It only makes sense to give you some background on myself, so you can fully understand how drastic these health issues were for me.
I grew up a normal kid. Very few visits to doctors only when actually necessary and the yearly physicals for sports. I got my vaccinations that were recommended at that time and rarely had to take any kind of prescriptions unless I was really sick, but for the most part, my parents were proponents of letting the body fight off whatever bug was causing issues. I was a healthy active child and can say now, that I took my health for granted, but I never will again.
My first real issue took me to the gynecologist at age 17. I still had not had a period and at this point, it was past the stage of just being a “late bloomer”. My mom took me to the gyno and we sat with a nurse practitioner who explained a few things that may be going on. She did her exam and sent me for bloodwork. At my next appointment she assured me that everything looked normal and that it was likely just an imbalance of hormones. She wanted to put me on birth control to induce a period and mentioned that down the road, we may need to talk about different pregnancy options as it may be difficult to get pregnant on my own. At 17, this was difficult to hear, but I had so much time before I needed to worry about that. So I started birth control and it was a doozy. Emotions all over the place, highs and lows, I couldn't seem to get control. My doctor tried a few different brands before we settled on one that had a lower dose of hormones. I did exactly what the doctor told me to, because I didn't know any different. They are the expert and they know how to treat me was my thought process.
At age 19 I went away to college, still taking birth control. For the most part, I believed it was working, correcting my imbalances, but there were months that I would skip a period. I reported this to my doctor, but again she said it was fine and as long as I get one every couple months and there is no build up of tissue, there was nothing to worry about. My first year of college wasn't easy. I was homesick and not fitting in at my new school. I was so unhappy but felt like if I stuck with my decision, that maybe I would get used to it and then things would change. I survived my first semester and went back for my second. A few weeks into the second semester I went to visit a friend at another college, closer to home, and one I was considering transferring to. That night, while sleeping in her dorm room, I had major shooting pains up my back and cramping. I thought I just ate something bad and had gas so I waited hours and hours, and eventually the pains did go away. A couple weeks later, back in my own dorm room, the pains started again. Hours go by and they aren't getting any better. Finally, after being on the phone with my mom most of the night, she convinced me to call the college medical center. The emergency crew showed up and helped me get to the hospital. Terrified and alone in the hospital, the doctors thankfully figured out what was going on. Turns out I had gallstones. Since gallstones are generally an issue for older, overweight people, it took them a bit to find them, but an ultrasound easily confirmed the diagnosis. Ok, so I had an answer! They recommended that I have my gallbladder removed so it doesn't reoccur in the future. My mom came up to be with me and we decided that we wanted another opinion on what my options were.
Seeing another two doctors at home, trusted ones that had helped other family members, we were told the exact same thing that the hospital doctors said. You don't need your gallbladder, just remove it, it's an easy procedure and everything will go back to normal after. Now, knowing so much more about the body and health, I wholeheartedly disagree. Technically you don't NEED your gallbladder to survive, but you also don't NEED your arm or leg or other body parts to survive either. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have a function and that keeping it is a better option than removing it. Unfortunately at the time, I didn't have the knowledge I do today, and I was just listening to what the doctors recommended. My parents, although hesitant, also couldn't deny that all the doctors agreed and that I should have the surgery. I was on a no-fat diet until the end of the semester when I could get the surgery. If I ate too much fat I would have another gallbladder attack and land back in the hospital for pain management. Fortunately, I only had one other attack that landed me at the hospital, and a few smaller ones that I was able to push through at home.
At this point I feel like I have to acknowledge how incredibly lucky I was and am to have my parents helping me through all of these years. They made sure I was provided with the best care, no matter the cost, and it is certainly not lost on me that this is a privilege that not everyone has. My parents were able to get me to a top doctor in NYC at one of the top hospitals for the procedure. I was still under their insurance at the time, so honestly I have no idea how much this cost, but I know it couldn't have been cheap. Blessed is an understatement, and I take none of this for granted. So, the surgery went well and I was told that I could go back to eating whatever I wanted. This seemed strange to me even before I knew so much about how diet and health are connected. But the doctor said to go ahead so I did, but slowly. I had been on a minimum fat diet for months and the few times I went overboard, I was in excruciating pain. I wasn't quite ready to stuff my face with french fries, but as I slowly increased my fat intake, things seemed to be going well and eventually I wasn't afraid of eating fat again. Food and diet became an interest to me at this point, and I started being more careful about what I was consuming and I was happy to have this wake up call early enough to change my eating habits.
Then, a couple years later, things are going well health-wise and I hear this commercial for a lawsuit for women who took birth control and had their gallbladder removed. I couldn't believe it. Turns out, after further research, one of the birth control pills I had been on, was causing this issue in many women and there was a class action law suit against the company. I was shocked to hear this information as I had only done exactly what my doctor told me to and I was never made aware of this possible side-effect. Mood swings, sure. Weight gain, yup. Acne, you betcha. Excruciating pain, hospital visits, removal of an organ?!?! Nope! Not once did my doctor share any of the "other" possible side effects. I thought I was doing the right thing for my body, all I did was follow doctor's orders. It took a couple years but I did get settlement money from that lawsuit, proof that the healthcare system had failed. It would be another 8 or so years before I finally stopped taking birth control, although I had gone on and off a few times within those years with the suggestions of my functional doctors. I wish I would have known back then, the detrimental side effects of birth control, and why it is one of the worst “solutions” for not getting a period. You can do your own research on this, but please know that masking the symptom with a pill, isn't fixing the problem at all. You need to find out WHY you don't have a period and fix that problem, otherwise the issue will never be resolved. Funny, no doctor ever mentioned any of this to me back then. I wasn't given any other options, just take this pill and be on your way, everything is fine.
After my first year of college I transferred to another school, one that I was much happier with. I would go through the next 4 years without any further medical complications and could seemingly eat whatever I wanted without negative effects. I thought the worst was behind me, but oh how very wrong I was. After graduating college came my next, even bigger challenge that would last longer than I ever could have imagined and changed my life....