MY HEALTH JOURNEY: Chronic Nausea

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Many of you know, and for those of you who don’t, I’ve struggled with chronic nausea for almost a year now. It completely took over my life, I stopped being able to participate in dance classes, struggled with assessments and actually stop wanting to be sociable because I couldn’t predict when the nausea would come on. I can now say, a year later, that we have found a diagnosis and I’m nearly 100% better. It took a long time to get here, but I’ve never been happier that find a soloution.

It all started back in August 2017 when I began to feel very tired after I ate food. Ive always eaten very well at home, my Mum used to be a professional cook so knows how to make a nutritious and balanced meal. That being said I would have to lie on the couch for 30 mins just while my food settled because sitting in a chair was uncomfortable.

A couple of months later, it progressed into feeling sick after I ate. It started off with queasiness and developed into running to the toilet after a meal just to come out 30 mins later having not thrown up. This was perhaps the most frustrating thing, Ive only thrown up once this entire year, and that was a cold type thing. And yet every time I feel it, my brain is telling me ‘you need to find a bathroom, you will throw up’. It didn’t matter what I ate, and it didn’t where I was, it was constantly there.

It also didn’t help that Chester House (my accommodation) served hghly processed and fatty foods which exacerbated the situation further. I would finish my meal and always be the first one to leave the table and go back to my room. I cant think just how many nights I’ve had to lie on my bed for an hour just waiting for the sickness to pass.

Downhill From Here

It got to the stage where I knew I needed to see a doctor. I wasn’t really expecting a diagnosis and didn’t know how they were supposed to help me. The first GP I saw (one of many) told me that it sounded like it was anxiety but I could try antacids, which neutralise stomach acid if you have too much. Therefore presuming if it wasn’t anxiety it was some sort of heartburn, acid reflux type thing. After taking the antacid for a little while they didn’t ease the symptoms, if anything I was feeling worse.

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The next GP gave me ‘Omeprazole’ which is another form of antacids that unfortunately had a similar lack of affect on me.

I then saw another GP that told me I had some form of IBS (basically just an umbrella term for digestive issues) and that there is information online about how to manage it, and that was it. ‘Some form of IBS’ and sent me on my way.

At this point it was Christmas and I was feeling extremely uncomfortable eating full meals, therefore started having half portions. As you can imagine, christmas is the last time of the year you want to be lacking an appetite. The only way I seemed to be able to manage my nausea was by not getting full and eating the bare minimum. This consequently meant I lost nearly a stone in the winter months. With the significant weight loss added to my list of symptoms, the next GP I saw took me a lot more seriously and referred me to a specialist consultant at the Whittington Hospital. He investigated my situation further by running tests and labs.

The Dreaded ENDOSCOPY

One of these tests was a Gastroscopy (endoscopy of the gullet, stomach and upper small intestine). Surpsingly the thought of having a camera pushed down my throat didn’t bother me when the consultant recommended I have it. It was only later when I received the letter confirming the date and time of the procedure, the REAL emotions kick in. Daily nausea had made me cautious and introverted. If I could get out of social arrangements I would, just incase my sickness was bad that day. The last thing I needed was to put my body under a huge amount of stress, and yet I knew it needed to be done, because my quality of life was so bad.

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Cut to the day of the procedure (the first attempt at least) and my mum came to London to be with me while it was being done. I had the day off LSC, all the welfare team knew I was having it done, basically everyone presumed this would be the thing that gave me a diagnosis.

They offer to put you under a conscious sedation during an Endoscopy, where you are still awake and conscious but I was REASSURED I would feel so relaxed and chilled I wouldn’t notice a thing (can you see where this is going). Little Miss Anxious over here managed to get so distressed during the procedure that she didn’t even let the camera get into her stomach before reaching up and pulling the camera out of her throat. They tried 4 times to perform the procedure before telling me that I was actually a risk to myself and they had to stop.

I then proceeded to have some sort of mental breakdown caused by a bad reaction to the sedation which caused me become very distressed and hysterical. They called a member from the Psych department down (I dont really remember this happening but I’ve heard about it from Mum). The Psych department saw this reaction and presumed that my nausea was also a result of anxiety. They suggest CBT which is a form of therapy. This distressed me further because I knew that it wasn’t just anxiety there was something going on physically. I was sick of doctors telling me that they weren’t sure what was wrong with me and that it may just be anxiety.

They kept me in the hospital until later that evening, when I was told they must perform the procedure again but they were going to give me a general anaesthetic. Therefore I wouldn’t be awake for any of it.

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This was done a couple of weeks later and you’ll be pleased to hear it went smoothly, I felt as high as a kite when I came around. I laughed far too much and received ice cream and flowers from Han and my family. And do you know what? the result came back completely clear. But sometimes things have to get really bad before they can get better.

The Nuclear Medicine Test

Gastric Emptying Test basically follows radio active food through your digestive tract to check for slow emptying or blocks. I had to eat an abnormally large amount of dry and powdery mashed potato that had a radioactive dye in, within 10 mins. My friend Han had to watch me struggle through a huge plate of potato with only a small cup of water to wash it down. You can imagine this was an unpleasant task for the average patient, let alone someone who struggles with food related nausea. I then had an MRI and had to lie still for A WHOLE HOUR. I was told that any movement would caused blurry pictures. Han was fantastic and played me Kinky Boots and Heathers and I couldn’t have done it without her.

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The Diagnosis

The Nuclear Medicine Test showed I had ‘delayed emptying in the fundic component of my stomach’. Long story short, my stomach muscles don’t contract properly and food stays in my stomach for longer then it should, therefore causing me discomfort and sickness. I did also have a couple of hours of therapy which arguably helped slightly but my main saviour was a drug called Domperidone which Ive come to call my food friends. I take them 30 mins before I eat and the food can pass through my stomach just as its supposed to. I’ve also seen food specialist who has put me on a particular diet that has completely irradiated the nausea (another blog post about my diet to follow). I went from feeling sick 70-80% to 1-2% of the time. Its been a year of constant GP appointments, trial and error medicine, and disappointment but I think I can finally say that I’m out of the woods. I cant wait to get back into LSC healthy, and that’s the happy ending I’ve been looking for.

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