Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Almost Real!

Hiya, Critters!

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. There really hasn't been much to say, honestly.

August 11th I went back for my second sleep study. Apparently I have a mild form of sleep apnea. Yeah, when you wake up in a panic attack in the middle of the night not really sure where you are or why you feel trapped, breathing is the last thing your body wants to do. Needless to say, I didn't sleep at all during the second study, either. Having air forced down your throat all night is NOT a fun feeling!

A week after my second sleep study, I got a call from the sleep study place telling me I needed to follow up with an actual physician. They gave me the name and phone number of a doctor (who happens to be an hour away from where I live) who they had already sent my records to. I called the doctor a couple of times, and each time I called, I got their voice mail. I left messages, but have yet to receive a call back. I suppose my sleep apnea isn't really bad after all! I'm fine with it, though. I actually sleep at night, so I don't mind not having machines strapped to my face keeping me from sleeping!

All of my reports and results are completed and were turned in. I've been "cleared" for surgery by all the doctors and specialists I've seen. We met with my surgeon again yesterday to make sure we were all still on the same page and to kind of get a progress report on where I was in the process. Once we realized everything on my end was officially completed, I was told my insurance would be officially filed within a week. I will probably get a letter from my insurance company before the hospital does, but once the hospital gets their approval notification, I'll be just about set. I'll have one more nutrition class, one more meeting with the surgeon, a pre-op visit with the actual hospital, and then we'll schedule surgery! This entire process shouldn't take more than two months, max.

Holy crap. I'm in the home stretch.

I really can't wait to start getting some of this weight off. I'm so over feeling like a failure and feeling like I'm disgusting and shouldn't be seen in public.

Any time I go out, especially when I'm out with people who are skinny/skinnier than I am, I feel like everyone is judging me and wondering what this normal person is doing with such a fat person. Being tall, I always felt like I stuck out as it was. Now, I feel like I stick out even more. I'm ready to go back to being just tall. The days I feel like I actually look good, I leave my house, see my reflection in a window, and realize I'm only kidding myself. A pretty face doesn't make up for the way the rest of me looks. No amount of makeup is going to cover up all this extra fat.

Soon enough, I suppose. Hopefully this will all be worth it in the end!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Finding Relief

Hi, Critters!

I hope August is treating you well! July did not get a whole lot better for me, but it did start to look up towards the end. August has been amazing, thus far. Granted, we're only six days in...

On July 26th, I had my first sleep study session. It is a requirement if you're going through the preparations for weight loss surgery. Of course, I was a little nervous, but once I saw the room, I calmed down a little. It was quaint and looked pretty nice.

Then they closed the door.

The reality of why I was there sunk in. This was not a little vacation, this was a medical evaluation, and all those wires would be attached to me. The technician was nice, so he helped get my mind off what was going on. We joked, we talked about our spouses and our cats, and he spent an hour placing electrodes and wires all over my head. When he got done, I looked like a space alien.

It was a looooong night. I had to stay on my back so they could get the best data. I don't normally fall asleep on my back. I also had a monitor hooked to my left index finger which kept me from moving my finger/hand much. Being a light sleeper, I woke up with every little creak and sound. At one point during the night, I woke up in a full-on panic attack. I felt like I couldn't breathe and like I was completely trapped. The technician had said if I needed anything during the night to remove the monitor from my index finger. He'd notice it was not receiving any data and would come to see what was wrong. Oh, how I wanted to remove that monitor. I wanted to rip all the electrodes and wires off my body. Had Hubby not dropped me off, I would have. I would have gotten all that crap off me and gone home. Since I was stuck at the facility no matter what, I just kept it all on and did my best to calm myself down. Once the air conditioning system kicked on, I felt like I was getting cool, fresh air again, so I felt like I could breathe again. It took almost an hour (or that's what it felt like, at least) to calm myself down. I never went back to sleep. For the next 3 and a half hours, I laid there on that bed, bored out of my mind and unable to fall asleep. Insomnia at it's best.

This whole event did not do much to help my still hurting hip that I had thrown out a couple weeks before. (I'm actually still trying to get better from that!) Then, last week, I found out I actually do have sleep apnea. They were able to get enough data from the evening to give me a diagnosis. I only slept 34% of the night, but apparently that was enough. The woman who gave me my results said any number under 5 is considered normal (through context clues, I deciphered that meant they could stop breathing 5 times per hour and that would be considered normal, without sleep apnea). My number was 45. Still not as bad as some of the stories I've heard of people who would stop breathing 84-110 times per hour, but still enough to require me to go back for another sleep study, but this time with one of the C-Pap machines. Yeehaw.

I got my car back from the repair shop on July 31st. The last day the month of July could possibly screw me over. The people at Apex Transmission were beyond amazing. When they called to tell me my car was ready, they let me know there was a bubble in one of my tires, and it really wasn't safe to drive. Of course, I had JUST turned my rental car in and was getting ready to be driven to the repair shop to pick up my car. There was no getting a rental car back, so I went ahead over to Apex Transmission to see what I could do. When I got there, they were so concerned for my safety that they made me promise to drive slowly (with my flashers on) and go directly to the Firestone right down the street. Since I had gotten my tires from Firestone (a different location), it only made sense to go back to them. I did as instructed - drove slowly with my flashers on - and went straight to Firestone. The guy I talked to at Firestone worked at the other Firestone I went to when I bought my tires - he actually sold them to me. He remembered me, and did his best to work with me. I still ended up having to pay $160 to get a new tire. Not bad, but when you know you have to pay $400 for a stupid Endoscopy (another required evaluation for weight loss surgery), paying out any amount is too much!

