Surgery: It’s A Thing, Man.

But you should see what the other guy looks like.

It has been noted in the past that significant life events seem to happen in groups. Boy howdy, does that seem to be getting proved out around these parts. Here in our household both of the lovely ladies I cohabitate with, Loralia and Vixen (pictured above), have now had surgery in the past two weeks, and for both of them, the surgery has looked like No Fun At All. Leaving me to speculate on the upcoming surgical procedure that awaits me in 25 days.

I am not sure where I got this impression that surgery was going to be no big deal. It has certainly not been my experience in the past. My VNS installation and later repair were certainly not life-shattering surgeries, but my knee surgery in 2014 most certainly was – I was in pain for months afterward, and to this day have to wear a knee brace when expecting to walk anything more than a short distance. Surgery is invasive. It hurts. And it takes a long time to recover from.

Watching my ladies suffer through the recovery from their surgeries has made me hyper-aware of the fact that this train is coming for me too. Once upon a time, I had been concerned only with the difficulty of the liquid diet before the surgery and the greatly reduced diet post surgery, not thinking too much about the procedure itself. Nowadays, I find that I am thinking more and more about the surgical process, and wondering what it is going to do to me and mean for me.

Just like Lor, I am going to have 5 holes punched into my abdomen to insert instruments, along with a sixth just below the breast line to work on a hiatal hernia. 80% of my stomach is going to be chopped off, then pulled out of my body via a slit only about an inch wide. (How is THAT for weird?) The hole that remains is then going to be stapled shut, creating a tube-sock looking stomach remnant about the same size of a small banana. My belly will inflate like a gigantic beach ball (again) due to all the gasses being pumped into my system. The surgical team will then super-glue the holes on my abdomen shut (not a joke – I have seen the stuff on Lor’s post-surgical wounds) and call it a day.

Just like Vixen, I do not respond well to anesthesia. It takes me longer than normal to recover from the effects, and it occasionally causes me to have seizures in recovery or shortly after surgery. Recovery is painful and takes a few weeks. And I am not a great patient, which will surely test everyone’s patience with me.

These are the things that go through my mind as I have been caring for first Lor and now Vixen after their surgeries. I am doing my best to be just as kind and considerate as I can be – trying to develop myself a positive balance on the post-surgical care karma card. I am not exactly afraid of the surgery (though I am still quite afraid of the hospital where I will be staying for 3 days.), but I am no longer thinking of it as a short and easy phase that will be passed through without any trouble.

I just keep reminding myself that this, too, will pass. 2 months from today I will be looking at this whole thing in the rear-view mirror, right? Let’s hope that I get through it as well as the ladies in my life have.

Trying Hard To Imitate My Stoic Ladies,

– Hawkwind

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Photo Credit: Antonio Ciriello via Compfight cc

It is a story most of us heard growing up. The slow and patient turtle wins a race against the quick and agile bunny by virtue of putting his head down and continuing to keep moving while the bunny screws off doing a multitude of things that are not related to winning the race. While I always questioned why the bunny didn’t finish the race first and then go amuse himself, the example holds true even today, in our pursuit of long-term weight loss.

Consider this: this is not my first rodeo when it comes to trying to lose weight. I have tried Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Atkins and a version of Paleo (back when it was still called “The Caveman Diet”.) I was always able to lose 10 – 20 pounds fast. After that: nothing. I would then embrace my guiding philosophy: “If at first you don’t succeed, quit.” Needless to say, the weight instantly returned.

Now, making dietary and lifestyle changes in preparation for bariatric surgery, we have had more success that ever before, mainly due to the slower speed of our weight loss. Lor’s sudden weight loss spike since her surgery notwithstanding, we have actually been  maintaining a pretty decent rate of “healthy body recovery” (also known as “weight loss”.) It has been 22 weeks since we started this process with my terrifying discovery that I weighed over 300 pounds back on February 2. As I mentioned yesterday, as of this week we have collectively lost 100 pounds. Do a little math (something like 100 divided by 22 weeks then further divided by 2 people) and it turns out that we have been losing, on average 2.27 pounds a week. According to the CDC, this number falls right into the “healthy weight loss” category.

