Until now I never really knew where my gallbladder was or what it did. I also didn’t really care. I actually still don’t. But, the stars have aligned in the shape of gallstones and here we are.
About a year and a half ago, my gallbladder introduced itself to me in the form of excruciating back and chest pain. Not the best way to become acquainted with anything. If the human body is designed to function without my interference, then I don’t want to know when something jams up. What I’m saying is that I would have appreciated my gallbladder more if it had quietly continued to do its job. Nobody likes a squeaky wheel.
Until that introduction I knew nothing about pain associated with a malfunctioning organ. So when it first happened, I automatically assumed I was going to die. Because nothing brings that much pain without death. Or a newborn baby. Having gallstones is like a real-life game of Operation. The buzz is intense pain that’s totally unexpected. The annoying beep is the nagging ache that never really stops. Most days the pain masked itself as upper back pain. Right in between my shoulder blades. Of course because I’m a bit neurotic when it comes to biological mishaps, this clearly meant my back was falling apart. Possibly breaking. So I saw a chiropractor immediately. That was right around the time that the pain migrated into my abdomen, which was confusing.
When the pain didn’t stop after I started getting adjusted, I asked my chiropractor what the deal was. How exactly was my spine affecting my abdominal muscles? He said, and I quote: “Huh?” When I further explained the chest tightness and abdominal pain he suggested that maybe I ought see a guy about my gallbladder.
So, after a year of blaming my children for incapacitating back pain—vowing to repay them dearly when I am no longer continent—I finally went to see my doctor. Because it wasn’t just about my back anymore. My entire torso had orchestrated an entire physiological interpretation of a Quentin Tarantino movie. But more violence. And without any Seventies action music.
After a very vague discussion with my doctor about where the Broncos are going this season—which I don’t know because I thought it was still basketball season—I answered a four-second Q and A and was diagnosed with probable gallbladder issues.
She sent me off to get a few blood tests and a very unexciting ultrasound—where I mistakenly called my stomach my liver. Exciting ultrasounds involve babies. Babies are also a lot easier to see in an ultrasound because they flop around and have a face. My liver could have been my thigh fat and I would’ve never known the difference. Two days later I got my results and found out that I definitely was the proud owner of gallstones. How many? I don’t know. How big? From the pain, I’d guess the size of a hedgehog. Or a Fiat.
So what are gallstones? Think of them as cholesterol coated deposits of digestive fluid that look like deformed Chiclets. They’re made especially for me, by me. My body’s loving way of saying: “Hope you enjoyed that greasy crap you just ate.”
The gallstone pain started and continued as a constant, daily discomfort. Then occasional episodes of random pain happened late at night, when my stomach acid and bile would hook up and say: “Let’s digest!”
Remember Waterfuls? Those plastic water container games operated by a button? When you pushed the button it would shoot air into the water that would toss little rings around a peg? Gallstones work like that. Except instead of water, it’s your gallbladder. Instead of squirting air, it’s bile. If a gallstone gets lodged into a duct, you get anywhere between 30 minutes to four hours of pain you can do nothing about. If it doesn’t land in a duct you get to go to sleep.
So, next week I go in to have my gallbladder removed. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the entire three- to four-inch vacancy. Maybe sublet it to my small intestine or pancreas.
Maybe sell some ad space. Regardless of whatever I do, I’ll be doing it pain free. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed getting to know my gallbladder. I can say that I’ll remember the idea of my gallbladder much more fondly than the reality of it.
To the rest of my organs, the moral of this story is if you act up, you get tossed out. Unless you’re something critical like, a heart or a lung. Or my brain. But appendix?
You’ve been warned.
Christina Antus lives in Denver with her husband, two daughters, and grossly over-exaggerated cat–who is the size of a small planet. After the birth of her first child, she traded her career in multimedia and web design for a full-time role at home. When she’s not forgetting to feed the goldfish, neglecting the laundry, or avoiding the grocery store, she’s writing and making mediocre meals for her family. She blogs at www.raisinsandgoldfish.com.