Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Has a Month Passed?

Wowzers!  It's been more than a month since I've written.

Let's see....  I guess the biggest thing has been vacation to Ocean City, MD.  I won't sugar-coat it - it was HARD!  I took my Magic Bullet and protein powder with me, as well as protein bars.  I was clear with servers when I ordered that I was on a very strict diet and proceeded with my ordering (cooked "this" way and with "this" and without "that") and had very good experiences each time.  We were down the shore so the smells on the boardwalk were beyond temping.  I mean, funnel cake/fries, deep fried Oreos, caramel corn, salt water taffy, fudge... need I go on?  There are also some restaurants with amazing food and I was too limited to enjoy it.  Next year, that will be different, but I am just over 17 weeks out, so it's still early in the grand scheme of things.  Hubby was a trooper and didn't get any of the boardwalk junk food.  There was free breakfast at the hotel, but the only thing I could have was eggs and they didn't even have Egg Beaters; it wouldn't have been ideal to have a heart attack before we arrived back home.  I had taken stuff for protein shakes and I brought plenty of protein bars, so I made it work.  We went down to Assateague several times and had some mind-blowing wild pony "interactions" (there are warnings everywhere with reminders that these animals are wild and may bite, charge, etc).  Here are some of my favorite pictures - ponies and others:

The view from our room - pretty spectacular!

Our first day at Assateague.  Yes, the ponies were *that close*
More spectacular ponies on our first trip to Assateague.

Sunset on the bay.
Our final day at Assateague.
I saw both my surgeon and my PCP since I last wrote.  While numbers differ from scale to scale, I stick to those on my scale for the sake of consistency.  I am down over 100 lbs from my highest weight and 81 lbs from my first appointment with the surgeon.  As far as weight lost since surgery?  Well, that's at 42 lbs in 17 weeks!  I've had to get a lot of new clothes and it's amazing what a new bra will do ;)  While on vacation, I picked up a bunch of shirts from the clearance racks.  I've had a problem with jeans for the past several years.  While I'm 5'5" (or 5'6" depending on who you ask), even the petites are too long.  Well, there is a Christopher & Banks at the outlets.  I talked with one of the saleswomen and she pulled a bunch of styles and sizes (I was between sizes and really wanted to get an idea of length), I found ones that are a great length - if I wore shoes with some height.  I found a pair to wear for vacation and bought the next 3 sizes down at C&B!  Maybe stretching it a bit, but they were $19.99 and I couldn't pass it up!

I have had some issues with my back and hips for some times.  It's one of the many downfalls of obesity.  It was time for hubs and me to get a new bed.  Our old one was 18 years old -- an adult HAHA  We wound up with a Tempur-Pedic and it was delivered yesterday.  The head and foot raise independently and it's pretty cool.  Different is hard and different takes some getting used to.  The verdict is out, but if our "test ride" at the store is any indication, this is going to be one great bed!  We got the split one, so hubby and I can independently determine our own perfect settings.  It'll be great once we get it just right!

We celebrated my Mom's birthday the end of July and my Uncle's wife took this picture.

Not bad, huh?  Thanks, Lynn!

We had a second photo shoot done.

The first picture is from our original shoot; the middle is from a picture taken last September; the final is our most recent shoot, just over 225 pounds (thanks to Jeff Reeder Photography for doing some great shoots!).  You have to admit that Poly (on the right) is one curious, yet incredibly silly, pup!

I was going to water aerobics at the gym, but it's hard and I have to get up super early to get in a full meal or sleep a bit later and eat less protein and then come home and figure out what to do with the dogs while I shower.  I feel so guilty if Poly is in the kennel.  I'm not done with water aerobics, just taking a break for now.  I have a bike at home (as I've mentioned before) and with the TV, I've been able to do about 45 minutes and around 13 miles.

Another thing since surgery: I got a MedicAlert bracelet.  Anyone who has had bariatric surgery shouldn't have blind intubations done.  That, along with some other conditions seemed important for any emergency medical personnel to know.  Well, I have a dear friend who makes beautiful jewelry.  I was going to try to do it myself, since I have done some very elementary bracelet making.  I decided to contact Dezetta, of Dezetta's Dezigns, to put it all together.  When I ordered the bracelet, I had to make sure that it had clasps at either end so it could be switched out.  The least expensive one which fit that qualification had a very ugly, but I knew I would have some beautiful options.

See for yourself!  It's not the greatest picture, but gives you an idea.  The blue goes with just about everything, then there's a teal one and a coral colored one (which I'm wearing).  She took the black shiny beads and made something extra fancy for those big dates.
I LOVE them!

I've been able to stand more and walk further.  I've done some cooking and hubby has been more open than I expected to trying some of my bariatric recipes.  I've taken the dogs for a walk... yesterday was 1.3 miles - I had to get Casey out of the house while the bed was being delivered.  He was very happy, but very tired.... as was I!

I think that covers the basics for now.  Plugging along.....

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Day 85 -- What Now?? I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to write!

First, I can hardly believe that yesterday was 12 weeks!  In some ways it feels like it's been that long, especially when I get a craving.  In other ways, that's a LONG time!  Since surgery, I'm down 31.6 lbs since surgery and 74.4 lbs from my first visit with the surgeon on 12/30/15.  I still feel like I'm looking into those circus mirrors, though.  Especially when I take pictures from the side (you'll see in pictures below that there are none of those!), I look pregnant and don't see much of a difference.  It's a circus mirror - it must be, right? :P

Well, we went out to that same restaurant again (the high-end steak and seafood house) -- this time for my Mom's birthday.  I was going to see my Aunt and Uncle on my Father's side  (who I haven't seen in nearly 3 years) and my Uncle and his wife on my Mom's side (who I haven't seen since last Christmas).  I admit, I was a little excited.  Anyone I haven't seen in a long time can see a difference.  It's a nice feeling for people to compliment me (although I still have that water-off-a-duck's-back "disease"), be happy for me, and encourage me.  Don't get me wrong, I get that from friends and family here, but there's just something different when they see a drastic change.

Knowing that I was going to see family who I hadn't seen in a long time, I decided to treat myself to a new dress!  You can see part of it in the picture below.  I did get a "gut-sucker-inner" (my general label for any Spanx-type products.  There is a part of me that really protrudes in whatever I wear and this dress was no exception.  As far as clothes and shopping go, I'm just excited to be able to shop in a real, in person store!  I have found some old clothes which fit (or hopefully will soon) and I certainly don't have a problem wearing them.  Many are from when I worked, so are dressier than something I'd wear with denim shorts.  I was at the dentist last week - I see the same hygienist each time.  She was so surprised and so happy for me, telling me she can't wait to see me in 6 months and gave me a big hug.  Back to my point -- she told me of a thrift shop about 10 minutes from the dentist (who is already 30 minutes from home), so I stopped in there.  They had brand new clothes, tags still on, for under $10!  Some clothes were 50% off so I got something like 7 new shirts and a dress for under $40.  I foresee myself spending a lot of time here in the next year.  Great store!  Clean, nice clothes, jewelry, expanding to include furniture.  A real gem!  I never would have thought that I'd get excited about shopping again!

At the restaurant, I ordered the same: 3 scallops and asparagus, both grilled.  I'm not sure why I bothered getting the asparagus because I'm too full to eat it, but one of my nephews took it to have it with his leftover dinner.  For that matter, I wasn't able to finish 3 scallops over the course of more than the 30 minutes I'm supposed to take to eat.  We picked up an ice cream cake for my Mom (after dinner, so I was stuffed!) and I was so full from dinner that it didn't even phase me, which I feared it would.  Sure my brain wanted some, but my body said "UH-UH, NO WAY!"  Having a complete aversion to vomiting - seriously, who doesn't (?) - I decided to listen to my body.  No cake for me (is anyone else saying that in the "no soup for you" voice?  Ok, maybe it's just me...)!

I'm still trying to figure out the brain hunger vs. body hunger aspect of this whole thing.  I'm not used to giving any concern to that.  Before surgery, hunger was hunger, period.  And it meant that I ate.  Period.  And that meant that I got to be over 310 lbs and needed this surgery after numerous, almost countless, attempts to do this thing on my own.  I try to eat every 3-1/2 to 4 hours to make sure I get my protein and to help me prevent headaches.  Every medication I take is being metabolized differently now.  I weigh significantly less, which automatically means there is less of me to pump those meds through.  It's going to be a balancing act until I land at a reasonable weight (whatever that may be) and can figure it all out "for real."  According to my doc's office, most of the weight will come off in the first 18 months; by next Christmas, I should be golden!  Until then, trial-and-error pervade my life.  Life is just different and in limbo more than usual.  But I signed on for this and have put too much into it to just throw it all away!

