Thursday, December 30, 2004

Four months: Drum roll pleeeeze!

One milestone down -- One (at a time) to go.

I'm back from my doctor's appointment marking my four months post-op visit. I had my doubts on my New Year's goal, but I have indeed made it. I weigh less than 300 pounds -- 297 pounds to be exact. I have dropped 46 pounds since August of this year and I'm more than 50 pounds lighter than my highest weight reached of 350 pounds.

I'm far from finished and far from the picture of health. Many bariatrics patients I've met have started weighing less than my weight now, but I choose to take the challenges and victories in convenient, bite-size portions (go figure, huh?).

"Reinventing Fran" is a group project and I dare not take credit for this first victory alone. My family, friends and blog readers have been supportive and caring. Many of your calls and emails have kept me off the virtual (very real) ledge time and time again.

If I had been told I would have developed such a close relationship with my doctor's staff and the weight loss support group, I would not have believed it, but is so incredibly true. I've never felt alone in this battle thanks to M.I.S.I., NooMee and 1stCo.

Here are two unsung heroes: Kristi and Genie are two individuals with a thousands things to do in a short period of time and their smiles never take a day off. Most amazingly, the words, "I'm sorry, but I don't have time to...." are simply not in their vocabulary.

I'm a big fan of Super Doc ("Supahdoc") and I think my nickname may someday stick. I have, however, nothing but the highest respect for Dr. Karl Leblanc.

Today's visit was a big evaluation time for us. I'm never "thrilled" by my progress because I still have the thought that maybe I'm not doing enough. Dr. Leblanc was like a proud papa and assured me that the expected weight loss post lap band is about 2-4 pounds a month. I'm averaging 11 pounds a month and I know in my heart's of hearts he's right.

I guess the hardest part of my expectations involves the fact that gastric bypass patients lose weight so much faster. The lap band procedure has helped me limit portions and stomach volume, but I don't suffer food intolerances. Many of the gastric bypass patients you have of heard experience "dumping" if they consume certain foods like desserts and things with a high sugar content. I, on the other hand, baked a chocolate/German chocolate cake Christmas morning. I ate some, but the biggest challenge was keeping those little 2-year-old paw prints out of it.

My health stats are improving: A BMI of 59 has dropped to 48. My percent body fat has dropped to 49 percent which goes a long way to making my body a better, "less oiled" machine. I feel better and that's a great plus for me right now.

Food preparation has become lots of fun thanks to our friends at Louisiana Culinary Institute. I got a kick out of telling my mom that my toddler was in her high chair enjoying herb-crusted baked chicken breast, rice and a salad. My husband is all for the fresh, raw or crispy sauteed vegetables and fresh herbs. I'm eyeing a spot in my yard for an herb garden. Anyone with experience with raised-bed gardening, please send me a comment.

Thanks, again, to those of you who read the blog and encouraged me for the last four months. My next milestone comes on February 14 -- Valentine's Day. My new goals don't involve the scale as much as it does the other stats. I would like to achieve a body fat percentage of less than 45 percent. I guess it's time to burn some rubber!!!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Holidays can help unwrap healthy meal choices

Editor's note: the following is a free-lance Christmas feature that appeared on a local news Web site.

By Frances Y. Spencer

"Merry Christmas" has long been associated with "what are we eating next?" Holiday parties and meals while fun, can easily throw merry-makers off course in their efforts to curb weight gain. Local bariatric surgeon Dr. Karl Leblanc points to reasons why the tree isn't the only thing in desperate need of trimming.

Click here for profile

Obesity, Leblanc said is an epidemic in the United States. It is defined as a disease because of "the long term effects of the problem such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, increased cholesterol and triglycerides. Also the fact that there is a significant increase in death rates in the morbidly obese," he said.

The holidays are as good as time as any to focus on healthy eating choices because anyone wanting to succeed in weight loss must commit to a change in lifestyle -- not occasional fasts and gimmicks. Leblanc's Minimal Invasive Surgery Institute aids patients by providing surgical intervention to initiate weight loss, but no matter where one starts the process, it comes back to lifestyle and healthy food choices.

"Overweight individuals typically do not have the sensation of satiety (fullness with meals). Consequently, most will eat until there is nothing left on the plate or when they are stuffed," Leblanc said. "Some of this is learned behavior from when parents tell the child to 'eat all your food', remember the starving people that would love to have this ... One must limit the amount of food intake and alter the types of food, such as low fat and high carbohydrates."

Click here for profile
Good food, however, isn't the Grinch that stole the holiday fun and a local chef and nutritionist is ready to step in with tips that can keep one merry and munching through the yuletide season. Chef Edward Rhinehart said planning and choice is a big part of healthier holiday meals.

"Replace key things," Rhinehart said, such as using extra virgin olive oil instead of the fattier butters for cooking and sauteing.

Rhinehart, an executive chef and instructor at the Louisiana Culinary Institute, identifies a direct link between convenience and unhealthy holiday choices. Individuals watching their weight during the holidays should be wary of over-processed, pre-packaged and canned items. Single-processed oils and fats are healthier and fresh fruits and vegetables will help one avoid added salt and chemicals, he said.

The young chef can rattle off a long list of healthy tips for the holidays and they include:

  • Early eating is better -- The body will process food better earlier as opposed to late at night.
  • Reach for coniferous vegetables -- like broccoli -- and don't over cook them.
  • Raw is better -- Keep parties stocked with raw veggie trays and don't shy away from putting 'live foods' on your dinner menu.
  • Use more crackers and less bread.
  • Alcohol makes it worse -- Even if you have achieved food moderation, don't forget to limit alcohol intake. Red is the healthier wine choice.

Leblanc echoed that the holidays are difficult for many because it's traditionally linked to lots of unhealthy practices. "... the holidays are the very worst. People are not really concerned about this at this time. As we know, most gain a few pounds around this time because of all the sweets and all the alcohol that is consumed. This is a very difficult time for anyone to diet unless they are unusually strong with their diet."

Weight-loss surgery patients may have the same holiday temptations as the general public, but Leblanc doesn't see a lot of weight gain among his patients. "Most are afraid of gaining weight, unless they are prone to cheat," he said.

What may help anyone trying to lose weight is a favorite-foods transformation. Rhinehart performs his own version of Extreme Makeover in his suggestion to make holiday meals healthier. A Festive Veggie Saute involves julianne green beans and other vegetables sauteed in butter and wine. He urged that the butter be replaced with extra virgin olive oil and a butter substitute spray could be added at the end of preparation if a buttery taste is desired.

Pre-cut green beans can be purchased canned or frozen, but Rhinehart notes that fresh, blanched beans will have a more vibrant color with no preservatives or added salt and "you know where it's been." Finally, he suggests that the vegetables be lightly sauteed so that the crispiness and nutrients are maintained.

Moving to main courses and meats, Rhinehart leans toward low fat/low carbohydrate dishes such as his Boston Pork Cup. While it might seem untraditional, what he called "local protein" offers a great alternative for holiday feasting. Meals containing crawfish, tuna, crabmeat and shrimp are lean, high protein options. His one warning, "keep it swimming in water, not in oil!"

Lemons, limes and herbs provide great flavor alternatives, but do not add fat or carbohydrates to the dishes.

On the Internet:

Healthy Holiday Recipes

These are from the article above.

The following recipes come highly suggested for festive feasting with no guilty after taste:

Festive Veggie Saute

4 cups of blanched green beans (french cut or whole)
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 large purple onion
2 cups of string-cut carrots
Extra virgin olive oil
Seasoned to taste

Preparation: If the green beans are fresh, they will take more time to cook and require a separate pan (or separate cooking times) to keep everything crispy and not overcooked. Cover bottom of large saute pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add green beans when oil is hot. Add parsley or fresh herbs of choice. Saute over medium heat until beans are "just" cooked and still crispy.

Cut peppers and onion in long strips, not rings. This will keep the vibrant colors from segregating themselves. Saute peppers, onion and carrot strings in olive oil until they are "just" cooked and still colorful and crispy.

Mixed all vegetables and stir well and add salt, pepper or seasoning of choice.

Place hot Festive Saute in clear glass bowl so the colors can be the highlight of your holiday table.

Garlic and Rosemary Roasted Chicken

Portions: 8

One 2 1/2 pound fryer, halved
Parsley, minced – ½ Tbl
Chef blend – 2 Tbl
Garlic, minced – 18 cloves
Rosemary, chopped, fresh – 0.5 oz

Mise en place:
Preheat oven to 275 F.
Chop fine fresh Rosemary.
Cut fryer in half French and de-bone separate breast and thigh.
Sprinkle with salt, ground pepper, garlic, and rosemary.
Bake breast and thigh separately until almost done.
Remove from oven and let cool ( 15 min. ) place in cooler.
Mince parsley and garlic.

Top with chefs blend and light rosemary.
Place chicken in pan and bake at 400 F for 15 min. 165 F.

