Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Break in the Silence

It's been a while since I posted or updated my blog. For those who know me well, that can only mean I've been sick and awaiting surgery (again?).

I started feeling yucky about a month ago and I've had trouble swallowing and lots of stomach and chest pain. I had a bad cold after the OH Houston event (BUT IT ROCKED!) and I could tell that my hernia had enlarged.

I had a few tests like upper GI and gall bladder and finally a CT scan that showed the hernia was problematic and needed to be repaired since the last patch did not hold.

I'm not losing any weight, but just trying to hold my own again. I've been cycling to daycare 2-3 mornings a week so I am getting a workout (pulling a 40-pound child and a special trailer attached to bike). Restriction isn't a problem since everything hurts to eat. We have discovered that I best tolerate suishi. No overcooking, no frying, no sauces, just raw fish and rolled rice sits OK.

So here's my summary: When I have surgery (should be quicky day surgery) on next month I'll be 17 months. Including my lap band, that will be seven surgeries (of those, four hernia repairs) since August 2004. I was down about 75 pounds and I've gained up and down for several months.

I love my band and life with the band. I fully believe that one day when I'm past these abdominal issues, I'll do well in reaching my goal.

That's it. This is the hand I've been dealt and I plan to play it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Feeding the Family post band

(Like the Best of Carson, this is one of my replies on another Web site)

Banding and feeding your family

Karen wrote: For those of you who have to cook for a spouse or significant other and kids too. How do you feed them and make it band adaptable?

I have 2 kids 7 and 10 who a very finicky eaters. My husband will eat just about anything as long as it doesn't have anything "weird" in it. I know you need protein first, but does it always have to be a piece of meat, such as chicken, turkey or pork? ...


I have a big, tall husband and a tall (not as big) 3-year-old. We all basically eat the same thing. I rarely have a plain piece of meat and I get all my protein in. I think the "eat protein first" rule applies because so many people have a hard time getting enough protein until they eat it first. I do meaty soups and casseroles.

At first, I had less pasta in my pasta dishes, then I started using Dreamfields low carb pasta or substituting veggies for pasta in traditional pasta dishes. Dreamfields is the bomb and no one can tell that it's low carb/high fiber because it's so tasty. I also started making a pasta sauce and serving my meal over eggplant or spaghetti squash.

I choose the band because I wanted to continue a very normal lifestyle for me and my family. If the lifestyle involves portion control as opposed to another diet, it's very possible (after the inital healing) for everyone in the house to eat the same foods. I've even found a way to reincorporate an occassional peanut butter and jelly sandwich using Nature's Own 'Light' Honey Wheat bread. My 3-year-old eats this high-fiber,tasty bread the same way she would the weak, white stuff. Two slices are low-carb and have 80 calories (for both). To boot, the stuff even has a decent amount of protein (5 grams) a serving.

It's really possible to succeed without being bound to the "plain ole piece of meat" meals. Takes some work, research and a comitment to a normal, balanced nutritional plan.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

OHLA: New Support Group

Ohla from OHLA (ObesityHelp Louisiana)!

Join OHLA For Our December Meeting And Protein Sampling. We will have a ton of free samples and all the holiday support you can shake a stick at:

If nothing else, look at our cool little invitation page. I do dabble in a little Web design from time to time.

OHLA started in New Orleans, but many of its members are displaced and around Baton Rouge.

If anyone is considering weight loss surgery or needs support in your weight loss journey, I have two wonderful groups to refer you to -- OHLA and NooMee (soon to become New U).

Send me an email about either one.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Now or Later You Must Face It

Growing up black and a comfortable two blocks from the projects, I learned early on that there were parts of our life and culture other races just could never understand. Hair-care products=afro sheen; low-income housing development=projects; juvenile detention center=reform school; candy=now-a-later.

My love for editing must have started there because even before ebonics, we could shorten the snot out of any concept – low-income urban housing development, indeed!

Anyway, the candy of the hood is my chosen topic of the night. Hold on to your protein shakes, baby, cause tonight I’M BINGEING NOW-A-LATERS!

Even with an allowance of less than a dollar, one could easily be rich in Now-Or-Laters. A pack of ten cost about a dime when I first started being a connoisseur of fine Now-Or-Lating. And oh, the flavors: grape, apple, cherry, chocolate, and the speciality flavors. We traded them like cards and used them as the “pot” in our elementary card games like pit-a-patty (yes, illegal back porch gambling – the shame of Lake Charles, La.)

I knew their fame was grown out of proportion when I last visited the Ebony Theatre on Railroad Avenue. I don’t remember the movie I saw, but I remember the menu: row after row; every single counter – only Now-a-Laters! That’s the night I discovered the exotic flavors saved for special occasions like coconut, chocolate and pineapple. I died and had gone to Now-or-Later Heaven.

I normally admit to having no obsessions and binge cravings. Well, every now and then, the world’s woes seem only curable by a tiny brown paper bag of Now-or-Laters.  I drove (or my husband drove) the extra mile to find a store with real ghetto Now-or-Laters when I was pregnant and not on diabetic restrictions yet. I remember sneaking a big bag of them into the Advocate newsroom and stopping at every black person’s desk and letting them pick their favorite and reminist on ‘our’ secret.

This was a tough day for me. The pressuring phone calls started early, my 3-year-old is on a candy strike and low and behold, my loving sweet husband picks this day to revert back to being ‘a man.’ Argh!

Some wls surgery patients can’t eat under stress. I guess I’m one of them. Eating while ‘slightly hacked off” led to some hacking up later during bath and litter box duties. Yup, I threw up in both bathrooms while giving Cecilia a bath and appeasing my new kitty childs Precious and Dinky.

Enter the Now-or-Laters from the Halloween offerings. Since no Tricks came for our Treats, I decided that this binge experiment was something I was simply destined for.

So how many licks does it take to get to the end of a Now-or-Later binge? I can’t count the first two cause I tossed them with the rest of dinner, but there’s a healthy stack sitting on the tray of my baby’s highchair. She’s even learned the favors: Red, purple and green.

I just stopped to open one that Cece discovered sitting amongst the remains. “What’s this, a red?” I gave her the candy and kept the wrapper.

I don’t think I’ve gained a Now-or-Later pound. I just need to brush my teeth and face everything I wanted to go away 30 Now-or-Laters ago. On top of all that, we ghetto folk were wrong again, again. This wrapper clearly reads “Now-AND-Later.” I don’t know my own addiction.

Now or later? I chose later and it’s come very soon. I can’t eat another bite and the stresses of the day are still mounting. Not to mention I’m writing with a 3-year-old on my back and her stuffy-head daddy needs “stomething sto I con breathe and go ta sleep.”

So, if you thought I didn’t fall and have these bad days, you were wrong. I took two steps backwards and I have the color wax paper all over the floor to prove it. It just didn’t help. Tomorrow, I’ll try some earnest prayer and a nice bike ride. At least prayer and exercise never gave anyone a cavity. Now or later, you just gotta face it.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I Can Do This!

Last week I decided to go to the doctor, face the weight gain music and move onward as aggressively as possible. I went to see SupaDoc, weighed and got a much-awaited fill. The news: I gained nearly 10 pounds since mid-August.


Before you send for the goofy wagon, please let me explain. Everything but the scale shows the signs of victory and this is what we term an NSV or ‘non-scale victory.’ My body composition analysis shows that I have picked up 8-10 pounds, but reduced my body fat by nearly 20 percent. My body fat percentage is down to under 34 percent after remaining at 50-51 percent since I’ve been trying to lose weight with my lap band (Adjustable Gastric Banding).

If you get a second, you might check out how the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer works. This machine has never been my friend before. It gives a weight and then estimates what percentage of ones total weight is fat, muscle and water. There are about 3-4 ways to compute these figures. The most accurate is the use of a chamber which requires getting weighed under water. Many gyms use skin fold calibers that look like plastic fat pinchers. I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons of the methods, but I do feel Tanita gives me a decent point of reference to at least compare how my weight composition has changed over the last 14 months.

According to the device, my fat weighed more than 140 pounds on last analysis. Last week’s figures showed my 34 percent fat total weighed 99 pounds. That’s a reduction of 40 pounds of fat. Muscle mass and water are both heavier than fat, so the end result is that I’ve lost fat, gained muscle and I’m heavier. My goal of being under 30 percent body fat is well within my reach.

One might debate the benefit of this NSV. Before you challenge me to a battle, please remember that it means I may or may not be swifter in catching you, but once I do, the 280+ pounds feels the same sitting on you despite its exact composition.

So, how did I celebrate my new-found good news/bad news?

First, I made a commitment to experimenting with new types of fresh vegetable dishes. We’ve had spaghetti squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, bell peppers, spinach and mushrooms, just to name a few.

I’m increasing my water goals to 80-100 ounces per day. That’s not too hard, but I think this will help as it gets colder because I usually dry out in fall/winter.

I’m still attempting 80 grams of protein or more per day. Drinking lots of milk and my Oatmeal-Yogurt Crunch for breakfast makes this figure easy to reach and surpass each day. Our other protein sources include Juice Plus Complete, cheese, peanut butter and some fun grilling experiments. I can eat freshly grilled steak with no problems. I can also eat MY OWN fried chicken, and this is more a stipulation of my marriage contract than an unbearable craving. Fried chicken purchased outside the home will just not do for either of us.

I’ve re-incorporated sliced bread. My baby’s entering a peanut butter and jelly phase so I started looking for some ‘family friendly’ bread that everyone could be happy with. Nature’s Own Light Honey Wheat won out because it’s tasty with 80 calories for two slices with 5 grams of protein. See how those 80 grams of protein can be easy to attain?

