illos,  the great illness of 06

My gallbladder has sludge.

My doctor finally called. Did I tell you she left on maternity leave yesterday? I was fit to be tied this morning when I finally got through to her office and they told me that. What?!!! I’m just left here hanging with no news of what’s going on with my insides that hurt like they got caught in a bicycle chain?!! No follow up appointment? No nothing! Help!!!!! I can’t live like this!

Thankfully her office staff is on the ball. I told them how serious my problem was and the woman on the phone told me she would call the ultrasound place, get my report and then have another doctor call me back with my results. Then a few hours later my phone rang and it was my doctor calling from her home to give me my results. I could hear her kids in the background squabbling.

How cool is my doctor? She’s out to here pregnant (though it would have been nice to know she was leaving on maternity leave two days after I saw her), she takes care of me and THEN she calls me WHILE she is on her maternity leave AND her kids are going nuts in the background. I love her. She must know how terrible it is to feel crappy and have a baby at the same time.

So the results are this: My symptoms are not typical (I have no pain in my shoulders or upper quadrant of my body) but I do have sludge in my gallbladder. Not stones but sludge. This could be what is causing my problem or it could not. She is referring me to a surgeon so that they can access it better than she can. My doctor says that these surgeons are experts at this because they get people with theses types of symptoms all the time and they will not perform surgery unless they are 100% sure it will improve my life.


I hope it is the gallbladder though. I’m tired of this mystery illness. It would be nice to know I can avoid pain by just avoiding high fat foods. But even better I just want to yank that sucker out and be done with it. I hope I can have surgery and get better before Thanksgiving. Can you imagine not being able to eat fatty foods on THANKSGIVING DINNER!!! NO GRAVY! NO STUFFING! NO MARSHMALLOWS on top of the yams! (Wait, do marshmallows have fat in them? If not, I need some stat.) What am I going to do? I hope I can get in and get out quick and get better even quicker.

I’ve never been so sick before and been so starving. Usually if I’m going to be doing any up-chucking, the last thing I want to do is eat something but nooooooooo….I AM SO HUNGRY!!! I am literally starving to death. All I think about is what I could eat if I wasn’t sick. Cold pizza, cheesecake, meatballs, spaghetti, butternut squash with lots of butter, Reese’s peanut butter cups… man oh man am I hungry. And all I can eat is oatmeal. Out of desperation, I ask Toby what I can eat. He looks at me with a straight face and says, “Oat bran?” Great. Thanks a lot. Just what I wanted. I might as well just go eat some hay.

Toby doesn’t think it’s my gallbladder. He could be right too. It definitely is related to eating though. I get really sick about two hours after I eat anything. It just so happens that the sickest I got was from drinking a big ol’ glass of milk (but it tasted soooo good!), which is high in fat. I don’t know. I’m totally confused.

I’m just relieved that I’m seeing the surgeon tomorrow and things are moving. I’m actually feeling better on my new diet of oatmeal. Oatmeal is really boring though. I think I might try rice tonight.


  • Melanie

    Hey, I just went through the same thing, nausea, vomititng only when I ate. It sucked. I had the ultra sound and they said that my gallbladder looked normal, so the er dr. did a hida scan( glbladder function test) and I only had 24 % function. I had it removed last wednesday. The surgery went fine and I am getting back to normal. The doc said my gallbladder was extremly swollen and close to rupturing , so I am very gld he got it out. I wish you well!

  • Shell

    I’m glad you are getting some answers! Sludge in the gallbladder can indicate pancreatitis as well. Did they check your amylase levels when they did bloodwork? I went through the whole gallbladder thing myself a few years back. Not fun.

  • Jenn Bo

    Dear SAJ,

    I may have commented a couple times before, but it has been a long long time. I have been a faithful reader for quite some time. I love your graphics, honesty, humor, etc. Thank you for being such a fabulous blogger. In a call-out to Toby, I think it is admirable that he works so hard for your family. You both have a strong work ethic and I know all this sacrifice will be rewarding in the end.

    Now, as for your illness. I am only mentioning this very small suggestion because your situation seems so miserable. Hopefully the doctors are able to resolve your illness. A gallbladder cleansing sounds yucky, but anything to feel better has got to be worth it.