The whole $400 for an Endoscopy is basically the stupid facility charging me my full deductible based on an out of network price. They are in network, and I have coverage for the entire procedure. There is no need for them to charge me my entire deductible, but they refuse to budge. My insurance company even talked to them (with me on the phone), and it was clear the "financial coordinator" at this location has no idea how to do her job. She claims she's charging me based on my insurance coverage, but that is not possible because I'm covered. The financial coordinator told me she could work with me if I couldn't pay all $400 up front, but the "payment plan" consists of me paying an amount less than $400 (whatever I'm comfortable with), then having the rest sent to a collection agency who will contact me 30-45 days after my appointment and requiring me to pay the remaining balance right away. Seriously? I'm getting penalized for your lack of competence in billing insurance?? I don't think so...

We'll see how that goes...that procedure in on Friday - two days from now.

I met with my surgeon yesterday, which really helped me get a better grasp on things. He assured me my surgery would not be postponed due to gaining 7 pounds in a month because he knew where the weight was coming from. I told him about being marked absent from a support group meeting I was at and about how the Dietician wanted me to double my caloric intake. He understood that for me, a 1600 calorie/day diet was definitely going to make me gain weight, but he still wanted me to get my calories up to over 1000 a day. He also said not to worry about the support group meeting; he'd make sure I got credit for it. My surgeon told me they only worry about people who are gaining weight if they can't pinpoint why there is weight gain. For me, there was a clear-cut reason, so he wasn't worried. I was following directions to the letter and had previously let everyone know what my situation was. He assured me I was the ideal candidate for weight loss surgery and we went ahead and decided that Gastric Bypass would be the best option for me. We'd talked about it before, but yesterday, we officially decided that was what we would be doing. It didn't make sense to my surgeon for me to have a surgery like the Lap Band or the Gastric Sleeve when they weren't going to be as aggressive as Gastric Bypass. With everything else I've done to lose weight and knowing surgery would be the tool I needed to get going, he said I should "go big or go home" because that's what I had been doing up until this point. He also said he truly believed I would be incredibly successful after surgery, especially because I was so diligent in doing everything required of me.

The next time I meet up with my surgeon, all of my remaining test results should be in his hands. My last tests are this week (later today and then Friday), and tomorrow, I will be going to my last required support group meeting. I don't meet my surgeon again until September 9th, which gives everyone plenty of time to put the rest of my records together and get them over to my surgeon. Hopefully on 9/9, I'll be able to decide when surgery is going to be. It looks like it will be anywhere between October and December. I'm hoping for October or November, but that's going to be completely dependent upon my insurance. Blue Cross/Blue Shield had a six month waiting period before a patient could have bariatric surgery, but many states (including mine) changed it to a three month waiting period. Unfortunately, the state my insurance is out of (hubby's company's corporate location) did not change the requirements, so I'm not sure what's going to happen.

Now knowing I have sleep apnea and knowing how much I do not want to have one of those machines for the rest of my life, I know I have made the right decision in getting this surgery. Initially, I went through a moment of feeling like now I was being FORCED to have surgery because I had a weight-related health issue, but I realized (thanks to my amazing support system of friends and family) that this is just further proof I made the right choice. I was going to get the surgery before, now I'm just getting that extra push to keep me from changing my mind.

I am getting excited - my surgeon said there is no reason I won't be almost 150 pounds lighter 18 months after surgery. This time next year, I'll be close to being half the person I am right now! Whoohoo!!

Now I just have to get through the rest of this process...


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is it August, yet??

Hola, Critters!

Hope your July is going better than mine! It hasn't been a bad month, but things have not really gotten better since my last post.

I've gained 4 pounds in a week. ONE WEEK!! Are you kidding me?? That's just from adding carbs back in to my diet in the amount the Nutritionist wants me to. I'm still really having a hard time with the fact I'm going to be marked as "non-compliant" because I'm not losing weight during this process, even though I've told everyone I've come in contact with that my 800 calorie/day diet is not helping me lose weight. Why do they think DOUBLING my daily caloric intake is actually going to help??? Hubby and I are going to bring all this up to the surgeon when I meet with him again on August 5th. It's not fair that I'm essentially being forced to gain weight, when all it is going to do is hinder the operation and the entire pre-op process!

I'm also on week 2 of not really being able to do much on my own. Threw my back out on the 12th, and it still isn't better. I keep trying to get back to my normal routine, but each time I try, I make my back worse than it was. Going to the chiropractor is an option, but that's going to put me down for the count for another two weeks while my back adjusts to being back to normal. Oh well...

Then to top all of this off, I went to my pre-op support group/protein tasting last week, and just found out last night that I was marked as a "no show" for it. Apparently signing in and participating in the entire event means you didn't show up. I sent them a message back letting them know I was there and I had all the documents from the support group meeting to prove it. I can even recap everything that was discussed, where I stood, and all that fun stuff. That was one of the days that sent my back healing process in reverse - I stood up for over an hour, in one spot. Not good. I refuse to have my process be held up in delays and be forced to do twice the work because they can't keep their records straight!! I'm going to make sure my surgeon is aware of this, too.

Sorry for all the ranting and raving, but I'm really beginning to feel like I've made a bad decision by going forward with this surgery. Mostly just because the Nutritionist I'm working with is treating me like a compulsive liar just because I'm not a textbook fat person. I'm really beginning to fully understand why my primary care doctor told me Nutritionists/Dieticians weren't worth it. They don't seem to want to look outside of the box, and this woman is not the first Nutritionist I've come across who refuses to believe my situation or what my doctor has recorded!!

