Category Archives: asthma

Thrown Off Course

chillin

I was thrown off course with my exercise plan last week. I had not been feeling great the week before that and my exercise slowed down. I was tired a lot and started having trouble taking deep breaths.

I woke up on Monday, Oct 6 with what I thought was a horrible cold. I was very sick and eventually went to urgent care. Turns out, I had a very mild form of pneumonia. Let me tell you, if that was mild, I do not ever want to get full-blown pneumonia. I missed work most of last week.

I have also had trouble getting motivated getting back to the gym. I have gotten my diet back on track and I’ve been doing pretty good.

I also have received many requests for my spinach pie recipe. I am making it again tomorrow for a thing I’m going to at my friend’s art studio. The last time I made it, I took many pictures of the process. I am going to update my recipe with some good pictures.

I know I need to get back to the gym. I think tomorrow is out as I have the full day chock full of activities already, so Sunday, definitely. That said, I am going to be doing a lot of walking on Saturday, so there will be some exercise. But I am also going to start tonight doing some things at home. Planking, sit-ups, etc. Things I have difficulty doing at the gym in some of the exercise classes that I take. I feel much better doing those at home anyway.

Anyway, I am feeling kind of blah after my bout with pneumonia. It was kind of strange to have difficulty breathing after over a year of being able to breathe without any problems at all. Plus I’ve been resting, staying in, trying to make sure I’m fully recovered from the pneumonia so that I do not have a relapse. I feel like a big fat cow. I know I’m not, but I just feel so bloated and fat. That’s not really helping me feel motivated. I know it should, but it does not.

But on the bright side, it is Friday! Hopefully, after a weekend of getting back into exercise, I will feel much better next week.

Life, Rebooted!

This past week has been fantastic.  Every day I am more and more amazed at what I can do, thanks to my 112 pound weight loss, which seems to have stalled-out recently.  At least I’m holding strong though and not going back up!

As I posted yesterday, my friends Liz & Steve have been visiting.  Well, yesterday, they went to the Smithsonian Museums with their girls.  I work in DC about 4 stops from the museums metro station, which is conveniently called Smithsonian.  I walked the 5 blocks to Farragut West, got myself turned around because I do not often go to that station.  Hopped off at the Smithsonian Station and  walked over to the Air and Space Museum, which had just closed for the day, and waited outside for my friends.  Then we took the metro and bus back to my hood where they were having a jazz concert/wine tasting and dined at the inimitable Busboys & Poets.

busboys

Then we walked around Shirlington some more.  My friends bought some cheese from Cheesetique.  And we walked back up the hill to my apartment.

A year ago, I could not have done all of this walking.  I would have gone home from work, probably by car.  Then I would have waited at my apartment for my friends to call me.  I would have had to drive the 4 blocks to the restaurant, parked, ate, and then drive back home.  I would have been in horrible pain, have difficulty breathing, and would have been just miserable.

Today, I think nothing of aimlessly wandering all over the darn place.  Plus, I was able to enjoy jazz, good friends, and good food!  I truly feel as if my life has been rebooted.

Tonight, more jazz at the Sculpture Garden!

Bloodless

That’s how I feel today.  I had to go get some blood work done.  Of course, I had to fast, so no food since dinner last night.  I also did not have much water this am.  I have since eaten, but they took 7 vials of blood, so I’m still a bit woozy.

I went to my primary care doctor, who I have not seen since just before the surgery.  I had one phone conversation with her after the surgery, but all of my follow-ups have been with surgeon.  I am scheduled for my annual physical, which is coming up soon. 

The nurse in her office did not recognize me.  I saw the look of confusion on her face as we walked back to the dreaded scale.  “I’m going to have to weigh you,” she tells me.  I knew she would definitely be surprised.

Most of the staff in her office knew that I was having the gastric by-pass surgery.  I’m not really sure what they expected.  The nurse weighed me and then entered my weight into the little mini lap-top they carry around with them.  Everything in their office is very high-tech. 

“Wow! Oh my God!”

“I know.”

“A hundred pounds!” she continued. 

“I know.”

“Oh you look so good, Colleen.  I didn’t recognize you.  Wait until the doctor sees you.”

The nurse takes me back to the little room.  She does the standard, “What brings you here today,” routine.  Checks my temperature, my blood pressure, my pulse.  All are normal.  Still no meds on my part. 

The nurse leaves and I hear excited chatter up at the nurses station, but I cannot really make out what they are saying.  Then I hear the hurried clicking of high heels on linoleum getting closer to the door.  A quick rap and my doctor enters not waiting for me to say anything.  She is all smiles when she enters the room and I can tell she is excited to see my progress for herself.  “Wow, Colleen! One hundred pounds!  You look so good!  How are you feeling?”

We had a nice conversation about everything I have been through.  She asked me specific questions about different things.  I told her about my struggles with constipation and feeling unsteady.  I also told her all of the good things like being able to breathe and walk. 