    One thing you may consider asking your doctor about is celiac disease which I know only a little about (I know two people who have been diagnosed with it). Both of them lost an unusual amount of weight before finally being diagnosed. I only mention it because it was the “last thought” from the doctor for both of them. I suppose you could read about the symptoms to see if it is even a possibility.

    I hope it is not celiacs because it puts so many limitations on the diet. (no stuffing!)

    I do hope you feel better soon. It’s nice to hear something is staying down, but my one-meal-forever-on-a-desert-island would NOT be oatmeal!

  • Gramma

    Even though they are not happy answers, you now have some answers. At least you’ll be able to aim in the right direction. Oatmeal is pretty good afterall. It helps lower cholesterol. and triglicerides. I like it with a sprinkle of cinnamon/splenda on it. Try it in the micro wave…one half cup oats, one cup water, pinch of salt and zap for 2-3-4. Use a large bowl…it tends to boil over in a small one.

  • Gena

    I’m glad you’re getting some answers. I commented before and said I had my gallbladder removed. Until they give you a definite answer, DO NOT EAT FAT! It really does help. My dr. told me I could have plain toast, apple sauce and plain rice. However, I read every label on every food and only ate things with zero fat. I lost about 20 pounds, but I didn’t have any pain. I had to wait three weeks for my gallbladder surgery to be scheduled, but my life improved greatly in that time. I ate canned veggies (no fat), salad with no fat dressing, plenty of bread with jelly, tons of rice cooked with no-fat chicken broth, fat-free hotdogs, grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, etc…. you get the drift. The pain went away, I had no further attacks. After my surgery, I still had to pay attention to what I ate for a while, but for a different reason. I am fine now. Good luck and I’m thinking about you!

  • Jamie

    OK…I hope they get to the bottom of the sludge issue! And although I hate that you have something that sounds so yucky, at least they sound like they are closer to a verdict.

    Have you tried soy milk? I don’t know if that would help or not…just a suggestion.

    Yes the gallbladder sludge “critter” is priceless. :)

  • Kedge

    Aunt B. says that when she was sick and by herself she would put her babies in one inch of water, plus toys, in the bath tub, lay down on the mat a try to rest her eyes
    P.S. Marshmallows are a fat-free food

  • aunt kathy

    I agree with Gena. I was going to suggest white rice but she gave you a slew of good ideas. Go with her. Take care.

  • erika

    hopefully this is it girl, and everything can go back to normal.

    praying for you :)

    p.s. i just may start eating all the no fat food tips gena gave too ;)

  • BeachMama

    Here’s hoping the surgeon offers you some definate answers tomorow. And glad to hear that you are getting a few more, how cool your Doctor called you at home on Mat leave.

    I had issues with my stomach and I lived on rice, dry toast, and apple sauce for a long time. All got better when I found out it was irritable bowel syndrome. Try the rice and some apple, may help you get through these next few days.

  • Carrie

    Gallbladders are such strange things. Almost every person I know with a gb problem was not diagnosed immediately or correctly, yet the Internets are able to diagnose it in a red hot second. I really thought I was dying when I had my problem as well. I was sure it was cancer. My mom’s gallbladder was full of pus and my dad’s exploded. It’s a nasty little organ, isn’t it.

    I was told no fat, no onions, no apples and no eggs while I was waiting for my surgery. That was two years ago and I am just now getting to the point where I can eat fats again. It was an immediate relief after the surgery, but large amounts of fat would still give me a tummy ache/lots of gas.

    I hope they get you taken care of quick quick quick!

  • Jill

    Not to scare you but it’s sound quite a bit like pancreatitus. My hubby and daughter have it and it also causes sludge in the gall bladder. You might want to look up the symtoms to see if they’re similar at all.

    Hope this helps!

  • Pretzella

    As a member of the ex-bad gall bladder club let me just say that IF it is gall bladder issues you will have severe pain. I had spells for years of not being able to eat, getting sick for a week or so and then things would get better. A chance appendicitis required an abdominal CT in which I was found to have gall stones…move forward one year, several icky episodes and two heart attack-hold you breath ’cause it feels like a knife stabbing you in the back, I scheduled the gall bladder removal. Because it was planned, and not an emergency I got the key-hole type with five very tiny (under 1/4 inch long) pokes in my tummy. Recovery was so smoothe that I was at a conference 3 days later. I am a mom of five and at the time my youngest was 3 years old, it was advised to not pick her up for two weeks but we managed just the same. Good luck to you!

