Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fear of Food

Almost two months ago I experienced yet another intestinal blockage. Instead of this one being induced by medication, it was induced by food. This time I enjoyed steamed vegetables at lunch and stewed okra and tomatoes at dinner. I seemed to be doing well after lunch but as soon as I finished my dinner, an immense pain began to take over my abdomen. I didn't think too much about it for the first hour. Pain is normal for me and although I don't suffer from an immense level of pain everyday, it also isn't uncommon either to occur periodically. However, after an hour I still hadn't used the restroom. This is uncommon for me; I tend to have 2-3 bowel movements within the first hour of eating. My abdomen was becoming increasingly extended, tender, and firm. The pain wasn't lessening; rather it was worsening as the night went on.

I feared the worst but knew it was likely an intestinal blockage. However, unlike the previous partial obstruction this year, this presented as a full obstruction. I wasn't able to have any bowel movements of any amounts. As the night progressed, I tried my usual methods to relieve the pressure and get my intestine moving again. I took a double dose of milk of magnesia and I vomited all that I could.

Yet there was still no change. I began to quietly panic. I couldn't avoid the hospital very long if something didn't start moving. I decided to wait until the morning when I could call my GI doctor and request a direct admission to the hospital so that I could possibly bypass the ER. At 5 am that next morning, the blockage finally cleared and I was able to have the first of many bowel movements that day after not having any for over 10 hours. In fact, I spent the next 7 hours in the restroom. Needless to say, I was unable to go to work that day as I wasn't able to leave my restroom!

I have never had to worry about intestinal blockages prior to this year. I underwent testing to determine the cause of my sudden onset of chronic nausea and increased early fullness and pain after my last hospitalization in 2015. The results indicated that my adhesions were worsening and likely once again causing a stricture around my lower intestine. This was the cause of my worsening health with chronic vomiting and extreme diarrhea to the point of severe dehydration and malnutrition in high school. Thankfully, my adhesions have not caused such an extreme case as this at this point. I rarely vomit and my short bowel is nothing like that of those high school moments.

With medication and time, I've become accustomed to the early fullness, chronic nausea and pain. I'm able to manage it decently well most days. However, after this last intestinal blockage I've noticed another sudden change. My early fullness has become even more severe to the point that a mere cup of soup is filling and I easily become miserable if I eat more. My nausea has remained the same fortunately.

In addition to significantly smaller portions, I remain leery of vegetables unless they are mashed or pureed. I can't bring myself to eat vegetables otherwise. I've limited myself to soft foods that primarily consist of meats, some breads, soups, mashed vegetables, french fries, and noodles. Not much of a healthy diet by any means.

I have since ventured back into eating a small amount of lettuce every now and then but not on a regular basis anymore. Even when I do eat a small salad, I remain terrified that I'll be causing a blockage with my meal choice. Thus, I haven't allowed myself to resume my previous normal eating habits as other whole vegetables pose a greater risk than lettuce for an intestinal blockage. Interestingly, the fear of the risk of other whole vegetables is so great that I don't really miss eating these foods. I'm sure at some point I will venture further back into additional food choices, but at present I'm content with my overly cautious mindfulness toward my food. In the end, we need to be comfortable with whatever choices we make - physically and mentally.