Congestive Heart Failure, Take Two

me in the ER, sticking out my tongueThat’s right, kids, I have congestive heart failure again!

Thursday night, September 8, I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep, but the pain and pressure in my chest was making it difficult to relax. I was also having trouble with breathing—air was going in just fine, but it felt like I wasn’t getting all of it, somehow. I’d had these symptoms for a few hours, and thought I was just stressed out (I have been stressed out a lot lately), so I hadn’t really done anything. But finally I asked my mom what she thought, and she told me to go to the ER.

I was given an EKG right off the bat and taken to a room in the ER pretty quickly. I spent several hours there, leaving only for a CT scan. They brought a portable X-ray machine right into the room, which was neat. I also had blood drawn and they took a urine sample. Since I was having trouble breathing, they put me on oxygen, which helped my chest pain a lot.

When the test results came back, they showed pulmonary edema. They decided to admit me at 4am, and got me into a room by 5:20. (It was now Friday, September 9.) I tried to sleep, but people kept coming in and waking me up. Eventually I was taken for an echocardiogram, which showed an ejection fraction between 25 and 30, just like the last time I had CHF. (I did not actually learn this until Saturday.) Later that same day I was taken for a cardiac catheterization, where they stick a catheter up the femoral artery to look at the arteries and heart. This confirmed that my arteries were fine and the problem was the heart muscle. It was also terrifying, because I had never had that done before, and I sort of started freaking out in the operating room. Thankfully, they gave me some sort of drug that made me very sleepy and blissfully ambivalent, and I didn’t feel anything thanks to the lidocaine.

Sean cutting bites for meAfter the cath I was finally allowed to eat. I hadn’t had any food since dinner the previous day, and dinner the previous day was a Lunchable because I was too stressed to cook anything. (I had at least had Shane’s chicken tenders for lunch.) Dinner was fantastic—I don’t know if it actually tasted that good or if it was just because I was starving. Due to the cath I was not allowed to raise my head, so Sean had to feed me, which was funny but also sweet.

One nice thing about this day in the hospital was that I was allowed to have cran-grape juice. It was delicious. Overnight someone brought me a bagel and some pudding because I was hungry, and that was good too.

The next day, Saturday, September 10, I was on the “cardiac diet,” which is low sodium and low sugar. Tastes as good as it sounds! Thankfully, I only had to endure one such meal, as I was released at 11:30. I will probably remember those cardboard pancakes for the rest of my life.

After being released, I basically tried to rest, as I was not allowed to drive or carry more than 10 pounds. I saw my doctor for an outpatient checkup on Tuesday, September 13. My instructions from her are as follows: 1) take my medication; 2) check my weight daily and call her if it changes rapidly; 3) get 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day; and 4) limit my sodium intake to 2000mg per day. I started with the exercise and sodium-watching yesterday, Wednesday, September 14. I’m using MyFitnessPal to track my weight and my food, and RunKeeper to track my walks. For now, I think walking is probably the best moderate exercise for me.

I cooked a meal yesterday. It should have taken about half an hour, but instead it took three hours, because I kept having to stop and rest. Having CHF is very frustrating. However, if I work hard, I will be able to strengthen my heart muscle and live normally again, so that’s my goal.

I am thinking I will make short posts each day to check off my accomplishments. Maybe I’ll include a note about how I’m feeling, maybe not. I just think it would be nice to have a record of things I did, to show my progress.

Anyway, there you go. I have CHF again. I was foolishly assuming that since I’m no longer obese, I wouldn’t be at risk for it anymore, but I guess I’m predisposed. This time it wasn’t even set off by an illness like last time; it was apparently caused by stress. So I may end up taking heart medication for the rest of my life. (A small price to pay to avoid hospitalization, though!)

me in a hospital bed giving a thumbs-up

Remember when I used to blog?

Life has been…different, lately. And very busy. I don’t know that I’m actually doing a whole lot, but it sure feels like I’m spending every moment on something. It occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I actually blogged, so I thought I’d put down some sort of update.

There are several new people in my life, friends I’ve made through the Welcome to Night Vale fandom and through Sean. It has been so wonderful getting to know them and sharing things with them. I’ve been doing a lot more chatting recently than I had for years. I’d really missed it. So many of my new friends are artists or writers, so we’ve been inspiring each other to create fanworks, and it’s been so much fun.

My online life has sort of shifted; I used to spend a lot of time on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, but now I hardly ever look at those two sites. I’m enjoying the chatting a lot more—it’s more personal, and it’s with people I care a lot about. (Sometimes on social media I get a bunch of updates from acquaintances and barely anything from my closest friends.)

I have a trip coming up soon; I’m going to New York City! I’ve only been once before, during Sean and my visit to New York state in 2011 (which I never finished writing up, alas). I’m really excited to see the city properly. I’m going to a Broadway musical, even! But the best part is that I’m going to meet someone very special in person for the first time. :)

I went home to visit my family over Labor Day weekend. It was nice. I didn’t feel like doing much, so I hung out in the office with Mom most of the time. On Sunday, the day before I left, we had a cookout, and AJ let Connor and Logan invite a bunch of their friends. Mom and Dad’s yard was filled with teen and pre-teen boys, swimming, playing horseshoes, tossing beanbags, and helping with the grill. It was amazing. Eventually we all sat down to eat wherever we could find a spot and one of Logan’s friends, Cade, entertained us with jokes. Then he and Logan challenged each other to eat various food items with lemon juice squirted all over them. It was funny.

Ben had no idea I was visiting, so I didn’t see him at all. Gah. Next time I will be sure to tell him myself that I am coming!

My daily writing challenge has kind of faltered. Some days I have been too mentally exhausted to write. Some days I just haven’t been in the right headspace. I’m still trying to write regularly, but it seems like every day isn’t sustainable. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, and instead to enjoy the writing I’m doing.

So far the vast majority of my writing has been fanworks. I’m trying not to feel bad about this, either. For some reason I feel like I should be writing original stuff, like the work I’ve done isn’t “real.” But people have enjoyed what I’ve written, and I’ve enjoyed writing it. There’s value to it. I’m trying to break out of the “if it can’t make money, it’s worthless” mentality.

(Of course, I’m also nervous that I’m just scared to try to write something original, because I don’t feel like I can do it and I don’t want to fail…)

Sean and I eat out a lot these days. Neither of us is a big fan of cooking. For Sean, it’s mostly that it takes so much time. For me, there’s the added issue that Sean is fairly picky, so there’s the danger that I’ll spend forever making something and then he won’t like it. So we tend to get takeout or fast food, or just go to a restaurant.

We have been trying to make healthier choices, at least. I’ve been getting Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box for breakfast pretty regularly. It comes with a hard-boiled egg, two slices of white cheddar cheese, a small multi-grain pita with honey-peanut butter spread, apple slices, and grapes. It is so yummy! Much nicer than a sausage or bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, and healthier too. It’s a struggle not to just eat one every day. (I’ve been thinking that I could probably create my own version at home that would cost less. Maybe I’ll do that.)

