Friday, May 25, 2018

2 years ago....

Two years ago yesterday, my life changed.  Two years ago yesterday, I took my biggest step in this very long journey.  Two years ago yesterday, I did something some people think is the "easy" way out.  Two years ago yesterday, I had bariatric surgery.  I had a sleeve gastrectomy.

In the months between my initial appointment and my surgery date, I thought things were the most difficult they'd get.  I had multiple appointments each week for tests and clearances, not to mention a couple of very large health scares.  I didn't know it then, but that was just the beginning of this roller coaster... a roller coaster I'd ride again and wish I rode years prior.

I'm going to take the lead of a friend of mine who also had the sleeve surgery and talk about what I miss since surgery.

I miss pasta, rice, and bread (and oh boy do I!).

I miss ice cream (although Halo Top is pretty darn good).

I miss fast food - because sometimes you just want some fries and a Frosty.

I miss beef (because my sleeve doesn't tolerate it well), but a good burger or a nice filet sound really yummy, especially as we enter grilling season.

But I also have a list of things I don't miss...

I don't miss dreading my PCP's office calling with lab results, only to learn my blood sugar is pre-diabetic and my triglycerides and cholesterol are high.

I don't miss being embarrassed meeting new people and ashamed when I went with my husband to a work function.

I don't miss thinking how I'd like to do something (like going to the mountains to see waterfalls, for instance), but knowing that it wasn't feasible because I didn't have the physical stamina.

I don't miss having to skip rides at Disney because I didn't fit (or not trying because I was worried I wouldn't and couldn't bear that embarrassment).

I don't miss people asking if I was pregnant.  This one was especially painful as a woman unable to bear children.

I don't miss being the most obvious, most stared-at person in the room, while simultaneously being the most invisible.

I don't miss being given the once-over at the airport to determine if I need to buy an extra seat.

I don't miss needing to ask for a seat belt extender when I did fly.

I don't miss getting winded walking up a flight of stairs.

I don't miss being forced to shop online because I wore a size too large to be carried in stores.

I don't miss needing to catch my breath after bending over to tie my shoes.

I don't miss being treated as sub-human, being ignored, and being talked "at."

I don't miss not being able to take my dogs for a walk.

I don't miss dreading the sight of a restaurant booth,.

I don't miss having to squeeze into the the drivers side of the car or an airplane seat.

I don't miss my C-PAP machine!

I don't miss taking 2 different blood pressure medications.

I don't miss people making judgments of me based solely on my size.

I don't miss people offering hugs to others but not to me (obesity is not contagious!).

I don't miss doctors dismissing very real and unrelated symptoms, blaming them on my weight.

*these lists are not by any means exhaustive, just limited by my current brain shutdown.

The list of things I miss...those are all tangible.  But most of the things I don't miss are the opposite - they can't be held or touched or bought.  They are intangible and they weren't going away unless I lost the weight.

On another note, 7 weeks ago today I had my panniculectomy.  I saw the surgeon on Monday and he is pleased with how I'm healing.  He said I don't have to return for 6 weeks, which about sent me into shock.  I've seen him at least every week or two for the past 7 weeks.  I think I'm going to have withdrawal!

I also saw my bariatric surgeon this week.  While the 5 lbs of skin removed during my panniculectomy would have put me at half of my highest weight, I remain the same weight I was the day of surgery (I suspect due to fluid retention...that, and not being able to workout).  I'm a stubborn woman (although the word tenacious is so much nicer, isn't it?) and will get to that 163 lb mark so I can officially be half of my former self.  It just may take some time to do it because I'm slightly less strict with my diet than I was a year ago.  However, the bariatric surgeon said that he wishes all of his patients were as successful as I've been, since I've maintained my weight within about 5 pounds for the past year.

You've come to learn that I'm very open about my journey and want to help out anyone I can.  Please don't hesitate to share my blog if you know someone considering surgery or who has had surgery (either bariatric or skin removal).

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Friday, April 13, 2018


So it happened!  The surgery actually happened!!  To be clear, the exclamation points are out of excitement for the fact that there wasn't another delay.  It is not indicative of me feeling top notch.  Surgery was just a week ago, mind you...

The day went fairly smoothly.  I got there and spoke with the typical dozen people telling them the same information, but I'd prefer that than to have them make mistakes.  The surgeon came in and I held my breath has he lifted that sagging skin, praying (even though he cleared me 2 days prior) that he would still be comfortable with what he saw... and he was!

Evidently surgery took around an hour and a half and he repaired a small hernia I had while he was in there.  I woke up in a fair amount of pain - as expected.  I mean, a hip to hip incision is going to cause some pain.  For the first 12 hours (maybe) I got morphine to help with the pain.  As soon as I had some food in me and my nausea calmed down they switched me to an oral med of some sort.  It's sort of blurry.  I did spend the night in the hospital.  The surgeon showed a picture to hubby of the skin he removed.  It was 5 lbs and about 3 ft long!  I'm so eager to see what I look like when my body returns to its new normal!

My doctor is so kind.  Either my nurse or med tech told me that he called Saturday  morning to find out how my night was.  And then he came in himself to discharge me on Saturday.  I'm pretty sure I was the only reason he came in.  He wasn't in a lab coat and was very relaxed (not that he isn't always).

Saturday afternoon I came home and have been chilling out here at home recovering.  I have these surgical drains and they're pretty much of a headache.  I have to empty them every 8 hours and track the output.  When I was discharged, the doctor initially said that he wanted to see me on Wednesday, but after (I assume) reading the nursing notes he said that he wasn't thrilled with the drainage output and wanted to see me on Monday instead.  I admit I was a little freaked out.  I am that person... the person who falls in the small percentage of side effects or risk factors.

