Hi, everybody, I’m on medical leave. Nobody get any big ideas about asking me for anything. I’m milking this time off for every stinkin’ minute away from PR pitches and email messages about machine learning and cryptocurrency.
But, since I have some free time on my hands while I heal, let me tell you about what it’s like to have gallbladder surgery. Wait, let’s back up, and I’ll tell you what it’s like to have a dodgy gallbladder.
For the past seventeen months, I’ve been telling myself that I had digestive issues because I’m an unattractive perimenopausal middle-aged woman with shoddy DNA who deserves to suffer because she failed at launching a tech startup and stopped running marathons.
Broken gallbladder? No, I’ve got a broken brain.
I told myself—this pain is what happens when you lose your competitive edge in life. I’m doomed to be miserable and unhealthy. Isn’t it natural to have hot flashes when you eat bread? Isn’t it normal to feel like someone is punching you in the rib cage when you eat a grilled cheese? Get used to your 40s, Laurie. This is what it’s like to get older.
It turns out, I’m an idiot.
Didn’t help that my doctors weren’t in much of a rush to diagnose me with anything. Even though I had all the hallmarks of a failing gallbladder and gallstones—including a fever, hot flashes, shakes, cramping — I got diagnosed in the emergency room with an “abdominal muscle strain.”
Ok everybody I’m in the ER. It’s no big deal. Join me for a magical journey where we answer the question: Do I have appendicitis or did I just pull an ab muscle and start getting chills and sweats because that’s totally normal, right? pic.twitter.com/XPU5UTW8Rj
— Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) August 31, 2018
By the time I saw a gastroenterologist worth a damn and had an ultrasound, I was in severe pain. That’s when I found out that I had some gallstones — one of which was 1.3 cm big.
(How big is that? Who knows, I’m not metric. But it was big enough to bring me to my knees in the kitchen when drinking coffee.)
So, I scheduled my gallbladder surgery for last week. And, honestly, it was the easiest thing I’ve done in ages compared to being kicked in the gut by cholecystitis. Once I got over my fear of anesthesia, things went smoothly. They yanked out my mushy gallbladder, and I’m currently rocking a bloated abdomen with glued-up holes. But I’m not even on pain medicine. I was up and walking around the next day.
Sounds great, right? Well, it’s not all wine and roses in the Ruettimann household. I had to drink three servings of Miralax to start pooping. I didn’t wash my hair for five days. And I’m on light duty and can’t lift more than a jug of milk for six weeks, which sucks because I don’t know how much a jug of milk weighs but I’m pretty sure my cat Emma is two jugs and likes to be carted around like a princess. It’s hard to explain to her that mommy doesn’t want a hernia.
So, yeah, I have to take it slow, which means that I’m not going to answer your email message right away, but I’m feeling fine under the circumstances. Gallbladder surgery was a relief, and already I’m feeling better and have moved on from soup to solid foods. I’m digesting meals like a champion, and I’m not breaking into a sweat from Ritz crackers. Life is good.
Here’s what I thought I knew: I’m an athlete. When people tell you to take it easy and listen to your body, they are mostly wrong. The body wants you to avoid pain and achieve homeostasis, and your mind will trick you into quitting before it’s necessary. And I’m here to tell you that you can physically push yourself at least 30% harder without any athletic training and achieve exponentially higher results in this world.
However, if you feel like you’re going to die when you eat a taco, it’s probably time to see a good doctor who knows a thing or two about how the body works. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me — having gallbladder surgery 17 months after your initial symptoms, tormenting yourself for no goddamn reason. You don’t want gallbladder surgery, or any medical procedure, under those stressful conditions.
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