I’ve demoted my milk choice from lowfat/fat free Organic Valley to Carb Down fat-free milk beverage. This was a tough choice. SupaDoc once asked why I still drank milk with fat and I said I needed to buy one milk choice for my entire family. Well, since both Cecilia and I can go through 1-2 half gallons a week, this excuse just wasn’t holding up. I’m buying one of each instead of buying two of the same kind. (Shhh… don’t tell SupaDoc he was right). Carb Down milk contains no fat and much less sugar, carbohydrates and milk sugars than even fat-free milk. A serving of Carb Down milk contains 45 calories and 8 grams of protein. Duh, Frances …Just drink the milk!

I have plans to start a test-kitchen series on my blog really soon showing the steps to create some of these healthy dishes. I have pictures and recipes ready to go. Most of them are vegetables because I’m craving fresh vegetable dishes right now (yes, Toto, we are NOT in Kansas any more).

Finally, a few days after my 39th birthday and the day after my second fill, (I have 1 cc in my 4 cc band), we purchased a family fitness tool. Scott and I have been riding separately, but rarely together because we have a 3-year-old hitchhiker. We now have a two-seater child trailer attached to my bicycle. I can now ride my bike up and down hills pulling trailer and 40 pound preschooler. (Ouch, was that my back?).

Yes, it hurt a lot at first, but I don’t need a babysitter or nursery to get my exercise. Where I go, she goes and she adds some extra resistance to my cycling workouts. SupaDoc’s nurse Shari deserves the praise for making that wonderful suggestion. I guess I can hand it down to her when she gets married and has two or three kids. (Shh … don’t tell [single, very thin] Shari about these plans)

Cece thinks the cycling is really fun, so we have a win-win situation here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bikes, birthdays and bands

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m strange. If my last name was Normal, my first name would be Abby. (Abby Normal…lol – my favorite line from Young Frankenstein)

I get real reflective around my birthday and low and behold, there’s one breathing down my neck. Cecilia Grace, my miracle baby, just turned 3. I’ve heard much about the limited “unprompted” vocabulary of 3-year-olds. Less than an hour ago, I was reviewing an old weight loss surgery newsletter and Cecilia ran over to my laptop: “That’s Docta De Blan. Look Docta De Blan!”

Ok, I’m saying my preschooler, unsolicited, identifies bariatric surgeons. Is this normal?

About this time last October, I got my first lap band fill. ‘Docta De Blan ( SupaDoc Karl LeBlanc to most adults) and my family kept in close contact after that point for numerous health crisis including five surgeries between November and May. So, your child talks about Santa and the Easter Bunny; my child talks about bariatric surgeons.

Since it’s better late than never, I’m trying to incorporate more exercise in my routine. Well, that’s only partially true. After more than a month with our car in the shop, my husband and I blew the dust off our bicycles and I’ve been taking regular spins around my subdivision. I’m taking it real slow, but it’s great to be on a bike weighing less than 300 pounds and not recovery from surgery. Even before the bike rides, I was starting to make some weight loss progress again. I’ve dropped about 6 pounds since the end of the Hurricane Rita Saga. Weight, fat, water – I wouldn’t care if it were whipped cream – the scale is moving.

I’m so ready for good things to happen, that I made an appointment for a fill. If you’re counting, I’ve had one ½ cc fill, one complete unfill and a return to the ½ cc in the last 14 months since my weight loss surgery. It’s not normal, but it’s what I’ve had to do because of my hernia repairs, staph infection and open wound issues. I’m not going to be greedy; another ½ cc will be fine with me. Just a dab will do me, but of course that’s up to Docta De Blan.

I know my capacity varies, but most of the time, it’s more than I should consume. I have made great strides, though, on not drinking during meals. My solid capacity varies. After a slow and well-chewed burger tonight, I still felt hungry. I’m sure this was just exhaustion and stress, but it seemed like something was missing. I had a piping hot bowl of sautéed spinach and Portobello mushrooms. No, this also isn’t normal, but please refer to the beginning of this post.

Abby Normal is getting old.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Victory: Water, weight and waiting

I admitted defeat a few days ago without even realizing it. I said I could never follow all the water rules without a 12-step program. After one of my surgeries this year, swallowing and swelling were dual conflicts for me. I started regular “sipping” with meals to keep food from getting stuck and later it turned into fairly heavy drinking with meals; especially when eating out.

I never went back to the “no drinking with meals” rule and I could no longer justify all my reasons to ignore the instructions. Dr. Mark Hausmann once explained that drinking with meals leads to more overeating because the water helps to wash food out of the stomach at a faster rate and results in a delay in that “full feeling.” I have a lot of trust in Dr. Hausmann, but I always thought my swelling and wound issues made me unique and maybe a little liquid would keep me from getting sick while eating. Well, I still get sick sipping water at times so I decided to score this debate: Hausmann – 1; Spencer – 0.

I decided to follow Nike’s advice and “just do it.” Instead of sipping water with my meals for the last two days, I’ve concentrated on thorough chewing and smaller bites. Results: No productive burps or pain from stuck food. Even my pork chops went down with comfort – slow, but comfortable. I’ve also waited an hour or more after the meal to drink my tiny 24 oz. glass of water.

Instead of 8 glasses of water, I’ve turned my water consumption up to 80 - 100 ounces a day. Considering the fact that most super-size drinks are at least 32 oz. it doesn’t seem to be a lot to exceed 64 ounces which is the recommendation for someone at a normal weight.

I’m starting my day with 30+ grams of protein and trying to get another 40-50 between the next two meals. Milk, yogurt and cheese make this easy without adding too many carbs.

My restart efforts have been rewarded – THE SCALE MOVED!!

As of this morning, I seem to have lost about half of my hurricane weight gain. My goal is to have the excess gone before I get fill in about two weeks. I think by simply revisiting the weight loss surgery basics I can be back on the band wagon. Now that’s something I’ll (in an hour and a half) drink to!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scorecard on My Restart Efforts

Rome wasn’t built in a day and my empire is no exception to the ‘time and patience’ rule. I hit the restart button on my weight loss efforts and the last couple of days have been a combination of tries and trial-and-error.

Nothing I ate yesterday stayed down. Oh, well. I will call that day errors. Mild cheddar over garlic triscuit crackers – yacked. Too much fiber consumed too fast. Fresh-herb baked chicken breast with stuffed portabellos – half yacked. I learned. I’m eating the right things, but not concentrating on chewing slowly and big chunks become, well, blown chunks. (Excuse the graphic nature of this post) After things settled down, I returned to my cold chicken and spinach-stuffed portabello. It wasn’t too bad chewed to death.

Rule No. 1 – Eat protein first and eat slowly and carefully. Funny thing is that only goes for healthy food. I could eat Orioles and Rocky Road ice cream at the speed of light. Yes, that’s weird. I don’t make the rules; I just break them and later beg mercy from the lap band gods.

Today, I started my day with my weight loss special breakfast – Oatmeal Yogurt Crunch. Ok, that’s a long, corny name. The night before, I mixed 2 cups of plain, fat free yogurt with 1 cup of plain rolled oats. To that mixture, I fold a can each of pineapples and mandarin oranges. After the oatmeal softens, I mix in a half cup of slivered almonds. I add a scoop of vanilla flavored protein powder to each serving. I estimate that it has about 230 calories and more than 20 grams of protein. Quite filling and it gives me a good head start to getting 60-80 grams.

Rule No. 2 – Limit carbohydrates within a high-protein diet. I try to get my protein from solid protein instead of shakes, but I still use Juice Plus as a vitamin and protein supplement.

I got some exercise. I walked two miles to a convenience store to get milk for my little girl and myself. Not impressed? I left at 2:30 p.m. (in Louisiana!) pulling my nearly-40 pound toddler in her Little Tykes wagon built for two. Ya gotta see this thing. It’s got a door, two seats and cup holders. On the trip back with a bag of groceries, I drank half the water and splashed the rest on our faces. “Mommy, my face is crying,” she complained. I guess the ungrateful little tot would prefer spontaneous combustion.

Rule No. 3 – Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. I dragged my earthly remains home at 4 p.m.

I’m a heavy drinker (of water), so this routine didn’t change much for me. It’s very hard for me to drink less than 16 ounces at a time. It truly is hard for me not to drink with meals and I do think this is a big part of weight loss surgery success or failure. I’ve gotten it down to only sipping with meals and when I do abstain from water with meals, I never can wait an hour before having a large glass of water. Shame shame.

Rule No. 4 – Drink at least eight glasses of water a day with no drinking during meals and ‘something’ about an hour before meals and ‘something else’ about an hour and a half afterwards. I drank 80 ounces of water today and I will aim for 100 ounces. The rest of the water rules will not be achieved without a 12-step program.

My day ended with a horrible headache from the hot walk. Dinner was shrimp Alfredo over Dreamfields low-carb pasta and leftover spinach-stuffed portabello. This low carb pasta is out of sight and it has 7 grams of protein per serving with only 5 net carbs. I estimate the pasta, shrimp and mushroom dinner had more than 40 grams of protein. I think there was about three different types of cheese in those ingredients and cheese=protein!

I have the end-of-the-night-munchies. Watching my toddler and husband snack on about 5 different things hasn’t been easy, but only because I have to fetch snacks and clean up the messes that they leave. I’m thinking of ending my day with a large cup of sugar-free Nestle’s Quick with milk. 10 grams of protein, here we come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Time to Hit the Restart Button

It’s early October 2005 and it’s time to hit the old “restart button.” I’m really kinda calm at this moment and I don’t know if I don’t care about my weight gain or I’m just so numb from weeks of living in South Louisiana. I put the scale in a corner the week before Hurricane Katrina hit and took it out after my family left to return to my hometown that was “ripped a new one” by Hurricane Rita. I call this period of my life LaKarita!

During LaKarita, I gained around 10 pounds. I’ve taken no vitamins. I’ve mixed no shakes. My exercise included walking down a dark highway with my baby in a wagon to find a way out of my energy-starved subdivision the night after Katrina hit. I also pushed my car a lot. It started dying Katrina morn and has been in a shop through the end of the Rita evacuation.

