Look Ma, I’m radioactive!
I wish I wasn’t always so earnest with medical professionals. When my doctor suggested a few weeks ago that I take a test that offers breakfast, I jumped at the chance. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and my insurance company is going to pay for most of it? Works for me!
Of course, the only catch is that I will be slightly aglow for a little while afterwards. How long afterwards? Well, they weren’t very clear about that. The good doctor said between 24-48 hours only, but the above sign which greeted me on the morning of the test clearly says otherwise.
Maybe it’s time we end that little charade about how only women can glow, eh?
I’m actually hoping that some of the radioactivity will remain in my system for a while longer. Without a scintilla of medical evidence to back this up, I’m thinking that radiation just might help one particular area of my body to expand a little. Gorgeous has been complaining recently that my gluteus maximus area is shrinking.
She’s apparently not the only spouse with such a predicament. No sooner did she make this observation then the very next day a fellow blogger posted on the same phenomenon happening with her husband also. Honestly ladies, aren’t there worse things to complain about?
So my doctor arranged for me to have a gastric emptying study at the local hospital because we’ve indeed noticed over the last few of years that I’ve been having a problem keeping on the weight. We tallied up a 15 pound weight loss starting from the time I retired four years ago, and it was enough for Gorgeous to motivate me to have it checked out.
She’s not fooling me, though. I know this is all about my crossing a very specific red line of hers: she won’t accept any instance where I begin to weigh less than her. In addition to my propensity of being positionally-challenged with the bathroom toilet seat, and also a reflexive impulse to shush whenever Genesis plays on the car radio, I assume this weight loss is another “habit” of mine which she deems intolerable.
I should have seen this all coming. Earlier this year I mischievously tried on some old jeans from the furthest reaches of my closet. A black pair from LL Bean, size 32 waist, they were purchased at some point in the nineties, but I probably stopped wearing them by the early 2000’s. I kept them all these years in the vague hope that perhaps someday they might fit again. To my utter shock they now do! I was ecstatic; Gorgeous not so much.
Over the course of the summer we noticed that while I still had a decent appetite, I would be full and bloated several hours after eating. The only way to insure that I wouldn’t feel this way was to eat smaller portions. Smaller portions are good right? We’re all told now in countless of articles and health news reports to eat less. But after yet another loss of 3-4 pounds by the end of the summer, I finally agreed that I should visit the doctor to discuss. I was promptly sent for a full battery of blood labs, all of which came back with readings firmly in the normal ranges.
My response to my doctor and Gorgeous was admittedly defensive: “I told you nothing was wrong!“
Neither of them were impressed. Out-voted and out-maneuvered, I watched as the doctor filled out an order for this gastric emptying study with a referral to a gastroenterologist to go over the results. He was washing his hands of me.
I decided not to read much about the study ahead of time. This was mostly out of laziness but also a desire to stay somewhat ignorant. The less I knew, the less I might stress about it. The hospital instructed me not to eat or drink anything after midnight and to arrive by 7:00am the morning of the procedure.
The actual breakfast I was served turned out to be disappointing. It was scrambled eggs and toast served with a radioactive-isotope reduction sauce. They messed up my order too because I specifically asked for that sauce on the side. There were also no potatoes, danish, or fruit. When I pointed this out to the waitress she just laughed.
We’ll see who’s laughing later when I write my review on Yelp.
After I finished eating, I was taken to an open-ended machine outfitted with a Gamma Camera. My waitress, who apparently also doubles as a medical technician, explained that the gamma camera takes images as the radioactive food as it moves through my stomach, and it detects gamma rays emitted from that food. A computer then produces pictures and measurements of my stomach for the gastroenterologist to review later. I was instructed to lay still on the machine’s platform for an hour as the images are taken.
There’s just one problem with that: I am a bit of a claustrophobe.
While my upper body was outside the actual chamber itself, I was told to lay still and try not to move around too much so that the images are captured correctly. I asked the waitress/technician to define “too much” but she just laughed and said not to worry. Again with the laughter!
I was allowed to use my arms and hands since they were outside the scanning area, and so I could use my phone with headphones to listen to music.
First I listened to a news podcast, but that only proceeded to get me upset at what I was hearing. Dumb move on my part. Then I switched to songs but kept skipping through them. Beatles? No. Stones? No. Indigo Girls? No. Aretha? No. Roger Eno? Ah… bingo. ‘Ol Rog got me relaxed enough to finish out the procedure without too much mental angst and squirming. For those curious, I do recommend his “Voices” album from 1985. It’s very calming.
Next to the machine was a monitor which portended to show the images of the food making its way through my stomach. I found this hard to believe. I’m laying flat; how can I possibly digest food while laying down? I get indigestion when I merely lean back on a sofa too soon after a meal. It seemed impossible.
The other reason I found the images confusing is that they look pretty much like what every expectant mother has ever shared with me from her sonogram photos. For G-d sakes, I’m not looking at food; that’s a fetus. I’m pregnant!
The result of the study ultimately showed that I have no problems processing food. Once again everything appeared normal.
So, dear reader, you’ve made it this far. I really shouldn’t drag this out any further. My late mother loved nothing more than to string out stories, especially medical ones. I have cousins still with PTSD from having sat next to her at holiday dinners (“No more turkey, thanks… They did what to your gall bladder, Aunt Sylvia?“)
My gastroenterologist ultimately decided that he needed to perform an upper endoscopy. The results conclusively showed an abrasion in the lining of my stomach that is pre-ulcerative. This has made my stomach inflamed and irritated which explains why I am always feeling bloated and full.
The most likely cause of this is over-usage of ibuprofen on my part. The amounts I’ve taken have never been excessive, but over time it’s had a cumulative effect. I was ordered to switch permanently to acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) for pain, and have been given Protonix to relieve the symptoms. It’s been about two weeks and already I can feel a difference in how I’m digesting food after a meal. Fingers are crossed.
So do be careful about the amount of Advil, Motrin, etc., that you take.
I’m looking forward to enjoying slightly more food at meals again. And if I’m really lucky, I might just have a little more “heft” back at the caboose.
I’ll also let you know where I’m registered well in advanced of my pregnancy next year.
Until next time…