NaBlogWriMo 6 & 7: One Stent Up, Two Stones Back

Yup, actually installed in my body.

I started this intending to talk a little about my most recent bout with kidney stones. The most frustrating thing (for me, anyway) about kidney stones is that they are mostly preventable. Even though they are noted as a potential side effect of bariatric surgery, avoidance is simple: adequate hydration. Every time this happens to me, as I moan and groan and wait for things to start flowing again, a single thought occurs to me: “Did I hydrate enough today?”

And the answer, invariably, is “NO.”

But, as I told the story, it kept growing. And growing. And growing some more.

Thus, the tale that was supposed to be produced last Friday spent 3 days being written instead. It is now longer than some short stories I have created.

So, get yourself comfortable, and check your squeamishness about bodily functions at the door.

A Painful Burning Sensation

Our tale begins back on July 6 of 2018. On our way home from a family visit in Santa Fe, I noticed a mild pain in my back. I didn’t worry too much about it – I had just spent the last 4 days in the car, courtesy of the 4th of July holiday.

As it turns out, I should have worried about it.

All day long, the pain increased, and no amount of stretching would alleviate it. As the pain worsened that evening, it occurred to me that I might have a bigger problem. I hadn’t urinated once, all day.

This continued for the next 48 hours.

Finally, during a visit to the dentist’s office, the real pain struck. That oh so familiar sensation, like an ice pick being shoved through the abdomen. I had developed another kidney stone. (Though, in hindsight, not going to the bathroom for two days probably should have been a clue.)

The visit to urgent care that evening wasn’t great. The PA on duty asked me to identify where my kidneys were. After I was able to do so correctly, he chewed me out for not coming in sooner. “Are you trying to rupture a kidney?” he asked. I hadn’t even been aware that this was a thing I should be worried about.

You can bet I was worried now, though.

He injected me with a mild muscle relaxer and told me that if the no-flow problem hadn’t corrected itself overnight that I was to report to the Emergency Room.

At 7 AM the next day, I was among the first in line.

The Hospital House of Horrors

In one sense, I feel bad for the folks that work the local emergency room. They have to work insanely long shifts dealing with the dregs of humanity.

On the other hand, this can leave them with a certain, shall we say, “casual” approach to tending to legitimate patients like myself.

I will admit that reporting that I hadn’t urinated in three days got me through the initial triage stage pretty quickly. But, after being placed on a bed in the back…nothing happened. For hours. A nurse came by and told me that someone would be by shortly to administer some pain meds. This became a familiar refrain as a parade of nurses, nurse’s aides, and even a couple of EMTs all promised to produce medication to deal with the agonizing waves of pain that were now emanating from every point of my body south of my chest.

After several hours of this, I finally pounced (metaphorically) on the next nurse that happened by, and I asked for a catheter. This might have been the point where they started taking me seriously. Probably not too many requests for one of those in the average day.

For those that don’t know, a catheter involves taking a flexible hose, about half the size of a normal drinking straw, and inserting it into your body. Yup, right through the aperture that your urine normally flows through. I can feel you wincing from here. I can assure you, it feels even worse than you are thinking it does.

Unfortunately, even this drastic remedy provided no relief. I could tell the nurse was deeply suspicious when she got it implanted and almost nothing flowed out the other end. I could hear her thinking: “Have I just inherited one of those people who enjoy being in pain?” She promised me drugs (again) and then vanished.

A few more hours went by. During this time, I was now in pain both internally (from the kidney stones), and externally (from the catheter, which I remain convinced was a veterinary version designed to be put into livestock, and not designed for the human body.) Lor literally had to talk me out of removing the thing myself.

At last, someone showed up to haul me off to the Imaging department. They were going to MRI me to find out just what the heck was going on internally. I thought this would bring relief.

I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Under The Microscope

I could tell that things weren’t going to go well when I got parked outside the door to Imaging. The person pushing my hospital bed was bitterly complaining to someone on the phone about what an asshole her boyfriend/spouse/SO was while we waited. When my turn came, she rolled me into the room, being sure to hit every single bump and corner in the hallway. Considering even breathing was painful at this point, this did nothing for my mental state.