In the end, the weight loss will be worth all the struggles I'm going through, provided I don't run into every other problem that could possibly come up. My husband tried to make me feel better by saying all the complications they listed in the documents I'm given are basically just like the side effects they list on medication bottles. I had to remind him that those side effects are listed for people like me - the ones who are actually affected by these things. If it's one of the first 3 side effects listed on anything, you can bet I'm going to have it. Drives me bananas, but that's the way things are for me. I can only take half-doses of OTC meds because of how my body handles them. Sudafed isn't supposed to make anyone tired, but I take one pill, and I'm out for the entire day. Benedryl? I have 20 minutes after I take ONE before I'm out for at least 24 hours. I'm actually kind of scared of the morphine drip after surgery. I didn't take anything other than Tylenol after having my gall bladder removed, and even then, I only took it once or twice.

Maybe things will start to look up in my mind when I get my car back from the repair shop. They should have my engine by the end of the week, so I'm hoping I'll have my car back in a couple of days. Seems like everything is just throwing me out of orbit right now; maybe if I have one normal thing back, everything else will feel right again.

Here's hoping...


Saturday, July 19, 2014

It's Been Quite the Week...

Hello, again, Critters!!

Hope you all are well! Things are...interesting...around here, to say the least! Not bad, but not good, either, ya know?

Last Thursday, I had a dinner date scheduled with one of my best friends (she's one of the ones I was talking about in my last post). We've been trying to get together for dinner for the last three weeks, but for one reason or another, we just never made it. Despite the "severe thunderstorm warnings" we had been getting in the area all day, she and I were set on meeting for dinner. It was just rain, and we were going to meet at 6pm. It hadn't even started raining at 5:30, so I figured all was well.

I could not have been more wrong. Everything was good for the first 15 minutes of my 20 minute drive. When I turned on to the last road I needed to be on before turning into the shopping center we were meeting in, it was like the sky opened up and released all the water in the atmosphere. I could hardly see the front end of my car, and I drive a pretty small sedan. I slowed down to about 30 miles an hour (in a 45 zone), and put on my flashers, just in case. There were lots of other cars on the road, but luckily, everyone was being smart and driving slowly, too. The rain had come down so fast and so hard, there were large pools of standing water all over the road. They were hard to see, and with all the other cars on the road, even if you did see one ahead of time, there was really no way to avoid them.

As I was driving through an intersection that was in a pretty noticeable valley, I thought to myself, "This water can't be good. I'm sure I'm going to get water in my engine!!" Damn if it didn't happen almost immediately. Water came up through my air intake (located conveniently behind my driver's side front wheel) and went straight into my engine. The amount of water in that intersection was insane. The splash completely covered my car. My car stalled out roughly 500 feet on the other side of the intersection. I immediately texted my friend to let her know I was stuck, sent a message to my hubby to let him know to expect a gigantic car bill, then called my insurance company to set up a tow to get me to a repair shop.

I sat in my car in the middle of this main road for over an hour. My friend came over and sat in the car with me for a bit while we were waiting for the tow truck. People were coming out, in the middle of the rain, to check on me and see if they could help. It was pretty impressive, especially for rush hour in a town I wouldn't have expected to find nice people.

Anyway, got my car to the shop, and they said it should be fine in the morning, once everything had dried out. They were going to do some fluid changes to get all the remaining water out, then they'd give me a call and let me know when I could come get my car. 8:30am Friday morning, I got a call from the repair shop manager. My engine was toast. The pressure of the water that had gotten in the engine bent the valves, and there was absolutely no compression in my engine. Let me just say, that's a $3000 repair, at the cheapest. I don't know about you, but I don't have an extra $3k sitting around. I should, I know. Emergency funds are important. We've already used our Emergency fund for an emergency, and haven't been in a position to build it back up. At a complete loss, I called my dad to see if he knew of any good engine repair shops. He didn't, but told me I should call my insurance company and see if this was covered since it was weather related.

Thank God my dad suggested that. My insurance company is taking care of the entire situation!! The rain and storms (flooding in the area, too - didn't get that warning until I was already stuck in the middle of the road waiting for the tow truck) caused several issues in the area, which meant my insurance company deemed it as a catastrophe. By the end of the night, I was set up with a rental car (only paying $0.56 a day for that, thanks to my amazing insurance) and on my way.

Saturday afternoon, I put a coffee cup down on the TV tray next to my couch (we don't have end tables, we have TV trays), and threw my hip out in the process. Second time that exact scenario has happened to me. I spent the week confined to my couch since sleeping upstairs in my bed is even more painful than sleeping partially sitting up on the couch. I attempted to go to half of the appointments I'd had scheduled for the week, and had to reschedule the others. Some weren't changeable, though, because they were things like support groups and cooking classes that impacted more than just myself.

In these group settings (nutrition class and pre-op support group), I couldn't believe some of the questions I heard. Some of these people didn't know how to read nutrition labels on food packaging (isn't it common knowledge on how to read a nutrition label??), they didn't understand how to half recipes, or how to prepare foods and snacks ahead of time. I felt bad thinking it, but I couldn't help but think to myself it was no wonder these people were overweight. Several made comments about how they didn't want to cut back on sweets, portion sizes, or the fried and overly fatty foods currently in their diets. They didn't want to cut out sodas or alcohol. How are you going to expect your weight situation to change if you don't want to make the necessary changes?? Yes, I still have issues with certain things, but I know if I want my weight to change, I'm going to have to take initiative and responsibility to fix it myself. Weight loss surgery is only a tool. It is NOT a magic fix, and I can't stress that enough. I'll still come out of surgery as an obese person. I won't lose weight if I refuse to follow the instructions I'm given by the professionals. I'll make myself sick if I eat things I'm not supposed to. There are some things I'm not excited to be removing from my diet (sparkling water, coffee, and wine, for example), but I've been told why these things are bad. I've also been told after a year, I will be allowed to drink coffee/tea (caffeinated) again. If I can drink decaffeinated beverages immediately following surgery, that's fine, too. I like tea and coffee. I don't care if they have caffeine or not (yeah, "Caffeine Critter" kind of says otherwise). If these things are going to impede my success after surgery, I'm going to make sure they are gone from my life.

