The Memorial Day Minefield

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Since it is the “official” kick-off for summer, we tend to spend some time with our families over Memorial Day weekend. In both of our families, get-togethers mean food – lots of carbs, lots of sugar, lots of alcohol. For Lor and I, this meant that this weekend was going to be a series of excellent chances to really screw things up. Here’s how we did.

Saturday was the combination Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/My Birthday get together at my parent’s place. Mom was out of the country on Mother’s Day, and both Father’s Day and my birthday this year will be taking place during Lor’s first week post-op. We decided to place all our early summer holidays into one giant Memorial Day basket.

Alongside the usual burgers and brats (without buns they work out perfectly for a low-carb diet), I had requested two special things – beer, and Chili Relleno Won-Tons. What the heck is that, you ask? Take a won-ton wrapper, fill it with spices, ground beef, and cheese. Add a seeded and roasted green chile to the center of the mix. Wrap and deep-fat fry. Heaven. These little bombs have been the centerpiece of the High Holy Day of my family’s religious observances (that is, the Super Bowl) for years now – my Dad usually has to make 30 – 40 of them, and we wiped them out every year. Obviously, they will be vanishing from our diet after our surgeries, so Dad made us a dozen of them. I managed to only have two and bid them a fond farewell.

We had also planned on bringing one of Lor’s homemade sheet cakes, but sanity prevailed at the last minute. We baked a dozen small cookies instead of a birthday cake. I had two and called the whole thing a win. I had been planning for this party to be my final beers ever as well, but 2 beers escaped and made their way into my fridge. Since Lor doesn’t drink beer at all, I felt I would not be sabotaging her liquid diet by having them at some point in the future. I decided to hang on to them and drink them later…maybe during the first week of Lor’s pre-surgical liquid diet. Everyone I talk to that has gone through the liquid diet phase tells me that I might need them.

Sunday was our gathering with the Lor half of the clan. Same burgers and hot dogs (just wrap ’em in lettuce and your carb levels are perfectly safe), and a metric ton of fresh fruit. Lots of forbidden foods like enchiladas and Rice Krispy treats and potato chips, but we managed to get through without injuring our diets. Well, Lor may have had a 1-inch by 1-inch Rice Krispy treat, but cut a lady some slack – she goes on a month of nothing but protein shakes starting on Wednesday.

We also got to spend LOTS of time talking about the upcoming procedures. I described the Vertical Sleeve Gastronomy so many times that I started thinking I should carry a banana around with me to demonstrate the size and shape of the remaining stomach post-surgery. We did hear quite a bit of “I could never do that!”, but we also got a few “Tell me a little more about this surgery…” conversations. I am beginning to think we should take this show on the road, trying to bring this whole “surgery to correct obesity” thing out of the shadows and into the light where it belongs. Maybe after both our surgeries – we’ll have a lot more energy then.

Nutritional visits, pre-surgical evaluations,  psychiatric appointments, and the beginning of Lor’s liquid phase are all taking place within the next 5 days. We have arrived at where the rubber meets the road!

Kinda Happy I Saved Those Last Two Beers,

– Hawkwind

Keeping It Real

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I find it really interesting that I get so much feedback off of my most depressing posts. Whether because of synergy or empathy, or just because the world is a really depressing place, folks talk about, comment on and send me emails about the really depressing stuff happening as part of the Great WLS Experiment. (My readership even goes up by about 25% for these posts. Odd, that.)
I honestly am not trying to be a downer to everyone here with these less-than-cheerful posts. But, this is the experience as I am living it. To create the impression that I do not have doubts, or bad days, or serious problems with the whole thing would be totally dishonest. And it can be very easy to lose sight of victories for short periods of time when overwhelmed by details and defeats. But writing things down and sharing them with the Misdirected family is my way of identifying my issues and starting to work through them. It is as if I have a pool of talk therapists with several hundred people in it. Thanks for the great hourly rates, by the way!
Speaking of therapy, Lor came up with a solution to the whole psychiatric evaluation problem yesterday afternoon. Since our preferred provider is suddenly no longer accepting my insurance, we’ve just scheduled with an out-of-network provider. Seems simple, right? Cheapskate that I am, it never occurred to me that the problem could be solved by the application of money. But, the cost of a single evaluation when weighed against the total health benefits of the surgery doesn’t work out to a whole lot.
I’ll probably make the money back just in french fries I don’t eat next year.
So, the evaluation is set up for next week, right after my 2nd dietary appointment. Wish me luck – I should have a surgery date by this time next week. I am back today to being excited about the concept – if I can be a little successful without the tools, imagine how much better I will be with the tools, right?
And thanks to everyone who reached out to me, concerned that I was jumping off the surgery train. I am very fortunate in that I am partnered up with someone who wasn’t about to let that happen, and was ready to provide solutions to my issues. I hope I can be as supportive to Lor as she is with me.
Make sure you tune back in next week – we’ve got some exciting stuff coming up right around the corner. I can almost see my surgery date from here!