I didn’t cook much during Hurricane Katrina, but for the two weeks of mandatory evacuation of my hometown, we were nine deep in my house. Yes, nine people, two cats and a dog for more than two weeks. Ya know, I think it was fun. We had to shop for groceries everyday and I think we have stock in Wal-Mart now.

Cooking for nine people can be fun, but the challenge to find what would make the “majority” happy got difficult. To add to the challenge, five of the nine were diabetics. Not five old people either. Our diabetics ranged 17, 35, 38, 67 and 69. My 17-year-old niece and I have been insulin dependent and the other three are and will always be daily insulin takers.

The weight loss efforts felt victim to the following:

  • Bread and starches – we stopped eating bread in my house, but daily bread and rice is the Louisiana way of life.
  • Sugar – I fought the soda every step of the way, but I treated the gang to bakery cakes and a big Baskin Robbins run just to keep morale up and tensions down. I also learned that teens and snacks go hand in hand.
  • Stress – Ok, I may act like Wonder Woman, but this stuff got difficult. I got new meds post-Katrina and I think it helped me stay calm with nine people in my house (2 cats and a dog). I don’t think I’m an emotional eater because some yummy comfort food just made me sicker. My stress hives make me look like I’ve taken a lashing with a bull whip.
  • Exercise – Hmm, what is this exercise? I guess marathons of the Weather Channel don’t count.

Some great things happened while I gained those 10 pounds:

  • Grilling – I have some new grilling secrets. Who needs electricity if you have a BBQ pit? Will grilled everything short of the (2 cats and a dog) and that practice will serve us well. After the lights came back on we kept grilling because it helped cool the house.
  • I cook therefore I am – There’s no place to easily take nine people out to dinner. We had to cook, plan meals and cook.
  • Peace of mind – I never wondered where my sick and elderly family members were. We were together. Being the youngest of the family, it felt good to know that I could step up and be everything to my parents. LaKarita taught us a lot.

So, I’m hitting the restart button. Eight or more glasses of water, limit sugar and carbohydrates, 60-80 grams of protein a day and EXERCISE WILL YA!

The lap band surgery is adjustable and I’m sure I need an adjustment called a fill. My first 13 months, I’ve had only one ½ cc fill. I’m afraid of getting too much restriction because I get nervous, eat fast and get “sick.” I’ll have to concentrate and take it slow.

It’s been a little over a year and I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight. I know it could be a lot more, but considering the year it’s been, I chose to give myself some grace instead of lamenting. I still weigh less than 300 pounds and I believe with time and hard work, I can weigh less than 200 pounds.

Mark your calendars, it all starts NOW!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I've Been Living in LaKarita

After two months in Hurricane Hell, I'm looking for what 'normal' used to mean before Katrina and Rita ... I call this period LaKarita!

I'm in between eastern Louisiana (Katrina) and western Louisiana (Rita). Katrina was closer, but my hometown is one of the most severly hit by Rita -- Lake Charles. My parents and my brother's family have been with us since the day before Rita hit and my new normal life involves nine people, two cats and a dog. Cooking for "many" including five diabetics and teen-agers proved to be a challenge.

During Katrina, I saw the horrors of sick and elderly waiting in long lines for food and medicine. It hurts to watch and the best I could do was vow that my elderly parents would never make the news waiting for a MRE and bottled water. Three weeks later, I got to put my money where my mouth was.

I stuck to my bander's shopping and cooking routines, but each day more white bread, white sugar, pop tarts and "gosh" carbonated drinks made their way into my kitchen.

Other than treating the gang to Baskin Robins one night, food hasn't provided much of an alluring comfort to me.

I'm starting to wonder where I stand, scale-wise. I've been off of the anti-depressants that started at the same time I stopped losing well. I see the scale from time to time, but I've not stopped enough to care about it.

I'm only working with a 1/2 cc fill, so if I've gained 10 pounds, I shouldn't be surprised or disappointed. I lost my safety pin in my favorite blue jean shorts. Nothing keeps them up any more and I'm quite sure my Size 26-28 days are long gone. A loose 22-24 is more like it with lots of annoying, hanging skin in my arms and tummy.

When I'm down to one household in my house instead of three, I might get a new "loser's fever" or not. I'm sure I can at least invest in another 1/2 cc fill and step on the scale and see where that takes me.

My hurricane survival tips include "grill everything." We started grilling when the power was out and continued cause it was just darn fun. Chicken, pork, beef, veggies, pineapples -- everything.

I tossed thinly sliced pototoes with red and orange peppers, onions and herbs and olive oil. After separating them into single serving foil pouches, we grilled those puppies.

Last night's shrimp fettuccini was topped with a dish consisting of sauteed portabellos, crispy onions and baby spinach. This gave me an opportunity to try Dreamfields "extremely low net carb" line of pasta. I highly recommend this stuff!

No, we haven't exactly suffered much, but when one stands in the Red Cross line with armed soldiers for four hours in the Louisiana heat, using the money for lunch meat and potato chips is just not appealing.

SueElla's hometown took a beating and she may have a couple of weeks left sharing a camp with relatives. All her animals survived the waters and that was a big relief for her. I've not spoken to Gemma in a couple of weeks, but she was doing much better and gaining strength when we did speak.

That's me folks! I'll be back and I'm sure I'll see some SV and NSV in my future.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Notes During Hurricane Rita

I don't know what to say....kinda in a crazed daze.

Baby and I are planning to ride out another monster storm on the "outskirts of destruction." We left Calcasieu Parish yesterday which is close to Texas and Gulf of Mexico and came home which is farther east. Well, the storm as moved a little farther east in its projection.

Last I heard, my trucker husband was trying to leave South Texas/Louisiana border area and come home. No word in a while.My elderly parents are under mandatory evacuation as well as my brother and sister and their children. I'm trying to get everyone here in Baton Rouge because we are a little more inland and eastern. It might be a mess here too. I don't know.

I spoke to my angelette SueElla and she's heading north to Toledo Bend. They will go further north if they have to. They are more than welcomed here, it will just be tight. My other angelette Nikki is four miles farther north than I am and we are not under any special alerts in our parish.

I'm spoke to the son of Gemma, the Katrina Storm Survivor, and she's still in the Baton Rouge hospital and doing much better with IV meds and will be in the hospital through this next storm.

I will post updates until (or if) we lose power.My prayers are with my South Louisiana and Southeast Texas OH family.

Please be safe.

Onward (in His Grace)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Attempted OD on Little Debbie Cakes Post-Katrina

Me, baby and the band are surviving in post-Katrina South Louisiana. I don't now what to say other than we're ok. I'm a little fried and stressed. I started taking some Xanax and that seems to help; except I took it, fell asleep and Cece slipped out of bed and coated the kitchen floor with Pam cooking spray. OK- Nothing's sticking to my kitchen floor now and I save the meds for late at night.

I tried to "eat my stress away" a few days ago and I still feel the yuckiness of 3 Little Debbie Cakes and whole milk from a convenience store. I'm not an emotional eater, apparently. Yuck!

Next week, I will start "some" type of exercise routine with fellow band babe Nikki D. in Zachary, La. We've both tried drinking and sweets and they are not smoothing my angst or even that enjoyable. There's got to be a better way.

I've found a cure for the scale addition -- Cat 4-5 Hurricane. The scale is up side down in a corner and I'm laughing at the days I used to hop on it first thing in the morning. I might be losing, might be gaining, just trying to stay away from "might be nuts!"

In my spare time, I've been working for out of New Orleans and not out of homes across America. The first week, I was posting emergency rescue request to the Web site. Now, we are just giving folks a way to stay informed, speak out some frustrations and get the help they need to stay afloat. The URL is " " and doing the Nola View Blog near the bottom right of the homepage. (PT- good pay!)

In the rest of my spare time, I've been helping OH and local wls clinic get relief and supplies to displaced patients and those who had doctors in New Orleans and now need after care. I have volunteer surgeons in 4 or 5 cities, so if you know someone who needs my help, email me. (voluntary and well rewarded!)

I've been in contact with Gemma Rachel, the woman who had to airlift out of New Orleans days after RNY. She's had a tough time, but she's a trooper. I will be posting something on all the boards about how we can help her get on her feet. She's definitely on the losing side -- 42 pounds in a couple of weeks -- but her health is taking a beating and I can't imagine the horrors she has seen.

In the rest of the rest of my spare time, I've been on a job search. I'm one of two finalists for a communications job at a local university. I feel newspapers pulling me back into the "media addiction" since the storm and I don't know if I even want this job any more. I do need a full time job though. (possible so-so pay)

My un-spare time is caring for my nearly 3-year-old daughter. She's been with my parents for five days and I'm leaving to go spend the weekend with them and her. My baby didn't have to see the horrors that many infants and toddlers are living right now. I know what a wonderful blessing that is and I'm grateful to the Lord for His grace extended to Cece and I.

My husband has been gone though most of this and it's also tearing him up seeing pictures of Louisiana all over the country and knowing he can only read about it and not be here to help us cope.

I know something that could be fun...I could visit SueElla this weekend! Yes, I will do that. I'll see SueElla this weekend and come back and burn some street rubber with Nikki. I'm the angel, but I feel like I get all the rewards of knowing my little sisters.

Well, folks, that's Frances in a nutshell -- supersize my nutshell, please.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Notes During Hurricane Katrina

Posted 8:30 a.m.
Don't worry about me and baby, we are fine. Please pray for our neighbors to the immediate east of us. It's bad, but it could have been lots worst if things had not shifted a few miles eastward.

We have some intense wind and rain where I live which is 70 miles from New Orleans. NOTE: We are not in a parish that evacuated. I've never been in danger by staying here and it's much better for those of us in Baton Rouge not to congest the highways for those who HAD to leave. My area will see power outtages and flooding and the entire southeastern part of the state is still holding its breath until the storm's eye leaves the state in about four hours from now.

