Starting at the beginning (ish). After finishing my 2nd marathon and completing 25 miles of a 50K the week before, I took a little time off from running. Then in January 2015 I began gaining weight at an alarming rate. Part of me knew it was diet related, but I also considered it was stress related and possibly medication related. Even after leaving my previous job and starting a WONDERFUL new position, changing my eating habits and coming off the meds, I continued to gain weight. Putting it into perspective I was around 150 pounds (and FIT) winter 2014, by summer 2015 I was around 200 pounds which crept to 220 by winter 2015. Then summer 2016 I was finally down 20 pounds thanks to running and Nutrisystem, but always in great pain, which I assumed was weight related. While training for my next 50K I found any time I bent over I would throw up and eventually developed an unrelated case of plantar fasciitis, which is JUST NOW starting to properly heal.
Taking a step back again I gained some of the weight back and stopped about all exercise and continued to feel sick and throw up. My doctor increased my acid reflux medication, but this didn’t help. Last month I was sent to Gastroenterology and was set up with a gastric emptying study which I am SO THANKFUL insurance approved otherwise I still wouldn’t have answers. I arrived early in the morning and was feed an egg sandwich with radioactive materials. Fun, right?
Each hour they took x-rays of my stomach and I watched the silver mass on the screen make its way through my body. Nothing looked weird to me (ya know with my medical degree over here) and I went about my daily/weekly business, which included the Twilight Triathlon that weekend where I felt nauseous and threw up at the end. About a week after my study I received a voicemail, my study revealed I have gastroparesis, also known as slow to empty stomach.
What does this mean?
Essentially it means food sits in my stomach much longer than it should and this is why I throw up. It means my stomach doesn’t break food down as fast and as completely as it should so it is recommended I eat liquid and soft foods and no more than 1 to 1.5 cups of food at a time. It means I’m not supposed to have red meat, whole wheat, high fiber, high fat or high iron. It means I’ve “easily” lost 10 pounds in the last month, (currently 195) because some days I just don’t feel well enough to eat and if I do eat I get sick. Hopefully I never get to the point of having surgery (some people require gastric bypass if their stomach stops working all together) and I’ve declined taking medication for the time being.
How did this happen?
Honestly, I don’t know. A lot of cases for this diagnosis are connected to diabetes, luckily I don’t have that, but I do have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome which I’ve been told is like diabetes, however I’ve never had an insulin problem. Many other cases just don’t have an explanation, which seems to be my case. Somewhere along the way my vagus nerve was damaged or something and now my system works differently. In the end it really doesn’t matter HOW it happened, because it’s something I have and I can’t make it go away. I will have this forever and the best I can do is eat properly to not make it worse or make myself sick.
There you have it, I finally have answers and feel comforted I can move forward. This blog will probably focus a lot on the interaction of this diagnosis and my training/performance moving forward. Some of you may like it, others may not mind it and some may hate it. It’s my life though and now that I have an answer to why I’m different, maybe I won’t feel as ashamed or embarrassed about things, maybe someone out there will look to me and say “It’s about an active lifestyle, not an elite performance” because after all, we all have our explanations, but wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t feel like we needed them and could just go out, enjoy life and be ourselves?