Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CRANKY!

I attempted to go back to one of my jobs today, and I clearly was not ready.  Neither were they.

It's not a stressful place, but I arrived to find my computer broken and as such, no access to any of my files.  And since my computer is the only one in the office with the programs I need, I wasn't able to work on anything.  A new assignment had come over - just a little job, so I told my boss I would work on it at home.  I then spent the rest of the day doing someone else's work on a different desk.  I couldn't leave because someone had to be there to answer the phones. 

By the end of the day - which was only four hours to begin with (it's a very part-time gig) - I was tired, my head was swimming, and I was in a nasty mood.  I'm learning my limits and signals, and while I don't get hunger pangs, I've been noticing lately that when it's time for me to eat, I can tell by the empty feeling in both my gut and my head.  The shake I'd had a couple hours prior had already been digested, and I was definitely feeling like it was time to eat again.  All I wanted to do was go home, have a protein shake, and lay down.  I had five minutes left. And that's where I was when the Most Annoying Person on the Planet arrived to fuck around in the office.

This kid - who doesn't even work in this office but rather is an independent contractor hired by us to perform a service outside the office - made a rather unfavorable first impression on me a few weeks ago.  He breezed in, sat down next to my desk, and then proceeded to put his feet up on it.  Strike one.  Then he started asking me sensitive questions about the business.  Strike two.  While voraciously chewing on his fingers and spitting the yield on the floor.  Strike three.  I won't even get into the accompanying "I'm a law student" cockiness.  He's obviously going to be one of those smarmy trial lawyers who never lets anyone finish talking.  It's like he's in constant cross-examination mode.  Whatever.  My father was a lawyer.  I'm not impressed.

So today he shows up five minutes before I'm supposed to leave and starts babbling about the computer and how he thinks he knows how to fix it.  I told him to leave it, because I had to go.  He said, "Just a minute, I just want to try this one thing," and I said, "I have to go."  He told me to wait a second, so I stood there fuming.  I was fucking TIRED.  The whole time he kept pulling his pants up and doing this disgusting snot-snort-sniff thing.  He's repulsive.

He asked me when we could expect to have a certain item ready for distribution and I told him it all depended on being able to extract the files from the broken computer.  Increasingly agitated, I said, "if we can at least get it into safe mode, then we can pull the files off and I can access them and work on them at home."  I was going to continue on to say something about having discussed this with my boss and having already thought of a solution, but Annoying Law Kid cut me off and said, "well, yeah, and I can do that, too."

That. Was. It.

Now.  What I should have done was say, "Thanks for the offer, but I've got it under control" or something like that.  Or perhaps employed some of my snark and said something along the lines of, "but why would you do that when you have your own job to do?" But instead I barked, "BUT I AM THE DESIGNER, SO JUST LET ME DO MY FUCKING JOB!!!"  And then I yelled, "COME ON, LET'S GO. I GOTTA GO!"  He scurried out of the office, mumbling some shit about "not very nice" and whatever, but my head was about to explode and my ears were ringing and I just needed to get out of there.  I said, "Just back off, all right?  Just go away already" and I got in my car.  I texted my boss, "I just yelled at Law Boy.  He's a pain in my ass."

I tried to be normal after that.  I drove home, tried going to the grocery store, tried going to GNC to look at protein powder options, but everywhere I went I felt like people were hellbent on pissing me off.  I know it wasn't them, it was me being hypersensitive to the normal stupidity that I usually choose to ignore.  But everything was just getting under my skin, and I couldn't help it.

Here's hoping a good nap and dinner is all I need to make it better.


This is me, talking to the Law Lizard.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Baby Steps...and Food.

I've now moved into the pureed food stage of the post-op diet, which means I can have foods like blenderized fruits and veggies, applesauce, and mashed potatoes.  In preparation for this stage a few friends sent me recipes for purees they'd made for their babies.  I'm super excited to try them, but in the meantime I bought a couple packages of pre-fab baby food so I would have something on hand just in case I was too tired to make my own or didn't have the ingredients on hand or whatever.  Then last week my friend Pam brought me some baby food - a plum/banana mix and, because I had been complaining of my, um, bathroom issues, she brought me prunes, too.  So at this point I've amassed a neat little stash.

But then yesterday morning my friend Carla brought me even more baby food.  Peaches and green beans this time.  She said, "I think you're ready," and pointed to the label on the top of the package.



Indeed.

I most certainly can sit independently, even though I currently prefer to lie in a semi-reclined position propped with a gazillion pillows.  And I most certainly do show excitement when presented with food. 

See?

I'm also sitting independently here, in case you were wondering.


This is getting good.  After four weeks of nothing but protein shakes and soup and jello and such, I am now allowed to introduce some meat and potatoes and veggies into my diet.  The closest I got previously was chicken broth and Green Machine juice.  But now...now I can throw some chicken and some mashed potatoes and whatnot into my blender and puree the living daylights out of them and maybe feel like I'm eating something.  I still have to keep an eye on my protein, especially now that I'm really losing weight - I don't want to lose too much lean tissue along with that.  So I have to stay with my protein shakes and still have to mix protein powder in with everything I eat, but still...mashed potatoes?!?!

I think I'll like this stage.



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Old Habits Die Prettily

This morning I joined my friend Julie for a girly outing; we went to the nail salon and had manicures and pedicures, and as is always the case when we get together the morning was filled with laughter and gabbing.  She's moving overseas in a couple of months, so this was kind of a "Let's Celebrate Our Respective Exciting New Lives" thing.  We had a blast.

I was originally just going to have a pedicure, but because I don't have to go back to work for another couple of weeks, I opted to do a manicure, too.  Why not?  I deserve a little indulgence now and then, and this was only the second professional pedicure I've ever had in my life.  My first was only within the last couple of years, and Julie went with me that time, too.  And technically it's my first professional manicure, unless you count the one I had by a student when I went on a girl scout trip to MarJon School of Beauty in fourth grade. 

I had the whole shebang on my feet - exfoliation and callous removal and all.  My hands got the whole treatment (which naturally included Julie and I dating ourselves with multiple Madge and Palmolive references). For the color I wanted something springy, but I don't typically go in for pastels so I chose a fun pinky-red called "Bing Cherry." 

You'll just have to trust that my fingernails are done, too.  I couldn't juggle the camera and all my appendages at once.

