Pattern of Longterm Illness

1998 – 2009: A brief history of tooth-related illness

Over these eleven years, I had a series of hidden tooth infections (long story) that showed no obvious symptoms (pain, abscess, visibility on x-ray, etc). During that time, I instead had a handful of unrelated symptoms that doctors tried and failed to treat:

  • allergic reactions to allergens that I was not allergic to, with no alleviation from allergy medicines
  • throat illnesses every couple weeks, plus extreme susceptibility to every illness I was exposed to
  • symptoms of bipolar disorder that didn’t respond to any anti-depressant or mood stabilizer
  • sudden weight gain or loss in a short period of time with months of holding steady in between, with no change in diet or exercise during that time
  • pain to the touch on my inner arms, where the lymph nodes are, with the nodes swollen and knotted so that you could feel each of them individually

Doctors tried dozens of medications, therapy, CT-scans, hospital referrals, alternative medicines, and specific dietary changes. Nothing changed the symptoms – because they were being caused by an unconnected source. Essentially, my body was trying to fight something it couldn’t fight, and its reactions were all over the place. I don’t know WHY my body did this, perhaps it was just hyper inflammatory responses all over the place. All I know is that when all the infections were cleared out, every single symptom went away.

2012 – 2019: A brief history of my body on low-carb diets

I changed to a low-carb diet in Feb/March 2012 after my doctor told me that I was probably insulin-resistant. (I wasn’t, and she had no reason to suspect this, but she also sold protein bars for diet purposes, so I’d guess this was the end-goal for her.) Within months of going low-carb, I began to experience a lot of weird symptoms that I never connected with my diet:

  • extreme overactive bladder (30+ times per day) that didn’t respond to any medication
  • facial inflammation/redness
  • menstrual problems including extreme hormone swings
  • extreme, crippling pain (muscle, bone, joint) after any high intensity exercise or strength training, lasting at least one week
  • extreme ravenous hunger for 24 hrs after any high intensity exercise or strength training
  • wild swings in body temperature, so that I would go from freezing to burning up at random moments

When I changed back to a high-carb diet in March 2019, all of these symptoms went away instantly. Once again, my body was expressing the wrongness through many disparate symptoms. This wasn’t an illness, and each of those symptoms can be traced back to the source, but it’s just another example of how my body expresses that something’s wrong by multiple methods that may not be immediately obvious as to cause.

2014 – Present: A history of an as-of-yet-unknown illness or problem.

The first problem that became visible began on May 1st, 2014. Over the next two weeks, I gained seven pounds. My diet and exercise in that time was normal, with no changes or special occasions or any reason for this sudden shift. I’d been maintaining my weight before that for 18 months without any struggle to do so. Over the rest of the summer of 2014, I gained an additional 20 lbs while trying to lose weight (instead of maintain). At the time, I attributed this to the stress of moving and some family issues, even though I’d been able to maintain with no trouble during other times of extreme stress, anxiety, and depression. Then that fall, I lost 12 lbs in four weeks – the fastest I’ve ever lost weight in my life. I attributed it to a change to a very low carb diet, even though my calories and exercise stayed the same. Since that time, my weight has been unpredictable again. I gained 80 lbs in just over a year, all the while maintaining a calorie deficit and exercising as much as I could. Then I began years of maintaining the new, higher weight, only to hit pockets of time when I could actually lose in a normal way and pockets where I gained for no reason. The extremes have not been AS extreme as during the tooth infection, my body is also not responding the way it did when I was completely infection-free.

Other problems that have arisen and remain unexplained since mid-2014 include:

  • anosmia (loss of sense of smell), followed by the partial return of my sense of smell with peculiar distortions. Drs have tried MRIs, antibiotics, sinus probes, CT scans, and medications to fix this with no results or conclusions (Jan 2018 – present)
  • chronic hives, with implication that I’m that one-in-a-million person allergic to probiotics, though even a year after my last probiotic, I remain on multiple medicines to control the hives. Notably, allergy tests continue to report that I have no allergies. (Dec 2018 to present)
  • severe depression and anxiety, with the latter developing into full-blown anxiety and panic disorder, and none of which respond much to medication. The mental health issues are attributed to the chronic trauma endured in 2014-2015, and I imagine that is a contributing factor. However, some of the symptoms, especially of the anxiety, are very reminiscent of the “bipolar” symptoms I had while my teeth were infected. Plus, multiple antidepressants and mood stabilizers have only had the mildest effects, and I’ve gone through almost a dozen different kinds.

