If somebody asked me, “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” I never imagined my answer would be, “I’d have one of my internal organs yanked out through my belly button!” You probably think I’m joking, but recent events have proved that I’m more than willing to make that trade. Don’t you think that should entitle me to my own Klondike Bar commercial? It’s a hell of a lot more than this guy was willing to do….
You might be wondering how I found myself in a situation where I had to choose between one of my organs and an ice cream sandwich – not too many people find themselves at that particular crossroad in life. To get the full picture we’ll have to turn the clock back about four years to 2008….
We find the heroine of our story (that’s me, in case you’re wondering) elbow deep in a pile of leftover birthday cupcakes. Remember what I said about Klondike bars? You should, it was only a few sentences back. Well, times that by ten and you’ll come close to what I’d be willing to do for a Betty Crocker cupcake. Which is why my husband should have known better than to leave me alone in the room with them.
But on this day, my happiness would be short lived. Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd cupcake my stomach staged a coup – I guess it didn’t like the way I was running the show. Judgmental bastard. The revolution was messy and unbelievably painful. I went from blissfully munching away on frosty goodness to feeling like Betty Crocker had strapped on a pair of combat boots and kicked me in the gut. Shortly after the crippling pain started, the real fun began. A wave of nausea hit me, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my first trimester of pregnancy. I’ll spare you the details, but I will say this much – the cupcakes were far less tasty the second time around.
After TWELVE hours of this agony, I caved in and called my doctor. If you want to truly appreciate how much it takes to get me to go to the doctor, read this- I Hope There’s Not a Doctor in the House. It wasn’t just the pain that finally made me pick up the phone, it was also the fear that with my next heave, I was going to puke up my lower intestines. I didn’t know if that was a possibility, but it felt like it was. And I figured that it was my doctor’s sworn duty to make sure that didn’t happen.
My doctor listened to me bitch and moan for a little while and then he told me I probably had an ulcer. I agreed to come in the next day for an abdominal sonogram to test his diagnosis. I didn’t think he was right, but I was too ashamed to confess to him that the previous night’s cupcake orgy was most likely to blame for all the medical drama.
My diagnosis of dietary stupidity was confirmed when I woke up feeling much better the next day. When I went in for the test, I didn’t expect them to find anything legitimately wrong with me. Much to my surprise, they did. Though it wasn’t the ulcer my doctor expected – it was gallstones.
My doctor quickly scribbled down the name and number of a surgeon and handed me the slip of paper.
“What do I need this for? I feel fine now.”
“Your gallbladder needs to come out or you’ll keep having these attacks. That surgeon is tops in his field.” He said, as if that was supposed to comfort me.
“I’m sure he’s awesome with a scalpel, but I’d rather keep all my internal organs where they are – even the expendable ones. Besides, I’m all better now. Really.”
My doctor let out an exasperated sigh, “It’s your decision, but you should keep the phone number in case you change your mind.”
Change my mind about being carved up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey because of one tummy ache? Not likely. The way I saw it, there was only one reasonable option – I threw out the phone number, changed physicians and pretended like the whole thing never happened. Thankfully, my gallbladder agreed to play along with the charade.
I lived the better part of four years symptom free, which only served to strengthen my resolve that I didn’t need surgery. I had one or two gallbladder attacks a year, but for the most part I continued on my merry way, indulging in the occasional cupcake or two (or twelve) without any physical repercussions…. at least none beyond the expansion of my hips and thighs.
Fast forward to July 2012, just one month ago….
The attacks were coming almost daily – despite the fact that I joined up with Weight Watchers, lost nearly 14 pounds and banned Betty Crocker from the house. It seemed no matter what I put in my mouth, it made my stomach hurt and caused me to throw up. And let me tell you, salad is no less gross than cupcakes when you’re forced to pray to the porcelain god.
After a couple of weeks of misery, I wanted to remove my gallbladder with a kitchen knife and a pair of tweezers. It was then that I realized I was ready to revisit the idea of surgery, so I made an appointment for a consultation.
When the doctor walked in, I was relieved to see a head full of snowy white hair. He didn’t look old, just experienced – like Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October (minus the facial hair and cool accent). I felt like I had caught him in the prime of his surgical life; young enough to still have steady hands, but old enough to have had lots of practice cutting stuff out of people.
He started off by giving me a detailed explanation of the laparoscopic surgery, complete with colorful diagrams just in case I didn’t know where my liver and gallbladder were located. I didn’t. He also showed me where the four little 5mm incisions would be made, one of which would be through my belly button – where my gallbladder would be making its final exit.
Who the hell came up with this method of organ extraction? Did his colleagues think he was crazy when he explained how he was going to pull the gallbladder out of his patient’s belly button the way a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat? Do you think he yelled, “Ta-da!” when he was done? These were the questions I was pondering as my doctor suddenly launched into a long list of foods that I’m not allowed to eat….
“You can’t eat any red meat or pork. You also can’t eat any dairy – no ice cream, butter, cheese or anything with fat in it; skim milk is okay. You can only eat chicken breasts – no thighs, wings, or anything with skin on it. No pizza either. Fish, turkey, fruits, veggies, and whole grains are all okay.”
I only knew the guy for five minutes and he was already trying to take away several of my reasons for living. That’s no way to win friends and influence people. In fact, in that moment I kind of hated him a little bit.
“Um…. wait a minute. Is that the diet I’m supposed to follow after the surgery? FOREVER??” I asked with a hint of panic in my voice. If that was the case, I was fully prepared to walk out of his office and take my gallstones with me. I had already given up cupcakes in an effort to lose weight and stave off triple bypass surgery – what more did he want? Did he really expect me to never eat ice cream again?! Screw. That.
“No, that’s the diet you should follow if you decide not to have the surgery – to cut down on the risk of having attacks. But if you opt for the surgery, you only have to stay on that diet for about a month.”
I was almost giddy with relief. “Oh, okay. In that case, rip it out.” I said with a smile. I suddenly wanted to hug him.
Then we talked about what to expect during my post-op recovery period. Since I was on a newfound health kick (a detail you might have missed because of my love affair with cupcakes and rabid defense of ice cream), my main concern was about my ability to stay active. From past experience I knew that one week of couch surfing could easily result in 5 pounds being added to my ass. So, I asked him how long I had to wait before I could go back to jogging on the treadmill.
“You’re basically going to be stabbed four times. You’re not going to want to go anywhere near your treadmill for at least a couple of weeks.”
STABBED?! Great, now I was thinking about the shower scene in the movie Psycho. Good job, Doc. Did you skip out on med-school the day they taught bedside manner, Mr. Bates?
“Do you have any more questions?” He asked, oblivious to the Alfred Hitchcock scene I had playing on a loop in my head.
“Nope, I think that about does it for me.” I said, and with a shake of his hand I promptly left the examination room.
I needed a drink. And possibly a cupcake.