It cost me more than I ever spend on myself, but whatever.  As another friend pointed out yesterday, I hardly ever spend money on myself.  My hair is done on the cheap by a stylist friend. Any skin treatments I've had are either through the dermo, who's covered by insurance, or through some amazing deal I've stumbled across on Groupon.  I'm pretty sure I've never paid full price for an article of clothing in my life.  And the only reason I don't shop at thrift stores more often is because plus-sized clothing is hard to come by in them.

I decided to do this because, aside from wanting to hang out with Julie, as part of this process I need to start doing nice things for myself.  It started with the Pandora bracelet.  I'm sure some people think, "what's so special about buying yourself a bracelet or getting a pedicure?"  Well, I'll tell you.

It's not entirely true that I never spend money on myself; I've spent plenty of money flying my ass halfway around the world to various Asian destinations (I'm a tad obsessed with our neighbors to the east), but I'm talking about the short-term, day-to-day kind of expenditures. In the past when it came to treating myself for any reason, whether it was passing an important exam, or landing a good freelance gig, or simply making it through the day without killing anyone, I would celebrate with food.  And not just in the sense that most people do when they celebrate.  I'm not talking about getting together with friends to toast an accomplishment and indulging in a few too many mozzarella sticks.  I'm talking about shoving an entire small pizza down my gullet, or digging into a quart of ice cream to "celebrate" whatever it was I felt I'd accomplished that day, which sometimes was just having managed to get up and function.  I'm talking about polishing off a four pound bag of Halloween candy because it was 90% off and the only thing I was celebrating was the good deal I'd gotten on four pounds of candy - only to be filled with remorse later as the headache, indigestion, and guilt and general self-loathing took over.  It's an ugly, ugly way to feel.

I don't have this option anymore.  And as part of this process I have to learn to live without food as a crutch, a reward, or a comforting device.  The surgery was not just a "jerry-rigging of my insides," as one ignorant person put it.  The surgery is a tool to assist me in learning how not to live my life with food as the ultimate reward.  But that doesn't mean I can't still reward myself or treat myself to something nice.  It just means I can't do it with a package of Oreos and a Whopper with cheese. 

So yes, I indulged in a manicure and pedicure.  And I will do it again.  On a regular basis.  The way I see it, that money - and then some - would have been spent on pizza and ice cream and fast food and buffets anyway,  so why not spend it on something that makes me feel pretty, something that makes me feel GOOD about myself AND makes me look nice? I deserve it.

I think Madge would agree.


You're soaking in it!  Better than drowning in a vat of Butter Almond ice cream, now, isn't it?





Friday, April 26, 2013

The Relativity and Subjectivity of Size


I've been sleeping a lot better lately, but for some reason last night I had a hard time falling asleep.  Then I woke up about an hour ago to use the bathroom, and I was thirsty so I poured a half glass of Blue Goodness, which had some kind of awakening effect on me.  So here I am.

I stepped on the scale this morning and was almost shocked by the number it spit back at me.  It's lower than I ever expected it to be at this point, and I'm almost a little disconcerted at how quickly I am losing weight.  I shouldn't be, given how little I consume lately (especially the last few days, thanks to some gastric unrest), but still I was like, "really?"  I mean...yeah.  Even with my pajamas on, the scale is telling me I've lost another 8 pounds since last week.  Is that even possible?

That's not really what's on my mind, though.  What I've been meaning to address for a while has been a comment I get from a lot of people when I tell them about my surgery.  I heard it before and I'm hearing it now.

"You're not that big."

This makes me laugh, because bigness really is in the eye of the beholder, it seems.  I mean, yeah, sure, I'm not your "typical" 400+ pound bariatric patient.  I never got the point where I had to use a scooter to get around because my knees had given out, and I hadn't developed Type 2 Diabetes yet, but at my current size I am still a Large Marge.


I was only slightly larger than this size when I was told, "I don't normally go for obese women..." by a man on a dating site.

I was a size or two smaller than I am currently when my now-ex told me, "my mother is really taken aback by how fat you are and is surprised I would be with you."  This from a self-professed chubby-chaser, no less.  What can I say - the guy was the misogynous, deranged love child of Oedipus and Napoleon. Good riddance.

I was 25 or 30 pounds less than I am right now when another dickwad on a dating site said, "you seem really cool, but big chicks aren't really my thing."

In the meantime, my friends tell me I look great, that my outfit is cute, that I'm an attractive woman, blah blah blah.  And, they tell me "by today's standards," I'm "not even that big."  Even Cynthia at Synergy told me I'm what they refer to as a "lightweight."  And judging by the people I've met in my support groups and nutrition classes and workshops, I can see where I might earn that title.  I've met people two or three times my size. 

But that doesn't matter.  Yes, compared to some of my cohorts I'm on the "smaller" side, but I'm still morbidly obese.  I still suffer the ill effects of my excess weight, and I still suffer the emotional consequences of living in a body I view as the enemy most days.  I don't hate myself - I hate the vessel within which I feel imprisoned.

You want hard stats, I'll give 'em to you.  At my heaviest, in January of 2010, I was 271 pounds.  Between then and last July, I lost 75 of those pounds and then put more than 50 of them back on. When I started this thing in July of 2012, I was close to 250.  By the time I started the pre-op diet, I'd lost a few, gained a few, and then gained even more to make my starting weight 259.6, which, whatever...we'll call it 260.  I'm not quite 5'5" tall.  Come on, people - that's fucking BIG.  It's okay to weigh that much if you're a 6'4" dude, or a linebacker or something, but a 40-something, 5'5" woman?  Not to mention the rapid succession of lose-gain-lose-gain-lose.

I have been told my whole life (the majority of which I've spent as a "plus sized" woman) that I carry my weight well.  And I suppose I do.  But I'd rather be carrying less.  A lot less.  Because regardless of how I carry it, I'm still carrying it, and it still sucks. 

So maybe I am "not that big" and maybe you're surprised that I even qualified for the surgery, and maybe I carry my weight well, and maybe - just maybe - you think all I really needed to do was put forth more of an effort on the diet and exercise front.  We've been over this before, and I'm not going to launch into a big thing about the whole grotesque and pathological history of my weight issues.  And maybe "not that big" is a compliment, but when I look in the mirror and I see my face obscured by giant cheeks, my neck swallowed by a triple chin, when I feel my pants (which I had to fight to button) becoming threadbare in the thighs from constant chafing, when I huff and puff and struggle to catch my breath after one flight of stairs, it doesn't matter if I'm "not that big" - I'm still bigger than I want to be, and bigger than is healthy for someone my age and height.  And that's what matters, and why I went through with this in the first place.




Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Label: Post-Op Absurdities

There are a few things I realized after the fact that I failed to mention in previous entries that I really ought to have included.  They would have been funnier weaved into the stories, almost in a "you had to be there" kind of way, but it's still stuff I want to write about and share because...well, because it's ridiculous and it's part of the experience, which is what this blog is essentially about.  Right?

Right.

Stuff like...how they wouldn't even consider sending me home from the hospital because I couldn't pass gas (the irony, for anyone who truly knows me, is hilarious), and how the following morning when I not only farted but pooped, too, I shuffled as quickly as I could, wheeling my IV pole down the hall toward the nurses' station. I couldn't wait to find Nurse Karen and tell her, "I passed gas...AND I moved my bowels!"  Beaming like a child who had just pooped on the potty for the first time, I stood there with an ear-to-ear grin, waiting for Nurse Karen to give me a lollipop or something.  She smiled and said, "Good job!  Keep walking and keep up the good work!"

It was one of my proudest moments. 

Earlier this week I had my first follow-up, and shortly after the visit began, the PA asked me, "Do you still have ovaries?"

I don't hear well, and the acoustics in these rooms aren't the greatest, so I asked her to repeat herself.

"Do you still have your ovaries?"

I answered, "Uh, yes."

She said, "So you're still menstruating?"

I said, "Not right this second, but yes.  I still have a period.  Usually. Menopause hasn't quite gotten hold of me yet, but it's putting forth an effort.  Why?"

She held out a piece of paper and said, "This form is for you to sign, acknowledging that we advise against pregnancy for 12 to 18 months after surgery."

I needn't explain the hilarity of this to anyone reading who already knows me, but for the sake of those who don't, I should tell you that I am (a) THE most staunchly Childfree person on the planet, and (b) THE most perpetually SINGLE woman this side of the Mississippi.  Not only am I downright averse to procreating, I lack the, uh, well...the general means to do so, and when the rare opportunity does arise (ha, pardon the pun), I take every precaution possible.  I almost found it insulting to have to sign this silly form.

Oh, and also?  I'm 42 years old.  Ain't no eggs crackin' in this kitchen. 

So ridiculous.




Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Follow-Up, Freedom, and Happiness

I had my first post-op follow-up appointment today.  My aunt picked me up and I chattered the entire ride about my diet and how I feel and what my various challenges are, et cetera, but all I really cared about knowing at that point were two things: how much weight I'd lost, and if I could start driving again.

I saw the PA again this time (evidently Dr. C. doesn't really "do" office visits) and she was beyond pleased with my progress.  She said, "you look healthy and well, and that's what we like to see." The scale showed a 27 pound loss since the beginning of my pre-op diet - and that was wearing jeans and a belt and a sweater - and my incisions looked "beautiful" according to her.  I thought they looked kind of red and angry, but she assured me that at this stage in the game it's exactly how they are supposed to look.  She told me I no longer had to keep them covered, but to just make sure to keep them clean and dry.

She told me to come back in four weeks, at which time they will likely clear me for exercise and I can start working out.  In the meantime, I am allowed (and advised) to walk 10 to 20 minutes a day, and I'm clear to do stairs.  Good news, since I'm running out of clean underwear and really need to do laundry.  And the best news of all?  I'm clear to drive.

On my way out I stopped at the "cafe"  - the little place where you can buy all your provisions such as protein powder, shakes, vitamins, and supplements - to pick up some protein powder, and as always happens I got into a conversation with Cynthia, the woman who works there.  She remembered that the last time she'd seen me had been the day before my surgery, so she asked me how it all went and I gave her the synopsis.  She told me, "It's obviously going well. You look really fantastic; your color is great, and you just look really, really happy."  

When I got home, I ran in the house just long enough to grab a few things I needed and then I did what I have been dying to do for the past two weeks: I got in my car and drove off to do my thing.  It was a nice day out, so I put the window down, cranked up the tunes, and headed to my first destination - Starbucks.  I had to give my boss the paperwork from the doctor and needed to put in a request on the calendar, and I wanted to say hi to everyone because, well...I kind of miss them.  I really like a good many of my co-workers, and having not seen them in a while, I thought it'd be nice to stop in and say hi.  Everyone I talked to told me I looked good, and a few people told me I looked happy. 

There was that word again.  Happy.  I looked HAPPY.  

Next stop was the bank, and then I hit two grocery stores, but in between the two I took a roundabout route just so I could keep driving.  As I rounded the corner of Elmwood and Hertel, "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" came on the radio and I broke into an enormous grin.  The window was open, the warm air was making my hair do this obnoxious flail all over the place, and ZZ was growling out of my speakers, and it hit me - I looked happy, because for the first time in forever, I FELT HAPPY.  Like, genuinely happy.  Not "trying to be happy because really I'm sad but I shouldn't be, so I'm just going to tell myself I'm happy and then try to be it," but actually, honestly, for real, shit-eating grinning, from-the-bottom-of-my-little-4-ounce-belly, fucking HAPPY.

Three months ago I called my sister from my car in a mall parking lot, paralyzed by a crushing episode of deep depression.  I'd been depressed for weeks at that point, but that night it seemed to all fall down on me. I couldn't stop crying long enough to put the car in gear and drive, and I was afraid to because I knew I had not the presence of mind to be driving, least of all driving a car with two bald tires in the sloppy, wet, sleety mess of a snowfall that was happening at the time.  And as I cruised down Hertel Avenue this afternoon, I felt like that night was a million miles behind me, and I almost forgot what it had felt like, because today I just felt so goddamn FREE.

Free.  And happy.

I know this flight is long, and I know I have a long, long way to go before I land, but this is like that moment when you reach that first level, when you can pull your tray table down and are free to move about the cabin.  You still have to keep your safety belt on while seated, because anything can happen and you never know when you'll hit a little turbulence.  And you know you haven't reached the highest cruising point yet, but you're on your way.  You hear the rattle of the drink cart, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you recline your seat.  You have thousands of miles to go, and it's going to be uncomfortable at times, but you did it - you made it into the air, and here you are.  Free.  Moving forward. And just really, really happy.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Post-Op Challenges

Having been home for over a week now, I'm starting to understand a little more concretely what an undertaking this whole thing is.  I'm not settled into a routine yet, because nothing will become truly routine until I go back to work and start eating solid food and resume a "normal" existence.  Right now I'm in a transition period, and every day seems to bring new challenges and new attempts at solutions.

