Monday, January 25, 2016

What Makes an Ulcer a Good Thing?

**Warning! Graphic photos of the inside of my body are included in this blog post. Warning!**

I was diagnosed with an ulcer this morning.

My ulcer looks like a series of shiny, white canker sores on the lining of my throat, and happens to be located at the junction between my esophagus and my stomach.

We suspected there was a problem after nearly two weeks of crippling abdominal pain, which conveniently happened over Christmas 2015, and has extended through the start of 2016. After four weeks of medical appointments, including a trip to urgent care for IV fluids and a gastroscope, the ulcer was discovered.

The treatment? Daily Prilosec. That's it. No dietary change, aside from adjustments I make to manage pain. And I go back in three months for another picture of my insides.

So what makes this a good thing?

1. The symptoms I was experiencing are often confused with GERD/advanced heartburn, Celiac Disease, heart disease, and food allergies. All of these conditions are chronic and require lifetime lifestyle changes. I'm glad I don't need to manage this. (The symptoms are also similar to those experienced by people with stomach and esophageal cancer. My biopsy results will be back in about a month. I'm still just a TINY bit nervous I have cancer too, but it is highly unlikely because I have none of the typical risk factors. If I do, I promise I'll at least add a note in the comments here so you aren't left hanging.)

2. While many people think ulcers are caused by stress, they actually aren't. In fact, most ulcers are bacterial. So, this means, (a) the ulcer isn't my fault, and (b) I don't need to find a way to cut back on stress in my life. (I actually don't feel particularly stressed most of the time.)

3. I don't need to stop drinking my daily cup of coffee! Or the occasional glass of wine! When I asked my gastroenterologist if I needed to adjust my diet he said, "I'm not one of those people who thinks nutrition makes a big difference in these things." (See point #2 above.)

4. The severe abdominal pain (there were times when simply standing up was a burden on my system) helped me experience the type of pain BMG experiences as a result of his Crohn's Disease. This helps me better understand why he behaves like such a tool when he has a flare-up, deepening my empathy.

5. Conversely, BMG better understands the anxiety I feel when I ferry him to and from doctor appointments and tests, He got himself so worked up today about my test that he ended up vomiting. Seriously, he vomited this afternoon, for no reason other than being agitated, which caused him to drink too much caffeine and not eat enough food. (I'd like to add that his puking put a swift end to my post-anesthesia lazing about because I had to hop up to help him,)

So, no chronic disease to manage, no signs of blame or stress, all the coffee I could possibly want, better empathy between my husband and I on the impact of his chronic disease on our partnership. All in all, I'd say my ulcer is a good thing.

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