Place chicken on plate and cover with sauce.
Place fried rosemary in bowl.
Garnish with chopped parsley and Rosemary.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Portions: 5

Anchovy fillets (optional) – 5 ea
Garlic, crushed – 1 tsp
Egg, beaten – 1 ea
Lemon juice – 1 ½ oz
Extra virgin olive oil – ½ cup
Salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground – to taste

1. In large bowl, mash anchovies and garlic together to form paste.
2. Beat in egg and lemon juice until smooth.
3. Beating constantly with wire whip, slowly add oil.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Place in cooler until needed.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fructose Sugar – 1 cup
Root Beer (diet) – ½ cup
Balsamic vinegar – ½ cup
Salad oil – 2 cups
Orange juice – 1 cup
Sugar free maple syrup – 1cup

Mise en place:
Sauce pan
Medium mixing bowl

Combine fructose sugar, root beer vinegar and S.F. maple syrup in sauce pan.
Cook until all the ingredients are mixed well, but before crystals form.
Let cool to room temperature.
Mix in orange juice and oil slowly whisk until temporarily emulsified.
Label and refrigerate.

Drizzle on salad accordingly.

Boston Pork Cup

1/2 cup sweetened shredded dry coconut
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger (grated)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pound pulled lean pork
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh peppers
2 small heads (about 1-1/2 pounds each) butter lettuce, rinsed and crisped
Add 2 Tablespoons of fresh herbs for a great change
To taste salt free seasoning of your choice

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, stir coconut over medium-low heat until golden and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add oil to pan and place over medium heat. Add shallots, ginger, and garlic; stir often until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add pork; stir until meat is crumbly and no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Spoon off and discard fat. Add lime juice, chopped mint, peanuts, coconut, chiles, and fish sauce to taste; mix to blend.
Pour into a dish and garnish with mint sprigs. Accompany with lettuce leaves. To eat, spoon warm meat mixture onto a leaf, then roll to enclose.

Yield: 8 to 10 appetizer or 4 or 5 entree servings.

Per Serving: 224 calories, 11 grams protein, 7.7 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fat, 31 milligrams cholesterol, 32 milligrams sodium

Thursday, December 09, 2004

We Have Achieved Movement!

I know that regular exercise is a big part of a successful weight-loss program, but I haven't been pain-free enough to take the plunge into any type of exercise. I still have some pulls and pangs, but I decided that today was the day that Cecilia and I would hit the streets. (Ok, I said I would take the dog too...Hmm, change in plans)

Another change in plans was that I didn't carry hand weights with me. I decided to put Cecilia (almost 35 pounds) in her wagon made for two (almost as heavy) and pull them both through our subdivision.

Yup, the blood has official been pumped!

We walked back to our old apartment down the road and then took the walking tour of our new neighborhood. Both Cecilia and I were sporting blue jean shorts. (This is Louisiana at Christmas time....don't you all have shorts on?)

After a thorough workout for mommy horse, we returned for a healthy shared snack. We combined our personal favorites and had a platter of apples, cheese and triscuits. My little angel loves apples and luckily I already loved cheese as a primary protein source.

We toasted our efforts with a sippy cup and a mug of cold water.

I don't know how miles I charted, but I'm sure it's baby steps in the right direction.

If you have any exercise suggestions, leave me a comment or drop me a line.

Monday, December 06, 2004

15 Weeks and I'm not looking....

You see, I'm just that secure.


Well, maybe it's true. I've told several people I'm within a handful of pounds away from my year end's goal of being under 300 pounds. I've decided not to post another weight until Dec. 30 -- just so happens, I have a doctor's appointment that day.

I think I'm extremely close to the 40th pound lost. I'm not to the point where my clothes fall off of me and I'm still a very overweight woman. I'm actually not too depressed about it and I have to keep having this talk with myself: No rush, slow is good, being healthy is key, no yo-yo dieting, enjoy yourself. Of course, I wish I had a magic mirror that could show me what I would look like 150 pounds lighter.

I haven't written a "State of the Body" address in a while, so I guess it would be good to catch you all up with me.

Frances is never common, so I don't expect my results to be common. I think I'm hitting in the middle. My good friend, a medical professional, is doing much better and has incorporated an exercise plan.

I have not exercised one bit. I'm looking forward to it, but I started having problems with the hernia 6 weeks into the process. My tummy looks like the browning map of a battle field: "See here, that's the six holes from surgery one and that big zipper is the c-section sitting atop the umbilical hernia."

When I go to the doctor, I feel like a docent at the Smithsonian: "Now, let's all walk over to the Lap Band port...walk swiftly...right next to the huge bruise on the left (ya know, George Washington once slept there!)"

But my war injuries are healing and I'm giving serious thought to "what" I will do when I can get out and test the waters. It's probably going to be walking and some light work with weights, but that could be fun for me and my little one and her "growing" monster puppy.

I'm also looking forward to more progress after I incorporate more exercise.

Other updates, let's see. I still have some aches and pains. If any other bariatric surgery patients are tuned in, how do you deal with sitting for long periods of time and do you feel more uncomfortable in the tummy after long sits? If you have comments, check the "comments" link at the bottom of each post and send me your 2 cents.

What am I eating? Well, my family isn't ready to satisfy a lot of separate dietary needs and wants after moving into MoneyPitt 2004 a month ago. We are a mommy recovering from two surgeries and trying to lose weight, a daddy who sometimes gets into nervous eating and a 2-year-old Mac-N-Cheese addict. I eat what they eat minus a lot of carbs and I seldomly eat bread. I'm eating small amounts of rice and potatoes and when I need to wrap a sandwich in something, I have low-carb wraps and tortillas instead of bread. I'm sure when we recover in 2005 and stop eating the house, I will re-incorporate high protein supplements and other aids. Until then, lots of chicken, tuna, tilapia and cheese. Don't feel sorry for me, though, I've always eaten lots of chicken and cheese and fish was always more of a luxury, so it's all good. I'm not suffering about missing my favorite foods, I'm just concentrating on moderation.

I had a long period where I stopped taking my meds: No blood pressure or diabetes meds, no vitamins (nope, nothing, but painkillers!). I think the stress of the move helped raise my BP back into medicine-needing levels, but the lack of vitamins was just stupid on my part. Well, my falling hair and monumental muscle cramps are helping to remind me how important vitamins are. I did say I was learning, right? Well, I can be a bone-headed student at times.

I would love to hear from you all, especially by family, friends and other bariatric surgery pateints. The "comment" link at the bottom of this post is open to everyone.

Until next time, thanks for reading and thank you for your support.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I Did Take My Vitamins Today

I know it seems like a small thing, but I'm back to basics. I started training for a new part-time job, handled some business projects from home and found my vitamins.

I'm looking for the answers to all life's difficult questions and I keep forgetting that mismanaging this surgery isn't a good thing.

There's always something.

In my "gig of the week" I'll be teaching in an after school program for middle school students. Tonight, the lessons plans are calling.

Please note: Leave me a message, a comment or question by clicking on the little balloon or the "comment" link right under this post. I would love to hear from you!

Trying to get back on target

The NooMee meeting so sooo wonderful. It was festive and emotional at the same time. I've been reminded how blessed I am and inspired to get back into the swing of things.

I had an opportunity to talk to two women who have had the Lap Band surgery and they were incredibly encouraging. My good friend has lost 45 pounds in about the same amount of time and a new friend has lost almost 100 pounds in a year and a half. Gives me new hope that my 36 pounds is on the right path.

I haven't taken my vitamins in weeks and my falling hair is showing it. I didn't think I was losing enough weight to worry about vitamin deficiency. I guess I was wrong. I'm going to go on a search for vitamins and come back later and write some more.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

14 Weeks and 36 Drops in the Bucket

Hey everyone, it's official: I'm back and there's less of me to report about. I really have a lot to catch up on in the last month to month and a half. I know I can't cover all the details in one post, so I won't try.

Since my last post: My daughter turned 2, we adopted a puppy, I turned "older" (10/22), my wonderfully, supportive mother suffered a stroke, I quit my part time job in New Orleans (that I loved), We moved into our new house (lovingly called the 'money pit') and I had a second surgery. Wheez! Yup, that's it and for Thanksgiving, I was thankful for LORTAB!

No, not really.

I was thankful for a number of things. I'm very blessed and I know my life is seldomly 'dull,' if nothing else.

While in Super Doc's office today checking on a few pains, I got a weigh-in that really lifted my spirits. I didn't expect much after Thanksgiving, even though I didn't "go crazy" on turkey and dressing. I just haven't have the mental or physical energy to try very hard. I'm just in survival mode.

Well, I've lost a total of 36 pounds in the last 14 weeks and I realized I was 7 pounds away from a big (huge, sizable, hefty, massive -- meaningful) goal of mine to be under 300 pounds.

That's where the drops in the buckets come in. It's hard not to compare success rates, but everyone wants to be at the end of the process, not chipping away at the first mountain peak. It's embarassing in many ways, but inspiring in others, to say I would like to start 2005 weighing 200 and 'something.'

