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I’ve quit shopping. No, not grocery shopping (though I really wish I could) or household goods. I have had to put my general shopaholic/drunk shopping tendencies on hold.  Since the beginning of the year I haven’t purchased any of the unnecessary (but fun) purchases I normally would. No jeans, shoes, boots, blouses, dresses, or even Spanx (gasp! I love all things Spanx).  I’ve blocked all my daily coupon emails from Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. I fight the urge to browse Gilt.com and Fab.com in search of random items that bring me joy when I can expect them at my front door in a few days.

The reason I had to stop spending money on frivolous goods is not to save money (that would be a good reason to continue my disciplined habits). Instead money has been reallocated to a variety of health practitioners and supplements… and some of these folks aren’t covered by insurance and they aren’t cheap. 

I started having what I call “attacks” last summer, in August. They came to be approximately once a month, then every two weeks, and more recently has increased to every few days. It’s hard for me to explain, but it feels like someone is blowing a balloon in my stomach, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and once it maxes out in its size, stays put for approximately 6 long hours.

Oddly enough, I had ignored the severity of these attacks, until the day I had one while I was visiting with my mom. She, in standard mom fashion, got very upset and insisted I call my brother (newly graduated doctor) and get an appointment with a doctor immediately. I saw a gastroenterologist a few days later, and after some blood tests (for potential ulcer) and a sonogram, it was found that I had a gallstone. The doctor informed me via online portal with this message “You have a gallstone, it is 1.7cm and likely the problem. Here is the name of a surgeon I recommend for removing your gallbladder”.

Now, I’m not sure how you would feel about this, but I #1. did not appreciate an online message telling me to get an organ removed and #2. do not feel that “likely the problem” is a confident enough statement for me to go get an organ removed.  I did go ahead and see the surgeon, which was just as comforting as my online consult with the GI. He told me there were some symptoms that didn’t match up with gallstones, and that we wouldn’t know for sure if it was causing the attacks until they took it out and waited to see if I had another one. WHAT? I hope that I’m not the only one that thinks that approach sounds insane. And you know what? Even if I am the only one, that’s fine because it’s my gallbladder we’re talking about and I’m not just having it removed because it may be the cause of these attacks.

Instead of scheduling the surgery I decided I was going to take a different path. I wanted to see what some other health professionals would say given the same information. In the last few months I’ve seen a general physician (primary care doctor), a nutritionist, an herbalist massage therapist specializing in abdominal therapy, a certified nurse midwife, and a chiropractor.

I sought these people out because wanted to get a variety of perspectives from people with all different focuses of practice.  The interesting part is all of them ended up giving me very similar advice, the first of which was to not have my gallbladder removed.  None of them said never, just not at this stage. Instead, each of them recommended very similar supplements to help my digestive tract and get my gut healthy again. My daily routine consists of morning water with fresh lemon squeezed in, vitamin D, some servings of Metamucil, a few dashes of apple cider vinegar mixed with apple juice (real apple juice, the shit that costs $8 at Whole Foods), and ginger tea. To wrap it all up at the end of the day I take probiotics and do self abdominal massage with ginger tea and coconut oil followed by a cold pressed castor oil pack on my stomach.

If you noticed earlier I said I recently started having the attacks every couple of days. Up until last Saturday I was on a good 3 month long run of no attacks. I’m not quite sure what changed, but it’s why I have added the apple cider vinegar/apple juice mixture along with the castor oil packs. I am trying everything that was recommended to me so I know I at least tried. If my attacks are gallstone related and the natural route doesn’t resolve it, and I eventually have to have my gallbladder removed, I will feel way better knowing that I gave my best efforts to remedy the issue and surgery is my only option for relief.

So you see, with the cost of these visits, and then the regular purchasing of Metamucil, vitamins and real juice, there is no room left in the budget for new shoes (and I’m pretty sure that all of these added up still costs less than what 30% of gallbladder surgery would be). I really never expected to see a day that I would have to prioritize my health over my wardrobe, but I guess that is what happens when you get old (and totally explains why I see so many terribly dressed old people).