Best birthday gift ever!…I got a diagnosis and hopefully good solution!…Happy day…

Tasmanians seem to place various means of transportation atop buildings, as shown in several of our past photos.

Yesterday morning, while working on the post, I stopped for a moment to check my email. Since it was my birthday, it was fun to see how many email messages I received from family and friends, along with a variety of adorable online cards.

When I noticed a message from the doctor’s office I visited in Geeveston as recommended by Anne, I was shocked to see another blood test result had come in indicating it was positive. I was instructed to return to the office of Dr. Angela Retchford for a new prescription.

Yesterday, while at the pharmacy in Geeveston, we noticed this antique wagon atop the bakery/restaurant.

Honesty, I was thrilled. Who’s ever thrilled to get a positive test result? I was. After almost three months of suffering from an awful gastrointestinal issue that didn’t improve regardless of what I ate or what remedies I tried, I was excited to have a diagnosis.

Maybe now, with the new medication, I could improve. So last Tuesday, the doctor prescribed a PPI (proton pump inhibitor), which I was to take for 60 days, stop, and head to a gastroenterologist in Sydney if not improved. 

It was raining with the sun shining.  In South Africa, Okee Dokee taught us the Afrikaans expression, “Jackals trou met wolf se vrou.” In Afrikaans, this phenomenon, i.e., when it rains, and the sun shines, is referred to as Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou, meaning ‘Jackal marries wolf’s wife.”

With our plans to leave Sydney for the US on April 22nd, the 60 days will end about one week before we were scheduled to sail away, leaving little time for more tests and doctor appointments.

When the prior blood tests came in only two days after blood was drawn, with only one anomaly I’ll deal with later in the US when I have the test repeated; I assumed we were done until the doctor explained at my second visit that one test was outstanding. Then, after nearly a week had passed and I hadn’t heard a word, I assumed all was well. 

The doctor and receptionist explained that “negative” results on a test wouldn’t require communication with us, saving them time and money when avoiding contacting patients when all was well with tests. But, of course, with no local phone number, I asked for all communication to be accomplished via email.

The Pie Shoppe in Geeveston.  We avoided it.

As soon as I uploaded the post, Tom and I jumped in the rental car and headed directly to the doctor’s office, Geeveston Medical Centre found at this link, to discover the blood test resulted in a “positive” diagnoses of Helicobactor Pylori, aka, H. Pylori is a gastrointestinal bacterial infection as follows from this site:

“What Is H. pylori

H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) are spiral-shaped bacteria. H. pylori bacteria are unique because they produce the enzyme urease that allows the bacteria to live in the harsh environment of the stomach. The urease enzyme it produces reacts with urea to form ammonia that neutralizes enough of the stomach’s acid to allow the organisms to survive in the tissues.”

This is one of the possible conditions I’d researched online. In speaking with Tom over and over again, trying to figure out when in fact, the symptoms may have begun, we realized it was in Bali when I’d complained of bloating, which prompted me to stop drinking coffee, iced tea, and hot tea. Why was I getting bloated from drinking liquids?

In thinking back to our total four months in Bali, I’m now certain the symptoms began there. Not in control over the most sanitary of conditions under which I prepare meals, and with ants crawling all over the kitchen counters and dishware, I could easily have picked up the condition while there. 

“The Bears Went Over the Mountain” is a Geeveston boutique hotel with a cafe and tapas bar.  Click here for details

I was often in the kitchen wiping up when the girls weren’t there preparing meals, tossing out dirty-looking sponges and rags, and often concerned when food was left out longer than safe. During that period in Bali, I contracted an awful bacterial infection from eating squid.

Also, during this period, I took Aleve daily for the back injury, only exacerbating a potential breeding ground for H. Pylori. Thus, it was the right combination of circumstances to make me vulnerable for the full-blown infection, which was later exacerbated by drinking the wine on the ship.

After we left Bali the first time, we headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for the Mekong River cruise after a two-month stay, including multiple hotel stays. Unfortunately, we never ate anything off the street but could easily have made the situation worse, eating in various restaurants/hotels along the way. As a result, the bloating continued to worsen.

View of a farm on the Huon River.

I’d always joked that I had such a tough stomach that I could digest my shoe if I ate it. No longer is that the case. Traveling the world makes us all the more vulnerable to a wide variety of conditions and infections. Also, over the past few years, I contracted other infections requiring a few rounds of antibiotics.

By the time we got on the ship for the 33-night cruise, the infection must have been full-blown when I suffered from worsening bloating and the associated discomfort day after day, never connecting it with anything I was doing other than perhaps drinking too much liquid. 

I’d never had this problem in the past. Was it an “old age” thing I didn’t want to face? I’d noticed a lot of people my age with a distended abdomen, both women and men. 

Even driving along the roads in Tasmania is scenic.

I’d never discussed this with a doctor or even a friend. But, wouldn’t my “grain-free” lifestyle prevent me from a “Wheat Belly” when most of my life I’ve had a relatively flat stomach?

Now I know. What a relief! H. Pylori, a bacteria most of us carry harmlessly in our intestinal tract, was “brought to life” due to these myriad circumstances. With a prescription pack to treat the condition, which included two antibiotics and a smaller dose, I was taking a PPI to be administered once every 12 hours. 

This morning I took the first dose recommended by the pharmacist (since I’d already taken the PPI early yesterday morning). One day before our leaving from Sydney, I will have completed the one-week dosing. Then, in four weeks, it’s suggested I have another test to ensure the infection is gone. We’ll do this in Sydney during the 40 nights we’ll spend in Manly.

River views through the trees on a sunny day.

Need I say, this was indeed a divine birthday gift. Not knowing what was making it nearly impossible to eat without awful discomfort for the next five or six hours, I’d begun losing weight when finally I succumbed and started eating tiny meals, leaving me hungry all the time. 

It was a good birthday. Finally, finally, I’ve returned to my “old” (now older) cheerful self. Now, I must be patient and give the medication time to eat tiny portions to avoid discomfort in the interim.

So there it is, folks, hopefully, the culmination of my continuing health problems beginning this past June, almost eight months ago. We hope this resolves the problem and I can become more active while embracing the many exciting adventures yet to come. 

Thank you for all the kind and thoughtful wishes for good health and my birthday. You, our dear readers, be well, too!

Photo from one year ago today, February 21, 2016:

The cook at the Orangery in New Plymouth, NZ, fired up Tom’s Steak Diane Flambé using Pernot and white wine while taking this shot during my birthday dinner one year ago. For more photos, please click here.