I saw the doctor on Monday.  Hub's new job has been a true blessing, as he's able to work his schedule around these appointments as long as he gets his hours in.  So he took his lunch break and a little extra to get me to the doctor and then just worked a little later that day -- all from home.  A true blessing.

So now I have these drains, like I said.  They come out of me in a very awkward place and at the end of them are these grenade shaped bulbs which collect the fluid.  I've been sleeping a fair amount, but I figure that's pretty common after a big surgery.  I have stayed awake during the daytime, but have been in bed for 12 hours.  The past couple of days I've emptied the drains at 6 hours since I seem to be downstairs for about 12 and figure the halfway point would be better.  Today, however, I decided just to do them at 12 hours - when I come downstairs and when I go back up.  I'll see what the output is like at that point.  It's a bit atypical for me to not follow doctors orders to the letter, but as long as I'm documenting them and the output has lessened from last weekend (and it has), I see no harm in it.

So now I have this incision from one hip to the next along my bikini line.  I have internal stitches and some sort of adhesive medical glue on the outside, which is starting to peel.  My belly button seems to be in an odd place, but when I saw the surgeon on Monday he said that I'm still about 70% swollen so we'll see when my abdomen settles down where my belly button falls.  It's weird, isn't it?  To think about where a belly button is?  It's weird.  But so am I... so there ya have it ;)

Starting Tuesday I didn't take a pain pill first thing.  Then Wednesday it wasn't until 3 pm that I needed it.  Last night at 10 pm the pain started to get really intense so I took a pill before going to bed.  So far today, it's not quite 9:30 pm an no pain pill, although I'm itchy as all get-out so am taking some Benadryl.  Thankfully a Facebook group I'm in mentioned having this on hand, so I got it before surgery!

My biggest thing now is the drains and praying that the surgeon will ok their removal on Monday.  I'm in better shape than I expected, but am still moving very gingerly.  Getting comfortable isn't always easy, but thankfully I have a special recliner for my back and can adjust it as I need.  My appetite is fine and I'm still getting in my 64 oz of liquid every day - no problem!  That answers those questions LOL

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cancelled Surgery and My Mood

It's not easy to admit, but my mood has taken a real hit since surgery was cancelled.  This process has been very difficult for me for reasons I'm choosing not to reveal in such an open forum.  Suffice it to say, having to delay it has really affected me.  I feel more depressed and sometimes that means I want to eat emotionally - which is never veggies, I can tell you that!

I'm on a newer mood stabilizer, but have maxed out the dose.  It's another month until I see the nurse practitioner so for now, I deal.

What does that look like?  It means getting as much sleep as I can.  I have a bunch of chronic illnesses (doesn't it seem like it should be illni?) so sleep can often evade me.  I must maintain good sleep hygiene.  I try to steer clear of the junk food.  While I'm only ever able to do small amounts anyway, it's best to try to avoid the junk totally.  It means I keep all of my doctor appointments - with all doctors.  It means taking all of my meds, except those I'm now under mandate to stop (vitamins and supplements, most of which I'm taking since the bariatric surgery and aspirin).  It means trying to move... to do something physical.  I haven't been back to the trainer since the week before surgery was rescheduled.   I have an exercise bike here at the house and I'll ride that for several miles while streaming something to distract myself.  I've also taken on the enormous task, both with and without my husband, of walking the dogs.  The fresh air won't hurt -- when it's not snowing (can I say - what's up with April snow??  I suspect it doesn't bring May flowers... just sayin').  It means maintaining relationships and not isolating, but keeping good boundaries and making very intentional decisions about when and what I do so I don't overdo it.  That's the short list.  And it's exhausting.

Tonight it means I'm going to bed super early.  I see the surgeon in the morning to get final clearance for surgery.  I did see a dermatologist about a week and a half ago and she was going to send a letter to the surgeon offering her opinion (which would not pose a problem with surgery moving forward on Friday).

Yes, this is a short post.... you're welcome ;)  But having a lot of stress in my life does pretty horrible things to my mood and I felt like addressing it here was somehow necessary.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Yep, it's a big word - and it was a new one to me.... until January.  That's when I was advised this was the procedure which would get rid of my excess skin.  Some doctors do an abdominoplasty (a "tummy tuck"), but that is more involved and I would assume more difficult to get approved through insurance.  A panniculectomy is strictly the removal of excess skin, whereas abdominoplasty (I've come to learn) has muscle involvement and sometimes some liposuction.

Now for the insurance part.  I'm all but pulling my hair out over this one.  I first saw the surgeon about this surgery on 1/8.  I was put on the scheduled for 3/7, pending insurance approval.  And there I sit - waiting.  I have asked friends to pray for patience as I wait to hear one way or another so I know what step comes next.  Well, push came to shove last Monday and the insurance company still showed my pre-cert request as "pending" so the doctor requested my surgery be pushed a week to 3/14, as it can take up to 15 days to receive a determination.  UGH!  My need for patience grows with each passing hour.  I cannot get my pre-op EKG and blood work until I get approval because they will not pay for the workup.  So I wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.

