This is a story of lost love, and all those reading it are hereby warned to keep their tissue boxes ready as you share in my grief and my loss. It began a few years ago when I began experiencing frequent episodes of heartburn. At first I tried to ignore it, but that did not help. Then I went with over-the-counter antacids like TUMS or Rolaids. They would help somewhat for a time. However, as time went on my heartburn became more frequent and I went with some of the more powerful over-the-counter medications, like Pepcid and Zantac. These medicines also provided some temporary relief, but the heartburn would keep coming back. I also tried Prilosec, which takes 2-3 days to work. That actually helped after the 2-3 days. However, you are only supposed to take the Prilosec for two weeks and then stop taking it for several months. Only a day or two after I finished the Prilosec, all of my symptoms returned. Finally, I gave in and went to the doctor.
My primary doctor put me on a prescription medication that I was also supposed to only take for a couple of weeks (Nexium). He also decided to send me to a specialist to have an endoscopy done. An endoscopy is a procedure where they stick a tube with a camera on it down your throat and look around. I went to the specialist and got my endoscopy scheduled. I found out that they put you under anesthesia for the procedure and therefore I would need to take the entire day off of work to allow for the anesthesia to wear off.
On the day of the procedure, I arrived at the doctor's office and, as always with a doctor, sat around for what seemed like forever waiting for them to call me. Finally, I went into a changing room and had to lock up my belongings in a locker and put on a hospital gown. I then had to wait forever (again) until they finally came and got me and brought me into the procedure room. I lied down on the table and the anesthesiologist stuck a needle in my arm. The doctor then came over and started talking to me a bit when the next thing I realized was that I had woken up in a strange room not certain where I was. After a few seconds I remembered, and a woman came over and asked me if I wanted some cranberry juice to drink. After lying in the room for a few more minutes, I was brought to a waiting room and told to wait for the doctor so he could discuss my test results with me. I was a bit concerned at this point in time because the few other patients that I had seen there that day getting endoscopies before me had not, as far as I could tell, been brought to one of these waiting rooms afterwards.
When the doctor finally came in, he told me that the endoscopy had revealed that I had a hiatal hernia (which means that the area where my esophagus meets my stomach does not close properly and allows stomach acid to come back up) and that I had a condition known as Barrett's Esophagus. This is a condition that normally does not show up in someone my age. What it means is that the acid from my stomach that came into my esophagus changed the lining of the esophagus permanently. This condition does not directly cause any problems and can be lived with. However, it does give you an increased chance of developing esophageal cancer, which would require some rather scary surgery to get rid of. The doctor told me that there were three things I would have to do because of this condition. First, I would have to take Nexium every day for the rest of my life. Second, I would need to get a repeat endoscopy every 3-5 years to make certain that I did not get worse and did not develop any cancer. Finally, I would have to change my eating habits.
The eating habits that I was required to change were pretty extreme for me. I could no longer drink coffee or tea. I could no longer drink any carbonated beverages. I could not eat chocolate. I could not eat tomatoes, onions, peppers, or garlic. I could not have any fried foods. I started the changes almost immediately, including cutting out the coffee and the carbonated beverages. This meant that I had to cut out caffeine entirely. I discovered in the two weeks of caffeine withdrawal that I suffered that caffeine is a very addictive substance. The withdrawal I went through was fairly painful, with intense headaches and feeling extremely tired. However, once my body was purged of the caffeine and a few weeks had passed, I actually discovered that I had as much energy as I did when drinking caffeine regularly. I was no longer dependent on it and my body compensated and found the energy elsewhere.
I said at the beginning of this story that this is a tale of lost love. It is. Before I was diagnosed with Barrett's, I would go at least once a week during the summer (when they were open) to a local restaurant called The Clam Bar and have one of my favorite meals in the entire world. Fried clams, french fries, coleslaw, and a birch beer. Other than the coleslaw, I cannot have any of that any more. I lost one of the meals that I loved most in the world, and I am not supposed to ever eat it again (though I do confess I may have to cheat once in a while and order the clams anyhow!). You may now use your tissues to wipe your tears away.