I choose the slower procedure and the MISI staff has been wonderful about telling me that I'm right on schedule or doing very well. Truthfully, I don't want the surgery that the gastric bypass patients had, but I do want their results I guess.

"Hello, my name is Fran...I had to shorten it when I lost 100 pounds and 30 dress sizes in the last 3 months..."

Yes, I am silly, but I want to hold up the "massively too big dress" now being used as the tent headquarters for the 5th Mechanical Division enroute to Iraq.

In all seriousness, I'm thankful for the 36 pounds and the village of support that has gotten me to this point -- Family, friends, MISI, NooMee, Vista and you wonderful folks who care enough to read and keep up with "BandAid: The ramblings of a crazy fat chick."

Please check back because we have a lot to discuss: food, career, stress, my hernia repair and my plans to kick this weight loss into high(er) gear. I have pictures to post and lots of experiences.

Tomorrow is the NooMee Christmas party: What ever will I wear?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Six Weeks: Pain, Progress and Pushing

I spent a good part of today in pain at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and later in my doctor's office at MISI. I learned a lot about myself, medical professionals and pain.

Ignorance was bliss.

I started getting sick last night on the way back from from working in New Orleans. I never felt it was a complication of the Lap Band. I thought is was a gallbladder attack. It did seem like gallbladder problems, but I was wrong.

The Lord sent some wonderful people my way. They didn't do what they were paid to do, but what I truly feel what they are called to do. It started with a Dr. John Whitaker who was on call at night and had patience with my pain-induced babbling. My former victim (see cheesy apology) Scott Rogers came through early with a prayer and comforting words while I wondered how sick I was becoming. Kristi and Genie work for MISI and I'm not sure what their job descriptions are -- I just choose to call them lifesavers and angels of mercy. Genie kept working until she secured the earliest possible ultrasound to look at the questionable gallbladder. A really sweet lady in radiology worked hard to get the paperwork processed and even kept walking back and forth to the waiting room because she could tell I was in extreme pain. A dude named Kelley at OLOL had me seen and shot before the end of the lunch hour and ruled out the wrongly accused gallbladder.

Dr. Leblanc was in surgery and his surgery nurse Shari and Genie made me "home-like" comfy while I waited. I could have taken a rare Frances nap if I wasn't hurting and scared by the pain.

Of course there was also hubby Scott, once again driving Miss Crazy, keeping Miss Crazy focused and helping her get up and down and up and down.

Why mention these people by name, one-by-one. Well, I guess because it takes a village in this process. If you think it's about one person with a strong desire to preservere you are only partially right. You must learn to trust on the fly because strangers must become trusted allies in moments -- sometimes it takes a village to survive. If I face one cold brick wall along the way, it could be enough to keep me alone, suffering in silence and not progressing.

From pain come progress.

Although gallbladder attacks are common after rapid weight loss, I have a lot of gall and its bladder is functioning fine. It only took Super Doc (my new name for Karl Leblanc) to locate the pesky perpitrator: The hernia.

A couple of months ago I remarked how cool it was for me to have a bariatric surgeon who was also a world-renowned hernia repair specialist. I had no idea just what a blessing that combination would prove to be.

I don't know the medical description of what happened, but with a "poop" something out of place was popped back into place and even though it was an instance of pain, I started feeling much better shortly afterwards.

Unfortunately, the surgery we hoped would wait until my weight loss process was over can't wait. I don't avoid pain, but I do reverence it a little and when Super Doc said it would hurt more than the Lap Band surgery, my blood did run a little cold. It's not the worst pain in the world and it's not the worst pain I've ever experience, but as a point of reference goes, the six-week-old pain still rings fresh.

Warning to the staff of Vista Surgical Hospital: SHE'S COMING BAAAAACK! There's a strange solace there because it's small and personal -- like I'm going home.

Dr. LeBlanc will perform my surgery after returning from Europe to address medical gatherings on innovations in hernia repair (Looking for links). I consider myself to be, well, blessed. You see, luck is a tool of those who would prefer to trust chance over Divine Destiny. (Hmmm...a that's another column)

So, I'll prepare for surgery next month. I will use the time between now and then to finish my house, move out, move in, plan work projects and, hopefully, lose another 20 pounds. The latter is my personal goal in hopes that the surgery will be easier with less of me to fit back into the repaired hernia. Less pain is better than any other alternative save no pain.

At six weeks, I've lost about 26 pounds. If I can lose 20 pounds, my next surgery weight will be under 300 pounds. It' something to shoot for, but to make it happen I need to start exercising. I left the doctor's office and after a quick appearance at the building inspector's office and I used the remaining sunlight hours to finish painting my baby's room.


Friday, October 01, 2004

I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT: And There's Cheese All Over It

Subhead: I only write about men named Scott

I'm sitting here pondering a cheesy apology that's sorta sweet, but very sincere, while eating a cheesy snack that's both cheesy, cheap and good for me.

There's a beautiful soul out there whose spirit, like my Triscuit, has been smeared with cheese. I had no idea how blessed I was going to be when God sent Scott Rogers my way. He's funny and so over the top that his shoes have no scuff marks. Scott is a motivational speaker and he leads the NooMee support group meetings in which I have recently become a part. My sin is now clear: I said Scott led a fun, "cheesy" event and then remarked how much I enjoyed it.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I plead temporary inAmericanity. Forgive us, Scott, for we are Americans and know not what we do when we throw around cheesy adjectives like sharp Cheddar sprinkled on our nachoes. We like cheese and after life knocks us around all day long, a little cheesy humor and fun environments may be just what the doctor ordered.

I recently discovered that I may have been insulting. Scott motivated my Scott and caught his attention by creating an environment at NooMee that was so casual the healthy truth was not dull and preachy -- that's not easy. Scott motivated me to be human enough to give support a try -- that's a miracle. I expected sugar-free syrup: all the stickiness with none of the of the sweet rewards. I was so wrong. (If you're keeping count, I'm been wrong so many times through this experience I'm starting to question my genius status.)

In Scott the movitator, we find a heart strong enough to reach out a hand, but so human that he also lends a tear. God eases human suffering everyday, but His hands are tied. Instead, he uses people like Scott. But Scott's not unique, he's available. God doesn't use the rare, He uses the available.

I said I wrote this while pondering cheesy and eating cheese. I'm finding cheese to be utterly amazing and diverse. Some cheeses make delicate desserts while others form meaty entrees. Cheese can be described as sharp, mild, creamy and stinky. It may be the diverse nature of cheese that makes "cheesy" something totally different -- good or bad -- to different people. Maybe I'm just smoking Brie.

Strangely enough, I've been eating triscuits and cheese through this internal discussion. Well, I'm talking and eating cheese with (my) Scott. Spray cheese has become emergency protein rescue. At 8 grams of protein per serving, I carry it in my purse like medicine. Ya never know when you might find yourself trapped on the bridge over Lake Ponchatrain with nothing to ease the shakes but a can of spray cheese. Oh, sorry, that's right, this is just me.

Tonight, in the strange world of Frances, thanks is being given for God's special blessings: Two Scotts, wonderful support and cheese.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Big Challenges Make Big Trophies

First, I don't get hunting, but like playing poker, I see some inspiring similarities with my weight-loss goals.

Hunters not only like to kill things, but they love to showcase the spoils of the hunt. Whether it be a giant stag above the bar or a huge bear skin sprawled across the floor, there's such great satisfaction in saying "It nearly killed me, but I killed IT!"

I've been away from my journal for quite a while. My challenges are mounting and like the Great Brown Hunter, I'm making space on the walls between running for cover and tending my wounds.

I marked my fifth week with little hoopla. I didn't gain a bunch of weight, but in the same vein, I didn't lose a lot of weight. My five-week weight loss stands at about 36 pounds. I only succeeded in losing the PMS gains.

I should be starting an exercise plan, but I'm only 'getting physical' at my soon-to-be complete house. I'm painting and hauling construction debris instead of pumping iron and walking miles. I should post a picture of the house because it has managed to take center stage.

I desperately need to get back into the bariatric-weight-loss swing of it, but I must confess I'm not the model patient. Lately, I skip meals trying to keep up with the new job in New Orleans and the new home project which seems to have been going on for years (only six months, but IT SEEMS LIKE FOREVER!!!)

When I skip the little meals along the way, I'm famished when I do get to eat. My capacity, at times, is approaching that of a normal adult. I'm scheduled to get a "fill" on Monday at my six weeks appointment with MISI.

When I called about the appointment and concerns, my doctor's nurse reassured me that it was just time for a fill. (Thanks, Kristi, no Grrrr, at all)

They will take a needle and add fluid to my Lap Band creating a greater restriction and once again, limiting the capacity of my stomach. These adjustments are expected in the adjustable lap band and it should help me fight off the really hungry feelings. I will be sure to write more about these adjustments and get some pictures if I can.

As difficult as some of the recent weeks have been, it's help bring out the best of old friends, new friends and perfect strangers. I have a wonderful support group and team of cheerleaders and I don't feel like I could make it without their encouragement.