I started doing water aerobics (can't remember if I've said that before), but have been somewhat inconsistent due to a variety of reasons.  I have, however, continued to see the scale go down.  I mean, how could it not?  I'm eating around 800 calories a day.  Anyone is going to lose weight doing that.  I was excited to be able to add fruit into the mix (after I've gotten my protein and some veggies).  It's that something sweet that I've wanted.  I also made chicken salad, using Short-Cuts (Perdue), with Greek yogurt instead of mayo - try it sometime; not only does it pump up the protein, but it offers up a change in flavor.  I so desperately wanted to add grapes to it, but ran it first the dietitian first and was thrilled to get the go-ahead!!!  We've branched out some with our meals, trying new recipes, many of which have been quite good!

I've been taking pictures about every 4 weeks.  While not all of them are clear (and I've kept my face out of them, even though people have told me that's where they can really see a difference), I have decided to post some pictures to date.  Before I do that, let me say that from my first visit with the surgeon at 304 lbs, and a surgery weight of 261.2, I think I'm on the right track.  I just have to get my butt in gear with increasing exercise, but that's another story.  Ok, here goes nothing (and you get to see how sloppy and dirty my bedroom and mirror are):

At my Mom's party (on 7/30/16), my Uncle's wife took this picture:
Not too shabby, huh?

I have to tell you that I realize I look pregnant in the 8 week picture - it's the shirt; it's just not cut right for my body.

I can't tell you the last time that I was under 230 pounds!  I mean, I could look back because I have calendars up in my night table, but I don't feel like going up there right now.  I can tell you that it's been MANY years!  And the last time I did hit it, it didn't last long.  I was probably about 180 when I first started therapy in March of 2000.  When I stopped working in November of that year, I wouldn't be surprised if I was around 200 (meds are a horrible contributor!).  There was a shirt I found and there is a picture of me wearing it on a 2007 trip to Disney World.

I'm becoming more accustomed to the dietary changes.  I still forget to eat sometimes.  I typically start off my day with a protein shake (between 33-35 grams of protein - I'm supposed to get between 60-80 grams daily).  A protein bar is usually 20 grams.  Then I'll have Egg Beaters or Rosemary Chicken, Chicken Lettuce Wraps (better than PF Changs, in my opinion), Chicken "Fried" "Riceless" Rice... and I keep trying new things.  The last 3 got serious approval from hubby, especially the Rosemary Chicken and the Lettuce Wraps - 5 stars!  I have a number of bariatric cookbooks and am trying to get adventurous (within the confines of my dietary restrictions, since each program is different).

Big news on the Jen front:  I can CROSS MY LEGS!!!  No, it's not ankle to ankle or lower calf to lower calf, but it's not ankle to knee!  Again, something someone who hasn't been morbidly obese doesn't even think about, but it's one of those things that comes into play.  Wear skirts is awkward, but now I can without fear of showing a little too much of myself!

I also went shopping - in my very own closet!  Ok, much of what I found is from before I went on disability in 2000 so it has shoulder pads.  Fear not, those will be removed before that garment comes anywhere near my body (other than trying it on).  I absolutely will not - WILL NOT - be leaving the house with shoulder pads, unless I'm going to an 80s themed party (highly unlikely).

I said to hubby last night as I was struggling to get in my minimum protein that people think surgery is the easy way out.  They have NO clue - and it's not their fault, they just don't have the experience or know anyone who has and has been honest about it.  The hard work starts when real food enters the post-op world.  When I go to the gym, I have time to eat a Greek yogurt (12 grams protein) because it takes me an hour or so to down a protein shake and I don't have that kind of time.  When I get home I shower and blah, blah, blah and by the time I eat again, I'm already behind the 8-ball.  I'm figuring it out, though... little-by-little.

The next hurdle is vacation next month.  Just being at the supermarket last weekend with the Halloween candy out, I was reminded of the fudge, salt water taffy, funnel cake/funnel fries, pizza, burgers.... you know how it is.  I mean, how many people go on vacation without food playing a fairly major role?  C'mon... be serious!!  I'll definitely be having a long conversation with my dietitian!  I'll be packing my Magic Bullet so I can make protein shakes and some protein bars for when we're out and about.  I also think we'll pick up some Egg Beaters and string cheese sticks to have on hand for a 6 g protein fix.  From someone who isn't a big fan of cheese, I'm shocked at how much I'm eating - Weight Watchers brand makes a smoked mozzarella string cheese and they are pretty stinkin' good.  The plain ones were really hard to get down.

Ok, so, if you've kept up with the blog, you've seen the restrictions.  I've worked to darn hard to screw this up.  What do you think would be the most difficult thing for you?  I know I've offered up plenty of opinions and shared a lot of my story.  But, how would you handle this?  I venture to say that you'd be able to do more than you ever thought possible.  Don't for one minute, though, ever tell anyone who is considering or has had bariatric surgery that it's the easy way out.  There's no cheating if you want to succeed.  No "one Skinny Cow candy bar is fine," "I can have just one chip and it'll be ok because I can stop there" or "one bowl of pasta won't hurt" - NO!  WRONG!  This is hard work.  Just ask anyone who has been around me and sees what I eat and how I eat.  HARD WORK!

I know there are some reading this blog who are considering the surgery.  I do not discuss the difficult things to dissuade you from having the operation (whichever one you and your doctor deem appropriate with the greatest opportunity for success).  I just want you to go into it with your eyes open.  It is one of the major reasons I'm putting myself out there.  Also, maybe you know someone who is going to have one of the bariatric surgeries.  You need to know what they'll be going through.  You need to know how to support and encourage them.  You will be a vital part of their success.

On an unrelated note, this year I have begun a very small "business" as an independent consultant for a direct sales company.  I have gained some confidence, both with the ability to wear something that doesn't look like a tent, and having positive feedback from what I've done with this.  Being on disability, I'm not able to do a lot, but this allows me to set my own schedule and have parties when I feel well enough, do Facebook parties, and even have hostesses who opt for catalog parties.  It can be really stressful sometimes and that's hard on me emotionally, but when something goes well and I can help someone achieve one of her goals, it's certainly heart-warming.

How can I help you?  What questions can I answer?  What support can I offer you or a friend?  Please don't hesitate for one minute to ask.  I mean, if I've posted that awful 310 lb picture, I'm willing to discuss "almost" anything.  I want to help, encourage, support and celebrate your experience!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New Experiences - 46 Days Out (this number has changed many times as I continue to write, and write, and write....)

Wow, this has been a crazy time!  I'm sorry I've neglected this for so long.  I started to write a couple of weeks ago, but then... well... life just got in the way.

Where to start?

Part of the delay was some pain I'm having.  It's all along the left side of my abdomen and the LRNP said that it wasn't pain I should be having at this stage, so I had an unexpected visit downtown.  Thankfully hubby was able to take off.  She (the LRNP) said that it's unlikely the pain is surgery-related, but they ordered a few tests just to see if they can determine what is causing it.  I'm waiting on the results of one; the other required a pre-cert and I didn't get the info to schedule until it was too late, so I'll be calling for that appointment on Monday.  I do hope they figure this out!  Actually, just today (Saturday), hubby and I were out running some errands and wandering the mall - I haven't been able to walk the mall in years.  I realized I could go to Chick-fil-A and get grilled nuggets.  I got the 8-piece, but could only finish 5.  I'll know to get the children's portion next time.  Then I had to wait 30 minutes to drink, which about killed me.  On top of that, I had my ongoing clothing frustrations (more about that below) and I was having some arthritis pain (you don't spend much time being morbidly obese before your body rebels!).  We left to head to our main destination, and one of my absolute favorite stores - The Container Store!!!!!  Unfortunately the abdominal pain increased dramatically, almost out of the blue, so hubby knew something was wrong when I wanted to leave there... and not even stop at Target on the way home.  So here I sit, protein shake in next to me, typing away.

