[This Acute Pancreatitis true story came in by email]
I thank you for your website and insight! I have recently been diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and am at a loss on how to deal with it.
My short journey started on September 6, 2012. I was experiencing pain in the middle of my upper abdomen and under my left breast radiating through to my back. It was intermittent but I was worried it was my heart. They ran a couple tests and sent me home (lipase was normal). I was ok with that as the pain was again subsiding. On September 9th it was back and very uncomfortable but again intermittent. When the pain stayed with me for a couple hours straight I went back to the hospital. This time they did admit me. My blood pressure was very high but apparently my lipase was still normal (I found this out later). They kept me a couple days and released me. They treated me like I was crazy and I found out I was diagnosed with a depressive disorder. This was Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!!
Over the next couple weeks the pain would come and go which I would take advil for and an old prescription of pain meds that I never used. When the pain got worse I did not want to go to the hospital because I felt they thought I was crazy! On October 3rd the pain was so unbearable my husband called and ambulance. It was the exact same pain I had been experiencing for weeks, just magnified greatly. Now I know what pain is and to be honest would rather give birth again. This is when I found out was lipase is. My levels were off the charts at over 30,000. I was given a name for what was going on and actually felt vindicated. Weird huh! Well obviously you know the drill, no food water, pain meds (morphine and dilaudid). Also my blood pressure was unbelievably high! (which decreased with my pain back to normal). By the 6th I was pain free, levels normal and released.
I should let you know that although I do not drink any hard alcohol I do enjoy beer. Not to the point of getting shit faced but I do drink daily. I was told that drinking can set off attacks so quit. I'm a bartender so this is quite a lifestyle change. I bought NA beer. I had a couple on three different occasions, thinking this was fine. I was actually surprised that I did not seem to miss real beer! No one ever said anything to me about diet. I was still having twinges of pain (including when I was released) but thought it was probably a residual pain that would pass. On October 16th I had another attack. Again my levels were over 30,000. They did express surprise as to how fast my levels decreased. This time they told me no alcohol, including NA, and low fat diet. I was released on October 19th, again with twinges, but this time I mentioned it to the nurse and doctor before I was released.
One of the doctors told me I should probably consider having a couple more tests run to see if there might be additional problems, but (here comes the kicker) I don't have medical insurance. I lost my job a couple months ago so just started tending bar again which doesn't offer insurance. Of course that was the end of that conversation. So here I am, having been released yesterday and panicking because of the twinges of pain. I've been online looking at diets and realized, with a few exceptions, that diet won't be too much of a change though due to my husbands diet for his diabetes. I don't want to look at a beer!
Anyway the reason I decided to write is due to your stress impacting pancreatitis belief. Since July I have lost my job, we have had to move from a four bedroom home to a one bedroom apartment (money was already tight since my spouses hours were cut at the end of last year) and my husband is showing signs of heart problems again (he has had three heart attacks with stent, bypass and stent again). We also are still trying to deal with his medical bills. Needless to say I'm feeling a little stressed out!!! I am lucky though to have a husband and best friend in one person though!
I wonder how much stress might be impacting my current situation. I like your idea of keeping a journal and will start mine tonight. Please, if you have any insight or questions, feel free to contact me. To be honest I am pretty frightened about the whole thing.
Thank you again!
First let me tell you that your story is amazing and I have posted it on MHS (minus your personal information of course), because it will help spread the word about what is really going on with people who get pancreatitis.
When I had my first episode I was consulting at Pfizer and I also didn't have any health insurance. I stayed in the hospital for 6 days and a few weeks after I got out of the hospital, I got a bill for $30,000 ! I was shocked and ultimately settled the bill for $14,000. Which still really sucked as you can imagine. Since then I purchased health insurance, while fully disclosing my pancreatitis issue on the application for fear that a later discovery by the health insurance company would cause them to forfeit paying any medical bills related to this issue; which there was an abundance of afterwards.
It took me many years to figure out what was happening, but ultimately just like you a stressful situation brought on my flare-ups. For years I failed to recognize that alcohol was a trigger for me and I hardly really drank, but I didn't like the thought of having to abstain from alcohol forever, because I was in my mid twenties. Since I saw many gastroenterologist and been to many hospitals, I have acquired many opinions along the years, but ultimately I was the one who figured out that stress was a true trigger for pancreatitis. If you read my stories on here you will learn that I had doctors recommending a different surgeries for the same problem. I did research dn found out that many of these surgeries don't cure people from these issues which scared me.
Five years after my first episode after an ERCP procedure a gastroenterologist finally discovered that I was born with a pancreas divisum. Five years!!! Until then no one had a clue of why I get it. After going through what I went through I can strongly suggest that stress is the issue which is causing your flare-ups. You will have to learn how to deal with stress much better than you currently do. I found that what I was doing to deal with my stress was kind of like bottling up pressure without ever relieving the pressure. So after awhile the pressure would be built up so much that the weakest part of my body (pancreas) would freak out (pancreatitis) and I had a serious issue on my hands. Once my intuition finally clued me in onto what is happening within me, I decided to deal with every stressful issue head-on without allowing it to sit inside me. What I mean by that is that if someone or something upsets me I have learned to vent right-away. You can vent to a person, to yourself, or even by writing in a blog or website just like this. By relieving yourself of the stress through some type of release mechanism, you will not allow the stress (pressure) to build within you. This technique is the ONLY thing that worked for me 100%. Everything else was just an attempt at trying to prevent pancreatitis although it never worked at the time because I used to let that stress just build and build until something blew up.
So, here's what I'd do if I were you.
#1 try to secure some type of health insurance, because it may take you awhile to master your life in this respect.
#2 for the time being continue to abstain from fatty foods (nuts, pizza, cheese, fried foods, etc).
#3 Don't drink any type of alcoholic beverage, not even Nyquil if you get sick.
#4 Learn to master my stress technique by venting each stressful situation instead of holding it in or amplifying it. Picture a plastic bottle with a hose attached that fills the bottle with water. If the water (stress) continuous to fill the bottle, eventually the bottle (your pancreas) will fail and you will have a flare up. However, if you pour out your stress (water) before the bottle is completely filled, you can prevent a flare-up (blow-up). I hope this mental illustration helps everyone who reads this. Like I said before, it's the only thing that has worked for me 100%!
After you master my stress technique (1 year free of pancreatitis) you can allow yourself to eat some of your favorite and missed foods on occasion. You can also drink a beer once a while, but remember that alcohol makes your pancreas work 2 to 3 times as hard, so it won't take much stress (or fatty foods) after that to trigger an attack.
I hope this all makes some sense to you and maybe you'll have more stories to write to our community site. Thank you for writing in and email me if you have more questions or comments.