Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Man vs Food

It's hard to believe that it was 7 years ago when my health began to fail.

In February of 2005 I got the flu. It was the worst flu I have ever had. I stayed on the couch for the entire month and refused to eat. Whatever I consumed caused great bouts of pain and nausea that would last for days. One meal every other day, as you can imagine, produced much weight loss. I lost 30 pounds that month. For those of you who know me now, I don't have 30 pounds to lose, but I did at the time. I was a short, chubby boy.

The beginning of March pulled me out of the flu. I was able to go back to school for the last couple months of my junior year at high school, but I never got my appetite back. I was still dealing with sickness whenever I ate.

I started going to the doctor to try to figure it out. I was in for testing almost every other week. They shot me full of fluids to watch it go through my system. They drew blood constantly. My veins were shy, so one poke of the needle would never do. I remember coming home from a simple CT scan with seven new holes in my arms, feet and hands. All were patched up with puffs of cotton.

Moose Lake clinic reached its limit with me and sent me to the children's hospital in St. Paul. More testing. They fed me radioactive eggs one morning with a touch of salt for flavor. They weren't very good. They put me under for the procedure.

As I was laying on the operating table, I saw the anesthesiologist lift my IV and insert a needle. He asked me to count backwards from 10. Like an old movie, my peripheral vision began to fade to blackness. It quickly took over the rest of my sight and the next thing I knew, I had woken up in a dark room. My mom came in and I asked her if they were going to start the procedure yet. She told me I had been asleep for 4 hours and we were getting ready to go home.

Nothing came of it. No answers. Just more pain.

My friends and family were getting worried about me. Every time they saw me, I was looking more and more like a skeleton. Food was turning sour in my mouth and my energy was sapped. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't do anything. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch tv. Reading required more concentration than I could afford.

More testing. No new results.

In September, my doctor sent me to the Mayo Clinic. I can only attempt to describe the hell they put me through.

It began with more radioactive eggs. Then they strapped me to a table and electrocuted me. No joke. They were testing the rate at which my body sweat. They strapped a tube around my chest to rate my breathing. They tilted the table I was lying on to measure my blood circulation. Day in and day out. They did more tests than I thought possible, but by the end of the week, they had some answers.

"Your stomach doesn't expand when you eat."

Well that seems simple enough. People have stomachs that are approximately the size of their fist when empty. When we eat, that fist expands and digests the food. Then it shrinks down again. But not mine. It holds its form and when it's full, it's full. That's it. You can imagine what kind of problems that would create.

I started eating small snacks throughout the day. Slowly it started getting better.

Two months later I was in my living room doing homework. Something came over me rather suddenly and I couldn't figure out what it was. I felt empty. There was no other word that could describe the feeling other than emptiness. I tested the word "sad," but that didn't quite fit. There was something amiss. It was more of a physical emptiness rather than emotional. I wanted something. I wanted it immediately. But I had no idea what "it" was. Did I need to take a nap? No. Did I need to go outside and get some fresh air? Not quite. I was getting edgy. Cranky, even. What was it?!

Then it dawned on me. This was the first time in over ten months that I had felt hungry.

I laughed. Hunger?! I've missed you!

I went into the kitchen and for the first time in almost a year, the fridge was a welcome sight.

The stomach issues were supposed to be cleared up in 6 months to a year, but now, 7 years later, it is still a constant companion. I've learned a lot about my body and how to take care of it, but I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I have a deeper appreciation for the human body. It is so intricate that a minor problem in one system will totally mess up another system.

Food has been an enemy in the past, but the meals that Dana cooks up for me are phenomenal. She's really good at finding amazing meals that fit into my strict diet with a taste fit for a king. It used to be a challenge to eat my own cooking, but it's a challenge to stop eating hers.

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