Exercise-wise, neither of us is doing much of anything. We have to go up a flight of stairs to leave our apartment, and I take the stairs in the parking garage at work, but that’s about it. I’ve been thinking about getting back into walking or running in the mornings now that the weather is cooling off again, but I’m not sure I want to get up any earlier than I already do. My evenings feel pretty short already, especially since most of my friends stay up late.

Yesterday one of my friends linked me to a couple of videos: the pilot short and the first episode of the miniseries Over the Garden Wall. I had never seen it before, though I knew a lot of people were fans. It was absolutely incredible. So unique and charming. Creepy and cute all at once. The music is spectacular. At some point I need to sit down and watch the whole thing. (I was disappointed that both of the two main characters are boys, but my friend says there are important girl characters in the show, so I will hold out hope.)

Otherwise, I haven’t been watching or listening to much of anything lately beyond Welcome to Night Vale. I’ve heard of a couple of podcasts that sound great, but it’s hard for me to find time to listen to podcasts. I need to be doing something with my hands, but it can’t be something that takes too much mental energy, because I’ll get distracted from the show. Maybe if I start walking again, I could listen then. I’ve also been thinking about learning embroidery, or at least cross-stitch. I could listen to podcasts while doing that, maybe.

Well, that’s basically what’s going on in my life right now! On the whole, things are really good. Love, family, friends, hobbies, adventures, happiness. :)

Weight goal: achieved! Sort of.

Me, July 20, 2012As of today I am at the weight at which I said I’d be content, 138 pounds. I look good. I feel great. At this point I could just say “mission accomplished” and go on with my life.

But there’s more to these life changes than meeting an arbitrary weight goal. The post-surgery weight loss period lasts up to two years, and I’m just now ten months in. There’s a whole year left in which I can work to sculpt away my remaining flab. And after that, it’s not like I’m going to go back to eating and living the way I did before. My food tastes have changed, and I am loving how energetic working out is making me. I’m looking forward to maintaining a healthy lifestyle forever.

I mentioned before that I wasn’t going to be paying as much attention to weight. And I haven’t been; I rarely weigh in. But I’ve decided that when I do, I want the various trackers I use to reflect my current reality. I’ve reached one goal. Now it’s time for a new one.

Today is my new “start date”. Based on my weight loss slowdown, I decided a pound a week was a reasonable rate. I put in 125 as my goal weight; two programs tell me I can reach that weight by the end of October.

I don’t know if I’ll actually get there–muscle weighs more than fat, and I expect to gain more muscle as I continue working out–but it’s nice to have a modified plan with a fresh goal line to start with.

Here’s how my SparkPeople goal line looked originally. As you can see, the deceleration of my weight loss caused my tracking line to approach the goal line (click to embiggen):

Weights from September 26, 2011 to July 23, 2012 with goal lineHere are my weights from April until now, showing the approach more dramatically:

Weights from April, 2011 to July 23, 2012 with goal lineAnd here is the beginning of my new goal line!

New weight loss goal and start of goal lineI’m pretty excited to start with a new plan and goal, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out in the next three months.

Six months out

I recently had my six-month phone checkup with the office that performed my weight loss surgery. They’re very pleased with my progress, my protein levels look good, and I’m getting enough of my other nutrients; on the other hand, my cholesterol might still be an issue, and we’re waiting until June to see if my pseudotumor cerebri has improved. Still, everything generally seems to be dandy.

While I had them on the phone I inquired as to how much more weight I might expect to lose. They told me that on average, their patients reach a BMI of 26. For me, that would mean a weight of 147.

This is consistent with my high school weight range, but it’s a little higher than I was hoping for. A BMI of 26 is still considered overweight, for one thing. For another, at 167, I don’t really feel like I’m all that far from 147, and I’m not sure I’m prepared for this to be done in just another 20 pounds. Now that I’ve lost so much excess weight, I’m painfully aware of all my sagging flab, and I want it gone too. I don’t think 20 pounds would do it. I almost feel like I have 20 pounds of flab just in one thigh!

So I’ll keep eating right and working out and letting the surgery do its thing, and we’ll see what happens. And I’m going to really try not to worry!

No longer obese

me at 167 poundsAs of yesterday morning, I weigh an astonishingly low 166.6 pounds. That’s a hundred pounds less than the highest weight I ever reached, and 90.4 pounds less than I weighed on September 26, 2011, the day I had weight loss surgery. Now, six months out from that surgery, my BMI has plummeted from 45.5, class III obesity, to 29.5–toward the top of the “overweight” range.

I am no longer obese.

I am no longer obese.

I knew this was coming. Whenever I saved my weight in Weightbot on my iPhone, it would tell me my BMI, and I knew that as soon as I hit 29.9 I would no longer be obese. I felt like I was in the 30s forever. I thought about checking to see what weight I’d need to reach to get out of the obesity range, but I somehow never got around to doing that. This month I ended up traveling a lot and didn’t have access to my scale…so while I usually try to wait a few days to a week between weigh-ins, yesterday’s came after a far longer data-free period than usual.

I didn’t even really realize it had happened when I tracked my weight. I saw the 29 and it just didn’t register. It was only this morning, when I weighed in on the Wii Fit, that the truth resounded in my ears: a different, higher in pitch humpty-dumpty “you’re fat” melody, and the Wii Balance Board character, who for years has admonished me, “That’s obese!”, chirped instead, “That’s overweight!”

I don’t know how much more weight I’m going to lose. I’d need a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 to be considered in the “normal” range; for my height, that would mean a weight between 104.5 and 140.5. I’m really not interested in weighing 104.5. My mid range, a BMI of 21.7 at 122.5 lbs, seems about as small as I’d want to go. I don’t really know what I’d look like at that weight, because in high school, at my most fit, I weighed around 145 to 150.

I don’t even really know what weight I want to be. I used to say I wanted to go for 125 and that I’d be happy with 140, but I can’t imagine what I would look like at either weight. I’m actually pretty happy with how I look now, although I’d like to get rid of some flab. I hope I don’t lose so much weight that my natural curviness goes away.

Regardless, I am extremely pleased with the results of my hard work so far, and I hope I can continue refining my body and becoming even more healthy. I updated the comparison photo I made three months after surgery, and included clothes sizes this time. It’s amazing to me to look back at the changes. (Click to embiggen.)

before and after photosI’m wearing the same shirt in the first two photos, and I thought about wearing it again in the next two, but once a shirt is too big for you, it starts getting unflattering. I did put it on this last time, though; here’s a picture. Rather than hiding fat, the ruffles now hide my lack thereof, which defeats the entire purpose! ;)

I’m sick. :(

I have had a cold for over a week. Last Wednesday, January 25, I felt it coming on–a few sniffles, a sore throat, some coughing. It’s been nonstop since then. The cough’s gotten worse, then a little better. The sniffles turned to sneezing and lots of nose-blowing. My throat is no longer sore, but I have sinus pressure and a headache, and for the past few nights I’ve had trouble getting to sleep and then staying asleep. I’ll be in bed for 12 or 13 hours but I’m not sure how much of that time actually involves rest.

