Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer

Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer
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Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer

A what sufferer? Gastroparesis. A chronic digestive disease. A disease that I live with.

On New Year’s Day of 2015, I wound up in the emergency room. I hadn’t been able to keep any food in my stomach for 24 hours, and I was miserable. This wasn’t the first time I’d dealt with stomach ailments. In fact, I’d basically been living with an ongoing “stomach ache” since I was in preschool. We just didn’t know what was causing it. I’d stopped eating dairy, been tested for celiac, and tried a “healthy diet” more than once. However, I also had the lining of my stomach ripped at 16 from an acne medication, a serious bout of mono, and a severe eating disorder. Let’s just say, I wasn’t exactly kind to my stomach, and the repercussions were much more extreme than I expected.

After a slew of medical examinations, my gastroenterologist suggested a gastric emptying scan. Nutshell version: they make you eat some radioactive eggs (I thought I was going to become a superhero), then lay you beneath a camera, which follows the radioactive material through your system. I was told that while most individuals can process something that simple in around 30 minutes or less, my digestive track would take 3 times as long – or longer. Now imagine having to process a steak dinner or something much heavier. Needless to say, it all made sense why I was experiencing such severe pain immediately following even the smallest of meals. Not to mention the intense nausea that stuck around like an unwanted guest.

The diagnosis was official: I had gastroparesis.

Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer

This scary-sounding disease has altered my life drastically over the past few years. At first, I believed I’d be able to get back to normalcy after allowing some time to “heal.” How wrong I was. The bad news got worse when I discovered my allergy to the only FDA-approved medication for this disease, along with numerous food allergies that prevent me from typical gastroparesis diets. I had hoped for some sort of relief, but instead, I came to the realization that this was going to be a central part of my life for an indefinite period of time.

After starting jobs only to lose them a couple months or weeks later (due to the constant need to call out of work sick), I decided to start looking for something to do from the comfort of my bed. This is when blogging chose me. I already had a following on Instagram, so I took the time to research and launch my website and over the past 3 years, I’ve turned it into a full-time business. I never though my illness would provide such a blessing, but I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do what I love every day.

Do I still experience the symptoms?

Yep. Every day I wake up with tear-inducing pain ripping through my gut. I have to give myself at least an hour to sit in bed before actually getting up and moving about, because of the discomfort. Each time I eat, it hurts. Sometimes, I can physically feel a knot the size of a fist on my stomach, where the food hasn’t properly digested. Every couple of weeks, I’ll have a “flare up” of excruciating pain that keeps me bedridden for days at a time. During these periods, the nausea is so intense that only 2-3 foods sound even somewhat pleasant to me. Sometimes, I’ll get mini flare-ups while I’m out and about, and they typically result in calling off whatever I’m doing, and going straight to bed (or to my car to curl up in a ball if a bed isn’t readily available).

What can I do to cope?

Honestly, not much. I don’t say this to be dramatic. The reality is that there’s no true relief. I can take my nausea medication. I can pray for the pain to cease. But sometimes I just need to cry it out, then stay in bed to wait it out. I’m not sure if this will ever just go away, so I’ve learned to “deal with it” the best I can, and keep living my life.

But I seem just fine!

Often, diseases aren’t seen by the human eye. Mine is one of those. The only time it’s noticeable is when I’m losing weight due to my inability to eat comfortably, or when my skin is wrecked because of the lack of gut health. I also don’t want to spend 90% of my time complaining about my stomach, so I put on a brave face for social media and do my best to enjoy time with friends. However, I’ll often cancel photoshoots, postpone lunch dates, or leave parties earlier because of my symptoms acting up. I do what I can when I can, and let my body rest on the days that are just a little too hard.

Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer

Gastroparesis sucks, but it doesn’t define me – or does it?

I’m oddly thankful for this illness, because without it, I may have never begun this blog. I try not to let it take over my entire life, but it’s a huge part of the picture, and it’s had a massive role to play in who I am today. So I’m going to keep pushing forward, hoping for a cure, but also working towards my dreams and goals – never letting it hold me back. It will only propel me forward! This is why I chose such cheery photos to go along with this post. I’m working to keep that smile on my face, no matter what!

Confessions of a Gastroparesis-Sufferer

Any other spoonies out there?

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Renee || Getting Fit Fab
    September 21, 2018 at 9:32 AM

    I’ve never heard of this gastro-disease, how awful. The pain you’re talking about sounds similar to what I experienced when I had open ulcers on my stomach lining and esophagus. That really sucks that you can’t take the medicine because you’re allergic to it and the diet. Whew, rough girl. But you’re right if you didn’t have this we wouldn’t be able to read your blog or see these fabulous outfits. Keep smiling! <3

  • Reply
    Stefanie
    September 21, 2018 at 10:34 AM

    You are so strong Steph!! I hope one day they find a relief for you that helps you cope with the pain and nausea! But it’s crazy and amazing how something so terrible has led you to something so great! Always proud of you!! <3

  • Reply
    Donna
    September 21, 2018 at 2:21 PM

    Amazing how you worked hard to find the good out of an unbelievably challenging illness. So proud of you. Keep fighting!

