Tag Archives: Medicine

When I Am Not Reading, I Play Gluten Detective (Part 1)

This post is in response to all of you who have asked me about a gluten-free diet and how it has helped me. Anyone who has been sick for a very long time or has dealt with odd symptoms might want to read this series of posts. I am not a doctor. I do not work in a medical field. This is simply my experience and if it helps one of you, then great.

I have been gluten-free for a year now. However, it was three years ago that I first suspected that gluten might be a problem for me. I am a relatively healthy person. I don’t get sick often, but five years ago I didn’t think I was going to make it. Here’s what happened:

I woke up one morning and my left elbow was sore. It was a deep, dull ache. A nagging ache. The kind of ache that over-the-counter meds can’t touch. I let it go for several weeks, but when I began to lose feeling in my left arm and could no longer hold a pencil, I made an appointment to see my doctor. He said it was either carpel tunnel or tennis elbow so he put me in a wrist brace and told me to keep an eye on it. Weeks passed, and the feeling in my left arm didn’t come back and had traveled down my arm to my hand. I began to drop things and had trouble steering my car with that arm. Back to the doctor I went.

This time, he noticed that I was favoring one foot when I walked. After the exam, and all that poking and prodding, it was determined that I had lost some feeling in my left foot as well. I immediately thought “stroke.” He thought, pinched nerve and sent me on my way. At this point, I didn’t know what to think. I never had these issues before and although I didn’t think my doctor was being aggressive enough, I did think he was listening and he has always been a good listener.

Months later, I returned to the doctor with increased numbness, increased pain and what had started on the left side, was now traveling to the right. It’s hard to imagine having pain AND numbness, but I did. What wasn’t numb, hurt like hell. Not just joints but in-between the joints, too. If you touched my arm, it would hurt. If I sat for too long, it hurt. Shifting my car from Park to Drive, hurt. At this point, my energy was gone. I was lethargic and could not walk from the parking lot to my office. I did. I did walk, but I felt as if I couldn’t and wouldn’t make it if I tried.

The doc tested me for all sorts of things. Lyme disease was one possibility since it all began after a trip to Yosemite. That test was negative. Actually, everything that he tested me for was negative except for inflammation tests (which were elevated).  But what was causing the inflammation? In the mean time, I was just trying to live. Working was difficult because on the outside, I looked healthy, but on the inside I was falling apart. My family and friends were not supportive. There, I said it. When you look well, it’s hard for anyone to understand just how bad off you really are, and then the doctor couldn’t find anything, I think most thought it was just in my head. However, I was convinced that something was seriously wrong.

After more than a year of this, everything continued to get worse and my hair started to fall out in clumps. Additionally, I had small fissures in my bones that were healing on their own, but no one could explain what caused them. I had bone density tests which did not show anything abnormal. That’s when my doctor ran tests to screen for Lupus and other auto-immune diseases because it certainly seemed as if my body was attacking itself.  Lupus is a strange disease. There is no “lupus” test to tell you whether or not you have it. There are tests to show elevated levels of certain things which point to Lupus, but it’s very vague and out of all the tests he ran, some of these came back positive.

So…it was Lupus. Maybe.

[To Be Continued]

Review: Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone
By Abraham Verghese
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375714368, January 2010, 688pp.)

The Short of It:

Full of sorrow and pain, wonder and joy.

The Rest of It:

Such a heartfelt tale and so popular among readers. What’s left to say? Well, lots. In case you are not familiar with the plot, here is the blurb from the publisher:

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

This really is a family saga. Maybe not your idea of a traditional family, for sure, but a family saga nonetheless. The birth of these boys affect so many…the loving couple that raise them, the extended “family” of servants, and everyone they come in contact with while at the hospital. Although the same in many ways, these boys are quite different. Shiva is more matter-of-fact and direct than his brother, Marion. Marion is a bit more complex, but perhaps that’s just perception on my end since the story is told from Marion’s point of view. Either way, the two boys make a whole, and that is addressed a few times in the novel as well as at the end of the story.

For me, much of it was fascinating. The surgical procedures, although drawn-out a tad too long, held my attention and made me see the characters in a different light. Hema and Ghosh, the two Indian doctors who raise the boys, were probably my favorite characters in the story.  They were sensible, yet very loving towards the boys and instilled in them a love of medicine. Their relationship with the boys was very touching and heartbreakingly real. I loved seeing them in this light.

However, I had some issues with Marion and Genet, his childhood friend. Without giving the story away, I will just say that I was disappointed with these characters. As genuine as Marion’s voice was throughout his tale, his voice faltered a bit towards the last quarter of the book. To me, he fell out of character and for that moment, I didn’t like him at all. Perhaps, Verghese’s decision to go there, had everything to do with making Marion a real, living breathing person, one with faults of his own. However, it didn’t work for me and it left me feeling frustrated with Marion and I’m sure that was not the author’s intent.

The issues that I had with Genet, had to do with motivation. I didn’t understand the motive behind her actions. Although she was a servant’s daughter, she was really raised in the same home as Shiva and Marion. She had access to the same amenities that they did as far as education goes, yet she flounders continuously and can’t seem to make wise choices. As I approached that last part of the book, I was further confused by her actions. She was such an important piece of Marion’s life, yet she almost seemed like a throw-away character towards the end.

Overall, I was touched by the relationship between Hema, Ghosh and these orphaned boys. Touched enough to overlook the issues I mentioned. In an interview on NPR, it was noted that the book was heavily edited. Perhaps something was lost in those edits, that would have explained the deviation from character that I mentioned. Perhaps Genet’s motivation was more fleshed out. Regardless, the book is very thought-provoking. My book club had plenty to talk about and I am still thinking about the story.

Source: Purchased

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