My mucus is clear and I don’t have a fever. There’s been no throwing up or anything like that. It’s just a head cold. But it won’t go away.

At this point I am considering trying to use my CPAP to get some restful sleep. I haven’t needed it in weeks thanks to weight loss. I’m not sure if it would even work, but I feel so terrible, it’s worth a shot.

Since I’ve been sick, I haven’t been able to work out properly. I’ve tried a couple times, only to feel exhausted and lightheaded way too soon.

I’m wondering if the rapid weight loss period after weight loss surgery makes one more susceptible to illness. Is my immune system weakened by the ordeal my body’s going through? If so, is there anything I can do to break free of this cold? I do have some generic cold medicine, but that of course treats symptoms, not the cause.

Bariatric Advantage Meal Replacement powder

One of the biggest struggles with the duodenal switch weight loss surgery is getting enough protein. My entire approach toward food has changed; where once I could eat and eat and eat, and wanted to, now I can’t, and even when I can eat, I often feel ambivalent or even turned off by food. But it’s imperative that I keep my protein intake up; that plus weight training are the one-two punch that will ensure I lose fat and not muscle.

To make sure I get enough protein, I’ve been tracking what I eat with SparkPeople. In the beginning I aimed for 60 grams of protein per day, but now that I’ve added more exercise and my stomach seems capable of handling more food, I’ve upped my goal to 90. I generally end up somewhere in the 80s.

yogurtdeli hamchicken and edamame

While I think the ideal situation would be to get all my protein from real food, I’m not sure that’s actually possible. I’ve tried. Even on days when I forced myself to eat virtually nonstop (which is not recommended), I wasn’t able to get much further than the 50s. So to assist me in this endeavor, I’ve turned to various protein supplements.

When I originally looked at all my options, I thought it would be easiest to depend on products I could buy locally. I started out with New Whey Liquid Protein, which I’d tried out shortly after surgery and which was available at the smoothie place up the street from our apartment. Each little tube contains a whopping 42 grams of protein. I’d heard that the non-citrus flavors weren’t very good, so I stuck with orange.

However, New Whey isn’t something you’d want to drink regularly. For one thing, it replaces too much food. For another, it’s not delicious. Also, some weight loss surgery patients have trouble with whey protein (though I didn’t seem to). Regardless, one day I drank a tube of Liquid Protein and decided, “Never again. Or at least not for a very long time.” Now I think New Whey is probably good to keep on hand for emergencies, but not to depend on routinely.

After that I switched to Atkins Advantage shakes. They come in four flavors: Dark Chocolate Royale, Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla. I tried them all, but they were all too chalky save the Dark Chocolate Royale, so that’s what I’ve stuck with ever since. I keep one compartment on the door of my fridge loaded up with Atkins shakes and have them for breakfast or snacks. Unlike New Whey, these don’t pack a lot of protein: just 15 grams. But that’s enough to get me going in the morning and help me transition to regular food for the rest of the day.

I’ve also been using Atkins Advantage meal bars as snacks. Their protein content differs depending on the flavor. I like the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar (19 grams), the Mudslide Bar (15 grams), and the Cookies n’ Creme Bar (15 grams). I try not to have an Atkins shake and an Atkins bar in the same day, because again I’m leery of replacing too much food. Also, the bars tend to have a lot of carbohydrates, which I’m trying to avoid–the best carbs come from vegetables, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, if I must have carbs at all. The shakes don’t really have this carbohydrate problem, so I tend to depend on them more than the bars, but sometimes I want some kind of treat for a snack, and the bars are the closest thing I can do.

At this point I’d like to point out that it’s important to avoid sugar during this period of rapid weight loss. I’m also avoiding most artificial sugars, because they can cause unpleasant gastric side effects. However, sucralose (Splenda) seems to be okay, so I do use that. The Atkins products are all made with sucralose.

This system has been mostly working for me. I’ve been trying to incorporate more protein-rich foods and snacks into my diet, too. But getting to 90 grams of protein per day is still a challenge. So finally I thought I’d look for a shake that packs more of a protein punch.

I ordered one Ready to Shake Meal Replacement from Bariatric Advantage to try it out. They sent a plastic bottle with a screw top; inside the bottle was a pre-measured amount of powder to make a shake with 27 grams of protein.

protein shakeThe idea is that you put water or milk into the bottle, shake it, and drink, but it proved a little more challenging than it sounds. When I put the water in, the powder at the very bottom became a paste, not unlike what happens to powdered hot cocoa. I had to use a straw to scrape the powder off the bottom. Then the sludge was caught in the straw, so I had to blow it back out and try to mix it all up again. Finally it was done, and I threw the straw away…but then when I started to drink, replacing and removing the cap as I did so, I realized that the shaking had coated the inside of the cap with liquid, meaning I would spill it each time I took the lid off. Plus, drinking from the ridged mouth of the bottle was unpleasant. Fortunately I had another straw, so I popped it in and finished the shake that way.

The taste isn’t unpleasant. Right now I’d say I like Atkins better, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I drink the Atkins shakes refrigerated or not. Neither Atkins nor this shake is delicious.

The shake might taste better with milk instead of water, too. I didn’t realize I could use milk until I went to Bariatric Advantage’s recipes page. There I also found a lot of other information:

  • You can make shakes and smoothies with the powders using a blender.
  • You can make ice cream with the powders.
  • You can stir the powders into other foods, like oatmeal or soup.

I think at this point it would behoove me to get some of the unflavored powder and try it out in various recipes. This sounds like a great way to keep getting real food into my system while bumping up the protein.

I’m not sure I want to commit to the shakes at this point, though. I like the idea of making shakes and smoothies with ice and a blender, but I don’t actually have a blender, and I’m not won over by the taste of the shake. What I may do is buy a large bag of unflavored powder for cooking and then get one or two small packets of flavored powder to try out as shakes or ice cream. I’ll probably stay away from fruit smoothies, since even natural sugars can retard the rapid weight loss.

[EDIT: A few hours after finishing the shake, I had piercing lower abdominal pain followed by diarrhea. I will not be purchasing any more Bariatric Advantage protein powder.]

This surgery has given me a whole lot of new things to keep track of, but it has so been worth it. As of today, I’m down 76 pounds! Now I’m 43 pounds away from my “I could be happy at that weight” goal and 57 pounds away from the weight all the online calculators tell me I should be. It’s amazing that either way, I’m closer to the goal than I am to where I started!

Weight loss and health update

Today I am three and a half months out from weight loss surgery. This morning I weighed in 67.6 pounds lighter than I did the morning of my surgery. I also passed under the 190 pound mark; almost exactly a month ago, I made it under 200 pounds.

Here’s a graph of my weight loss to date, courtesy of SparkPeople, which I’ve been using to track weight, protein, and exercise:

Weight loss graph 9/26/11 - 01/16/12As you can see, there is a precipitous drop at the beginning, then a steadier decline past that, with some near-plateauing around the holidays.