I got tired of waiting.  We had a snowstorm here on 3/7 so I called my insurance company, knowing my doc's office would be closed.  I was told that additional information had been requested the previous Saturday (say what?) by fax and they hadn't received anything in response.  I was told some vague information about needing more evidence of prior treatments tried.  Well, that was something I could get on!  With my Mom being a nurse at my gyn's office (and my gyn being the one to document the rash which is the medical need for me to have this surgery), I called her up and she got on it when she got to the office the next day - after the storm.  I received a letter from the insurance company on Thursday stating that they needed the pictures SNAIL MAILED in addition to the extra documentation.  I immediately picked up the phone and called "K" (the surgery scheduler) to see if this was something I needed to handle.  I left her a message, but didn't hear back from her that day.  So...more waiting.  Friday, K called me that she was on hold with the insurance company for an hour, transferred 3 times and eventually wound up in a voicemail.  When she got a return call, she advised them that she needed to email the pictures (I mean, c'mon people, it's 2018 - it should not be that hard!) and that I'd already been rescheduled once and they didn't want to have to do it again.  I let her know that I'd been in touch with the other doc's office and they had prepared documentation of other treatments used.  She gave me her direct fax number so there'd be no delay.

And then there's more waiting because it's the weekend.....

Monday rolls around and I lose track of time until the surgeon's office was closed.  So I picked up the phone and called the insurance company again.  Thankfully I've gotten some incredible people (shy one) every time I've called.  This was no different - if anything, it was better!  I got a wonderful Customer Service (CS) rep who said that my account still showed that they were waiting for information.  FOR REAL???  I'm supposed to have surgery in TWO DAYS and the requested information isn't there?  The CS rep stayed on the line and called Utilization Management (UM).  She helped me talk to her and the CS woman asked the UM woman if there was a place in their department where things sometimes got lost.  Sure enough, the UM woman found the pictures and documentation!  Praise God!  The UM rep said she'd send my case along to a nurse reviewer with expedited status, but that it could still take 48 hours.  I didn't have 48 hours!  When the UM woman hung up, the CS rep asked me if I'd like her to check on my case first thing the next morning.  It's like she was an angel.

After an incredibly restless night with very little sleep, I climbed out of bed and took the phone into the shower with me - because don't all important calls come through when you're in the shower?  Well not this one.  Sigh...  It's TUESDAY and I don't know if I'm having surgery the very next day.  I know that the hospital would call between 2 and 5 to let me know what time to show up the next day.  I also had an appointment that would have me away from the house from 1:30-5:00 and my anxiety was through the roof.

11:15 am (Tuesday) comes and the PHONE RINGS!  It's the surgeon's office.  I anxiously picked up the phone to hear K on the line saying that it was approved!!  The insurance company neglected to mention that the 15 day clock reset when the new information arrived.  Thankfully, the power of prayer is strong and it was put through in 18 hours!  I had a huge adrenaline rush and was super excited.  Then it hit - I'm having a massive surgery the very next day.  I'd put so much time and energy into getting it approved that the reality of it didn't hit until that moment.  Before I left the house at 1:30, the CS rep at the insurance company called and told me that it had been approved!  She gave me numbers that I needed and I was so touched and impressed that she followed through on what she said she'd do.  There is a time difference so when she called I did already know, but I didn't tell her that; I was just so impressed that she went that extra mile!  The Hospital did call and let me know that I had to be there at 12:30 pm.  It wasn't ideal, but at that point I would have shown up at 2 am or 6 pm (fasting, mind you) if they told me to!

Keith and I arrived at the hospital early - in part because that's my personality and in part because we have to travel a road which is constantly under construction, unpredictable, and generally known for being horrible so it's always necessary to allow extra time when we travel on this road.  I gave my information to an admin person, went back to the room and spoke with the nurse who checked me in and then I changed into the gown and got my IV.  I reviewed a wide array of information with no fewer than 4 people (when did you last eat?  drink?  take <each> med/supplement/vitamin?  blah, blah, blah...).  They were all very efficient and things were moving smoothly.  Then people kept coming in asking if the doctor had been in yet.  I repeatedly had to say "no."  They called him and said he'd be over any minute.

He arrived and it was almost as if I heard a choir of angels.  He sat down and started to go over a list of questions I'd sent back in January.  If you've had surgery, you know they will draw on you so everyone is in agreement before the surgeon makes a cut.  He started to do that and then.... then he got to the sagging skin.  He lifted it up and the rash - the whole reason I need the surgery - was too infected for him to operate.  It's exactly where he'd be making the incision and the risk of an infection getting into my system (something I'd be dealing with for months) was too high.  There was no room for negotiation.  The risk outweighed the benefit at that moment.  I tried my best to not lose it in front of him.  He was visibly upset telling me.  I've known him for years and we've shared some very heavy conversations.  He said he'd put me on a 10-day course of antibiotics and an anti-fungal and advised me to take impeccable care of it until we schedule again for 2 or 3 weeks.  I asked for 2 weeks, but of course it depended on when there was a time slot available in the OR.

The nurse couldn't come in fast enough to yank out my IV so I could put on my street clothes and get out of there.  I just wanted to go home.  If you recall any of the story of my bariatric surgery, it was the same outcome of a failed attempt.  That time, however, I was under anesthesia and my blood pressure plummeted to the point where I nearly died.  The pumped meds into my IV for 40 minutes trying to get it back to a normal level, but it never leveled out.  When I woke up and was asked if I was in any pain, I was pleasantly surprised to say that I wasn't.  Only later did I find out why and I was devastated.  I had been working towards that day for 4 months and done 2 weeks of a liquid diet only for it to fail.  This was just reminiscent of that.

One thing the doctor hadn't told me at my initial consultation was that in his experience, only 1 in 30 or 40 people get approved for insurance coverage.  That's about 2-3%.  I'm not sure if it was the amount of information put in front of the reviewer or the content, but it worked!  I feel so thankful and so blessed to have had K and my Mom advocating on my behalf.

