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Posts tagged ‘gallbladder removal’

I keep surprising myself


This morning I woke up, calm, ready to head to Livermore and do my first official 10K in a full year. I didn’t believe it either when I realized, today, that the last time I ran a 10K was this same race, a year ago.

I’ve a couple shorter distances in that time, but I knew this was the first in a year when I opened the pocket on the water bottle and saw that I had the map from last’s year Badger Cove run tucked into it. I only use the bottle, a small Lululemon for Amphipod one, for 10Ks.

Last year I ran Badger Cover, with all it’s crazy elevation changes and switch backs in 1:26:41. I wasn’t too upset about my time for that one because I knew it would be tough. I also remember the nagging side pain I got during the greatest climb that caused me to keel over on the side of the trail and feel like I was dying.

We know now that was the gallbladder. This year, it’s gone.

And I’m better than I thought I could ever be, even with tired legs and a bit of a dehydration/potassium deficiency as of late. That’s why my calves have been hurting me so much lately. Three bottles of water yesterday and a potassium supplement and this morning I was good to go.

Today, I finished the Badger Cove 10K in 1:18:13, according to the results posted before I left.

When I left my house this morning, my arm felt more stiff than it had last night. I popped an Ibuprofen, for lack of not being able to find a Tylenol, and was out the door. It didn’t take the edge off. At the start line, a guy brushed by my left arm and made me cringe. I’m considering writing “I have a fractured arm” on my head.

But I started running. And I forgot about my arm. At least for most of the race.

I don’t know who this version of me is and what business she has earning two course PRs in less than a month, but something has lit a fire inside me. And I like it.

Guess who got cleared to run?

That would be ME!

Today marked two things: I was released from medical leave, thereby could officially end my employment. I’m relieved. I felt like I was waiting to bury someone. Those of you who know what it’s like between a death and the funeral know what I mean.

And I was told I can resume all normal athletic or exercise activities, which means I’m going to be busting my butt for the next three weeks to train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon.

To be fair, I’ve run nine miles in the past two days, but always slow and always against medical advice. Now that I know I’ve “healed nicely” I can beat my little legs into the ground again. Words cannot describe how incredibly excited I am to run again.

Stupid gallbladder removal. No more delaying my training.

Lessons in anatomy and physiology


Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of a gallbladder on Wikimedia Commons? They are all ultrasound images. All kind of lame. I found a nice anatomy/physiology class look at the whole body, though, that seems to fit the purpose.

Let’s talk gallbladders.

There are three organs deemed “non existential” to the maintaining of life. We’ve all heard horror stories of people having their appendixes removed, usually with dramatic stories about it happening before high school graduation or grad night or, this one is real, I know someone who had her appendix removed a week before her wedding. She always says that’s the only reason she could fit into her dress.

Then there’s the spleen. The only people I know who have had theirs removed are people who have been in serious accidents.

Until last week, I wasn’t even aware my gallbladder could be what was causing me so many intestinal problems.

Now it makes sense.

Let’s backtrack.

The pain I’d been experiencing had been diagnosed as everything from “female troubles” to kidney stones to a “physical manifestation of stress.” I nearly kicked the doctor who diagnosed the latter of the three. Wow. If only stress could manifest as a removal appendage instead and we could just remove it from our lives.

In the last four months, as other craziness was going on in my life, it became considerably worse. I scaled back my food intake to get a little control over it. But I still had bowel issues (sorry, TMI, but necessary) and couldn’t drop a single pound on the scale. Something was up. Now that I look back at it, as my pain increased over the past couple years, the pounds stacked back on.

And I wasn’t eating bad. My husband joked that on paper, he is healthier than me. But what people don’t see is that I run 30-plus miles a week, eat healthy and take incredibly good care of myself. When I have pain, I know whether it’s expected or weird.

I’m still a little set back by the fact that my gallbladder was removed just a week ago.

But I’m learning to work within a new reality. Why? Because you can live without a gallbladder, but it does serve a vital body function.