I obviously haven’t reset my goal line in quite some time, so please ignore it. At this point I think my goal is 140, but I wouldn’t say no to lower. I’m not sure how low a weight I can actually achieve, though; I have a feeling it might be tied to my weight as an adolescent. I was in the 140s in high school, until senior year, when I quit kung fu and ballooned. I’m not sure what my weight was in middle school. When I had cancer, the lowest weight I hit was 145. And I looked good at 145, so I won’t complain if that’s where I end up. I just don’t want to shoot myself in the foot if I can possibly achieve more.

For the first three months, I had to be careful of my stomach and focus on healing. I couldn’t lift heavy objects or even reach over my head much. Exercise was limited to walking. Since my Christmas week appointment with the physician’s assistant at my surgeon’s office, though, I have had the go-ahead to do ab exercises, so long as I stop immediately if there’s any pain. I’ve started out with the Wii Fit and some old workout videos I used to much success back in 2008. (I’d gladly name them, except their distributor is a supporter of SOPA.)

It really surprised me how winded and sore I was after my first 20 minutes of Wii Fit. I commented on Facebook, “You know you’re out of shape when…” But the next day I did a 20-minute workout video, and while it was difficult, I got through to the end. And then the next day, I went back to Wii Fit, and I was already stronger and had more endurance. The truism from my old kung fu class keeps coming back to me: The more you do, the more you are able to do.

I went back and forth between Wii Fit and the 20-minute workout video for a week. The next week, Sean and I went out of town for five days, and I only exercised for three of those: the elliptical one day, then a load of walking on the following two as I explored the historic city of Birmingham, Alabama. (There will be blog posts and pictures from this trip later.) When we got back, I resumed my Wii Fit/video routine immediately without too much trouble.

I’m already starting to get bored, though, which has always been my problem with exercise. If I want to keep up my weight loss without losing muscle tone, I need to work my muscles, so I’m going to have to go ahead and change up my routine some. My goal will be to come up with various routines that don’t burn too many calories (since it’s difficult for me to replenish them) but still give me a good workout and build muscle tone. SparkPeople has some weight routines I can use over at the apartment complex’s fitness center, for example.

One hope of mine has been to build up to the point that I can start Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred once I’m six months out from surgery. I’ve heard amazing things about this video and seen some incredible before and after photos online. I bought it before I even had the surgery, but I haven’t tried it yet.

A friend has also been talking and blogging about the Tracy Anderson Method recently. I’ve been very impressed by her results. I think once I get closer to the end of my weight loss, this might be the way to power through those last pounds, and maybe get my weight down lower than I thought I could get it. Of course, there are two things I have to remember. One is that if I start a difficult workout program to lose weight, I will need to keep doing it to maintain my weight. I can’t just hit my target weight and then go, “Okay, I’m done!” and stop exercising and eating healthily. While the rearrangement of my insides should keep me from easily becoming obese again, it will not keep me from packing on extra weight. So I will have to consider whether I want to add a difficult workout routine to my daily life forever. Perhaps the answer to this question should be yes. I do want to be active for the rest of my life. I love biking and I’d like to try running again. I want to go on long hikes. I want to climb one of those indoor rock climbing walls, though I’m not sure I’d actually try climbing an actual rock face. In any case, I want to be capable of physical feats. If I want those things, it naturally follows that I should incorporate rigorous exercise into my everyday routine.

The second thing I need to remember is that the lowest weight I hit during this “rapid weight loss” period is not the weight at which I will stay. I have been told to expect that I will lose and lose and lose, and then it’ll stop, and then I will gain some back, and that will be my true weight for the rest of my life (assuming I maintain it properly). So even if I do the Tracy Anderson Method there at the end and lose a bunch of weight and get down to the unimaginable weight of 125, I have to realize I won’t stay there. To maintain 125 for the rest of my life, I’d have to go down to 115 or something even more ridiculous, then go back up.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’d look like at 125. I got that number from a couple of online “What should I weigh?” charts that asked for my age, sex, and height. On BMI charts, my own arbitrary goal of 140 is at the upper end–right at the cusp of being overweight (BMI 25-29.9). 125 is pretty much right at the middle of my “healthy” range (BMI 22).

Having been obese (BMI 30+) for most of my adulthood and into class III obesity (BMI 40+) for the last few years (until recently), and having weighed in the 140s as an adolescent, I’m not sure I can reach the “magic number” of 125, or if I even want to, especially given that I would have to lose past 125 to ultimately get to 125. But part of me is still curious.

At this point, I think the best thing to do is to decide what sort of lifestyle I want and not worry too much about numbers. I’ll continue to track my weight and celebrate loss milestones, but I won’t set a “goal”. And I’ll think about the sorts of physical activities I want to do and how to start incorporating them into my life, and what tools would be the most beneficial.

And I’ll remember that this is something I’m doing for me. Not for the people who make BMI charts, not for a cultural conception of beauty. I’m doing this, ultimately, to be healthy and happy and able to continue hearing people’s stories and exploring this beautiful planet.

Before and after weight loss photos

So long, 2011. You were pretty awesome.

As the new year approached, I saw more and more of my friends posting status updates about how they were ready to see 2011 go. In many ways, I guess it has been a rough year. But I can’t help but think back on it fondly, despite the bad things that happened–the desperate situation our country is in, the hate and pain and suffering and disasters breaking out across the world. For me, 2011 was a year of growth and change and renewal and family and generosity. It was a year filled with love and hope. I want to take the power of what 2011 ignited in me and go out and share it with everyone.

I feel refreshed. I feel empowered. I feel ready.

We started the year embroiled in change. Sean had accepted a new job, and we were in the middle of a long period in which he commuted to Atlanta from Augusta for a week or two at a time. In February I hit the five-year mark at my own job, and wrote about it here. We moved to the Atlanta area at the beginning of March. I took a week off from work to coordinate the move, then went back to Augusta for a week to wrap up loose ends before beginning an approximately three-month-long period of telecommuting. I got a red velvet See You Soon cake :)

red velvet cake
After that week was over, it was back to the new apartment, which I had spent several weeks towards the end of 2010 selecting from the plethora of choices near Sean’s workplace. I wanted new or renovated apartments, nice facilities, a good location, and access to nature. I found everything I wanted, and we’ve been very happy with our new home this past year. Here’s a little something I wrote about it at the end of March.

We slowly started exploring our side of town and discovering new haunts. One of our first discoveries, Hashiguchi, ended up closing, much to our dismay. There are several other Japanese places in the area, but none have the same feel. We also discovered an Italian place, though, Scalini’s, which quickly became a favorite. And at our friend Will’s recommendation we checked out J. Christopher’s, a breakfast and brunch place, and fell in love. It’s currently my go-to restaurant (assuming I break for lunch early enough), just as the Boll Weevil was my go-to restaurant in Augusta. (They even have a door that creaks the same way!)