She’s very happy that my blood pressure is normal.  I shared with her the blood test results from the health screening my employer did.  She was happy to see my triglycerides were way down.  My blood sugar is normal.  My cholesterol is normal.  My good cholesterol still needs to come up some, but she’s not overly worried about that just yet.

After the appointment, she sent me across the hall to get blood drawn.  The surgeon’s office wants to check my vitamin levels to make sure I’m taking enough vitamins.  Malabsorption is a serious problem after the gastric by-pass surgery.  They take so much blood for that test though.  It may take me all day to recover.

Health, Meditation, and Yoga

I think it was around January 2011 I really started having severe health problems.  I went to the urgent care center in my area because I was having pain.  I thought maybe I had a kidney infection.  I was thinking about waiting until Monday so that I could go to my primary care doctor, but my sister talked me into going to urgent care.

Well, when I arrived at the urgent care center they took my blood pressure during the “triage” phase of the visit.  My bp was something like 210/125.  If you are not familiar with what an average blood pressure rating is, a normal good bp should be about 110/70-ish.  My bp was in the heart attack/stroke range.  Scary stuff.  The worst part is, I knew I had high blood pressure and was on medication.  So medicated,  my bp was scary, potentially deadly high.

As it turns out, my sister was friends with the urgent care doctor who saw me and he told her to take me to the ER, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  He sent paperwork with me and forwarded his analysis on to the hospital.  I think I have written before on this blog about how badly they treated me at this hospital.  Bottom line, I did end up going back to my doctor and a heart doctor.  I was put on three different medications and we were finally able to get my bp somewhat under control.

About 9-10 months later, I decided to have the gastric by-pass surgery.  I saw a couple of different surgeons around November/December time frame.  January/February 2012, I was back in the hospital having pains in my right side.  Crippling, unable to get out of bed pains.  So, back to the hospital.  I had tests done to my pancreas, my digestive system, my liver, my spleen, my heart again, and my lungs.  One doctor thought I might have a clot in my lungs.  It was awful. 

They never really were able to find out what was going on exactly, but here is sort of what they found.  My liver was slightly enlarged.  As was my heart.  And I had so much weight on my stomach that the base of my lungs were crushed.  They did every blood test imaginable to make sure that everything was OK.  My liver functions were good, except my cholesterol, especially the bad cholesterol, was really bad.  My triglycerides were out of control.  Basically, I talked to my doctor and they were really concerned that I was beginning to show signs of heart disease, which runs in my family.  I saw the heart doctor again and had a stress test and another scan of my heart.  I will probably have to do annual visits with the heart doctor to make sure that my heart stays in pretty good condition.

Around March, I finally found a gastric by-pass surgeon that I liked and decided to go proceed with getting ready for the surgery.  I then had nearly every medical test known to man.  Or at least it felt that way.

Somewhere during all of this a friend of mine talked to me about transcendental meditation.  He told me that he meditated all of the time and has for years.  I was a little bit surprised.  He gave me some pointers, told me what he did, and how it helped him.  He was really sure that it would help me with some of my problems.

Well, as I am wont to do, I put off taking his advice for months.  I finally did start meditating off and on for a few months sometime in 2011.  I meditated off and on throughout 2012 as well, but not nearly enough as I should have.  Since the surgery, I have not really meditated at all, until just a few weeks ago.  I should back up a little before I continue though.

About 15-20 years ago, I really got into Yoga.  I was never very flexible, but I enjoyed the exercises and the meditating that came with it.  After my father died in ’96, the meditating became too hard for me.  I was really a mess, and the yoga/meditation just seemed to bring everything to the fore.  I quit and never went back.   I always regretted that decision.

A couple of months ago, after I started feeling better, I occasionally started doing some of my old yoga stretches.  Not regularly, but sometimes.  This eventually led to me trying to meditate again.

I have done some guided meditations using a website a friend gave to me.  When I get home, I will add a link here.  My mother also sent me some tapes that I have been listening to.  I also started trying to meditate on my own without guidance.  The guided meditations are easier because you can focus the person speaking and just relax. 

Meditating and trying to clear my head on my own is very difficult, but I find it to be much more satisfying.  It is very interesting.  When I do not have someone else’s voice to focus on, I focus on a thousand other things.  My nose is itchy, my foot twitches, I have to flex my hands or arms, if I could just sit straight.  Also, everything that has been bugging me all day seems to run through my head.  I think about writing.  I think about blogging.  I forgot to send someone an email.  I can hear the refrigerator clicking on and off.  Someone is knocking on another apartment door down the hall.  It is very distracting. 