Let me say, if this is a procedure in your future or that of a loved one, please, see a doctor often and make sure there is consistent documentation of the issues your excess skin is causing.  Don't be discouraged by the numbers above.  Be consistent with getting those medical issues documented!  I'm convinced it's what made the difference...what had me in that 2%!

I hadn't gotten home yet and K had called, leaving a message that she put me on the schedule for 4/6.  I just had to call her to confirm.  When I did, she reiterated that the doctor was really upset and that she was shocked after all we'd been through to get the approval.

If you're a prayer warrior, I'd love any prayers for my patience during this time and as I struggle with understanding why the disappointment.  If positive thoughts are more your style, I'll happily take those!

So now I wait...again.  I'd like to think that I'm not waiting alone.  I'd like to think that anyone reading this blog is waiting with me.  I'd like to think that my little blog can be far-reaching.  The goal of my transparency with this little blog is to impact others.  I want to be there to answer questions, to offer encouragement - not only with my bariatric journey, but in general.  But if you know someone having bariatric surgery, or considering it, don't hesitate to give out my blog information.  Reach out to me.  Have someone with questions reach out to me.  If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll see I'm somewhat of an open book with many difficult topics.  I try to be intentional with what I share and sit back and hope that it touches someone....better yet, lots of someones.  Make comments.  Ask questions.  Reach out.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How do you feel?

I often hear the statement "you must feel SO much better."  Wow, define "better" if you would, please.  Do I have a stamina for physical activity I lacked at 326 pounds?  Without a doubt!  Do I feel less ashamed by my appearance, especially when meeting new people or seeing people I haven't seen for years?  For sure!  Am I relieved to not be the proverbial (and literal, it felt like) elephant in the room while being totally invisible all at the same time?  You bet!

But do I feel better?  That's a loaded question in my world.  You see, I feel.  I feel deeply.  I feel pain.  I feel the pain of fibromyalgia.  I feel the pain of a mental illness.  I feel the pain of being a trauma survivor.  Losing nearly half of my weight... well, that doesn't change those "feels."  In fact, I can no longer try to eat away those feelings.  I can't shove a bag of candy down my throat in an attempt to turn off feeling all of that.  There is no box of cookies to numb that.

Losing nearly half of my body weight doesn't make me able to work again.  It doesn't shut off all the reasons I became disabled in the first place.  It's easy to assume, and I choose to presume a very innocent thing to tell me how much better I must be feeling.  But if I'm being honest, this is probably the hardest thing I've ever done, so in some ways I feel worse.  This isn't an easy fix - none of it is.

I know around any corner is a monster waiting to steal from me.  Not in the physical sense.  Not having my wallet taken or my car broken into.  But stress is a thief.  For me, stress is a direct arrow shooting towards a decline in my mental health.  Stress is everywhere and I work hard to manage it, but I remain aware of the damage it can do to me in no time flat.

I don't harbor ill feelings towards anyone who says that to me, who assumes I'm "fixed" because of having lost so much weight.  I walk away frustrated by the ignorance our society holds regarding so many of the issues I had at my highest weight.... issues that didn't disappear when the weight did.

I work with a trainer twice a week.  Do I feel like getting up and going to work out?  Not usually.  I don't feel energetic enough lately to get out of bed and pushing my body to its limits.  In fact, I'd rather do just about anything before going to that gym.  But I do it.  It doesn't feel good.  I do it because I know I need to.  I do it because I've worked too hard to gain back the weight I've lost.

This may sound like a bit of a pity party and it's not - I assure you.

I will say that at my highest weight, getting up in front of a group of people to work my direct sales business felt more overwhelming than there are words in the English language to describe.  I have gained confidence - both from losing weight and from having a successful business.  But let me define success - because it's not the same for any individual who's reading this.  For me, working my business, staying an active Consultant, helping people - that is success.  I was a social worker.  It's in my blood to help people.  Now helping just looks different than it did.  I help people find solutions to problems.  I help a local food bank or cancer center by doing a fundraiser.  That...that is success.  Will I ever be able to go as far in my education as I'd hoped?  It's not likely.  I was going to get my PsyD, possibly simultaneously getting my JD so I could be an advocate for those who can't advocate for themselves.  But because of my chronic illnesses, furthering my education is unlikely.  I have had to redefine success.  I want to inspire people, help people, prompt positive change in people.  That is success for me.

Has my weight loss story been a successful one (if you'll allow me to use the word in a different context)?  I'd like to think so.  In fact, exactly one month from today I'm scheduled to go in for a panniculectomy to have excess skin removed from my abdomen, pending insurance approval (praying for insurance approval).  A surgeon doesn't even consider that procedure if someone hasn't been successful in their weight loss journey.  It's a long and tedious operation.  It carries some risk.  But he sees it as a good thing for me.  He feels confident that insurance will approve the surgery.  Am I at my goal weight yet?  Not exactly, although I'm a matter of a few pounds away from being HALF of what I was.  I'll lose a few pounds of skin and that's a good thing.  I don't have pictures to show since I last wrote.  In fact, I've had a few difficult weeks and have put some food in my body that's not ideal.  I won't get on the scale.  I won't let those few bad weeks define my success.  But this surgery feels like the next step.

So, I hope you accept my honesty and bluntness.  But know that assuming anyone feels "so much better" because of no longer being super obese (the actual BMI category when my number was over 54) isn't a safe assumption.  There was more to me than my 326 pounds and there is still so much more to me than my 167 pounds.

Do I feel better?  That's complicated.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Time Marches On...

I can't believe it happened - again!  I've gone months and seemingly ignored this blog, although I haven't forgotten about it!  Honest!