But the coup de grace came as I was transferred from my bed to the MRI slab. Undoubtedly frustrated with all things male, my technician tried to “help” me move faster from bed to machine. In doing so, she managed to pinch the hose of my catheter between the rolling bed and the immobile MRI machine. She then yanked me across from one platform to the other.

I moved, the catheter hose did not.

By the time she sorted out what had occurred, I was literally lying on the MRI weeping in pain. She rolled the bed away, readjusted the hose, and walked out of the room, her vengeance upon the male half of the species accomplished. No apology was forthcoming.

By the time I got back to the emergency room, I was ready to just die and get it over with. I did finally get an assigned nurse, who also promised me drugs. She agreed to remove the catheter from my bruised and battered equipment, wincing when I told her the story about my experience in Imaging.

More hours passed.

Size Matters

That evening, a full 11 hours after I checked myself in, a Doctor appeared.

“Guess you’re not feeling too good, eh?” he asked jovially. I agreed that, indeed, I was not. “Well, there’s a reason! You’ve got a big ol’ kidney stone. 10 centimeters. We’re going to try to schedule you for emergency surgery tonight. In the meantime, I’ve approved you for all the pain meds you want. You must be miserable.”

With that, he left. I was so deliriously happy at the potential application of endless morphine that it took me several minutes before I processed what he had said.

…10 centimeters…?

I was pretty sure I was remembering my metric conversion correctly but wasn’t an inch equivalent to 2.5 centimeters?

Did I really have a kidney stone FOUR INCHES in diameter stuck in my piping somewhere?

I asked Lor for my phone. Puzzled, she handed it over to me. I called the only person who I knew would assist me.

“Dad,” I said when he answered the phone, “they’ve just told me I have a 10 cm kidney stone. If they tell me that they want me to PASS this thing, I need you to take me out behind the barn and shoot me.”

My father solemnly agreed to do so and added that he and my mother were on their way to the hospital now.

Metric Fractions

While my hospital room began filling with family members, I was visited by my nurse and a nurse’s aide. They were astonished by my doctor’s diagnosis. They rummaged around on the computer system and returned with a couple of pieces of news.

The good news: my doctor misspoke. The “stone” was 10 MILLIMETERS, not centimeters.

The bad news: 10 millimeters is still the size of a bullet for a good sized handgun. There was no way it was going to pass on its own. I would, indeed, have to have surgery.

More bad news: my doctor had sort of buried the lead while raving over the size of the kidney stone. Turns out I had STONES (multiple), not a single one. I had a 10mm one blocking the ureter on one side. Then, there was a 4mm stone actually stuck in the ureter on the other side.

No wonder I hadn’t been able to move any fluids for nearly three days.

Since I now had free access to all the drugs I wanted, I will admit that the rest of the evening is a bit of a blur for me. I was finally taken back for surgery about 11 PM. After admitting myself to the ER at 7 AM, mind you. Later on, in recovery, I was convinced that my Urologist said they had only removed one stone. Must’ve been the drugs, right?

Wrong. They really had only removed one of the two stones – the smaller one. I would have to set up an appointment to have the other one taken care of.

The Gift That Kept On Giving

In the meantime, they had left me with a special present…a device called a “stent”. This involves jamming latex tubing up through your ureters in order to keep them open and to assist in passing any smaller particulate that might be trying to come through.

It also leaves you with a (no shit) length of fishing line emerging from the same aperture your urine flows through. The end of the line is then taped around your gear, so you don’t “accidentally” remove it.

The problem? The tape had been applied inexpertly. I had what looked like half a roll of scotch tape wrapped around me half a dozen times, pinning the fishing line in place. Unfortunately, they had not given me enough slack in the line. Every time I shifted position, it yanked my equipment this way and that. I’ve heard of men being led around by their penises, but this was ridiculous.

I asked my long-suffering wife to fix this after we finally made it home. She took one look at the situation and went looking for scissors. After she calmed me down and reassured me that she was not preparing to amputate, she told me what had happened. Apparently, the surgical staff had not bothered, umm, “cleaning up” the area before they applied the rolls of tape. Consequently, I had bunches of pubic hair all gathered up in the rolls of tape along with the fishing line.

10 minutes and a trim later, I was finally no longer being yanked to and fro. I put myself back together, and we headed off to the pharmacy to get the supply of pain meds that would have to tide me over until my next surgery. Which had not even been scheduled yet, by the way.

