So I’m 31 & All of a Sudden I’m Lactose Intolerant, or Something

For those of you that know me, you probably know a few months ago I had my appendix removed.  For those of you that don’t know me, a few months ago I had my appendix removed.

After a few days of this nagging excruciating abdominal pain, that I assumed would go away, didn’t go away, but only got worse and worse and finally unbearable; I decided to go to the emergency room and have them check it out.  I figured they’d give me an antibiotic and send me on my way.  I never thought they’d come in and say I needed immediate surgery.  Later I’d be informed that my appendix did indeed burst, it was severely infected, filled with puss, and that it was also wrapped around my colon and intestines, which part of had to be removed as well.  As far as appendicitis goes, it ended up being pretty severe.  I’m lucky I didn’t wait any longer.  I ended up staying in the hospital for five days, and battled a persistent infection with strong antibiotics, during and after the time I was released from the hospital.  After the antibiotics were finished, certain bowel related symptoms popped up and my health seemed to get worse.  It turns out I got a nasty bacterial infection called, C. Diff (or Clostridium difficile).  Apparently the strong antibiotics not only killed the bad bacteria, but wiped out the good bacteria as well.  For six weeks and through several more rounds of other kinds of antibiotics, I struggled with the C. Diff, before I finally was able to kick it.  I also got thrush in my mouth from the antibiotics, but that just seemed like a persistent annoyance compared to everything else.

During those horrible weeks, I basically felt like I had the worst stomach bug of all time, times a zillion.  Everything I ate or drank, even water, instantly turned to diarrhea and nausea.  I’d have to run to the toilet often 30-40+ times a day with painful diarrhea.  I could barely leave the house for fear of not being close to the bathroom. I felt terrible for my kids because I couldn’t take them anywhere.  My two-year old is still very clingy, months later, because I had to pass some of the childcare duties on to my mother and my husband.  I lost the daycare job I had. I was introduced to the nasty institution we call the healthcare system.  I learned Googling symptoms is a bad idea.  I became very scared to eat, but also became weak from nutrients not being able to absorb into my body.  I often was very dehydrated, anemic and several times had to be re-hospitalized because of the effects of dehydration and malnutrition, which led to weakness, dizziness, confusion, fatigue and feelings of despair.  These were both symptoms of my illness and side effects from my medication and malnutrition. There were times I felt so weak I couldn’t lift my head.  At night I felt crazy.  My hair started to shed by the handful.  I didn’t like being left alone because I was scared I may fall down or pass out and have no one to help me.  I remember having to call my mom long distance at certain times because I was confused and didn’t remember how to boil an egg, or that I was scared I’d fall over cause I barely had the energy to walk across the room to use the bathroom, or at night I’d be scared to be left alone with my anxiety.  Many times I’d get very confused, off-balance and disoriented. Sometimes I’d forget to eat, other times I was scared to eat.  I lost probably about 15 pounds.  I realized that dairy was one of the things contributing to some of my problems, and I cut that out of my diet.  It seemed to help to a certain extent.

After the 6 weeks of hell, I finally tested negative for C.Diff, but other problems persisted. I still couldn’t eat like normal.  Certain foods still triggered abdominal problems.  I started to have severe rectal bleeding.  It was a terrifying thing to see blood flowing from places it’s not supposed to be coming from.  After a colonoscopy, the Dr. determined the walls of my colon were very irritated due to how much abuse it has endured during the C. Diff. My colon is also bent.  She put me on a low residue diet, and after several weeks, it seems that the bleeding had stopped.  I had to drink Ensure and eat protein bars to gain my strength back.  I had several set-backs in my recovery and had more days of feeling like I couldn’t get off the couch.

My colon is still temperamental and when I failed to stick with the new and improved diet and ate popcorn, or things with skin, the bleeding comes back.  I’ve also realized with trial and error, that I’m still having trouble with dairy.  Even with the lactose free cheese, that I thought would be okay.  It’s a big adjustment and I feel like I’m still in denial that the lactose sensitivity will be a permanent problem.  It’s taken a long time from being weak and sick to get back to myself.  I’m still not 100% myself.  As i knew it.  I still don’t feel like I could go to the gym or do rigorous activity.  I still have difficulty digesting food.  My time in the bathroom still isn’t the same.  Maybe it will never be?  If I eat too fast or too much I get nausea, bloating, cramps.  It’s a hard concept to understand my limitations at times.  Fullness comes very very fast, and even day after day of knowing food is going to bother me, it’s still hard to get a handle on it.  I eat a tiny amount and I feel like I just ate thanksgiving dinner.  I’m sensitive to anticipating being sick, because of the fear of feeling like I did at that time.  It’s disappointing to go to parties and not be able to eat anything.  Its frustrating when I make an entire meal, then remember I can’t eat vegetables with skins on it.  I’ve only drank alcohol a few times since I’ve been sick, and it doesn’t really seem to agree with me either.  I took being able to freely eat food however I wished, for granted.  Even though I still have problems, I’m thankful I’m on the mend and have what I have.  I’m thankful of the kind words people have said to me and mostly my mother who has coached me through the past few months.  I’m glad my kids are resilient and survived my ordeal without too much resentment.

