Linzé standing next to a wild azalea in Haenertsburg, South Africa (photograph by Francois Venter)

Why my body loves me and yet decided to punish me anyway

Three weeks ago I went to the doctor because I couldn’t handle the pain in my left hand and wrist any longer. Pain that I have been trying to explain and nurse for six weeks, but nothing I did or told myself made it go away. So the time arrived to stop being a chicken and go find out what the problem was. I didn’t like the answer.

Some good, more bad, and a lot ugly

To backtrack for a moment: after checking my patient file, my doctor decided to send me for full blood work since my last full medical was for insurance purposes and they don’t share the results with one’s GP. Stupid, I know, but there it is.
So off I went to the vampire club (as my husband calls the pathologists), fortunately in the same building, to go bleed into three glass tubes. I don’t have a problem with needles, but seeing the life drain out of me does not inspire words of literary greatness. Not from me at least.
And then it was the struggle to get the results. The area where the doctor’s rooms are had a power failure the next day, so their phones didn’t work. The day after that he was busy every time I called, and then I also forgot because (no prizes for guessing here) I was working too. But we eventually made the connection, and I got the bad news: the acid level in my blood is too high, and it was causing the pain in my left hand. Yeah, you guessed it: gout.
But the worst was yet to come. While my blood glucose level was normal, my insulin was also off the scale. Insulin resistance if ever there was any. A tiny light at the end of the dark tunnel came in the news that my cholesterol levels (both of them) were within the healthy range. Phew!
But once I sat down and tried to make sense of what I had to do next, I was not happy. Sure the medication would help to get the pain and inflammation sorted in no time, but it was not going to prevent it from happening again. So it was my diet and lifestyle that needed a closer look. Long story short: I talked to my personal trainer to adjust some things in my exercise regime (for addressing the insulin resistance), and I switched to a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and cheese. I am lactose intolerant, so milk and cream were never an option. While I can eat mature cheeses like cheddar, I do not have an unlimited tolerance for it. Still working on finding more protein substitutes.

And then the fan got hit

While it was a challenge, still is with a carnivorous husband to cook for, I adjusted much faster than I thought. Until Tuesday. Five days since I made the change I started to feel really crap. I even joked with one of my colleagues that I was going through withdrawal. Turns out (thanks to Google) that my body was detoxing from 49 years of eating meat. But migraines? Of course, I had to get a migraine, not the headaches everyone else was talking about on the internet.
And then my blood sugar fell about an hour after breakfast. Although an unusual occurrence I thought nothing of it and ate a fruit stick (it contains a little sugar) to help out.
The migraine got worse and at this point taking more tablets don’t work any more — years of experience told me not to bother; I had to get home and rest.
I was barely home when my blood sugar dropped again. This was not good by any means. I ate a few strawberries and a peanut butter protein bar. To be safe, I decided to have my lunch early (leftovers from the veggies and meat substitute from the previous night’s dinner) to see if it would help with both the pain and the low sugar. 
Only when my head felt better did I actually tackle the internet to find out that I was detoxing. It could take weeks. Enter the bad humour.

The challenge for the next month, so I am told

I am not happy. Then I think, if I had gone to the doctor sooner, this could have been already over by now. So, headaches (probably more migraines too), unstable blood glucose levels and all kinds of other unhappiness are lying ahead for me in the next few weeks.
If it limits and/or even prevents the pain, and the crystals from forming that caused the gout in my joints in the first place, it would be but a minor inconvenience while my body adjusts to my new lifestyle choices. Mood swings are apparently a symptom too, so I should probably warn people to stay clear: the bitch was in the house. Of all the other symptoms listed — dizziness, fatigue, nausea — this is the one I really can do without.
On the other hand, realising that the locally produced meat is causing all this trouble, makes me wonder how I am going to convince my husband to follow too. I am less concerned about chicken and seafood since I buy certified organic chicken and our favourite seafood and sushi restaurant only buys fresh seafood. But even then there are no guarantees, are there?

Three weeks and counting…

While I have been fortunate enough not to have had any more migraines, my blood sugar levels remain a concern.

This past weekend was a challenge since we went away for a short break. And then I learned that rural South Africa's restaurants and coffee shops do not cater for vegetarians. It was a challenge, except for one place where I actually had a few choices.

We are now back at home, and the challenge continues. If you want to learn about our weekend and see more some of my gorgeous country, my blog reveals all.

Linzé Brandon is the pen name of a system engineer and project manager who likes to confuse her creative muse as a writer and artist. She is the author of a non-fiction book, and several novels and short stories. She is currently working on her first literary novel and her second non-fiction book.