My problems lie in areas other than constant over-eating and making poor choices. My problems lie more in the range of not eating enough/often enough. I do make poor choices, but even when I consistently make good choices, the good choices do not outweigh the fact I only eat once or twice a day. My body's constantly in starvation mode, so it stores everything I eat, good or bad. Even when I try the 5-6 small meals a day, I don't see progress. My metabolism is pretty much dead, and the only way for me to fix it at this point, is some sort of weight loss surgery. Unfortunately, though, I'm lumped into the standards for overweight people - I eat too much, am lazy, and eat the wrong things.

The nutritionist gave out meal plans for each of us, based on our current BMI. I was given a 1600 calorie PER DAY diet. This "reduction in calories" is supposed to help me lose 2-3 pounds a week. I let her know I'm currently eating less than 1200 calories a day and am worried I'll end up gaining weight on her meal plan. She said I probably would, but I still needed to follow her plan. Are you kidding me?? I get that she doesn't have time to read every single chart of every patient she sees in these groups, but when someone comes to you with a concern like mine and tells you that both your PCP and Surgeon know the amount of calories you're getting in each day, you should probably take some time to review their information, see where they are, and help them from there. I've already gained 2 pounds since Wednesday, just following her plan. I'm not impressed, and not a fan of being marked as "non-compliant" because I'm not losing weight.

Thursday night was a protein tasting at the pre-op support group. All of the protein shakes they had contained Sucralose (Splenda, in a nutshell). Sucralose makes me sick. Had I known all these things contained this crap before the tasting, I wouldn't have wasted my time going. I spent the rest of the evening sick to my stomach and woke up with a headache from hell, which is what usually happens when I ingest that poison. I ended up sleeping until 5pm today in hopes of getting rid of the headache. I still have a bad headache, but it certainly is not as bad as it was earlier today. Stevia is the only sugar substitute that does not make me sick. Hardly any protein powders/drinks contain Stevia or Stevia extracts. I have a lot of research to do before surgery in order to find one that I can actually have, or I won't be able to have surgery. If you can't get in the required amounts of protein after surgery, you can expect to become horribly ill and potentially die. Not something I'm looking forward to.

Today's "Sucralose recovery" meant I slept through my cooking class. Apparently my husband woke me up at 4:30am when one of our cats was howling at nothing for over 10 minutes (he does that occasionally). Husband also woke me up when he left for work at 7. My alarm went off to wake me up for my cooking class. I slept through it all, with zero memory of any of it. I'm a light sleeper, and it's a very rare day that I turn my alarm off without actually waking up. Turning my alarm off even meant turning my phone over, putting in my phone's pass-code, and turning the alarm off. Kind of scary to think I did all of that without realizing it!

Here's hoping this next week goes better! I can't afford to miss/reschedule any more appointments!!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 8, 2014

Heya, Critters!

As you know, today was the day I've been waiting for for exactly one month and four days! Who's counting, though? ;)

I actually managed to sleep last night. The nervousness did not kick in until we pulled up to the office building. I signed in, filled out my paper work, and sat in the waiting room for almost 30 minutes. Knowing what a busy practice this is, I was expecting to wait past my appointment time, but with all the nerves and anticipation I was filled with, that time just ticked by.

Everyone I met today was incredibly nice, polite, and genuinely seemed to care about me. This is not a feeling I'm used to at any medical office, especially from a staff full of pencil thin, gorgeous women. Being tall AND large, I always feel judged in some way. Today, these women did not look at me like a fat slob, but like a person taking charge of my health and doing what I could to better myself. That was a feeling I truly appreciated.

My surgeon was just as personable and knowledgeable as I thought he'd be. Even his facial expressions showed he was actively listening to what I had to say and he was truly invested in my health and my journey to become healthier. They're such a busy center, they let us know if they did not think bariatric surgery was right for the patient, they would tell them so and try to help find other ways to lose weight/get healthy. After carefully reviewing my personal health/weight history, and that of my family, my surgeon deemed that bariatric surgery was definitely going to help me. I am a perfect candidate for it, especially being "so young." 31...I certainly don't feel like someone people would consider "young!"

Before even asking me what surgery option I was considering, my surgeon suggested the two options he thought would be the most beneficial for me: a gastric sleeve and gastric bypass. If you'd like to know more about either option, just click on the phrase. (The links will take you directly to my surgery center's definition pages for the respective surgeries. There are other links once you get to those pages that will give you more information about the process and other types of surgery available, if you're interested.)

The two options my surgeon presented were the two options my husband and I were considering. I expressed my concerns about the surgeries, and he gracefully addressed them, understanding my hesitations, but still let me know which surgery he felt was right for me and why.