Because I am not working and cannot do much of anything, I find myself sleeping a lot.  I've always been a weird sleeper anyway, sleeping very little and relying on mid-day power naps to carry me through, but not having anything to do (or rather not being able to do the things I would normally fill my time doing with large chunks of time off) and tiring easily as I do at this stage, I end up sleeping a lot more than usual.  And that plays a large part in my challenges, which are...

Protein.  I am supposed to take in 60 to 80 grams of protein a day.   It's a little easier to do now that I'm on a full-liquid diet (as opposed to clear liquids, from which it is just impossible to get any significant amount of protein), but still not a breeze.  Three 4-ounce protein shakes can take care of it, but I'm trying to round out my diet with some variety, incorporating other options like soup and farina and yogurt.  I'm supposed to eat something every three hours, but when I sleep half the day that doesn't always happen.  I make farina and cream-based soups with "double strength" milk - nonfat dry milk mixed in with regular skim milk - but I find that at the end of most days I still fall just short of the 60 gram mark.  Remember, my stomach only holds a max of about 4 ounces, so if I skip the shakes it's damn near impossible to get all that protein in there.

Hydration.  This is actually more difficult to do than the protein.  I'm supposed to drink 40 to 60 ounces of water or other clear calorie-free beverages.  I've been averaging about 32 ounces a day, which is not good.  But again, my stomach only holds 4 ounces at most, and I can't drink liquid with my food or I will fill up too quickly.  I have to wait 30 minutes on either side of a meal, but even on a liquid diet I don't seem to digest that quickly.  So I take little sips throughout the day.  But if I'm sleeping throughout the day...well, you see where I'm going with this.  It's recommended that I sip one ounce of fluid every 15 minutes, which is sort of reasonable - if you don't take into consideration time spent sleeping or ingesting meals.  Then it becomes kind of ridiculous.

I think the biggest factor in both of the above is that I have to do them even if I don't want to.  Even if I'm not hungry, I have to eat.  Even if I'm not thirsty, I have to drink.  And right now my options are so limited I'm actually turned off by the thought of eating.  The second biggest factor is that I'm just damn lazy.  Making protein shakes and cream of wheat and soup takes a minor effort.  It's an effort I wouldn't necessarily mind putting forth, if not for the fact that cleanup takes more of an effort, and just loading the dishwasher wears me out to the point where I want to collapse in an exhausted heap on the sofa.

Sleeping.  Even though I do a lot of it, I can't do so comfortably.  Like I said in my last entry, my incisions make it difficult to sleep on my side or stomach, which is how I'm used to sleeping.  Plus the pain meds give me horrible, awful, graphically disturbing dreams. 

Blogging. Yes, I know.  I've been a bit of a slacker.  But I've been too damn busy trying to figure out how the fuck I'm supposed to fit 60-80 grams of protein and 40-60 ounces of fluid every day into a stomach that only holds four ounces.  When math is involved, my brain begins to evaporate, and everything else kind of falls to the side.

Housework. Not that I'm a big fan of it to begin with, but just being able to mindlessly toss in a load of laundry at this point would be welcomed.  I'm not supposed to lift more than ten pounds, and I'm supposed to avoid stairs.  Well...that sort of ruins the whole laundry experience there.  I'm not supposed to do any strenuous activity, no pushing or pulling, and no reaching or stretching.  So I'm supposed to vacuum my rugs and put my dishes away...how?  Annoying.

Pooping.  Maybe this is TMI, but good lord I'm constipated.  Hard to believe I was complaining of the opposite problem just a couple weeks ago. And yes, I know that being more properly hydrated would help alleviate this problem.

Working.  I'm trying to get in some freelance work while I have downtime, but I'm too tired, distracted, and busy trying to go to the bathroom and/or figure out the math on my protein and hydration to be productive on any real level.  

Independence and Getting Around in General.  I'm not supposed to walk more than five minutes at a time, and I figured out why the other day.  A friend took me to Target earlier this week and I shuffled around, using a shopping cart like a walker.  That wasn't too awful, but then yesterday I walked up to Walgreens and back, which was about ten minutes total, and I could tell my body was NOT a happy camper.  Pain and fatique plagued me the rest of the night and into today.  Bad news.  After Tuesday I may be cleared to drive, which will liberate me to a degree, but I still can't carry my groceries in the house.

Patience. It's been 10 days since I got sleeved, and things are getting easier.  But I still have a long way to go. 

Here's hoping this list gets shorter with each passing week. :-)






Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Days Home

At the time of this post I've actually been home for a few days, but thanks to my meds and general fatigue I haven't felt much like posting.  I spent the first couple of days getting caught up on older posts, and now it's time to start posting in "real time" again.

So. 

Thanks to the alarm function on my phone, I've been mostly staying on track with my meds and nutrition and hydration.  I've since tapered off on the painkillers, opting only to take them at night now because they help me sleep.  If I take them during the day I'm too groggy and out of sorts to get anything done (like blogging)!

My incision sites are still somewhat sore, but one in particular is especially painful.  I'm assuming it's the "main" incision, through which they extracted the excised portion of my stomach.  I will NOT be treating you to photos of that.  You're welcome.   Next to that is a giant bruise.  I am NOT exaggerating when I tell you it is the size, shape, and color of a small eggplant.  Seriously ugly shit.  And it hurts, too.  So a week later I'm still unable to comfortably lay on my side without a pillow to bolster me.  And when I walk around I frequently have to press my hand into that section of my gut because my shirt rubbing against it is painful.  I'm told this will go on for a good month or more.  Fantastic.

I don't like to sleep on my back for a number of reasons.  First, it's unnatural to me, having been a side/stomach sleeper my entire life.  Second, I seem to have a harder time breathing when I'm on my back.  I don't know if that's an asthma thing or just a fat thing (there is obviously more weight pressing on my lungs when lying supine, as I carry much of my excess weight in the front), but it's seriously uncomfortable.  And then there's the issue of my cats, and how they both feel the need to use my stomach as a trampoline when I'm lying on my back. 