At this point, the suckiest thing is the lactose intolerance.  Today I actually gave in and bought Lactose Free Milk & Lactaid Pills.  I should have bought these months ago, but I hung on the idea that any day I’ll snap out of it and be normal again.  In a way I’m still holding out hope, but at the same time looking forward, well terrified actually to try some cheesy goodness to see if these pills actually work.

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16 responses to “So I’m 31 & All of a Sudden I’m Lactose Intolerant, or Something

  1. I knew what you were going through was bad, based on what you mentioned on Twitter, but I had no idea just HOW bad it was. I can’t even imagine how much pain you were in. I was thinking about you the other day – I tried rice milk and almond milk for the first time, and was wondering if you still couldn’t have dairy (I would actually recommend both!) If it helps you feel any better, you’re not alone. My mom has diverticulitis (inflammation of pouches that form in the colon), and it can be extremely painful when she has symptoms. She had a flare-up on Thanksgiving last year, and spent the day on the couch, barely able to move, instead of being able to eat all those delicious Thanksgiving foods. She can’t have popcorn, corn, nuts, or seeds. I hope things get better for you!

    • Thanks for your comment, just hearing stories like your mom’s does in a way make me feel like I’m not alone. And the card you sent me, really did mean a lot. thanks 🙂

  2. What a frightening experience. So much for a “simple” appendectomy, huh? That C. diff. can be nasty stuff. I had a friend who nearly died of it as well. I hope over time that your colon can heal and allow you to enjoy your eating life again.

  3. That’s the worst – I hope the pills work. I can’t imagine giving up real cheese and ice cream. 😦 I am glad you are on the mend though!

  4. I have been lactose intolerant since birth. There is lots of things out there to eat and help with the dairy issue. The pills help but you need to take them before you eat it or right after otherwise it doesn’t work so well. Also if you eat real butter that also has milk fat in it that I find bothers my stomach. I have also developed IBS which doesn’t help being lactose intolerant. I now have to watch oils and fats that I eat. Just putting a little butter on a piece of toast can ruin my day. I find I have to watch everything I eat. Good luck and hope you feel better soon!

  5. Oh my god, your poor girl!! Like @clpatters, I knew it was bad but not that bad. Your anxiety about fainting is understandable. My mom was about 45 when she was given a drug (antibiotic) Clyndomycin — as pills (today I guess they just use it topically, like for acne). She was severely sensitive to it and it ended up shredding the mucus lining of her intestines. She nearly died and was in the hospital for two weeks, then very ill at home. I took care of her, which included some “you-never expect-to-have-your-child-do-this care.

    Gut problems are among the worst, I think. They so drastically affect your normal life — being able to go 5 feet from your own bathroom is among it.

    Please give yourself time to heal. Give yourself everything you need — among many things — gentleness and patience. So hard for a young mom! If you have to, just give your little ones cuddles from a prone position, on the couch or on the bed. Ask them if they’ll “rest” with you to help you feel better.

    Don’t worry about TMI — we women can take it! Our lives are filled with even normal stuff that would make a grown man woozy. You need a good support system and even Twitter is par of that.

    Great blog post, by the way!! Nice writing.

    • Thanks for your comment, it really means a lot to me- and yes, at times my twitter family is so important and valuable.. I appreciate the virtual hugs and encouragement.

  6. Meant to say “NOT being able to go 5 feet from your bathroom is ONE among it” — or something.

    Sorry for the typos… too much in a hurry. But the sentiments are sincere.

  7. oh sweetie i had no idea that what you were going through was that awful! goodness.

    i have to third the vote for almond milk. i use it in everything, even savory things. my manpanion has decided he prefers mac and cheese made with vanilla almond milk. and the chocolate almond dream… oh my.

    have you tried any goat or sheep milk cheeses? they’re much lower in lactose than cow milk cheeses. and they’re a bit spendy, but as long as you can keep your horde out of it, it should last quite a while. wegmans has a variety of both kinds.

    i’m so sorry you had to go through all that. please let me know if there’s ever anything i can do to help you out. truly.

  8. I’ve had diverticulitis, gastritis, and still deal with IBS but not to the extent your symptoms occur. Dealing with chronic medical problems since age 9, I can appreciate the sadness of what was. It’s a grieving process and perfectly normal.

    At age 32, chronic daily debilitating migraines and autoimmune problems left my girls with extended family watching them. For the first 2 years of her life my eldest didn’t call me “mama”. It crushed me. I’m here to tell you my girls (now age 11 & 12) have no memory of it, thrived, and learned to adapt to my disability.

    In some areas, my health improved. In others, worse. When you accept yourself/your body as something other than flawed, damaged, and worthless, you and others will see you as you–and not your disability.

    Trust me, as someone who got their permanent handicapped parking placard at age 40, you’ll learn to adapt and won’t always be waiting for the proverbial “shoe” to drop. {HUG}

  9. Pingback: Happy Anniversary To Me! | From Playgrounds To Politics

  10. Thanks so much for this post. I was 55 when my appendix burst, and I’m still dealing with the effects of the surgery. It occurred to me lactose intolerance could be a part of the problem. Symptoms show it’s a possibility. Mostly, though my opinion is there is so much junk in fresh food…of which I’m careful, but apparently not diligent enough….the GMOs in particular I think are to blame. I’ve heard of so many people who are in their 40s or over that have burst appendix in the last few years…..it’s pretty incredible. Anyway, sorry you had to go through all that. It’s miserable…and I’d never wish it on anyone.

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