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.
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.
The 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!
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:
As 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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
One of the highlights of the visit was seeing my beautiful niece, who turned 1 on November 5. She’s grown so much!
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!
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.
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 :)
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 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.
UPDATE 12/3/11: I mentioned this blind spot to my friend Ed while visiting Augusta yesterday, and he said, “It’s not just the normal blind spot that everyone has? The one that’s caused by the optic nerve?” I quickly covered my left eye and tested my right, and lo and behold, the blind spot is there too. It’s not new. It’s not a symptom. It’s perfectly natural.
What a relief!
The original, outdated, panicked post is below.
I recently got new prescription eyeglasses. The change was long overdue. Days later, I’m still adjusting to the clarity and “3D HD” sensation I’m getting from being able to see properly again. I hadn’t realized just how much my eyesight had changed, or how much I was compensating for it.
With my vision now corrected properly, other problems with my sight can therefore be attributed to my pseudotumor cerebri, the intracranial pressure at the back of my eyes that has been threatening to blind me. I’d thought that the pseudotumor symptoms had receded for the most part, and maybe they had; maybe I’m truly not feeling as much pressure as before, and my field of vision certainly isn’t going completely white anymore. But yesterday I noticed something, something I’m not sure I would have spotted without my new clarity of sight.
A blind spot.
There is a place to the left of center on my left eye where things disappear. If I don’t cover my right eye, its peripheral vision compensates. If I do cover my right eye, then look at something with my left and slowly track my eye to the right, eventually the item in question will disappear into a blurry haze. As I continue moving my left eye to the right, the item will reappear in the periphery. In other words, there’s an area left of center on my left eye that isn’t seeing anything.
I first noticed it when I realized I should be seeing more of my computer monitor in the background while watching TV than I was. I covered my right eye and it vanished completely. I was then able to reproduce the issue with the blinking blue lights of our wireless router; it was as if they weren’t there at all. After that I made the tip of my pointer finger disappear.
I suppose a visual field test might have revealed this issue, but I haven’t had one in over a year. At my eye exam, I did have photos taken of the backs of my eyes, and those showed a blurriness that indicated the pressure there has not receded. My neurologist told me to continue taking the medicine he prescribed, diamox, which is technically glaucoma medicine and a diuretic, meant to hold the fluid at bay.
The neurologist is the one who told me in no uncertain terms that I had to lose weight in order to avoid losing my sight. Now I’m seeing the truth of that. I had weight loss surgery, and I’ve lost over 40 pounds so far, but that’s apparently not enough yet.
And now I’m scared. Will more blind spots form in the meantime? Will sight ever return to them, or are those spots dead forever?
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 :)
I’m feeling depressed and tired. I don’t know if the depression is fed by the tiredness or vice versa or if they’re just coexisting phenomena.
I had some strange dreams last night. In the first one, I was really upset about how much weight I’ve gained, and I was thinking that I would never be able to lose it without surgery. But I didn’t know if I would ever be able to afford it. When I said this aloud, my mother immediately sliced open my belly and started cutting away parts of my organs. At this point I could see inside there, and it looked like how it looks when you cut fat away from chicken with kitchen scissors.
I was thinking, I know you were a nurse, and I know you witnessed this sort of procedure before, but do you really know what you’re doing? But I didn’t say it.
Then she was done, and I said, “This wasn’t an official surgery, so I won’t be covered if something goes wrong.” I must have been so traumatized by the thought that I could die that that part of the dream became a dream, and I was telling Mom about it.
“And so I thought to myself that I would never be able to lose the weight without that surgery,” I said.
“Well, duh,” Mom responded, and pulled out my flat metal spatula. She promptly split me open with it and did the surgery, and I watched it happen the exact same way.
This last bothered me so much that I woke up for real.
Somewhere in there I also dreamed that my workplace was on fire. It wasn’t my office as it is now; it was a narrower room. I ran into the smoke and started grabbing stuff.
“I don’t want to lose everything again,” I explained, coughing. I managed to save several toys–all toys that I used to have at the old apartment, that were of course lost in the fire. One was my Darkwing Duck bank, and one was my Sailor Moon figure.
It’s kind of funny; I have never obsessed about losing those toys.