August 5, 2016. It was like any other day, pretty much. I was talking to my dad on the phone, telling him about a doctor’s appointment I had the day before, telling him about my plans for the 10th anniversary of Afrobella – that would have been August 13th. I had plans and stuff going on. But like that famous John Lennon quote goes, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
So on August 5, 2016, I’m talking to my dad on the phone, sitting on the couch in my home office. Then I started to feel like I needed to lay down. Then I felt like I needed to wrap up my call really quickly, because I was about to be sick. Sick in a way I have never felt before and would never want to feel again. It just came over me really quickly. I told my dad I had to go. From that point on, things got hazy. I was dizzy, weak, unable to stand, nauseous and in unimaginable pain. Like pain that I almost passed out from. The pain came in waves. I literally crawled from the couch in my office to our bedroom. Thank God my husband was home with me that afternoon. He was with me as my condition rapidly devolved, when I became feverish, started projectile vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. We were both terrified as this was happening.
So mind you, I had been to my OB/gyn the day before, because I have a fibroid. That’s a whole nother post I gotta write. But it is part of this story. The day before — August 4 — I had an examination of my fibroid and started discussing options on dealing with it in the future. So when August 5 came around and I got super sick, I assumed that it had to be triggered by the day before’s procedure, because that made sense in my head. The doctor said NO. You need to go to the ER if this continues. It continued. I couldn’t even hold down water. We called the doctor one more time to confirm that it was necessary, and then we got in the car and rushed to the emergency room.
As soon as I was admitted my diagnosis came quickly – I had a kidney stone. I had no idea this was even a thing that could happen to me. But now that I’ve been through it, I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. For real, kidney stones are THE WORST. The Mayo Clinic breaks down the symptoms here – I had quite a few of those symptoms.
When I met with the urologist, it was explained to me that kidney stones can be caused by a few things, but the primary cause is not drinking enough water. Guilty as charged, for years I have struggled to drink more water. I knew I should be drinking more water, but until the kidney stone, I didn’t fully get it like I should. I didn’t understand what the potential effects of dehydration were. I didn’t realize that the things I consumed that aren’t water could be so detrimental to my health.
According to this Prevention magazine piece, fructose is seen as a potential culprit of painful kidney stones: “…Fructose increases excretion of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, which contribute to stone formation. And it isn’t the soda guzzlers and Big Gulp gulpers that are at risk. Participants who drank at least one sugar-sweetened cola per day had a 23% higher risk of developing kidney stones than those who popped open less than one can a week.” (Please note, there’s more info and a cola company rebuttal in this link here).
Yikes. I enjoy a cold soda. And how much water is enough, anyway? 8 glasses a day, right? I had to educate myself on the topic – here’s a way to calculate how much water you should drink every day. I started drinking more water. My friend put me up on chanca piedra, a herb used to treat urinary disorders as well as a host of other things. He swore it worked for his brother in law, who has seen his fair share of kidney stones. I would have tried anything. I read a ton of online reviews and then bought a 1 oz bottle of chanca piedra on Amazon. For the next weeks, I added some to my water every day.
I pretty much spent the month of August 2016 in pain, dealing with this kidney stone. I learned a LOT about myself and about life, a year ago.
I learned that life doesn’t wait or slow down if you can’t keep up. It will just pass you by. Even important dates you may have anticipated. These things matter so much less when your health is compromised.
I learned to modify my expectations of people. Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed – that’s how the quote goes, right? I am blessed that my family was truly there for me in my time of need. My husband totally proved to me that “in sickness and in health” weren’t just platitudes and I am so thankful for him.
I learned that my body is more fragile and less fragile than I thought all at the same time. So many phrases I overlooked and didn’t consider the weight and meaning of, started coming to mind. My body IS my temple. I only get one. And it’s a machine that requires optimal maintenance to run at its best. I thought I was doing alright and this thing came out of nowhere to show me that I was wrong.
I learned that I was just talking the talk of self care. I had to put my money where my mouth was and literally take care of myself. I had to confront my worst habits and make my best efforts to change them.
So get this. On August 26, 2016 I had surgery for the kidney stone. My husband came with me and waited in the room as they put me under and wheeled me out to the surgery room. And then I woke up and was informed….that they didn’t find a kidney stone in my body during the procedure. WHAT? You guys. I was so upset and so confused. They went into my body and looked everywhere and NO STONE. The urologist’s theory is that it broke up and I passed it during the previous days. But what about the pain I experienced? What did it all mean? I was left confused, sad and with a massive medical bill. The experience shook me. It turned my life upside down and made me re-evaluate so many things. It very clearly illustrated what mattered and what didn’t.
If they had been able to retrieve the kidney stone, I would be able to know exactly what caused it. Via the American Kidney Fund, there are 4 major types of kidney stones. Here they are:
Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stones. They are usually made of calcium and oxalate (a natural chemical found in most foods), but are sometimes made of calcium and phosphate.
Uric acid stones form when your urine is often too acidic. Uric acid can form stones by itself or with calcium.
Struvite stones can happen when you have certain types of urinary tract infections in which bacteria make ammonia that builds up in your urine. Struvite stones are made of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate.
Cystine stones are made of a chemical that your body makes naturally, called cystine. Cystine stones are very rare, and happen in people who have a genetic disorder that causes cystine to leak from the kidneys into the urine.
Because they didn’t retrieve my stone the medical assumption is that I had the most common kind, a calcium oxalate stone – click here to read the causes. Even without having the stone for testing purposes, I knew that I had to do better by myself, for myself.
Since this kidney stone wake-up call, I started intentionally drinking water regularly and trying to take better holistic care of myself. I was always a water hater and used to think I needed additives to enjoy it. I don’t think that anymore. Now I truly know that water is life and I need it straight up with no extras. I also make all kinds of water recipes, to keep it fresh and interesting. But more on that in an upcoming post.
I’ve been trying to cut back on sugar and high sodium, processed and fried foods, because I have learned over time that those foods don’t make me feel my best. I’m listening to my body so much more than I ever did. I’ve been reading and trying new healthy recipes – have you checked out my Pinterest? I’ve got a board on clean eating and healthy recipes and I get so so many ideas there!
I’ve been taking it much easier and doing things that fill me up spiritually instead of deplete me. Spending time in nature, going on walks, going on hikes. I do Pilates once a week and it’s been a great start. I’ve got more to do and further to go. I have a bucket list of things I want to do and I’ve been doing as many as I can. I have taken back the reins of my life.
It has been a year since I first went to the ER for a kidney stone and I’m happy to say I’m feeling great and I feel like this fitness journey that I’ve been sharing on this blog off and on for oh, 11 years is finally going somewhere. My journey is about health and longevity. I’m taking control. I rule my destiny, Lord I thank you.
My best advice to anyone reading this is simply, take care of yourself. Holistically. Don’t just take care of your exterior. Cherish and value your interior. Do the things you know you need to do to live your longest, happiest and healthiest life. And drink water, drink water, drink water.
Have you ever had a kidney stone or a similar health scare? Please share with me, I would love to hear your tips and insights — sharing our experiences might help someone else!