I didn’t make it for my granddaughter’s birthday in July 2004. We all lived and mostly did well in spite of my absence. Mother’s birthday came around again on August 17. This was a landmark one, for sure. 100 years old! She had always sworn us to secrecy but I’d told her about seeing an acquaintance and that set her off.
Said acquaintance had inquired about her health and wanted to know how old she was. I told him I knew better than to tell. Mother had cautioned all of us that there are two things you never ask a lady—how old she is and how much she weighs. She’d also given us The Look and said we should NEVER reveal how long she had been on Planet Earth. The man gazed into the distance and said, “Well, she must be about 104.” That made her livid. She said, “I am not! I’m only 100!” With that, she decreed that her birthday celebration should be published in the hometown newspaper. She wasn’t going to have people thinking she was older than she actually was.
The morning of the birthday, DD had sent flowers in lieu of her being there in person.
My oldest sister had come in from Colorado for the occasion and posed for me to take her picture.
Mother was taking it easy on her birthday and reading the mail while I fixed my breakfast.
I was still using coconut oil to cook with. I’d brought my own supply. Trending toward becoming vegan, I had switched from real cheese to rice cheese. Soy and I had parted the way long before when I found that my thyroid didn’t like it. The rice cheese seemed, to me, to be a worthy alternative. It didn’t have too many unpronounceables in the list of ingredients.
The birthday dinner was still several hours away so I wanted something that would “stay with me” until it came around. Getting out the skillet, I liberally slathered two pieces of bread with the coconut oil (it was a HEALTHY fat, you know), put a piece of the rice cheese between them and put the sandwich into the skillet. Oh, I loved grilled cheese sandwiches! The rice cheese even sort of melted into a semblance of goo. When I was pregnant with DS2, I craved grilled cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise, mustard, pickles and onion. I’d brought my own Vegenaise (it was the grapeseed variety with a minimal amount of soy in it). Mother had the other condiments on hand so I piled them on.
Sitting down at the table, I prepared to enjoy my repast. Mother was used to my strange eating habits so she didn’t comment. She’d told me earlier she wished I’d lose weight. I got through eating and went to brush my teeth, shower and get ready for the birthday celebration.
Within an hour or two, I started feeling queasy. There was a sharp pain in my back, too. I soldiered on and didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to spoil the happy day.
The time came for the gathering at my sister’s house. I’d taken my camera but when I tried to take a picture of Mother and her birthday cake, nothing happened. My camera’s batteries were dead and I didn’t have any spares along. That was okay. There would be plenty of other picture-taking.
Sitting at the table, I picked at the food on my plate. I didn’t feel like eating anything. I’d taken mostly salad but I couldn’t choke it down. When the cake was cut (it was one of my sister’s specialties), I asked for a very small piece and no ice cream. I ate one bite and couldn’t eat any more. Mother looked at me with concern. It wasn’t like me not to eat.
When the dinner and gift-unwrapping were over, we went back to Mother’s house just down the driveway. I took up residence on the couch where I could have my back supported. I had never been so miserable in my life. My stomach hurt. My back hurt. I kept thinking about the people who would come into the ER with chronic back pain and how we were so cavalier about it. I was getting paid back for all the times I poo-pooed their complaints.
The pain kept getting worse. I was writhing and pressing my back into the back of the couch. Mother fussed over me and felt frustrated because she didn’t know what to do to make me feel better. I knew what had done me in—it was that grilled cheese sandwich. The knowledge didn’t help at all. I still felt like I was dying.
Hours later, the attack was finally over and my gallbladder settled down.
When I got back to work, the x-ray department had gotten a new ultrasound machine and they needed a guinea pig. I volunteered for a gallbladder ultrasound. The tech squirted the goosh on my belly and proceeded to prod and probe. She leaned into the monitor for a better look and I could tell by her expression that she was concerned. She turned the monitor so I could see it, too. Pointing out the different organs, she said, “That’s your gallbladder. I can’t read the ultrasound but I can tell you have enough stones in there to make a necklace.” That was comforting.
In those days, the radiologist read everything—even the test films. My ultrasound was read and the results were sent to my PCP. His surgeon sister was in the office while my PCP was elsewhere. She had one of the girls call me to come in for an appointment. It was her considered opinion that I should have surgery to have my gallbladder removed. She could set it up to be done almost immediately. I told her I didn’t want to do that and left.
When I got home, I started Googling. I found a simple gallbladder flush and ordered the herbal preparation that was to precede it. When it came, I started taking the herbs. I finished them up on Friday. Sabbath, I ate lightly and Saturday night, I started the flush. I wanted to be home for the resulting dashing to and from the bathroom.
Sunday, I spent most of my time doing just that and passed a large number of “stones” (that I found out later were probably solidified olive oil). I’d seen pictures of stones online so I took pictures of mine, too. I have no idea where they are so you are spared seeing them.
I have no idea if it helped, but I didn’t have another attack for a long time and I never had one as bad as the one at Mother’s.
Weeks went by and one day I got a bill for $200 in the mail. It was from my PCP’s surgeon sister’s billing office. She wasn’t a participating provider with my insurance so it had been denied. I called the office and told them I hadn’t asked to see her. She had initiated the office visit. It wasn’t something I wanted or needed. They wrote the balance off. It was a good thing because I had no intention of paying it.
I was being more careful about what I ate but I didn’t have any intention of eating JUST raw food.