There’s a lot of shopping in our area as well, and as time went on I started to explore more and more of Vinings, Smyrna, and Marietta. One of my favorite landmarks is the infamous Big Chicken. Sean loves the Micro Center, which is kind of reminiscent of CompUSA. They pricematch, so he can get his quick technology fix.

Of course, there’s plenty to do in the rest of the Atlanta area. We’ve been to a comic book store in Buckhead; a Japanese restaurant, Korean barbecue, and Fry’s in Duluth; Super H-Mart, which is like Walmart for Asian food, off Peachtree Industrial; charming downtown Decatur; the aquarium and the World of Coke; the Atlanta History Center; and more. One day I drove around looking at all the furniture stores I could find, including IKEA…that was an adventure! And still so much more awaits us.

One great thing about living in Atlanta has been seeing our friends Charles and Heidi so much. I had taken several road trips from Augusta to Atlanta to visit them in the past, but now we’re free to do stuff together whenever we want! We have lots of dinners out, and we love going hiking and to cultural or interesting Atlanta destinations as well.

Heidi and Charles
For the next few months, my life consisted of telecommuting, trying to get the apartment in order, and exploring Atlanta. In May, since I was telecommuting anyway, I headed up to Kentucky and surprised Mom for Mother’s Day.

Then, around the middle of June, the station hired my replacement, so I went back to Augusta for my last two weeks to train her. On my way, I took a detour for a weekend in Savannah and had myself a nice little mini-adventure.

It was wonderful to see everyone in Augusta again. I stayed with Sean’s parents, which was really nice. I tried to get together with as many friends as possible. Brandon even managed to pull together some of the old lunch crew from years and years ago…it was awesome.

the old lunch crew
I spent some time on my last day running around getting pictures with everyone. Then, for my last night in Augusta, I spent the night at Brooke and David’s, and had breakfast with them at Cracker Barrel the next morning before heading home to Marietta.

Brooke and David
It was a wonderful last two weeks of work and a wonderful two weeks in Augusta.

Sean’s friend Adam came to visit while I was still out of town, and when I got back we took him around the neighborhood and out for sushi and frozen custard.

After that, I went back to Kentucky for the 4th of July. The fact that I was able to see my family so much was a big part of why last year was so amazing. On this visit I went swimming; I helped my brother with some sod on an area he’d leveled around a tree for seating; I spent lots of time with my nephews, including an awesome camping trip to Natural Bridge with their family; I ate ribs and fried chicken and corn on the cob and watched fireworks; I took a zillion pictures of my niece; I went shopping and out to eat with Mom; I went up to the farm and took awful pictures of the moon…basically, I had the best time ever.

And then I went to New York!

Sean’s job sent him up to the West Point area, and I got to tag along. I spent a week exploring the towns and villages along the Hudson River, including Highland Falls, Newburgh, Fishkill, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie. In Fishkill, I found a sign for the Great Indian Warrior Trading Path, which ends in Augusta. Here’s the sign and its Augusta counterpart:

Fishkill signAugusta sign
I have a few detailed summaries of my adventures around “downstate New York” that I wrote back in July. I will be posting them here shortly. In brief, my first day was spent exploring Highland Falls and Boscobel House; my second day, I went to the West Point Visitors Center and Museum, then Sean and I checked out Washington’s Headquarters. The third day was quite busy. First I went to the Van Wyck Homestead, where the above Warrior Path sign stands, then explored the lovely city of Beacon. After that I headed over to the Samuel Morse house and museum, where I also took in a car show. After that I had the singular moment of the whole New York trip, an unplanned visit to the Eleanor Roosevelt home, Val-Kill. I’ve written much more on that experience in the upcoming post; suffice it to say I’m not the same person I was before I went. I also checked out the FDR Presidential Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion grounds, then finished up my day on the Poughkeepsie riverfront. This day might possibly be the best day I spent in New York state; it is rivaled only by the next glorious day, when I took the train down to New York City.

At Grand Central Terminal, I met up with my friend Matt, who I hadn’t seen since our very first (and my last) Governor’s Scholars Program reunion, a zillion years ago. (Here we are on a boat.)

Matt and me
Matt was an amazing tour guide. I got to see so much. Since we only had one day, we concentrated on Manhattan. Matt’s recommended three-hour boat tour showed us many of the sights with views we couldn’t have gotten up close. The angles we saw of the Statue of Liberty (starting here) were spectacular.

Statue of Liberty
After the boat tour, Matt and I walked and rode the subway to a few places I was interested in seeing. This included…the apartment building used as the exterior shot for Monica and Rachel’s apartment in Friends!

Friends apartment
We also went to Times Square and Central Park, then walked up 5th Avenue to get back to Grand Central Terminal and head off our separate ways.

I hope to write in much more detail about this part of the trip later. It was a long, wonderful day, and an excellent endcap to my time in New York state. I spent the next day relaxing and recovering from two whirlwind days of awesome, then had one more mini-adventure in Cornwall-on-Hudson before Sean and I headed home.

After we got back from New York, Sean’s parents came to visit us for the first time in our new apartment. It was great to show them our place and give them a feel for our neighborhood. We took them around to our favorite haunts, and the next day we did some touristy things. It was a good visit.

Finally, there was a lull in the whirlwind of travel and visits, and I took that time to resume looking into weight loss surgery. The original plan had been to do the surgery once we lived in Atlanta, after all, and various health issues were making it obvious that the time to act was now (if it hadn’t already passed). Unfortunately, just as I started doing the paperwork for a local surgeon, we ran into some difficulties that meant it was impossible to have the surgery done here. This culminated in a trip to San Francisco as soon as I got all my medical clearances out of the way, which ended up being the end of September.

I was blessed to stay with family and thrilled to get to see much of San Francisco before my surgery date. I had never been there before–until then, the furthest west I’d traveled in the United States had been Texas–and I was excited to see everything I could. I was awed by the natural beauty of the Marin Headlands and Muir Woods and the sculpted elegance of Golden Gate Park. My uncle even took Mom and me on a drive down the famous Lombard Street on our way to an open-top bus tour which later offered us an excellent view of same.

One great thing about being in San Francisco was that I got to see my friend Hai again.

Me and Hai
We hadn’t seen each other since our first in-person meeting in Cincinnati back in April of 2008, though we’ve known each other for far longer than that thanks to the AMRN. We met up at Hog Island Oyster Company for lunch, and it was awesome. Hai is a fellow foodie, so he and Mom and I tried oysters, lobster, and a grilled cheese sandwich–an excellent last big meal before weight loss surgery ;)

The next few days were taken up with surgery prep, the surgery itself, and in-hospital recovery. I was eager to go back to my relatives’ house, so I pushed myself to walk as much as I could as soon as possible. The surgery was September 26, and I was released on the 29th.

I wrote a little about what I expected the surgery to be like here. I may write what it was actually like someday, or I may not. I never really have been one to dwell on that sort of thing. I don’t care to write about all my experiences when I had leukemia, either. Frankly, I don’t fully remember them, and I don’t really want to. Yes, I’ve had cancer, heart problems, sleep apnea, obesity, weight loss surgery–but these things don’t define me. They’re just things I’ve gone through. They are a part of what has made me what I am, but what I am has also been a part of what defeated them. Their role in my life is (or will soon be) over.

