In January 2008 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Right after I graduated the following winter I had a fairly intense flare-up of my disease symptoms and began taking Remicade, a biological treatment taken intravenously. Every so many weeks I go the doctor’s office and Laure, Physician’s Assistant/superhero puts a line in my arm. While a combination of Remicade and saline drips into my body, I enjoy a wonderful nap. This medication has been a god-send and usually allows me to ignore the fact that I have this chronic disease and eat/drink whatever I want.
In the beginning of the summer I was at the doctor’s office, preparing for my nap – I mean treatment. I stepped on the scale, picked out a polar-fleece blanket and neck pillow, (conveniently provided by drug reps, of course!) and put out my arm for Laure to take my blood pressure. She mentioned it was high. “Have you ever been told you have high blood pressure?” she asked. Before I could answer no, I started remembering several trips to various doctors over the past months. A few had in fact noted high blood pressure reading, and written them off as anomalies. “You walked to the office? I’m sure that’s why it’s a bit high. We’ll check again a little later.”
Being that I am a mostly healthy (ignore the Crohn’s Disease momentarily) 24-year old female, Laure was concerned by the fact that my blood pressure was still high after I fell asleep. She asked me to take my blood pressure every day for a week or so, and send her the results. Kirios’ parents kindly lent me a home blood pressure machine, and I began recording my readings. They were high, and it worried me. Kirios created a GoogleDoc for me to record my results, complete with a graph. I didn’t think my blood pressure graph should have a positive slope. When Laure told me to see a cardiologist, I wasn’t surprised.
It was official – I had high blood pressure. And that’s when it began – my craving for Chinese food. The instant my mother told me to avoid salty foods, I began dreaming about Chinese food. It’s not that Chinese is my favorite cuisine by any means, in fact, if I’m going to have Asian food, I usually prefer the freshness of Vietnamese food or a spicy Thai noodle dish. Chinese food is thick and greasy. It usually makes my stomach hurt, and always makes me feel like I pigged out. And of course, it’s full of sodium.
Despite my ever-present craving, I went months without eating Chinese food. I almost never eat out when I’m alone, and Kirios simply refused to have it with me since the blood pressure diagnosis. “But the cardiologist never really told me I needed to be on a low-sodium diet! He just said avoiding it in excess was a good idea. And that wasn’t until I specifically asked him about it!” I plead in vain. He wouldn’t budge.
Last month I made plans to have dinner with a friend when Kirios was busy. “How about Chinese?” I suggested. He loved the idea of Asian, but took me to his favorite pho joint. Still no Chinese food for me.
Then two weeks ago I went to the cardiologist and received great news – my blood pressure was low enough that I could stop taking medication for it. The doctor told me to continue taking my blood pressure at home, and in another two weeks we’d decide if I could discontinue it indefinitely. I called my mom to tell her the good news. “You should celebrate,” she said. “But don’t go out and have Chinese food or anything crazy like that!” So I continued to resist the temptation.
And then this past Friday I was working from home. It was a rainy morning. Kirios was going out of the town for the weekend, and while I had a busy Saturday and Sunday schedule, my evening was completely open. I thought back to the occasional rainy day in college when my roommates and I would defiantly declare it was too depressing to go out, and instead we ordered Chinese food and watched chick flicks. I knew my day had come.
Later that evening I ordered take-out from a small place a block away from my apartment. They had one of those special menus where you can order vegetarian versions of typical meals with various soy protein replacements, so I selected vegetarian General Tso’s chicken. I put a hearty portion on my paper plate, turned on Netflix, and indulged myself. The Chinese food was thick and greasy. It made my stomach hurt the next day, and it made me feel like I had pigged out. But at least I didn’t have to feel guilty about eating it while having high blood pressure!