Two days after I arrived home I graduated to the full-liquid stage of the diet, which I will remain on until next weekend (the 27th).  My first full-liquid meal was a lovely bowl (okay, it was a ramekin) of roasted red pepper tomato soup and a side of jello.  Divine!



Since then, I've been doctoring recipes to get more protein in, and as soon as I get my hands on some dry milk I will have an easier time (I hope).  Getting 60-80 grams of protein and 40-60 ounces of liquid on a stomach that only holds 3-4 ounces at a time is proving to be quite a challenge.  Hopefully I'll get the hang of it soon!






Monday, April 15, 2013

Why I Love My Sister, Part II

Because she rearranged her plans and was still able to spend the night at my house after bringing me home a day later than originally anticipated.

She and her husband brought me pretty purple flowers and a balloon.


 
She fought with the flower delivery guy who wanted to park in the very spot she needed to park in order to load me into the van.  And she won.

She took some bins to the basement that I couldn't carry. She did my laundry.  And washed my kitchen floor.  On her hands and knees.

She set up my med schedule for me.

She kept me company and checked on me regularly to make sure I hadn't fallen face-first into the toilet.

This woman has four children under the age of 10, is in her last semester of graduate school, and lives 90 miles away.

Oh...and she's taking me to Cancun next year.

And no, you can't have her.  She's mine.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

You Thought You Were Going Home When? Ha Ha Ha!

When I woke up next, I was in my room.  The surgery had been over for hours at that point. My aunt was there, and there was a nurse fussing around by the foot of my bed.  She was affixing some footie things on my feet, like these pneumatic devices that kept pumping full of air and then decompressing.  She explained they were to prevent clots.  Apparently I had these on during surgery, too, but of course I didn't remember.

My aunt told me that Dr. C had been in to see her, to tell her everything had gone very well with no complications, and that she had called my sister, who in turn had texted some people and posted on my Facebook wall so that friends who were waiting for an update would have one.

I couldn't see anything.  My stomach hurt.  My belly felt like it had been stabbed. And I wanted my phone.

"Can I have my purse?" 

My aunt handed me my purse and I retrieved what I needed.  She then left me and promised she'd be back in a while.  I was so tired, and it hurt to move.  I tried updating my status on my phone but I was seeing funny, so I gave up and decided I'd try again later.

I was hooked up to an IV, an oxygen cannula, and these pneumatic anti-clot footie things - I wasn't going anywhere.  I was also DYING of thirst.  I asked when I could have some water, and they told me I had to wait a little while longer.  I had a saline drip, so I knew I wouldn't dehydrate, but my mouth..."cotton mouth" is not even close.  This was like "fiberglass filling mouth."

The nurse came in and put a stack of 1-ounce dosing cups on the tray table, along with a styrofoam cup of tap water.  She told me I could have water, but nothing else.  I asked when I could have some juice or jello, and she smiled.  "You'll have that tomorrow, after you go for your upper GI."

I grumbled and sipped the water, which was not doing the trick.  I was so thirsty!  After a few sips of water, though, my stomach felt funny.  I felt super nauseous, and reached for the kidney bowl.  This concerned the nurse, and she said, "I'm going to put an anti-nausea drug into your IV."  I felt like shit.  I asked to be unhooked from my various tubes and contraptions, and wheeled my pole into the bathroom.  I lifted my gown to look at my incisions, and they were gross, but not nearly as grotesque as I'd imagined.  My belly was an off-yellow color from the antiseptic shmear,  and there were a bunch of white tape "X"s.  There were five incisions altogether, and two big bruises where they'd shot me with anti-clotting agents.  I looked a little beat up, but not like I'd been gutted.  I stared at them for a second, and then looked at my face in the mirror.

"You really did this, didn't you?"

I started to cry.

The rest of the night was kind of a blur, because I was drugged to the eyeballs.  I remember that at midnight the very un-personable nurse, James, took my water away and told me I wasn't allowed to drink anything after midnight because I had to go for my upper GI in the morning.  I remember every hour being awakened by a nurse or a nurse's aide to have my blood pressure taken, or my IV adjusted, or my temperature taken, and it was annoying because I just wanted to sleep.  And on Thursday morning I woke up more parched than ever.  They were making me pee into some kind of device in the toilet so they could monitor my urine output/color/whatever, and it was not an easy target for someone who could barely walk, let alone position herself strategically on a toilet seat.

I was totally miserable, and I couldn't wait to go home.  My sister was coming to get me later that day, and I just wanted to see her and go home to my own bed.

Around 9:00 that morning Tammy the nurse came in and told me they'd ordered the transport (haha, there's that silly word again) to take me to radiation for my GI, and as long as everything was okay with the GI and they found no leaks, I could start on clear liquids, and if everything went okay with those I could probably go home the next day.

Wait.

The next day?  I thought I was going home today!

Tammy laughed.  "You didn't really think you were going home today, did you?"

"Well...yeah.  They told me I'd be in the hospital one night."

She smiled again and told me that they usually keep people two nights unless they recover like rock stars, and I, unfortunately, was not doing so.  The nausea concerned them for a number of reasons (vomiting isn't really something you want to be doing because of the potential damage to the surgery site, dehydration, etc), and the fact that I couldn't seem to get a handle on the pain was an issue as well.

The transport came to get me and put me in a wheelchair.  To show that I was in reasonably good spirits in spite of the nausea, I held my IV pole in front of me like a steering wheel and proclaimed that I was driving this joint.  "Vvvrrrroooommm!!!" I yelled as we sailed down the hall.  "Beep-Beep!" I shouted to the nurses in the hall, pressing on my imaginary horn.  The transport thought it was hilarious (he was laughing, anyhow) and went faster and faster to humor me.  When we got to my spot in the waiting room and he backed me in, I pulled out the old "beep beep beep" shtick as well. "I've heard that a million times, but it never seems to get old," he said.

"Thanks," I told him.  "Don't forget to tip your bartender." 

The upper GI was weird.  I had to drink barium liquid, and as awful as it tasted I was so goddamn thirsty that I was actually kind of happy to drink it.  They watched the liquid go through my system, and I watched along with them. This was the first glimpse of my new digestive system, and I was a little freaked out.  I've never actually seen my own digestive system before, but I've seen plenty of diagrams and enough Pepto-Bismol commercials to know what a stomach looks like.  And mine...didn't look like that.  The barium went down my esophagus, then went kind of straight down into my small intestine.  Almost in a straight line.  Weird.