So, looking back over this: Since mid-2014, I’ve experienced unexplained weight issues, a weird chronic illness, mental health issues that don’t respond to medication, and allergy symptoms reacting to something I’m not actually allergic to. This sounds an awful like the ways my body reacted to previous illnesses and conditions, especially to the tooth infections. And this makes me suspect that something is wrong in my body that doctors haven’t found, perhaps haven’t even looked at.

I have my suspicions. I’ve actually had these suspicions for several years now. In January 2014, I underwent an abdominoplasty for reparation of abdominal muscles and removal of excess skin. My original intentions were just for skin removal as I was experiencing infections and pain, and I chose the only doctor in town who claimed to do this surgery instead of just abdominoplasty. Only then, he showed me how far separated my abdominal muscles were, and I decided to go through with the full surgery. And at first, all seemed well. Until it didn’t.

Not all of the skin was removed. Dr said he couldn’t remove more without compromising blood flow, and that he would do a secondary surgery (included in the same price) a few months later once the swelling went down. When it was time for the secondary surgery, he decided to charge an extra $1000, so I declined the surgery. I’ve suspected since then that my original incision scar was not particularly well-sewn, and that there are some complications with it that would have been removed if I’d elected to do a secondary surgery. The scar line continues to itch terribly after six years (highly unusual), and there are giant knots of scar tissue under sections of it (like scar cylinders, an inch in diameter). I still have very little sensation from navel to hip. This last part might be normal, but I don’t know.

I was told that everything should be healed and feeling normal by six weeks post-surgery. Six years later, and I still have pain in certain parts of my abdominal muscles, where there were internal stitches. If I do exercises such as planks, it feels like the suture sites are going to rip, especially in my top right abdomen muscle on the corner. (A place, notably, where I had tons of pain starting about a month after the surgery.) The itching is not normal, and is concentrated in parts of my belly where there are giant knots of scar tissue under the skin. Something feels wrong, and has felt wrong for years. But I don’t know enough about this kind of thing to know what is and isn’t wrong, and I can’t go back to talk to the surgeon.

Other things the surgeon did were wrong. He pulled out my two drains too early. He’d had to reschedule my follow-up appointment from Day 8 to Day 5, and on Day 5, one of the drains had fluid less than max, but the other didn’t. He decided to pull them both anyway. When drains are pulled too early, it can cause problems like seromas and infections. The doctor also gave me liposuction on my hips and obliques while I was under anesthesia, even when I expressly asked not to have any. Lipo can also cause complications.

I suspect that my problems stem from a complication related to never having that secondary surgery. I think that this dr did a sloppy job with sewing the incision because he thought that his original scar would be excised eventually anyway, and between that and the early drain pulling, a pocket of something (fluid? bacteria? something else?) has been left inside my body. It’s causing inflammation and perhaps localized infection – something not strong enough to show up in blood work or fever, but something that will start making my body express all these other symptoms, symptoms that get worse and more complicated until finally someone can figure out what’s wrong.

I looked up the doctor, and his website has disappeared. Reviews on him from various websites are polarized, with half giving him five stars and half one-star reviews with accusations of disfigurement and needing secondary surgeries to fix the first. These reviews are all post-2014, and were unavailable when I first chose the doctor. Obviously, I would not go back to this doctor to ask about my suspicions. But I also don’t know who else to go to. Too many doctors look at individual problems and treat individual symptoms, rather than the looking at all the pieces as part of a whole. Too often, I’ve had to act as my own amateur doctor, and this isn’t an area where I can do that. I can suspect, I can point fingers at what I think, but only a doctor can look into what may or may not be wrong inside my belly.