The concerns I brought up were with the gastric sleeve, I was worried about the long-term results/effects, as this surgery is relatively new. It hasn't been around long enough to give patients an idea about what they can expect 20-30 years down the road, in regards to further health issues or potentially regaining weight. As far as gastric bypass goes, I was worried about "Dumping Syndrome" (Usually 10-15 minutes after eating a sugary or starchy food, the individual who is “dumping” begins to experience many of the following symptoms: Sweating, Flushing skin, Rapid heart rate, Dizziness, Low blood pressure, Abdominal pain, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Shakiness, and Fainting. *Information taken from the Obesity Action Coalition website*). Since I experience similar "dumping" symptoms on a fairly regular basis with just about everything I eat, I was worried this would escalate and be extraordinarily uncomfortable and significantly limit the types of foods I could eat. As it stands, I already can't eat lettuce AT ALL, and I have a hard time from day to day with other foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, and meats. This is all since I had my gall bladder removed in 2009 (yep, a month and 3 days before my wedding, I had to have my gall bladder taken out - that was fun!). I also expressed concern about the rapid weight loss documented with gastric bypass procedures. While I do want to lose weight, I don't want to lose it so quickly that I end up with tons of loose skin that prevents me from wearing short sleeves or other clothing that could reveal these not-so-appealing areas of skin.

My surgeon let me know my concerns were valid, and the reason he leaned towards gastric bypass for me over the sleeve was because of the long-term effects. He knew both surgeries would help me, but he didn't want me regretting my decision to get the sleeve a few years down the road on the off chance the weight loss wasn't as aggressive as I was hoping, thus rendering the whole process kind of useless. He knew the chances of me succeeding and meeting my health goals and staying healthy were significantly higher with gastric bypass. My surgeon also said that I was "young enough" to not have to worry about excess skin in the amounts I was afraid of. Skin elasticity apparently remains into your mid-to-late 50's. He also reminded me that muscle-building would help with any of my concerns, as muscle would fill in the areas where my skin did not tighten. He understood my concerns about "Dumping Syndrome," and said my current similar issues needed to be filed in the backs of our minds while we were working together during this process. We may need to revisit it, depending on what the required Endoscopic test reveals. I may have a minor form of IBS that was kicked into gear by having my gall bladder removed, or I could just still be producing too much bile, which causes the random issues. He made it sound like gastric bypass would help get rid of some of the excess bile or make it so it was not produced in quite the same quantities, so in the long term, this surgery might help even those issues.

I have so many tests and other appointments I have to make/keep in the next few weeks and months in order to get things going so I can have this surgery before the end of the year. My surgeon assured me, as long as I kept up my end of things and kept the ball rolling, I would be able to have this surgery before 2014 was up, so I wouldn't have to worry about all my insurance caps and deductibles being reset. It would suck to pay out all this money for appointments and such this year, only to have it be erased and have to pay the full cap all at once next year.

Setting yourself up for bariatric surgery is a process in itself. They even give each patient a checklist to help them make sure all the bases are covered.

I have to attend at least 2 pre-op support group meetings (I'm going to one on the 17th, and then another one in early August), meet with a Dietician three times, have two Psychological counseling sessions (one for testing, the second to go over the results), get lab work done, meet with a Gastroenterologist for the Endoscopy, and have a sleep study done. Two sleep study sessions, if I end up being "positive" for sleep apnea. I was able to "get out of" having a gall bladder ultrasound since I don't have mine anymore. Lucky for me, too, the hospital I'm working with is the same hospital I went to for my gall bladder surgery, so they have that on record.

This week, I have to make sure my weight-related records are sent from my primary care physician to the surgery center, make an appointment for my Psych tests, get my lab work done (once I figure out where I'm supposed to go to have that done...), and wait for my phone calls from the GI and Sleep Study people. I'd like to have as much of this all done (scheduled at the very least) by the time I meet with my surgeon again on August 5th. Didn't leave myself with much time, but I feel like if I get everything done NOW, I'll have time to get stuff fixed and tie up loose ends if something happens to be forgotten or be incorrect.

I've been really worried about telling people what I'm doing and that I've decided on surgery. After all the backlash I received when this first came out as just a THOUGHT in my mind, I don't want to know what they'll say once they know I'm set on this now. My three best friends continue to prove to me that they're my best friends for a reason. They're all on board with this and know that I wouldn't just jump into something this life-changing. They know I've done my research, and will continue to research what I need to as things come up. They know I've been struggling with this for over a decade. They know me and they know I just want to be healthy and feel better about myself. They're behind me, 100%, and I love them for it. Heck, they're the ones who convinced me to go to the doctor when my stomach issues got really bad. They helped me get the ball rolling to get my gall bladder out - who knows what would have happened if I'd waited on that!! I've been friends with these girls for 19, 17, and 16 years. We've seen each others' highs, lows, and everything in between. Of all the people in the world who's opinions I value the most (aside from my hubby, obviously), theirs are right at the top. Yeah, my family means a lot to me, too, but we're Italian. We're stubborn, set in our ways, and it's hard to change our minds. Especially as we get older. My parents (ok, my mom's German and Irish, but the temperament is basically the same) are awesome and incredibly supportive, but they still think about gastric bypass surgery as it was when it first became available. They have a hard time seeing the improvements and how safe it truly is. It's actually as safe as (if not safer) than all of the joint replacement surgeries my mom has had (not to mention less invasive), and safer than my gall bladder removal. These surgeons are even going to use my previous surgery scars, since this is a laparoscopic procedure, too!

Living in the 21st Century really is incredible. Getting to grow up with the technology and see all the improvements that have been made just in my lifetime alone simply amaze me.

Science is fascinating, isn't it??


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Embracing the Summer

Heya, Critters!

