Monday, December 5, 2011

Hard to Swallow

Don’t you just hate it when you go to the doctor and he tells your problem is because you are getting old? Well, he most likely will use a euphemism like, “As we get older…” and then fill in the blank with whatever has gone wrong now.

The health issue that took me to the doctor a few weeks ago—just at the end of the year when I had not used one penny of my high deductible insurance—was a problem with swallowing. For quite some time, I had noticed that my food felt like it was caught in my esophagus, but I was doing a great job of convincing myself that it was only a minor problem until a bite of bagel hurt so much going down that it brought tears to my eyes.

I knew this was not going to be an easy or cheap fix. We went down this road with Jim when he developed problems swallowing because of his dementia. It was something we struggled with throughout his disease. In the later stages, Jim was put on mechanically softened foods and then eventually on pureed food. I think by that time, it distressed me more than it did him. I hated that he couldn’t eat the things that he had always loved.

So, I knew a little bit about swallowing problems, not my own, but Jim’s. After contemplating the situation, I just felt like this wasn’t a problem that was going away on its own.

I had barely walked into the doctor’s office when they told me step on the scales. After seeing those numbers, it reminded me that I need a new battery for my scales so I can keep a closer eye on the pounds I’m packing on. After my blood pressure check, the doctor listened to lungs and my latest complaint.

He explained how “when we get older” the esophagus narrows, which makes it hard to swallow food and move it to the stomach where it belongs. It’s a fairly easy fix. After explaining that they just stretched the esophagus, my family doctor ordered an endoscopy.

Between my other commitments and vacation, the doctor that was to perform the scope and I couldn’t easily find a date that worked for both of us. Three weeks passed before the day our schedules meshed. The endoscopy didn’t require any prep, just lay off the food and drink after midnight. I would sleep through the whole procedure or at least be so loopy that I just wouldn’t care.

The procedure took about seven minutes—everything else took about two hours. I could hear them talking while they worked and I heard the word “ulcers,” and something about biopsies, another scope, and then things got a little fuzzy.

Later, I learned that I had ulcers in my esophagus, and a hiatal hernia. I still haven’t had my follow-up appointment with my family doctor, but I’m trying to eat things that go down easy. In the meantime, I’m trying to follow a recommended diet that says you should eat enough food to get nutrition, but not a lot at one time. It has lists of what to eat (oatmeal, applesauce, yogurt, fish, chicken, etc. along with low-fat everything) and what to avoid (cabbage, broccoli, corn, tomatoes and tomato products—and worse yet chocolate and caffeine).

I’m working on changing some of my eating habits, but I can’t bring myself to cancel my morning coffee and pray the doctor doesn’t tell me to quit chocolate. I’ve decided not to panic until I hear the details tomorrow about the doctor recommended diet. Hopefully, it won’t be as strict as the one I found on the Internet and won’t last forever.

Copyright © Dec 2011 L. S. Fisher


Carol Noren Johnson said...

I think I have that also. I call it GERD and watch what I eat before I go to bed--nothing spicy especially. My chiropractor said that eating okra helps, and my doctor said that over-the-counter PRILOSEC works.

I will be working on dropping weight and a GERD monitored diet in 2012.

The operation sounds like a cholonostrophy almost, but the prep is not bad. Sorry about ulcers.

L S Fisher said...

Well, I get to have another endoscopy in January. Hopefully, the ulcers will be cleared up by then. I have Barrett's Esophagus and will have to be monitored from here on out. Probably two endoscopies a year. The good news is we are on top of it.