Other demonstrations of “slow and steady” progress? Back in February, it took me around 25 minutes to walk .44 miles a day (the exact mileage of walking the dog around the block one time.) This would leave me covered in sweat, gasping for air, and exhausted for the rest of the evening. Today, in 45 minutes, I can cover 2 miles. The runners among you may be chuckling at this “mile every 22 minutes” speed, but remember:  back in February I was managing the brisk pace of 1.05 miles per hour. 4 months later I am almost up to the average human walking speed of 3 miles an hour. As far as the 45 minutes goes – that is as far as Vixen’s furry little legs will take her. We have discussed, once Lor is back in fighting trim, hauling the dog once around the block, then dropping her off at the house and walking another 45 minutes or so, to get in a full hour of walking a day.

Our walking speed should also increase from not having to stop while Vixen sniffs every bush, bag, and foreign object that looks like it might be edible.

Even Misdirected is showing the results of slow and steady. Maintaining a posting schedule of 4 posts a week, every week, we have grown from about 20 occasional readers to almost 50 daily readers. We will occasionally have really big spikes (like the day of Lor’s surgery), but nearly 50 people are checking in on a daily basis to see what is happening here. This is with no marketing as such – any readership increases are coming strictly by word of mouth, people sharing the fact that there is some dude talking about him and his wife going through bariatric surgery.

Patience has not been my strong point over the years. But, maybe, learning to re-adjust to a changing body and diet is what it takes to learn to wait for other positive changes in life. Maybe this is a sign of developing maturity and spiritual awareness?

Nah. I still hate driving in the slow lane.

At Least I Passed That Lazy Bunny,

– Hawkwind

The Century Mark

 

I have said many times within the pages of Misdirected that weight is not important to Lor and I. That it is only a number, that the importance of weight loss comes from improved health, enhanced mobility and energy, and a better quality of life.

Please allow me to step away from that well-reasoned thinking for a moment, to make an announcement.

Ahem.

“100 FREAKING POUNDS!!!!”

You read that right – as a couple, Lor and I have lost one hundred pounds as of our weigh-in today.

When we began this process, added together, our total weight was over 550 pounds. No wonder our bed creaked at night, even lying perfectly still. We were carrying the weight of an extra (tall) adult male between the two of us.

Lor’s weight loss was already remarkable, even before the surgery. Since the surgery, she managed to average an additional pound of weight loss a day. I, of course, had a bit of a step back last week, but reclaimed that weight and lost another pound on top of that in the last week.

Our Nutritionist warned us that those who lose quite a bit of weight before surgery might experience a dramatic slow-down in weight loss post-surgery. But, even if that should occur, I am already within 10 pounds of my original goal of losing “around 50 pounds”. Lor has not needed a single dose of insulin since leaving the hospital. I feel better than I have in years. Lor will too, once the holes in her stomach finish healing up and she can re-graduate back to soft foods. (I have never seen a person crave refried beans more.) She has already gained back her mobility, and just needs to start working on her stamina.

I am not sure what to expect from here, honestly. Another 100 pounds of joint weight loss would put us into uncharted waters – Lor would weigh right around what she weighed at 17 years old. I would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. I have never been at a stable weight of 200 pounds, having gone from around 160 to 225 somewhere in my early twenties, the weight arriving as I also grew about 4 inches taller. (Can you say late bloomer?)

Lor and I make sure to keep telling each other: “Now comes the hard part.” Losing weight has never been an issue for either of us. Keeping the weight off – now that is where the rubber meets the road. But we have each other to keep us both honest, to enforce workouts, to police one another’s dietary habits. Unless we collectively decide to give up on this, I have faith in our success.

Wishing I Could Hug Lor Without Injuring Her,

– Hawkwind

PS – 28 days till my surgery. Not that I am counting, or anything.

Patient Zero

Photo Credit: Small Creatures via Compfight cc

(This special Saturday edition brought to you courtesy of Friday getting away from me!)

Since the beginning of Misdirected’s conversion to a full-time weight-loss surgery blog, I have attempted to keep track of everything. How I felt, what I thought, what was happening to me both inside and outside. It was a journaling experience of sorts, that has gradually turned into a journal that gets shared with several hundred people every week.

However, now that we have had a real, live surgery in the family, I have stopped paying a whole lot of attention to what is going on in my life, and am almost totally focused on what is happening to Lor post-surgery. Pain, discomfort, and diet have all been dutifully logged. Her times of energy vs. her times of exhaustion. Her doubts are measured against her optimistic periods. All carefully cataloged, and much of it recorded here.

