Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and am in no way licensed to give medical advice or treat any sort of medical issue. Always talk with your doctor before doing anything. I am just a girl who’s been there and wants to share my story in the hopes it might help someone!
This is part of a 5 part series chronicling my Gallbladder removal. Cholecystectomy Diagnosis is the first part in the series.
Right before the holidays I started having a lot of pain in my side. At the time I had no idea that me hitting a plateau in my weight loss, having side pains, upset stomach or just general tiredness had anything to do with each other. I chalked all of it up to the stress of the upcoming holidays and left it at that.
The first time I had a gallbladder attack (thought I didn’t know what it was then) was sometime in late October or early November. It was a weekend. We had dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, watched some TV and went to bed like normal. I might have had some wine that night, but I don’t remember.
I woke up around 2am with intense stomach pain. It felt as if I had a GIANT gas bubble, the size of a softball, lodged inside the center on my rib cage. It burned and nothing I could do would help ease the pain. I crawled out of bed and went to lay on the cold bathroom floor. The sensation of the cold floor on my warm body eased my pain for about 10 seconds and then it was back with a vengeance. I moaned and groaned and tried to keep quiet, but I was in a ton of pain. I made my way out to the living room and went out the back door, gulping in fresh breaths of air, hoping to dislodge the gas bubble. I tried to burp, nothing. I laid on the floor and stretched out. It was now close to 3am.
Suddenly, I had the urge to vomit, and rushed to the bathroom. I threw up about 5 times in the span of 3 minutes. Nothing was held back. It was violent and painful and offered no relief. I figured I must have eaten something bad, or drank too much wine, popped a Tylenol PM and hoped that my tiredness would win over in the fight with my pain. I threw up again about 20 minutes later, this time just bile and left over Tylenol PM that hadn’t made it into my system yet. Once again it came violently and with little warning. Usually when you’re about to throw up, you get that feeling in the back of your throat and a watery mouth, nothing like this happened to me. One second I was fighting the mysterious gas bubble, the next I was rushing for the toilet. Eventually my Tylenol kicked in and I staggered back to bed, tired and out of it, dozing off, and I feel asleep.
The next morning the gas pain was gone and all the remained were the sore abs from retching all night in the bathroom. The first time it happened, I chalked it up to “food poisoning”, a fluke random one time thing. The next time it happened, about a month later, my husband offered the advice of “Puke! It helped last time”. It didn’t and I couldn’t. But the attack was the same. 2 hours of gas pain, followed by 2 violent and sudden trips to the bathroom to throw up, then back to bed, drowsy on Tylenol PM.
When it happened a third time, right after New Year’s, I called the doctor the next day and scheduled and appointment. I was equal parts scared and annoyed that this kept happening. I couldn’t get into see my Doctor for 2 weeks, so I paid a visit to Doctor Google.
Now I advise you, if you have no idea what your symptoms are, Doctor Google will always point you in the direction of cancer. I was about 98.4% sure it wasn’t cancer, so I googled my symptoms. A few things popped up that sounded promising and so I googled them too. I asked friends. I asked family. Everything pointed toward “Gallbladder”.
Now at this point in my life, I had had a fully functioning gallbladder and had never though twice about what it did, or what it wouldn’t do if I didn’t have one anymore. I just knew that whatever was causing these HORRIBLE attacks in the middle of the night, had to be stopped. I was a girl with a vendetta against improperly working body parts and I wanted answers.
Finally my doctor’s appointment came, and I told her what I told all of you. She hmm’d and haww’d and ordered some tests. I told her Doctor Google and some pretty solid medical advice giving friends and family had told me it sounded like “classic gallbladder” and she agreed but wanted to test a few more things to rule them out as well.
I went in for blood work – my favorite thing, needles – and had a few vials drawn to test my liver, and pancreas. When the results came back that both were in perfect working health, she ordered an ultrasound to check my pesky gallbladder. Another 2 weeks later I found myself laying on a table, covered in ultrasound jelly and the technician pressed down and I made a noise.
“Gallbladder?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s you gallbladder and your liver.” she responded.
“Does it look like, really bad?” I wanted to know.
“Well, you have some stones.” she told me.
I sighed and said “That’s sorta what I thought…”
Later that day my doctor called me and we talked about my results. I had gallstones, small ones, but gallstones nonetheless. I could ignore them and let them get bigger, potentially causing more pain and bigger problems down the road, we could remove them and hope my gallbladder wouldn’t make more, though they usually do, or we could go in and perform a cholecystectomy – remove the gallbladder altogether, plenty of people live perfectly healthy and normal lives without one everyday.
So there I had it. Gallstones. She told me a surgeon would be calling me to make an appointment to discuss my options, but at least we had an answer. She wanted me to talk to my husband about what we wanted to do and go in with a health directive and form a plan. I was scared. I had never had surgery! I had never been put under general anesthesia, I had never had an ORGAN removed from my body and I had no idea what recovery would be like.
Obviously we chose plan 3, to get the cholecystectomy. And it was the best choice for us. I didn’t want to risk putting myself in more pain, or causing myself more issues – I am a busy mom and wife! My health and my family needed to come first. Personally I just wanted to feel better! My appointment was scheduled with my surgeon to talk about options and set the plans we made into motion, and all I had to do was wait.
In the next installment, I will talk about meeting with my surgeon, what he explained for surgery options, and all the pre-op fun stuff! If you’re experiencing ANY of the symptoms I described above, I highly recommend getting into your doctor and getting checked out! Cholecystectomy is one of the most common non-elective surgeries out there right now and it effects everyone, from totally healthy people, young people, older people, skinny people, sick people and overweight people! There is no stigma that only “unhealthy people with fatty diets” get gallstones! Gallstones are caused by multiple things! Please, make an appointment with your doctor to get checked! You might save yourself a lot of pain down the road!