It’s New Years eve and I’ve been in bed crying. Not because of Brexit fears or concerns about Kin Jong Un’s nuclear capabilities, but because I’ve spent an hour googling meal replacement shakes and the likely outcome of a Heller’s Myotomy. My mum has pointed out the sanely obvious – that doing this when you’re supposed to be seeing in the New Year in the warm glow of friendship, gin and board games is probably not the most mentally healthy way to start 2019. Which is fair,I suppose.^
I think, based on the proof of the last few hours, I’ve probably not digested anything for a couple of days. It could explain why I’m feeling a bit cold, shaky and emotionally wobbly at this moment in time. Three meals-a-day plus snacks have just sat there in my oesophagus, which ain’t good for nobody.
The oesophagus in questions has been damaged by multiple dilations in an attempt to open up the cranky sphincter that in a normal, healthy digestive system, controls food dropping into the stomach and prevents acid leaking out of the stomach. My sphincter – let’s call him Sid – does none of that. Sid basically sits there, irreversibly clenched, like the angriest commuter on a Southern train over the Christmas period*.
Above Sid, is Moo. This is my second stomach, created as my oesophagus has stretched to accommodate all the food and liquid that Sid won’t allow through. Here a mixture of food and stomach acid rots, until it either goes down or comes up. Down is preferable.
Above Sid and Moo, is my oesophagus. This should pulse in order to push food down through the digestive system, technically known as peristalsis. I have nothing from roughly below my voice box. On a good day, it means that I have to drink a lot of water to get food down. On a bad day, food and “debris” gets stuck, causing hours of sickness and reflux as my inanimate throat tries to disloges whatever is making it heave.
Side effects of all this range from inconvenient – trapped wind, heartburn and palpitations – to embarrassing – burping really loudly and throwing up Michelin starred meals on your date at the bus stop. It’s also developed a wide range of secondary symptoms lower down the… errrrrr… chain, including a clapped out gallbladder and enough intestinal (benign) polyps to draw comment from the top Gastroenterologists in the country. Apparently I am exceptional for my age. It’s nice to be appreciated.
To be fair, some of this is managed through a combination of drugs and diet but after 10 years of fluctuating health, yo-yoing weight, and a strong desire to retain some sense of normalcy / friends / a social life, it becomes really hard to avoid food generally, carbs and vegetables and anything bulky specifically. It’s exhausting, on top of the physical strain never knowing how much food you are actually going to digest, and means I often live on milk and digestives. It was fun for a while. Most of the time I miss toast. So I eat toast. Then I regret toast. Which is why I’m now awaiting the last ditch attempt at normalcy (or as close as I’m going to get) – surgery. But there only one or two surgeons who are capable of doing the job, and the hospital I need is in special measures, so… *shrug*
In the meantime, I live with a hyper sexy wedge pillow, which makes me sleep at a right angle to stop me chocking on my own digestive inadequacies. It has helped allay the fear of aspiration**, but has failed to do wonders for my spine or my love life.
So, Sid, Moo and I are seeing in the NY together. With some of the worst of my condition, acalaysia^^, beating another planned evening of happiness to a mushy duvet-wrapped pulp. Full on FOMO included.
But it’s not that which kills me. It’s the sheer unreliability it foists into my life. It means that people I really care about – friends, Romans, countrymen – are left high and dry at a moment’s notice. Gigs go unattended, meals remain undigested and holidays lie strewn with sick-days and no-shows. I have never been skiing, because every time (read the ONE TIME, I’m just feeing sorry for myself so reserve the right to be dramatic) I book a trip, my digestive system goes spectacularly into melt down the day before departure. Tonight is a case in point, with the games ‘n’ gin ‘n’ gorgeous people. I mean, I was supposed to bring Balderdash. The evening is probably irrevocably ruined! 2019 derailed from the off!!!***
So to all the people I have let down, I apologise. If it’s any help, It’s probably been as upsetting for me as it may have been annoying/disappointing/enraging for you. Unless you are a total knob-head in which case ZERO REMORSE FOR YOU. INTO THE SEA!
Anyway, fingers crossed for a happier, healthier 2019 for all.
Love, Sarah x
^thought for the record, everything else aside, I think NYE is shite, I don’t want forget old acquaintance (you inhuman monster Rabbie Burns) and I don’t want to pay £20 to get into a Wetherspoons.
*based on this description and as life-long South Londoner, I *almost* have warm feelz for Sid.
**aspiration is basically when you breathe in food particles which you stomach has “rejected”. It’s pretty gross. You’re welcome.
^^apparently it’s rare and suffered by less that 8 in 100,000 people. Aren’t I a lucky duck?
***that’s sarcasm, btw. Though it’s not auspicious for the wider context of the socio-economic-political machinations of the coming year. I’m fully aware of my own importance in global negotiations. The world needs Balderdash to oil the wheels of power.