I think I'm finally starting to get into my groove with regards to this blog. I spent several months writing a blog for Purific Water USA (you can see some of my work here - I published as "Jannette," which is my full first name), and really got to like how professional and eye-catching their blog was. While the changes to this blog aren't incredibly life-changing or anything, they're fun and scream Summer. At least, they do to me. The background is a Thirty-One pattern, called "Sunny Stripe." Since I'm a Thirty-One Independent Consultant, we get access to all sorts of cool stuff, including backgrounds we can use on our Twitter profiles. Since Twitter changed things around and backgrounds are near impossible to customize, I decided it would be fun to have a Thirty-One pattern as the background of my blog! Since the file specifically notes it's a "Twitter Background," I decided to call our Home Office and ask if it would be okay to use on my blog. I got the a-okay, and here we are!

Let me know what you all think!

While you're leaving me thoughts and comments, let me know what kinds of things you want to see. I'll still be posting about my surgery and the process of losing 100+ pounds, but as I mentioned last post, it's a big waiting game. There may be several weeks between doctors visits/updates, so I won't have anything to document on that front.

I can keep on with the crafting stuff, reviews, etc. None of the past really got many views/comments, so I tried to switch it up.

Basically, you're getting the random thoughts that run through my head regularly. Don't you feel special?? "Inside the Mind of a Caffeine Critter." Hmm...that has a decent ring to it!



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Standing Still

I'm really starting to feel like time is standing still. I know it's only been a couple of days since I posted last, but it feels like it has been weeks.

July 8th, the day of my consultation, cannot come fast enough. I went to Dollar Tree and got a composition book to write all my information in so I have it all in one place. This week, I plan on covering and decorating it.

That was always my favorite part of school - book cover time. My mom would always cover my books in paper bags to save money, and I loved it. That meant I could doodle/draw all over my text books and really make them my own. As I've gotten older, instead of scrap books, I cut out things from newspapers and magazines that have meaning to me - pictures, ads, articles, etc. - and glue them into a composition book I've covered in a paper bag and doodled/written on. It is so much fun to go back through the completed book(s) to see how I've changed and grown over the years. A lot of things stay the same, obviously, but some things that were important to me several years ago no longer matter much.

...LoL Quite a tangent I went on, huh?

I guess time standing still isn't that much of a bad thing. I can work on a new technique for my beer mittens, decorate my surgery composition book, learn new recipes, spend time with my husband, watch stupid movies on television...keep myself busy so I don't think how far away July 8th is!

Time to move forward!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Waiting Game

I'm in the middle of playing "The Waiting Game." A couple weeks ago, Hubby & I went to an informational seminar held at one of our local hospitals. This hospital has a center that specializes in bariatric surgeries, and is one of the top surgery centers in the state. We got to interact with one of the center's surgeons and one of the Physician's Assistants. They were both so personable. It's hard to explain, but they were...human. I was worried they'd be so overly professional and talk down to us. We've all met someone like that - so educated that they make others around them uncomfortable because they don't know how to relate to others who may not be as educated in a certain topic.

Despite not really learning anything new (I've done so much research about bariatric surgeries), it was good to attend. We got to see videos of actual patients who shared their stories with us. We were told about the risks and complications associated with these surgeries. We were given center-specific statistics and got a good feeling that this really was a "Center of Excellence." The fears I had before were calmed. Both Hubby & I felt like this was really the right decision for us.

Yes, for US. While I will be the one having surgery, and I'm the one really struggling with weight loss, this will be something that effects us both for the rest of our lives. The things we eat will change. My appearance (and hopefully confidence level) will change. This is a process we will both be going through together.

I could not have asked for a better support system than my husband.

The day after the seminar, I received a call from the surgical center. They wanted to know if I was interested in moving forward with the process by scheduling a consultation with a surgeon. I agreed. Since I did not have a specific surgeon recommended to me, I was given one at random. There are three surgeons in this center, and two of them studied at my Alma Mater. I was scheduled with one of those two, so I was pretty happy. I know it sounds silly, but when they all have amazing credentials and you don't have any connections with these people, you'll find whatever you can. Especially when your life will literally be in their hands!

My initial consultation is not scheduled until the first full week of July. The informational seminar was on June 3. Over a month of waiting. And there's nothing I can do in the process to get ready. I've done everything I can, thus far. Now, I just have to sit and wait until the consultation and we can get the ball rolling.

This is also cutting in to my Thirty-One schedule. Not that I have a booked calendar right now, but I can't plan things far in advance until I know what is going on with my surgery. There will be a barrage of tests I have to have before I can even schedule surgery. The process from consult to surgery is usually 4-6 weeks. As of right now, I am not scheduling anything after July 6th. Several opportunities have opened up for me to take part in, but they aren't until late July/early August. I suppose I could schedule them now, but there's a large chance I'll have to back out. I can't see spending the money to attend these events as a vendor, only to not be able to show up and not get my money back. Besides, I'd rather have home/online parties than go to an event as a vendor. People tend to want to purchase tangible items at events. While I do sell tangible items, they have to be ordered. Unless you're actually going to a Thirty-One party or placing an order online, you're going to want that feeling of instant gratification. You bought it, you want to take it home right away. I understand completely, especially when it comes to Thirty-One products!!

So now I'm just kind of hanging around. I'm working on other craft projects, but they're mostly things I'm doing for friends. I don't mind doing things for friends, but it usually means I'm not getting paid. I was writing for an awesome company, but they decided a weekly blog post wasn't profitable for them, so they had me start putting together a weekly newsletter. Once they got my first bill (with fees we had agreed upon ahead of time), they decided they didn't want to pay that much for something that wasn't bringing them any new business. Not my fault at all, as I was working off the mailing list they had sent me, but I still got cut because they didn't want to keep paying my fees. Being a new company, I don't blame them, but it still sucks. Writing is what I love!