Since I last posted, life has been rather hectic.

A couple of weeks after my last entry I drove myself 7-1/2 hours to Columbus, OH for Thirty-One's annual National Conference.  I was admittedly anxious.  It was a long drive alone and I'd never met anyone on my team (nor the women with whom I shared a room) in person.  This was a leap of faith on many levels.  I also wasn't sure what to expect with food, so went prepared with plenty of protein bars and I stocked up on healthy snacks so I didn't find myself getting overly hungry.  But the anxiety was real.  I will say that I am not a fan of bridges and tunnels and never gave any thought about needing to tackle both just to get through PA.  I also don't drive in cities.  I'll be honest.  I was scared.  The Lord has a sense of humor because as soon as I saw the first set of tunnels the songs from my playlist entitled "Breathe" came on.  All I could do was giggle...and breathe.  The songs served as a necessary reminder.  It was mostly smooth sailing until I neared the city of Columbus.  Now, living near Philly I didn't plan on Columbus being city driving - another example of me simply not thinking.  It is a city.  Period.  It's not Philly, but it's not Suburbia, either.  Once more, God moment when the skies opened up and an old Jars of Clay song, "Flood" played.  The rain turned out to be a good thing, though, because it slowed traffic and allowed me freedom to read street signs going slowly and merge into the lanes necessary.

As for eating and Conference... it was a challenge, but one I handled pretty well.  Our team did pizza one day but I stuck to my protein bar (as hard as that was!).  One night I met with a new group of friends and actually just snacked on peanuts and raisins - a childhood lunchbox staple, altogether forgetting to eat a meal!  I may have been lacking in my daily protein intake for those few days, but I didn't eat junk, so it's a fair trade-off.  Plus, while I can't stomach plain water anymore, and you can't take bottles into the arena, I took individual packets of Crystal Light and bought a bottle of water everyday.  It got the job done.

I did get back to work with my trainer after some significant time off following hand surgery.  I swear some weeks he's trying to kill me.  But seriously, I need the accountability so I keep going.

But then August hit.  I was in a rough place and Keith went and developed a couple of kidney stones - OUCH!  One of them was so large he required surgery for it to be blasted with a laser.  He spent 2 nights in the hospital.  A week later he had the stent removed.  That same day (early September), I was admitted to the hospital for 24 days.  Once again, food became an issue.  But I was armed with protein shakes and bars.  I actually lost weight while I was there!

After that "break," I was back with the trainer until we went on VACATION, leaving 2 days after our 22nd anniversary....the same date we'd left for our honeymoon!  We took a brief cruise to on Disney Cruise Line and then took several days at Disney World.  And for fun, hubby gave notice at his job as soon as we hit land.  It wasn't ideal; he would have much preferred to tell his boss in person, but out of respect, he wanted to give the full 2 weeks notice.  Anyway, it wasn't for fun because he had a great job offer on the table.  We got back from vacation 12/14 and his last day of work was 12/22.

One HUGE non-scale victory for me - not needing a seatbelt extender on the plane.  Even better, I just kept pulling the end tighter and tighter.  It was a great feeling!

I was incredibly concerned about food at Disney.  It's always been one of our favorite things about our Disney vacations (this was my 13th trip; it was our 9th trip together, including our "Disneymoon").  We got the text that our room was ready and it turns out we'd been upgraded to "Club" (aka: concierge) Level.  You know what that means?  Free food!  It also meant that we walked out onto our balcony the first night at the Wilderness Lodge after a long day at 2 different parks, and watched the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle.  We were downright giddy!  We'd also been eligible for the Free Dining promotion they offered.  We weren't going to pay for the dining plan; I simply don't eat that much, but it was free, so we grabbed on!  I tried some new foods and did well until the last day when I tried a few too many new things in one day and my sleeve rebelled (I vomited).  Other than that, I did quite well.  I even lost weight because of all the walking we do at Disney.  It was an extraordinary vacation!  We still enjoyed some great food, we had the upgrade, we were at our favorite place on Earth (the adult-exclusive beach, called Serenity Bay, at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay where we floated on mats in the clear ocean and just hung out talking - all the while our backs getting burnt, as we were laying on our stomachs), and we were on a phenomenal new ride, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, during the nighttime fireworks.  And those were just the highlights!

12/29 marked two years since I joined Thirty-One as an Independent Consultant.  What started off as a bit of a roller coaster has become a consistent and thriving business.  I love the company and what they stand for and the products can't be beat.  I know I'm partial, but I love what I do.  Since I'm not able to hold down a full-time traditional job and remain on disability, this is perfect.

12/30 was two years since my initial consultation with the bariatric surgeon.  It was the day my new life started, even if it wasn't my "surgiversary."  It was the day this portion of my journey began.  It was the day my eating changed and I slowly began to add exercise into my life.  It was the day I met the man who would give me a major tool for success in my weight loss.  It was the day I started the most difficult, and most rewarding thing I've done for myself.

I lost just over 26 pounds this year.  While I'm not at my goal just yet, I have fewer than 20 pounds to get there.  I have a consultation with a surgeon for skin removal surgery in a few weeks.  With hub's new job we have new insurance so I'm not sure what that will mean for payment.  Lots to investigate!

Yesterday I had an appointment with a surgeon regarding skin removal surgery.  I'm on the books for March 7, pending insurance approval.  Not to be overly graphic here, but with all of the sagging skin, I have a persistent rash which means that there is a good chance insurance will cover the procedure.  I'm anxious about it, but eager for the skin to be GONE!  It makes me appear far heavier than I am.  It's exciting!