Here is what I do.  I turn down the lights.  Turn off the tv.  Turn off the cell phone.  Turn off my google pad.  Turn off both laptops.  I sit in the center of my bed.  I do not lay down.  I close my eyes and breathe.  I dismiss all of my distracting thoughts one by one by saying now is not the time and I vow to get back to it later.  I concentrate on letting them go.  I focus on the positive things I want to bring into my life.  I focus on calm, peace, good health, love, etc, whatever it is that is going to get me to relax and just let go of everything I have been holding onto all day.  I focus on being open to all of the good that I want in my life and the lives of those I care about and focus on letting go of the negative.

If I can shove all my distractions aside, clear my mind and relax even if it is just for a moment, it feels like a miracle.  I feel a thousand times better.  Usually, once I am done meditating, I do actually turn in for the night.  I have been sleeping like a baby.

I would not say that meditating has opened a third eye into the universe for me, but I do feel different afterwards.  Of course, I have not been doing it for very long.  There’s something to it though.  I come away from the experience feeling something.  Right now, it’s kind of an intangible feeling that is difficult for me to put into words, but if feels like I’m connecting to a part of myself that I did not know that I had.  I also experienced a couple of interesting things that have me thinking.  Maybe I’ll be able to talk about it more precisely in the future after I have had time to contemplate my emotions and thoughts, but I am curious to know more.

Today, I signed up for Yoga classes.  When I did Yoga years ago, I went to Unity Woods over in Tenleytown, which is in DC.  Turns out they have a branch in Arlington.  All in all, I did enjoy doing Yoga there and I cannot imagine doing it anywhere else.  I am glad to be getting back into Yoga.  My body definitely needs the stretching and the strength building after what it has been though.  Plus, it would be great to continue with meditating.

I do not know what health benefits all of this will have, if any, but it certainly could not hurt.  Even if all this does is help me relax to take the strain off of my heart and liver or to keep me from developing full-blown heart disease, I will consider the foray into yoga and meditation a wild success.

Oh and for the record.  My blood pressure is in somewhat normal range.  Occasionally it tends to trend a teeny-tiny bit high, like 135/80 max.  I have not taken any medication for three months.

Days Like These

I sure have been writing all of wonderfully positive posts recently.  Maybe the rain in DC today has me feeling kind of glum, but I feel the need to write a counter post of sorts.

I do not want to imply that everything I have experienced these past few months has been  unbelievably positive.  It is true that I feel great.  I have lost 88 pounds.  I fit into a size 20, which is down quite a bit from the 26-32 range I was originally.  I look better.  My blood pressure is controlled without meds.  I can breathe. I can walk.  I can breathe and walk at the same time!  Life is good and I feel good.

Part of why I started this blog was to give a realistic picture of what losing weight by having a gastric by-pass is really like.  There are a lot of great things happening that I love.  I do not have to stress about eating too much.  That pretty much takes care of itself.  I am losing weight pretty much effortlessly.  There are also some things that are a struggle, however.

HAIR

Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that I am shedding a lot of hair.  I am starting to freak out.  I know that many people who have had a gastric by-pass suffer tremendous hair loss and start showing bald spots.  I have been very worried about this.  I am diligent about my protein intake and my vitamins.  I though that I had managed to stave off any significant hair loss.  It could just be now that spring is coming, I am just doing some natural shedding in preparation for warmer weather, but I am very worried.

I made a few changes over the past month in how I get my protein and vitamins, which could be part of the problem.  I have been eating more protein bars instead of drinking shakes.  Pure Protein makes several very good protein bars.  I sometimes like eating them for two reasons.  One, less cans.  I hate drinking stuff out of a can.  Such a waste.  Yes, I recycle them, but still.  Two because they help in staving off hunger sometimes.  They are a little lower in protein, but not significantly.  I also changed my b-12 vitamin.  I was doing the melt-aways, but I got a good deal on the chewable kind.  Turns out, that may not have been a good idea.  Apparently,  you do not absorb as much of the b-12 in a chewable form.  I also ran out of the biotin shampoo and have been using regular shampoo and the biotin conditioner.

I have given up the protein bars and returned to the Pure Protein shakes.  I am heartened by the fact that I can by a large tub of Pure Protein powder at a store called Wegman’s.  Yeah, it’s a high-end fru-fru type grocery store, but a 16oz tub of the Pure Protein powder is only $9.99, which is much cheaper than buying it in can form anyway.  I also bought some more Unjury chicken broth protein.

In addition, I went back to the melt-away form of b-12.  The b-12 I bought also has folic acid and biotin.  I still need to buy more biotin shampoo, but I think I have enough conditioner to see me through until I get online and order some.

Constipation

I am still suffering through bouts of constipation.  I have been taking a stool softener sometimes and for emergencies, I do take Dulcolax suppositories.  I hate taking the Ducolax.  I have to be at home when I take that, which means if I have constipation during the day, I have to suffer until I get home.  Constipation is quite painful and even using the suppositories are painful.  Once I am done, however, I feel so much better.

I just do  not know why I keep getting constipation.  Maybe I am not getting enough fiber or liquid.  Who knows.