I wish I could make this seem like an incredible piece of cake. It has coincided with come with some of the greatest challenges of my personal and professional life, but big challenges make big trophies and I have just the freshly-painted wall for it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Let's Talk About the "P" Word

A journal is personal and I should have known that sooner or later this one would also get embarrassing. I haven't posted an entry in a few days and it's about time to just jump right into the touchy subject: PMS.

I've made it to the four-week point on yesterday and I'm hovering 3-5 pounds above my previous loss of 35 pounds. I would have liked to have been at 40 pounds, but I know the 35 mark will probably hold pretty well after the effects of PMS have gone.

First of all, my apologies to anyone I might offend, but this is a part of the process.

My guess is that I've put on a little water weight, but the big concern to me yesterday was that I was hungry enough to eat a horse. I didn't eat a horse, of course, but there might be a missing pony or two in East Baton Rouge Parish.

I think my dinner last night was "normal." That scared my husband to death after weeks of tiny miniature meals. We ate out and I had grilled fish (all of it) and bits of a salad and a tiny amount of rice. Scott thought the band was about to burst or cause damage. Truthfully, I think I was just starved after a day of too much traffic and too little food. I considered calling my doctors office today to say: "I had an entire grilled fish filet -- how long do I have to live?" but somehow my pending demise wasn't enough to make me forget just how silly that sounded.

I think that internal stress and PMS might be a good test for the Lap Band because it opens the door to new doors of logic for eating. Eating can also become soothing and I find myself wanting to avoid the need for comfort food. Instead, this week, I've had very little food while on the run between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I'm sure that's also not good.

The Hurricane scare of 2004 is over, but I'm still battling a killer commute and a hive storm.

Later this week, I'll write about Pilates class and I'll share my protein-packed quesadilia recipe.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

No Tricks of The Trade

When my little daughter -- Seed of Godzilla -- started eating solid food, our pediatrician urged us to not make separate meals for her. "Feed her what and when you eat," Dr. Elofson said.

A year later, I find myself following the doctor's orders for my own meals. I have an allergy to certain high protein drinks and an ever hungry toddler, so I find that Cecilia and I are eating pretty much the same thing. Her portions of our meals have more carbs -- she gets more pasta -- and I get whatever lean protein I've cooked in it.

Nearly four weeks after Lap Band surgery, I have few tricks of the trade, just survival. I'm using "Natural Whey" protein powder, but most of my protein is coming from lean meats and cheese. Fish, cheese, eggs (limited) and chicken. Then chicken, eggs (limited), cheese and fish. I'm limiting eggs right now because they've made me sick a couple of times.

My family has always been big milk drinkers and we are still buy whole organic for Cecilia and organic skim for us. I have tried the Carb Down 'milk beverage' and found it to be an excellent way to get 12 grams of protein per cup.

I guess I should explain the obsession with protein. Bariatric surgery patients are losing weight at a sometimes fast rate. Good protein intake helps maintain muscle mass while, hopefully, the body is burning fat stores. Muscle weights more than fat, but muscle burns fat while operating. Yes, as I understand, it's a massive conspiracy against fat, the enemy.

I can't afford to cook twice, but I'm hoping my routine will help retrain my body to accept smaller portions and limited carbohydrates. My aim also is to promote healthy eating for Scott and Cecilia. We differ in two ways -- Cecilia has toddler snacks like cereal bars and fruit and Scott can still support fast food America outside of the house.

It's always been my plan to invest in more portions, diet aids and drinks after the house is finished, but until then a more low-tech following of the rules seems to work just fine. (I hope to be near 40 pounds at the four-week mark.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Three Weeks, 30 Pounds And One Huge Storm

The world doesn't stop for gastric surgery patients. If anything, I can truly say that the last three weeks have been filled with six weeks of living. We are in the final stages of building a house, I'm trying to start working outside the city and trying my hand at motherhood again -- all while wondering if New Orleans will be submerged by Hurricane Ivan.

One might think that a stressful plate of life might have little to do with Lap Band surgery, but the reality is that a change in life must take place while "life" continues to spin 90-to-nothing.

If you were Oprah Winfrey, each alteration of life would be orchestrated by a personal trainer, a chef, a dietician and a slew of personal assistants. I'm not saying her life and dieting efforts aren't hard...hmm, well, yes I am.

In the real world a toddler's mother might feed the screaming tot twice before getting a protein-packed meal. The whole world says I can't care for Cecilia well if I don't put my own health first. Cecilia says: I'm up 20 minutes and what, no breakfast? (And boy, did that banana nut bread oatmeal smell good!)

Who knows, maybe the Lap Band surgery will be more effective in the long run because I was dealing with life full throttle while dealing with food in moderation.

I may have edged up a couple of pounds, but here are the three-week counts:
  • 30 pounds in three weeks

  • Very little pain until I get tired

  • Lots of pain when pounced on by wonder tot who's home again

  • Still lowering the meds

  • Tired, like, stupid tired, about once or twice a day

  • That with sprinkles of depression, anxiety and (Scott says)temporary insanity

On a totally shallow note: I'm not dreaming of my first shopping spree. Instead, I'm having a ball shopping in my own closet. I have new clothes, old clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes and even a leotard from step aerobics class cira 1991. I'm just fine with those clothes. I'm just fine with clothes that are a little loose. I'm just fine putting in new seams when the clothes start falling off. I'm just cheap. (enough said)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Losing Weight, Gaining Hives

I know I shouldn't peek mid-week or weigh everyday, but I was afraid that new scale wouldn't move at all. OK, I knew the scale would work, but I've been hearing stories about people hitting early plateaus and I got a little worried.

I last weighed Wednesday and I've lost seven pounds since then. (Sigh of relief)

If anyone is counting, other than me, that puts my loss at 32 pounds a few days before my third-week mark. There's a lot going on in my personal life and I'm at least very glad that it's not affecting my health goals -- other than the hives which seem to have switch to stress-induced hives since being sparked by my allergy to certain high protein drinks. The calm, often smirking look on my face is often masking the star of Driving Miss Crazy.

It's kinda interesting to watch. Since I have to eat so incredibly slow, I have lots of time to watch the hives emerge and spread across my arms like a scene from that freaky Alien movie. My next blog could be a horror flick -- Hives: The Horror Within!

I think we are on schedule and I'm taking as good care of that Lap Band as it's taking of me.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Now Hitting The Wall Makes Sense

Last night I was frustrated because I felt so tired and, well, frustrated. Can one be frustrated because they feel frustrated? I choose to play the mental health card again and say that makes sense.

I got a reply to an email from Holli Paline at Vista Surgical Hospital. Holli is a registered nurse who works with gastric surgery patients both at Vista and MISI, my doctor's practice. Holli has the smile and spirit of an angel, but she got to the point in few words (I could learn a lot from Holli).

She picked up on what I said in the earlier email about being tired and unmotivated to eat or do anything right now. She reminded me that she told me earlier to expected a "tired, rundown feeling" around the third week. I'm not quite sure why, but I've simply hit the "rundown wall."

Knowing what my body is doing doesn't give me a sudden burst of energy, but I feel much less frustrated. Now I'm just TIRED AS HELL.

My advice: Go with it and when this phase is over, all will be better.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hitting A (freshly built) Wall

It's not a set back, it's just reality. I go, I go, I go, I smack.

Today was a pretty good day. I guess it was just too much day to be excited about this journey.

My days have been beginning consumed with getting my house finished. We've run into every delay imagined and the week after surgery I earned the Driving Miss Crazy handle. I'll admit it: I found myself in a slightly psychotic state of mind and decided it was a perfect time to make some phone calls. I might have found a new use for bariatric surgery.

I made my second commute to New Orleans and I love the environment. I learned my lessons two days ago and I felt much better at lunch time.

On the way back home, I thought about how great it would be to have Cecilia at home waiting for me. Instead, an inspection of our closets and interior doorways waited for me.

At the end of it all, I didn't feel like "getting in the protein," measuring the portions or building the muscles. I just didn't feel.

The best note of the days is that I've stepped down my blood pressure meds twice since surgery and it's still normal. That's going to have to be good enough for today.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Salute: Support Can Be Beautiful

This blog and my life both can be thankful for this day -- My Scott's birthday.

My teddy bear and the father of my children became a little older today and it seems his only gift was more driving Miss Crazy and his self-professed 'combat' duty.

Scott and I have not shared many birthdays, but I've termed our time together as "intense." We have experienced both intense joy and pain. The same Divine Guide who brought 'online buddies' together kept us close through bigger clothes -- there's nothing like my gumbo in D.C. and tiny caskets -- we whispered goodbye to four of his beautiful babies before holding a Spencer miracle baby two years ago.

Scott helped me to see the beauty in me and I was thoroughly amused to be with a man who I couldn't be 'big enough' for. I felt it was cruel to change the rules and try to shed more than 150 pounds of the me that he loved like no other could.