However, I will probably write about how weight loss surgery has changed me, because my approach to food is completely different now. I have a tiny stomach. I don’t absorb nutrients well, so I need to focus on getting as much protein as possible. Sugar and carbohydrates can shoot my weight loss in the foot. And white bread, white rice, and artificial sweeteners other than sucralose cause unpleasant gastic side effects for me.

These factors mean I don’t eat at all like I did before. Now I go for the meat first. I don’t eat much bread, and when I do it’s whole wheat. I don’t typically have, or even want, dessert, because by the time I’m done eating my few bites of dinner, I’m full. But I’ll get hungry again in a few hours, so I’ve started trying to keep higher-protein snacks around, like nuts and edamame. I also rely on Atkins shakes and bars for the times when I need protein fast. Since an all-protein diet can cause hard stools, I’m working to incorporate fiber when I can. I also have to make sure to drink a lot of water, not only because my new gastrointestinal configuration leeches it away, but because I’m taking a diuretic to treat my pseudotumor cerebri until I’ve lost enough weight to “cure” it permanently.

I also take a lot of supplements to get vitamins and minerals. I have to take a particular kind that my intestines are able to absorb. This will continue for the rest of my life.

Despite these constraints, you have no idea how freeing it is to not be a slave to food. I had no idea how much control food had over me. I thought I did…but I didn’t. I knew I was miserable. I knew I felt trapped. I knew I ate emotionally, or out of habit, or whenever someone else was eating, or because something looked delicious. But it never sank in just how addicted I was to food until, suddenly, I wasn’t anymore.

I told Sean, “I wish there was a surgery to help people stop smoking.”

This is not to say that going through weight loss surgery and recovery is easy. It is not. It is a lot of work, and you have to have the right attitude going in–the attitude that you are going to kick ass and take names because you are awesome. You have to know your stuff. And there will be times, many times, when you don’t want to eat, and you will have to force yourself to do so.

This concept is so alien to the former me that I don’t think I could even begin to explain it to her.

No, it’s not easy, but it works. If you know what you’re doing, if you have the right attitude, if you follow the steps you need to follow…you will lose weight. And you’ll keep losing weight. You’ll feel better than you have in years. The fact that it actually works will keep you positive, and you’ll keep going, and you’ll keep losing weight, until you hit your healthy balance and stop. I’m not there yet, but as of today I’ve lost 64 pounds…more than I’ve ever been able to lose trying to diet on my own. On my own, I had to battle my food addiction every day. Now, with this surgery, that enormous factor is simply gone. I still enjoy food…but I don’t have to have it, and I often don’t even want it.

I’m free.

Immediately after my surgery, I had to rest and recover, but also keep myself moving so I wouldn’t lose muscle strength. I felt good the majority of the time and it wasn’t long before I was off painkillers–a benefit of laparoscopic surgery is that fewer nerves get distressed. Of course, this can also be a con, if you feel so “normal” that you try to do too much too soon and end up injuring yourself. Since I’m the go-getter type, I was in danger of just that. The day after I was released from surgery, I went on a shopping trip with my mom and aunt! It was brief enough, but I tired out extremely quickly. Thankfully I hadn’t messed anything up, but looking back on it now, I’m sort of surprised at myself. I took a weekend off and relaxed with family, but then I went crazy again and accompanied my mom and aunt to Costco! Actually, I did far better than you might expect, and only felt like falling over and dying towards the end of the excursion. We sat down at the little cafe to give me time to recover, then headed back to the house.

After a checkup the next morning, my mom and aunt and I finally got the weather we were after for some Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline shots.

Golden Gate Bridge
After that we sort of just drove around looking at things. We had lunch in Sausalito, which is awesome because I’ve always wanted to say I’ve been to Sausalito (the name is cool!), and then we did a tiny bit of grocery shopping. I was getting stronger and stronger. Still, the next two days were spent relaxing and recovering from all that wandering around. Then my aunt’s dear friend came up for a visit–I’d previously met her on my first trip to Savannah–and we had a lot of fun going around the area with her. (Enjoy this nasty picture of my lunch from our day shopping in Mill Valley…I was still getting the hang of ordering protein-rich food.)

Thus ended my first-ever visit to San Francisco. So much more happened, and there was so much more that I wanted to see. Hopefully someday I will write in more detail about the trip, and I definitely plan to go back!

Obviously, after having surgery, I wasn’t really up to my usual sort of self-reliant behavior. I had to lean on Sean a lot for help with the most simple of tasks, like getting the laundry out of the washer and dryer, putting away the dishes, bringing in the groceries, moving things, etc. It was a little frustrating not being able to just do everything myself, but I persevered. While I wasn’t supposed to carry much weight or reach over my head, I was allowed and encouraged to go up and down stairs, which was good, since we live on the “garden level” (below the first floor). While I recovered I focused on walking for exercise. I did a lot of reading, breaking into the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin for the first time. I also did a little more writing in November than usual.

I did leave the apartment for one event while I was still in the recovery and adjustment period, and that was A Web Afternoon on October 22. I saw my friends Chris and Will, and organizer J. Cornelius apparently recognized me from when I attended the Webmaster Jam Session back in 2008, which is pretty cool of him. The event was really inspiring and interesting; the speakers had somewhat diverse messages and delivery methods, but they were all very enthusiastic about the web.

The end of November heralded a weeks-long flurry of travel for Sean and me. First, on November 22, we headed to Augusta for an early Thanksgiving with Cheryl and Reid, plus Cheryl’s brother Michael and his girlfriend Michelle. I made corn casserole, and I swear Michael ate about half the pan! Michelle is from China, and I got to hear a lot of interesting stories from her past–how she was sent to work on a farm by the government as a child, and how she worked hard to help her family. It was a nice visit, and the food was great. Cheryl really pulled out all the stops.

Sean, me, Reid, Cheryl, and Michael
After a brief stop in Brooke and David’s driveway to say hello, we headed back to the ATL. But I turned around the very next day and drove to Kentucky!

One of the highlights of the visit was seeing my beautiful niece, who turned 1 on November 5. She’s grown so much!

Daphne and Ben

Daphne and Ben

Given my new post-weight loss surgery reality, I wasn’t able to eat much at Thanksgiving dinner–here’s my plate. I ate all the turkey, and maybe half of everything else. It was great to just be there with my family though…I love seeing everyone!

Uncle Steve stopped by during my Thanksgiving visit home, which was great; he’s always a trip.

The day after I got back from Kentucky, I jumped into the car again for a quick weekend in Augusta. I’d been wanting to visit Brooke and hang out with people for awhile, and this was the only weekend left in the year that would work for both of us. It may have been a mistake to try to squeeze it in there–I ended up exhausted and unable to do nearly as much with Brooke as I’d hoped–but I was at least glad to see her, and to visit my friends at the station and have Teresa’s with Brandon, Ed, and Arturo. Brooke and I had dinner with Mari at Kinja, too, which was great.

