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Open wide…or How I’m Dealing with a Dilated Esophagus

****The was written back in January but I forgot to publish it. Silly me!*****

I bet you think you know what full is. I bet you think you know what it feels like to eat so much you actually can’t swallow another bite. So full that your stomach feels like it’s gonna burst. Normal people think they know what this feels like. But Lapbandsters know better. Especially Lapbandsters whose lapband happens to be just a touch too tight.

Well, I recently found out that I’ve been living like that for over a year. Back in November 2012, I had my very first experience with an inflamed esophagus. It was extremely painful. I couldn’t eat for days. I kept trying to drink water or hot drinks (dumb!) to soothe my burning throat but nothing would put out the flames.

I called Slimband at the time and they got back to me 5 DAYS after I called them. 5 effing days of suffering whilst waiting to hear what could be causing the searing pain I felt with every swallow. Well, thank my lucky stars for a thing called Google and the support of my fellow lapbandsters cause Slimband earned a big fat FAIL for their role in finding a solution to that trauma. (Yes, I most certainly could have gone to the doctor myself, but I don’t have a family doctor here in Ottawa so I would have had to go to a clinic, get a referral, wait for the referral and blah, blah – my lack of family doctor is a rant for another day!)

When the nurse finally returned my call, she asked me to visit my local clinic for a Barium Swallow. By this point, I was no longer in pain so I didn’t bother. Not to mention my irrational fear of such a seemingly disgusting procedure.

After this, I found myself struggling to eat or drink quite a few foods that I’d heard lapbandsters can no longer consumer once they reach their “sweet spot”. I also struggled to drink water, hot soup and anything with a consistency thicker than a chilli. I never really thought much of it, just that this was where I was supposed to be. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.

This November, I called Slimband to discuss the possibility of a fill knowing full well that at 9.5 ccs in a 10  cc band they were unlikely to grant it. It was in an effort to open the lines of communication again and to attempt to revisit their after-care support system. Well, I’m very glad I did.

After a conversation with a consultant and one of the lovely nurses, I was asked again to have the Barium Swallow. So, I did this as soon as possible which turned out to be 3 weeks later by the time the Radiology clinic could fit me in.

And this is what they found:

Dilated-esophagus

Turns out I’ve got a dilated esophagus. Big, huge, tears streaming down my very sad face. I can’t believe I let myself get to this position without realizing something was terribly wrong with my digestive system.

Slimband got me into their clinic here in O-Town within 24hours of receiving the results. Where they performed an aspiration. This is when they withdraw all of the saline out of the band to see how much is actually in there. In my case it was 8.5 ccs and not the 9.5 ccs they had originally thought.

So, they withdrew a full 2 ccs from my band so that my esophagus has a chance to heal. They never said it would heal for sure, but this is the first step in the healing process. It’s been two months now since I had the aspiration and I can say that within 2 days I felt infinitely more comfortable. I’m still restricted but having a drink of water in the morning is no longer an issue. And I actually feel like I can eat the foods I should be eating.

The next step is to submit my 7 day food diary, complete with before and after pics to illustrate portion size. Then, I’ve gotta have another Barium Swallow so they can see if my esophagus is returning to normal. If not, I have to consider removing the lapband altogether – at MY expense. Urgh.

I’ve gone through all swirls of emotions on this one but the biggest is disappointment that I allowed myself to live in pain for over a year and didn’t even realize it. I’ve certainly learned to live with a lot of aches and pains but this one tops them all.

What I’ve realized is that all too often, those packing a little junk in the trunk avoid addressing health issues because they’re afraid to see a doctor who might once again remind them that they’re overweight. My unsolicited, non-medical professional advice is to suck it up and GO TO THE DOCTOR. There might something wrong with you that has an easy fix, or worse! But go. You’ll be glad you did because you won’t have the anxiety which so often triggers eating in some of us.

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