I made the choice, but the journey is for two.

Happy Birthday, Scott, and keep ducking!

Medical Progress and 25 Pounds

My internal medicine progress is being monitored by an ultra-cool doc dude who I never wanted to see in the first place. I've never been so happy to be so wrong about a situation. I love this practice and have we discussed that I don't impress easily?

My internist's office scale showed a 22 pound loss, but I remembered if was about six or seven pounds off from the surgeon's office. I settled on 25 pounds for my amount lost by my second week. I'll start using my scale at home as the standard as my doctor's appointments become more spaced.

My blood pressure is starting to improve even as my medication is being slowly decreased. Twenty plus pounds is good, but improved BP is huge. I'm monitoring it at home and I've even gotten some "normal" readings lately. Trust me, being 37 with a blood pressure reading of 180/110 makes you a little 'uneasy' to say the least.

I discussed energy levels and iron. These days I have two levels -- Flying high and hitting the wall. The doctor gave me a reassured 'duh!' "You were anemic, you had surgery and then lost 22 pounds in 14 days," he said, "you're going to be tired." Yup, makes perfect sense and if I wasn't so amused by his smirks I would feel silly for asking. He's certain my multivitamins with iron will make short work of the tired feeling.

I got a cautious "ok" for starting a Pilates class, but he told Scott I shouldn't do any sit ups or ab work for another six weeks. Scott seems unusually interested in my new activities because they will become his new activities. So this is for Scott: NO "AB ROLLER" (as seen on TV) FOR ME, BUCKO! I'm starting to like seeing it under my antique dining table -- feel the burn, hahaha.

Today's lesson: There are thousands of tomorrows in the path of recovery, but if I learned to tackle the only "today" first, I'm sure I will be the wiser, the thinner and more healthy.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

New Job Brings New Lessons

I will be the first to admit that I was really pumped about my new job. I don't get rattled about new jobs and challenges any more, but I was unsure how this period of recovery would affect my new journey.

It's about skills and talent, not about food right?

Not quite.

I'm going to be brief. (Yeah, it's possible.) I'll just say I learned some lessons about my new life:

  • Rush-hour traffic, a quick breakfast in the car -- NO.

  • Working lunch in a great, but crowded Cuban restaurant -- NO.

  • Doggie bag bites at your desk since you're famished-- NO.

  • That's a container of container orange juice, not water -- NO.

  • Plan the meals and take your time; this is for life -- YES.

I've started and finished lots of jobs/projects before. I've never factored eating, meal planning or food period in my career moves. I guess I have a lot to learn.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Two Weeks Under My Belt

I have survived and Scott has survived...woohoo!

Today is Labor Day and I would have to say it is a fitting moment also to celebrate the end of the second full week after my Lap Band surgery. For those of you just joining the blog, I'm Reinventing Fran, Fabulous Franny, Full-figured Frances, Fat-Fighting Frances Y. and soon to be Fit Frances. Two weeks ago, I underwent bariatric surgery and a banded device was placed around my stomach.

Hopefully, my stomach's new "hourglass" figure will spark a similar adjustment all over. I haven't stepped on a scale yet, but I'm sure I'm at least down 25 pounds. I was down 18.5 pounds this time last week. I started at 342 pounds. It's not the way I see myself, but I hear the scales don't lie. (Well, I'm sure they have stretched the truth a time or two). Because I've been told I might suffer from Health Denial, I started taking pictures of myself last week. (Just my luck, cameras also don't lie.) I figured if I post some visual honesty (look two post down) every now and then, I might stay motivated, or thoroughly depressed.

It hasn't been all roses and Champagne, but there's some definite progress. I'm almost free of pain meds. I stopped regularly taking "the good stuff" about four days ago. The pain is quite manageable until I get tired and I'm fairly comfortable until I go to bed. I haven't found the key to laying on my two still-sore sides. Even a shapely Weather Girl like myself can't produce a third side to retreat to when I lay down.

Some victories:

I'm eating solid food. The liquid protein and I are not "making it." I'm still looking for something that taste ok and stays put without giving me hives. Good old-fashioned lean protein has come to my aid. I'm keeping count and getting a fairly decent amount of protein in milk, chicken, fish, turkey and cheese. I've had a couple of protein bars that aren't half bad too. My hat's off to the new Carb Down 'milk beverage.' Yeah, sounds funny, but this stuff is fat free and packs 75 percent less carb calories than regular milk and has 12 grams of protein in a cup!

I've eaten out. In both cases, Scott and I split grilled fish entrees. I had my ounce or two of fish and he had everything else, well, I think I've had a couple of token veggies bites here and there. How hard is it to go into a restaurant and eat two ounces of food? Hmmm, and the alternative would be????? It's easy. The old rule of "if it don't fit, don't force it," gives way to "if it don't fit, it's not leaving with you anyway." I like the path of least resistance.

I've been to many (many) fast food restaurants. I'm not forcing Scott to change his nutritional habits and we went through a drive through Mickey Ds on the way home after being discharged from the hospital. In fact, we spent a couple of hours in McDonald's yesterday. This one has a sports bar and Internet cafe. A McDonald's with wide screen football, kid's toys PLUS wi-fi is the Spencer Family paradise. Everyone was happy and we only had to leave because it was time to eat.

I've held my baby. Ok, we rigged it. Yesterday in church, I held Cecilia while my sister supported the baby by her feet. No pain, no pain and sometimes nothing can substitute for being held by one's own mommy. I will have to go another week without her and that will continue to be the hardest part of this.

I'm ready to try something new. The week before surgery I interviewed for a part-time Web position at I start tomorrow and while I might need some help commuting to New Orleans at first, I'm so ready for a new adventure. I haven't quite figured out where I'll stash those tiny little protein meals, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

NooMee and a night on the town

NooMee was not what I expected and I'm sure that's good thing. It's not heavy on the "chubby pity party theme," but it is so incredibly cheesy that I found it amusing and Scott had a wonderful time.

I came to realize that both Scott and I have some things to come to grips with before I can be successful. The NooMee approach of support, information and cheesy fun may be the thing that wins Scott over to a new way of thinking and living.

I don't need a boost or a group hug, but I was very excited by the guest speakers who talked about cooking, nutrition and exercise. I got some tools -- some bullets for my gun. I could tell that I would get some great advantages to reaching my personal goals.

A chef from the Louisiana Culinary Institute gave a great talk on practical cooking solutions and ways to get the most nutritional value from foods that don't have negative counter points. The next speaker talked about nutrition and health changes. The last encouraged finding one's fitness level and the most advantageous exercise program. There's a Pilates class planned in a couple of weeks and I think Scott's just excited about that as I am.

You folks who know me best, know that I'm not shy or inhabited. Part of it is my family's way and the other part of that may be from years in journalism and communications -- I've always thought I was great. Becoming a "NooMee" will mean I will have to see the part of myself I've always avoided without doing any damage to all the wonderful things I really do like about myself.

After the support group, we had a nice dinner out. I felt it was kinda like Scott's reward for being so good and supportive. It was a good learning experience for both of us.

The chef warned at the beginning of his talk that portions in most restaurants were outrageously large. So we ordered one entree at Ruby Tuesdays. Scott had the nice huge salad and I slowly munched on a bell pepper ring. When the meal came, I took an ounce of grilled fish and one shrimp. I paced myself and really enjoyed it. The rice that came with the meal was horrible and neither of us missed anything leaving it on the plate. (Note to Ruby Tuesdays: There's no cheese sauce in rice pilaf.)

It will take some time getting used to the stares collected when you eat less than 2 ounces of food in a restaurant, but I really like what the checks look like.

I will not be defeated

Every now and then I have to kick myself or apply a not so gentle push. Most really kind people say "don't push yourself too hard," but they might not understand just how much mediocrity and failure scare me.

I rested and I moped. Then I got myself ready, washed my hair and started trying on clothes that only a few days ago had been too tight.

With or without Scott, I'm going to that support group meeting. He says he's coming and I keep struggling to put my best face forward.

I've never liked the idea of support groups. Just the thought of them reminds me of a taping of Oprah or Dr. Phil. I don't like public displays of pity and if I get any more aggressively confident the world might not survive it.

But I see this support group, NooMee , as a tool of survival. On the way out, I told Scott this surgery puts you at a point where success doesn't mean just losing weight -- It means you live -- and I can't afford even a moment of failure. I'm going to afford myself every single tool available.

I gave Scott the camera on my way out the door. Time to kick butt, take names.

Twinkles and Yaks

This has been an early day and quite a long one already. I was writing a post to a local list-serve for overweight people (fat acceptance group) to try to bring my story to anyone considering weight loss surgery. I'm no poster-child for the industry, I'm just trying to detail it "as real as possible."

While writing it, I became so violently ill that I figured eggs had souls and the one I ate for breakfast was a poltergeist. My husband brought me a Wendy's Biggie cup and suggested I walk it off. When I returned to my computer, the following email was waiting for me from my Uncle Everette. I'll bow the rest of this post to it:

Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE."