Mari and Brooke

Mari and Brooke

I squeezed in a quick breakfast with Chris and Kenny and a stopover at the in-laws’ before heading back to Atlanta on Saturday. My biggest regret from the trip is not spending more time with Brooke…that will be rectified next time.

After the Augusta trip, I mercifully had two weeks in which to relax…theoretically. In reality, I had to decorate the apartment, wrap Christmas presents and prepare holiday cards. Yes, even though we were going out of town for Christmas, I still put up our tree. It was beautiful, so I think it was totally worth it! (Technically it still is beautiful…I need to take it down…) These activities brought me much more joy than annoyance. I was thrilled that I could finally give decent Christmas presents to family members; it had really been too long. I had a lot of fun selecting everyone’s gifts.

Sean and I also went to his work Christmas party the weekend of December 10. It was held at Stone Mountain Park, and we decided to spend the night at the hotel and go see the sights the next day. It was an utterly romantic weekend. I’d lost enough weight that I needed to buy a new dress, which I did. I also wore a new perfume, Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Nude, which is now my fragrance–we both love it. The party was elegant enough, and the hotel common areas were beautifully appointed, but my favorite times were when Sean and I were alone–in our room, or out exploring the park. We went down to the village after the party and wandered around looking at all the Christmas lights. The next morning we had room service in bed and a bath in our in-suite jacuzzi. We rode the skyride to the top of Stone Mountain and I got amazing views of the huge carving in the face of the rock. After we’d explored to our hearts’ content, we descended and found hot cocoa for Sean inside an exhibit hall and way too much lunch for us to ever eat at Miss Katie’s.

A particular highlight of our trip was watching a glassblowing demonstration. We saw an artisan create a decorative flower and a very unique vase. We’d already explored the shop, and nothing had quite struck our fancy there. The vase we’d just seen created was unlike anything in the store. Sean asked if we could buy it then and there. It was finished and delivered to us three days later!

After that, we had a snack and then got onto the little train that circles the mountain, watching the lights come on and listening to Christmas carols as the sun went down. When we got back, it was dark and Christmas-y in the village once again. Sean pulled me under a huge ball of mistletoe for a kiss–the perfect end to our romantic weekend away.

The week before Christmas, we headed off to Kentucky. I guess my crazy holiday running around, plus the fact that I was still recovering from surgery, caught up to me, because I felt like I got worn out pretty quickly. Still, I was able to do a lot with my nephews, including getting some one-on-one time with each of them, which I think is important. I also spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad. I didn’t get a chance to go to the farm, but fortunately Ben and Manda and Daphne came down twice while we were there.

I had a wonderful Christmas. I loved seeing everyone open their presents. I think I did well with what I picked for everyone. I had trouble coming up with ideas for a couple of people, but it all seemed to work out in the end.

I love gift-giving. I love how personal it is, how it shows what you feel for the other person. I’m so glad we were able to give gifts this year.

Before everyone dispersed on Christmas Eve, Dan was kind enough to snap some photos of the family for us. It’s hard to get this many people into a picture, but I think it worked out okay :)

my family
Would you believe even that isn’t the end of 2011? After we got home from Kentucky, Sean had his friend William over for a few days of gaming and fun.

William and Sean
William is a charming guest and a funny guy, and it was great to have him around. We’re looking forward to meeting his fiancée when they both come to visit us sometime this year.

After William headed home on the afternoon of December 31, Sean and I quietly rang in the New Year watching Smallville season 10. (I belatedly noticed the clock had ticked over and mentioned something on Twitter; I have no idea if Sean was even paying attention. Similarly, I just realized we both forgot our ninth wedding anniversary, which was yesterday.)

And that was 2011. It was a big year in so many ways, full of friends, fun, travel, and change. I loved it.

Here’s to more of the same in 2012!

Update

I had weight loss surgery on September 26, and my recovery is going well. I haven’t written about it here much because I’m not sure how much I want to make public, and also because I’ve been focused on doing the things that help the weight loss and won’t sabotage anything: getting enough protein, exercising (mostly walking at this point), being careful not to lift too much weight, shopping for the right foods. I feel I’ve hit a decent stride, though, so I wanted to at least let everyone know that things went fine and I’m okay.

My days are quiet. I get up and get ready in the morning by taking several pills: calcium, multivitamin, my heart medicine, my pseudotumor cerebri medicine, and potassium. I then set out the iron and additional calcium to take separately later on in the day. I don’t weigh every morning, just when I feel like it. After I’ve showered and dressed, I have the whole day to fill. My main priorities are getting enough exercise and food. After that, I’ve been enjoying a lot of Netflix these days. Thankfully, though, now that I’m feeling a lot more like myself, I have a web design project to keep me busy.

I’ll be checking in with my surgery doctors today to let them know how I’m doing, and I’ll see my regular doctor tomorrow to get him up to speed. Next week is the neurologist, to ask if I can stop taking the medicine for pseudotumor cerebri. Basically that medicine is a diuretic, and now that my stomach is tiny I can’t drink nearly as much water as I used to. I’m interested to know if the blindness-causing pressure behind my eyes–the reason I was in such a rush to get weight loss surgery–has abated any now that I’ve had it and lost some weight.

The 38 pounds I’ve lost so far have helped my sleep apnea. Lately I’ve found sleeping with my CPAP obnoxious, so I’ve slept without it the past two nights, and I’ve felt far more refreshed in the morning. Sean says I haven’t snored, and I haven’t felt any more tired during the day than during any other normal surgery recovery day. I honestly didn’t think the sleep apnea would be resolved so quickly, and I guess I shouldn’t assume it’s completely gone just yet, but this is a very hopeful sign!

At some point I’ll have lab work done and see if my cholesterol is any better, as it should be eventually. My blood pressure should also improve, though that’ll be hard to gauge, since it’s artificially lowered by my heart medicine.

All this weight loss and feeling good has sort of warped my self-perception, so I’m sometimes surprised to see that I’m still obese when I look in the mirror. It’s a long process and I have a ways to go yet. But if I keep my positive outlook, I know I can see this year and the next through, and at the end I’ll be where I want to be: fit and healthy :)

Ready to go

All my pre-op tests and clearances are out of the way, and my weight loss surgery date is set. Due to various privacy concerns, I won’t get into exactly when and where I’m having it done, but I at least wanted to let you know things were moving along quickly.

Now that I’m to this stage, the excitement has been shifting to nervousness. I’m thinking about all the arrangements I need to make beforehand and all the immediate changes there will be to my lifestyle. Last night I dreamed I went to the surgery location only to discover I was completely unprepared, and while I was considering going back home to prep, my car was stolen out from under my nose. Pretty obvious dream symbolism, eh?

But despite my nervousness, “cold feet” or whatever you might want to call the feeling you get before a major life change, I know this is the best thing I can do for myself and my family. I’ll live longer. I’ll be able to do more. I’ll have more energy. It’s going to be awesome.