I'm going to get some "protein first," but I will try to post in a couple of hours if I still have power.

Noon on 8/31/2005
My little girl and I got our power restored late Tuesday. I got out into the more "city" parts of Baton Rouge today and heard my first newscasts since the first hours post-landfall. I've shed a lot of tears today and I know for every heart-breaking story broadcasts, 10 others exists. The level of human suffering within an hour of me becomes quite difficult at times.

At one point last night, I left my house with my baby in a wagon and one flashlight. My car stopped on me through all this and the thought of being in a slightly rural area with no lights, phone or car was overwhelming.

I've felt what seems to be panic attacks all day and my blood pressure is in the clouds. I plan to see my PCP tomorrow.

There's no witty or inspiring twists. Life down here just got 100 times more difficult and we all need your prayers. Thank you all for the kind words and prayers.

Written to "Dee" on 9/02/05

I've never met you, but I feel we are more kin than we ever have been. We are bandsters battling the storm after the storm. Most of the people complaining can't begin to understand how our lives have been totally changed by the storm -- even or especially our lives as bariatric patient.


  • The day of the storm, I was wandering around looking for "hot" food because I can't eat sandwiches and cold anything (except yogurt)
  • La. bandsters searching for aftercare now that four of the few centers in Louisiana are closed (washed away).
  • A preop in Metaire who lost everything and her/the kids are separated frpm her husband.
  • A postop lady who fled to Texas and is now dehydrated and losing protein levels because she doesn't have the products she tolerates. She's losing weight at an alarming rate.
  • Several preops who were finally approved and scheduled and now their doctors and centers are no longer operational.

Those of you with the "constitution" to read this far, bear with us. My posts aren't "OT" because they aren't.

Thursday, there will be a meeting of bariatric patients from anywhere in the state who need support, nutritional supplies and medical care. There will be at least one surgeon there who is offering aftercare and adjustments for displaced patients or those from other areas who were just treated in New Orleans and Covington. We have bariatric supplies and nutritional products being shipped in from vendors all over the country.

I realized the day I searched for something that would sit well with me that people were going to be in trouble. My angellette just had surgery in N.O. and she still had drains and staples. I felt people would suffer and possibly died if something wasn't done to meet OUR specific needs.

Operation Katrina is being spearheaded by ObesityHelp Inc. Just that in itself makes this effort very un-"OT."

If you can't feel you need to avoid the posts, I fully understand. But we in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are part of the family and the family is hurting and suffering beyond compare.

Those of you who don't understand, I hope you never have to.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Reality Check: What I Can and Can't Change

It's been almost a year and I think it's time for some aggressive action and a little less feeling sorry for myself.

"I'm not losing weight quickly any more, I hurt all the time, I need to get back to work, boo-hoo, boo-hoo ..."

Sometimes, you just come to the realization that some people care, some people don't give a rat's hindy and, in the end, sometimes neither will make a difference in one's fate. It's August 2005 and I have to decide how much "I" care and if I can step up one more time.

Let's review the last 11 months:

I must say, for a person who never liked to pose for pictures, I've done a good job at getting on the other end of the camera. I still hate what I see, but I've learned to use it as motivation and assessment of progress.

My favorite is still pictures with my family, like the one on the right in our WalkAmerica T-shirts. For more information about our "walk" activities, click HERE.

I wish that I could have lost more weight, but I didn't expect 6 surgeries, a major staph infection and months of wound issues all in one year. Some people might think I'm lucky just to be alive. They are partially right, I just know that "luck" had nothing to do with it. I can look back and see how blessed I have been. \0/ (my code for "praise the Lord!")

I have some restriction (Ok, a small fill) in my lap band, but it's more than enough to get me moving again. While I was unfilled, I stalled like a rock in pudding and then I had a 3-pound loss right before SupaDoc put a 1/2 cc in my lap band and we are hoping that will help me lose without aggravating the swallowing and eating problems I have when my abdominal area swells due to fluid collection.

So, what can I not change? There's no end in sight to my GYN-related problems. I had an ultrasound yesterday that showed my largest ovarian mass seems to have shrunk from 8 to 5 cm. The test, however, showed that I have numerous, but small fibroid tumors. All of those growths -- cysts, tumors, scaring -- are things which are slow to get resolved. I've seen two GYNs and one GYN oncologist and none were interested in getting rid of any of this. Now that the biggest mass is shrinking, I'm sure we are back to the "wait" phase. I'm actually Ok with that and I'm going to try not to lament those problems too much, try to get pain management under control and give myself several "cut-free" months.

What can I change? I've honestly been lax in my eating habits for about a month. I skipped meals, got into a Burger-quicky-meal mode at times and I've not walked because I'm hurting a lot. I gotta get back on track and keep a close eye on carbs and "cook" my own protein. My eggplant adventures are continuing and they make fancy low-carb dishes fun. This week, I made a seafood au gratin with fried eggplant medallions. The seafood was crawfish, crab meat and shrimp in a cooked-down Alfredo base. I let my eggplant sit in thin pancake batter before rolling in Italian breadcrumbs. I served it with a small portion of my Festive Veggie Saute.

I must get active again. It's going to hurt -- that's just life. I'm walking in another Walkathon next month and I gotta get back to being able to handle the occasional horrible pain and at least walking everyday. (Join The Walk From Obesity - Louisiana)

I'm also hoping to get back into a full-time working routine. I think eating well will be harder if I go back to work as opposed to working mostly home, but a stricter routine and that added discipline may be just what the doctor ordered. I do know one thing for sure: I'm so broke, my Bologna has one first name! It's time for less surgery and more work.

Click here for profile

Those of you who are fans of my writing and my work, can find my published work in the current issues of ObesityHelp Magazine and Refreschen Louisiana Magazine. You can also find a collaboration between myself and SupaDoc (Dr. Karl LeBlanc), in the current issue of Bariatrics Today. It was a lot of fun serving as the editor of his expository on Ventral Hernias and the Bariatric Patient. I have nothing but respect and admiration for this truly extrordinary human being.

Mixing an article on hernias and weight-loss surgery was not my idea. Props to Nikki Johnson, managing editor of Bariatrics Today/ObesityHelp Magazine. Nikki is another person who's helped turn my last year into a journey (with new professional challenges) instead of a nightmare. (Meow! to you, Nikki)

I'm going to try to keep this blog uplifting and informative. Ya know life isn't always kind, but I will continue to simply play the hand I'm dealt. My favorite word will continue to be:


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Armed And Working on 'Dangerous'

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and concerns yesterday. I know that I probably still shouldn't be so concerned with losing weight right now (with ovarian mass issues raging), but I thought getting a fill might help me concentrate on weight loss and not think about how I want to put a "hit" out on every GYN in the state of Louisiana.

In the period I was unfilled, I lost 3 pounds. yippee. But I had gained 10 total before, so I'm still 8 pounds away from my lowest weight. I'm about 70 pounds down instead of near 80 pounds. But I think I've seen progress in inches, but I'm not measuring, so I'm unsure.

My doctor was happy with the 3 pounds and wasn't pushing a fill, but I like to live dangerously, so I insisted and told him I would come back if I started to McPuke again and get an upper GI.

SupaDoc doctor had some trouble with the port and I could hear some popping as it flipped out of place. I think he got it on the third or fourth stick. I got my 1/2 cc fill back in my 4 cc band and I think that will be good restriction since I still had some restriction unfilled.

I've had one Juice Plus shake and I feel some pressure and discomfort, but nothing too bad. At least I know it's filled again.

I go for an ultrasound to measure my ovarian masses on tomorrow. Everyone (except GYNs) keeps telling me to push for what's right for me. (Thanks, Lilli, I hear ya shouting). This could be nothing or this could change my life and my family's life. If nothing else, I don't like being in constant pain. I like to go-go-go. With a healthy and more energetic body, I would be down right DANGEROUS!

So, don't worry that I'm going to take this lying down. I gotta life and I'm determined to live it!

Onward (where else?)


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Group makes double-advocacy effort in walk event

BATON ROUGE, La. – A group dedicated to the aid and recovery of weight-loss surgery patients joined a national fight against infant prematurity. Members of NooMee, a Baton Rouge support group, raised money during the March of Dimes WalkAmerica, but they also hoped to raise awareness of the plight of those battling obesity, team captain Frances Spencer said.

Kathryn Mixon, March of Dimes Capital Area division director, said the late April walk brought together teams and individual walkers from the Capital Area’s eight-parish region and started and finished on the grounds of Louisiana State University. Mixon said despite rain and a bleak weather forecast, more than 2,500 walkers participated in the event. Early estimates showed that up to 4,000 walkers would participate.

(Click HERE to read the entire story on separate page)

Note: I'm very proud of the efforts of my family and the other NooMee families who responded wonderfully to the plight of children in need. A special thanks to the doctors and staff of the Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute for their encouragement and excellent support of this cause. NooMee's efforts were also features in the special fitness issue of ObesityHelp Magazine.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Reflections On A Bad Day

(Blogger Note: This was originally a post to the message boards. I've edited out a few typos)

I've waited until this day was nearly over to post my reflections on a truly awful time to be me.

My baby's puppy died. Buster was very symbolic in my weight-loss journey because he showed up in October and we estimate he was born about the time I was banded. As I lost weight, Buster found it. At 6-7 months, he was 70 pounds and now he was nearly 80 pouds up as I was nearly 80 pounds down.

Being sick and alone with my toddler, I've not been able to take really good care of him lately. Ironically, he died while my husband was home. The doggie seemed to have gotten caught up in some brush and strangled on the line.

I sent my baby to daycare and then started making calls for help with his bloating and heavy body. I considered yanking my JP drain tube out to take care of him, but I can't lift the weight I've lost.