Now, I had my first experience at a restaurant.  I was super anxious.  A few days prior I had a hamburger and it didn't sit well.  Dinner was planned for hubby's birthday and my parents were taking us to a steak and seafood restaurant.  I called the dietitian in a hurry!  She pulled up the menu on her computer and we went through the menu over the phone (did I mention how wonderful she is?).  I assumed I'd get the scallop appetizer, but the menu didn't make it as straight-forward as it used to be; I also never paid attention before and it is a sauteed dish, therefore cooked in butter - a big no-no.  We worked together to figure out a plan and a few days later, we headed down to my folks'.

The day came and I felt somewhat not-at-all prepared.  I have a letter from my surgeon saying that I've had an operation and that I should be permitted to order a lesser amount of food (off the children's menu, if need be) for a proportionate cost.  I was armed going into the restaurant.  My parents go here often, so they have a favorite server and asked for her.  While we were being seated, my father graciously took the server aside and advised her of my situation.  She was wonderful and told me to order what I want/need from the menu and the chef would make it work.  I did get the scallops, grilled, along with some asparagus.  I wasn't able to finish the 4 scallops, so by bariatric "law" (of my program), I didn't have any of the veggie.  I love vegetables, so this is killing me!  But rules dictate that I eat my 3 oz of protein before I have my ounce of veggie.  And I held firm to the rules.

Major Eating/Lifestyle Changes:
  • stop drinking 15 minutes before eating
  • take at a minimum, 30 minutes to eat (preferably more with the amount of nausea I've had); because of this, I've gotten used to finishing my meals cold.
  • eat 4 oz meals, getting 60-80 oz of protein in daily (historically, people in my specific program have had a higher rate of success with having a protein shake/bar for one meal per day).  It may not be logical, but different doctors/programs have different rules - both pre-op and post-op.  It's not like removing a gall bladder or fixing a torn ligament.
  • as I mentioned before, I am now permitted 1 oz of veggies and 3 oz of protein, but the protein must, must, must come first.  Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein so a number of the bariatric recipes I have include that as an ingredient, or I'll just have a cup of cherry  (or whatever) and it has 12(!!!) grams of protein.
  • meals should be between 3-4 hours apart
  • do not drink until 30 minutes after eating (this one has been the most difficult, I think... we're all so used to drinking throughout our meals, so to not pick up my glass until 30 minutes after I'm through is an enormous change -- try it... it's HARD!)
  • it is absolutely necessary to get in 64 oz - at the very least 50 oz - of water/Crystal Light (something with no caffeine, no sugar and non-carbonated) daily; dehydration is the number one reason for people to be re-admitted following surgery
So yes, there are restrictions and some of them are more difficult than one who hasn't been through the process can understand.  It's a matter of priorities.  It's also a matter of being incredibly strict in following my dietary requirements.

I had my first session with my food/eating therapist since surgery.  She's a real cheerleader for me and my journey and reminds me all the time how far I've come and how much I'm doing to follow the strict rules.  I don't take compliments terribly well, so it's a bit like water-off-a-duck's-back, but she knows that.  I had the same experience with my psychiatrist earlier this week.  I've always been hard on myself, so it's not something new.  The only person on my mental health team who has supported me throughout the entire process is my psychologist.  (the food therapist is new).  The psychiatrists I've seen in the past (especially the one I saw for the longest time - 9 years, I think) would have just set up another appointment and said they'd see me after surgery.  All 3 of these people wanted to know as soon as possible how surgery went.  My psychiatrist was really happy - surprised even - that hubby emailed her not long after the surgery was over.  She thanked me/him for that and I thanked her for caring enough to ask.  I haven't even been seeing her a year and she's done everything to encourage me and support this process.  When I talked of the financial hardship of seeing a second therapist, she didn't think twice and told me to see her less often if that would help.  She's there by email and phone if I need her.

I had an appt at the neurologist's office and talked with her about decreasing doses on some of the meds they have me on for my migraines, because they can also be used for psych purposes.  They are older meds and have a greater chance to cause weight gain - working against what I'm working to do!  In conjunction with my psychiatrist, I am cutting one of the biggest offenders in half (to start) and the other I take 1200 mg 3x/day and that is being cut to 900 mg 3x/day.  I hope to be off my cholesterol med by the Fall, and even though my psychiatrist added back in one med (I went off it due to a variety of screw-ups) I can just pray that she will take me off the one I currently take once I'm up to a therapeutic dose.

Clothes:  I'm finally starting to find myself shrinking out of clothes.  I was so frustrated being stuck in the same size clothes as 50 lbs ago!  But just within the past 1-2 weeks I've noticed that my shirts are sliding down my shoulders and my bra straps are showing.  That hasn't been the case in nearly forever!  My old body had a fairly basic pound to size ratio.  When I was 310 lbs, I wore a 30/32.  I'm under 250 - oh right... did I mention that I'm UNDER 250 ????  I don't remember the last time that was the case, so my mind keeps saying that I should be in a 24/26, but that's not totally the case.  It wasn't a science before, but now it's all over the place.  I did go this afternoon to a Catherine's outlet store.  I don't want to spend a ton of money on clothes, since I just don't know what size to buy and I'll say it again - I definitely do NOT want to spend a lot of money!  So, I left empty-handed, but have become friendly with one of the employees, so we chatted for a bit and that was nice.  The same has been true for all of my shopping escapades of late.  It turns into one big frustrating mess!  I'm going to wind up naked before I know it - and nobody wants to see that!

I had a appointment in the town where I grew up, so met some friends for lunch afterwards.  In talking with one of my friends she asked where I wanted to go.  I haven't lived there in over 20 years, so I'm not entirely sure what the options were.  In talking with her, I said that breakfast is easy for me, since I can just order eggs.  We decided on a place.  When I walked in, all I saw were booths.  In the past, this was fear-inducing.  Will I fit?  Will I be able to breathe?  Will my belly wind up hanging onto the table?  Will people stare?  Last week, though - no problem!  Plus, inches to spare!  For anyone who's struggled with obesity that's a huge accomplishment (no pun intended).  Part of me can't wait to go to our local diner.  I haven't been there in many months and I'm eager to just sit down and not have to request a table - that's awfully embarrassing... or even more embarrassing is them asking if a booth is ok.  This is one check in the "win" box!

Another great thing about that lunch is that I haven't seen these women in over 2 years.  It was wonderful catching up in person and not just via Facebook posts and messages or texts.  But, while they know this is the path I'm on now, I haven't posted any recent photographs, so I was almost giddy at their reactions.  I know, it still falls under the "water-off-a-duck's-back" concept, but it was still really nice to hear.  Like my doctor/surgeon says, I'm with me everyday.  It's only those who don't see me for a long stretch who will really notice.

I'd been slacking a bit with exercise, but also found myself unhappy with my weight loss numbers.  I'm the only one who can change that, so I sucked up the pain (to a certain level - I still have to listen to my body) and hopped back on that bike.  With having a TV in that room, I can stream shows and movies through amazon prime and not have to pay for an additional FiOS box.  At this point, I'm doing about 7 miles in between 23-26 minutes.  I have yet to put on that bathing suit and jump into the pool for water aerobics.  With my mood all over the place I am not finding the energy to get up and at 'em in time.  Hence my time on the bike (plus I don't have to leave the house - huge bonus some days).

Jewelry is also an issue for larger or obese women.  It's not something I'd considered before it became an issue.  Necklaces don't fit properly and if they do, they become chokers when they're not meant to be.  I also kept having to get a larger and larger band to wear as a wedding ring.  One Christmas, hubby got my original rings sized.  I cried because it was the best gift.  It made me feel normal again (if that makes sense).  Now those rings are getting loose.  Because of the heat, they aren't in danger of falling off, but I have to keep a eye on them so I don't lose them once the weather cools.  Also, out of curiosity I tried on my college ring and wouldn't you know it fit?  Such an amazing feeling.  I still weigh (probably) 70 lbs more than I did then, but the fact that I could get it on and not have to cut if off was another win!  I won't be wearing it anytime soon, but I moved the infinity ring hubs got me for Christmas to another finger so I could get used to it there and be prepared to wear my college ring again!  Woo hoo!