The Past Is Prologue,

– Hawkwind

The Struggle To Stay On Track

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Ten percent of me is gone.
I mean that in a good way, I suppose. As of Monday of this week, my pre-surgical diet and exercise program has resulted in me dropping from a high of 302 pounds down to 272. My friends and family are all congratulating me. I should be elated. But I am not.
Because now I am having doubts about my upcoming surgery.
The real problem began about a month ago, when I was informed that there was a mysterious “holdup” in processing my claim through my insurance. My (federally required) psychological exam had never been approved by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Upon calling the insurance company, the mystery deepened – my claim was “pending”, and had been since the middle of April. No one could tell me why. The insurance reps seemed completely baffled. “Call your doctor.” was their advice.
I called my doctor, who said he would get it straightened out. And then…nothing. For two weeks I have been waiting for an approval to move this whole process forward. and have heard not a word. Without the psych eval I can’t have surgery – and if it doesn’t take place by mid-June, the whole process will be delayed for who knows how long.
Upon talking about the problem to family and friends, I keep hearing a similar train of thought: I am doing great on the pre-surgical diet, so I could potentially stick with that even if the surgery never gets approved.
Did you catch that? It goes by pretty fast. The general thought is, if I am not approved for surgery due to an insurance snafu, I can just press on and lose the weight on the basis of the work I am already doing. Sounds very encouraging, until I ask myself: “If I can do this without surgery, why am I having the surgery?”
It is not as if I haven’t tried to lose this weight before. I’ve been obese for better than half my life, I have had the opportunity to try just about everything. I finally fell into weightlifting in my late 20s and early 30s because I could be obese and functional at the same time.  But, something has always come up that interferes with my success, Seizures. Boredom. Transportation problems. A couple of very bad food intake days leading to frustration after which I would give up. Believe me, I have been there and done that. I have turned to bariatric surgery hoping for a final solution, a weapon to use against my own food issues.
So, what happens if that weapon never materializes? Will I be able to commit to these changes without the physical modifications I was counting on?
If I can’t succeed without surgery, how it is going to impact me watching Lor go forward without me?
If I can succeed without surgery, why the hell am I am going under the knife in the first place?

The Wheels In My Head Go Round And Round,

– Hawkwind

The Struggle Against Ignorance

As bariatric patients, we have a lot to deal with. New diets, new exercise regimens, and new ways of thinking. Our insides are being re-routed or removed, depending on the procedure, leaving us with lengthy recovery and relearning periods of time. And ever after we will be forced to make choices that reflect the physical and emotional changes that we have gone through – that or suffer a resurgence of weight as we return to bad habits. Seems like enough to deal with, right?
Not according to a large percentage of individuals out there in the world who perceive obesity surgery as “cheating”. If you have surgery to correct obesity, the thinking goes, you are just lazy. One glorious example was related to us in a bariatrics group – a woman who had lost over 100 pounds post-surgery decided to join a local gym, overcoming her self-esteem and body issues. The trainer she was assigned was blunt: “Did you lose that weight through diet and exercise, or just go through surgery?”
This from a physical trainer – someone supposedly educated in assisting people with their weight loss and fitness goals. Apparently she stopped paying attention during class to polish her self-love. There are reams of studies out there demonstrating that obesity is more than laziness. The condition itself prevents us from high-caloric burning activities, which leads us to depression, which leads us to seek comfort in the very thing that caused our condition. It is very similar to drug addiction (another maligned and misunderstood condition, but my soapbox can only reach so high.) All this was apparently somehow missed by this stunning example of physical training at its worst.
“You don’t see obesity and food allergies in Africa.” wrote another charming individual commenting on an article about a successful bariatric surgery patient. Since starvation exists, he theorized, it was obvious (to him) that the only thing needed to cure obesity was a calorie-restricted diet. It is all about willpower, was his thought.
Such an argument should not even exist outside of an elementary school playground. How many of the starving people in the world (not just in Africa, you budding racist) are choosing malnutrition? Not a single one, I would guess. They, too, would love to exist in a food-rich culture like ours – where they have choices about what to eat on a daily basis. They are not “thin” because they have chosen to not eat. There is no willpower or exercise involved. Where now is your “healthy lifestyle?” This man was too stupid to be allowed on the Internet.
(By the way, this statement is not meant to suggest that there is no hunger or malnutrition within our food-rich societies. That it exists at all is a travesty, but, again, one soapbox at a time.)
Bariatric surgery is not a shortcut to a “slim and beautiful” self. In fact, we not only get the intestinal re-arrangement of surgery, but we then get to do the very same food restriction and daily exercise these bigots claim we are avoiding. We don’t go through surgery and then eat whatever we want for the rest of our lives. We go through surgery and then spend the rest of our lives eating tiny amounts, usually sacrificing the foods we loved the most. Food becomes fuel, not necessarily a source of pleasure and enjoyment any longer. And, thanks to the lifetime of bad habits we previously embraced, we will almost certainly never look like supermodels. Does that sound like a “shortcut” to anyone here? 
The ignorance is everywhere. When you encounter it, your initial reaction may be to just run away from it in embarrassment. I would ask you, as a fellow bariatric patient, please do not respond as if you have something to be ashamed of. You do not. You should be proud that you have taken control of your health, and made some very tough decision in the name of caring for yourself and your loved ones by giving yourself the tools needed to return to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Hold your head high, and don’t flee from idiots and the misinformed.
Instead, though it may be difficult, educate. Though there are bigots out there who will not be convinced no matter what you say (about anything, really), there are far more people who simply do not understand the procedures, the lifestyle changes, and the commitments that are required to be a success story after bariatric surgery. Take a minute to explain what is really happening to you. Ignorance is only overcome by one good decision at a time.
Sort of like obesity.
Still Wishing I Could Boycott That Trainer’s Gym,
– Hawkwind

