All religion aside… Easter is a holiday where families come together to celebrate and enjoy each others company. Oh and enjoy massive amounts of food. Now, depending on marital status, age, parents’ marital status and location; you may have anywhere from 1-6 dinners to attend on a holiday such as this.
Gastroparesis makes holidays a day of bargaining instead of pure enjoyment. A normal person enjoying the holidays helps themselves to a heaping first plate, possibly a second helping, and dessert. This is then followed by adult beverages and or a festive nap. No second thoughts or concerns. When you have this invisible illness, you’re forced to think about how the past few days have gone, what you may be able to tolerate and for how long, but also think about tomorrow and the consequences of what you are about to do. There is a lot of bargaining and questions to ask yourself.
- Is this food on my safe list?
- When was the last time I ate actual food?
- How much of one item do you think would sit well?
- I have to work tomorrow, is this going to stop hurting by then?
- I didn’t eat breakfast, Maybe I could try lunch?
I have made a list of foods I know are safe but i can only eat them when I’m having a good day and after I fight with myself on all the possible scenarios. Some safe foods I have found so far (as long as I eat a very small quantity and I don’t over indulge): Mashed potatoes, tuna, dollar store brand chicken and rice soup, grilled cheese, 1/2 a PB &J, white fish, ground turkey, and sometimes chicken. Some foods that put me over the edge and into a debilitating state: any green vegetables, red sauces, noodles/pasta, fatty meats.
My scenario for this Easter was a dinner on Saturday. A lunch and then dinner on Sunday. I had a good couple of days prior and I had made sure to not skew from my safe foods. I had my mind made up that I was going to enjoy a little at each family’s meal.
My plate for Saturday’s Easter dinner consisted of a small scoop of mashed potatoes, a wee bit of corn and a very small slice of ham. To my surprise it sat rather well. I made sure to not lay down after eating and I kept on top of all of my medicines. I had a successful Saturday meal.
Sunday morning came and I refused to eat food knowing I needed to make it all day without pain. I drank an Ensure High Protein shake instead. I felt a little bloated after it but it seemed to pass after mass. We headed to our first family gathering of the day. Upon arrival, there was a spread of veggie platters and deviled eggs. (Side note: Anyone that knows me will tell you that deviled eggs are what I look forward to with any gathering) I quickly scanned the kitchen and saw the spread: a ham in the oven, creamed corn in a crock pot, mashed potatoes, cheesy scalloped potatoes, cornbread, Hawaiian rolls, and 2 desserts. I estimated that it would be about an hour before we would eat. I thought back to how much I ate the night before and how I felt. I came to a conclusion that 1 deviled egg would be ok. I picked one with the least amount of paprika and ate it slowly. It felt good to taste a delicious well made deviled egg. I thought about a second one (as I have cleared plates of this before my diagnosis) but quickly squashed that thought to avoid any pain. Once dinner was served, I waited for everyone to serve themselves before putting my plate together. I grabbed a small scoop of mashed potatoes, a tiny bit of the creamed corn and the smallest slice of ham I could find. I ate slowly and got filled quickly. I stopped before finishing my ham because I knew if I pushed forward, I would bloat and regret it quickly. A couple of hours talking and hanging out allowed my stomach to settle. I could feel myself getting tired but I kept myself busy.
Sunday evening presented another meal. I saw a similar spread but this one included loaded mashed potatoes, a green bean casserole, kielbasa, and homemade dinner rolls. I again was last to fix a plate, I didn’t know how my body was going to react to another meal today. I scooped myself maybe a tablespoon of mashed potatoes, and 2 slices of kielbasa. i ate that and just picked at a dinner roll. The roll was heavy but tasted so yummy. Another inner debate: do I eat it all or stop to prevent my body from attacking me. I figured I did so well the past few days that I deserved to finish the roll. After about an hour i started to feel the nausea and the seasick sensation of rocking on a boat. I quickly dissolved a Zofran tablet under my tongue and hoped I stopped any major damage. I was extremely full and my abdomen somewhat swollen.
I was exhausted by the time I got home, so I decided to sleep off my food as most Americans do after large meals. This brings us to this morning… Imagine your worst hangover. The room spinning, the stomach swirling, dry heaving before actually vomiting. The headache, the abdominal pain from heaving. Now intensify it 3x. It’s almost hard to imagine this, right? This is what i felt like this morning– I had a food hangover. The pain wouldn’t stop. My stomach was so loud. I vomited and my face was very pale. My pulse started to slow down into the 40s and I became lightheaded. I took all my medicines, added some Zofran, and drank Gatorade. After a while passed, the pain intensified and it felt as if someone was squeezing my stomach with all their strength. I took some pain medicine and tried to sleep it off. I thought about all the food I ate and quickly started to regret eating. My wife assured me though that I hadn’t eaten very much.
Gastroparesis takes the fun and festive out of holiday festivities. Having to plan, bargain, and eventually regret is enough to throw anyone into a dark place. I’m glad that I had my sunshine yesterday, but those grey skies today have been very overwhelming.