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part.

Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.

The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Perhaps that's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful. The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.

Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the 'called.' Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the things you acquire.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Counting the Costs of the Loss

I spent this entire day avoiding the blog because I was truly afraid of what I would write. It's not all high-fives and victory dances. Behind closed doors, it doesn't seem like a victory at all. Tallying the costs of a new start and this life revolution is a painful process.

The role I play in my family doesn't include holidays and vacations. Not being 100 percent for a few weeks will bring some things to the surface that we will deal with for a long time. My life has changed and I don't know if I can, in all fairness, expect anyone else to feel the same changes. My husband has, more than once, offered to get me burgers and fries when I express the need to get a meal out of the way.

Being offered 'a burger' when you are yaking on jello does tend to bring the homicidal maniac to the surface, but one has to remain open to the fact that his cries of "I keep forgetting," might be his way to remind me that he didn't sign up for this war and he shouldn't be drafted for any of the special missions. Fair? I'm working on it while sharpening all the household knives.

I was terribly disappointed to find that the 'average' recover time included me. I wasn't able to rebound one week post-op to write a sparking and brilliant business plan. I dropped out and the competition will roll on without me. But, of course, there's always next year.

My baby is singing with her cousins in the church choir and having a ball without her mommy. The only fun I considered today would have been to call the INS on the two 'visitors' hired to hang sheetrock at my new house. I really didn't, but where's the fun in that.

Coming back down to the 'average human' role once again left me extremely unmotivated to sip and snip at protein all day. I sipped a nap and snipped at benedryl. I got a call in the middle of my hate fest from my doctor's office. (It was really, really nice of them to care too -- grrr!) According to my stats, I needed 1900 calories a day and more than 80 grams of protein. Hmm, I wondered how my cup (huge, cup) of sugar-free hot chocolate skim milk fit into that picture. Even after snipping at some grilled chicken, I'm sure I'll be short today. But I'll end the day thinking ...

The .....protein will come out TOMORROW! Bet ya bottom dollar that TOMORROW, I'll eat some.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Soylent Green in My Coffee Cup?

I just can't leave well-enough alone. The new powdered protein product did so well in skim milk that I decided to experiment. I added a little to my hot chocolate. I heated and I stirred and I mixed and waited.

Best as I can tell, I've created a new life form floating in my Quick and milk. It doesn't taste too bad, but it has the consistency of what I imagine the first guy in the movie experienced before he yelled "Soylent Green is people!"

Ok, no biggie. Lesson for today: Powdered protein does not play well with others and never, NEVER heat it up.

Today is going to be a very good day; I can tell. I think I'm on the down side of the pain. I'm getting up and down with almost no pain at all. The thought of having a nearly pain-free Labor Day weekend has got me almost giddy.

My racing heart rate is slowing down and my breathing is normal.

I think I will go out and play.

Monday, August 30, 2004

One Week Down: Weigh to Go!

I should avoid puns, but some words are hard to resist.

It's been a week since the surgery and today was a celebration and a long journey all rolled into one.

Let's break it down:
*18.5 -- pounds lost
*Incisions healing quite nicely
*Old protein out, new protein in

The folks at Misi did a very good job of making my first visit post-op seem like a triumphant return. The door opens......Msssssss Spencer!

All the eyes in the waiting room turn to me and I get up trying hard to smile, but trying harder to walk straight (like I'm afraid that a prospective patient will catch on that this actually hurts).

The scale says I've dropped 18.5 pounds. That's nice. Would have been a real downer to have dropped 2 pounds or none at all. That's nearly 20 pounds, but I must admit I don't feel like I've done much to earn it at this point (Yes, I was a good bleeder!).

Dr. Leblanc is the perfect combination of proud parent, head coach and fine craftsman. I get a warm hug and approving smile. He's happy with my weight loss and he thinks the incision spots are doing well. When I complained of a little pain over my stomach and near the port, he explains that its par for the course. "Hey, we boogered ya up plenty good on that side." (The technical prowless of a master at work!)

The task ahead of me is to find protein alternatives that don't spark my hives. It wasn't as hard as I had thought. On the way home, we happened upon a Smoothie King when Scott's favorite suishi bar had closed after lunch.

My substitute is "Natural Whey." Way? Yes, whey.

This powdered protein supplement contains 22 grams of protein per serving and no articial colors or sweeteners. When mixed with a cup of skim milk, I get a meal yielding 31 grams of protein. Bingo!

The whole experience was terribly taxing for Scott. He had to hit the Wendy's before attempting the long drive home. He got the single and hot fries just like he prefers them, but they forgot to take off the 'evil' lettuce. But don't think he's cruel -- he offered me a fist full of fries ... and they were hot. (Those of you who know me best will be shocked, but relieved to know that Scott isn't speaking at any higher pitches today.)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone

First, all you editors, English majors and anal-reten minors, I know I can't say "Ain't no sunshine...."

There's no sunshine today -- Sunday, Day 7, second day avoiding the high protein stuff, the day my baby and mother left AND it's raining. I'm bawling and all the depressing songs are springing to mind.

"BIG GIRLS -- they don't cry--eye-eye (they don't cry)"

Why not? I can't eat, drink or pluck out a tune on my piano. So, let's cry.

Well, that felt...human?

Great, in addition to being obese, I have to be human.

I often explain how I deal with my various trials to "playing the cards that you're dealt." I can't play poker and I see no thrill in gambling. However, I see some deep spiritual philosophy in the card-playing symbolism.

The Lord, Dealer of the House, has merely given each of us a set of cards to play. There's no luck or accidents in this game. Each low card has the potential to become more valuable with the right combination of other cards. High cards and face cards are only potent if you use them right.

I get a lot of pity most days. I'm very overweight and after the loss of four of my five babies, I was left with some pretty hefty health problems. Most people who couldn't see why we kept trying to have a baby could only see part of the cards I was being dealt.

When pain becomes motivation and failures become steps to success, the player has learned to take God's raw materials -- the good and the bad -- and build a powerful hand.

I haven't been dealt all fancy high cards. I've been dealt some low cards of despair and some weakening cards of pain. From the "pits of despair," the Lord builds the greatest hand of perserverance.

When the Bible speaks of "longsuffering," it's not a curse. A hand that results in longsuffering is one that is ready, willing and able to take future challenges with renewed ease and experience -- perserverance (like a flush, straight or whatever is a surprisingly good poker hand).

I'm starting to think I'm going to be incredibly successful in this venture. It's a rainy, painful day....but you should see the hand I'm holding!

\0/ \0/ \0/ \0/ \0/ \0/ \0/ \0/ \0/ \0/

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Oh, It's a Grand Pity Party in Here

I have issues and I need answers. I truly regretted making this decision several times today. That realization, however, is like jumping off a building. Yes, you will change your mind several times on your way to the ground, but gravity will not reverse itself just because you want it to.

Without posts like this one, you might believe I'm blowing ultra positive smoke (into your eyes?).

I'm having the mother of all allergic reactions -- hives, itching, coughing, congestion. I've had this type of reaction before because I'm highly allergic to sulfite additives. I flared for weeks after bathing in hospital soap laced with sulfur, using HCTZ to lower my BP after my infant son's death and, the most stupid, after drinking a free bottle of muscadine wine from a local winery.

I've learned to scan labels for sulfur, sulfites or chemical compounds with a little sulfur in the name.

Last night, I took 50 mg of benedryl and then flared up like a Christmas tree. "Why," I was thinking, "I'm just sitting here sipping my HIGH PROTEIN DRINK!!!

No way. Could life be that cruel?

No way. Way!

All my high protein drinks are sweetened with Acesulfame Potassium, a sulfur-based sweetener.

I owe my internist an apology. Last week when I was having my allergic reaction to the antibiotics he prescribed, I had just had my first serving of Protein Ice -- Duh!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Up and Down on Day Five

We've made it to the weekend and today was a perfect mix of an energy burst followed by a drained feeling.

As I can best guess, the day started pretty good, but I sat up and surfed and wrote for hours without much desire to sip or slurp. The first two types of protein drinks I've tried have kinda bombed out on taste. The third one is much better, but I feel obligated to try and finish them since they cost so much. I should probably just get over it and more on.

Near the end of the afternoon I felt drained and a little feverish. I took a nap and woke with some trapped gas pain.

Trapped air doesn't seem much like a medical emergency, but an air pocket in an extra sore digestive track will bring one down a few pegs.

Walking helps and Scott, the baby and I made a night walk out to the parking lot. Now I'll try the sorbet bars for dinner. I'm thinking that might help these blahs.

We shall see.

My Surgeon: Dr. Karl LeBlanc and his practice

Surgeon: Dr. Karl LeBlanc
Practice: Minimum Invasive Surgical Institute
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Specialty: Supermodels

Editor's note: The following is my performance review of Dr. LeBlanc and his staff which is also posted on (It's real long and I'm weak, ya know)

After a few minutes with Dr. LeBlanc, I felt very comfortable that everything would be fine and I had a top-notch expert.