I suggested to a friend that maybe I was eating too much meat.  She immediately replied, “Yes, you are.”

I came back with, “But you do not see what I eat, how would you know?”

She answered, “You’re eating meat.  I’m sure it’s too much.  You should have more lentils and spinach.”

Now how could I argue with that.  She’s not a vegetarian, but she fully believes in the curative properties of vegetables, so I shall defer to her expertise and eat more lentils and spinach along with drinking luke-warm water and massaging my belly,  (her other suggestions for dealing with constipation).

I am really getting tired of dealing with this.  I was pretty sick and uncomfortable this week because of it, which is why I have not been up to blogging much.  I am doing better now, but  am still in a little bit of pain.  My stomach is a little bit sore even and I find I am not that hungry at all.  I really have to force myself to eat.  It’s kind of irritating.

I am also getting a little bit worried about having to use a supplement to go regularly.  I do not want to become dependent on them.  Plus, the pain and discomfort is so horrible, I can kind of understand how someone can develop a dependency on that feeling of release when you finally do clear up the problem.  It is such a relief and I feel so cleansed afterwards.  I can almost understand how someone with bulimia can become addicted to that feeling.  I would hate to go through all of this only to replace one eating disorder with another.  I have an appointment with the surgeon next month.  I am going to discuss it with him.

Coordination

I was never one anybody in their right mind would ever call graceful.  My mother used to joke when I was younger that after all, she did not name me Grace.  But as I am losing weight, I find that I have become even more clumsy than before knocking everything over, bumping into stuff, and dropping things.

The other day, I was walking to the Metro station after work, trotting along at a pretty good pace, feeling pretty good that I can walk to / from the Metro station every day and not get out of breath at all.  I went to step up on a curb after crossing the street, and BAM!  I was face down on the pavement.  I smacked the crap out of my knee and the laptop that I was carrying cross-body fashion hit me in the back of the head.  Fortunately, it did not hit me hard, but still.

I wish I could say my pride was hurt more than anything else, but I was really afraid I had done some serious damage to my knee.  A nice gentleman helped me up off of the ground and offered to call an ambulance.  I declined the offer, but he insisted on at least a cab.  I declined that as well, but came to my senses a few minutes later and hailed one myself.

Fortunately, my knee is fine.  Just slightly bruised.  My shin is a little sore and pretty scraped up.  And my head is fine, well at least as fine as it was before the fall.  It is my hope that after I reach a somewhat normal weight, I will get used to how I feel inside my own body and will be slightly less of a klutz.

Clothes

I am getting kind of tired of the whole clothes situation.  Most of my clothes are too big for me.  I did purge my wardrobe of anything larger than a size 24.  Now I am going to get rid of the 24s as well.  That will leave me with just clothes int he 20-22 range.  And I will be down to one pair of jeans and two pairs of yoga pants.  Not good.

I feel like I am at a crossroads.  I do not have enough clothes that fit me, and I do not want to spend any more money on clothes that I will only be able to wear for a few months at most.  I have decided that I will buy a few outfits.  I am not happy about it, but I am going to do it.  I need new pants and skirts to get me through the next few months.  And I need some new blouses and tops.

My sister gave me a gift card for my birthday and I bought a cute dress and a cardigan sweater.  I need sweaters these days.  Soon, it will be too warm for a jacket and I feel I need a sweater to get me through from spring to summer.

OK, I think that will be enough whining for now.  I did have a fairly rough week, which I think has really left me feeling exhausted.  I am looking forward to a good weekend, though.  St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday.  I love St. Patty’s Day.  There will be no green beer on the menu, which s good because I never could stomach green beer, but I will wear green and a button that says, “Kiss Me I’m Irish”.  Who knows, maybe somebody will.

I will be celebrating my sister’s birthday with the family tonight.  I am picking up her gluten-free vegan chocolate birthday cake, which I cannot eat, and we have having dinner at Carabbas, my sister’s favorite restaurant.  They actually have a gluten-free menu.  Her favorite dish, the Chicken Bryan, is on that menu.  She will have a very good night.  I have not had the Chicken Bryan in years, and now that I can eat cheese, I may have it too.

Happy St. Patty’s Day everyone!

Commuting in DC

metro

So, now that I am able to walk some more, commuting to DC is not the hassle it was a year ago.

When I used to work in DC at a client site, my office was located about a block and a half from the nearest Metro station.  I also had to walk across the street from my apartment building to catch a bus.  I did not have to walk a lot, but it was still more than I could handle.  I had to sit when I arrived at the bus stop.  After I got off the Metro in DC, I had to stop at least twice to rest my back before getting to the office.  It was awful.

Now, I am back to working in DC and no longer working from home.  My office is nowhere near a Metro station.  It is at least 5.5 blocks from the nearest station. Well, OK that’s not entirely true.  There are two stops that are about 4 blocks from the office, but then I have to go two stops out of my way and take another train, and the stop where I change trains is still adds another two stops to my trip.  It’s worth the extra block to not have to change trains and keep my metro stops down to three stations.