This may sound really odd to someone who hasn't had the experience of losing  significant weight, particularly when it's rapid, but skin starts to sag.  It's not pretty, but it's all part of the journey.  Well, I noticed the other day that my arm flab was less taut than it used to be.  Yes, that's right, I'm having skin sag!  It's hard to explain it, but it's a good feeling.  I'm trying not to think about skin surgery so early in my journey, but it's something I may consider down the road, depending on the condition of my body when all's said and done.  Insurance doesn't typically pay for it because they see it as cosmetic so it would create a rather sizable financial burden.  At the same time, having this skin issue could create other problems, medical problems.  One thing at a time, though.  It was just exciting that there was some evidence I was able to see!

Now, this last one is still a source of anxiety for me.  In a couple of months, we are going on vacation.  The dietitian said to cross that hurdle when I come to it, but it's still a big uncertainty.  Food is usually a big part of vacation.  You get to eat out and have some foods you would otherwise avoid (have you heard of funnel fries -- YUM!).  But this year will be vastly different.  I don't want the Mr. to miss out on the yummy things they have there.  I also treat myself to a drink or two while we're on vacation and that's a big no-no.  I'll work around it and the dietitian will coach me before we go so I have ideas for restaurants.  I have the protein bars, some of which are actually delicious.  I can take stuff down to make protein shakes.  I just don't want to be limited to chicken for all of my restaurant meals.  I do know of one place with amazing scallops; they  just can't be sauteed because of the butter.  But I'm sure they will grill or broil, just like the steakhouse for hubby's birthday.

I know this has been a crazy-long post and thank you if you made it all the way through.  Please forgive any disjointedness or typos but I've been writing like crazy to not delay this any longer and to make sure I didn't forget anything.  I know there have been people who have expressed interest in this blog and how they have found support through it or are considering the surgery and want to read more.  I can't tell you how much that means to you.  Part of the reason I decided to make this blog public was to help even one person.   Please, please, please, ask questions!  You can bet I'll be honest.  Heck, at this point it's all on the table anyway.  Also, don't hesitate to join the site; you'll get an alert when I post in the event that I forget to put in on FB.  You can find it in a blue box on the right side, below all of my profile info and right about "followers."

Well, hopefully things will get less eventful, although every day finds something new - a new food my tastebuds like and my body agrees with (or the opposite), or what exercise has been working and what may be causing some unnecessary pain.  I'll also try to check in more often so you don't feel like you've just finished reading a bad novel by the time you reach the end.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Day 27 and Moodiness Abounds (Not to Mention Some Serious Anxiety)

I won't be weighing again until tomorrow, but I felt like I had to write.

I don't know if this is a common experience among bariatric patients, but I'm moody as all get-out.  This has been happening for weeks now, but the past 48 hours have been especially difficult.  I'm not exactly sure why.  I know that I'm frustrated trying to figure out what to eat as I'm back on "human" food.  There is a question about what came directly from the program with my doctor and dietitian and what I may have printed out from other sites.  I really thought I'd only printed info from the program I used, but now I'm questioning myself and it's driving me crazy!  I've been through my hospital's program over and over and can't even find what I know came from them!  I'm losing my mind and getting more frustrated along the way.

I'm anxious about starting on real food, about what my pouch will tolerate and about leaving the house when I'm trying new foods.  I made my final batch of pureed food today; just 2 meals left.  But AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!  This is scary.  I haven't had real food since the middle of last month (and then there was only a few weeks prior to that when I did 2 weeks of liquids to prep for the failure).  Can I eat veggies?  Will my pouch allow meat?  What about eating out?  Keith's birthday is this week and we'll be going out to eat.  I'm now supposed to have 3 oz of a high protein food and then 1 oz of veggies.  But what can I eat?  What should I eat?  What will I eat?  Will it be accepted by my sleeve?

I had gone through my bathing suits and found 2 or 3 which currently fit.  I was all mostly ready to go to water aerobics.  Yesterday Keith and I went and checked out the gym so I knew where I was going, etc.  I got halfway there and realized that I didn't have the lock for a locker.  I wasn't about to leave my keys and wallet in an unsecured locker.  Well, I got home and was SO frustrated.  I admit that I was angry, thinking that Keith was the last one to touch it and he must have put it somewhere and that I didn't know where it was.  Please, forgive me Keith.  My anger was unfounded.  I went again to check the bedroom and found the lock tucked in the quilt folds.  I felt like such an idiot.  My anger was for nothing and had I looked closer, I would have found it and been able to start water aerobics.  Wednesday I know I won't be able to go for the class (which is fine; I can always go and walk the pool).  The days I have afternoon appointments will be difficult to do the class, but somehow I have to make it work.  Hey, I'll (probably) be starting at the 4 week mark.  That's not half bad, huh??

That anger has really affected my mood, making it worse than it was already.  I'm so ticked off!  I can't handle going deeper into the darkness.  I have worked so hard to make this surgery successful and I don't know how to separate the two.  I started out with this stupid mental illness.  I know that losing weight wasn't going to make the depression disappear.  I've felt pretty good for the better part of the past several months (minus the week following the failure).  Now I feel like I'm back where I started.

What the heck is going on?  I'm totally unmotivated as far as the exercise is concerned.  I have no interest in even getting on the bike, in spite of having the TV up there and some cool amazon prime streaming shows/movies.  I've said all along, I worked so hard to make this surgery happen.  The doctor visits.  The tests.  The clearances.  The liquid diet - twice.  The pureed diet.  Now, the fear of returning to real food tomorrow.  If my emotional state gets in the way of that, I'm not sure how I'll cope with that.  I so desperately want to go off my meds, especially those which have weight gain as a common side effect.  I NEED to be successful.  This is the final attempt to get this fat off.  I weigh myself tomorrow and have to have lost weight or I think I'll lose my mind (even more)!

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  I know I've rambled about this emotion thing.  It's just such a big part of who I am.  I return to my food/eating therapist this week.  We'll see how that goes.....  Thanks again!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

23 Days Post-Op: All in Due Time

For the sake out housekeeping, I know you've been chomping at the bit to find out what breed Casey is.  So, drumroll please..... he's primarily Siberian Husky and somewhat less Chow Chow.  Crazy, right?  Crazy!

Also, I felt like the old blog needed some updating so enjoy the new, fresh look!

Ok, now down to business.

I saw the doctor for the first time yesterday.  I was feeling so discouraged after having lost only 2 lbs between weeks 2 and 3.  I have the LRNP's voice in my head saying "...20 pounds the first month" and while this wasn't a full month, I was super disappointed.  What had I done wrong?  I'd followed the diet to the letter, I'd gotten on the recumbent bike as much as possible, I'd taken my vitamins.  I'd done it all right.  What happened?  The only real change is that I added pureed food into my diet.  But, Jen, everyone does that, yet that number was in my head.  It was eating away at me (no pun intended).  I went into my therapist's office on Tuesday feeling incredibly down and we had a discussion about how each person is an individual and everyone's body is going to react to surgery differently, etc.  I still couldn't get that 20 lbs out of my head.

I went in to the appointment a bit ambivalent, but my doctor is wonderful and put my mind at ease right away.  As always I took my recorder with me.  This is the first appointment I've been to alone, but even when there's someone with me I take it.  With my brain being that of dirt, it's important to make sure I don't remember something incorrectly.  With this, it could make a MAJOR difference, and not in a positive way.

At the downtown office, they have a scale.  In the suburban office, there may be inconsistencies, so he sticks with the weights I give him from my scale here at home.  While I lost only 2 lbs between weeks 2 and 3, he wasn't concerned.  If memory serves (haha), I have lost about 12 lbs since surgery.  I've also lost almost exactly 50 lbs since I first met him on 12/30/15.  He's pleased with my progress.  He also said something that really struck me.  He said that I'm with myself everyday so I don't notice the change, but he can clearly see it.  I expressed my frustration at not being able to wear clothes that I have fit into at this weight in the past.  He essentially said "all in due time," but I wasn't offended.  I guess when the person who monitors your weight says something like that, it doesn't come across as trite.  He really means it.  He knows it for himself through other patients.  All in due time.

There are some areas which have puckered, specifically the two he used to do most of the work.  I wasn't concerned.  I figured that after losing the weight they'd go away anyway.  But he assured me that it's because in those areas which were used the most and suffered the most "trauma" the dissolvable stitches are attached to pretty deep tissue, hence the puckering.  No biggie.  I've had enough surgeries and have enough scars that these things don't bother me.  Heck, if that's the worst that comes from this surgery, I'll be thrilled!

