A visit to the Doctor is never meant to be frustrating and discouraging. It is meant to offer solace, a sense of relief being one step closer to solving the equation… WHY AM I IN CONSTANT PAIN?
Unfortunately for myself and I’m sure many others the relief came after much prolonged agony & now a life altering diagnosis.
I had been suffering with extreme lower abdominal pain, nausea and general fatigue for months. With heavy menstrual cycles, intense pain during cycles, anaemia and a previous condition with ovarian cysts which resulted in surgery just a year prior, everything pointed to the reoccurrence of the same situation.
I was rushed to casualty at our nearest hospital with dizzying pain that would not subside no matter the strength of painkillers in my system. Once the pain medication in the drip worked I was off to x rays for a sonography of my uterus, wherein we discovered an ovarian cyst 4.5 cm in diameter. The news was undoubtedly difficult to swallow but also comforting now that we knew the cause, or so we thought. The casualty Doctor suggested that we visit a specialist to assist in which way best to move forward.
The first Obstetrician and Gynecologist we visited inquired more about my personal life as oppose to the situation at hand. I then proceeded to do another sonar, where he stated before even starting “I assure you, I wont find anything wrong with you” He spent all about 5 minutes examining me and then ushered me back to his main room. I was told that I have a condition termed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and that I should start dealing with all my “emotional and social problems”. He suggested therapy, highlighting that I should not be embarrassed, at which point I broke down in tears. I knew that this diagnosis was inaccurate, certainly the pain and previous sonar could not be due to “social issues”. My mental health was and is well attended to.
We sought a second opinion. I was seated in the rooms of a Gynecologist & obstetrician with decades of experience. Upon entering the consultation, both my mother and I outlined my medical history and then followed him to yet another sonar. He paused to show us the very apparent ovarian cyst but then proceeded to explain that a cyst of this size was normal and can not be the cause for my pain. He then asked about my personal life and offered that my mind was the cause of everything I had been going through for the past few months, emotionally unstable and stressed. I was advised to visit a psychiatrist.
I left feeling frustrated, misunderstood and downright angry that no Doctor was willing to listen to me but quick to assume I needed counselling. This having being yet another fruitless consultation.
The weekend that followed this consultation came about with unnerving, disorientating pain. I was not able to sit up or move due to the intensity. My family and I ran through our options and decided to visit our family Doctor the next morning, even if he could just assist in subduing the pain. At this point I didn’t want to see any Doctor’s as I felt I would just continue to hear the same thing and part of me began asking myself, if there was truth to what I had continuously been told.
The next morning, we explained the situation to our family Doctor, he asked follow up questions and inquired about a blue mark on my forehead. One I’ve had for the past three years after having gotten an allergic reaction to my chronic medication at the time. The mark is known as a fixed drug eruption & can vary from bluish to dark purple black in colour. It helps to indicate when my body is having an allergy to something as it darkens. For the past few months, it has been darker than usually.
The Doctor then went on to explain to us that he was going to give me something for the pain as well as an iron supplement to help boost my levels as they were extremely low. He then took a sheet of paper and begin drawing a diagram, clearly outlining the root of the problem that he believed it to be. The explanation centered around a swollen colon and twisted intestines; I was then introduced to term “CELIAC”.
After being tested it was confirmed that I was indeed a Celiac Patient.
Celiac is an autoimmune disease that is genetic & is most commonly known as an extreme allergy to wheat (gluten). He then explained that, in an everyday patient, when an allergy spikes, a particular enzyme level increases and in my case that enzyme is generally elevated on a daily basis so any allergy makes the levels sky rocket thus causes the swelling of the colon. Left untreated with prolonged influence of wheat can cause damage to the intestines and stomach.
I was advised to adopt a gluten free diet and stop any citric acid. The swelling would decrease in a few months’ time. I was prescribed medication to assist with pain and inflammation. Abstaining from wheat (gluten) products for the next few days had already assisted in me physically seeing and feeling a difference.
Initially I did not understand that this was not just a temporary abstinence but rather a lifelong lifestyle and dietary change.