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??