Monday evening was uneventful. Two phone conversations with my kids were the highlight. I felt a vague cramping below my right shoulder blade. I can usually work such things out by stretching. I got Michael off to bed without drama with the same nagging sensation in my back but I was unconcerned. I climbed the stairs to bed.
I couldn't relax or get comfortable. I tossed around for a while but the discomfort was now in my upper right abdomen. Nothing serious. Could just be gas, though I hadn't eaten anything for several hours - I never do in the evening. I tried my usual remedies which, by midnight, seemed to relieve things somewhat, allowing me finally to fall asleep.
One o'clock. Pain wakes me. Now it's severe, though more a squeezing sensation than sharp pain. My belly is distended and I can pinpoint the exact site of the pain, in fact it's tender to the touch: right side, just below my ribcage. No ignoring this.
This is something other than indigestion. I've never had anything like this before - or maybe I have, way back in my early twenties, a similar attack, lasting several days, that I may have mistaken for stomach flu. I was very ill but I sought no medical help. I lived with a first year medical student at the time and he was completely unconcerned. I'm not sure why I trusted his only slightly educated judgement. This time I wanted to consult with someone more reliable. I knew this was serious but it was now middle of the night and I had a very sick, but sleeping - thank God - husband in the house. I could not leave him alone. What do I do?
I called the Quebec government telephone service for medical advice. I spoke to a very calm, kind nurse who got my phone number right away (in case we are cut off) then asked me to describe my symptoms. I told her I thought I might be having an unprecedented gallbladder attack but I had no fever, I was calm (sort of), and otherwise okay except for mild nausea. She asked me to rate the pain with ten being extreme.
"If I put labour pains as ten," I told her, "then this is about an eight."
Her advice: Go to the hospital.
"Impossible," I declared and described my situation.
"Take him with you," she advised.
"Impossible," I reasserted and wondered why I had called. I suppose I had just wanted contact with another human being in the dark, lonely night.
I ran through the list of nearby friends I could call to come over at 2 a.m. But did I really want to go to the hospital? I'd have to take an ambulance, since there was no way I could drive in that condition, and then probably wait a very long time to be seen. Through the fog of pain and sleeplessness and worry, I did my best to consult a few resources on the subject. Could I take a heavy painkiller safely with this possible ailment? Nothing seemed to indicate that Tylenol 3 would be harmful so I popped two pills, left over from my son's wisdom teeth extraction, and hoped for the best. I unlocked my front door in case, unused to any medication let alone strong ones, I didn't come to in the morning; I wanted my caregiver, due to arrive at 9:30, to be able to get in.
There was no danger of sleep. The pain subsided by 4:30 but the drug seemed to make me more wakeful and uneasy. Damn. Oh well, I'd enjoy the respite from pain as long as it lasted. I resolved that if the pain recurred in the morning, I'd head off to the hospital when I had my caregiver here. Her presence wouldn't alarm Michael. If no pain returned, I'd at least make a doctor's appointment.
The pain has mercifully stayed away - so far - though the doctor said it could recur at any time or never come back. He agrees that it was probably gallbladder-related and has ordered an ultrasound to see if I have stones. He advises surgery if I do.
I called my naturopath in the morning and immediately started on an alternative treatment consisting of a homeopathic preparation and small, daily doses of apple cider vinegar. I have also educated myself on the subject. I don't know if any of this will work but I must give it a try before agreeing to submit to the slice and dice option which could leave me incapable of looking after Michael for a long period of time. But then so could not submitting to surgery. My children are alerted and are poised to return home, if they can, to help out if necessary. A lot of ifs. I can deal with the uncertainty of Michael's ill health but not of my own. I am the main support in this house of cards. I depend upon myself.
I've been in a mild fog all week recuperating from a night of lost sleep and the troubling implications this predicament presents. I am very careful with my low fat diet; my weight is good; I am fit and active; I don't smoke or drink, my biggest physical vice being two cups of tea a day (I won't even get started on my spiritual vices but I'm hoping they are irrelevant in this situation); my recent blood tests all indicate healthy levels of cholesterol, the main culprit in this problem. In other words, I work very hard at staying healthy and fit to be able to do this onerous job.
To say I was completely blindsided by this would be an understatement. I know this is not life-threatening - or at least there is very low risk of that, if I am careful - but it will most certainly create enormous problems if it returns.
*Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), "Pferdefleisch ist gesund und bekömmlich"