Diagnosed with gallstones

This is the first in a series of posts on my recent diagnosis with gallstones. The post below covers my initial diagnosis and related denial about my health.

I had guacamole last month for the first time in a while. When my parents came to visit last Christmas, I had a few bites of chocolate, tried two of my mom’s french fries at dinner one night and also had some of the goat cheese in my salad one day. Avocado, chocolate, fried foods and cheese – these things are forbidden items in my diet these days, thanks to a diagnosis of gallstones, several bad attacks last November and a short hospital stay in mid-December.

I was shocked to be diagnosed with gallstones. I’m a mostly healthy eater, though I am a bit of a stress eater and I left a stressful job and work environment in November. My body must have sensed it was time to let go, since within two days of leaving that job, I had what I thought was food poisoning, This happens to me once or twice a year, typically for 24 hours and then the pain goes away and I’m fine. But this time, the tightness under my right rib and pain in my right shoulder-blade came back a few days later.

Since I had a few days off in between jobs and because the pain was really quite intense, I made a same-day appointment with Swedish urgent care. I had Googled my symptoms and talked with a friend, and I was pretty sure I might have gallstones. But I was still hoping I might that I was wrong.

At the urgent care, a primary care doc (Dr. Ghavami) and resident checked me out. They asked about me drinking, thinking perhaps it could be liver-related. (Yikes – too many happy hours?) The doc wanted me to have an ultrasound, which I was able to schedule for the next day. I didn’t feel normal, but I didn’t feel horrible. I wasn’t eating very much. But as part of my time off in between jobs, I was also doing pretty well on my goal of seeing several movies.

I’d never had an ultrasound before. The radiology tech scanned my various organs and then had me turn on my side. She said that she did see gallstones, and that there were a few that looked stationary. They didn’t seem to move when I turned on my side. The tech left the room to discuss the slides with the radiologist. She asked if I was in pain and I said a little. I asked if it looked like I should be in pain, and she didn’t really answer the question. I know the techs aren’t supposed to tell you anything, and the doctor is supposed to relay all news. That can be a little frustrating, so I always appreciate when someone shares a little info in advance. I didn’t know what to think after this exchange.

I had a voicemail from Dr. Ghavami by the time I left the appointment. He said there were several non-moving stones near the neck of the gall bladder. He and the radiologist were concerned that those stones could move and create a blockage. Dr. Ghavami encouraged me to schedule an appointment with a surgeon, and felt that I should have my gall bladder removed because of the stones that were still present in the gall bladder.

I felt confused and I was a bit in denial over this diagnosis – I’ve always been healthy, never had surgery apart from having a few teeth pulled. Couldn’t I just “cure” myself by following a super-strict diet? Wasn’t there some cure I could find out about via the Interwebs, and not have to undergo surgery?

The answer was “no.”

Next up, I’ll cover some of the things that I tried, suggestions that I received along the way and what happened after the initial diagnosis that sent me to the hospital.

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