For all of college, I had pretty close to perfect health. I got some colds and regular illnesses, but they were pretty infrequent, all stress considered.
I didn’t eat very well, and my exercise was inconsistent. Nevertheless, I made it through all five years of college without any major illnesses or injuries. I gave frequent thanks for having such good health throughout all that time. It would have been one more thing to worry about, and I was grateful to not have to deal with it with my parents so far away.
I also had very little understanding of people’s pain intolerance and other issues. I had experienced back pain and frequent neck pain, some regular cramping, ear-aches, but nothing terribly intense. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and will try anything to deal with pain without medication and believe it is in everyone’s best interest to do the same.
For the past couple of years, since fall of 2010, and especially since the start of 2011, I have made fitness a priority. I exercised over 150 days in each 2011 and 2012.
With the exception of a rather out of control sweet tooth, I eat healthy very consistently. It’s not a diet. It’s my lifestyle. I spend most of my money in the produce section of the grocery store. I just think it’s important to eat well and am trying every day to be consistent about it and work up to lowering my sugar intake.
So I have been taking much better care of myself in the past couple of years than I ever did while I was in college.
And yet I’ve had more health struggles in the past 6 months than I ever did in those 5 years.
In August, I had some extreme abdominal pain. It was bad enough that I was hunched over, couldn’t comfortably walk, and experienced shooting pain when I even tried to lift my knees. I lost my appetite beforehand. I got chills at one point. All of that threw me off for 3-4 days.
This exact same thing happened two months later, in October.
Then it happened again on January 10 while I was doing sit-ups. It felt worse than it had in August and October. For about 15 minutes I lay on my living room floor with tears running down my face, unable to move, trying not to scream from pain.
The next day it still hurt, though not as intensely as the day before. My parents were stressed about it and pushed me to go to the doctor for any pain that had me in tears. I went to urgent care. They pushed on my stomach, and because of where the pain was, they sent me to emergency, suspecting appendix issues.
So my roommate went with me to emergency where I was taken right back and put on an IV, then given an ultrasound. The abdominal one was unclear, so they did a vaginal one.
This ultrasound revealed four cysts, at least one of which had ruptured. I was given pain medication and was told to follow up with an OB/GYN.
I was glad to know what my pain was—glad it wasn’t diverticulitis, gall bladder, or appendix issues.
When I followed up with an OB/GYN, I felt as though he was rushing or didn’t really take the extremity of my pain very seriously. He said he’d put me on birth control to see if that would help because it would stop ovulation and stop monthly (normal/common) cyst growth, and therefore, stop the pain.
A couple of weeks ago, I had another cyst rupture. I was limping down the halls of work in tons of pain, unable to hide my discomfort from my coworkers who are amazingly caring. I thought that it was because I had tried lentils for the second time, and they’re high in fiber. I was certain the insane amount of bloating and illness I had felt that morning with chills in a cold sweat lying motionless on my bedroom floor was because of insane amounts of gas. It was obvious that it was another ruptured cyst, but it didn’t occur to me since I had just had one a couple of weeks before.
I got sick on Tuesday (almost a week ago) and am still congested—coughing and using massive amounts of tissue. I didn’t go to church yesterday and have tried really hard to take it easy. But this is a challenge for me, even if I am tired and my head weighs 50 pounds, and my body is clearly saying it wants to rest.
This morning, on day 6 of my sinus infection, I had a 5th bout with a cyst rupture. Now that I’ve had this happen four times before, I’m well-aware of what’s happening.
I got up and took a shower. I had some stomach cramping and didn’t feel well. In the shower, I started getting extremely lightheaded, like I was going to pass out. I got goosebumps all over. I bent over and stuck my head out of the shower to try and breathe. I hunched over and just tried to finish rinsing the rest of the conditioner out of my hair.
The pain on the right side of my abdominal area was excruciating as I stepped out of the shower. I sat on my closed toilet and stared at the clock ticking away the minutes I had left to get ready for work. I stood up and tried to get ready, but as I leaned over the sink to try to do my makeup, the slight pressure made me cry out in pain. My face was contorting in the mirror. I didn’t know what to do to deal with the pain.
I sat down on my bathroom floor. After sitting and staring at the clock for a few minutes, I thought I should try to dry my hair. I got a brush through it, but when I lifted my blow dryer to do my hair, my arms felt shaky and impossible to lift. I couldn’t even blow dry my hair. I sat back down on my floor.
Eventually, around 6:45 (after over half an hour of excruciating, completely debilitating pain), I crawled to my roommate’s door. I didn’t know what to do and just asked her to be sympathetic for me. I cried and told her everything, and she listened sympathetically and offered to help me. She said she would drive us to work. She went to the kitchen to make me breakfast so that I could take some pain medicine with food. I sat there not wanting to let her do anything for me. I told her I’d make my breakfast because if I was going to work that day I’d need to get over the pain. I followed her into my room where she found my pain killers and broke one in half for me to take; she was trying to minimize my travel and effort. She got me a glass of water. I managed to get dressed and put my hair in a ponytail. I made my smoothie with her help to take things out of the fridge and put things away.
After that horrible start this morning, the pain became tolerable. It’s still here, but tolerable, as it always is after that initial incapacitating explosion. I made it through the day. I have tried to avoid coughing because it hurts so intensely to do so. My kids were well-behaved. I took it pretty easy. And I so badly want to exercise, but I ache with every step. All I can think about right now is putting heat over my uterus and sleeping.
This is undoubtedly the worst pain (besides heartbreak, which I insist has physical repercussions) I have ever experienced. I love exercise. I miss my gym. I want nothing more than to go for a run and prepare for a half marathon in May. I’m beginning to think that if these things don’t stop happening with this kind of frequency, I may not be able to train adequately for it.
It’s very humbling, to say the least. Crying from pain and needing help from others is not something I’ve ever had to deal with. Deciding to rest and do nothing simply because my body needed to are extremely difficult things for me. I have a hard time doing nothing and being lazy, even if I am exhausted to the core. It’s impossible for me. So knowing that my body, which has always been so healthy and reliable and strong, simply cannot do what I am asking it to do, brings me to tears.
I’ve always been grateful for my health—to be spared of illness and sickness and medical bills. I’m even more grateful for it when these things happen to me. I hurt so badly for people who deal with chronic pain every day, as I can see this being a pretty regular thing I’ll have to work through for quite some time (this is common from child bearing years to menopause).
I’m not really sure what to do except maybe ask for a blessing, rest, take some pain medication, and commit even more fiercely to eating healthy. I have to surrender to “resting” and “breaks,” and learn to take it easy, and that is a hard, hard thing for me to do. But I’ve got no choice.
On to a duller pain tomorrow!