  • Abbey

    I am so glad to hear that you got some sort of answers…at least its a start…

    So…my dad had sludge in his gallbladder and had the surgery to take care of it! It all is easy and you’ll be better than ever in no time. Apparently, this type of thing can happen to all ages!

    No worries, you will be better soon and be living the high life again!

  • Nicole

    I’m in the no gallbladder club due to sludge. I had a HIDA test also and it showed limited gallbladder function. No serious pain just a persistant dull pain in my back. Not everyone gets attacks.

  • Sarah

    Your symptoms sound a lot like what my brother went through a couple years ago. He lost 50 lbs. before the doctors finally figured out that it was Crohn’s disease. Might be worth asking the docs about? Best of luck to you :)

  • Anonymous

    Coming out of lurk mode to say, I too had gallbladder disease and had to have it removed at the ripe old age of 22. My case was more typical: stabbing death pain between my shoulder blades and a nice marble-sized stone on the ultrasound. But what caught my eye was your nausea and eating symptoms. For two or three weeks before my first major attack I was nauseous before eating, and also sometimes after eating. I also felt hungry even when I knew I was full. My mom had to have emergency surgery last week for the same thing, and she also experienced the weird nausea/hunger thing. My guess is that it is indeed your gallbladder.

  • Sarah

    My best friend is 29 and she was having the same types of problems (couldn’t keep food down, went to the doctor and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong) and she ended up having her gall bladder out. She had no problems with the surgery and she is just fine now. She said the surgery was pretty easy also.

    good luck!

  • Daisy Mae

    Not only have I had gallbladder removal due to stones, but I’ve had pancreatitis as well. They are simalar pains but different. Did they do blood work on you? With pancreatitis your almayse and liapase (sp?) will go through the roof but go back to normal 48 – 72 hours after after the attack starts even though you are still sick from it. Your triglycerides are what they need to look at in the long range. Mine were 1800 3 weeks after the attack. I was in the hospital for 8 days and couldn’t even drink water. Milk KILLED me. Anythng with fat was horrid. But I couldn’t even eat oatmeal. With pancreatitis you need to let the pancreas rest so you can’t eat anything. You can only drink clear fluids and even then they don’t want you to.

    With gallbladder you can eat bland food so oatmeal normally stays down.

    Either way, whatever it is will soon be known and we are all here thinking about you. and don’t worry about surgery Things have improved SO MUCH with gallbladder surgery now days. It’s almost like a bandaid surgery.

    Try not to stress too much okay? and get it all taken care of before Thanksgiving so you can eat that gravy!!! Not to mention Christmas and those AWESOME cookies you make (the shortbread things). They are first on my cookie baking this year.

  • carrien

    Okay, here is some more “Expert advice from the internet.” I’ve been away fro a week, but if you described all of those symptoms to me and had just been any where in the third world I would assume that you had picked up a parasite.

    My husband came down with blastocystic protozoans in Nepal, hard shelled little buggers that are hard to get rid of. He couldn’t eat anything or he was violently painfully sick, he lost weight like crazy, he had weird scary hallucinogetic feverish dreams. All it takes to find out is a simple stool sample analysis, because you can get that, even in NOrth America. IT wouldn’t hurt to check.

    And just like you, he just thought he was sick with the, and then was still sick, and then finally realized that he was really sick and a month later he looked like a skeleton.

  • Marissa

    God, I hope SAJ doesn’t have a parasite… I don’t think those blastos-whatevers live in Newport Beach!

  • ellamama

    My gallbadder had to go the week Ella was one year old. I had three episodes in which I wanted to DIE. I thought it was my in laws, but no, it was the pizza. I have no gallbladder. I didn’t even spend the night in the hospital for the surgery, and now I can eat anything I want…althought I eat a pretty healthy almost vegetarian diet anyway. Take care. I know how horrible it can feel.

  • MH

    I am not saying this to scare you – but I implore you to ask your doctor for a cat scan to look for pancreatic cancer. My mom had sludge they thought it was her gall bladder but instead she had a tumor that was causing the bile to back up into her gall bladder. If you have any signs of jaundice that would be another indicator. I would not think that without other symptoms that this would be the case – but if i were you I would want to be armed with the info.

    Hardly anyone knows about pancreatic cancer so docs don’t automatically look for it!