Dr. C came to see me a little later after I'd returned to my room and told me all was well with my new tummy; there were no leaks and I could proceed with the clear liquid diet.  "And as long as you do okay with that, we can probably send you home tomorrow."

Tomorrow.  Damn it.  I wanted to go home TODAY.

My disappointment was suspended for just a minute, however, as the food service guy arrived with my tray.  My first post-op meal!  Apple juice and lemon ice! 

This is the face of someone who's just spent 30 some-odd hours in a hospital and is now being given the go-ahead to have something other than water for the first time in nearly two days.  Thanks to Aunt Margaret for holding up the lemon ice.


Heavenly.

Unfortunately it didn't sit very well and I ended up curled up around my kidney bowl again, but it sure was good going down.

Later on they brought me my first "full meal" of clear liquids - chicken consommé (Really.  Not broth, consommé! Which really just tasted like instant chicken bullion, but whatever), decaf hot tea, orange jello, and apple juice.  A couple sips of the consommé (I like that word; any word where I get to exaggerate my terrible faux French accent is a good word) and a sip of tea, and my belly felt all warm and fuzzy.  Maybe this wasn't so bad after all.  I sipped at the apple juice and I felt okay.  A little queasy, but I could do this.  A little while later I decided to try a spoonful of jello.  Bad idea.  It came right back up, and I knew then it wasn't a good idea for me to go home that day.

Bad jello!  And consommé!


I conceded and lay back, accepting the fact that I'd be stuck there one more night.  Oh well.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tilting Horizons, Bariatric Humor, and Centipedes in the House

At 6:23 Wednesday morning, after a brief ride during which we discussed the finer points of my impending procedure, my aunt rolled into the parking lot of Sisters of Charity Hospital and remarked on how easy it is to find a good parking spot this time of day.  I was grateful for the short walk and looking forward to the long sleep I'd get to have once knocked out.  I hadn't gotten much sleep, and was still feeling jittery.  I was also thirsty as hell, not having been allowed to drink anything after midnight. 

I had been told that I needed to just go straight up to the surgical floor - number 5 - and not worry about stopping at admissions, but I did have to stop at security and be cleared first.  I gave the guard my name.  He looked down the list and found me, crossed off my name and called out, "good luck!" as I trotted up toward the huge entry door and made my way into the lobby. From previous experience I knew exactly where the elevators were, so I led my aunt toward them.  "This way, Aunt Margaret!  To the fifth floor!"

The elevator was already open, as if it had heard me coming.  We stepped in and my aunt pressed the button.  We didn't say much on the way up.  When we arrived at the surgery floor, there were already a few people in the waiting room and I wondered just how long I was going to have to sit there and read old magazines and stress about what I was about to undergo.  I gave the receptionist my name, my identification, and my insurance card, and thankfully after just a few minutes I was called back. My aunt came back with me and I was instructed to undress, put on a gown, and give a urine sample (which I dreaded, once again, seeing as I was seriously parched).  After a humorous fight with the gown (I mean, come on - can they really not find a better way to clothe patients in this day and age?) my aunt got me suited up and I slunk down to the restroom and managed to squeeze out enough pee to make the nurse happy.  In the meantime I made my aunt take this:

Does this gown make me look fat?


because...why not?  I have some other "before" photos that I took at home, but I wanted this one to plaster on my Facebook page; it said, "I'm here, bitches, and this is happening!"  I was satisfied.

Soon thereafter a nurse came in to tell me that a "transport" would be there shortly to take me down to OR prep, and all I could think of when she said "transport" was a flatbed truck, and I giggled at my own joke.  My aunt asked what was so funny.  "Nothing, just my own bariatric humor, " I answered.

A few minutes later the "transport" arrived in the form of a handsome young man who instructed me to lie flat on the bed.  I did as requested, and he pulled up the side bars and wheeled me out while my aunt kept up with a brisk pace behind us.  At the entrance of prep, he showed my aunt where she could wait and then wheeled me into the bright room filled with other people waiting for surgery.  We got to a "bay" and he began backing my bed up into the spot. I called out, "Beep...beep...beep!"  The Handsome Transport Guy made a kind of a low sigh, like he'd obviously heard this one before but wasn't sure how to react.  I looked over at the woman in the next bed and smiled.  She was obviously not a bariatric patient.  She was not amused.

The OR prep is a weird place.  You would think that a place where people are about to get knocked out, cut open, gutted, and sewn up is a little more serious, but this place was kind of a madhouse.  People running this way and that, drinking coffee, greeting each other cheerily, laughing, making jokes.  The next forty-five minutes were a strange blur of nurses, nurses' aides, anesthesiologists, doctors, and more nurses.  I was stuck with an IV port, had blood drawn, and was asked a whole bunch of questions that I'd already been asked.  The thing that struck me as odd, however, was that no one ever put me on a scale that morning.  The anesthesiologist, a jovial guy named Paul who, when I said, "Hi," answered, "Not yet, but you will be in a minute!" asked me, "what is your current height and weight?"  That's when it occurred to me that no one had weighed me there.  Luckily I'd weighed myself that morning so I told him what my scale at home had said.

Out of nowhere it felt like everyone had disappeared all at once except for the woman in the bed next to mine and a guy across the room.  The guy was by himself, but the woman next to me had her medical team there.  Then suddenly I saw a black blob scuttle out from under her bed and into the middle of the room.  Since I didn't have my glasses on I couldn't see what it was, but I knew it was something alive.  I watched it as it ran to the other side of the room and under an instrument tray or something (I can't see very well sans specs) and waited to see if anyone else had noticed.   Apparently they hadn't.  I waited to see if it would reappear.

I was loopy tired, I knew that, but I wasn't on painkillers or anesthesia yet, so I knew I wasn't hallucinating.  At least I hoped I wasn't.  Although...a monstrous insect in the surgery prep room in the hospital isn't exactly something you WANT to be real.  I watched it scoot back out toward the middle of the room, and this time the guy across from me saw it, too.  I pointed at it, and nurses and doctors and aides just kept scurrying back and forth not noticing it, and somehow it managed to dodge all those Danskos racing around it.  Finally a surgeon noticed it and stopped.

