I’ve been in hospital. I have gallstones. Sometimes they behave. Sometimes they don’t. For the most part they are “asymptomatic” meaning that they are there but they don’t bother me. I found out about them through a routine test for something else in 2009. They didn’t bother me so I was advised to do nothing. Bad advice I now realise as there is a lot I could have done to gently encourage them to dissolve and leave me in peace.
As advised though, I did nothing. In 2011 they became “symptomatic” and I had a rather bad attack. Writhing around in pain on the floor of my apartment in Lyon on my own, too scared to call an ambulance in my poor French. After a few nights of similar (excruciating!) pain things got better. I saw the doctor, got blood tests, scans. I drastically changed my diet, embarking on a major detox and after a few months I seemed to be back to normal. Life carried on and for the most part my gallstones faded into the background, only popping up now and again to give me a bit of colic, but nothing major. This summer was a different story.
There was something about the whole summer that didn’t feel right to me. It was like paddling upstream with a teaspoon. I became miserable and argumentative and everything seemed to stress me out. We were back in England working to put some cash in the bank. When not working we were shuttling up and down the country to stay with family (our work was residential so weeks where there was no work also meant nowhere to stay). I was barely coping. We had no plans and the prospect of staying put, paying a fortune to rent an apartment and then working in jobs we didn’t like just to pay the rent seemed nonsensical if not just plain ridiculous.
The stress eventually got to me and toward the end of the summer on a week where we finally had some time to ourselves to think about our plans and sort something out, I got ill. I guess my gallbladder couldn’t take it any longer and out popped a stone, blocking my bile duct and causing a great deal of pain, two trips to A&E and various blood tests and scans. Despite the pain it all just looked like a stone passing and I seemed to be on the mend although I was advised by the consultant to think seriously about having my gallbladder removed.
During this time we had been making plans to come back out to France and had been offered the house sitting job here at the château. We did think that Running Boy may have to come by himself and I would follow later, but I was eventually given the all clear by the doctors if I promised to get regular blood tests to check everything was returning to normal.
So here we were, and everything was lovely, and then, just over a week after we arrived, I got ill again. I have never experienced pain like it. I tried so hard to deal with it and wait for it to pass, having hot and cold showers and taking my extra strong painkillers, but this time I just couldn’t take it. It made my previous episodes seem like mild stomach ache.
So off to “urgences” we went and after an excruciating couple of hours in the waiting room where all I could do was writhe around in my chair like I was dancing to some slow soul music, tears of pain dripping onto the tiled floor, I was carted off to the emergency room. I was terrified. I got into a hospital gown, was examined, put on a drip and sent off for x-rays, ultrasounds and a CT scan. The diagnosis was acute pancreatitis but by this time I didn’t really care anymore. The painkillers had kicked in and I just wanted to sleep. I think Running Boy got home at around 3am and I fell into a drug-induced slumber in my clean and starched hospital bed.
My stay in hospital lasted ten days, seven of which I spent on a drip unable to eat. For the first couple of days I was not allowed to drink either. Nil by mouth. I discovered the amazing benefits of intravenous morphine one night when I couldn’t free myself from the pain. Thank you Friedrich Sertürner! Every evening I would see the sky blaze a deep red as the sun set over the city of Montauban and I would ponder what on earth had brought me to this hospital in the middle of France. It seems the gallstone that had made an earlier bid for freedom had not escaped as we all thought, but lodged itself somewhere in my digestive tubes, and had slowly worked its way down to my pancreatic duct, blocking it and causing inflammation of the pancreas.
I came out of hospital three weeks ago. I’m still slightly confused about the whole thing. I’ve been taking it easy. Eating properly. Lots of juiced vegetables. Only good fats. Nothing too difficult to digest. No sugar or carbohydrates. Taking my supplements. Walking along the quiet country lanes. Taking photos. Doing some drawing. Reading (a lot!). Looking at my new slim shape in the mirror. Going for my weekly blood tests and (thankfully) seeing things improve. But every twitch of pain sends me into a state of instant paranoia. Every time I eat I try to assess how it makes me feel and whether it’s causing my gallbladder to over-contract. I do NOT want another stone popping out and journeying around my body. No, thank you!
Next week I go for another scan to see if my pancreas has returned to its normal size. I then have an appointment with a consultant who will no doubt try to persuade me to have my gallbladder removed. I still see this as removing the symptoms and not the cause though. I want to remove the cause and then surely I will have no more symptoms. This is my aim.
While ill, I looked up the metaphysical explanation for pancreatitis. I could have told you this before I even knew it myself. Inflammation of the pancreas is associated with worry. Well, yes. I may well have worried myself into this situation. I certainly know that stress has a huge effect on my digestion, causing my gallbladder to work much harder. I know this not because I have read it on the internet or in a book but because I feel it in my own body and know it to be true.
I ended up in hospital and in some way I don’t think it was accidental. I believe that if there is something we are meant to learn we will be presented with opportunity after opportunity until we learn our lesson. In hospital, through the very fact that I had no choice, I learned to let go of control, responsibility for others, and worry. There was nothing I could do apart from rest and let other people take care of me. The nurses and doctors were looking after me and Running Boy was visiting every day, doing our duties at the château, and keeping my family informed of my progress. This was a unique experience for me. Maybe it was the morphine but in an odd way I felt lighter than I had done for a while.
My episode in hospital and the last few weeks of taking it easy has given me much time to reflect. I want to keep hold of this feeling of lightness. I want to let go of worry, fear, guilt and a sense of having to control everything in my life. I want to be free to focus on each day and the beauty that lies in the present. How good would that feel?
My demons don’t feel good about it though. Let go of all my worries? Just like that? But these are things I’ve been holding onto for years. Maybe my whole life. To just fling them up into the air with wild abandon. Where does that leave me? Worry free and full of the joys of spring?
Well, hopefully, yes. Imagine that. Waking up every day and just knowing that you had absolutely nothing to worry about. Nothing to fear. Nothing that needed fixing or changing. Waking up in the knowledge that everything is as it should be.
It’s not easy, in fact it’s bloody hard work and it is with conscious effort everyday that I try to dispel negative thoughts, but I’m trying and I guess that is all I can do.