Since, according to my WordPress website stats thingy, my post about my big belly (No, I’m Not Pregnant: My Big Belly) is one of my most popular I thought maybe I should give an update on that. For the sake of summary for those who don’t want to go read the original post, when I started THM I was wondering if there was any hope to shrink my disproportionally large belly. I looked 10-months pregnant and I wasn’t (see timeline series below). What follows is an abstract of a couple of years of medical testing to figure out an unrelated mysterious digestive issue that ultimately helped uncover at least part of why I have had a distended abdomen since the day I was born. My belly has shrunk considerably, but you would expect it to do so when losing 85 pounds. It is still a little bulge-y though.
After I had been following THM for about 6 months, I started getting this horrible pain in my abdomen, mainly in the upper right quadrant just below my ribs, after S meals. My mind, and my doctor’s mind, immediately went to gall stones. The symptoms were kind of classic–eat a fatty meal and 20 minutes later I was in pain so bad I couldn’t sit or do anything but lie down and wait for a couple hours for it to subside. I mean I couldn’t even concentrate enough to play Candy Crush to pass the time while I waited for it to go away; it hurt that bad. Had an abdominal ultrasound. No gall stones. My doctor suggested a HIDA scan to see if my gallbladder was just “sluggish,” but at that point, something in me didn’t really feel it was my gallbladder at all. I elected to wait and see.
Several months later, I had an attack so bad that I had my teen daughter drive me to the emergency room. Another ultrasound, this time by an ER doc that the nurse assured me was an ultrasound imaging wizard (he’d gone through some kind of fellowship program on it I guess). No gall stones. From there, the episodes morphed into a feeling like there was a sock stuffed below my right ribcage a lot of the time rather than pain so bad I couldn’t sit up. Needless to say, that sensation became pretty annoying. Back to my primary doctor I went. Another ultrasound. Still no gallstones nor anything else out of the ordinary. Off to a HIDA scan. Nothing. And then a CT scan. And then a lower GI series. (I’ll let you Google that to find out what it involves.) A visit with a gastroenterologist. Finally, a referral to a surgeon.
Come to find out I have something fairly rare known as mobile cecum, which means the part of my large intestine where the small one joins the large (right where my appendix is) is not anchored to my abdominal wall like it should be. It’s a birth defect (something I was born with). Essentially my appendix, and the portions of small and large intestine around it, is by my belly button. And, they can move about because they are not fixed in place like they should be. Also, I have an abnormally long descending colon (large intestine on my left side). Because I have more than the typical stuff in there and some of it is in the wrong place, it pushes my abdominal wall out rather than allowing it to be flat no matter how skinny I get. These abnormalities also finally explain, at least partly, my lifelong problems with constipation and digestion, and why eating more fiber and getting more exercise–the standard recommendation for constipation–have never been effective for relieving it for me. The fix? They could go in and sew the loose part to the wall where it belongs. BUT often abdominal surgery like that results in scar tissue (adhesions) forming around the abdominal organs, which can then cause intestinal blockages or strictures that reduce or block blood flow to organs resulting in organ death. Meaning more surgery. Possibly leading to more adhesions. Then more surgery. That cycle could be worse than the symptoms themselves, so I’m electing to live with it. However, neither the gastroenterologist nor the surgeon felt that this discovery explains the sock-stuffed feeling. That remains a mystery.