"Hey, look!" he said, pointing down at the floor.  A nurse came over and looked at it and said, "Ew! What is it?"  The surgeon said, "some kind of centipede.  It has a lot of legs."  And with that, he walked away.  The guy across from me and I looked at each other with a kind of mutually incredulous expression, and I thought, "you're a surgeon.  Surely you dissected one or more of these things back in the day, no?"  The bug stayed put while more people walked around it, pointed, and said, "ew!"  And yet no one seemed all that keen on actually getting rid of the fucking thing.  Finally I spoke up.  "Um...is anyone going to, you know...kill it?  Because...hey, I love all living things but this is a hospital, and well...you know."  It was a wishy-washy approach, but I was tired and I just wanted to get in that OR and get out and not have nightmares about big black centipedes getting sewn up in my belly.  I thought it was a reasonable request.

Finally a nurse said, "Oh, I'll take care of it.  Let me get a tissue."  She went over to the desk, grabbed a tissue, came back, and stepped on the bug with an audible "squitch."  Gross.  Then when she lifted her foot to wipe the bug's guts off the floor, they were stuck to her shoe instead, and she had to remove her clog and bang it on the floor to remove the remains.

I shuddered, but didn't have long to be grossed out because a few seconds later my surgeon approached me in his suit and tie with my surgical team trotting along behind him.  Dr. Caruana took my hand in his and held it tightly.  "How are you doing?" he asked.  I told him I felt good and was looking forward to getting started.  He asked how I'd done on the Liver Reduction Diet and I told him I'd done well, and he smiled.  "That's wonderful; I'm always happy to hear that.  I'm going to get changed, and in just a few minutes, I'll meet you in there, okay?"  I felt tears spring up into my eyes and I nodded.  Paul the jolly anesthesiologist rubbed my foot, and Dr. C said, "You're going to be just fine, Deanna.  Just fine."  Even still, I felt very small and alone at that moment.

The brakes were kicked out from my gurney's wheels and I was taken into a cold, bright room.  I couldn't believe how cold it was in there.  I started shivering immediately and then a couple pairs of hands moved me from my gurney to a table and adjusted me.  I was instructed to place my arms out to the side, and then covered with several warm blankets.  At this point a clear plastic mask was placed on my face, and the nurse said, "just breathe.  This is just oxygen.  Just breathe."  I breathed in the oxygen and imagined that this was the part where the horizon tilted.  Everything was at a 45-degree angle, and the ground got further and further away until I heard the familiar "ka-thunk" of the wheels being retracted into the belly of the plane.  I watched as faces whizzed past me, as voices called out various commands, felt the pressure of the warmed, heavy blankets on top of me, and then...

..."Deanna?  Ms. Clohessy?  You're finished! You're in recovery now.  Your surgery is all done.  Wake up, Deanna!"

And just like that.  It was over.










Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Time to Go

(The next few entries are back-dated because I had only time and means to write them in my head and am now putting them down here).

It's the morning of my surgery, and I'm having a mild serious panic attack.  Freaking out.  My aunt just called to tell me she will be here in half an hour to pick me up.  But I haven't finished my laundry.  My kitchen floor is filthy.  My house is not nearly in order.  My sister demanded last night that I give up trying to finish the bullshit tasks and just relax. "Get some sleep," she said.  "You want to be rested for this."  And so I tried.

But I didn't.  I tossed and turned, keeping one eye on the clock.  How many more hours?  Maybe I should get up and do some more laundry.  Shit.  The tub is dirty, too.  All kinds of thoughts raced through my head quicker than the protein shakes had been running through my body.  Absolute craziness, and still a nagging feeling that this wasn't at all real, that it wasn't actually going to happen, that I would get to the hospital and they'd tell me there had been an error and I wasn't having the surgery after all.  But this is ridiculous.  Of course it's happening. 

My bag is packed with a pair of comfortable pajamas, my toothbrush, and a robe.  My pillow, which I am told is a necessity to relieve pain on the ride home, is tucked neatly inside the loop of my bag's handle.  I'm showered, dressed in the trusty black cotton skirt, a loose-fitting t-shirt, and a hoodie.


I say goodbye to my cats and my rats, promise them I'll be home tomorrow, and walk out the front door, locking it behind me.  I stand on the porch with my little polka-dot overnight bag and watch my breath curl into the early morning air. Within two minutes the headlights of my aunt's car appear at the top of my street and my heart leaps up into my throat.

It's time.

I'm ready.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Liquid Diaries: One Week (and Several Pounds) Down

Okay, so today marks one week since I started the pre-op liquid diet.

I am proud to say that I have followed the diet to the letter.  It hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been terribly difficult either.  I guess I just put it in my head right from the start that this is how it is and I just have to deal with it.  I went to two events yesterday where there were several food trucks, and while the smell was pleasant, I wasn't writhing in temptation.  I breathed in the aroma and enjoyed it as I could.

I also had more weird dreams last night, this time dreaming that I was presented with a delicious hot dog with a bag of kettle chips and a 189-ounce (seriously, that's what it said on the cup) fountain Pepsi.  I said "no thank you," and continued on, but then out of nowhere this bowl of chocolates appeared and I mindlessly unwrapped one and ate it before realizing I had made a mistake.  I ran to the bathroom and forced myself to throw it up, and when I did, all sorts of things emerged from my stomach - not just food (and lots of it), but other random objects like tires and pencils and credit cards and silverware and a bright red wig.  At one point I pulled an appliance blanket out of my mouth, like the magicians do with brightly colored handkerchiefs. It was so bizarre, yet nothing actually hurt coming up.  There is a lot of symbolism there, and it makes a ton of sense knowing what I know about my past, and it doesn't take a genius in psychology to know that it's a representation of purging my deepest issues surrounding food and my weight.  I could (and perhaps will someday) write a book about that.

But I digress. The worst part, really, is not being deprived of food, but rather learning how to deal with my body's reaction to the process (see post about Tylenol and baby wipes).  But even that has become a little more bearable as I've become more tuned in to my body's signals and have come to know what to expect.

And I make sure I know exactly where the restroom as soon as I enter any establishment, in the event I have to make a mad dash for it at any time during my visit.

