When Life Hands You...

I'm writing this post (and this entire blog, actually) to document my journey. It's never been about bragging (look how tough I am) or gaining sympathy (poor me, look at what I'm going through). I debated writing this post for awhile because #1 I don't want to worry my Mom and #2 I'm not looking for sympathy. But I decided to write it anyway because #1 it's part of my journey and #2 I know that there are some people out there going through much more challenging health issues than me. Over the last week, I have learned much about what life must be like for those who deal with chronic health issues, and I've learned some things about judging people.

Early Monday morning/late Sunday night, I awoke with that unhappy feeling that the flu was coming on. As the morning progressed and I didn't feel like eating, I knew something was off. Food poisoning was my first thought as pain radiated through my stomach-- heart burn, nausea, and general stomach upset. I've had food poisoning before, and it's usually accompanied by a fairly violent (and frequent) exit of everything contained anywhere in the digestive system. That never happened. Just the stomach pain and heart burn.

By Tuesday morning, the pain hadn't subsided. And so I did what I do and went for a run, hoping it might encourage the alien to exit my abdomen. No luck. I sipped a protein shake for post-run recovery, and that seemed to sit ok. So I had my coffee and around lunch came the stabbing pain again.

Wednesday, I had determined that this couldn't be food poisoning and was thinking flu. But with no other symptoms (no fever, body aches, etc.), I was pretty confused. At times I felt ok. I was eating very little, still. Drinking about 1/4 of the coffee I normally drink. Not weight training other than a short bodyweight workout. I had lost 4 lbs in 3 days. I was just focusing on making it through the day. I felt a little better Wednesday night. I even ate an actual dinner-- then woke at 2 am with the stabbing pain again.

Only issue: lower than normal heart rate, common in athletes.
Thursday afternoon I went to the urgent care center because I know they have the equipment to run a variety of tests that my doctor's office doesn't support. It was comforting just sitting in the waiting room, knowing that some kind of answer to this mystery would come soon. The doctor told me he suspects a hiatal hernia. They gave me some horrendously tasting but magical throat and esophagus numbing Maalox-type liquid that brought sweet relief, hooked me up to an EKG to rule out a heart issue, and drew some blood. Finally. Some potential answers. I will follow up with a gastroenterologist in a week.

Hiatal hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm and into the chest cavity (link). According to my research, many people walk around with these, and they don't cause much trouble. It's caused by increased pressure in the abdomen. I think mine was made worse by a fall I took the Friday before these symptoms all began. (Embarrassing story-- after a long week back to school I decided to run home from work. I guess my legs were heavier than I expected because I tripped over ? on the road and fell pretty hard, skinning both knees, scratching my iPhone Lifeproof case, and even getting road rash- through my shirt- on my abdomen-- in nearly the same location as where I'm feeling pain.)

My crazy long run
Treatment: None really, except to manage the GERD symptoms. Which means altering my diet. Basically, if I wrote down all the foods I typically eat (and love)... well, that would be the list the doc handed me of the Thou Shalt Not eat foods. Farewell to: tomato based sauces (spaghetti and pizza sauce, salsa), caffeine (especially coffee and including chocolate), spicy foods, carbonated drinks, fatty foods, ketchup, and alcohol.

The positive: I can still run and do most activity like normal. No GHD's (a Crossfit exercise) or handstand push-ups (I hate them anyway). Heavy, heavy lifting (I was over that awhile ago).

I am just taking it (sorta) slow, returning back to regular activity and meals after almost a week off. I confess that I did my long run Sunday-- but I shortened it from 26 to 20 miles (I'm training for a 6 hour ultra) AND I did loops around my neighborhood incase I felt too weak or sick to finish it all. *I actually felt extremely good.*


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