Like I’m Gonna Lose You

Last weekend I got in a fight and ended up in the emergency room. The fight was not, as you might assume, with some bitches in a bar who didn’t know their role. I had a fight with my guts and it seems I lost.

I am recovering now, and managed to avoid surgery by the skin of my teeth yet again, but I have learned that not only do I have swelling and narrow tubes in the top half of my small bowel, I have strictures in the lower half, and those are new. Now, prednisone is from the Devil and will absolutely kill you long term, but hot damn does it work in a hurry. It sucker-punches the inflammation and immediately starts putting things back in working order. It will do it’s best on the strictures, but those are narrow tubes caused by scar tissue, and they can’t be fixed unless you cut them out, and then they come back in the same place, and then you get them cut out, and then your gut is too short and begins to resemble a theme park water slide. The swelling and strictures gum up the works and a semi-normal day that included broccoli soup with pieces of broccoli floating in it, followed by grilled beets topped with pepitas with dinner means blinding pain 24 hours later.

It’s hard to point at one food as the cause for this stuff, especially when I regularly eat a bunch of varieties of fiber and feel peachy keen. My doctor said your body hangs on as long as it can and then finally throws up its hands and says “I quit! Time for a vacation.”

Another doctor described my current situation as a slow-running drain. When I eat anything now, a few bites fills me up because food gets clogged in the still-healing pipes. As a result I am on a low-residue diet.

You see, my friends, this post is not about guts. It’s about food. A low-residue diet means little to no fiber. Fiber bulks things up, which clogs the drain, which makes the pain, which sends me to the hospital for an IV of crazy juice.

Most people, including myself,

 would relish being told to ignore vegetables, fruits and whole grains in favor of refined fluffy white bread, meat cooked to falling apart, a little cheese, maybe some cake…mmm.

As someone who loves to eat and cook, dietary restraints are a significant thorn in my aching side, though there are obviously worse things that can happen to a Crohn’s patient. For me, though, taking away my food is tough. The first 12 hours were great. Eating croissants, cheese, mashed potatoes, even a little pot roast while smugly silencing the “carbs are death!” voice in my head. To be clear, I do not generally abstain from carbs, but the voice is annoying just the same.

I had another flare between babies, but the main difference (besides the new strictures) is that this time I am breastfeeding a baby who refuses bottles. After 36 hours without more than a slice of bread and a cup of water, the well had run dry. I was weak and recovered slowly last time because I took it really easy and didn’t eat much. This time I’m pushing myself with the guidance of my doctors to make sure I get the fat and protein I need to make milk for my son, whose palate is as refined as his mother’s and will not accept formula or even my milk from a bottle. I am feeling stronger, but this all-fat and white bread diet is making me feel like I’m encouraging an early death by diabetes or heart disease.

So I’m now in my own series of Chopped, with nothing but mush in my basket of ingredients. I would rather be Chopped than sliced, however. If I’m not careful, the wrong food could result in emergency surgery to cut out a hunk of gut that I can never get back. It’s not forever, but with my long history of failing medications, it could be a while until it’s safe to eat normally.

As any cooking TV junkie knows, good food means balance, texture, color, and butter. Ok, the butter is just for me, but texture and color are key, and I can have neither. No greens, no veg, no fruit. I can eat canned fruit (bleh, and the sugar headaches are a real treat), and some boiled-to-oblivion veggies, but mostly it’s white foods for the win. I am a food racist. So first, you subtract the known killers like raw veg or fruit with skins and seeds, THEN I must account for the foods that affect me personally when I’m having a flare. “Ugh, you can only eat eggs? Well at least you could put a dash of hot sauce on them!” Mm, no. “You can eat canned green beans and asparagus tips!” Mm, I have trouble with the fresh versions when I’m not flaring, so probably not.

I thought it would just be the first few days (I was discharged Monday) but a meeting with the doctor today confirmed at least another week of mushy slop. After leaving the office I headed to my temple, Central Market, because if I must have slop, it shall be the finest slop in all the land!

The first thing I did was load up on herbs. It turns out, I put salsa on lots of my meals (forbidden for tomatoes, spice, onions, peppers, and general deliciousness). With just meat, cheese, and bread, my meals feel heavy and dull. After researching and talking to my doctor, herbs should be ok in small amounts. Just smelling fresh dill in my basket while walking through the store gave me life! Pickles are also forbidden, so I’m hoping dill will fill that vinegary void.

I got some tortilla soup because my doctor seemed to think anything soupified would be cooked down enough to be safe, but I ended up chucking it after picking out the tender chicken. Peppers, tomatoes and onions don’t dissolve, and I’m not in pain, but I can *feel* my ileum, so I’m glad I didn’t chance it. Just goes to show that everyone is different, and this will be a lesson in gentle trial and error.

I bought shrimp because it’s allowed and I like it. I got better bread that doesn’t have grains. I got good stuff for sandwiches, though I’ll have to remove the outside of the ham slices (yes, it’s that delicate right now). And finally, *vegetarians look away!* I got VEAL. Because, you know, it’s very tender, and I’m so very ill. *cough cough*. What?! I think I’ve bought veal one other time in my life and I don’t remember it. I’m recovering. I need the most tender of meats!

So I will try and trick my taste buds into being satisfied with slop for a while, because it’s time for some self-care. Guts, I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you. Because you know what? I just might lose them, and that is harder to swallow (see what I did there?) than some soft meals.

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