Five blocks are really not that far.  Normal people walk this much all of the time without even a thought.  I used to before I became so morbidly obese.  Now that I have lost 81 pounds, (OMG 81!!!!!), walking this much is easy.

I am also standing pretty much from the minute I leave my apartment until I get to the office.  I stand out in front of my building to wait for the bus…OK that’s not true.  I sometimes sit at the bus stop.  But once I get on the bus, I stand until I get to the metro station because there is often not a seat.  Then the metro train is so full, I stand for the three whole stops until I can pry myself out of the train.  There is not even time or quite frankly the room to read anything on my kindle app.  Seriously, some days you need a shoe horn to get people out of there we are packed in so tightly.  Then I fight to get up the escalators and out of the station before I begin my hike to the office.

Sometimes, I go to the little French café (where they play middle eastern music, btw…not that I mind middle eastern music, it’s just that Americans have fanciful notions that every French café should be playing Edith Piaf singing Non Je Ne Regrette Rien all day long, but I digress), that is next to my office to get a cup of decaf.  There I sit and enjoy my last moments of solitude before entering the snake pit.

Honestly, the three stops are not bad.  Even the 5.5 block walk to the office is not bad.  I just hate being crammed on the train with about 10,000 other people with nowhere to move or breathe.  I am convinced with every jerk of the train that I will lose my balance and fall into the person next to me.  There is no real room to fall, so I would probably just body slam into the person next to me and cause people to tumble into one another like dominos.  Then there is the constant stopping and waiting for no reason without explanation.  And I haven’t even mentioned the broken escalators and elevators.  The train ride is stressful.  I thank God I only have to go three stops.

I am also thankful that I can do it relatively pain-free.  I still have some pain in my feet.  And occasionally my knees and back hurt a little.  But for the most part, I am enjoying the fact that I can do this.

Two other points…I lost 81 pounds!!!!  Omg I can hardly believe it!

The other thing I wanted to mention, I kind of put on my Facebook Page yesterday.  Yesterday, upon exiting the Metro station in DC, I ran into a friend of mine whom I have not seen in about two years.  She had a gastric by-pass 9 years ago.  We used to work together.  She looks great.  I also did not know her before the surgery.  She told me over and over again that she has no regrets.  I thought about her often before and since my surgery.

Well, I saw her and walked right up to her and made eye contact and she looked at me like she has never seen me before.  Then I told her who I was and seriously, her jaw dropped.  She asked me what I had been up to so I told her that I had the surgery.  We only had a moment to talk because we were both in the mad-commuter-rush-to-work mindset, but she told me that I looked great.  I have her email address, so I am going to send her an email.  I need to tell her how her experience really helped me make my decision when I reached my breaking point.  I may not have been ready to do it when she and I talked in the past, but I thought of her often through everything I have experienced.

Who’s That Girl?

Yesterday was a very strange day for me.  I saw several people whom I have not seen in a while.  Their reaction to my 75 pound weight loss was surprising to me.  I know that I have lost a lot of weight, but sometimes, when I look in the mirror or step on the scale, I can only see how far I have to go.

Last night I went to my weekly writer’s group.  I forgot to take my water with me to the meeting, so as I was running out to my car, I decided to stop in the little market that is in my building.  Pre-surgery Colleen went to this market all of the time.  I bought junk food, frozen foods, drinks, etc.  Post-surgery Colleen does not go there at  all.  I think I went there once to buy some water one time shortly after I returned home from the surgery.  Needless to say, before the surgery, I got to know the guy who owns the store pretty well.

I walked into the store to buy a bottle of water, and he gasped when he saw me.  “You look so different!”  He asked me what I did, I told him that I lost weight and had my hair done.  He told me how good I look and to keep up the good work.

Then at my writer’s group, my friend Bobby was visiting who is visiting town was there.  Bobby is a long-time member of the writer’s group and has recently relocated to a Central American country.  I have not seen him since last summer when he moved.  He follows my blog pretty religiously.  In fact, he was my #1 reader for 2012.  However, he has not seen me in person in a while.  Bobby is very excited about my weight loss and everything I am doing.  He always offers me such wonderfully supportive and encouraging words.  I really love his comments.

Bobby came to the meeting a few minutes late.  I was reading over my notes for one of the stories we were discussing, so I did not see him enter the room.  He apparently did not see me either because I received a text from Facebook from him saying, “Where are you?”  I looked up at him in surprise.  I could see this look of frustration on his face and I’m sure he was thinking, “Bitch. I told her I would be here.  I came here all the way from Central America and she does not even show up! Grrr!”

So, I messaged back.  “I’m right here, looking at you.”  I saw his eyebrows raise as he read the message.  Then he craned his neck looking around people to find me.  I can understand his not seeing me right away.  I am kind of short and we were sitting in rows with taller people in front of me.  When he did see me, he just smiled and waved and texted back to me, “OMFG!”  It was hilarious.