After the public works crew left with Buster, the last 10 months of pain, changes, surgeries (6) and struggles seem to hit home. I have all the best excuses in the world, but I've let my little girl and her big doggie down and at times it was too hard to bear. Life is strange, I've lost four of my own children in my six-year marriage, but I'm sure I cried more today than at any other time. It's not that I didn't mourn my precious children. It all came tumbling down as I called office after office because "I can't move my baby's puppy." What next?

Food was available during this horrible day. My husband had breakfast at McDonalds when I dropped him to work and Greek for a late lunch, but I wasn't tempted. I probably didn't eat enough today, but I have no appetite when in pain. Once I got some meds in me, I was able to enjoy a nice eggplant snack with my family late tonight.

I harbor no ill will toward the band, but this sickly, thinner Frances is not the woman I feel comfortable with. I like going, going and creating and conquering. I know that HE will be strong in my weakness, but being "needy" continues to be one of the greatest challenges of my life.

I'm sorry that this doesn't seem to be about food and the band, but it is about me. My food adventure this week, is, however, trying to find ways to substitute eggplant for starches like pasta, potatoes and rice. Any eggplant recipes will be appreciated.

As always, please continue to pray for Cece, Scott and I. Our life is like the eggplant dishes -- constantly changing.



Buster "Jo-Busta" Spencer 2004-2005

My support system -- I've been blessed by the wonderful support of bariatric pre- and postops from the boards of In this case, I would like to offer all the comments and suggestions I got in response to this post. CLICK HERE TO READ COMMENTS.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sometimes God Says "Just Not Now"

I've felt the prayers and positive thoughts of people all over this wonderful world for me and my family. I do feel that God had an answer and it was simply "wait."

My surgeon put in a JP tube in my stomach to drain the fluid build-up. He said he wasn't very optimistic that it would all drain out without a surgical drain tube. (Yeah, geez).

I left my surgeon's office with hopes that the GYN would have encouraging news if I told him about the increased pain, swelling and fluid. (Note, I have ovarian masses and one, quite sizeable).

He took one look at the drain tube and said "Whoa, that's not my area of expertise!" He didn't feel like the two issues were connected so he's sure that we should wait until the abdominal drainage resolves before doing the ovarian surgery. Instead of moving the time of "pain relief" sooner, he said this swelling and drainage might move the ovarian surgery (set for August) even further back.

If there's an life-or-death emergency, he will do surgery immediately. In all honesty, I can't say that I think this pain will kill me in the next 48 hours.

I can't do much, but wait until these surgical issues are resolved. I can't work (punch a clock) and I'm not much good as a house-wife when in pain every day.

Sooooo, I guess we need to change our prayers. I need to find a way to help support my family and remain slightly sick at home. This isn't a hard task since I'm a consultant and free-lance journalist. I have to find a way to work through the pain and continue aggressively completing home-based projects.

I will probably keep this drain tube for a month unless I have to surgical drainage before that time.

These are the cards I've been dealt and I plan to play them.

Thanks for all the prayers and, as always,



Monday, June 27, 2005

Responding to "My Boyfriend Won't Sleep With Me"

(Blogger Note: This is a response to a lady who wrote that she felt so uncomfortable with her size and that her weight was making her unattractive to her boyfriend. CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL MESSAGE from

Beauty and attraction is so relative that you might not solve every problem with a lap band. One man's obese girlfriend is another man's BBW princess. BBWs are "big beautiful women" and in certain circles they have no trouble filling their dance cards. My biggest fear in having the lap band surgery was that I would no longer be sexually attractive to my husband who always preferred women between 300-400 pounds.

I'm not saying everyone needs to be that large to be sexy, but I am finding that sexual attraction remains as size changes if there's somethings at the foundation other than an "ideal size."

If you feel like a fat pig at a size (guessing) 26, will you still be a pig at size 16 when you pass size 12s? Many size 12s feel like oinkers as they pass those cute little size 6s.

Unless you can guarentee you will become your ideal size, you need to address the issues that make you "feel ugly" and unwanted.

When my husband brought me a thong in a size 26, I wore it and I WORE IT WELL. Now, I've found a way to radiate the same beautiful as my size changes.

I'll never be disappointed because I'm not getting sexier -- I'm getting healthier. Sexy can't be bought off the rack and my beauty starts with my confidence in who I am.

Good luck in finding acceptance where you are. Sorry if this doesn't sound supportive, but you will find lots of folks who will agree that you couldn't possibly look good in a thong. After the thong comes off (if it does), we all look the same in the dark. I just happen to feel the same way when the light comes on.

You will need this aggressive confidence and spirit sometime before the scale says you are not a "fat pig" anymore.

My best to you in your journey.



Banded, busted, broke down, BLESSED!

A big howdy from Bayou Banded and Blessedland!

Sometimes you need to turn your eyes to heaven, go back to what you know and count your blessings.

Most of you know I've been sick lately and some of you know I've also been home alone with my T-babe Cece while her daddy is off driving trucks, Lord knows where.

Today, I found myself in horrible pain, both my cars and I are broke down and not a cent for a quick take out tonight for Cece and me.

Back to basics, banders!

My 2000s child is about to get an induction in how to get it down on nothing in Louisiana old style:

For her:
Hot cornbread
Juice or milk
New Orleans long-grain, fortied rice

For mommy:
Turkey wings smothered in everything in the kitchen -- Pan sauteed, fresh onions, parsley, chopped garlic and CAYENNE pepper.

I'll get a little bit of her carbs and she will get some of my turkey finely chopped and hidden and we will call it dinner on the cheap.

I checked, there's protein in everything!

It ain't fancy, but ain't starving (or fast food).

I'm counting my blessings and holding tight to my little one. I have two doctor's appointments tomorrow and I might need a drain to get rid of all this fluid in my tummy. You praying folk think about and pray for me and my little Cece tonight.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Back to Basics With The Band

I've moved myself back to mushies since my unfilling last Friday. I have nothing in my band, but I was still PBing and foaming puke. (sorry). I decided to do mushies for a couple of days instead of taking my doctor up on the suggested upper GI. Ya ever just get tired of poking and sticking? I'm there.

Being unfilled has not been much of change for me. I've tossed chicken and solid carbs a couple of times and I'm not hungry between meals. Today I had sf hot chocolate, yogurt-oatmeal (w/some protein powder), Life Cereal and soupy grits and eggs for dinner. Way to party on that unfill, huh?

No ice cream or anything exciting to mention. I should probably get some more protein powder if I'm gonna go mushy for a while. Tomorrow, I'll try something more solid and if I PB and toss, I'll agree to the upper GI. I'm wearing a hernia binder which is helping to restrict that abdominal swelling so I'm not looking "very pregnant" today.

In all, I'm tired and it's time to put the world's most hyper toddler to sleep.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Swelling Makes It Hard To Eat

My abdominal cavity was drained again this afternoon. I looked about 7 months pregnant right before and I'm happily back in the first trimester. I declined an upper GI to check why I was having trouble eating because I'm soooo tired of tests and needles.

I had some leftover chicken and a few teaspons of potato salad when I came home and it's a tight fit, but I thought it was going to stay down. I do think my swelling is taking over portion control while my band is unfilled. It was never a comfortable fit and I finally just kept throwing up little bits of it until it was all back up. (Excuse the gross descriptions)

My surgeon feels assured that this swelling is not related to the ovarian masses that I have, so that makes me feel much better.

It's not perfection, but that's all good enough for me.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Disarmed The Band

None of my problems are caused my the lap band. The band, however, is just one of a ton of little things making life miserable for me. I've had crazy, mad restriction lately and I was starting to lament eating anything solid. I'm feeling a lot of pain after swallowing and pressure in my chest like heartburn.

Yesterday, I had 340 cc of fluid pulled out of my abdominal cavity where it is gathering since surgery a few weeks ago to repair a hernia. I have a bowling ball in my mid-section and it's making eating tough. I thought if I could take the band fluid out also, I might be more comfortable.

I'm also dealing with an unresolved ovarian mass which exceeds 8 cm. Anyone of these other problems are probably the culprit, but I don't even think I can take extremely good restriction right now.

My doctor removed my 1/2 cc fill (yes, that's all I had) and I had some x-rays that showed my band has not slipped. I need an upper GI next week and my bowling ball fluid pocket will be drained again.

I'm not gaining or lossing right now, but any less pain is sounding good.

I'm hoping that tomorrow will bring something to rejoice about or a "great" way to look at this ordeal. Until then, all prayers are appreciated.

Onward (you first)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My Journey is now officially 'A Struggle'

When I think of journey, I think of a pleasant walk in the cool of day amongst fragrant flowers and churping birdies. When I think of struggle, I think of strolling through a cow pasture, landing in a hot, steamy one and tripping over my shoelaces now caked with nature's fertilizer.

I can still get there, but there will be no pictures (and few hugs) when I'm dun.

I don't want to quit, but I don't want to lose. I mean, yes, I would love to lose, but I'm not much on admitting failure. After losing nearly 80 pounds and gaining nearly 10, I feel that I'm stuck and maybe a concentration on something other than carbs and scales would be best.

I got a load of feedback from my previous post and I truly appreciate all the concern. I'm not going to end my weight loss efforts, but I do think I need to put a higher priority on finding out why I'm always sick and in pain. Many will say that if I lose the weight, the sickness and pain will go away. Many will also mysteriously disappear.

I have a new quest and a new theme -- No pain, no pain!

In my latest conspiracy theory, I'm attempting to put all my ailments under one umbrella, fight the root of all this evil instead of the symptoms and find a doctor who will champion this cause.

Since my lap band procedure, I've had wound issues, infection issues, pain issues, five surgeries and the continued weight issue. I've gone from nearly 350 pounds to 268 pounds and up again. A problem that hasn't been addressed during this time is my increasingly painful ovarian masses that have been, from time to time, on the grow.

