What A Difference A Year Makes

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August 8, 2020

It was a year ago in August when one of my sisters came to our home for a short visit, a one night stay exactly.

It was a special time for two sisters to just hang out together doing nothing in particular than just hang out, although our ages were different somehow our status was similar in that we both were single again.

She became a widow in the spring of 2014 and I had separated a year later.

A wonderful time it was reminiscing about our parents and siblings, our own children now grown up.

The hours when we tried to rearrange the world and  laughed so hard at our own jokes.

Lunch at Le Cafe that day, was a delightful fare of fresh mixed lettuces and fruits bathed in vinaigrette, hot onion soup with freshly baked baguette, and the best dessert to top it up. Why not.

Evening came and found us still like chatter boxes with much to say until the night passed by much too fast and we fell asleep at last.

When the morning came she left with the promise that we would do it again.

August has come again, but we have not done it again; and now it has to wait because my sister became gravely ill with complications of the liver.

A condition known as hepatic cirrhosis, liver damage.

Oh what a difference a year makes when one day we enjoy a relatively good life, and another we’re at a crossroad wondering what’s next.

What Does It Mean?

At learning of my sister’s condition we rushed to learn what it all means.

Puzzled at her lack of symptoms until it was full-blown, fatigue, weakness, weight loss.  yellowing of the skin (jaundice), abdominal swelling. 

Undergoing exploratory surgery was needed to confirm the condition as my sister had no history of alcoholism for a disease that medical journals associate to a lifestyle of heavy drinking.

Treatment can help but the condition cannot be cured. 

How bleak a prognosis, how totally changing a life that goes about in daily routines, in series of activities divided in compartments.

These representing portions of living, childhood, adulthood, family, labor, rest, recreation, stopping suddenly to assess what is life all about.

Life is made of moments like the special time with my sister a year ago, not knowing that because of health we could not, and still have not done it again.

Every opportunity is golden, every day a chance to live with hope that when we wake up again the following day, that golden opportunity may be ours again, and fully live in our present, because tomorrow was promised to no one.

Learning About This Disease

We rushed to learn about what it is to be suffering from Hepatic Cirrhosis Liver damage, and what we read online was not exactly comforting for it appeared my sister’s sudden symptoms placed her at the chronic level.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cirrhosis often has no signs or symptoms until liver damage is extensive.”

Symptoms may include,

  • Fatigue
  • Easily bleeding or bruising
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in your legs, feet or ankles (edema)
  • Weight loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fluid accumulation in your abdomen (ascites)
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
  • Redness in the palms of the hands
  • For women, absent or loss of periods not related to menopause
  • For men, loss of sex drive, breast enlargement (gynecomastia) or testicular atrophy
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)

But what causes it? The answer is a long list of possibilities, among some: Chronic hepatitis, Cystic Fibrosis, Fat in the Liver, Alcohol Abuse, Iron buildup, some medications, Inherited Disorders of Sugar in the Metabolism.

How Can We Help Ourselves to Prevent it?

Maintain a healthy diet, consuming light sources of protein, eating green vegetables and fruits, avoid fried and fast foods.

Keep control of the amount of alcohol consumption, once in a while rather than frequent. Avoid it if your health is not at its best in general.

Mind your weight, obesity can increase your chances for this condition and others.

Doctor’s Visits

Before my sister’s case, we had not known of anyone close to us with this disease, or more accurately; had not been keenly aware of it, as we are now.

Commonly we have known of people suffering from high or low blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, Cirrhosis caused by heavy drinking.

The lesson I’ve learned from this is how vital a healthy liver is for our body to maintain good health; our liver does not regenerate, and once damaged it can be life-threatening.

Therefore, when having a general consultation with the doctor, request the physician to include a full ultrasound of the liver when complete lab testing is done for a thorough check-up.   

What’s Next

My sister is following the treatment prescribed by the doctor to a tee and consulted a reputable nutritionist who created a special diet for her to help the liver, absorb nutrients her body desperately needs, and support the medication for the best maintenance possible.

Along with lots of prayers, we hope she improves.

Priscilla Hudson


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