After the meeting, I walked over to where he was and he gave me a big hug and told me how great I look.

Also, another writer friend and writer’s group member, Michael Sullivan, attended our meeting.  I have not seen him in several months either, maybe even before the surgery.  He does not attend the meetings often, but I think he showed up to see Bobby.  Before I had a chance to even say hello to Bobby, Michael came up to me and said, “Excuse me, but are you related to Colleen?  You kind of look like her, but different somehow.”  Clearly he was joking about that, but he also told me how great I am looking.

Even the leader of our group, who I see nearly every week, commented on my weight loss last night.  He called me the amazing shrinking woman.  I find this funny because I saw him just last week and I have not really lost any more weight.

I have kind of hit a plateau.  I am not too worried about it.  That has happened two other times so far.  The surgeon says this is normal.  Your body needs time to adjust to the new lower weight and then the weight loss starts back up again.  I have found this to be true, so far.  Plus, it gives me a couple extra weeks before I have to go and buy new pants again.

I do know that I have changed a lot.  I do see it when I look in the mirror or when I look at some “before” pictures.  I also know when I put on some old clothes and pants fall off of me or blouses and t-shirts are ridiculously too big.  I can also feel it.  I am breathing much easier, my back does not hurt so much.  I can stand.  I can walk a good distance.  I can walk up steps comfortably.  I am sleeping better.  And I just feel better all around.  I do not feel that I have a huge mind/body disconnect as far s the weight loss that I have achieved.  But it sure does make me feel good about myself when I receive such positive reactions from people who know me.

 

I Can’t Believe I Did It!

I know for most people walking is not such a big deal.  I’ve written about this before.  Walking is reflexive for most people.  You want to go somewhere, you get up and walk.  No big deal.

Well, for the past few years or so, walking has been very difficult for me.  My back hurts a lot, my feet hurt, and I have asthma caused by my obesity.  I have to stop to take frequent breaks and walking is very difficult and close to impossible for me.  Until recently that is.

Since my surgery, I have been told that I must exercise.  I cannot do any strenuous exercise yet, but I have been advised to walk as much as possible.  Usually, I have been going to malls or stores and walking around.  Now with the Christmas shopping season upon us, going to Target or the Mall is just a crazy thought.  Any walking to be done will be mostly pushing and shoving or standing around waiting to walk through aisles due to the throngs of people clogging up the place.  So, I have been walking down the hallways of my apartment building mostly.

Since the surgery, walking has become a bit easier.  I’m breathing better, my back hurts a lot less.  My feet still hurt, but I can usually go quite a distance before they start bothering me.

Today I was sitting around my apartment listening to music and reading a book.  It was getting close to the time where I should start walking through my apartment building.  I was really dreading it.  I did not want to go shopping, but I did feel like leaving my apartment.  I really needed a change of scenery.

I wanted to go down the street to where the shops are and walk around.  The problem is, how would I get there.  I live at the midway point up a very large hill.  I do not own a car. I don’t live far from the shops, but since walking has been difficult, I was a little bit apprehensive about walking there.  Normally, I would take a cab, which is really kind of ridiculous.  There is also a bus, but the shops are one stop away and that also seemed a little silly.  Plus another bus was not due for an hour.

I decided to suck it up and try to walk down to the shops.  I had been doing much better now that I’ve lost some weight.  Plus, I figured if I had too much difficulty, I could always pick up some groceries at the supermarket and take a cab back.  So, I bundled up and put on my walking shoes and started my trek.

Walking down the hill was surprisingly easy.  I had no problems whatsoever.  I was cold, but I was not out of breath and my back was not bothering me.  I rewarded myself with a steaming hot cup of decaf coffee at the coffee shop.  I continued reading my book, (yes an actual book with pages bound together), and enjoyed the warmth of the overcrowded sole coffee shop in this part of town.

Once I had read a few more chapters and drank as much of the coffee as I could, I donned my hat, coat, gloves, and scarf and headed back out into the cold.  I walked around for a little bit, passing all of my favorite restaurants enjoying the smells of the different foods.  I thought the smell of the indian food would make me crazy, but what did me in tonight was the smell of bread and oil coming from the newest italian/pizza place.  I wanted the fresh hot bread dipped in olive oil so bad! OMG it smelled good.  But I kept on walking until I reached the bus station.  All that was left was to decide how I was getting back up the hill.

I checked the Next Bus app on my phone and there wasn’t a bus due for a long time.  Walking down the hill was easy.  Walking up the hill, I was a little bit worried about.  I decided that I could wait an hour or so for a bus so that I could go one entire stop, try to hail a cab, or just tough it out and walk up the hill.  I decided to walk.

