet every night.  I still have to puke roughly two or three times a month, but being as I was at that much per day, I’m not complaining in the least.  (And the few times a month this has happened lately, it’s been when I’ve been at the end of my rope with stress.)  Because I’m at least for the most part able to eat and digest food again, my B12 and iron deficiency anemia has gone away, my color is back, my hair isn’t falling out like it was, my vision has improved, and I’m not nearly as tired as I was.  I still don’t feel one hundred percent yet, and there are still a ton of foods I still have to avoid or else I swell, but I feel incredible compared to how I felt earlier this year when I was at death’s door.

I also want to thank you all for all your sweet emails to me checking on me and for your prayers, kind thoughts, and warm wishes.  Your concern means so much to me.  I love and miss you guys, my blogging family, and I hope to be able to return to blogging regularly soon!

So, that’s what’s been going on with me… Now tell me, what’s new with YOU?