June was a weird month in an already weird year.
March 13th was the last day of 2020 in which there was some normalcy in my world. It was my last day of waking up before the sun, writing for a while, getting dressed to physically go into the office, training after work… I taught my last gymnastics classes the next day. Except instead of max classes of 16 kids, I had 2, 2, and 1. They decided to suspend classes the next day, and I started working from home the following Monday.
A week of suspended gymnastics and two weeks of working from home. That was the plan. My gym was still open, so it was the best of both worlds – working from home while training. Living the dream, as far as I was concerned.
The governor closed gyms and most everything else a week later and so began what was far longer than a couple of weeks of sticking around my apartment, looking forward to grocery shopping just to get out of the house, and patting myself on the back for having bought toilet paper out of need, not necessity, a few days before it became impossible to find.
I did really well with quarantine for a while. I got a lot of nagging projects done. I got creative with working out at home. I spent a lot of time on my coaching business and started to see the results. Zoom and FaceTime with my friends became lifelines. I got so much writing done. And did I mention how much TV I watched? A lot, trust me.
But then June rolled around.
I suppose it really started that last week of May.
I recognized the symptoms of a urinary tract infection settling in. I was born with ‘short ureters,’ meaning the tubes that attach my kidneys to my bladder weren’t long enough and caused urinary reflux. It’s not uncommon. I have vague memories of lots of UTIs, kidney infections, and ultrasounds as a child. It had been a while since a UTI set in, but I knew what was up and off I went to the doctor who confirmed I did, in fact, have a UTI.
It had been more than 10 years since I had an antibiotic and my body decided it was not a fan of the one prescribed. It took a few days of some gnarly side effects before we got it all sorted out. Within a day of my new antibiotic, my symptoms cleared up – except for a pesky pain in my low left back that wouldn’t go away no matter when I did. Had I not had the UTI, I probably would have thought I did something working out, popped some ibuprofen, and called it a day. It was a 2-3 on the pain scale, nothing extreme.
My doctor, however, believed it to be a kidney stone. Sure enough, on June 3rd, a CT scan confirmed a “non-obstructing 2mm punctate renal stone.” Meaning a 2mm pointy kidney stone that wasn’t blocking anything and therefore not of immediate concern.
And so began my kidney stone journey and downward anxiety spiral.
I was wrongly under the impression that kidney stones A) always caused severe, writhing pain and B) passed quickly. I’m here to tell you both of those things are lies.
It’s July 13th and I’m still toting this stone around.
I already drink a substantial amount of water each day, so I took my doctor’s advice and increased it. The internet told me things like lemon juice and apple cider vinegar would help, so I bought those. Exercise? Got that in spades. There’s the “jump and bump” method which supposedly moves stones right along. I even bought a tincture called ‘Stone Breaker’ that tastes like gasoline, cost $25 dollars, and didn’t do a damned thing.
At first, I called my doctor’s office neary daily with new questions or symptoms to inquire about. They patiently confirmed all was normal. I took myself to an urgent care one Sunday and they basically said the same thing my doctor did – drink water and wait it out.
I had a pain flair that sent me to the ER. I called my dad in tears as I drove myself. I had to do the whole COVID screening outside in a tent and despite being June, that particular evening was in the 50s and raining. I was freezing and they took my BP no less than three times because it was concerningly low. I insisted it always is – my doctor knows this and there’s no obvious cause for it – and they finally took me inside and promptly gave me a percocet, even though the pain flair had dissipated.
Side bar: as a white, blonde haired, blue-eyed girl with no major medical history, it was shockingly easy to get a Percocet. There were no questions asked. I asked if it was really necessary, if it would prevent me from driving, if I could have something to eat because I hadn’t had dinner yet and my appetite had been gone for a few days and I thought it might make me sick… I’m hyper aware of the opioid crisis in this country and found how liberal they were with the pain meds for me concerning. Meanwhile, the woman with her entire leg swollen and braced across from me who was in obvious pain was questioned within an inch of her life before drugs were administered and the man down the way completely denied the option of an opioid. I’m sure they had reasons, but it felt rather “pick and choose.”
Another urinalysis, a CBC, and an ultrasound later, I was told they couldn’t see the stone, but that was normal with a US, and my labs were “unremarkable.” They assumed it was in the ureter and moving, gave me a bottle of Percocet, and sent me home.
I still haven’t taken the Percocet, although I considered it one Sunday night when it felt like a pineapple was rolling around in my bladder and again when I had both menstrual cramps and stone pain.
In the month or so since my ER visit, I’ve had days of no pain, followed by days of moderate pain. As I type this, I’ve got a nice stabbing pain in my upper back, just under my armpit. Yesterday it was in my side. The day before, under my ribs. It’s a game, really, to wake up and see what’s going to hurt that day, if anything. Last week, I made it nearly an entire week without any pain, unless you count the hobbling I was doing after high volume thrusters at the gym.
In the midst of all of this, my mental health tanked. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but have been able to manage it well. With everything else going on, this kidney stone became the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. One Saturday, I didn’t eat the entire day, cried for no reason, and felt all and all miserable. It was SO unlike me and it worried me. I went to bed early and woke up the next morning completely myself.
That was the catalyst to return to therapy for the first time in 10 years.
I love therapy, y’all. Truly.
June also included a lot of tough stuff in the world. COVID, to be sure, but I struggled with the blatantly racist and/or ignorant comments of family and friends., with the knowledge of how little I understood about racism and how helpless I sometimes felt. I found myself having tough conversations, standing up and saying “you’re wrong” to people I respect. All while churning out a lot of work in a short amount of time for my “real” job and watching my life plans continue to be set back, changed, or canceled all together.
And so, June was rough.
I tapped out of my blog because I needed to. I tabled the launch of the new coaching program I had spent so much time working on during the first days of quarantine and planned to roll out in mid-June for a kickoff on July 1st because I didn’t feel it was the right time, nor did I feel mentally up to it. I had to adjust my summer and fall plans because #pandemic.
But after sharing this Instagram post, I got a comment. “You should start a blog.” She had no idea I had a blog all this time.
There’s also been a lot of talk and encouragement around “share your story,” something I’ll share more about later.
And so, now that my mental health is better, I’m returning to this space with a minimum of once a week posts. I feel confident that I can commit to a weekly post, and I certainly have a story to share.
I also have a urologist appointment next week – I’m not over here trying to get surgery for such a small kidney stone, but hey, if they’ve got any bright ideas about how to move this thorny little sucker along…
There are some signs of things returning to normal around here. My gym re-opened a few weeks ago and its been so good to get back into a group fitness scenario. I’ll be going back into the office a couple of days a week the week after next. I’m going back to coaching gymnastics tonight, at least for the rest of the summer.
Still, there’s not a lot that’s “normal” about where we are right now.
But all we can do is wear our masks, wash our hands, and continue to socially distance ourselves in hopes that someday, we’ll get back to whatever a new normal is.
And someday, hopefully soon, I’ll be kidney stone-free, too.