There is a bench about midway before the entrance to my apartment building.  I did stop and rest there, not really because I was tired or needed a break, but because I was afraid of how I would feel by the time I reached my building if I didn’t stop.  When I did reach my building, I did have to stop to catch my breath.  Walking up hill is much harder than walking down.  I did not have to stop for long, though.

Now that it is done, I feel great!  One month and 38 pounds ago, I could not have done this.  I never would even have attempted to walk down to the shops let alone walk back up!  I really feel like I have regained a bit of my own independence.  I’ve hated the limitations that being so heavy has placed on me.  Being able to walk to the village and back makes me feel like I really will be able to get my life back!  Yay me!

Today’s picture is a piece of art work from one of my friends in my writer’s group.  Her name is Sushmita Mazumdar.  She’s an artist and a writer.  She writes children’s stories mostly based on her own life in India, which she then makes into hand-made books.  All of her stories are true stories, although sometimes the main character will have a fictional name.  She also makes all kinds of art, much of which is made to represent a story book she has written.  She recently had a show at Glen Echo Park in Maryland, which I went to see.  This painting is about a story about a kite.  This is my favorite painting of hers.

If you’re interested in supporting artists or into shopping local for the holidays, check out some of her books and artwork.

Post Surgery

I had my gastric by-pass on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 8:00am at Inova Fair Oaks hospital in Fairfax, VA.  Today is Friday, October 26, 2012 at 3;30am. I woke up about an hour ago and now I cannot get back to sleep.  So, I am going to blog a bit about my experience so far.

I have to say that everyone at this hospital has been wonderful.  From the moment that I checked in until now, everyone is nice and helpful.  They have been great in answering any of my questions, calming my fears, and helping me do everything.  My surgeon, Dr. Osvaldo Anez, is very professional and friendly.  He’s been to check in on me twice.  He wants to check me out later today.  I have to admit, I am a little bit nervous about that, but he seems confident in my progress so far.

So, let me start with the surgery itself.  The surgery went smoothly from what I am to understand.  They did wake me up after the surgery while I was still on the table.  I had a tube down my throat to help me breathe.  They need to make sure that I can breathe on my own before they remove it.  I remember them yelling my name and saying, “Colleen breathe!”  “Take a deep breathe!”

I remember feeling that I could not breathe, but I also remember them pulling the tube out of me, so I must have been breathing.  But they kept waking me and telling me to keep breathing.  Then to assure that I could breathe, they put my c-pap mask on.  The pain was unbelievable.  I remember telling them I was in pain.  Through all of this, I was being wheeled into post-op and everything was foggy. I vaguely remember them taking me to my private room.  My mom and sister were there.

The whole day of Wednesday, was very rough for me.  I had horrible nausea that was caused by the anesthesia.  I do not know how much medicine they gave me, but they kept giving me all kinds of anti-naseau medication.  The anesthesia doctor came in to see me several times.  Finally, she gave me a steroid of some kind that helps with nausea.  That knocked it right out of me.  The bariatric nurse that taught the nutrition/bariatric class came to see me as well.  She was the pretty blonde Ukrainian lady.  She is so nice.  She told me to make sure I was giving myself plenty of pain medicine.  I can give myself pain medication by pressing a button.  I was only pressing the button when I had intense pain.  She told me no, to stay ahead of the pain so that I am able to take deep breaths and walk as much as possible.  I have been taking that advise and it has made a world of difference.

They made me use the bathroom and talk a way about 3pm the day of the surgery.  I did not want to.  I kept saying that I did not have to go to the bathroom and I did not want to walk.  The nurse did not tolerate that.  She had been so sweet all day, but she turned to me and said,”No, you’ve been sleeping and drinking water all day, you’re getting up.  It is time.”

Getting up was hard.  Ultimately though, I’m glad she made me get up.  I only walked about 40 feet the first time, But about an hour later, I took a little bit of a longer walk.  A nurse or volunteer was with me at all times.  My mom and sister left at 6pm on Wednesday and my brother showed up about 730pm.  He was not here long.  About 830pm I went to bed and slept most of the night.

Day one: A lot of pain and nausea, but ended the day on a much better note.

I had the morning to myself yesterday.  I got some walking in and continued to use the bathroom without problem.  I sat up in a chair for about three hours.  My friend Lynn showed up around noon followed quickly by my sister and mom.  I enjoyed visiting with them.  I took a couple of walks with them.  I kind of over did it yesterday with the walking.  My doctor came back to see me.  He is very pleased with my progress.  Everyone has told me how good I look.  I was able to walk by myself and I apparently had a lot of color to my face.  And I have to admit that I felt pretty good.  Yesterday, I started eating.  So far, I have had only liquid food.  I had chicken broth, cranberry juice and jello.  I had to stop drinking the sweet flavored stuff.  I know that there is no sugar, but the sweet taste was not good.  So, I am sticking with the chicken broth and water.  From what I understand, I am going to have pureed food at some point today.

