Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm Cured! It's a Miracle!

I've had IBS for years. In fact, my symptoms really began in 1996, not long after I graduated college and entered the real world. Coincidence? I think not. I knew I should have just stayed in school and been a professional student. Believe me, I wanted to. My parents, not so much. Before I even enrolled in my first class, they informed me, "Four years is all we're paying for. After that? You're on your own." I probably was destined to get IBS anyway.

Every single night at work, I'd get these intense shooting pains in my stomach. I'd bloat up like Violet Beauregard in "Willy Wonka." I couldn't, ahem, go to the bathroom. It was horrible, and I suffered like that every night at work for the next eight years or so and I didn't know what it was. For a long time, I thought it was cervical cancer. I heard that if you have it, you can get gassy and bloated. My trips to the gynecologist never turned up anything, and some part of me wondered if they were just missing something, or maybe sending my tests to that sham lab I read about in Reader's Digest once. The workers at this lab were under intense pressure to get through as many pap smear tests as possible. One woman was so productive and rushed in her work that she sent back a "cancer negative" result for a woman who was actually positive, and the woman wound up dying and her family sued the lab. Anyway, I hoped my doctor wasn't using that lab. I don't want to be a Reader's Digest feature someday.

Sometime in 2002, I met with my doctor's nurse practitioner for my annual exam and I told her about my IBS. She told me I just needed to relax. It sounds bad, but she was so nice that she was the only reason I stayed with that doctor as long as I did. As soon as she was gone, I was out of there. Her advice was probably the best she could do at the time, because doctors were still figuring out what IBS was and how to treat it. She told me that it was caused by stress, but she didn't seem to know of any medication for it. They make "just relaxing" sound so easy, don't they?

In 2004, I saw some commercials advertising drugs for IBS, so I went right back to that doctor and demanded some: "Me want drugs. Tummy hurts. Gimme." It was the first and only time he ever really listened to me, and asked all kinds of embarrassing questions about my symptoms and I tried to give honest answers without covering my face with my gown and giggling. He put me on some drug that starts with a c? Whenever I felt an attack coming on, I was supposed to pop that under my tongue and let it dissolve. He did suggest managing my stress a little better, which is true. But wouldn't valium make it a lot easier?

The c drug only worked for a month, though. It was getting to the point where I was taking three at once and not feeling any improvement. I went to a specialist earlier this year, and they were very enthusiastic about putting me on Zelnorm. They sent me along with some free samples, and the next day, I noticed how much better I felt. I called the nurse practitioner, raved and gushed and thanked her and promised to name my firstborn after her, but I didn't mention that I was undecided about having kids. They wrote me a prescription, and I began to take it regularly and things were fantastic.

About a month ago, the Zelnorm began slipping my mind and I'd forget to take it. I noticed that I wasn't having any attacks, so I continued to not take it. It's been about a month, and I've had perhaps three attacks this month, a huge improvement. I do take the Zelnorm in that instance, but it would appear that I don't need it regularly anymore. I went to my specialist yesterday, and informed him of all of this. He seems to think that my having lost 10 pounds in the last few months and eating yogurt like a fiend every day was enough to help. Then he praised me for being such a good patient and listening to what they tell me. Awww.

I'm going to miss him.