The gallbladder holds bile. It rests under the liver. When we eat, it releases bile to the intestines to help with the moving of food and absorption. That’s why doctors introduce a liquid diet initially. Lots of Jello. Lots of broth. I’ve been gradually increasing my food intake.


It started out with lots of soup. This is a homemade chicken bow-tie soup that I made the other night. My husband says that he’ll eat anything I put on the table, so this was the first of a series of challenges I’m putting him up to. It passed. All he added was pepper. I can’t handle a lot of salt and pepper.

The problem is that a week after surgery, I’m still lacking an appetite. I’m eating. But not much. And everything I am eating is as much as I was before. My husband and I talked about my diet last night, as we realized a couple things:

– I haven’t started taking any of the medication I was on prior to surgery (and I mean ALL medication outside of the pain meds)

– I’ve stopped drinking Diet Coke for the time being because I was told my stomach probably couldn’t handle the carbonation.

– I’ve prepared nearly every meal or had soup since leaving the hospital

– I haven’t ran all but a mile, and it was slightly disastrous and I nearly threw up doing it

Today, I weighed myself and I’m six pounds less than I did before surgery. I’m not sure if that’s because of surgery and a hospital stay, which usually happens. But my calorie consumption has gone down too.

I’ve been trying out new recipes that are low-fat or no fat based.


I made a simple pizza, sans sauce. I used a French-bread crust, spread it out. I used low-fat mozzarella cheese, no fat cooking spray, sliced tomatoes and a little bit of basil. I also used some low-fat Parmesan cheese for taste. My husband loved it and it only took 20 minutes from prep to table.


I have some leftovers I’m planning on warming up today, in the oven instead of the microwave. It will be nice to have a little crunch. I haven’t gone as far as figuring out the calories for something like this, but it treated my stomach well. I had a couple little slices (it’s not a big pizza).

And so far my stomach is handling things decently. I think over the next couple weeks it will be really a “try and see” thing. Because my gallbladder isn’t stockpiling bile, sometimes too much fat is released. Then I have some stomach cramps and other issues that may or may not involve me running to the bathroom.

Another new addition to my diet is soy-based products.

I bought Boca chicken burgers. which have been relatively easy on my stomach as well.


Except I eat them as sandwiches, with low-fat cheese. And it tastes so good. This is one new food item my husband won’t be partaking in. I went to Berkeley for graduate school. I own Birkenstocks. He already tells me I’m a hippie. Eating anything Boca related doesn’t help, believe me.

So a week out, I’m relearning how to eat. I’m also dealing with very little appetite and other issues.

On a running note, I finally sent the email to the race director admitting I probably wouldn’t be able to run in the 10K next week. I figured I’d be feeling a lot better by now, but I’m still dozing off in the afternoon when my head starts to hurt. If I try to do too much, I end up having moments where I’m dizzy. If I want to drive, I can’t take my pain pills. So I’m kind of a mess still.

But my running buddy Sam scolded me for even thinking about running. She reminded me that we had a trip to Pasadena planned for next month. And it should likely now be my first race for 2013.

Getting through the post-operative fog


The past couple days, when I try to take photos, they mostly look like the image above. Actually, a lot of things look like the image above.

I’ve been doing something fancy Google searching only to find out about all the post-operative side effects that come along with having general anesthesia.

Because this isn’t pain induced. I’m kind of past the pain today. Or at least I haven’t been taking my medications that leave me even more tired and loopy than I am right now. Though this morning was pretty epic when I congratulated myself for finally being able to wear real clothes (hello jeans! hello actual shirt!), then promptly fell asleep on my couch for what is like the umpteenth time.

So lame.

The good news is that I’ve been able to wear real clothes all day without pain.

The bad news is that I’m still suffering the side effects of being put under, much worse than the last time I had surgery in 2010.

I stand up and have dizzy spells. I can’t stay awake for more than four or five hours at a time. Then, for some reason, it takes me forever to fall asleep. Then I’m stuck in this great semi-somnia where I feel awake and can sense everything around me, but feel kind of paralyzed. Weird stuff is going on up in this body.