I know I say this each time I write, but I really hope to post more often and want to be as open of a book as possible, so don't hesitate to ask questions and share this blog with someone you think may be interested - either considering surgery, had surgery, or is a support person for someone in either of those groups!  And please subscribe if you want to read the antics I'm certain are in store for this year!

Now I've been lax about taking regular photos, but here is a collage I put together.  It includes a slightly less-than-flattering picture from this past Saturday (with a sort of clingy shirt) but it's what I have and it's real, so I share it.  I apologize for the big gap in timing between pictures.  So I'll include an earlier collage with a couple of pictures not included with the most recent one.

Over and out, friends!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

59 weeks on 7/11/17

Wow, is it seriously Summer??  And how did I go so long between posts?

Ok, well I can answer the second one...sort of.

I found myself in the hospital for 3 weeks, late January through mid-February, totally unrelated to surgery.  So, what is nutrition like when you're inpatient and you have to educate the nutritionist on what a bariatric diet looks like?  I'll tell you, it's not easy.  I had taken protein shakes and bars with me, as well as a few things for snacks - thankfully!  The nutritionist couldn't really meet my needs, but agreed to send up 2 hard-boiled eggs three times a week.  I know it's a bit debatable right now, but I didn't want to risk my cholesterol by having eggs every day and/or multiple times a day.

So there I was.  Stuck in the hospital.  Limited to shakes and bars, plus a few cheese sticks, carrots, and hummus.  Oh, and since water makes me nauseous, I had taken an insulated cup with me along with a pitcher and a ton of powdered drink mix.  Good thing or I would have been dehydrated in no time!  But I survived.  I was able to speak with the dietitian at my surgeon's office and get some tips before admission.  My hospital's nutritionist had little interest in talking with my dietitian.  Again, it was a good thing I did some advanced planning or I would have been in bad shape!

Back up until the beginning of January and I joined and gym and was meeting with a trainer twice a week.  Then the hospital hit, but after I got out, it was back to twice a week with SL (the trainer).

Plugging along, I get to March and start having problems with my right (and dominant) hand.  Alas, I have an EMG and find out that the carpal tunnel has gotten worse in that hand (I had surgery a few years back when the left one was the worst of the two).  A couple of visits later and I'm scheduling surgery.  More surgery, but this time it was going to impact my ability to function since I couldn't type or really do any chores at all.  It would seriously interfere with my training.  After getting the stitches out, I started back with the trainer, but hate to admit that it's been sporadic the past couple of months.

Some junk has come up, which I won't go into, but it's taken most of my time and all of my energy.  Ugh!  I feel like there's something at every turn really impeding my ability to be successful here.  I'm not making excuses, but this has been my reality.  Because of it, and surgery, I haven't been able to workout with my trainer much.  I had some consistency there, but that's gone, along with much of my motivation.  I need to get back there...or at least start walking (the dogs would love it if we took them!) or riding my exercise bike here at home.  Oh, one development is that we learned of a place where they refurb donated bikes and sell them for cheap.  We went there a week-and-a-half ago and ordered some bikes.  They had yet to be refurbed so we're waiting on them, but hopefully that'll get us moving, too!  This past weekend I did a bunch of yard work.  Especially when it's 90 degrees out, that's a workout, for sure!  It's something, right?

Ok, I had my ONE YEAR surgiversary appointment the end of May.  He seemed pleased and I was glad to be losing, albeit slowly at this point.

If you'll indulge me, I'm going to jump around a bit more here...

When I was in the hospital, it was like I was at a nursing home.  Breakfast was at 7, lunch at 11:30 and dinner at 4 (or was it 4:30?).  By nighttime I was famished!  Everyone around me was snacking and I had only no-sugar-added dried cranberries.  Blah.  There is only so much of one food a person can have.  At least with protein bars, there are oodles of flavors, so that didn't get dull.  Sometimes I had bars for breakfast since I didn't take my sugar-free coffee syrups to add to the shakes.  I had to mix it up.  Anyway, while everyone was snacking on cookies and chips at night, I sat there, ravenous.  And then it happened, I discovered sugar-free cookies.  It was a dangerous discovery and one which haunted me for months.  Just recently, however, on a call with my dietitian, we discussed the added calories these cookies are adding to my diet.  It took a bit, but I've given them up.  I keep fruit on hand to satisfy that sweet craving, but it's so much better than those cookies!

My cousin was married a couple of weeks ago and hubby and I went to the wedding.  Since I'm able to shop in actual stores and not limited to online, I got a great deal on a dress to wear just for the wedding (see picture).  I guess it's sort of funny, but I forgot my dress sandals and was forced to wear the ones you see in the picture.  Guys may not understand this, but most women will - there is something about heels that gives some level of confidence.  For me, I'm just excited that I can wear them and not (basically) know that I'm bound to fall.  But I forgot them...grrrr!  At least I had my non-dress sandals and wasn't forced to wear sneakers ;)

It's a funny thing.  When I was 326 lbs, I'd lose 20 lbs and nobody would notice.  Now, I've been stuck, losing only 20 lbs all year and people seemed shocked at how "great" I look.  It's a percentage game, I guess, but I feel like I've gotten nowhere and that's not what people see.  I think of how I lost 40-45 lbs before my wedding and went from 180 to 135/140 and the man at the bridal salon's jaw dropped when he saw me.  But at 300 lbs, 40 lbs feels like it doesn't even make a dent.  I find myself questioning if people feel like they have to say I look good because they know I had surgery and want to be encouraging.  Man, between that and the body dysmorphia, my head is messing with me - big time!  At the wedding last month, I definitely chalk it up to a good "gut-sucker-inner" - aka fake Spanx.

