a woman in a tight fitting outfit waters a plant with a watering can, meanwhile the same woman is in a baggy outfit watering with a hose

Swelling Up: Water Retention, Bloating, and Ascites

For me, one of the most emotional and sad parts of having end-stage liver disease from hepatitis C is swelling up.

My stomach swelling symptoms

I start to retain fluid in my abdomen (ascites) and my legs. It varies from as to how much I swell up. I am talking about 10-15, pounds give or take. It becomes difficult to breathe as the bloating in my stomach can swell up into my chest, removing any waistline I had. I look like a giant bubble (or at least feel like one). It takes a toll on my mental psyche too. As a woman, I do care about how I look. I am not obsessed with my looks and certainly not a vain person, but it does bother me to look in the mirror and see this weight suddenly appear.

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Two sets of clothes

I am sitting here writing this in a lawn chair, enjoying the beautiful outdoors. However, I am experiencing some difficulty in taking a deep breath. I am seeing a rock-hard ball in my upper stomach. Even being pregnant with my two children, I never got this big. So, it does come to a shock for me to wake up in the morning being a totally different size. If you were to look in my closet of clothes, it is divided into 2 sections. My “thin” clothes and what I call my “bloat” clothes. My thin clothes consist of nice form fitting jeans, slacks, and tops. One the other side (one I admit wish was not there and I could burn them) are my “bloat” clothes. These are stretch pants and loose shirts mostly made of spandex and polyester.

I learned quickly that days will come (sometimes can be weeks on end) that I will wake up literally weighing 10-15 pounds heavier. I used to force myself into my jeans and then be in so much pain and discomfort during the day I would have to unbutton them. Finally, a nurse at my liver clinic suggested a stretch-type pant. I did my research and found several pairs. Although they are the most amazing comfortable piece of clothing, they are not the most attractive piece of clothing.

Tips for coping with ascites

Today, I am sporting the “bloat” clothing line I have. Although I am having a hard time taking deep breaths with the stomach so swollen, I am far more comfortable than wearing jeans. I wish I could say something to change this part of liver disease because it does take a toll on your physical and mental being. Find what works for yourself and go with it, knowing as the bible quote goes, “This soon shall pass”.

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