Once upon a time I was dealing with systemic lupus. An illness which brought my life as I knew it for 40 years to a halt. I grew up on a cattle ranch and also raised and trained quarter horses. I enjoyed a fun career as a horse wrangler/trainer and stunt woman in films & television. However the symptoms of Lupus made it impossible to continue.
Since the diagnosis 16 years ago I’ve learned to live and deal with Lupus SLE. In my previous posts, I ranted and complained, I also blamed. But the title of my blog is Praise You in this Storm. There was no praising going on. I have to say that this attitude did nothing to help me nor did it help others dealing with lupus and for that, I’m sorry. Because I found other bloggers who truly did offer help, and hope. THAT is what I needed. Now that I’ve been diagnosed with another illness that has caused me more pain and suffering than anything, I realize the need for a positive, more helpful blog. Sharing the journey of my Achalasia illness, how it progressed and what I’m hopeful for.
Achalasia is a condition where the esophagus closes off, in my case at the bottom, so swallowing has become almost impossible. This condition progresses quickly, so what began as food and liquid getting stuck and requiring me to wait for it to go down or run a spit it out is now a painful condition which has caused me to lose a lot of weight (from 110 lbs. back down to 88 lbs. and currently trying to gain) due to either not eating because I’m afraid of the acute pain which has been mistaken for a pancreatitis attack, or due to vomiting food and liquid that pooled at the bottom and absolutely wouldn’t go down.
Several hospital stays later, a doctor who listened to my symptoms and didn’t interrupt me with ideas of why I have abdominal pain and vomiting later, I received the diagnostic tests which conclusively diagnosed Achalasia.
While in the hospital they attempted to insert a nasal feeding tube but it kept hanging up and I would choke. So, I had a barium swallow test and it showed how the barium just stopped in my esophagus. Then an endoscopy called an EGD was done and another called an EUS showed how my esophagus closed.
Since those tests, the GI Specialists all agreed that I had Achalasia and said there was a surgery available that would help me. My Achalasia was bad and wasn’t just a annoying condition, for whatever reason, maybe due to lupus, Achalasia progressed so quickly.
I was sent to see the surgeon who would do the POEM surgery but this is where my journey went downhill fast.
He looked over all the results and felt I had GERD and acid reflux even though I’d never had heartburn or any problem of burning. He decided to repeat the endoscopies. I did have the esophageal manometry test which proved I did have a definite problem with my esophagus closing off.
I’ve yet to have my surgery. It’s been almost a year since I was told I needed to have it. This year has been filled with additional endoscopies, consultations with the surgeon, appointments canceled for me because, even though my insurance had paid thousands of dollars and 100% on repeat procedures, I had a balance I was paying on. But I wasn’t paying it quickly enough. I owed $800 but had already paid at least $8,000 between insurance and myself. I showed up with $180 at my follow up appointment to get back on track and see the original GI Specialist who diagnosed Achalasia but it wasn’t enough of a payment and my appointment was canceled and I was turned away.
Meanwhile I am suffering, I’m not complaining here, I’m just saying I’m suffering and afraid of how quickly this illness has progressed. The last endoscopy my biopsy showed Barrettes Esophagus now.
I’m frustrated and I can certainly gather the money to pay what the clinic is requesting but I’ve become numb. I feel like the money is more important than the patient. I’ve had 4 or 5 endoscopies in the last 12 months, consultations, hospital stay. Everything but $800 is paid and I’m paying that off. But putting your health and esophagus in the hands of a group who turned me away after I’ve been through so much additional testing, trusting they know what they’re doing but suddenly one surgeon changes the diagnosis. Then, he doesn’t do the surgery but rather a balloon dilation I didn’t know he did until I requested my records.
I just want this problem fixed and it’s all so strange. How I was so glad they’d finally diagnosed me. How they gave me hope, there’s a surgery they can do! I follow directions and contact the surgeon I’m matched with, and because he’s a GERD Specialist my surgery gets put off and the hunt for a GERD diagnosis begins.
I know I have Achalasia. I believe the 3 Specialists who have looked, tested and found I do. But I’m at a road block. It’s difficult for me to bring the money, hand it over, then I’m allowed to see the wizard. That’s how it feels.
I didn’t ask for numerous, costly diagnostic procedures. I was diagnosed the first round.
But I must have fallen through the cracks. Or the surgeon really thinks a balloon fixed it (it didn’t, I’m worse), or they just don’t want me as a patient. I don’t know and I don’t know what to do, how to proceed.
I’m trying to be honest with myself, give the clinic the benefit of the doubt, trusting of a surgeon who wouldn’t let me talk, stopped all progress towards the surgery.
When your weak from your illness, it’s very hard to advocate for yourself. I think last week, being turned away from my long awaited appointment because I was $40 short in the cash I brought to pay on my bill, just broke me inside. I lost hope that a doctor really wants to help me.