Sunday, January 24, 2010

Eater's Remorse: Chemical Ingestion is Gross

I've been regaling those around me with tales of what I've come to the conclusion is an incurable disease. Online health forums all yield no results, only similar pleas for help, and hundreds of dollars worth of co-pays later, doctors laugh and tell me it's an unusual problem they've never encountered before.

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot cease burping.

Right?! How silly is that? All my life, I've lamented my total inability to do so without trying really, really, really hard and eating something exceptionally fizzy, and now, ever since I was on meds for my TMJ (yes, I am aware I have an obvious underbite from a side view; no, I do NOT want cosmetic surgery to "fix" the appearance of my face -- I've known this face all my life, and it's served me fairly well), I can't seem to stop. They're weird ... hiccup-y burps coming from where heartburn usually stems from, popping and gurgling to my great annoyance every few minutes. In short, I am the equivalent of a hiccuping small child who just can't seem to stop.

Now, this wouldn't be more than a minor embarrassment if not for the fact that this burping were uncomfortable if stifled, and at times painful; and that the air going to my head literally makes me air-headed, and therefore dizzy. (See? Two punnies in one! Now it's three!) This light-headedness then makes me feel vaguely motion-sick, which leads to nausea. All this equates suckiness.

This makes it hard to eat stuff. Maybe it's my long-anticipated punishment for a life of gluttony, my normally friendly stomach finally rebelling and shouting, "Enough! I can't stretch any further!" However, eating is the only time I ever stop burping, and so the vicious cycle continues as I expand evermore.

So anyway, that's the backstory of why this week, I had to ingest chemicals of a ghastly nature.

As an ex-food writer and a current foodie (still, since I hope to be friends with my stomach once again), the idea of doing what they call a Barium Swallow to check out my innards really grossed me out. The concept of voluntarily drinking a cupful of chemicals is revolting to me, since I don't even like taking pills due to my lack of trust in said chemicals. (Which could more or less be perfectly founded, given that I didn't have this burping issue until I started on muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories for my aching jaw.)

The concept behind a Barium Swallow is this: it goes in your mouth, down your throat, into your stomach, then your small intestine, covering everything in a thick coat so that the x-rays will reveal any kind of abnormality. I did an "esophageal" one, which I can only assume that the focus was to look at my throat and its functions.

Well, it all sounds very simple until it's go time.

I was put in a cloth hospital gown and asked to take a shot of something extremely fizzy. Then, I was given a big paper Dixie cup full of what looked like some of Elmer's best white stuff, more commonly found in kindergarten classrooms around the nation than your local doctor's office. Being who I am, I of course smelled it first.

It didn't smell like much. The best way to describe it was that it smelled like vaguely sweet ... goo. Really, that rubbery, odorless sensation that has no distinction of its own other than to emote its texture through what can only narrowly be classified as scent.

Downing it was a horror. This shit was foul. Now, I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to medication, being that I'd drink pink Amoxicillin shakes if they existed (Boy hates that stuff) and, in trying to control my burping, pop Maalox chewables like candy (it didn't work, in case you were wondering), but this was a whole other kind of just FOUL experience.

It didn't taste terrible, but it felt foreign and invasive. So thick, its consistency was more dense than the glue it so closely resembled. In fact, it's so wildly dense that it's hard just to get it past your lips, since it almost feels like attempting to swallow a very large, cup-shaped blob whole. It sticks to your lips and the skin all around it, forming a layer of residue that clings desperately to your face, adding self-consciousness to the negative feelings you're already feeling. A chalky aftertaste that smells vaguely of Play-Doh accompanied each sip, and I had to literally force myself to allow the substance to slide its globby self down my throat. What made it even worse than that was that it wasn't a smooth slide -- the Barium required serious gulping as glob after glob was pushed down into my stomach. The idea of letting this nasty feeling repeat repelled me, but I had no choice, since the absolute worst part of it all is that you're asked to basically chug it down.

I've never been much of a chugger. I drink a margarita every hour, and it takes me eons to get through a glass of wine. I'm a savorer, and I like to eat things and thing about them and roll the feeling and flavor around in my mouth a little bit. So being asked to slam down a cup of glue was not only insanely vile, but against my nature.

Ironically, at first glance, the technicians said my pictures looked pretty normal ... same as the ultrasound doctor had said about my stomach scan, which he had (hilariously, to me ... not so much to other doctors) proclaimed "grossly normal," as if it were a disappointment.

Anyhow, all I can do at this point is to hope that they figure out wtf is wrong with me. A clean bill of health is normally a good thing, but when you know something's wrong and no one knows what that "something" is, and you keep spending $40 at a time to be told, "Yes, that's very strange -- I've never seen such a thing," being proclaimed healthy gets old.

Until then, I'm on my fourth week of being off coffee, wine, alcohol, too much sugar, too much vinegar, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, and other things that used to make my life awesome. *Sigh.*