Despite my initial excitement, I haven't done the veggies in my broth, only because I've been too preoccupied with other things to go to the grocery store (and I suppose I'm subconsciously avoiding it), but I've still survived.  And after seven days of protein shakes, water, broth, gelatin, sugar-free sports drinks, and unsweetened iced tea, I not only feel fine, I also feel a little lighter.

ELEVEN POUNDS lighter.

Holy shit.  I had to step on the scale three times this morning to believe it, but there it was in all its blue LED glory.

In the grand scheme of things it's a mere drop in the bucket, but every journey, no matter how long, begins with a single step.  And remember the flight analogy from last weekend? I like to think this first 11 pounds as that moment between taxi and takeoff, just as the plane begins to gain momentum on the runway.  You hear the change in the engines' roar and feel the familiar shudder and you know -- in just a short time you'll be in the sky.   There's still that moment of uncertainty, that little shred of doubt that won't let you believe you're really flying until you look out the window and see the ground far below you, but you're in motion.

And that's always a good way to start. :-)





Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why I Love My Sister

Because she sends me crazy shit like this:



My "Lucky Duck" - to bring me luck and happy thoughts as I recover from my surgery.   The only thing is, it makes me laugh so hard that I won't be able to look at it after surgery, lest I blow a staple!

I love that girl.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Liquid Diaries: The Joys of Espresso

Since finding out I'm allowed to have a little coffee in my life during this phase, I've opted three days in a row to throw a shot of espresso in my cappuccino-flavored protein shake.  And OMG.  What a difference.  I've never been a fan of Frappuccinos, but being able to drink something that resembles one for breakfast while I'm on a strict liquid diet is pretty okay in my book. 

Now if they could make these things in sausage-egg-and-cheese flavor, I'd be all set. 

 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Liquid Diaries: Day Three and My Next Piece of Advice

This morning I had my final step in the process - the pre-op nutrition and exercise class followed by a final consult with the surgeon (or rather with his PA).  Yesterday I saw Dr. H (my primary) for a medical clearance exam, and as long as he did that correctly and everything gets faxed properly, I have nothing further to do except drink my protein shakes and wait for next Wednesday.  Well, I still have to clean my house and make sure I get all my bills up to date and whatnot, but you know what I mean.

I found out today that it's okay for me to have one cup of coffee a day.  Hallelujah!! It needs to be small and should preferably be decaf, but whatever.  I'll compromise and drink half-caf.  And if that weren't enough to completely make my day, I also found out that they've changed the pre-op diet to include a half-cup of non-starchy vegetables, which means I can chop up some celery or peppers or scallions into my chicken broth.  Holy joy of joys!  I never thought I'd be so happy to eat vegetables in my life.

The PA told me that it's always roughest in the beginning, and that I can expect to feel better with each day going forward.  I already feel better today, but that might have something to do with hearing I can have coffee and vegetables.

So anyway...I promised advice, right?  Well.  Here it is:

Tylenol and baby wipes. 

Yes.  Tylenol and baby wipes. Do NOT attempt to live any part of your life whatsoever without these two things in close reach. Do NOT leave home without either one while you are preparing for weight loss surgery.  DO have them at home. Lots of them.  Like, go to BJ's and get the biggest fucking package of each that you possibly can, and do not think for one second that you've bought too much.

I guess I sort of expected that the liquid diet might mess with me a little. I figured I'd be a little cranky and tired, and maybe have a little headache, that I'd certainly prone to pangs of hunger, and naturally I expected to be peeing every 20 minutes.  I figured maybe I'd have a little gas from the protein powder and artificial sweeteners, maybe a little diarrhea, whatevs.  Like I said, I've done fasts and cleanses before; surely this couldn't be THAT much different.

Well.

First of all, you can't take aspirin or Ibuprofen when you're preparing for surgery, and in fact I will never be able to take Ibuprofen regularly - if ever - again.  So that big-ass bottle of Motrin 800s that's been a staple in my bag for many months is no longer useful.  Ditto for the Excedrin that I keep around for migraines. All garbage.  So when the blinding detox headache came on, I was S.O.L.  I had nothing to take for it, and I was too sick to go out and get some.  Screwed. 

Secondly, the baby wipes - do you really need detail?  Look, we're all adults here, right?  The hard truth is that you're going to shit out half your intestines, and I'm not even kidding.  And just when you think you're done, the other half will appear - usually at the most inopportune time, like while standing in line at the bank. So just trust me on this one.  In fact I'm a little bummed (no pun intended) that none of my mentors doled out this precious piece of advice among all the other profoundly useful tips and hints they've heretofore administered.  Everyone told me about after surgery, but no one warned me about the pre-op bathroom hilarity that would ensue. You can get all fancy and grown-up with your "fresh wipes" and whatnot, but why?  At the rate you'll go through them, you'll go broke before you're done.  And toilet paper?  One word: ouch.  Even the Charmin bears would be grimacing at this point. 

Maybe it's just me, but I kind of doubt that. 

Tylenol and baby wipes.  Who knew?







Monday, April 1, 2013

The Liquid Diaries: Day Two

This isn't as hard as I thought it would be.  I'm not dead yet. It's also not nearly as easy as I'd hoped.  I'm only two days in and already I wonder how the hell I'm going to do this for eight more days.  I can barely function!

I did a juice fast for 21 days once, but even then I was able to sneak in a banana or a Raw Bar here and there.  This time I can't do that.  And the milk...good god, the milk.  I'm not used to drinking this much milk, and whether it's the milk itself or the protein powder, my stomach is not particularly thrilled.  I normally drink almond milk (soy is yummy but I still prefer almond) but am told it won't provide enough protein to meet the daily requirement on this diet.  And I've discovered that chicken broth, while a tasty and savory bright spot in my day, causes my system to issue forth a hearty "FUCK YOU" in terms of digestive reaction.

I'm still getting used to the fact that I can't eat anything.  This morning at work I found myself stopping short of snatching a pastry sample off the counter - something I'd so mindlessly do any other day.  People were ordering breakfast sandwiches left and right, and as they'd get brought to me I would literally feel my mouth watering as the smell wafted up.  Normally this smell makes me gag most days because I smell it constantly and it gets gross after awhile, but today I was like, "mmm....saaaauuuusage...."

By 4:30 this afternoon my headache was so unbearable I couldn't take it anymore, and I came home and crawled into bed.  I stayed there for six hours.  This does not bode well for getting stuff done.

I hope I get used to this.