I start "real/people" food next Tuesday.  On the same day, all restrictions will be removed.  The biggies are my lifting restriction and being able to get in the pool.  The lifting: tonight, for example, is going to be pure chaos.  Keith had to take Bert to the vet so they could do a day-long blood sugar monitoring (a bell curve test).  Then, tonight, we have to take both dogs for their annual appointments and to update their vaccinations.  I'm neither allowed to lift Bert nor "walk" either dog; given their sizes and the fact that they pull, there is a danger internally that they could do some damage.  Even after my restrictions are lifted, I am to take it easy as far as walking them is concerned.  Shoot!  I will have the pool and I have my bike, but left to walk by myself I wind up too much in my head and then start to think about the pain or "I've walked 'x' far and will have to walk it back" so I'll go easier.  If I'm walking the dogs, I'm focused on training them not to pull (it's an uphill battle!).

So, food.  I am a bit confused by some of the papers the dietitian sent me.  I am not really supposed to snack - and I get that.  If I start to snack and it becomes a habit, I just set myself up for failure, even if they're healthy snacks.  At the same time, some of what is listed on the paperwork sounds snack-y.  But, I am allowed to do some vegetables now.  3 high-protein meals (with a total protein intake of 60-80 grams, so 20-30 grams each meal).  I can do 3 oz of protein and 1 oz of veggies, which I think is where I'm getting the idea that some of those foods are snacks, because it's things like roasted chick peas or certain veggies with hummus.  For maximum weight loss, they have found that people who continue to do one shake daily have the most success.  It's also an incredibly easy meal!

I saw the EOB (explanation of benefits) from my primary insurance company the other day.  It's absolutely insane!  Granted, they took extra precautions because of the first attempt, plus there are oodles of bags hanging from my IV pole,
(crazy, right?), the 2 nights in the hospital, doctors, a test the day after surgery, blah, blah, blah.  You can imagine how the list goes on and on.  Also, it's a teaching hospital and I'm not sure how that works as far as billing for services of residents - I'm assuming it's ok since they're not interns, although I have no idea if they can bill for interns... all irrelevant.  Let's just say the bill is monstrous!  Praise God that I will have to pay less than $1500 and while that's not chump change, it's a tiny percentage.  Now, my secondary said outright that they do not cover bariatric surgery.  I don't know if that includes everything that goes with the surgery, like the hospital stay.  Whatever happens, Keith and I are SO thankful that insurance is picking up the majority of it.

So, all-in-all a very positive visit with the doctor.  Next week I'll be pushing the exercise as I test out foods and see what my pouch can tolerate.

And the journey continues....

Monday, June 13, 2016

Something Light-Hearted

First let me thank you for the outpouring of support.  I love reading any comments and knowing that there are people praying for me and that I am successful in my journey.  Most days I think you have more confidence in me than I do in myself.  For that, please know that I am so appreciative.

Now for the light-hearted part.  All of my writings have been sooooo serious lately.  I decided it was time for something amusing (at least to Keith and me).

This is Casey (you've already "met" him):

And in case you've forgotten or are new to the blog - and because I like to brag on my furbabies, here are some more, although this one is about Casey specifically:

 Silly Casey

<------ One of my favorite pictures of the big guy.

Sorry the pix are so disjointed.  Blogspot won't let me move them around much to be all even and equal..  Oh well.  C'est la vie.

Anyway, Keith and I decided to do a DNA test for Casey.  Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but everyone who sees him sees something different.  The rescue told us that he was a shepherd mix.  We got the results over the weekend.  If you're not friends with me on Facebook, take a stab at what breed you think he is.  While you're at it, feel free to use the "join this site" opportunity above.  I make no promises that this will always make it to Facebook - I am a bit distracted, if you know what I mean...

THANK YOU again!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Day 17 - in the Depths of Pureed Food

Part of me can't believe it's been 17 days since surgery.  Part of me can't believe it's only been 17 days since surgery.  It has been a rocky road, for sure.

I haven't need any pain meds since my last post - YAY!  I've been able to get on the bike and am up to 11.5 minutes.  It's a slow ride, but I'm moving.  I would love to take Casey for a walk (since Poly remained at daycare this week; with me still unable to bend at the waist we felt like we had no choice, plus she's happy there).  I specifically asked if I could take Casey for a walk.  She asked how big he was (ehem, 90 lbs....) and if he pulls (most definitely).  With those two answers she said it wasn't safe and I could do damage to my sleeve.  I've worked too hard to do anything risky!

So I've been sitting around, mostly avoiding everything that's on my to-do list.  Most of the stuff has basically been copied from one day to the next with little accomplishment.  I've also spent most of the week debating what this post would look like.  Unlike most of my sleeved online friends, I have no picture from the day of surgery.  I also have no pictures from my highest weight.  When you're a hippopotamus you tend to avoid the camera at all costs.  I do have a picture from a cruise last September which gives you a good idea of what I looked like.  I think this is even more than I weighed when Keith and I did the photo shoot.  I have to say, I'm still undecided.  If I'm going to post it, I might as well put the number out there, right?  All or nothing?  I'll avoid that for now and decide as I near the end of this post.

I did pretty well with the liquid diet, although I started to get hungry by the end of the 2 weeks.  I hadn't had anything solid in a long time!  At the same time, I feared the pureed diet more than I can express.  "What am I going to eat?"  "Surely they can't expect me to throw chicken in the blender?"  "I can't bear the thought of eating protein-high baby food!"  As you can imagine, there were many more thoughts along those lines.

I had my post-op appointment and both the nurse and the dietitian were pleased.  The nurse based my weight loss (just a little over a week post-op) on my 1st pre-op weight.  That may or may not be accurate.  Honestly, I have it all recorded in a calendar, I just haven't looked at the numbers.  Based on that she was pleased, but I know that between my pre-op and my 1st attempt, I lost a bunch of weight from the liquid diet.  Then I did my famous emotional eating and gained most of that back.  I worked hard to lose enough so I was, thankfully, not as fat as my 1st pre-op number.

I talked at length with the dietitian with all of my anxieties.  She said it's normal and proceeded to give me a sheet with a bunch of suggestions.  The one I assumed was egg salad (which isn't half bad, even pureed), but she had a number of suggestions.  I was still skeptical, especially given that I have to do this for 2 weeks.  The good news is that one idea is actually pretty good - and high in protein (the main goal - forever).  It's using chicken (I bought Perdue Short Cuts), plain Greek yogurt, and ranch dressing (or I could use mild taco seasoning also).  So, it's a protein drink for breakfast, 4 oz of a high protein meal for lunch and another for dinner, with another protein drink sometime during the day.  I usually save it until nighttime and then make one of the sweet ones from the cookbook I have.  There is apple pie, banana bread and a number of others.  It's pretty scrumptious... at least as far as protein shakes go.

At my first post-op, I met with the dietitian (who gave me the instructions/pureed food ideas) and the LRNP.  Everyone seemed pleased with my progress.  They told me that they anticipate a 20 lb loss in the first month.  I think that I'll be near that, but my 2nd appt, which is supposed to be a month from surgery will only be 3 weeks (so I can see him in the 'burbs).  I'll have a little wiggle room as far as loss is concerned.  I am following the post-op orders to the letter and have increased my exercise daily.

Yes, I overdo it and yes, I pay for it that day and/or the next.  I try to not do too much.  I am also stubborn as all get-out and want to push myself.  I want to find my limit without passing it.  I want to take this opportunity and not screw anything up.  I can't screw it up.  I've worked too hard.  The thing is, for the rottenness of clearances leading up to the surgery and the pretty awful first attempt, this post-op regimen is incredibly difficult.  It's going to kill me to keep away from carbs until I get closer to my goal weight.

Goal weight?  When I asked the LRNP about that, she said what they use as a determination is an antiquated chart.  They anticipate a 55-60% loss of my excess body weight.  The rest is up to me - all me.  It's following the diet - the very strict eating plan - and getting my exercise in.  As soon as I'm cleared by the doctor to do so, I'll be activating my membership at the gym and begin water aerobics.  When I'm strong enough, I am considering working with a personal trainer, but that's not exactly free.  One thing at a time.

