Patient name: Stephen
Diagnose: Duodenal ulcer
Hi, my name is Stephen. I am a 40 years old bar owner and I have been living with a duodenal ulcer and acidity for over a decade. This is my story.
Now, when I say over a decade, I am talking about the time that passed since I was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer. However, when I look back at my life with the experience that I have now, I realize that I have been experiencing the symptoms of this condition probably since my late teens. I guess that back then I was able to find my way around the disease, never thinking that I would need to see the doctor, or that something could be seriously wrong with my health. That and the symptoms not being severe helped too.
But let me back you up a bit on my story. I was a healthy and active child growing up in a normal family and a pretty safe neighborhood. The school was fine and I had some good friends. I cannot remember anything bothering me, especially about my life. I guess it was all that normality that made me seek a kind of an adventure. So, when I was sixteen, I started smoking and having a beer here and there with some of my friends. I was, of course, very good in hiding the unwanted habits from my parents. The mystery of it all is what made it appealing, and I always managed to stay out of trouble.
I was always skinny, made to run, not to fight. I never cared about food too much, eating was just a must. Food was only a type of fuel for me, I ate just enough to keep me going. When I reflect back to my teenage years I can remember that I had episodes of heartburn, bloating, and generally not responding well to food. When I didn’t eat, everything was fine. For this reason, I tried not to eat often and I always ate small meals. Now I realize that was actually my unintentional self-treatment.
I continued smoking and drinking into my twenties. I never drank too much, but I was always attracted to the bar culture. The social, psychological, and entertainment aspects of it were fascinating to me. I spent a lot of time working behind the bar and I realized early on that is my dream job. Finally, when I was 28, all the pieces came together and I got the opportunity to open my own place.
By this time, I was already aware that I had a big problem with food and drinks. It seemed like everything bothered me. Still, I never looked for any help. I was in my own world where eating and drinking had the smallest possible roles. The acidity problems were the worst and even my friends started telling me that I look too skinny. I felt nauseous at times and I felt pain around my stomach that could not be attributed to hunger. Nights were the worse. my condition started to influence my personal and professional life. In the end, all that got me googling about what could be wrong with me.
Yes, as silly as it might seem, I googled first. Needless to say, Google was very successful in scaring me and finally making me realize that I haven’t been taking much care of myself. I figured that I should go and see the doctor anyway. I was tired of everything and I set my mind on getting checked completely. I thought, whatever they find is better than feeling like this. So I went.
The first appointment with the doctor went very well. I felt satisfied because I was finally doing something for my health. The doctor was kind and as soon as I described my symptoms he told me that the peptic ulcer is his first suspicion. He explained to me the possible diagnostic methods and suggested Esophogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The method was not all too pleasant, as it involved an instrument (scope) with a small camera on top being inserted through the mouth and into the stomach. The doctor assured me that EGD was the most reliable diagnostic method for detecting peptic ulcers and I agreed.
A few days later, the EGD confirmed the doctors’ suspicion. I had a duodenal ulcer, a kind located in the upper part of the small intestine. The good news was that the condition of it was not too bad. Blood tests that followed proved it to be caused by the Helicobacter pylori infection and the doctor said that is actually good news. I was surprised with his confidence, as I did not know much about the condition prior to my diagnosis.
The suggested treatment involved antibiotics to remove the bacteria from the stomach and acid-reducing medications, namely Tagamet. It all looked simple enough until the doctor spoke to me about the other important factors. These included big lifestyle changes. Smoking was to go first. I believe that I do not have to explain how difficult this was for me. I admit, it was hard and it took me almost a year to lose the habit completely, but thinking of all the health benefits and feeling some of them too was very helpful. Alcohol was next. This was easier as I still got to keep a beer or two now and then.
The therapy was successful and the ulcer healed after three months or so. I did my best to adjust my lifestyle and few years into it I realized that I was not feeling completely healthy all my life. Only now I realized that my non-eating habits were the unconscious response to my condition. Smoking was the thing of the past but I started having some simple cravings like for tomatoes, orange juice, or spicy foods.
I’ve been living like this for eleven years now and I cannot say that I do not stray off the path here and there. Even when I do, I go back on it fast because I know it’s worth it. I wanted to share my story with everyone who might be experiencing something similar or having doubts about whether to seek help. Trust me, life can be made much more enjoyable once you accept the responsibility of taking care of your health. Peptic ulcers can be cured and nothing is worth the suffering.