Gallstones, Risk Factors and Putting My Health First

A few weeks ago, I was awaken by a sharp pain by my ribcage and in the back.  Thinking it was just heartburn, I took some antacids and tried to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t.

In the morning, I spoke with my father, who was clearly concerned by the pain I described–a pain I unfortunately had been ignoring for several days, believing it was simply indigestion.

Sounds like gallstones. You need to be seen right away!

 Worried by his prognosis, I made a few calls and made my way to the emergency room.

After a flood of tests, I was diagnosed with gallstones and had indeed suffered a minor attack the previous night.

Gallstones are stones that form in the gallbladder or bile ducts.  The gallbladder—a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of the abdomen, beneath the liver—holds a digestive fluid called bile that’s released into the small intestine to help with the breakdown of fat. There seems to be several causes of gallstones, including a fatty diet, but my primary risk factor was having a family history of gallstones.

My doctor recommended laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder. It appears we don’t need our gallbladder to live, and gallbladder removal doesn’t effect our ability to digest food. The body seems to manage without it.

The surgery was an outpatient procedure, allowing me to return home within hours.

"Nice" pic Hubby took right before surgery.

Within a week, I returned to work and even to the gym for a light workout.

The rather simple surgical procedure has left me with some tough life lessons. Something my surgeon said to me really resonated. He advised me to use this experience to stop the cycle of potential health problems. Being a health freak and exercise addict did not immunize me from other risk factors and health issues.

And luckily I can manage without a gallbladder, given other life-debilitating conditions.

So…Are there other hidden health problems waiting for me?

I made it a priority to schedule my and my family’s yearly checkups ASAP as well as to stop ignoring any health symptoms.

2012 will be the year I stop overlooking the messages my body is sending me and start putting my real health first.

Because it’s what’s on the inside that counts! Literally, in this case.

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