Things are looking up on my journey to rid myself of this excess weight. It's refreshing to finally feel comfortable in my decision to go through with the surgery (provided the surgeon agrees this is the right path for me).

Now we wait. :)


Thursday, May 22, 2014


Oh, goodness! Two years since I posted last?? This is becoming a VERY bad trend. How can I expect to be a "blogger" if I can't keep up with my own blog on a regular basis?

Soooo much has changed in my caffeinated world. My job, mainly. I went from being an Editor to a Blogger, to a Writer/Artisan/Thirty-One Consultant. The most important thing to me, though, is that I'm happy and I'm still working with words on a regular basis. I've been incredibly lucky with jobs lately, as far as doing things I love, but the money part's not great right now. I'm still trying to make a name for myself out in this crazy world, and we've all got to start somewhere, right??

Why, after all these years, have I decided to come back to my own, personal blog? Oh, I'm so glad you asked! ;) I'm actually on a journey, and I'd like to document it in hopes my experiences can help someone else some day. Isn't that why all blogs exist, though? We all want to share our experiences to sway the opinions of others.

My story starts way back in the 80's when I was a youngster. I was always taller and bigger than most of the kids in my class. I didn't really start to notice anything until middle school. I had a poochy belly area, and kids used to call me names and occasionally ask if I was pregnant. Kids truly can be evil. Those names (several I still remember to this day) have stuck with me since, and will probably always stick with me. That was about the start of my self-esteem and weight-related issues. At least, that's the place in my life I always go back to when someone asks when my weight issues started.

Luckily, things got better for me by the time I reached high school. Still taller than most, I was now right on target with everyone else, or at least it looked that way. I was lanky and skinny, but it worked for me. The only problem was, I was still a size 12. I was given an opportunity to model and go to Italy, but it never came to light. I always say it was my decision, and that I didn't want to break up my family, but deep down, I know it was because I wasn't a size 6 or smaller. I looked it, but I wasn't.

By the time my graduation rolled around, I had started to gain a bit more weight. 15-20 pounds didn't seem like much at the time, until it just kept adding on. When I peaked at a whopping 327 pounds, despite being 6-inches shy of 6' tall and having a large frame, I knew I had to do something to change my weight issues.

A couple months after my 30th birthday, I really started to buckle down. I'd been working with my doctor in the past to try and find the best weight loss options for me, and we decided an 800-1000 calorie/day diet would be the best. I joined the Medifast program and lost 34 pounds in 8 weeks. I felt great and was really motivated to continue on. Unfortunately, my budget did not allow for me to continue being on Medifast. My husband, being the incredibly supportive man he is, helped me, and together we got it so my daily caloric intake was still right around 1000 calories where my doctor recommended. I stayed on this "diet" for a year. Yeah, there were splurge days here and there, but my average was where it needed to be. My weight maintained a bit, but I still got back up to 301. Only a 7 pound gain in a year, but it wasn't a loss.

Everything I read and researched said I should have been back down to my high school weight by only eating 1000 calories a day and exercising (yeah, we even joined a gym, and I really enjoyed going). I didn't lose a pound. What was wrong with me??

Suffering from weight issues is not fun. It's even less fun when your husband is skinny, your friends are skinny, and you're already suffering from depression issues due to weight issues from the past. Then, add in that your parents and brother (who are also LARGE (tall and big) people are just now starting to develop health issues related to their weight. The depression you can sink into with all that on your mind constantly is a pretty dark place. The hopelessness you feel is indescribable.

My husband and I got to a financial point where we could join Medifast again. He joined with me, on a different plan than mine. He had a bit of weight he wanted to lose as well, and Medifast could help him, too. In the first week, Husband lost 10 pounds. I didn't lose an ounce. Again, I wondered what was wrong with me. I'd done everything the same as I had the first time around, but wasn't losing. I kept chugging along. Week 2, no weight loss. Week 3, no weight loss. In the middle of Week 3, I started to get really light headed and dizzy. I had absolutely NO energy, and all I wanted to do was sleep all day, every day. If I ate "regular" meals and food during the day, I felt fine. Medifast wasn't hurting me, but my body was rebelling for some reason.

Earlier this week, my husband and I went together to see my doctor and let him know what had been going on since I was in there last. My doctor was proud of the fact I had lost 20 pounds since my last visit. When I explained it was weight I had lost last year and I hadn't been able to lose a single pound since, he realized what I was afraid of. I was out of options.

We'd tried all sorts of diets (my original reason for visiting him years ago was that I GAINED weight following a Weight-Watchers plan to an absolute T). We'd even tried prescription-only pills. We'd tried cutting my calories down significantly. Short of starving myself (literally removing all food from my life), my doctor told me I really only had one choice left to make - which bariatric surgery I wanted.

Prior to visiting my doctor this week, I'd had a feeling that was the route I was headed down. Previous discussions with my doctor let me know he was not a fan of the surgery route unless it was truly a person's last option to help them with their weight. Since I tend to obsess and research the heck out of things, I wanted to be prepared if I went to see my doctor and he told me surgery was the way to go. My insurance company had already been called. I had already checked all of my benefits to see what, if anything, was covered. Several friends came over to our house the day I made the initial hour-long phone call to my insurance company, and I let them know what I had just learned. Almost immediately, I regretted mentioning anything to them. Like me, they were a bit overweight. One was trying to better himself, too, and has started eating healthier and going to the gym. This one friend, who truly is a very good friend, shared his opinion on weight loss surgery and let me know he felt many people used weight loss surgery as an "easy out." I couldn't get it through to him that day that this was NOT an "easy out," and I understood the risks and life changes associated with it. It also really bothered me that all I was doing was RESEARCH and I was being berated for educating myself. It was like the fact that I was looking into something so "taboo" was just completely wrong and I shouldn't even be wasting my time.

