Um…Hello, my name is Awkward…

Alrighty. An awkward and difficult subject for me to discuss.  My recent tummy issues.  This isn’t meant to be a “woe is me” post (I don’t feel sorry for myself at all with this). It’s just an “FYI” post.  I’m not a doctor, don’t pretend to be, and have no medical training.  But here’s the “sitch”.

Some background info: Since I was 17, I’ve dealt with GERD, heartburn, indigestion, and IBS-like symptoms.  Not every day, and lately (thanks to diet, exercise and my own awareness), just inconveniently.   After 3 years of tests, “You’re just stressed” excuses, lots of weight loss, and gastrointestinal symptoms, I developed UTI symptoms (bladder pain & sensitivity, urethral pain, frequency [we’re talking bathroom trips every 15 minutes], back pain near my kidneys, etc.) even though tests always came back negative for a UTI and more IBS symptoms.  Add on awful headaches and anxiety and I was just a big ball of fun…Fortunately, my physician was wonderful and supportive and didn’t just blow it off as stress or “female problems” (UGH!). I met with a urogynecologist (who is super sweet and a wonderful support system) who performed a cystoscopy with distention test and diagnosed me with Interstitial Cystitis (IC).  My physician that referred me also was diagnosed with IC and her symptoms mostly present themselves as gastrointestinal too, which led her to her suspicion.  A bit more info about IC can be found here.

Basically, we all have a protective lining inside our bladder that keeps irritants in our urine from irritating our bladder.  Patients with IC have somehow “lost” this, allowing anything that enters our body and is filtered through the bladder to irritate the bladder.  “Lifestyle change” is the most common and usually the most effective treatment.  But it’s not an easy change.  Love caffeinated coffee?  Can’t have it. Love pineapple? No way – can’t even smell it without my bladder hurting. Cheddar cheese?  Negative. Soda? HAHAHA, funny.  Tomato sauce (pizza, spaghetti, lasgana, salsa)? Not unless I’m ready to deal with the side effects. Any and all fruit? Mostly no.  Excess sugar & food dyes (like candy)? Nope.  Love to run? Why yes, but the “jolt” I put my body through sometimes makes my bladder hurt for a few days after.  Sounds fun right?  Here’s a great website and comprehensive list of diet restrictions: IC Network

Physicians don’t really know what causes IC and don’t exactly know how to classify it.  They think it’s semi-auto immune disorder and semi-nervous system disorder.  But one thing they DO know and I can vouch 100%: “Interstitial cystitis can have a profound adverse effect on your quality of life. Support from family and friends is important, but because the condition is a urinary problem, you may find the topic difficult to discuss.”  YES and YES.  After getting mine under control through an intense year of medicine, diet experiments, and permanent lifestyle changes, I still have good days and bad. Some days I forget I have it and have no symptoms, even after eating my “red light” and “yellow light” foods.  Some things I just can’t avoid or give up if I want to live a healthy lifestyle (yogurt, fruit, etc.). Some nights I’m up every hour to go to the bathroom. And some days I’m doubled over in pain.  Other days (usually around a flare up) all I can do is cry – from frustration and it’s just a symptom I’ve noticed always pops up when it’s about to get rough.  Something even more awesome: IC is often associated with IBS (HELLO!), migraines, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and several “down there” issues.  All of which add to IC’s affect on relationships (personal & intimate), quality of life, and emotional issues.  Can you imagine always scanning for restrooms at any place you visit (grocery store, friend’s house, baseball stadium, work, conferences, air ports, etc.) and always timing your fluid intake with your knowledge of restroom access and availability? A two-hour meeting? I’m sent into a panic and a plan of action. A four-hour car ride?  I always tack on an extra hour for bathroom stops.

I keep this “elephant” very private since we all have issues, and it’s a very personal issue.  “Hey everyone! Let’s talk about our bathroom habits, shall we?!”  Right…not awkward at all.

SOOOOO, this leads to my recent tummy issues that have surfaced in the last week.  If my body isn’t kept in equilibrium (eating the right foods for my body, getting enough sleep, keeping a healthy balance of exercise, etc.) my body rebels.  Yes, everyone’s does at some point.  But mine reacts in an insane physical inflammatory response (hence any IC or IBS symptoms that present themselves).  While I very well could have had a strange form of bacteria or a virus that was causing the pain and upset, it’s most likely my body was responding to my lack of attention.

While I handle this with ease (most of the time), it really only really bothers me when it hinders my fitness goals.  So on Sunday when I had to stop suddenly at Mile 7 with one more mile to go because of awful cramping, I was so mad, disappointed, sad, and frustrated, not only in myself (which is silly), but because it can sometimes be SO out of my control.  Even if I am doing everything correctly and precisely, these issues can still pop up.  How DUMB is that?!

And so, I leave with a big high-five and a hug for anyone that deals with this condition, deals with similar symptoms, or deals with a condition that is somewhat out of his/her control or limits daily activities.  You all rock!  🙂

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