It's frustrating when people say that surgery is the "easy way out" because they have NO CLUE!  The prep and clearances were killer, but little did I realize (as much as I read about it) that the real work starts now.  It's HARD.  The "diet" is hard.  The exercise is hard (and can get painful when I do too much).  Meeting weight expectations is hard.  Having regular doctor appointments to follow-up is hard (1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and then every year thereafter).  So yeah, the real worked started 17 days ago.

I've been writing this on and off all day and think I have decided (if so, you can see above) that I will post the picture.  Yes, it has a number on it, but I will never let myself reach that number again.  I will not screw this up.  I cannot!

As an aside, I saw the EOB for my surgery and including the upper GI test, all the meds, the 2 nights in the hospital, the anesthesia, etc., the total was over $78K!!  I am SO thankful for my primary insurance plan because I won't have to pay anywhere near that amount.  Praise God!  Truly, I left this in His hands and prayed for those 5 months between my initial appointment with the surgeon to the day of surgery.

The "incisions" weren't too big, although one of them, the largest - about 2"-3" - still had steristrips on it yesterday.  They had rolled upwards and downwards and the only part which remained attached I slowly removed.  That area is where they did all the work and the "incision" is about 2-3 inches long and my stomach sort of puckers in there (as well as one other "incision").  Today I felt a lot of pain in that area and my Mom (a nurse) gave a suggestion of how to cover it.

I try to only wear the binding document when I go out or at night.  I haven't taken any Tylenol.  I do the breathing device far less often.  And I continue to write down everything that goes in and out of my body, as well as documenting my temperature twice daily.  I don't know if that's still necessary, but, as you've read - I WILL NOT SCREW THIS UP!

So, you'll see that I posted the picture.  Like I said, all or nothing.  If I'm not going to be honest here, behind a computer, how can I be real in my offline world?

I know this will be a long hard road.  But it's a journey I have to take; that I have to continue.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Day 7 Post-Op

Alrighty then...  Where to start?

Surgery day was a long one!  After an initial call to arrive at the hospital at 11:15, they called later and asked if 8:45 would work.  Heck yeah!  The earlier the better.  It meant leaving the house super early because of traffic headed downtown, but that's not at all a complaint!  I got changed into the hospital gown (the paper pre-op one -- it does have cute little paw prints on it, though), my Pastor and a church friend who had come to the last "attempt" arrived and we sat.  And sat.  And sat.  I think they finally took me back to the pre-op area around 1 pm.  Certainly none of us expected that.  I was there for a bit as the struggled to find a vein.  Again, they found one good enough to put me under and poked, prodded, stuck and tortured my poor body before even beginning the surgery.  One interesting note: I had anesthesiologists on either side of me looking for veins.
One of them finally went and got a vein finder (image courtesy of although I have no idea of the brand.  I was too busy watching this thing and sort of fascinated by it.  I've always had difficult veins.  Pretty cool, right?

Perhaps I should pick one of these up (for upteen dollars) and carry it with me!  Yes, so while the vein finder was keeping my attention to my right, the woman on the left found a vein good enough to get me under.  I'll tell you, when I woke up I found all sorts of bandages from failed attempts.  Hey, at least I was asleep, right?

The one thing  One of the things I wasn't expecting was having a jugular central line.  The doc wanted to be on the safe side and said it's the easiest way to get meds to elevate blood pressure, should that happen again.  Sadly, they kept it in the entire time and it was a bit annoying, but I survived.

Remembering that I am.... well.... me, things didn't go 100% as planned and the surgeon found adhesions from my gall bladder removal which he had to address.  Once that was out of the way, he proceeded forward.

Something else I wasn't expecting was the level of pain and the amount of nausea.  Sure I knew there would be a ton, especially the first day, but when, by day 3, I was still having a hard time getting down the mandatory 4 oz of water hourly, I was taken aback.  Heck, once I had 5 oz and was sure I was going to lose it.  Yep, that's how small my stomach is - well, at least when it's all swollen and irritated from surgery.  While the surgery went (mostly) according to plan, I was given the option to stay at the hospital until Friday, while most leave on Thursday.  I was up and lapping the unit and was keeping up with my fluids so was ok'd to leave on Thursday.  I decided that I'll heal better with more sleep - because honestly, does anyone actually sleep in the hospital?  They gave me a special pillow to push against my belly when I cough or laugh or do anything else that puts strain on my core muscles and it has helped a lot.  So I know I'm super out-of-shape, but I had NO idea how often I use my core muscles.  Just getting in and out of a chair or (forgive me) on and off the toilet was downright excruciating the 2nd day (after they removed the catheter).

Sleep.  It's not as easy as one would think.  I'm not allowed to twist, nor am I to bend from the waist or lift more than 15 lbs.  It's absolutely better than being jabbed and poked all night long.  However, even sleeping in my usual position has me twisting a bit, which I never realized.  I have taken pillows and propped my middle section up a bit so I'm more aligned.  Bert, unfortunately, likes to lay there; it's his nighttime spot.  I've had to "encourage" him to move more than once since Thursday.

I'm keeping a book with everything that comes in (and goes out) of my body, as well as pain levels and I am supposed to take my temperature twice daily.  That all goes in my book.  I'm also keeping a general mood record in there for my personal record-keeping.  With my follow-up on Thursday, I don't want my horrible memory to kick in and wind up saying "I don't know" to a bunch of really important questions.

I'm still doing the liquid diet and am to get 4-6 oz hourly of liquid.  I started off with ginger tea when I first got home (iced it like crazy) and am now doing Crystal Light, and even doing some broth and consumee.  Some nights what Keith makes for himself smells delicious, but always simultaneously makes me nauseas.  That Thursday (although it may have been Wednesday -- it's so easy to lose time in the hospital) the nurse told me she was all-but prohibited from giving me anti-nausea meds.  This will be my "new normal" for a bit and I have to get used to it.  So, I've toughened up and done what I can.  Thankfully, all has stayed down.

I think I've mentioned before that I fear my depression meds will decrease my metabolism, hence slow my weight loss.  The surgery will absolutely affect my meds and how they are absorbed.  I don't know if that means I will have to decrease (hopefully) or increase dosages.  I also had normal blood pressure in the hospital and since I was being monitored 24/7 and not getting any BP meds, the doc sent me home not taking it.  My PCP was ok with that.  My sugars were also normal given that I was on a constant "sugar saline" drip.

I have essentially stopped pain meds, although did take a dose of liquid (i.e., kids) Tylenol for a headache.  There's no need to take narcotics for that.  I'll speak with the LRNP at my post-op appointment this week about what vitamins and supplements I should take.  I actually like the calcium - it's a nice sweet treat twice a day.

Poly was in daycare today (and all week).  Since I'm not allowed to bend over at the waist, I can't put her leash on and since she won't come when she's called (and will bark like a maniac), she needs to be leashed.  Casey has been bummed today, but he's good for me.  I just wish I could sit in the sofa with him so I could snuggle.  I think a good snuggle would do me good.

This evening, hubby had to rush home from work to pick up Poly from work so he could help me get Bert in the carrier so we could take him to the vet.  Just to add to the stress going on right now, Bert has to stay at the vet overnight (Tori isn't happy and will start howling/yelling at us when she realizes he isn't there at bedtime).  He hasn't been using the litter box to urinate; rather, he thinks the sofa in the spare bedroom is a better place.  Thankfully we have vinyl car seat covers for the dogs, so we put them down so there is no damage to the sofa.  He actually only ruined a pillow.  There were sheets covering some clothes I had there and the clothes on top were still in their bags - they never fit... that is not YET!

So, I know I rambled quite a bit and this is rather garbled.  Please forgive me.  I've been working on this on and off all day in the midst of a bunch of other things.  Any repetition is unintentional, as is any disjointedness.

I hopped on the scale yesterday - hubby was home and I can't bend at the waist, so I can't even get to it.  I've lost.... <drum roll please>...... 2.2 pounds.  Honestly I'm not upset about this.  I'm still swollen inside and my body is holding on to the liquids I'm consuming.  If it doesn't pick up in a month, that'll be a different story!

I think that's enough storytelling and drama for today.  Hopefully I'll soon be snoring away....

Monday, May 23, 2016

Counting the Hours

Yep, that's right -- surgery's tomorrow.  I have to be downtown on the early side, but that means surgery will be over earlier and hubby will be able to get home to our furbabies so they don't wither away to nothing (yeah, right -- spoiled kids).  My first call this morning said to be there at 11:15, but later got a call that there was a cancellation and asked me to be there at 8:45.  While we'll be in rush hour traffic ( which seems extra horrible around here with construction, lane closures, and roads not built for the amount of traffic traveling them daily... this area has been built-up beyond belief), hubby will be able to get home that much earlier.  Casey (the big pup) will be in charge and will eat anyone who tries to enter unauthorized!

