About that ulcer I don’t have

The Monday after Halloween, I planned to hit a few children’s clothing resale shops for discounted costumes for a dress-up suitcase for Boy Detective. Unfortunately, I also had a doctor’s appointment to follow up on the question “why are there lumps in my throat that won’t go away?” The options were presented to me as either acid reflux, an ulcer, or something wrong with one of my rather crucial organs.

I tested negative for an ulcer and for any of the relevant organs acting up. In addition, the trial of prescription anti-acid medication seemed to be improving things. We ended up three possibilities:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Hiatal hernia (a condition in which “part of your stomach bulges up through the diaphragm and into your chest” per WebMD)
  • Both

Apparently, if one can control symptoms with medication and lifestyle change, it doesn’t matter which one it is. Also, if one chooses not to or is unable to control the symptoms with medication and lifestyle changes, one will eventually develop pre-cancerous or cancerous cells in one’s esophagus. Those have to be removed. Yuck.

Let’s look at the recommended lifestyle changes, shall we?

Eliminate or reduce chocolate and coffee, which I hate anyway. Similar for tea, which I rarely drink, and alcohol… which I was just starting to enjoy in moderation occasionally. Except for that time in Portland when I got drunk but I wasn’t planning to do that ever again thank you very much.

Goodbye to carbonated beverages, which means I have no idea what to order in a coffee shop anymore. Eliminate citrus, which means dried pineapple is verboten and we have to start making smoothies with apple juice – the smell of which is nauseating to me. Get rid of tomatoes, the best thing we grew in our garden last year, and oh yeah what’s on most pizza?

Fried foods or other high fat foods, bye bye, and yes that means you, ice cream and french fries and vegetarian corn dogs and Thai fried rice. Also the avocado omelet with queso at Magnolia Cafe, which I had just fallen in love with and looked forward to enjoying once a month.

Peppermint of any kind, au revoir, and please feel free to drive a stake through my heart on your way out.

Beyond what you eat, there are rules for how you should eat it. Take the medication in the morning and then wait half an hour or more to eat breakfast. Eat 4-5 small meals a day instead of 3 larger ones. Don’t eat within two hours before exercising. Don’t eat within three hours before lying down, which I had heard as “before going to bed” which somehow did not connect in my brain with “lying down for half an hour for storytime” until a week ago.

Hasn’t anyone gotten the memo that I have been a vegetarian for 21 years? Not the kind who lives on potato chips and high sodium fake sausage, either. I eat real food. What the hell happened here? If I barely drink, don’t smoke, don’t drink coffee or tea, hate chocolate, and don’t eat meat, then why am I being put in food detention by my own body chemistry? I didn’t even have heartburn when I was pregnant for f^%k’s sake.

And I don’t have classic heartburn now. I don’t have the burning pain in my chest which sets in after a meal that’s wrong in some way. I’ve had the feeling of a mild chemical burn in my throat for only about 8 hours during the past few months while this has been going on. Most of the time, though, it’s like there’s a handful of pills stuck in my throat. I have to force myself not to swallow repeatedly trying to make the feeling go away, because I end up with a sore throat.

I can’t figure out why I have eliminated tomatoes, citrus, fried food, ice cream, alcohol, large meals, and any drink with bubbles… and I still feel terrible. A couple of weeks ago, I ate 3 bites of pumpkin pie ice cream at Amy’s when Boy Detective ordered it but then wouldn’t eat it. I threw the rest of the g.d. thing in the trash, people, and then 20 minutes later I realized I was compulsively swallowing again after two days of feeling almost fine. I haven’t felt almost fine since. I’m starting to get suspicious of all food, because I think I’m behaving so well but I can’t get this thing under control. Three bites of ice cream can’t possibly have done it, could it? If it wasn’t that, what was it? Was it what I had for lunch before we went out? The calcium supplement I had taken at lunch after a few days of forgetting but I’m now scared to take?

The only thing that seems reliably effective is eating as little as possible at each meal. For days. I think I have to go back to the doctor, y’all, because this is not going to end well. Unless I have been magically consuming twice as many calories as I really need all these years without knowing it.

In case you were wondering, instead of buying dress-up clothes the day after Halloween, I drove to Tribe after my doctor’s appointment and bought myself the massive book pictured below. (I haven’t finished it, so I don’t know if it’s going to disappoint me in the end, but at least it won’t eat a hole in my esophagus.) This is how I handled my annoyance with being told I needed to change stuff around… while I was still under the impression the changes would help. Now that I’m working towards panicking, I’m not sure what kind of retail or other therapy is going to be appropriate. Suggestions welcome.

7 thoughts on “About that ulcer I don’t have

  1. Mrs. Bachelor Girl

    I’ve had stomach ulcers (and various other digestive problems) since I was four, and I can tell you that over-the-counter vitamins and supplements are the debbil, Bobby Boucher. At least for me. Your doc can prescribe some that contain less of the stomach-irritate-y stuff. And they cost about the same as the OTC ones.

  2. Deidre

    Ugh, I am so sorry. This is so awful. I wish I had some helpful advice, but I don’t. I didn’t know you could hernias in your diaphragm!!!! EEEK.

  3. Ms BGC

    Sounds awful for you. I wish I had some good advice. All I can think of, is this dr you are seeing a specialist? If not it might be worth finding one., or trying a new one perhaps. Also, I just googled “GERD support groups” and there were a lot of listings.

    Retail therapy suggestions… hmmm. Pedicure?

  4. Erin

    I have to take the anti-reflux stuff, too. It sucks. I have found that the best way to make the take-it-30-minutes-before-you-eat thing work is to take it before I get in the shower in the morning. By the time I’m out of the shower and dressed, it’s been at least 30 minutes.

  5. angelina

    Is there an update to be had at this point? Cause that is really dire! Has it improved? How come you almost never complain about this? I’d be a big baby and be pinging you all the time like I did with my sliced finger. I understand the panic over it- that’s how I felt when my weight gain was a medical mystery. When you get an answer that offers solutions and those solutions actually work- even lifestyle changes can become manageable. It’s when they don’t work that it’s unbearable.

  6. Simone

    Oh. my. freaking. god. honey!

    What injustice. I’m sorry, I send hugs, and share your near panicked annoyance.

    Also, I second angleina’s call for an update. Please let us know when you know something more.

    Much love, and then some.

  7. Stephannie

    A coworker recently went through a similar, albeit not identical, process with her throat, stomach and so on, and it took a while to sort out the issue. I hope it doesn’t take as long, and that some satisfactory solution is found soon.

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