The guy that has operated on both hands now came up in a database of surgeons who also do skin removal surgery.  He has known me for several years and has seen the transformation so when I saw him yesterday, I said that I'd like to talk skin removal surgery at my next appointment.  My bariatric surgeon wanted me to wait until I was closer to my goal.  I'm praying that will happen by November when I see him.  Having my belly skin removed should be covered for medical reasons (rash), but I'd love to have my super gross thighs, arms, and chin done, plus (sorry guys), I'd kill for a boob lift!  Gravity is not a middle-aged woman's friend, let alone one who has lost a person in weight.  Since we can't afford to private-pay, I'll take what I can get.  Maybe for my birthday in January, I'll have this dang belly skin removed!

Vacation... we're going to Disney World!!  This isn't new for us and if you've read any of my blog, or know me in real life, you know that hubby and I are fanatical!  We're first doing a quick Disney cruise and then staying at WDW for several days.  Food is going to be very different from past trips.  In the past, food was a huge part of our trips there.  So many options, so many yummy options!  This year, I went through the menus available online and we chose places where I knew there'd be something I could enjoy and which (hopefully) wouldn't make me sick.  It'll be in the Fall but I'll still have to put on a bathing suit!  GASP!  What?  Yes, a bathing suit.  I did get a catalog which shows bathing suit bottoms which are capri pants (yee haw!), although I may go the longer shorts route.  I'll still have to display the bat wings, but I'm trying to keep a good attitude and say that they're war wounds.

I'm on a super supportive bariatric site.  I've been frustrated seeing people lose more weight than I have in over a year, when they're maybe only 6 mos out.  I admit, it's upsetting.  Someone wrote the other day that we each have our own journey and one person's isn't anothers.  It was something I needed to hear.  Heck, I'm on psych meds which slow my metabolism; I'm a woman and we have slower metabolism than med (super unfair, right?), and I'm in my mid-40s.  None of these things add up to quick weight-loss.  I've also been inconsistent with my workouts.  I have to keep my eye on the prize and know that I'm still down a lot of pounds and it's my journey and nobody elses.  Easier said than done, but I am so thankful to the woman who wrote that, just when I needed to hear it!  It's still part of the self-hatred, though....  Hey, what can I do but work on it?

Ok, well I'm going to try to keep this from getting any longer.  I'll also try to post more often.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Surviving the Holidays After Bariatric Surgery

Yeah, this is a difficult one.  I've held off on writing it, unsure how to really convey this experience to anyone outside of the bariatric world.

This was probably the easiest of them all.  My sleeve handles turkey.  I made a special cranberry sauce using low-sugar Craisins, as well as a pumpkin pie.  The sauce was pretty yummy.  I am not a fan of cranberry sauce, especially since I grew up with cranberry mousse (aka: the pink stuff), which is one of the most delicious things on Earth.  But I put this over my turkey and, while I still had to have the "pink stuff" pass by me, I held off.  This got me through Thanksgiving mostly unscathed.

1) This was a different story.  We did Christmas three (!!) times.  We went to my in-laws' before Christmas.  It was somewhat simple again because of having turkey.  But then came the cookies.  Ohh, the cookies.  I had to leave the room.  They were simply too difficult to resist.  I mean Christmas cookie?  Who doesn't love them?
2) Dinner at my parents' was ... far more difficult.  One of my favorite things was prime rib, not just because it's yummy, but because it meant one thing: Yorkshire pudding (a recipe from my Grandfather who was French and lived in England -- our crepe recipe is from him, too, but I digress...).  Yorkshire pudding is indescribable.  I've had it other places, but it's different.  You know how it is; once you have a specific recipe made by a specific person, nothing ever compares.  There was also the pink stuff.  Since my sleeve doesn't tolerate beef well (even filet), I brought chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, to which I added those low-sugar Craisins leftover from Thanksgiving, and something called Protein Birthday Bites in lieu of cookies.  But the cookie tray still passed...and those around me enjoyed every bite.  My Mom has made countless batches of cookies each year.  She stopped for a number of years, but started again this year and went full-force.  Some of those which made me drool were Bon-Bons, Chocolate Crinkles, Candy Canes, Snickerdoodles.... I have to stop.  Now, my Mom's theory has always been that Christmas cookies are ONLY for Christmas, so never made any other time of the year (except sometimes I would get them for my birthday if I was extra good).  This makes them extra-special.  That makes me extra-upset at missing them.  The good news is that I was able to see my brother and nephews who have spent much of their lives living out of the country and it's always great to see them!
3) Brunch/Lunch ... when coming up with a menu, my Mom asked what I could have, as she was getting sandwiches.  She made me egg salad (from 2 eggs and with light mayo) and I had some veggies and hummus.  Again the cookies came out.  Again I found myself passing around incredibly tempting foods.  Again I held firm.

This may not be the best motivation to keep that "willpower" (I don't really like that word, but that's another story) but I don't want to puke.  I know that if I eat the wrong thing or eat too much, that is always a chance.  I have already gotten nauseated and was certain I was going to vomit, but thankfully did not, from various and sundry foods.  The latest is water.  I used to LOVE water.  Seriously - it was all I drank.  To mix it up, I've been doing Crystal Light and when I tried water this past weekend, I couldn't stomach it.  One sip and I knew.  That's it for water - at least until I'm brave enough to try it again.