I will attempt to prove, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you eliminate the painful masses (and the blasted ovaries that spawned them), that you will reduce the pressure on the hernia-rich abdominal cavity, eliminate the hormones making weight loss so difficult and headaches so abundant, end the need for bimonthly surgeries which make exercise nearly impossible and maybe, just maybe, end the pain. And we know no pain, no pain!

Back to reality. Yes, I'm making myself laugh because it sure beats the alternative.

When all else failed me, I turned to RealityDoc (Dr. Eric Melancon) for help. RealityDoc has become more like a Big Brother full of wit and compassion for those suffering. He came to the rescue and through referral is introducing me to NewDoc who I meet this afternoon.

I'm gathering all my scans, reports, films and symptons and I truly have hope that I might get some needed answers.

My goal hasn't changed. Cecilia Grace is my one chance at motherhood and agressively pursuing wellness is my only chance to give her what she needs. She's still sleeping now and it's after 9 a.m. I'm hurting and I haven't decided if I'm going to give her up to daycare where someone can easily pick her up and feed her. I think I'll struggle through breakfast and then give her over to the able-bodied caregivers. I know it's what's best for her today, but she's all I have.

No, that's wrong. I also have a mission!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Morning After – Whose Journey is This Anyway?

I led a sheltered life. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve never had the opportunity to wake after “tying one on” royally and wonder whose head was laying on the pillow next to mine. Until now.

Sorry for the drought in this blog. When I'm going through something, I never quite know what to say, but I always catch you all up eventually.

You ever wake up and go what the ___? I’m still at “heck,” but the blank is getting hotter every second.

For nine months now, I’ve been on a journey to wellness. I was never fond of the idea of weight loss surgery and I wasn’t excited about lap band surgery because of my need for a size 9 jeans. I was told that my weight was standing in the way between my baby and her healthy mommy. I had scary, painful ovarian masses and I embarked on this journey as my “get out of pain free” card when the day finally came that I needed to be smaller to address those issues.

I’ll give my weight loss journey one thing, it went well and I don’t regret having an adjustable gastric banding or lap band surgery. I had lost almost 80 pounds in eight months before I started yo-yoing back and forward between the same 10 pounds. My new lap band life is full of great food and cool new experiments in the kitchen. I don’t feel deprived, but I have put a lot of me into making there be less of me.

At nearly 350 pounds, I was told that I wasn’t a good candidate for major surgery to remove my much-tattered plumbing. A psycharitrist told me it didn’t make much sense to him that I was having one surgery because I couldn’t have another surgery. I agreed with him, but I told him there were no other emotional pullings for me. I didn’t feel ugly or dumb or unwanted. My husband loved all 300 plus pounds of me and I was possibly the most egotistical “fat chick” in America. I added that God gave me one surviving baby, Cecilia Grace, and this surgery was what I needed to make sure I could be there for her until she could take care of herself.

Cecilia has always been my motivation. Those masses could be harmless pains in the butt, or maybe not. I decided if 150 pounds had to go so I would never be the fat woman allowed to suffer an early death, so be it.

So I had a very major surgery ... and then another ... and then another/another (same week) ... and then another ... and then another. Every “another” isn’t related lap band surgery. Please, please note that. My surgeries aren’t complications to weight loss surgery. But I had one surgery to avoid risky surgery and had FIVE more after that.

Ya think I’m bitter? Read on.....I’m pleasant so far.

Last week while recovery from my fifth surgery since my lap band, I began having an overwhelming pain on the other side of my body than the recent issue. I inquired about those pesky masses and found that one had grown to more than 8 cm. Sounded kinda big and painful since it was 5 cm only two months and one surgery ago.

I reached down for my virtual “get out of pain free” card and laid it on the counter. Now, I’m curled up in a ball at this point, but the ball is 80 pounds less of a ball than before. Surely, there will be no question of what needs to be done since I have surgeries more than I perm my hair.

I got bumped around to a few offices as most of my doctors gave the “we don’t do that” reply. Finally, I was back to the folks who “do that” if that is surgically remove masses that may or may not involve cancer of the reproductive organs.

The answer came in a couple of hours.... drum roll pleeze... “Dr. __ doesn’t feel like it’s that much bigger than it was this time last year. He’ll see you in two months.”

To my pain, they added, “you 'did' just have surgery, didn’t you.” To my weight loss, they added, “Your weight would have never meant a difference to us. We’ve done this surgery on larger people.”

So, here I sit in the middle of the night, listening to Cecilia Grace’s sleep sounds whistle through her pacifier. I’m wondering how I ever let someone sell me the “it may all resolve itself after you lose weight” sack of crap. This is HER journey, not mine. I hope she and her lap band have a long and happy life. Fact is, some things in life can’t be weighed and measured by a scale and a BMI.

And now that I my journey to wellness and freedom from pain doesn’t involve this lap band what do I do with this strange bedfellow? My motivation begins and ends with my child and doing what’s best for her. I think what’s best for her is an all-out assault on my real health issues.

If you have your ears on, tell me, where does this journey fit into my life and do I have the luxury to continue this fight?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Eight Months Today

It's time to reflect on eight months in my "journey to wellness." I'm not sure if I'm closer to wellness, but I'm positive it's been a journey. Eight months ago I had bariatric surgery and received a AGB, adjustable gastric band, or more commonly called lap band.

I do see a transformation in my eating and cooking habits. It's true that you do start to crave the things your body needs. Two of my new high-nutrient buddies are avocados and sweet potatoes. My favorite lunch is a chicken avocado wrap on spinach-herb wrap. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. This is one of my favorites because it packs a triple protein punch -- cheese, avocados and chicken -- and I add tomato and onion slices to fulfill the veggie requirements (and it's darn good!).

Beans and other legumes have become my favorite source of plant protein. I've always been a big meat eater, but I'm proud to say I'm exploring all of my plant protein sources and really enjoying cooking these high-fiber/protein items: Red beans, snaps, black-eye peas and peanuts.

All my dried beans are slow cooked with a load of finely chopped vegetables to make hearty, thick stocks and I'm still using the saute method to cook snaps with colorful bell peppers and carrots that remain crispy and nutrient-packed. I also offer my toddler and visitors little one-serving bags of unsalted peanuts mixed with raisins. Let's just say I jumped on the fiber bandwagon and I'll leave the results undocumented.

I wish I could say I'm free of health problems, but many are improving. My A1C, the average of three-months of blood sugars for diabetics has gone from 8.5 to 6.6. My blood pressure has improved on a day-to-day basis, but still gets high when I'm in pain or "nutting up." Yes, I still get stressed and "nut up" about finances, taking care of my family and that pesky hernia repair problem.

Speaking of, I guess the hardest part of life since the lap band is totally unrelated to it. I've had quite a struggle with a hernia repair site that developed a staph infection. I've gone to surgery four times to address this problem and I'm currently dealing with the incision site that has developed another abscess and is starting to open again. Monday, SupaDoc returns from vacation and this hernia incision will be waiting for him to evaluate (poor dude).

The scale isn't discouraging at all. I've lost between 75 and 80 pounds in these eight months. If I'm not at 80 yet, I'm sure I'll be there in the next two weeks. I'll try to get a weigh-in tomorrow. My BMI has gone from 59 to 45. What's encouraging about that is that most experts say that a BMI under 40 isn't eligible for weight loss surgery. I don't think I'll be skinny, mind you, but having a BMI under 40 will be great.

Next weekend, I'm the team captain for my weight loss surgery support group's team in a 5-mile walkathon. Stay tuned for lots of pictures and news about my progress and our efforts to help the March of Dimes.

I'm Armed With A Snicker's Bar And I'm Not Afraid To Use It

This week started with two Snicker's Bars and ended with a change in medications and a sense of hope.

Monday, I saw RealityDoc with hope of having my latest abscess drained. I described this thing to him Sunday night as "a hard cantelope" around the top of my surgery incision and he said he would drain it in his office.

A few seconds after he looked at it, he sigh and explained it was located deep beneath the surface and he couldn't drain it in the office. I think my eyes rolled in the back of my head as I anticipated his next statement to the word: "Dr. Leblanc might have to open it up again."

I tried to focus and not seem like a whiny baby, but I've had four abdominal surgeries related to this problem since my lap band surgery. RealityDoc, however, wasn't ready to give up on me avoiding the knife and he said a change in antibiotics might help reduce the fluid accummulating in my troubled tummy.

I left RealityDoc totally depressed. Pain, family, money, pain, stress and did I mention PAIN were all weighing heavily on my mind. I stopped to the grocery store and made the only fat chick's "cry for help" available to me -- I bought a Snicker's Bar. Well, actually, I bought two because I thought 65 cents was a great bargain for the "King-Size" bar.

The violin music begins to play ... I am now officially considering SNICKERCIDE. I couldn't just eat them because I had to work myself up to the right moment. Now, I'm incredibly weird because I first had to have a real meal. I dunno, I just can't have sweets on an empty stomach. Even in the throws of Snickercide, I feared the "sugar sickness" feeling that diabetics can get. First, I had a well-balanced meal of red beans and smoked sausage pieces. Second, I called SupaDoc's office (I knew SupaDoc was on vacation -- how could he leave me?).

After packing away the protein and fiber in my lunch, I was unable to even think about eating a candy bar, so I got back into my PJs with every intention to continue Snickercide after a good nap. Then, SupaDoc's office angel called saying their other partnering surgeon would take a look at the incision. "But I'm in my PJs with a Snicker's Bar," I explained. She said I should bring it, just don't eat it!

I grabbed both Snicker's Bars -- one bar for the office angel and one for me as soon as I found the room eat it -- and headed back into the city.

SupaDoc's partner, Dr. Haussman (no cute nickname - yet), agreed that the incision should be given a week or so of antibiotics and then it could be looked at next week. I was so grateful for a another chance to skip surgery, I left the other Snicker's Bar and the staff served it in little pieces over the copy machine.