So, it's the ol' gastric sleeve, attempt #2.  Same surgeon, same hospital, same anesthesiologist (I hope!) and same pacu nurse (I hope!).  I know I'll get top quality care and then the real work begins.  They want me sitting in a chair shortly after I get to my room (I imagine they'll let me take a snooze first) and then walking the halls by the end of the day.  I hope I'm up for it because all I've heard from anyone is walk, walk, walk.  Not only does it help prevent blood clots, but it helps with healing.  I don't understand the ins and outs of most things medical, but I suspect that if I'm in one position too long, my "pouch"/sleeve will get too comfortable there and it will be more painful to move when I finally would get up.

As far as the failure and my blood pressure:  I've been working with my PCP to stop one of my bp meds (first in half with 2 bp checks the following week, then stopped altogether with another 2 bp checks).  I saw my pulmonologist today and they said my bp was "just right" (or perfect, or something to that effect) to them.  In my eyes, it was a little elevated, but I was told by the surgeon's office not to take my other bp med today and that they'd prefer to handle high bp in the OR vs. low bp.

So, as it stands now, the plan is:

  1. Arrive and go to the admission area (assuming that we got through traffic without being killed)
  2. Put on the oh-so-fashionable hospital gown (and the paper one; I don't get the more comfy cloth one until after surgery)
  3. Head to pre-op and hope for the wonderful anesthesiologist to find a good vein
  4. Speak with the surgeon, who will tell me that he got a good night's sleep (he did last time)
  5. Enter OR and go night-night
  6. Wake up in PACU, hopefully to the smile of the wonderful nurse from last time.
  7. Head to room and have ice chips  (hopefully)
  8. Wednesday:  have a barium swallow test (which is as delightful as it sounds, although this one will be far less complicated than the one I had in the past because they are looking only to make sure the pouch is proper.
  9. Sip water.  SIP.  WATER.
  10. Thursday, if all goes according to plan, HOME!

Hubby will be working from home on and off Wednesday-Friday and is off for Memorial Day on Monday.  Then our problem child will go to daycare.  I won't be able to bend at the waist, so I can't put her leash on.  I also can't get them water if they need it and a number of other things.  I have my enormous shoe horn - again, not being able to bend at the waist.

Keeping prayers on my heart for a positive outcome and that my anxiety doesn't take over.  I'd love if you could do the same.

Over and out...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Long and Short of It

Fact: I did everything asked of me between 12/30 and 4/26, including blood work, a drug test, a nuclear stress test, an echocardiogram, a psych clearance and more.
Fact: I've had countless conversations with the nurses and dietitian at the surgeon's office.
Fact: I did 2 weeks pre-op of a liquid-only diet (which is nothing shy of torture).
Fact: My husband took a day off of work the day of my surgery.
Fact: My attempt at a vertical sleeve gastrectomy on 4/26 failed due to dangerously low blood pressure and oxygen levels.
Fact: I had multiple checks of my blood pressure at my PCP's office after finally discontinuing one of my blood pressure medications

Now that we have that out of the way...

I am back on the liquid diet, but true to his word, the surgeon is only making me endure one week of liquids (oh, and FYI: don't bother plain broth unless you have no interest in taste).  Thanks to a dear friend from church, I was introduced to a whole new world (is anyone else singing the song from Aladdin?) of sugar-free coffee syrups and no longer limited to the 3 options at Target.  Don't get me wrong, but they were getting a bit dull.  So I discovered that there is an entirely separate brand of these syrups and it's life-altering.  Ok, that may sound extreme to you, but please know that I am not exaggerating.  Keith would have long-since killed me had I been limited to chocolate and vanilla.  I can also enjoy sugar-free Jell-O!  Who would have thought that would warrant a WOO HOO?!?

So, what does all of this mean?  It means that I am scheduled for surgery this coming Tuesday, 5/24!  I admit that I'm having a hard time getting as excited this time around.  I fear something else will go wrong and I'll be destroyed again.  Let me make it clear that LOGICALLY and INTELLECTUALLY, I know that I did everything I was supposed to, to the letter.  However, there is part of me that feels like, had I done something different or better, I would have a month's jump on my recovery.  I should be beyond another 2 weeks of liquids AND the dreaded 2 weeks of pureed food.  I should be adding in "human" food now.  I should be trying foods, a little at a time to see what the sleeve will tolerate.  As one of my doctors would say "I'm should-ing all over this situation."

Now that it's almost the weekend and then there's only one day left of Keith being at work, we'll be headed to the hospital... well, now I'm starting to get a little cheery.  I pray that will turn into outright excitement by Tuesday morning.

For now, I'll drink (sugar-free, non-carbonated, and while I rarely do, non-alcoholic) and I'll enjoy some Jell-O.  I think I should get a royalty for that one, but for now, I'll just enjoy it.

I have been consistent (since my initial junk food pity party), I have been on that exercise bike.  I'm up to 15 minutes and doing about 5 miles +/- .  In fact, I bought a TV for Keith to mount on the wall in the room where the bike is.  Right now, I spend the first part of my ride ( varying) praying, but after that, there is little to do but watch the numbers: the seconds tick by, the distance trudges along, and the calories... well, that's just downright depressing!  I know the TV will help and with Amazon Prime, I'll have a choice of non-daytime television options.

For now, let the countdown continue.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Short and Sweet: my Failed Attempt at Weight Loss Surgery

Ok, ok, I can hear it now - it wasn't your fault, you aren't a failure, you didn't fail, the doctors did what was in your best interest.  Yes, logically I know all of this.  Emotionally, well that's a different story.

And it begins.  April 26th, the day ingrained in my whole world.  I had a countdown clock on my phone and could look at any point how many days I had left until my life would change.  Yes, I've made plenty of positive changes since my first visit with the surgeon on 12/30.  Between then and 4/24, I lost 40 lbs!  Granted, I was on the mandatory 2-week  liquid diet, which certainly helped matters, but still - 40 pounds!  I'll tell you right now that I've gained about 14 of those lbs back since the infamous failure day.

I arrive at the hospital and am almost giddy with excitement.  I may have been the only person in pre-op who was joking around and happy to be there.  I was PUMPED!  The doctor came in, telling me he had plenty of sleep the night before... whew!  My mind was at ease on that one (not that I even considered it a factor).  I was there for one reason: to start an irreversible journey.  Yes, before I move on, I know several people who have taken this journey and wound up gaining some or all of the weight back.  Here's my reality, though.  I HATE to vomit.  While I've always had weight issues, I have never even considered (even as a dancer) purging.  I know life after this surgery will be radically different.  I know my relationship to food will forever be altered and that there are foods I won't be able to eat ever again (without the whole puking thing).  It's sort of very hard to fathom right now, but the thought of never having gnocchi or my Mom's red velvet cake again may be a reality.

So, returning to the hospital.  The anesthesiologist comes in and puts in an IV.  She said that she didn't really like the vein (especially considering I'll be on IV fluids for a few days and it needs to be a strong vein), but it was good enough to put me under so she doesn't torture me while I was awake - I sincerely appreciated that, since I know I have horrible veins.  She gives me a muscle relaxant, to which I'm nearly immune, given that I used to be on something like 2 mg three times a day of Xanax.  I remember them wheeling me into the OR and putting the mask over my face.  After that, the next thing I know is that they're rushing me through the hallways telling people to get out of the way.  I wasn't really alert to know what, if anything, this meant (I mean, it could have been people on break having lunch or talking on the phone for all I knew).  I am slightly conscious and am asked if I'm in any pain, I'm shocked to be able to say "no."  I mean - major surgery brings with it some discomfort - at least - and I felt ok.

When I'm awake enough someone (either the anesthesiologist or the Fellow working under my surgeon) says "you don't know yet, do you?"  Ummm... know what?

Well, I woke up to needle sticks all over my body - from my foot to all over my hands and arms.  I don't think twice about it because the anesthesiologist said she would try to find a better vein.