It may surprise then that when I woke up this morning I said “oh hey, maybe since I’m not in horrible pain anymore, I can actually run on the treadmill.” Then I stood up and realized the room was spinning. And my ears were doing this weird throbbing thing.

I’m pretty sure I’d be a disaster in my running shoes right now.

But I can’t help but feel a great need to get back to running as soon as possible. I haven’t even sent an email to the race director of the upcoming race because I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, I can run the 10K. It will be alright, yes?

I’m probably so wrong.

I’m barely eating solid foods.


But I’m taking down a lot of soup. My mother in law made the bowl above. She actually made enough for two, but I made my husband eat his fatty chicken strips from the night before. (That’s what he gets for eating in front of me. The chicken smelled so good I wanted to grab the strip right from his hand.)

Since I can’t drive until I am done with my pain pills, I asked him if he could take me to the store yesterday. I had to throw away most of what was in our pantry because it’s not exactly considering healthy or low fat by any means.

“We need food,” I said.

He gave me this look that bordered between sympathy and annoyance.

But he took me. Since I had a $10 off $50 coupon at Winco, he went there. Speaking of coupons, when I got to the register the clerk nearly freaked out when she saw I had about 10 other coupons to use.

She actually said “Oh Lord!” like I was one of those crazy coupon ladies who was going to get my grocery bill down to $1.50 or something like that. Yeah, we only saved $14.40.

We spent an hour in the store, picking up lots of fruits and vegetables (my snack staples). We also grabbed chicken and pork chops, to supplement the ground beef and stew meat we already have. We made a pact: no grocery shopping for two weeks. Instead, we need to eat everything in our pantry and refrigerator. The only thing I’d buy is fruits. Those seem to go pretty quickly.

My husband and I haven’t shopped together in a long time. The last time was probably before I started working two jobs. It was nice, if only because I’m not supposed to push the cart.

But the fog followed me to the store too, where the lights seemed to be screaming at me. I nearly fell over a couple times. If it hadn’t been for the shopping cart, I probably would have fallen in an aisle and had cans all over me.

Our mission to get low-fat and non-fat foods was a success, though.

We came home with a lot of good food and a meal plan.

So as much as I think I’m feeling better, I’m still realizing that this whole gallbladder episode was bigger than even I could imagine. I still have sterile-strips across the four holes in my abdomen. I’m supposed to wait until they “fall off” in the shower. I’m also supposed to call Monday and make a follow-up appointment with my surgeon to make sure everything is healing okay.

And yet, all I can think about is putting my Nikes back on and hitting the road.

A new emergency, complete with surgery


That whole post about bad luck? It just keeps getting worse.

The culmination of it all was an emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder (yes, the whole freaking thing) and a gallstone the size of a quarter from my body on Wednesday morning.

Let me go back to Jan. 1.

That emergency room trip where the CT scan showed nothing? Where blood tests were inconclusive?

I was sent home, that night, after being loaded up with painkillers. The good painkillers, not the ones that make me feel like I’m on fire (looking at you Morphine). I was also prescribed a bottle of Vicodin and some anti-nausea medication. Good thing too, because I had to keep taking it.

I can’t even begin to describe the pain I feel when it happens. It starts dull, then radiates throughout my abdomen. Then my stomach seems to get bloated. Last week, I couldn’t wear my jeans. It was that bad. And when all is said and done, it passes. Like nothing. It usually only lasts a night or so, then I’m back at it.

But this time, the pain stuck around. I noticed it when I was shooting a video on Thursday of last week. As I sat on the floor, something I usually do when shooting video. I all of the sudden had a sharp pain in my side. Then I felt a little sick. I was able to finish the video without any other incident.

On Saturday, it felt like it was kicking up again. By Monday, I was harboring a dull pain as I went throughout my day. I’ve been dealing with this since graduate school. Doctors first diagnosed me with an ulcer. That was a lucky guess … because I ended up having a pretty gnarly ulcer. My husband rushed me to the ER the year we got married after I could barely stand up. Then doctors said it was kidney stones. In 2010, I had surgery to look for “lady problems” that could be causing the pain.

Another doctor told me I needed to lose some weight. I proceeded forward with that. Thirty-pounds lighter, the pain came back.