The next day, I cried. All day. Lots of things went wrong that day, which didn't help me much. But I felt like I had hit the bottom, and no one would support me if it came down to me having to have a bariatric surgery of some sort. What was I going to do?

I mentioned on Facebook (social media can be a double edged sword, if you aren't already aware) that I was headed off to the doctor Monday morning to see what was wrong. I mentioned how I was taking in less than 1100 calories a day and exercising, but I wasn't losing weight.

More belittlement started.

"Friends" began chiming in, lecturing me about how I shouldn't be eating less than 1200 calories a day, how I needed to try their diets, and I was doing everything wrong. I didn't need a doctor, I needed to do what my untrained, non-medical friends told me to do.

After my visit to my doctor, I was actually feeling pretty good. He let me know I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was making good choices, actively trying to lose weight, and I had made progress. The reason my progress had stalled was because my body didn't want to metabolize more than 800 calories a day, which meant if I wanted to lose weight, I needed to make sure my caloric intake was LESS than that per day. Knowing this could be incredibly unhealthy, my doctor advised me NOT to lower my caloric intake, but to seriously consider weight loss surgery. *I* wasn't doing anything wrong. I felt better. I couldn't control what my body chose to do, no matter what I tried. Even though I was down to my last option for weight loss, it wasn't my fault.

Heading back to Facebook (that sword again, I'm tellin' ya!), I shared with my friends and family that after my doctor visit, I had learned the only option I had regarding weight loss was which bariatric surgery I wanted to get.

Oh. My. Gosh. The backlash I received was devastating. I cried. All day. Again, everyone was telling me I was taking the "easy way out" and surgery was bad, blah blah blah. I had so many "friends" telling me I was "giving up" if I had surgery, and my doctor was wrong. Oh, and obviously, my doctor was getting kick-backs from recommending surgery, despite the fact he never actually gave me a surgeon's name and he knew I had limitations of where I could go due to my insurance. Yup. My DOCTOR, who had actually gone through, passed, and graduated from MEDICAL school was WRONG. Are you freaking kidding me?? I even had family members tell me my doctor was only recommending surgery because he was getting something from it. These same family members that go to the very same doctor and recommended him to me! So now we don't trust our doctors when we don't like the answers, but we trust them when they tell us what we want to hear? How is that supposed to work??

The more and more I thought about things, the more I cried. I didn't want to be a disappointment to anyone. If I decided to have any kind of surgery, I couldn't imagine the number of friends I would be losing because I was doing the "wrong thing." Wrong thing for whom, though?

I finally posted my version of a "public service announcement" to my Facebook family and friends. I'll even share it with you, word-for-word.

"After I seemed to have opened a GIGANTIC can of worms, I feel I need to further explain my situation. I truly appreciate everyone's ideas and options, but this is not a new thing for me. As many of you know, I've been struggling with my weight for YEARS. I've had test after test after test done, because the ONLY thing wrong with me, medically, is my weight. NOTHING else. My doctor has been working with me closely for several years, and we've tried everything he knows that works, and a few things I've brought to his attention, as well. He knows me, knows my medical history, knows my background. Metabolism CANNOT be changed, no matter what anyone tells you. Yes, you can assist it in getting started and working, but if your body only metabolizes a certain amount of calories per day, you CANNOT change that. I ruined my metabolism's ability to function regularly with eating disorders. I can boost it all I want, but even without eating disorders in my past, my body does not metabolize more than 800-1000 calories per day. After that, I gain weight. The only way to lose weight FOR ME, according to my doctor, is either starve myself (like, literally - stop eating completely, which of course, is a sarcastic response), or get some sort of bariatric surgery. Neither my doctor nor I want to go the surgery route, but if it's going to improve my overall health and KEEP me healthy, it's something I have to seriously consider. I really, really appreciate how much everyone cares and wants me to succeed, but right now, I need prayers and kind thoughts sent my way. Jeff and I have a lot of thinking and researching to do before any decisions are made."

After this post, the backlash started to die down. I began receiving positive messages from people who actually knew me and knew my struggle. Even positive messages from people who didn't know quite the extent of my struggle, but knew I had been trying very hard to get healthy.

I still get the occasional message from those who want me to jump on their bandwagons and essentially become their proteges, but I've learned one really, really important thing from those people. They aren't my friends.

They are acquaintances. They are people who only like people who are just like them. They are people who don't want me to succeed unless I've done it the way they told me to. They are people with ZERO education on this topic, but who are self-proclaimed experts. Yes, there are one or two who really do have my best interests in mind, but they don't want to hear past a certain point. They hear that I can't lose weight, and they stop listening. They don't pay attention to the barrage of tests I've had done or the plethora of "treatments" I've tried to lose this excess weight. They just know I haven't done things their exact way, so I haven't done enough.

Yesterday, it finally dawned on me. The people who actually care about me will love me, no matter what I weigh. They will still care about me if I choose to have a weight loss surgery. They are the ones who have been by my side through my struggle from the beginning. They are the ones who will continue to love me and want the best for me.

Don't get me wrong, there are people who care about me and love me that don't agree with surgery as an option. Should I decide this is the best route for me, only time will tell if those people who are against surgery will still be there for me after I get home from the hospital.

My struggle does not end with surgery, if that's what I choose to do. It will be the beginning of a new life, and an all-new battle with food.

No matter what I choose, I WILL overcome this weight. I WILL prevail.