It is no secret why I am doing this, of course: My own surgery is exactly a month from today, and I want to know what to expect. Our nutritionist laughed during my last visit, and told me I would be the best-prepared surgical patient ever, thanks to my observations of Lor. It seems kind of heartless, really, sending my wife into the trenches before I ever get there. We had a pretty well thought-out plan for why we scheduled things the way we did, but every day I wonder if we chose the correct order. I just know that I am glad to be 100% healthy and able to care for her while she is recovering from surgery and settling into her new life. And if I get to pay close attention to see what is coming down the road for me, surely that is an unintended “bonus”, and not my nefarious plan all along, right?

As it turns out, I am not alone in carefully watching this process.

Members from both sides of the clan, Lor’s and my own, check in on a regular basis. They are, of course, concerned about her health and recovery. But they are also watching this process very carefully. Obesity is not uncommon in either of our families. Lor’s success (and how hard she has to work at it) is being used as the measurement by which many others will decide if they are going to investigate surgery as a treatment option for themselves. “It is like there is a new drug treatment being tested, and I am ‘patient zero’.” Lor quipped yesterday. Her success will be what convinces a whole lot of people that there is something to this whole weight-loss surgery thing.

In that sense, Lor was the right person to go first. She is a practitioner of alternative medicine, so agreeing to have surgery in the first place meant that she really believed in the process. Everyone who knows her is aware that she is a meticulous researcher, paying special attention to what could go wrong, and never over-estimating positive potential results. (“Counting chickens” is her favorite phrase for being overly optimistic.) If she chose to do it, goes the family logic, there is really something to this.

The surgical prep and surgery have been so successful for one reason: she is stubborn. There is a reason she had already lost nearly 50 pounds before she ever had surgery – once she makes up her mind to succeed, she refuses to fail. She never set a “goal weight” exactly, talking more about the health benefits of losing (and keeping off) about 50 pounds. She already blew through that goal like an oncoming train. Next stop, 60 pounds down. Give her a day or two.

A better ambassador for the benefits of weight-loss surgery could not have been picked. But we will have to give her a few days before we start asking her to make public appearances. kissing babies, cutting ribbons, etc.

The weight of everyone’s expectations has kinda worn her out.

Recording The Success Of Patient Zero,

– Hawkwind

The Post-Birthday Hangover

Birthday Card designed and created by Kristina Daniels.

…you know, the one when you wake up and realize you not only have a mile-long list of stuff to do today but also have to catch up on all the stuff you didn’t do yesterday because you were busy goofing off? Yeah. that hangover.

It should have been a great day, really. Due to unexpected circumstances, I got to see my parents and my brother, as well as one of my best friends, who made me the card you see above and brought me a bouquet of flowers as well. (Yes, men are allowed to like flowers. I checked.) I got an awesome lightweight laptop from my in-laws, who wanted me to have something to write with while I was in the hospital and recovering from surgery next month. I had dozens of birthday wishes from friends and family all over the country.

So why didn’t I enjoy my birthday more?

In a word: food.

I wanted to go have a beer or three to celebrate. I couldn’t.

I wanted to go out to dinner somewhere, like I’ve done for my birthday every year that I can remember. Not only was this a bad idea from a diet perspective, but I couldn’t exactly go by myself. (Lor is still recovering and on a liquid diet besides.)

I wanted a birthday cake and ice cream so bad it almost felt like physical pain.

I got through the day successfully, managing to stay under my daily max of 105 grams of carbs with room to spare. But I was miserable all day. I smiled while visiting with everyone, did my best to be nice to Lor, and spent most of the day trying not to think about food. It was hard – probably harder than any day I have experienced since the first week of our low-carb diet switch. As a result, I was probably not as friendly as I should have been, and my nursing care for Lor definitely suffered. As did all the stuff that I should’ve been doing around the house. Which I am getting to do today. Which is not making me very happy.

See a pattern here?

At the beginning of this pre-surgical process, I was really worried about being restricted from various foods, because fat men love food, right? (And no, I am not afraid of the term “fat”, political correctness notwithstanding. That is probably a whole other post.) These days, I am beginning to resent my attraction to food. These overwhelming cravings just drive me crazy – they make me feel like an addict in recovery. Ok, ok – I am an addict in recovery. But that doesn’t make me like it any better.

Many post-bariatric surgery patients talk about how their entire relationship with food had changed. They no longer want to eat, but now look at food as nothing more than fuel – the body has to be “gassed up” every once in a while, but otherwise they do not enjoy eating. And that whole idea makes me sad, too. Because deep down, I don’t want my love of food to be removed from my life.

Because I love eating so much that it has made me obese.

Someone help me off this carousel – it is making me so dizzy that I want to throw up.

Looking For The Nearest Trash Can,

– Hawkwind