My brother showed up about 630pm is with his wife and my niece. She is four.   She had made me two get well cards.  I was worried about my niece seeing me in the hospital.  I am hooked up to an IV and a pain machine.  I was afraid that I looked terrible and the IV would scare her.  I was right.  She wouldn’t come very close to me.  Her parents tried to convince her to come closer and give me y cards.  I told her it was OK to give them to Aunt Sandy and then Sandy would give them to me.  I told her that I know the wires and stuff are scary, but I explained that they give me medicine to make me feel better.  She did ask about the boo boo on my tummy.  I told her that they gave me a tight t-shirt to keep it covered so that nobody could see it.  What they really gave me is a support garment.  It helps a lot.  She mostly stayed behind her mother’s legs, but before they left, she did say good-bye and tell me she loves me.  My brother took my mom and my sister to dinner.  My mom went back to the hotel to rest.  My sister came back here and sat with me until I fell asleep for the night.

Apparently, my niece talked about me through dinner.  She said that I am only a little bit sick and that I have machines giving me medicine so that I will feel better.   I had told her she can come visit me at Aunt Sandy’s house this weekend, so she talked about that a lot too.  So, she might have been a little scared at the hospital, she did recognize that the scary machines are helping to make me better. I love that little girl so much.  Being an auntie is awesome.

I am getting tired, so  am going to try to get some more sleep.  I am supposed to be discharged today. We shall see.  I will write more later.

ONE

One more day.  Tomorrow is it.  My gastric by-pass surgery.

I have been thinking about everything I have been through this past year since I made the decision to get serious about dealing with my weight and all of the connected health related problems that I have.

A year ago, these medical problems were either completely untreated or not really under control:

  • Volatile high blood pressure that despite my efforts to control it, was still running on the mid-high side.
  • Severe sleep apnea.
  • Stress levels that were out of control.
  • Borderline to high cholesterol.
  • I ate out for nearly every meal.
  • I did not even think about exercising.
  • I have asthma that was sort of controlled.

In other words, I was going down a very dangerous path.  I said in an earlier post that it was a prescription for an early death.

Since seeing a gastric by-pass surgeon, I have changed quite a bit of what I was doing.

  • I saw two gastric by-pass doctors before my friend directed me towards my new doctor.
  • I stopped eating out for every meal.
  • I underwent a sleep study.
  • I use a c-pap machine and my apnea is now controlled.
  • I’ve been taken off of one of my high blood pressure medications.  Now the medication I do take keeps me at a normal level on a consistent basis.
  • My cholesterol is 151.
  • I’ve met with a nutritionist who helped guide my food choices.
  • I am eating more fruits and vegetables.
  • I’ve dealt with some of the other things that were causing me undo stress.
  • I’ve had a stress test.
  • And I’ve had many other tests to make sure I am healthy for surgery.
  • I lost about 10 pounds.

I feel better.  I feel rested.  I’m more positive.  And I feel that I am ready for this surgery.  Granted, I’m still not exercising at the level I would like. I can and will correct that after surgery.  I want to get my triglyceride level down to normal levels, raise my good cholesterol levels, and continue to lower my bad cholesterol levels.  Obviously, I want to lose weight.  I also need to bring my sugar levels down some too.  All of this will happen after the surgery once the serious weight loss begins.

Making the decision to have the surgery was not an easy one.  I did not originally want  do this.  I invested a lot of time and thought into the decision and finally came to the conclusion that if I wanted to live a drastically different life, I had to make some drastically different choices.

There are definitely some things I did not want to do.  I did not want to do the sleep study.  I did not want to sleep with a c-pap machine.  I have to admit that when I was told that I needed a c-pap machine and that I would have to take my c-pap machine to the hospital for the surgery, I was unhappy.  I do not know why, but the idea of carrying a medical machine into the hospital really turned me off.  I thought the machine would be much bigger than it was.  Part of my fear was the machine would be much bigger than it was and I really do not have the strength or ability to haul around medical equipment.  I also did not relish wearing a mask every night.

The truth is The c-pap machine is small.  Sleeping with the mask is an inconvenience, but being well rested is something I would not change.  Controlling my sleep apnea has helped lower my blood pressure and improved many other health related problems that I have.  Now, I’m glad I did it and I’m not afraid to carry my small c-pap machine into the hospital tomorrow.

Like I said, this was not an easy decision, but I knew I had to do something.  I want a better life than the one I am leading now.  The only way to do that is to make some serious changes in the way I live.  I am glad I made those changes.  While I am nervous about my surgery, anxious about the changes to come, and sad that there are some food that I love that I may never be able to eat again, I do not regret the decision.

I thank all of my blog followers, friends, and family who have stuck with me up to this point.  I am grateful for all of the well wishes and support I have received.  I hope you’ll stay with me now as the real food changes and weight loss begins and the new healthier Colleen starts to take shape.  As my baby sister called it the other day on the phone, get ready for Colleen 2.0.