  • Dana

    My gosh, I really hope you feel better soon and everything works out okay for you with the doctors. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of good advice from out here in internet land, so instead of sending advice I send you warm thoughts and virtual hugs.

  • Franc

    Geez, SAJ, I come back to your blog after a week or so and I find this! A million virtual good wishes that you’ll be feeling better soon! Hang in there!

  • Alissa

    I hope everything is ok – let us know. I’m sending positive thoughts your way. I am no expert on medical issues so won’t give any advice, etc. I hope the replies to your entry have not worried you too much.

  • Julia

    I’m one more person here to add to the no-more-gallbladder club! I had such similar symptoms to you, and my gallbladder also had sludge, but no stones. I would get so sick after eating anything with fat in it; it started out with intense tummy aches and progressed to throwing up by the time I was actually diagnosed. I had mine out when I was 23. It took a few months post-surgery for me to be able to eat fatty food again without consequences, but now it doesn’t stop me one bit! :)

  • Kara

    If it makes you feel any better, my husband had to have his gallbladder taken out (at age 34, no less) and he was up and walking around the same day. Had zero complications and has felt great ever since!

    Hope that you can take care of whatever it is and start feeling better VERY soon.

    :) Kara

  • Beckik

    the fact that you get sick after you eat sounds definately like gallbladder to me! I hope the surgeon can give you some more foods to eat that don’t taste so bland!

  • Lucyloo

    Though I could add some thoughts…
    I totally understand the starving.
    I had my gall bladder out at age 29, 9mths after my second child was born. Had to stop breastfeeding her for two weeks because of the pain meds. while they figured out what was wrong, and then recover from the pancreatitus(?…which resulted from the scope they did prior to surgery. I didn’t eat anything for 8 days. Nothing but IV. And that was after not eating fats previously for two weeks.

    I had a terrible time. Thought I was going to die of a heart attack a couple times before they knew what it was. My gall bladder was full of “sludge” which they described had very tiny gall stones, like sand.
    Very fast recovery. They did the laproscopy, and I was walking within hours. Home the next day. Could not lift anything over 5#s for the healing time, so make sure you have lots of support if you do have the surgery. It is amazing how many things weigh over 5 #s.

    I had what they claimed was another gall bladder attack a year ago (over 5 years after my gall bladder was removed!). Said it was a “phantom” stone left over after the removal. Problem is it was high in my chest this time, and even more painful.
    Some symptoms have come up again this year, and now I suspect I may have a hernia instead. We will find out on the 16th!

    I still have issues with digesting higher fat foods, but especially on the rare occasions I eat high fat steak (prime rib, yum) or meatballs (Thanksgiving requires extra care), and any type of cheese. Yogurt helps sometimes, and wine usually does the trick. Just as a heads-up.

    What they don’t tell you is your chances for gall bladder problems increase with every pregnancy, or if you have been on hormones for years, as well as other factors.

    If you can stand it, it is always good to get a second opinion. Milk/wheat issues can also cause similar symptoms when extreme, and equally a life threat.

    My attacks were like a heart attack, followed by food poisoning for two days. The flu and a heart attack rolled into one.

    Since I am still battling my dr about the recent episodes, I am so proud of you for continuing to push for answers! It is so difficult to force people sometimes to look in other areas they may not believe are possibilities! Especially Drs. Your strength will pay off! Hopefully your relief is near.

    On a minor note, pure maple syrup (not the Log Cabin stuff) is wonderful on any whole grain, and no fat.

    Always read labels, but try brown rice too, it has more flavor than the white stuff. Steamed veggies (make sure to check fats, as some have natural oils you need to avoid) with a little spice are fantastic after having nothing but the oats. Also, I don’t know much about rice milk (fat?), but if you are jonesing for that texture/taste, my milk-allergy friends swear by it.

    Speedy recovery to you, and many hugs.


  • Jen

    I was diagnosed when I was 28 with gallbladder problems (no stones). Now, 2 years later it seems like I am okay for months, then all of a sudden I feel crappy again. I thought that I could manage my diet and have no more problems with nausea (that full, burping feeling after I eat) with a bland diet, but it seems to be acting up again. I only have a 15% ejection fracture and was told to have it out back then but I wanted to resist surgery as long as possible! I was curious how small are the scars when they remove your gallbladder and how many are there? Hope someone can shed any light, and good luck!