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.)

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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.