I do not want to sound melodramatic, so I hope that the title of my log doesn't imply this.  However, it has been a harrowing 5 days.  I have been on a psychological roller coaster and only today do I feel some relief and feel like I am not going to die of stomach cancer tomorrow (or least soon).  I think we can all agree that most of us tend to focus on worst-case scenarios when our health becomes an issue.  Aside from doing this, though, there is no doubt that my situation was serious - much more so than I had let on to my wife.

First, and this is important to note:  this situation was not, in any way, directly related to anything I am currently doing for this prep.  I want to get that out of the way because I am sure that people may wonder about this.  Could it be indirectly related?  It COULD, but it isn't likely as I have had this condition for almost 10 years.  Could it be exacerbated by chewing Copenhagen?  It is possible, yes.  

For the last 10-or-so years, I have dealt with what I believe is Esophageal Dysplagia (what I believe is Achalagia), but I have not been diagnosed by a medical professional.  What happens is when I chew my food, I have to make sure to chew it VERY well and almost liquify it before swallowing - especially dry food like chicken breast or white fish, a steak, etc..  If I do not chew it well enough, the food will get "stuck" behind the sphincter muscle that connects the bottom of the throat with the top of the stomach.  Achalasia means that the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the throat doesn't relax enough to allow food to easily pass through it and into the stomach.  This is a condition that worsens with age and a lot of people end up having to undergo a procedure where they go in and have the muscle stretched, allowing for more room for food to pass.  Instead of having this procedure done, I prefer to simply chew my food better as I feel this helps to make digestion better, anyway.

When food gets stuck in the bottom of my throat, I don't recognize it right away because I can't "feel" it happening.  What I do feel, is after taking a few more bites of food and swallowing it, I then start to feel that the food is backing up in my throat and I immediately know that I have a situation on my hands. 

At this point one of two things can happen:
1. I can drink some water and force the food through the narrow opening 


2. I have to cough up the food a little at a time until there isn't much food in my throat and the existing food passes in a few minutes (sometimes as long as 10-20 minutes).

It can work to drink water to force the food through, but if there is too much food backed up, doing this only hurts due to extra pressure in my throat and I end up having to cough up the water and start coughing up some of the food that is in my throat.  This can be quite painful if I force the water and it doesn't push the food through.

If I cough up the food it doesn't hurt, but I end up losing the food that was in my throat and as we all know, bodybuilders don't like to lose food from a pre-measured meal.  Yes, there are times where I have coughed the food back into my bowl and when the rest of the food in my throat passes into my stomach, I go back and eat the food that I had to cough up.  Not yummy but when you are dieting you don't want to miss out on food, either.

Last Thursday, before my 2nd training session of the day (about 3 am), I was eating a chicken breast and I was almost done with it when I realized that I had some of the chicken backing up in my throat.  I immediately grabbed my water and tried to force the food into my stomach.  The food did move into my stomach, but with a lot more pain than usual and it was acute.  I actually said to myself, out loud, standing in my kitchen at 3 am, "That was not good," and doubled over, resting on the kitchen counter.  The pain dissipated about 80% over the next 15 minutes, allowing me to finish my meal and go to the gym.  The best way to explain the pain is to say that it felt like something ripped.  However, even drinking water in the gym I found to irritate the area of my throat where the food was stuck.  I couldn't tell if it was the bottom of my throat or the opening of my stomach but it didn't feel very good.  I arrived home from the training session, drank my postworkout drink and went to bed.

I woke up feeling fine with no pain.  I had 2 meals before training legs and had a great leg session on that Friday.  When I got home and had my postworkout drink, I went to the bathroom and noticed black stools.  I didn't think much about it other than it was odd.  I had another movement a couple of hours later and when this one was black, it occurred to me that this might be somehow related to the incident the night before and the pain that I had experienced.

For those who do not know, black stools mean that there is blood in the stool, but it is from the upper GI because if it was from the lower GI, it would likely be red.  You can have black stools from medications or licorice, but I have no good reason to have black stools other than the throat pain from the night before.  I knew right away that I was bleeding somewhere and likely from my stomach/throat.  I started what most of us do: playing "Google Doctor."

The things that came up with my searches were troubling.  Most of the time, black stools are a reason to get to the doctor NOW.  However, I was very aware that I had none of the other symptoms listed for any of the issues that were concerning.  Some examples:
I did not have nausea.  I did not vomit. I didn't even have indigestion, heartburn or "sour" stomach.  I had absolutely no pain - none - and this one is important, of course.  I was not ever light-headed, weak in the legs, etc..  In fact, I had great workouts and had no other feeling that something was wrong other than black stools.