He has a funny quirkiness that makes him seem like he's existing in his own little biosphere -- nothing matters but his craft and his patients' health. My husband and I chuckled how colors in the room didn't seem to match and the meeting room seemed like a lot of thought haven't gone into decorating. Dr. LeBlanc was a lot like that room -- focused without a lot of snotty, useless decorations and attitudes. I could tell from the manner he explained the procedure that he had a teacher's zeal (and knowledge) of bariatric surgery. And being a teacher, he was a master.

His self-less nature was best demonstrated when he expressed concern that I also get a hernia repaired. He told me that the hernia could cause problems and then said "I do that."

"I do that?"

That statement sounded like what the 'handyman guy' says about detailing cars: "I do that." Later, while researching the doctors and procedures, I found it hard to find anything (but here at about Karl LeBlanc, the bariatric surgeon. Instead, I found tons of information about Karl Leblanc, the world renowned (really) hernia repair specialist. On two UK sites, I even read reviews of one of his two books on less-invasive hernia repair. His description of all that: "I do that." I immediately told my husband that I thought it was Divine Intervention that I would be sent to a bariatric surgeon who was also a hernia specialist.

Dr. LeBlanc took an interest in my unique problems and needs, but also refused to push me into having the surgery when I expressed a 'wait and see attitude' about it.

His staff is the perfect combination of professionalism and supportive. The office staff made me feel comfortable even when I was trying hard not to like them. Being both obese and egotisical, I'm always watching like a hawk for medical professionals who speak down to me or treat me like I have a mental defect. They did neither. When I couldn't fight it any more, I decided I just had to love them for all the support and information they gave to me. I applaud Christy, Holly, Ashley and Genie and any others who helped make this as smooth as possible.

The PA Holly Edmonds is quick and knowledgeable. She was very visible while I was in the hospital and fast and helpful the next morning when I called with questions.

There's an excellent aftercare program that includes a support group and Web site. Like everything else, I've always soured on attending support groups. Since they have proved me wrong in so many areas, I'll be at the first one available (next week).

I guess the length of this review hints that I have few criticisms. I tried my very best to find them. The biggest problem I could bring up is that their Web site isn't easily found on search engines. Come on, if that was the best I could do....

More reading:
Leblanc, Karl, book availability
Business Wire, Books
(Hey, doc., that book costs $198.50 -- how bout a discount?)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Progress and pains: Day Four

My body is healing and although I can't say I'm pain-free, I'm learning the tricks of the trade to dealing with it.

The Lap-Band surgery puts a port near the top of the stomach close to the surface. That area is still the most sore, but I'm learning to apply a little pressure to the area to keep it stabilized and less painful. I'm getting up pretty good and sitting slowly -- The muscle bends while sitting and standing. Using the knees to stand helps ease the strand on the abdominals, but I'm still mastering the other direction.

I'm also moving up to more sips and slurps. I think I finished close to entire cup of jello in two sittings -- minus the big spoonful that Cecilia took. Sweet baby that she is, after she realized how much orange jello meant to me, she gave it back a few minutes later.

I sipped two favors of liquid protein drink, had some watered down juice and had a all-juice bar. Hmmm, we might have an encore later for the juice bar.

My meds right now include a prescription vitamin, antibiotics, (less) liquid pain killer and my blood pressure meds that are already being stepped down.

And the day wasn't spent sitting on the couch. I took a nap in bed (don't laugh), took several walks inside and walked out to the car for a drive over to our house under construction. I also fought off an attack of the sleepy toddler and had her laying on my knee before having to call for help when she moved over for a full mommy cuddle.

I did a lot of phone tasks and logged quite a bit of time at the computer, but overall, it's a very dull day in the life of Frances. Maybe there's also a lesson in that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

First Day Home From Hospital

I was sprung loose from the hospital this morning. I don't know if I'm at a loss for words or a loss for energy. I just had Scott set up my laptop to see if had any words of wisdom for today.

Not really.

It was wonderful seeing my little girl after a few days. She was thrilled to see me also and all my new toys and snacks. I'm still using the respiratory device that promotes deep breathing (and painful coughing). Cece thinks it's so much fun and has gone off with it a few times. If I get two sips, she's waiting close by to get her share too.

Eating is more of a chore right now than a desire. I've made my way through a few quarter wine glasses of crystal light -- thanks to Scott for putting it in a wine glass just like at the hospital, a half cup of tea, a couple of spoon fulls of some healthy protein thing from Smoothy King and a marathon cup of jello. I started the jello around 7:30 and at about 11 p.m. I was almost half way through it. Trying the jello too close to the tea sent me reeling in pain as a spoon full of jello waited it's turn to enter my incredible shrinking pouch.

Scott just warned that I probably didn't have enough protein today. I'm sure he's right, but today has just been trying to adjust to being home again and dealing with the pain. The baby doesn't understand why mommy won't pick her up, but she did walk over and hug my swollen, sore belly before being pulled off of me kicking and screaming. I wanted to cry too.

I'm trying to focus on a healthier life without a weak heart and insulin dependence in my later years. I know since I had Cecilia in my late 30s I need all the healthy, active years I can get. I do need that motivation more than any other advantage the surgery might offer.

I think tomorrow I will be more animated and thankful.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

No Walk in the Park

I'm sitting in my hospital room a full day after this life-altering procedure. I recalled a transcript of a call-in show about bariatric surgery. The expert was slammed by a few callers who were hostile that obese patients were, at times, using public funds to correct their lack of will power. Another angry caller said the doctors patients were taking the easy way out.

To that person: This is no walk in the park. I've spend a good bit of today wondering if I made the right decision because it's a big sacrifice for me and my family. The surgery left me with bleeding, lung and pain concerns. The first demonstration of will power is getting up that first day with your guts feeling like someone has thrown a landmine in them. I lost a unit of blood, but the need to ward off lung infection is greater than the exhaustion caused by anemia.

As tough as the last couple of days have been, going home will create greater challenges. The will power needed to succeed involves more than staying away from cookies and candy.One of my best friends has accurately said 'It changes your relationship with food.'

I can't drink even a half a glass of water at one time. As my stomach adjusts to the band, I'll do tiny all-liquid meals for 11 days: broth, jello, crystal light, etc. And life does continue. I have a busy 2-year-old, a huge business project due next week, a Web client to launch and a good job prospect to follow-up on in another city. All while sipping and healing.

This procedure may give me a greater chance to achieve my health goals (lowered blood pressure, blood sugar, live longer, etc.), but the easy way out it's not.

Now it's time to work my lungs and take a wall-grabbing walk in the halls.

The Morning After

The surgery was yesterday and I was fully expecting to be up and writing the same day. Well, I was wrong, but I did get up.

I'm being told that the surgery went well. I have some issues not related to the Lap-Band that are giving me trouble, but I seem to be on course with post-op expectations.

My impression: THIS HURTS LIKE HELL!

I didn't expect this type of pain, but it's not the worst pain I've ever had. I reserve my 10 (on a scale of 1-10) to labor pains or when I woke up in ICU after my full-term delivery.

So far, I've had ice chips and a few spoons of broth. I threw a good bit of that up little bit after coughing or drinking pain medicines.

(later) This morning I had about a spoon full of sorbet and sips of crystal light. I also had a chest X-ray and an upper GI. Those are standard, but I've been running a fever and we are trying to ward off pneumonia. My blood count is low and labs at noon will determine if I will go home today. I hope so because I miss my baby and I know she's feeling like mommy has abandoned her again.

I'm not writing much with the IV, the higher table my laptop is on and, of course, the pain.

All for now.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Out of jokes, energy ... hives, I got

Cleaned, washed, arranged all day preparing for this surgery only hours away. I'm I worried? Who knows. My baby has clothes for a couple of weeks and two organized closets. My mother has maps to daycare, hospital, Wal-Mart, Winn Dixie. Scott has a mounting 'to do' list. I have hives.

Everyone said dinner was good and the carrots to shield the chicken from the grease wasn't a bad idea, but my dad ate them.

Just before the midnight cutoff I had my last sips to wash down benedryl for the hives (new allergy) and Lortab for pain (old cramps).

Now I'm soaking and surfing. (wireless networking in the bathroom rocks!)

I will spend the remaining hours watching a movie and curling my hair.

Surgery eve and last-minute preparations

I've missed my 'morning before breakfast' of an egg and slice of toast. My stomach's tossed about and at that time (around 6:30) I was up, but feeling like even one scrambled egg wouldn't stay put. I'm opting to try to battle the blahs with peppermint tea. The rest of this day's meals are clear liquids.

Today's preparations are health and personal tasks, mostly family-related, I would say. Topping the list is cleaning my apartment. Coming back home to some order after surgery will feel well. I would like to have all my baby's clothes washed and arranged so getting her up and ready for daycare will be easy. And, I plan to cook dinner. My parents should be arriving around dinner time and a nice home-cooked meal would be just a small gesture considering they are putting their lives on hold for several days to help us with my recovery and the baby. I think I'll cook a lemon-herb baked chicken and a veggie side. Scott says if I rest the chicken on a bed of chunky veggies while baking, it won't soak up as much grease (as seen on TV). I will consider this.