One of my favorite dinners of late is turkey burgers.  My Aunt made these when we visited in September and they're extraordinary.  I'm sure you're thinking something to the effect of "YUCK, BLAH, turkey burgers!"  But seriously, I don't think we've done beef since!  We get the high grade (98%?) organic ground turkey, throw in a teensy bit of bread crumbs (just to hold it together), locatelli cheese, a few spices, and the extra special ingredient - FRESH basil.  These burgers are extraordinary!  Hubby adds some deli cheese and grills them a little longer, but I don't like cheeseburgers, so that's never been an option.  Now that it's cold out, we throw them on the Foreman Grill and they are just as tasty!

I have been super lax with my exercise.  The bike became complicated because of Poly (our difficult child) and I haven't had the energy to walk the pups, so I've not been doing much of anything in that area.  But, my friend Janet keeps her own blog and her most recent entry kicked my rear into gear!  That said, I've already tried the Y and gave up.  I also tried LA Fitness and gave up - once I wasn't doing the water aerobics anymore, I was out.  A huge room filled with machines spikes my anxiety through to roof and I'm super intimidated.  So, after reading Janet's blog, I took the bull by the horns joined a small gym.  With that came 2 sessions with a trainer.  Needless to say I scheduled the first one immediately.  The guy is nice!  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.  He wasn't some gym-rat, arrogant, steroid-pumped guy.  So I scheduled my second session.  Of course I got a migraine, but I actually rescheduled and went back.  And then I went for a third time and I'm going again on Monday!  I need the accountability.  Being a small gym, there aren't a ton of people there at once - at least at the hour I go.  The people that are there are also into their music or what's on the TV at their machine.  That said, I can't make any kind of agreement to meet someone there.  Also, since I'm on disability, I also don't run into a lot of middle-agers late morning/early afternoon.  While the people there seem very nice, they seem to want to get in, do their thing, and get out.  I know that I need the accountability.  I also can't afford to get injured and fear that I'll wind up screwing something up, use a machine wrong and wind up needing a zillion surgeries with only a slim hope of ever walking again.  Ok, ok, yes I'm aware that I'm exaggerating - to the extreme - but I can't get hurt if it's preventable.  The poor guy has tried to help me up from one of the machines that has me almost sitting on the ground (and pressing up with my legs).  I finally told him "I'm stubborn" when I didn't take his help for the umpteenth time.  He replied "I'm chivalrous."  Truth be told, I realized that I'm not used to my body.  I'm used to it taking 2 men to help me get up when I fall.  The next time I was on that machine after having that epiphany, I told him.  It's another one of those weird phenomena that people who haven't been morbidly obese can't explain.

I want to touch on something quickly.  It's a general  misconception.  Someone dear to us told hubby that he needs to "catch up" (he needs to lose some weight), but that he has to do it the hard way.  She was totally well-meaning and I'm not saying anything against her personally (in case she's reading this)!  The thing is, this IS hard!  It's far more difficult than any other attempts I've made at weight loss.  I can't cheat without serious consequences.  I can't have "just one" Christmas cookie or "just one bite" of pasta.  I'm on a load of vitamins and supplements and will be forever.  It's imperative that I drink 64 oz  I cannot drink that for the 30 minutes after I finish eating.  I have to get 60-80 grams of protein in every day.  That protein has to come first.  Veggies come after protein.  Fruit comes after that.  Even then, with being limited to 800 calories, I can't have much.  I have to take 25-30 minutes to eat.  I am to eat 4 oz (approx 1/4 cup or the size of your palm) over the course of that 30 minute period.  There is nothing easy about this.  It was major surgery, one which nearly killed me at first attempt.  It required months of doctor appointments, tests, and clearances.  And that was the easy part!  This is not a cure for obesity!  This is not a surgery you have and then go back to your old habits.  This is the most life-changing thing I've ever done...EVER!  So, please don't ever tell a bariatric patient that they've taken the easy way out!  Sorry, rant over.

So, progress....

Now, I had hubby take a picture in front of the Christmas tree, but the outfit wasn't terribly flattering, so I decided against using it, but I have earned putting my "One-derland" charm on the chain with my "Loser's Bench" - see?  I'll try to take another picture soon.

I've stalled a little bit and since reaching that goal, I've wavered between about 198 and 195, but I'm still below 200 and I'll take it!!!  I'm sure my workouts will help boost that number down more quickly and hopefully with no stalls!

One of the things my group of friends in the bariatric world focuses on is non-scale victories.  It's not all about the numbers!  I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself from earlier posts but I can cross my legs!  Heck, I cross them all the time, simply because I can!  Shirts I have never been able to wear (I'm thinking specifically of shirts I got in Disney World but they never fit) are now big!  I nearly skipped a jean size and am wearing jeans which nearly fall down right now.  The next size down is still a little snug, though.  I can just about fit a small farm animal between my gut and my steering wheel!  It was snug before (and that's being generous).  I had to have a CT done and put on the "fat gown" (as I've always called least since I had to start wearing it) and it was enormous!  I mean, I wasn't even able to tie it because one end was inside the gown and the other side was outside, so I might as well have been naked since I would have been almost totally exposed.  I also had to have an MRI (unrelated) and I FIT!  It was about 4 years ago when they last tried to put me in an MRI machine.  I've always found an open bore one or used a special facility where you sit "in" the machine so it's on either side of you.  Sure, that was a bit tight, but it was supposed to be so you don't move.  Anyway, they were scanning my knee, so I had to go in sort of far and I made it - they were able to just hit the button and not stand and watch to see if I can go in without getting stuck!

I want to add, for the record, that I wrote the first half of this post right after New Years.  Monday or Tuesday of this week I wrote the rest, hit save, and then it disappeared!  My frustration told me to give up, go to bed, and try again... but then life got crazy so I didn't get to it again until now.  I'm just praying it all posts!!!

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.