  • Reply
    Jheelam
    September 21, 2018 at 2:32 PM

    You look so cheery and glowing in all of your pics, it definitely showed that you’ve taken this horrible disease by its hand and came away victorious. More power and good health to you. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sarah Lindner
    September 21, 2018 at 2:58 PM

    I have never heard of Gastroparesis. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and how you work through the pain daily. I can’t imagine how you must feel everyday. I hope they find a cure one day!

    XOXO
    Sarah

  • Reply
    September
    September 21, 2018 at 3:10 PM

    You still need to explain the term spoonies!

    • Reply
      Stephanie Whitman
      September 23, 2018 at 6:01 PM

      the word itself is linked at the bottom of the post in pink 🙂 just click it to learn more!

  • Reply
    Kim
    September 21, 2018 at 3:35 PM

    I have never heard of Gastroparesis but it definitely doesn’t sound fun. Thank you for sharing your story and I’m so glad you are coping with it. Hopefully a cure is on the way in the future!

    xoxo,
    Kim

  • Reply
    Avani
    September 21, 2018 at 6:19 PM

    Oh.. No. I had never heard of this before. Surely doesn’t sound like fun

  • Reply
    Beth
    September 21, 2018 at 10:24 PM

    I think it is awesome that you are able to take this very uncomfortable fact of your life and focus on the positive. I also hope that one day a medication will be approved for this that you can take.

  • Reply
    Kileen
    September 22, 2018 at 1:07 AM

    I’m so sorry to hear babe. It definitely sounds life changing and I pray and hope that you will find some sort of relief soon. Sending you lots of love and positive vibes!

    Kileen
    cute & little

  • Reply
    Amanda
    September 22, 2018 at 12:38 PM

    I have never heard of Gastroparesis before. Thanks for sharing your story -hopefully this post will help someone else that has it too.

  • Reply
    Jasmine Vargas
    September 22, 2018 at 5:59 PM

    underneath that beautiful smile, you sure hide any pain issues you are having. I hope that one day you can find some relief to all of this. I’m a baby when I am bloated, I can’t imagine dealing with that.

  • Reply
    Mollie
    September 23, 2018 at 1:12 PM

    Omg Stephanie – I had no idea you we’re going through this! I’ve never heard of Gastroparesis before, but it doesn’t sound fun 🙁 I am so happy that through all the pain and lost jobs you were able to find blogging and take it into a full time career, and one that work around your own schedule. I hope they make a new medicine that you aren’t allergic to! Thank you for being so open and sharing your experience with this disease!

    xx Mollie
    http://www.molliemooreblog.com

  • Reply
    Stephani
    September 23, 2018 at 1:33 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I cannot imagine how difficult and challenging this could be but you seem so strong and I am so glad you’ve found an outlet that makes you happy – something you can do from home!

  • Reply
    Ada
    September 24, 2018 at 4:31 AM

    I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to deal with this. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Reply
    Laura || Walking in Memphis in High Heels
    September 24, 2018 at 9:25 AM

    This is such an amazing story! It’s so true that just because we can’t see that your suffering physically doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering. I am so glad that it’s lead you to blogging and a life that can be altered to be able to work with this disease and push through it. You keep smiling girl!

  • Reply
    Deborah
    September 24, 2018 at 10:33 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your last point actually really stood out to me. My mom has rheumatoid arthritis and while people say she “looks fine” it’s the invisible diseases that can really get a person.

  • Reply
    Liz
    September 24, 2018 at 11:17 AM

    Oh my goodness! I have never heard of this before! You are such an inspiration and I think it’s amazing that you are bringing light to this!

  • Reply
    Megan
    September 24, 2018 at 4:05 PM

    I have never even heard of this disease before your post. Thank you for enlightening us and making us aware.

  • Reply
    Laura
    September 24, 2018 at 4:43 PM

    I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been experiencing this sort of pain since preschool. I had never heard of this before and I can only imagine how painful it is as you’ve described it quite well. Invisible diseases can be just as hard to cope with as those that are out in the open. Sending you lots of hugs and thanks for sharing your story!

    xo, Laura

  • Reply
    kelly Fordon
    September 25, 2018 at 12:34 PM

    This definitely puts things into perspective for me. For as long as I can remember I’ve experienced some kind of stomach discomfort (nothing too crazy, just sensitivity.) I couldn’t even imagine going through this kind of pain every day. Sending good vibes your way!

    Cheers x

    Kelly

    Style Hacks for Fall

  • Reply
    Jasmine Boswell
    September 26, 2018 at 8:48 PM

    okayyy you are the absolute cutest!!

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