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!

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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.
Website: www.misila.org
Specialty: Supermodels

Editor's note: The following is my performance review of Dr. LeBlanc and his staff which is also posted on www.obesityhelp.com. (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 obesityhelp.com) 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:
The Columnists.com
Leblanc, Karl, book availability
Business Wire
Amazon.com, 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.

MisiLa.org: Got the missing piece (la) to the clinic's Web site. I took my first look at www.misila.org 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!