RealityDoc's change in medications has sparked a noted change in the swelling and incisional abscess. Maybe, just maybe, I've already had my last surgery.

Wounds heal and lesson are learned. Apparently, I'm no emotional eater. The solutions to my problems can't be found in the ingredients of a Snicker's Bar. I guess I knew that all along, but it did feel good to know I could prove it to myself.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Suck It Up For The Cake

Kids, and spouses, say the darnest things. I’ve decided to dedicate a blog entry to the sayings floating around my house and how they relate to my weight loss journey.

For those keeping records, I’m seven and a half months into my weight-loss journey. In August of 2004, I had AGB – adjustable gastric banding – or lap band surgery. I’m about 75 pounds down since that time and I would be living it up if not for an unrelated, pesky hernia problem. I’ve had four surgical procedures since my lap band surgery. I’m still on schedule with my weight loss because the lap band is the “slower” of the bariatric procedures and I’ve averaged 10 plus pounds a month even after a slight gain/stall last month. Sanity? Now that’s a different story, but I think I’ve lost a little of it too.

Suck It Up For The Cake

A short time ago, Scott (hubby) and I were watching “The Last Samurai” on a particularly tough afternoon. I had returned from a difficult doctor’s visit and I wasn’t feeling very well. My only attempt at food for the day, Church’s Chicken, was about to be thrown in the garbage can and Scott was appeasing my unhappy tummy with a sugar-free pina-colada snow cone. At least the toughest part of the day was over and it was time to kick back for a little while. Or so I thought.

Home-movie viewing made Scott lonesome for more treats and comfort food. He pondered his options for a while and then announced “We have cake!”

I don’t think I turned my body. I just tilted my weary head to one side and reminded him of my present state of pain and anguish. “I’m not feeling well right now, remember?”

Scott: “Yes, I know, but I thought you would suck it up for the cake.”

No, I didn’t suck it up for the cake because that meant “baking and frosting” a cake, but I was quite amused by the concept. If a task is really important to you, no discomfort or pain will keep you from completing it. I didn’t bake Scott’s cake (that day), but I did realize that if I were to get back on track and progress in this journey, there would be a lot of time I would have to suck it up for the proverbial cake. No matter what difficult task stands before me, I can simply fill in the blank: Suck it up for _____ !

I’m sure someone once said it as mind over matter, but I wasn’t married to that person.

I’m gonna cook that chicken

One of my first concerns before having weight loss surgery was the effect on my soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter. I didn’t want my 2-year-old to be on a starvation diet, but I knew our oft-struggling household needed to basically follow the same meal plan. I didn’t want Cecilia to suffer an unbalanced diet.

My high-protein, low-carb diet has room for adjustments for a toddler. She has more carbs than me – noodles and cereal – and I eat more lean protein – when times are lean, chicken’s keen. We both like cheese and nuts and she gets my share of fruit juices.

After my last surgery, Cecilia was giving her Lala Amy (writer/reporter Amy W.) a tour of the stuff in our front yard. As Amy neared a flower arrangement with an artificial bird’s nest, Cecilia gave full explanation.

Cecilia: “Look! It’s a baby chick. ... I’m gonna cook that chicken!”

It wasn’t one of those precious lovey-dovey quips, but I knew my little girl was becoming a practical carnivore – chicks are cute, but they grow up to be lean protein.

There are no cows in war

Cecilia wasn’t initially interested in “The Last Samurai.” She found the fight scenes to be terribly loud and she seemed afraid (or just perturbed) of them. After I forced a happy median in the volume, she seemed much more interested in what turned out to be a very scenic and beautiful tale.

When she saw something she recognized, she quickly rattled off the name – children, birds, the sun and in the heat of a fight scene, horses!

In the middle of the next fight scene, she became puzzled and turned to me and asked “No cows?”

No, Cecilia, we said, there are no cows in war. Cows are useful and they are good to have around in most situations, but they are not equipped for war. In her little mind, when she sees horses, she should see cows, but she will slowly come to realize that some circumstances are much too rough for the easy-going bovines.

As I approach an eighth month in this journey, I realize that the challenges aren’t getting any easier. Carbs still need counting and proteins need to be increased. I need more water and more exercise if I expect to lose more weight.

My hernia repair will continue to be my thorn in the flesh after four surgical procedures to deal with the repair and staph infection. Tomorrow, RealityDoc will drain the wound which has developed another bulging abscess. Things might get a little difficult, but, then again, there are no cows in war.

Thank you, baby.

It's not all pain and calorie-counting,
we planted our first flower bed together!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

So, Where Have I Been? Surgery Again

If you are a regular reader of my blog, please accept my humble apologies for the big drought of information lately. I'm doing better and vowing to write more.

First, I've had surgery again on the day after Easter. For anyone counting, that's four surgeries NOT COUNTING weight loss surgery 7.5 months ago. I have intentionally not written much about the saga because it's not related to weight loss surgery, but it has set the tone for my struggle and affected my efforts to lose weight. A couple of weeks ago, my hernia repair was repaired. The wound vac device was replaced with a temporary J.P. tube to drain any remaining fluid and help me finally beat the remnants of the infection I've battled for several months. I hope to lose the remaining staples from surgery and the drain tube tomorrow. The picture at the right is me on Easter Sunday with my flyaway hair and wound vac tubing.

It is official, hernia repair surgery has proven to be much more difficult for me than the weight-loss surgery where I had a AGB (adjustable gastric banding or lap band).

Please note: Unrelated to lap band surgery!

I've told countless folks, but I'll state it again for the record, my last four trips to the operating room have not been a result of weight-loss surgery. My hernia is incisional (term means resulting from a surgical incision), but the incision site was not my lap band (because it was laproscopic). Instead, the hernia came from the C-section incision made during the birth of my little girl Cecilia (Pink Power Girl, for those of you who really follow this blog).

Cecilia's birth concluded my fifth high-risk pregnancy and she was our first survivor. Before her, our longest time of survival was four hours before my first daughter and second child Rachel Cecelia died. The five pregnancies and a slew of abdominal procedures before, during and after pregnancy has contributed greatly to my weight gain and my weakened abdominal wall. That story, however, is another blog's worth of content altogether and I won't elaborate except to say my pregnancy rule of thumb was "By any means necessary," and I have no regrets.

(Actually, I will elaborate when our struggle to have a family and my pregnancy story will appear in the June issue of Obesity Help Magazine. I will let you know how you can get a copy when its published.)

Click here for profile
Dr. Karl Leblanc

My surgeon, SupaDoc, believes that he has finally hammered that pesky hernia into submission and I'm still putting my bets on him to be right. I think if there's some medical "super glue" out there, it's holding my latest hernia patch in place.

What has helped the open wound close so well (maybe too quickly) was my weight loss so far and that should also help keep pressure off the latest patch work in my abdominal wall. After some stalling and some heart-breaking gains, I'm back to a total weight loss of 70 pounds in a little more than seven months.

The hernia, staph infection and surgery setbacks have made me incredibly discouraged at times. I haven't been able to exercise and regular daily activities (like chasing a 2-year-old, cooking and cleaning) have been terribly painful. I wanted to settle down to a healthy dose of depression, but I was afraid life would steamroll right over me if I slowed down too long.

I'm hoping if I'm free of staples and attachments tomorrow, it will spark a new chapter in my weight loss saga and my life.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Gaining Weight, Friends, Support

Just weeks ago, I feared going into a weight-loss frenzy and "wasting away" while sick. Ok, next time I say something that stupid, will someone please slap me up side my head.

It's official: I'm gaining weight.

Yes, I went to get my wound vac dressings changed and my doctor's nurse weighed me before I left. After Tuesday's news of an added 2 pounds, I was sure my new aggression would at least put me back at the 70-pounds loss spot. One work-out isn't going to do it, I guess. The scale showed a 1 pound gain.

I don't know if I should panic or just roll with the punches. I've retained some water, I've been sick and my activity level has been really limited (or that's my story and I'm sticking to it). I decided to start looking at what's going in my mouth and I actually did a day of calorie and carb counting (gasp!). That's a desperate step for me because I'm not obsessive "count every bite" type of loser.

The post below this one details a "day in the mouth" of Frances. I think I did OK when I was looking at it and maybe that's the key now that I'm near 70 pounds lost. I'm most surprised that my diet isn't as limiting in carbohydrates as I thought. In recent weeks, I've had a lot more and when cooking for guests, I even had three types of starches in one meal. But I do feel that just looking at it closely will help. If I've really hit a plateau, it will be time to get a fill for my lap band.

The pictures in this post represent my progress at six months and most of those of me were taken by my lap band little sister SueElla. "Lala Ella," as Cece calls her, and I met through Web site. I heard of her struggle on the message board and volunteered to be her "Angel." Angels are post-op patients who help and support pre-op members through the bariatric surgery process. SueElla and I grew up in the same parish so I knew we would have lots in common.

I'm very fortunate to have come in contact with lots of new friends through, but as far as being an angel, I've been more of the supportee from SueElla. Not long after we became friends, I became sick with the "staph thing" and she jumped right in keeping the other members updated on my progress while I was hospitalized and visiting me and my family. She and her husband have stayed with my family a couple of times and we all share a love for down-home chicken dishes and sweet potatoes.

SueElla and I put our husbands and my little power toddler to bed a few nights ago and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning doing "girl stuff." After doing our hair and makeup, we poised for each other and took tons of pictures. She's very photogenic, but I seem to show my awkwardness most in the camera's lens. My attempts to hold the camera in front of the bathroom mirror were particularly "flicted." I just couldn't get it.

I've gained a new family and support system that covers the entire country. This isn't an easy process and while I get plenty of support from family and friends, it's incredibly helpful to be in daily contact with other bariatric surgery patients and people struggling with weight problems. We share challenges and victories while creating a world where we are not "weak and lazy." We lived with all the stereotypes about obese people and in our community, we are just "people."