Finished my tea and took my blood pressure, 136/77 -- not bad for someone with critical hypertension (smirk). Now I'm off to arrange, box, wash, fold, stash and scrub.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Attack of the Killer Shopping List II

I read the list, studied the list and made some calls to stores about the list. 'Just do it' comes to mind, but I wouldn't be Frances if I didn't turn this into a research project.

After an informed and extensive evaluation, I decided to go to ....

GNC (duh! and isn't GNC written on the sheet they gave you Frances?)

We just came back from a family outing to GNC. I got protein this and low carb that, drinks and potions and those yummy health bars that taste just like Snickers bars! (Put that pipe down).

It was an extremely interesting 'protein quest' (see, I read the instructions) and if not for the toddler meltdown and a bored-with-nutrition-store daddy, this might have been incredibly fun. (Luckily, it was the mall and they found another store in which to wreak havoc)

I decided that I would return to GNC (and the mall) and I left there a (card-carrying -- really) GNC Gold Card Member.

Bad attitude takes a hit by caring gesture

Got a call from the surgical hospital and fully expected it to be a 'pre-set' script saying "Your surgery is the next business day and we just wanted to touch base with you..."

Instead, a nurse was informing me that Dr. Melancon had reviewed my chart this (Saturday) morning and noticed a problem. I wasn't dying or anything that would halt the surgery, but my last labs showed white cells and that would signal an infection. He wanted to call out an antibiotic to get a jump on it before the surgery.

I really felt like someone, my crappy opinions aside, was looking out for me. I explained to him that I just overcome a horrible bout of pain caused by an ongoing ovarian problem and I felt the infection might be tied to that. He assured me whatever the problem was, the antibiotic would help and they would continue it after surgery.

Last night I was working up my nerve to call to ask last-minute questions and I felt the Lord was giving me a chance to get some angst cleared by asking about things instead of being a smug know-it-all (card-carrying).

I asked about ketosis and if the lack of carbs would cause this condition. He said ketosis was a desired effect and its affects on the patient would be monitored. I also asked about my blood sugar and he said the labs showed it was much too high. He said they would watch it carefully and give me insulin if it was needed. (In my mind I'm thinking that the infection could have elevated my blood sugar, but little Miss Know it All actually kept that to herself ... smirk )

He added that I was anemic (not much) and the staff also would monitor that.

There's a post further down somewhere that says my bloomers were in a wad about having to go out of town to see an internist. Let's just say there's still someone up there giving me what I need instead of what I want. I'm thankful to Him also.

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Friday, August 20, 2004

It's midnight and I just can't resist.......

A big mug of water with beautiful crushed ice. I tried sipping and it's all gone and I'm heading to my new stainless frig for another cool, filtered 12 ounces of it. Am I just noticing this obsession with ice water because I shouldn't drink this much at one time or am I just nuts?

Ahhhhhh and crunch!

Shopping list and some worries

With just a little more than 2 days left before the surgery, tonight's Mediterranean plate was the last solid food for a while. It seemed like a last supper of sorts as Scott and I discussed his continued angst about the surgery and Cecilia insisted on feeding her chicken strips back to me.

After dinner, we headed out to start working on the post-surgery shopping list. The actual list was MIA when we got to the pharmacy's GNC section. After several minutes of reading labels and not seeing the right combination of no carbs and ultra high proteins while keeping our toddler out of the panyhose eggs, we just gave up. We will get the list, make a few calls and try this again tomorrow.

All of sudden, I don't feel as smug as I did just this morning in the doctor's office. I have some questions I haven't voiced (or thought of) and might swallow my pig-headed pride and call this weekend. We live and we learn.


Clearing the internist appointment

In one last-minute step, I went to see an internist who works with the bariatric surgeons. I didn't like the idea of driving to another parish (county) to see yet another pre-surgery doctor, but most all of, I was armed with another healthy dose of bad attitude. I expected to be frustrated, but instead was charmed by the small-town doctor's office staff and an upbeat internist.

(Can you say: Dr. Melancon? By husband Scott is assured that any transplant or person from another state will say 'mel-lon-con.' That made for an interesting sidebar into Scott's amusement into all things Cajun.)

Dr. Melancon even passed the booby trap of asking me if I was sure I wanted a Lap-Band instead of a gastric bypass. I think those things are horrible -- work or fail. It seems too drastic for my taste and situation. I equate it with a 'sentence' than a procedure to help someone. Blessed with more than healthy self-esteem and an ego that could sink ships, I often see myself as being less than typical and FHBF (fairly happy being fat). Did anyone ever mention I have some strong opinions? I do, but luckily I keep most of them to myself.

When he asked why I decided against a gastric bypass, I simply said I felt the Lap-Band was a better fit to my needs and that I would prefer to return to a normal gastric arrangement after weight loss. I like that it's adjustable and reversible to a certain degree.

May not be the way I've always put it, but that's the civil, just of it and what really matters to me right now.

I left with a renewed zeal that being a healthy, active mother for Cecilia was a lot more important to me than fitting into those snake-skin jeans I brought two Christmases ago. (Uh, don't ask)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

One week and counting

After a full day of testing, consultations and my final doctor's visit with bariatric surgeon Dr. Karl Leblanc, I'm not sure if I should get my head tested (again) or run in the other direction.

On this day, the team at Vista Surgical Hospital did some routine testing and X-rays and I met with the pre-op nurse Holly (who could be the twin of a nurse who works in Dr. Leblanc's office - haha!) a respiratory therapist and a dietitian.

Thoughts on....

Vista: I think that this facility could use a shot of positive PR after taking it on the chin in the media due to cutbacks and lawsuits. This has very little reflection on the wonderful folks who work there, but if patients only had to go on what they heard to feel comfortable they might be, well, uncomfortable. I may have gone on about this a little too much, but I do that

Side effects: I got a little pale thinking about what can happen when everything goes right. This is no walk in the park (good exercise, Week 5). I'm most concerned with two issues that don't involve food at all: water and hair loss. I'm a big (big) drinker; I like drinking big heaping mounds of it at one time. Becoming a 'sipper' sted a 'chugger' will be my biggest adjustment. No drinking with meals: help! (For those who can't swallow that challenge to your stereotype: I meant to say I will miss the hot-buttered popcorn for breakfast and the mad dash for Oreoes at midnight...whatever floats your boat)
I can't easily explain why hair loss bothers me. Not that I spent lots of money (or any some months) on "doing my 'do." I have a thick, nappy (check your ethnic dictionary) crop of dark, sometimes comb-breaking hair. I think the idea of seeing it fall out would be extremely depressing; not like I'm getting healthier, but that I'm a sickly chick with an overworked hair brush. I vowed to do everything I could to keep my hair stocked with Vitamin E and maybe avoid this horrible side effect. I don't think I would take that well.

Respiratory: I had my first breathing treatment...hmmm, why? Practice for gasping at a later date, I guess. Even when I can't justify why a medical test is being done, 'gadgetitis' is enough to keep me happy. Respiratory's got some neat gadgets and a staff versed in breaking down their function down to the last atom. Cool stuff. One misnomer: the respiratory therapist thinks that her kind are the most hated staff members to stalk a hospital patient. NAY-NAY, Bunny Rabbit. A fat patient's nemesis is first and foremost................

The Dietitian: hiss, boo! Not this dietitian, any dietitian. After five high-risk pregnancies, a five year diabetes clinical trial and a little (ahem) bout in congestive heart failure, each dietician starts to sound just like the one before who felt even if you've heard the script before, their rendition of it will change your life forever ... Carrot, good -- cookie, bad ...
PLEASE NOTE. That's not what happened, that's what I was prepared for and really started this session with a stinky attitude. It doesn't matter what a bariatric surgery patient has heard, all is about to change. This dietician was armed with samples of my new best friends -- high protein drinks with almost no carbs and sweetened with space-age polymers from Venus. Tasty, but some are a little too sweet (yeah, duh?). I decided the rest didn't taste bad at all and if I needed them to live after surgery, they would be getting better each day. The daily regimen for weeks ahead are still a blur to me as I take a "I'll-sip-that-cup-when-I-get-to-it" approach to stages that far away. What does stand out to me is how incredible time-consuming this 'eating' process will be and I vowed to not let my meals take a first priority to providing a balanced, normal diet to my 22-month-old daughter, Cecilia Grace. I know I just violated some "12th step to recovery" some where ... so be it. Got the missing piece (la) to the clinic's Web site. I took my first look at and liked what I saw. I was afraid that it would be gaudy or 'happy ex-chubby folks' goofy. It's not. Very informative. I give it high marks (after a good reworking of those meta tags, hint) and I hope you all will look it up.

I still change my mind everyday about this being something that's right for me, but I'm sure I'm not backing out of this procedure: Onward!