So I’ll allow myself to be a little scared, for now, as I say goodbye to my former self. Very soon I’ll have the help I need to become even better than I already am. ;)

Plans

All that’s left for my prescreening for weight loss surgery is an echocardiogram (a stress echo was deemed unnecessary), which I’ll have on Monday. Then, once all test results are in to the surgeon, the date will be set and I’ll be off to change my life!

I’ve been thinking about plans, both short term and long. In the long term, I’m looking forward to all the things I’ll be able to do, or do more easily, once I’m no longer obese. I can’t assume I’ll ever get down to an ideal weight; I’ll probably still be a little overweight once I’m done losing. But I should get close, like to 140 or so. That will give me the freedom to wear more clothes styles, to feel better about myself in a swimsuit, and to do things like go horseback riding and on zipline adventures. I expect I’ll have even better endurance for hiking, which will be awesome, because I love exploring the outdoors. And without all the extra weight to stress my joints, I should be able to run again, and hopefully faster and for a longer period of time than an hour. Maybe I’ll even break a half an hour 5K, which back at the peak of my running seemed like an impossible dream.

I’m sure people judge me, consciously or subconsciously, for being obese. Once I’m down to a more reasonable weight, I expect I’ll do better in face-to-face interviews. I’ll also have more self-confidence…but I haven’t been sitting around waiting for weight loss to give me that. I’ve learned a lot in the past several years about personal interactions, and I think I’ve done pretty well. Losing the weight will just give me an extra advantage.

One of my dreams is to travel more, and once I’ve lost weight, I’ll be more physically able to handle a lot of travel. My back and knees won’t suffer from long walks through new cities, and I’ll have so much more energy.

There’s also the hope and promise of motherhood. It’s possible, though a long shot, that losing weight will help me to become pregnant. But even if not, once this is done, I will be healthy enough to raise a child. If we can’t conceive naturally, Sean and I plan to adopt.

The weight loss will help my health in other ways. It should stop the pseudotumor cerebri, the intracranial pressure behind my eyes that is threatening to blind me. My sleep apnea should end. My heart should do a lot better without the extra strain of carrying so much weight all the time. The changes to my diet and nutrient absoption will help my blood pressure and cholesterol.

Some of the health changes will happen fast. The rest of these dreams (and more) lie waiting for me about two years from now, after I’ve had the surgery and gone through the rapid weight loss that follows. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to get there.

First will be the actual surgery itself. It’s laparoscopic, meaning they go in using long, skinny surgical implements rather than cutting you completely open. With this kind of surgery, recovery time is much shorter…but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a cakewalk. I’ll still be in pain and discomfort for a couple weeks afterward.

I’ll also have the immediate change in my digestive system to deal with. My stomach will be reduced to a tiny pouch, so I won’t be able to eat much at all. I’ll have to switch to eating a bite here and there rather than a full meal. Unlike the lap band, the duodenal switch does curb hunger, but it will still be an adjustment. It’s possible my attitude toward food will change and I won’t want to eat at all, in which case I’ll have to force myself to get the nutrients I need. The most important thing will be protein…in the beginning I’ll be eating a lot of meat. Long term, I will probably need to take a lot of vitamin pills, and I may end up drinking protein shakes too.

Just a couple days after surgery, they’ll want me to be up and walking. I know I won’t feel like it, but this will be important to my recovery and to maintaining my muscle mass. I’ll need to keep moving around during recovery and maintain a good exercise routine afterward. That will continue not just during the rapid weight loss, but for the rest of my life. My plan is to always keep walking and hiking, since I enjoy those activities, and then rotate in other activities like running or biking or a workout video when the mood hits me. I also plan to develop some sort of weight lifting routine, enough to stay toned, but not bulk up.

Finally, I’ll need to see a doctor yearly for the rest of my life to make sure everything is okay. (I see doctors at least that often already, and you should see how many pills I take daily…so this isn’t really a big deal.)

So yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said this surgery would change my life. It’s not a quick fix or a miracle cure or magic. It’s a lot of work. But it will help me achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle, allow me to be happier and more active, and hopefully extend my life. I’m really excited for my future.

Icky

Feeling icky today, due to my (TMI)period(/TMI). Yes, it’s back. Haven’t had one since March; back then it coincided with our move to Atlanta. Mom surmises that stress sets them off, and that maybe once I’ve lost all the weight, they’ll be regular again. If the latter happens, I just hope they don’t last seven days, like they do now. Ugh.

I don’t share this just to be gross, but also because the menstrual cycle is (obviously) connected to fertility, and that’s been a big issue for me since chemotherapy damaged my ovaries. I take any change in this area as a sign of hope, though it may be folly. That’s me for ya.

Anyway, I talked with the neurologist’s office today, and it turned out they hadn’t received my fax, so I had it sent again, and they have it now. I also called the psychologist about setting up that appointment, but I had to leave a message and I haven’t heard back about that yet. I’m sort of leery of undergoing such a session during this “time of the month” (to use a wholly inaccurate euphemism), but I am in a hurry, so if that’s how it’s gotta be, that’s how it’s gotta be.

I’ve been thinking about the cardiology appointment set for Friday, and wondering how the stress echocardiogram is going to be. The last (and first, actually) time I had one, my heart was so weak they didn’t want to risk putting me on a treadmill, so they gave me medicine to simulate exercise. This time I expect I will have no problems with the treadmill :) So that will be a new experience.

Many steps down…

…and many to go.

I’ve seen my PCP and he’s agreed to send in a letter of clearance for bariatric surgery. We also completed the required labs and chest X-ray. I now have an appointment for Friday with a cardiologist to get those tests and clearance out of the way. The next step is the psychological clearance, which I should hopefully be able to knock out this week as well.

Taking charge of my health has been pretty empowering. I like the feeling of knowing what I want and how to go about getting it. Pretty cool.

Nervous

My sleep schedule has been off for quite some time. Yesterday I didn’t get out of bed until 4pm. Knowing I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, I forced myself to sleep at 11:30. This worked arguably well, except that around 5:30 or so I had a very unsettling dream that woke me up. I got out of bed and futzed around online and watched some Cheers on Netflix and organized my notes for today’s appointment.

I am hoping to knock out most, if not all, of the clearances and tests required for bariatric surgery today/this week. A lot of it will be handled with this morning’s appointment; my PCP will do a full physical and bloodwork and I’ll ask him to request some additional required tests. My neurologist has already seen me and said he will provide clearance for surgery; I’m just waiting to confirm that he has in fact done so. The main variable is a cardiologist; I don’t know if my PCP is qualified to give a cardiac evaluation and clearance, or if I’ll have a separate appointment for that (likely). I need a cardiologist here anyway, so it’ll be good to go ahead and find one.

Then I’ll do a psychological interview and (presumably) get clearance there, and all my required pre-screening will be done. Then it’ll be on to the surgery that will change my life for the better. I’m trying to get to that point as fast as I can.