So, here's what I didn't know.  They didn't do the surgery.  You read that right.  It turned out that when they put me under my blood pressure tanked.  I can't remember how low it went, but I think hubby said something about the bottom number being in the 60-range.  I was also told that when they took the oxygen away, my O2 level dropped to 80.  They tried for 40 minutes to increase my levels, but to no avail.

Everyone in the Operative Waiting Room was getting calls that their friend/family member was done with surgery, because they would get up to go to the PACU (post-operative care unit).  Then hubby saw my doc.  In person.  Coming to speak with him in the waiting room.  No other doctor did that.  First he said that I was fine and took him into what has come to be known as the "bad news" room.

I spent the day sobbing, and the rest of the week crying on and off when I'd think about it.  The Fellow came to see me often.  They ran a chest CT to make sure I didn't have a pulmonary embolism and a blood gas (I can't remember what that was for, but they had to get blood out of my artery -- in my wrist - OUCH!  That thing still stings if I hit it the wrong way).  They wanted to make sure they ruled out all life-threatening causes.  It seems that it was probably because I was on 2 bp meds and the ace inhibitor (not the beta-blocker) likely kept them from upping my bp.  Just FYI: I'm working with my GP and we think we have it figured out -- that I lost the weight to the point where it affected my need for as much medication to lower my bp.  One time when the Fellow came in, she asked if I was ok.  My typical answer for the day was "physically."  I said, through my tears, that I felt like I was over-reacting.  I have to say, she was wonderful!  She assured me that I was not...that I was truly expecting something life-changing to happen...something I'd prepared for since 12/30 by getting clearances and doing testing.  She thought my reaction was normal.  This conversation happened after I had the CT.  Prior to that one of the nurses in the PACU got an order from my doc to have lunch.  When the doc came in, he explained again what happened I sobbed to him that I could NOT do the 2-week liquid diet.  That just about killed me!  He said that he's done it and wouldn't make me do it again.  I would later find out that he'd only require 1 week.

People were coming and going and absolutely not eating in that unit, but as soon as I got back from the test, I ate (somewhat differently than had I had the surgery!).  Hubby had gone to get lunch during this time, so my conversation with the Fellow was private.  I was on that unit for the entire day!!!  The protocol/rule is that there can be 1-2 visitors at a time for up to 15 minutes.  Hubby was there nearly all day and we had a friend there who stayed for probably an hour into the PACU, but there were no seats and he was getting uncomfortable.  When my nurse came back from lunch (she rocked, by the way - hugely rocked!), she made the "isolation" room available to us.  Rather than being surrounded by curtains, it was a private area with 4 walls so I could be with hubby (and he could sit) and it could all be very private.  I'm sure anyone who was there heard the sobs, despite how discrete they were (and they really were).  I was told that the doc said he'd re-arrange things to get me in asap, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and kind.  I found out that he did feel guilty that it didn't work out, especially since I was so excited in pre-op.

It was up in the air if I'd be admitted for the night or go home.  When they left the decision up to me I made it clear that I was in no shape to make decisions.  My depressive symptoms had reared their ugly heads and decisions weren't my "strong" suit.  The Fellow came back a bit later and said that the doc would release me if I wanted.  Somehow when she put it that way, I felt free to say that I just wanted to come home -- see my furbabies, sleep in my own bed, wake up in my house in the morning (and avoid hubby having to drive downtown again, paying another $25 to park).

I called the office the next day and the nurse said she'd have the scheduling people call me.  I heard back from them and the woman said she could schedule me sometime in June.  JUNE?  HUH?  I asked if that was the first and went into a bit of what had happened before; she said she'd talk with the surgeon.  They could fit me in on 5/24.  It is two weeks from tomorrow.  While I'm not required to do the 2 weeks of liquids, I'm going to try to do as much as I can.  I am mortified at the amount of weight I gained from my post-failure-op emotional eating.  I can't even write it down.  Hubby and I were talking on the drive home about what I wanted to eat.  Trust me, I had a good long list.  Spaghetti and hoagies from a certain place topped the list!

So, I had spaghetti for dinner tonight (with pesto - yummy!).  I've been trying to do 2 shakes a day.  Now that hubby is going to the gym at night (since there is no pressure to cook for the both of us), I'm more free to do a 3rd shake.  I'm supposed to have one within the first hour I'm awake and then every 3-4 hours later until I go to bed.  This is in addition to my 64 oz of water.  Well, with my previous overnight incontinence issues, I've tried to stick to stopping any food or drink in my body within 3 hrs prior to going to bed.  It leaves me lacking and will be especially difficult after surgery when I'm forced to take only sips of a beverage.

Ok, that was my not-so-short-and-sweet surgical failure.  I find myself less excited this time around.  I guess I'm just more aware that it's not guaranteed.

On the good side of things, we had some great coupons and rewards dollars so went shopping and I got some 1x and 2x clothes.  I held up one of the 1x shirts and thought, as I teared up, is it possible that I might fit into this?  It was surreal.

And I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Just a Few Days Left

Well, here we are.  Surgery is in 5 days!!!  Ahhhhhhhh!

I've been on a liquid diet since last Tuesday and have to go through next Monday (obviously I can't eat or drink the day of surgery).  Let me tell you - this is HARD!  The first few days I was cranky as cranky gets!  I needed to CHEW something.  NOW!  My poor husband :(  Well, I went back to the paperwork and saw that I can have Jell-O!  Now there's something I can sink my teeth into - literally!  Let me tell you, I've gone through a lot of Jell-O, but it has kept me from causing anyone physical harm.  Ah, the power of Jell-O!

I had my pre-op appointment a few weeks back and loaded them with questions.  They say that they love it, but I can't help but question what it's like being burdened down with questions and if that hinders their schedule, etc.  It's me, being an idiot, being overly sensitive, being overly considerate.  I've been told that I have to take care of me and that I'm worth their time.  Now that's a hard pill to swallow. Haha ( you'll see why I laugh at that soon enough).

I've learned so much about nutrition and reading specific things on food labels in the past few months.  This will be an uphill battle.  I'm not ignorant to that fact.  We will be taking a LOAD of stuff to the local food bank because I'm not strong enough to have it in the house and not eat it.  I can't go to the grocery store at this point because even the smells from the bakery will have me wanting to give up on the whole surgery (ok, so maybe that's a bit extreme, but you get the idea).

I'm having protein drinks every 3-4 hours and trying my darndest to get in my 64 oz of water.  The thing is, I'm trying to perfect the art of "sipping" pre-op so it won't be such a transition afterwards.  Who knew sipping was an art?  I'm thankful that my program allows the use of straws, which is a variable among programs.  My doc's program told me (I asked specifically) that there is no definitive research to prove they provide a risk.  I know there are other programs who prohibit their use.  While it's going to make it difficult to get in 64 oz (which doesn't include the protein shake... BOO!), sipping also makes it very difficult to get down all of my meds (the list seems endless) and supplements/vitamins.  Some of the supplements are ordered by the bariatric surgeon; others I take because they're healthy or one specifically I take to prevent or slow down macular degeneration which is now in 2 generations of my family.  Well, my psych meds are a must - I absolutely, 100%, no question cannot miss those!  There are also my meds for blood pressure.  The cholesterol med isn't necessary for the day of surgery, nor are many of the others.

So, I guess that's the latest in the wonderful word of the hippopotamus.  Now, as the world of bariatrics says: I'm getting ready to climb onto the loser's bench.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Drum Roll, Please......

I have a surgery date!!!!!  As soon as I scheduled my endoscopy, it prompted a call from the surgeon's office to schedule surgery and pre-op testing.  It turns out that the pre-op testing is just a few days before the endoscopy.  I'm easily amused and find that slightly humorous.

So, the big day..... April 26th!!

I remain excited, anxious, terrified... it's so emotional.  My life is going to change forever.  I wasn't this nervous on my wedding day (or night, since I was a virgin when I got married)!  In one simple surgery, my entire way of eating, foods I can eat, portion size.... they all go out the window and it's like I'm a baby starting from scratch.  In essence, I guess that's what it is.  I have to be on a liquid diet after surgery and then pureed food and then it's a matter of testing out foods and seeing what doesn't make me sick, and what I like.  I understand from others that food tastes differently after surgery.  Maybe I won't crave chocolate anymore.  Hmmmm, is that even possible for someone who has a vagina?

It's pretty late, but for the 3 people who read this, I wanted to let you know.