My Story, How it all Began

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Almost 3 years ago! I can tell I have
lost a ton of weight since then by this

Christen in San Diego-My Dad would
always snap photos and make
me upset! I am glad now.

There is a part of me that you can’t see. The part that is deep inside me, behind my rib cage and stomach, the part that has been wreaking havoc on my life since February 15th, 2009, the part that causes me to have chronic pancreatitis. Many people have no idea what this is and I will admit I didn’t know either! The doctor told me that my pancreas and spleen were inflamed and that I would need to stay with them for a few days, which turned into weeks. I had never even been to the emergency room, not once in my life. My first attack brought me much anguish. When I went in I told them that the night before I had three cocktails, an admission I would come to regret. I was pegged as an “college student who participates in episodic binge drinking”-straight from my medical records, any lawyers want to help me get this out? I was a college GRADUATE who went back to school for a second time, thank you! Have no fear, I was told that if you don’t drink, eat a low fat diet, and take it easy you won’t have any problems again. Phew! 

Pancreatitis pain began again in October. Why was this happening again? What was causing this?  After all my MRCP’s, CT scans, and blood draws it was confirmed that the pancreas was inflamed. I started to become all too familiar with amylase and lipase levels, which are markers of pancreatitis in lab work. My lipase was the highest it had ever been, I believe in the 5,000 range when normal is somewhere near 150. Again, after a long hospital stay things returned to normal and I was back home. This time I was depressed and upset and I didn’t want to stay in San Diego anymore. I wanted to be near my parents, it was just easier. I moved home the following month and have yet to regret it. 
 After many more attacks and hospital stays I was given an EUS (endoscopic ultra sound) and an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography) where they went in and cut one of the ducts, called a sphincterotomy. The doctor who preformed this told me as I was coming out of surgery that he believed he had eliminated my cause of pancreatitis. A month later I had my gallbladder out and that surgeon told me that it was scarred and damaged. We all believed it was contributing to my pancreatitis too. Life was good. 

It was only a short time before my crazy pancreas was back at it again! I devoted so much of my time to figuring out where to go next. I used my prep periods at school to call hospitals and doctors, obtain medical records, and make plans. I didn’t realize how many times I had been in the hospital since I moved back to Arizona until I went to get my records. The woman at the records department asked me which records I wanted as I was admitted nine times! I sat in my car and cried after that. 

I found that the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota had a pancreas center and I wanted to go. After reviewing all of my records the Mayo decided they would see me. With that, my mom and I headed there. I was so eager, so excited, and so HOPEFUL!  After another EUS I learned my pancreas was no longer normal and my worst fears were coming true. My pancreas showed four of the markers for chronic pancreatitis and was forever scared. I was diagnosed with a chronic and progressive pancreatic disease with no cure and I was devastated. For a week I let that get me down, and then I got over it and began living life again. 

I began to seek out alternative treatments. I took antioxidants, had acupuncture, got massages, and ultimately stopped working as a second grade teacher. I went gluten free and dairy free (dairy had to be added back because I love cows). Each time I would get sick while doing all these things I would be so confused...I was doing everything right. I have finally come to terms with the fact that this is out of my control. I spoke with a friend the other day who lost a baby 13 days after birth. She told me that one thing she learned during all of that was that this life is not in our control. We cannot create the future or plan for anything. We can only do our best, but God will do the rest according to His plan. She was right and I am okay with that.

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