I promise this makes sense: In 2006, I had an ingrown hair on my thigh that turned into an abscess. I became pretty ill (high fever), and went to the doctor. They injected me with some pretty heft antibiotics and put me on some nasty oral antibiotics. Well, the clindamycin they prescribed me gave me godawful heartburn. The abscess did finally heal. After that, I started having random nocturnal chest pain that I assumed was heartburn. Over a few months, I started developed a little problem swallowing, as well as heartburn that was sometimes relived by tums. The odd thing about this heartburn was though, it didn't come after eating spicy foods, caffeine, citrus, tomatoes, or anything - I got the pain when I didn't eat. It would happen when I'd wake up at night. Eventually my swallowing got so bad that I had to drink hefty amounts of water with my food. Food would feel like it was backing up, either in my throat or in my chest, and it felt like choking every time I ate. I finally got sick of this after a year or so and got an appointment with a gastroenterologist in late 2008. I'd looked up what I thought it was online, and figured that I had gastroesophageal reflux disease that had gotten so bad I'd gotten an esophageal stricture. That's when the damage from acid in your esophagus makes your esophagus scar and become narrow. Liquid still passed fine at this point, and I was only having issues with solid foods. He did an endoscopy - this is where they knock you out and deepthroat you with a camera, all the way down to your duodenum. He found no stricture, but claimed that he saw gastritis and esophagitis (I have the pictures and this was definitely him making stuff up). The drugs he put me on for heartburn didn't do anything except give me heartburn (through a process known as rebound hypergastrinemia), and none of my symptoms went away. I settled for drinking lots of water whenever I ate and the random pain attacks for years. One of the disgusting things I found was that saliva and mucous would build up in my esophagus pretty easily. After drinking a soda, I to this day can spew quite a bit of foam out. It's immensely disgusting. This last January I got food poisoning from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant (thinking about it still makes me nauseous), and had some horrible vomiting. Now, unless my vomiting is related to (intentional) ethyl alchohol poisoning, vomiting is immensely painful. I'd have a really horrible sharp pain in my chest, and I'd drive heave three or four times before any vomit would come up. Over the next couple days I had horrible, horrible chest pain. This awful, squeezing pain that I couldn't get any relief from. Alka seltzer, tums, nothing would help. I went to urgent care and the doctor once again told me I had bad GERD, even though I could tell that the sphincter between my stomach and esophagus was not relaxing. Well, turns out there's a name for "not relaxing". It's Greek and it "achalasia". I found out online about this disorder and diagnosed myself with it based on my symptoms. I went through three doctors in total and all of them tried to diagnose me with GERD. Well, achalasia is the opposite of GERD. GERD is when your esophageal sphincter lets stuff through and it shouldn't. Achalasia doesn't allow GERD. I found a GI doc who was willing to do the studies to officially diagnose it. One is called a modified barium swallow. They gave me radioactive stuff to drink. I swallowed it, and they x-rayed me as I swallowed. Your intestines work on this basic principle: They squeeze food along. Well, turns out that my esophagus doesn't do that (well at least not a lot). My esophageal peristalsis is broken. The barium swallow showed that things I eat stick in my esophagus and slowly drain into my stomach. We did this test where they measure the pressure my esophagus exerts on a pressure meter (manometer), and it showed that my esophagus wasn't squeezing at all - and the sphincter between my stomach and esophagus was super tight. This disorder has been absolutely hellish. My weight has gone up and down quite a bit over the past few years. I'm at my heaviest I've been despite the disease being particularly bad lately, so that's a relief. I've varied between 215 lbs and 270, going from one end to the other several times. Many people aren't as fortunate as me and start wasting very quickly. The worst part of the disease is sleeping. I wake up every night having inhaled mucous saliva, or whatever is in my esophagus. I wake up coughing horribly. Sometimes I have pneumonia like symptoms for several days before it resolves. Headaches, exhaustion. The last couple years I haven't really gotten a good sleep because of this. I wonder too what the chronic struggle to breathe does to my body and my brain. The last few months have been particularly bad, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The disease is caused by nerve cells dying in the esophagus. They can't be replaced. There is no cure. In 20, 30 years, maybe we'll see stem cell therapy for this. But that's more of a pipe dream at this point. Treatment is to make swallowing easier. How do you do that? You make the sphincter relax. There's a few ways to do that. For people who are too delicate, very elderly or very sick people, they inject botox into the sphincter and it relaxes. This works for a few months. In middle-aged women, they use a balloon to stretch the sphincter muscles till they tear, and this usually works for years, sometimes, needing to be repeated. For a young guy like me, they go in and cut the sphincter completely. Then they wrap the body of the stomach around the esophagus to make a valve so you don't get horrible chronic reflux. Hopefully, I'll be having this surgery on the 20th of December. I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to my sphincter, and apparently the pain attacks will go away. However, I won't need to drink quite so much water when I eat. I won't feel like I'm choking. I may also be able to actually sleep. It's been a rough awful road, and knowing that this disease won't go away sucks. Even after the surgery, I may need to have it redone. Down the road, twenty, thirty years, symptoms will probably come back and I'll need a balloon dilatation to upkeep the myotomy (the cutting of the sphincter surgery). I wish none of you every get this disease. The incidence is about 1/100,00 per year, and about 1/10,000 people get it over the course of their lifetimes. It's fairly rare, but damn it sucks.