And it kept coming, until Tuesday when, at another video assignment, it was full blown. Just crazy bad. Tuesday ended for me in a way that I should have predicted a few weeks ago when I decided to go back to work, except in the real-life version I was called self absorbed. (Not for this post.)

I came home upset Tuesday night. I took a Xanax to calm down. I fell asleep fast.

By midnight, I was wide awake trying to get the pain to pass again. I tried to go to the bathroom. I drank water, a ton of water. I used the heating pad. I took a shower. I did everything.

Then I started throwing up. Everything. Nothing stayed down. (Even that $10, super delicious Togo’s sandwich. Damn.)

So at 4 a.m., I woke my husband up by collapsing on our bedroom floor.

“I’m dying,” I cried.

“You’re not dying,” he said.

But he couldn’t deny I was in pain.

It took them an hour to get me painkillers. I hadn’t even had time, since the previous visit, to check in with my regular physician. This time, the emergency room doctor (a really young looking guy), ordered up a CT with contrast.

Less than 30 minutes later, he was back in my ER bay telling me by gallbladder looked inflamed. He brought in an ultrasound machine. He felt around. He said he wanted to consult the surgeon.

By 9 a.m. I was being wheeled into the surgery room to have my gallbladder removed.

I woke up in recovery, still dazed about all that had transpired in less than 12 hours.

And greeted by a clear liquid diet.


Chicken broth. Jello. Yum. I also got juice. No carbonated beverages, though. Apparently, I may not be able to drink carbonated beverages for a while now.

Oh, and new holes all over my abdomen. I felt like a human pincushion.


That’s what I look like after having a organ removed. And being put under general anesthesia. And being hooked up to a major massive IV delivering more painkillers.

So I’m sans gallbladder. My husband was right: I wasn’t dying.

But I’m not supposed to lift anything more than 15 pounds for the next month. I have an awesome sheet full of lots of fun doctor orders. No this. No that. No running. For at least two weeks.

So that 10K I was so jazzed about? Not happening, according to my husband. It’s only 16 days away. He wants me to contact the race company and transfer my entry to another event. I’ll get around to it, when I have a moment of clarity without the pain medication. (Like right now, when I’m not nearly as groggy as I thought I’d be.)

I’m trying not to be iffy about my half marathon in February, but you never know about these things. I’m in a lot of pain right now. I can barely stay awake for more than three hours, apparently a result of being put under.


That was my view for the day/night. The night was ridiculous. There was no way I could get a good night’s rest. I had nurses coming in every two hours to check my vitals and make sure I was still alive. If they hadn’t have kept giving me pain medication, I probably wouldn’t have gone back to sleep.

One of the orderlys was really nice, though. She saw I was having trouble navigating something simple like opening up a sugar packet, for my tea, and she offered to make it for me.


I nearly cried when she left. Lately I’ve been greeted with questioning looks and doubtful smiles. This woman was genuinely nice to me. She even opened up my napkin and put it on my lap. Why can’t more people be like that? (I may sound cheesy right now, but I’m had a hellish three weeks that has made me question nearly everything I knew about friendship and proper decorum.)

I kept getting zonked out with the IV painkillers.


That little bag was both my friend and my enemy. They had to remove the original IV from my right hand and move it to my left late last night because the original one had saturated my arm. Every time my nurse “flushed” the line, it burned.

This morning, my husband came and bailed me out. We only live right down the street from the hospital, but the trip felt long. I really just wanted to go home and crawl into bed. When I finally did, I fell fast asleep.

I’m a little hunched over when I walk now. And the pain is still radiating, but this time I know it’s from the holes, not the gigantic gallstone.

I keep asking myself: Why is all this happening? What is it setting me up for?

One of my favorite songs says “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” I keep hoping that’s true. I keep thinking positively. It will all mean something, anything, eventually. But what matters right now, what I know matters, is that I am home, And safe. And my husband is taking care of me. And a friend who mattered came to see me. And my mom showed up without hesitation when she was called.

I know I’m loved, even if everything is falling apart all around me.