I then spoke to a good friend who is a nurse in ICU and he spoke to another nurse and an ICU doctor for me.  They all felt that I did not have to go to the hospital, but to continue monitoring my situation for a couple of days and if I had any pain or any other symptoms, that I should go immediately.  However, he also stated that it was likely that if I did go in, I would have to be admitted (likely to the ICU) for an endoscopy and I would stay there at least 24 hours to be monitored to see if they could stop the bleeding and a myriad of tests would be performed.

Now, I will go off on a tangent here for a good reason:
Unfortunately, the health care system we have in place forces a lot of us to evaluate how bad our situation is as to whether we need to go to the hospital, urgent care, etc..  I have great insurance, but I have deductibles that need to be met, so I, and many others, try to balance out whether it is going to be cost-effective to go to the hospital or ER or wait it out to see if things get better or worse.  I felt that if I had to go there to be monitored while on medication, I could probably save a lot of money by getting that medication at CVS and administering it myself and monitoring myself from home, potentially saving a ton of money and time.  This is where you and everyone else can judge how stupid I am because you think I should have gone in right away.  However, it wasn't your decision and it isn't your time and your life so it isn't your decision.  Add to this that it was Fathers Day and I really didn't want to alarm my family as to whether their Dad was dying when it could end up being nothing bad, at all.  Again, MY decision.

Obviously, this was wearing on me all weekend and into Monday as I continued to have black stools consistently with no real change, at all.  Again, I still felt good, but wasn't training and wasn't eating much, thinking that eating less might help the medication to heal whatever I had damaged.

I wasn't supposed to Skipload until Wednesday, but I felt that if I was able to Skipload on Monday, I could see if moving more food would help the blood to dissipate.  I was told that even if the bleeding had stopped, there would still be a bunch of blood "leftover" in my stomach and intestines and that it would continue to come out for 2-3 days.  Eating wasn't bothering my throat or stomach and I actually felt that there was now more room in my throat than there had been for quite a while.  Keep in mind that I have dealt with this for about 10 years, so I got used to feeling the bottom of my throat being kind of tight. Now I felt like the opening was quite a bit larger for some reason.

By Monday I still had black stools and was getting pretty concerned thinking today is the day I will have to go to the hospital if this doesn't stop.  I also figured that if I am going to be in the hospital and not be able to eat for 1-2 days, I would be starving.  I decided to move the Skipload up 2 days to see if more food (which equals more stool passing)  would help the blood to dissipate.  This was kind of my last resort.

I loaded all day Monday and I felt time.  I also still had black stools.  I made the decision that I would go to the bathroom when I got up Tuesday morning and if my stools were still black, I was going in to be seen.  Right before bed Monday night (early Tuesday morning due to my weird schedule), I had one more movement and ... it was starting to turn more of a normal color.  I wanted to wake up my wife and tell her because I was so excited, but I knew that would give away how worried I actually had been, after downplaying this entire situation to her for the last 5 days.  Let's just say she was not excited that I was not going to see the doctor sooner.

By the time I got up Tuesday, movements were almost back to normal - close enough to say that I was incredibly relieved and knew that the bleeding had stopped and I was not going to have to go to the hospital.

As relieved as I am, I am now forced to make a very difficult decision.  I either continue on with my prep that is roughly 6 weeks out or shitcan it.  Things have been going so well and I am quite happy with where I am.  However, I was racing the clock prior to this and now with losing almost a week (and more after bumping the Skipload back 3 days), I am honestly not sure if I can pull this off.  Yes, 6 weeks is good chunk of time (5.5 actually) but I admit that I am psychologically defeated.  Remember, last year at this time I got shingles after dealing with obstacle after obstacle in that prep, too.  It really feels to me like prepping is almost impossible these days due to there always being some underlying issue related to health and this is really weighing on me.  

Bitch is, as much as I am not chasing a pro card, I still am committed to my goal that I set out to accomplish this year and I don't think I can turn my back and pull out.  I feel like I can still do this and come in the way I want to - even though it will be one hell of a push.  The gamble is that I CANNOT get on stage less than 100% because I am a prep guy so all of the excuses in the world won't matter to me - I HAVE TO BE READY IN 6 WEEKS OR I CANNOT STEP ON STAGE.

I am going to do everything I can to pull this off.  In fact, I think I am even more motivated now than I was before this happened.  I do my best work when my back is against the wall and this will make me push even harder.  It makes it even more challenging than it was before.

Will I make it?  I think I will and I will do everything I can to make it happen.  At the same time, if I get to one week out or even 2 weeks out and I don't think I can make it (and it seems obvious), I absolutely will pull the plug.  I refuse to ever get on stage less than 100%.  It's just something personal that I refuse to do whether obstacles or not.

Thank you to a great friend for looking out for me this entire time and keeping everything under wraps for me (Alex Witthoft). You gave me solid advice and your professional opinions without my prep influencing your feedback.  I appreciate that more than you know.

In the end, this is just another show that means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but I have committed to this and worked hard for this.  I feel I can pull it off so I am going to go at it hard and do everything I can to get it done.