Before I get into the fine details of what Gastroparesis is for those who are wondering after reading the title; I am going to go back to when my journey began. A journey that would change my life forever. I am not sure if you have ever had any chronic symptoms that you do not know where they are coming from or why you have to experience them. Well, that is how my journey starts. For a very long time, I was getting sick constantly and never felt good. I am a fitness junkie and love to build my muscles because it makes me feel great, but I noticed a decline in results. I noticed I was losing weight at a faster rate than the average human should. Sometimes you never really notice something is wrong until you can physically see it start changing your appearance.
I began to panic and as much as I did not want to, I googled my symptoms. Google results said I had anything from a terminal illness all the way to it is my time of the month and to an allergy. As any regular human, I assumed I was dying because WebMD said so and continued to panic. I quickly booked an appointment with my doctor who is not my doctor anymore.
Advice: Stop googling your symptoms. You will most likely end up writing your will and being more dramatic than Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ album.
The first thing I did when I saw my former doctor was list all my symptoms and then told the doctor my diagnosis according to WebMD. He was not panicked at all and just prescribed me medication to try out. If anyone knows me, they know I absolutely hate medication but I took it anyways. My symptoms continued and began to get progressively worse; so I went back to the doctors. This time he did not try to do anything, he quickly blamed it on my Severe Anxiety Disorder I have had since I was younger. So I left in discomfort because I knew it was so much more than my Anxiety causing this.
A few months later, my symptoms began to become overwhelming and I knew I needed to do something. I knew I needed another doctors opinion on this so I visited another doctor who my family trusts and knows personally. When I told him my symptoms, I finally had someone other than myself and Google say what I was experiencing is abnormal. He quickly referred me to a GI Specialist who called me pretty quickly to set up an appointment. I was super excited to meet this stomach god. I was finally going to get some concrete answers!
Finally Getting Somewhere…
Her name is Dr. Emily Ching and she is located in Burlington, Ontario. She is extremely intelligent and if you are in the area experiencing any issues related to GI, I totally recommend her! She made me feel a lot less crazy about the way I was feeling and sent me for some tests to determine the cause. So, I had an ultrasound which came out clear and I had a gastric emptying scan. If you have never had a gastric emptying scan, you basically eat radioactive eggs and you hangout in the hospital for hours getting photos of your stomach taken. As boring as these five hours of my life were, I was super excited to get my results from Dr. Ching. Approximately two anxious weeks later, I had my follow up with Dr. Ching. I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis.
What is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is the scientific term for ‘Stomach Paralysis’; a condition that affects the motility in your stomach. This condition impacts your digestive system and a whole lot of nausea and vomiting is involved. Unfortunately, there is very little research around Gastroparesis so the cause is still undetermined and there is no cure. Generally, it is a result of the vagus nerve being damaged which is the nerve that controls your stomach’s muscles. Fun fact: the vagus nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and it has control of your heart, lung and stomach. Some of the complications that can arise from GP is severe dehydration, malnutrition, risk of a bezoar and unpredictable blood sugar changes.
However, the biggest complication is your quality of life being impacted. You begin to not even enjoy eating anymore. You do not even want to go out as much because you never know when you are going to have a flare up that will ruin the rest of your day. The worst is that no one really understands how terrible it is except yourself. Your stomach is literally paralyzed and people think it is no big deal. Sometimes I imagine it was my arms or legs paralyzed and how differently people would react. The amount of times I just went into my room to cry because I started to feel like people thought I was crazy.
Advice: Worry less about what other people think and more about what you are going to do to feel better.
I am still learning to deal with my frustration with the people around me especially when it comes to my diet. Even though there is no cure to Gastroparesis, there is ways to manage your symptoms such as an intense diet (I will do a separate post on the diet). No one understands that you have to be very strict with that diet and cheating even a little bit can result in a flare up that will ruin your whole day. I am slowly beginning to ignore the comments made around me. My focus is on managing my symptoms to live a more pleasant life.
Being diagnosed with Gastroparesis has completely changed my life. It upsets me when I think about the little awareness surrounding it. Reading others journey with Gastroparesis has both provided me comfort and has made me more worried about the future of the disorder. Will there be more studies conducted? What happens to those with more severe symptoms? Are they going to continue to be hospitalized? Will the fatality rate continue to rise? How can we raise awareness?
Gastroparesis Pie Face Challenge
Similar to the ice bucket challenge for ALS awareness, this one is for Gastroparesis. People are smashing pies in each others faces to raise awareness for Gastoparesis. Many MLB players have started to take on this challenge. I learned about this challenge through the Twitter account for it which can be viewed here. Seeing something like this gives me hope. Hope that there will be more research done to save lives! It breaks my heart to know that hundreds have passed away from this disorder, yet most people have no idea what Gastroparesis is! I am determined to do everything I can do to raise awareness on it and hope others do too!!!
I will definitely have more posts on Gastroparesis to give you a better understanding about everything it entails. The goal of this post is that all of you reading this understand exactly what it is. If you have any further questions, please do not be shy to ask! If you have anything specific you want me to talk about in future posts, please ask me!