Every day on, I see people reaching their goals and lending a hand back to those still climbing the ladder of success. Having knowledgeable doctors, surgeons and nutritionists helps in this journey, but the words of someone who once weigh 300, 400, 500+ pounds carries more weight (excuse the pun).

I highly recommend this site for anyone struggling with a weight problem or researching treatment options for obese people.

Thanks for the giggles, little sister!

A Day in The Mouth

I'm trying to look at ways to tighten up my intake. Well, it does seem to be balanced, but I didn't have any "indulgences" today. Many days lately, I have. Any suggestions are appreciated -- please see the comments icon at the end of this post.

Friday, March 18, 2005
Food intake.................Calories .........Fat ........Carbs.....Protein

1/2 cup of Juice...............60.............0 .5.......12...............2

Breakfast -- Juice Plus shake

Lunch -- Veggie Wrap
Wrap ........................200............... 5 ........ 34 ............6
Tomato(½) ................17.................0.............6.......
Avocado.....................300 ...............30* ......30............ 4
Cheese ...................210 ................10......................... 12

1/2 cup of Juice........60.............0 .5.......12...............2

...........................1077............... 20*...... 121..............47

Dinner -- Pasta w/meat sauce
MacNCheese..............280............... 3.......... 35............. 10
Meat Sauce ...............200.............. 12 ............??........... 24
Garden Salad............. 50 .................0..............6...........1
Dressing ....................160................ 17............ ........ 1

subtotals ...................690.............. 32........... 43......... 36

Totals ......................1707............ 52* ............164 .......83

*Plus good fats in avacado
Some figures are estimates

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yippee, I Gained Two Pounds

Before you make reservations for my padded room, let me explain myself. First, it could have been much more and secondly, it marks the fact that my life might be getting back to normal – all's right with the world.

My weight loss surgeon and hernia repair specialist are one in the same, SupaDoc Karl Leblanc. After looking at my open wound site – which is healing at a remarkable rate – he seemed curious to see how the old weight loss was going. I tried to explain that I had just finished my cycle (water retention, eek) and that I was practically a stock holder in Blue Bell Ice Cream, Dr. Leblanc quipped his disapproval, but deep down, I do feel bad about letting him down a little.

True to my predictions, I have edged up two pounds in the last two weeks. So why am I excited about this regressive? Simple – it makes sense. I’ve battled through PMS and the water retention of a monthly cycle after going into surgery twice since the last “visitor.” I threatened to combat my rapid weight loss with ice cream sundae’s, but the first couple of weeks out of the hospital, I still couldn’t stomach them. Well, things got better and I did partake of some Moo-lineum Crunch. I also think I made fried chicken three times (I’m unsure of the exact times because I’m still reviewing the tapes).

Water retention, some hormonal eating = small weight gain. That’s one of the first logical observations in months. I was in extreme pain – it didn’t make sense. I ran a high fever for over a month – it was a mystery. I became critically anemic to the point of transfusions – the reasons were big question marks. I was sick and losing weight at a more than decent pace and I began to fear that I would be one of people who can’t control the weight loss and wastes away. I feared losing control over my own life.

Reality check: THIS WAS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO HAPPENING, but remember “this is Frances’ brain on drugs.”

When I saw those added pounds, there was no mystery. Finally, things make sense and I know I’m in control of both my success and failure. I was pretty excited when I left the doctor’s office and made a short-term goal of nixing those two pounds and a long-term goal of getting back on the losing track. I headed to a gym with my bestest bud, Kay.

If you talk to my doctors, let’s note that I went to “tour” the fitness center – I’m still attached to the wound vac device. I noted that the 4 foot tubing fit very well along side the cardio-fitness station. I didn’t do a lot of bouncing around, but I got a good cardio/fat burning workout and it felt GREAT!

I’ve not been in a regular workout routine since the start of my five pregnancies. I’m in my “baggy” blue jean shorts and huge T-shirt right smack in front of a mirror. Oooooh, I look good. “Go Frances, Go Frances, Go Frances, it’s ya birthday!”

No, I haven’t arrived, but I’m on route and that’s enough for me. All that blood circulation gave me that “workout” high and I was much more focused on my day’s meals. I started with a whey protein drink (whey, yes, whey), had eggs for lunch and ended if all off with a grilled chicken salad. I got a little hungry writing this in the middle of the night and had some sugar-free Nestle's chocolate mixed with milk. The Moo-lineum Crunch is still taking in the freezer, but I don’t speak that language. There are two types of cookies on top of the fridge and I’ll use them as treats for my energy-crazed toddler when she’s been good. (Oh, her teeth are sooo safe.)

So losing a couple of pounds isn’t so bad if you use it to motivate yourself, start afresh and set a path. I know time is precious, but those “slow” two weeks may be the only emotional adjustment I can make through this ordeal. Times are tight, so I guess that makes you all my collective shrink. Thanks for listening – I feel so much better.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I Feel Like a Phony Sometimes

I can not tell a lie -- I tried it once and it came out the truth. That's a bunch of BS, of course, but I'm so overwhelmed by "life" and growing in grace lately that I feel like a phony when dealing with all the kind words and compliments on my weight loss.

It's not that I haven't "lost" weight and overcome some adversity -- I just don't feel comfortable taking credit for being some type of "Joan of Fat" standing alone against a mountain of challenges. I'm far from alone and sometimes, I feel like I'm being carried through the worst of it.

I think when I get behind my typing fingers, everything comes out funny and witty. Truth is, I cry, I complain and I fall down. I would like to dedicate this column to the ugly truth and the people who make it come out beautiful in the wash. They deserve your admiration.

Seventy pounds or so: At a little past six months, I had lost 70 pounds. A week later, I'm sure I've gained 3 or 4 pounds. It was a week of PMS, NowMS and I think I cooked fried chicken three times. I'm notorious for water-weight gain, so I'll have to wait to see how things shape up when the bloating clears.

Emotional giant or mental midget: At times, I've been the biggest baby. I felt sorry for myself and tried to ask my husband for a divorce so I wouldn't "bring him down" financially. Well, he knew the drugs were talking and kinda just ignored me with a giggle. I felt horrible for the amount of time Reality Doc (E. Melancon) and SupaDoc (K. Leblanc) were spending on me and I tried to "fire" myself from both of them. Ya ever feel like a big fat burden? "This is my last visit!" They calmly ignored me and continued to do what was best for me. And finally, for the nurse at Vista Surgical Hospital who heard me say I would "rather not go on"... I doubt if I could really hang myself with all that plastic tubing and IV lines. I WAS JUST BEING A BIG BABY (the tubing package says it has a maximum capacity of 125 pounds, anyway).

Losing the weight: If you've have ever tried losing your extra 20 pounds, you might be impressed by tossing 70 in less than half a year. Truth: When you weigh 350 pounds, the initial loss does come quickly. My last 20 pounds will be like pulling teeth.

Unlike the diets of old, I'm losing weight and eating my own cooking or the cooking of our favorite restaurants (before the bills starting mounting). I've found that a lot of protein supplements can be replaced by "chewable" protein if you have the time to rope it, kill it and cook it. I think I was very blessed by meeting Executive Chef Ed Rhinehart several months ago. He's taught me so much and my entire family has benefited from raw vegan dishes and healthy ways to prepare lean protein. So, I cook, I eat -- I really don't suffer. It does take more time to prepare healthy meals and eat at home, but it's been a learning experience and sometimes a wonderful adventure. NUTS AND LIVE FOODS RULE -- Thanks Ed!

Cheating: That word is not in my vocabulary. Indulgence? Yes, I know this word. I have "planned indulgences." When faced with chemical additives in sugar-free ice cream, I have chosen just old fashioned Blue Bell for my family. I can't afford to double shop for food and I will not feed my toddler something that will give her gas and runny stools. Nope. Instead, I'm trying to practice moderation in my indulgences. Sweets can remain in the house for days without being consumed or I just can skip some of the treats. Moderation doesn't work for everyone and I'm not suggesting that you go out and buy ice cream and cookies if you can't dole them out slowly and responsibly. I feel that WHEN I reach maintenance, there will be no shocks to my system because I feel I can continue balanced, moderated eating habits for the rest of my life. I've only exiled the following foods from my kitchen and plate: sliced bread (wraps rule, though), biscuits (have you ever push the nurse-call button behind a biscuit?), over-cooked chicken, beef (anything), canned vegetables (when I run out of all those given to me at Christmas time) and carbonated drinks.

There was a time when I feared I might start losing weight so quickly I wouldn't be in control of it. Being sick and getting all these comments about "looking great" became a little overwhelming. I may have attempted to sabotage my weight loss just to get some control over my own life. I'm getting better (emotionally also) and I think I can lose more than 100 pounds in my first full year with this lap band.

Growing in grace: The Bible defines grace as unmerited favor -- not earned. I feel like I've received more than my serving of this dish. My weight-loss support system is huge. It started with my family and doctors' practices. When I've been a whinny baby, only my husband, the Vista Hospital staff, the MISI staff and the Associates in Internal Medicine staff have witnessed it and they have all been incredible.

The support system of and its members has always been a constant in this journey. I received pages of email while in the hospital and I've met and spoken to several members who are no longer Internet friends -- they are just good friends.

My pals in journalism became my extended family and did everything from preparing meals, keeping me encouraged and combing my baby's hair. You may think it's a God-less profession, but ... oh yeah, that's right ... it is. (smile)

My favorite flavor of ice cream is still Moo-lineum Crunch. It just lasts a lot longer in the freezer. Ok, I feel less like a weight-loss phony now.

What's next in my journey? I want to play tennis, I want to workout -- I want to do all the things I can't do right now attached to a wound vac. There's a lesson in human nature there. I hope those desires hold when the machine goes.

My open wound is healing at a remarkable speed and I hope to be free of the wound VAC machine within a month. Check back to see if I'm playing tennis then.