The Whiskey Point Tribute

Once upon a time, I was in a band.
It is so simple to read, and yet there is a wealth of emotion and history behind that sentence. From 1997 to 2004, I was part of something that I had wanted to do sine I was a little boy – I played in a Rock and Roll band. We did all the usual things: we practiced every week, we drank too much beer, we played gigs all around the Albuquerque music scene (where we drank too much beer), and when we weren’t playing we were sitting around talking about the band while we drank too much beer.
It remains the most important period of history in my life. Many people wish they could go back to the good old days of High School. Not me. I wish that I was back in my garage with these people, working out a difficult riff, piecing together a 4-part harmony, sweating through a 3-hour set. Epilepsy was no crueler to me than when it took away my gift to work with other people, making music. I wish I had known at the time that it was a gift – I would have spent less time worrying about making it perfect, and more time just enjoying being a part of it.
I spend very little time here on Misdirected talking about the past. What, I think, would be the point? But after an especially evocative dream last night, I awoke this morning realizing that I have never properly recognized or thanked these people for the role they had in my life. There is no time like the present for righting the errors of the past. Accordingly, I wrote a tribute to the members of Whiskey Point. Though the letter went out to each of the band members as well, most of whom know nothing about this blog, I wanted to share with my new “family” what these people meant to me. Enjoy.

Not pictured: J. Mooney
“Last night, we were all gathered together again. We all sat at a table in a bar somewhere (it had to be a bar), catching up and telling stories about how great we were once upon a time. Jerry had put the whole thing on his tab (of course), and Brandon and Mike were trying to figure out where the whole operation was going to move to after the bar threw us out. I sat back and sipped on my Jack and Coke, soaking it in, trying hard to memorize the faces that I hadn’t seen for so long while we were all under one roof.


It was a good dream.


I am glad that 3 of us (Brandon, Jim, and Mike) have gone on and kept the music going. Every time I get out to see you play, or read your Facebook updates, or hear about your exploits through the grapevine, I am reminded that, for a few years, we shared in something awesome. More than anything, I am proud that you have kept the music alive, and are still sharing your talents with the world around you, day after day and night after night.


I am glad that 2 of us (Jerry and Kristen) have gone on and found fulfillment in other things, building lives around love and service to others. I would like to think that, somehow, playing together was an apprenticeship of sorts for you two, where you learned how much you loved being plugged into something bigger than yourselves, and carried that love forward into the destinies that lay ahead of you.


For me, the music is gone, and I haven’t yet found my place in the world, but I can look at the 5 of you and know that, for a moment, I was a part of something special – with some very special people. Thank you all for sharing not only music but a season of your lives with me. Knowing you all has made my life better, and I am always proud when I get to point at one of you and say “I was in a band with them.”


Keep your dreams alive, whatever those dreams may be.


Love,

– TJ “