You Can’t Haz No Drugs

Because the surgical gods were still not smiling upon me, there was another issue. A big one. The pharmacy would not fill my prescription.

It seems that the urologist who performed my emergency stone-ectomy, (OK, fine, it is referred to as a “lithotripsy.”) was NOT licensed in the state of New Mexico. He was a recent transplant from Arizona and had not completed his licensure requirements here.

The upshot of this was that they would not fill my prescription whatsoever. I was going to have to suffer in stoic silence through the next several weeks until my second lithotripsy.

I considered suffering in silence beautiful. For about 30 seconds. Then I busted out my medical marijuana card and had Lor drive me to the closest dispensary.

Thank God for medical marijuana is all I have to say. The same substance that assists me with seizure control was about to keep me from being in unending pain for the next three weeks. After trying (and failing) to keep straight faces after I told them the whole story, the budtenders at R. Greenleaf had mercy on me. They set me up with a vaporizer loaded with a strain designed for folks suffering from intractable pain and sent me home.

The Stone and The Stent

And there I sat, for the next three weeks. Completely baked, on my couch, craving Cheetos and Oreos. Every time I could feel the pain emanating from either my stone or my stent I would self-medicate again.

It is entirely possible that I smoked more weed in that three-week period than I had consumed in my entire adult life leading up to that point.

My doctors had informed me that I would get used to the stent in a day or so. My doctors lied. I never stopped being in pain from the installation of miles of latex tubing shoved into my urinary tract. When combined with the irregular pulses of pain from the over-large kidney stone, I was not sure I would make it to the procedure to have them both removed.

As it turns out, I only got to have one removed. The second lithotripsy went smoothly, but I was dismayed to discover that I would be leaving with the thrice-damned stent STILL INSTALLED.

Turns out I would have to wait another week before I could remove that horrible, horrible stent.

Before,  I removed, you ask? Oh, yes. After your recovery period, you are told to grab that nasty line emerging from your equipment and yank it out yourself.

I thought that the day could not come fast enough. When it finally arrived, I self-medicated, covered Lor’s massage table with old ruined sheets, and assumed the position. Lor, as fascinated as always with anything involving human physiology, offered to assist. I declined. She settled in to observe instead.

The Never-Ending Latex

Thus, my journey toward freedom from the stent began. I pulled. It hurt. I pulled some more. It hurt even more. I kept on yanking, tears streaming down my face. I went through my entire vocabulary of curse words and began inventing new ones. And still, the thing wouldn’t come out.

I had started to wonder if another error had been made. Did the surgical team leave behind a spool of fishing line inside my kidney? But, finally, a piece of latex tubing emerged. This, then, was the stent, apparently. I was maybe halfway there. I kept crying and pulling. The pile of fishing line and latex just kept growing.

Meanwhile, Lor was so fascinated by the process that she kept leaning closer and closer to watch this never-ending stream of plastic emerging from my body. When I finally reached the end of the procedure she was probably only a foot from where the extraction was taking place.

At last, with a final exhausting tug, I pulled the last of the 24 inches of stent out of my body. (No exaggeration – we measured it. See the photo above if you want proof.) As it emerged, however, a back wave of urine that had been clogging the pipes behind it emerged in a manner not unlike a fire hose.

I did mention that Lor was only about a foot away at this point, yes?

As I sat there panting from the effort, Lor stood there dripping and blinking. “I suppose I should have anticipated that,” she said, and she wandered off to the bathroom to clean up.

TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read)

I had multiple kidney stones. It hurt. I cried. Multiple surgeries were performed. I got stoned. Lor got wet. The end.

But, seriously, if you take nothing else away from this, take this piece of wisdom:

STAY HYDRATED.

Catch you all tomorrow,

  • Jeremy

Making the Bed (And Other Victories)

Making The Bed And Other Victories

For the last week, I’ve been trying to share a meaningful personal victory over depression, and have met with limited success.

I told a friend. They didn’t get it. “Doesn’t everyone?”, they asked me.

I told my brother. He didn’t get it. “Is that a…good…thing?” he inquired, hesitation in his voice.

So, I told my mother, but her encouragement is a given. I could tell her that I eviscerated a live chipmunk and she would metaphorically pat me on the head for what a good boy I have been. Right before she called a mental health professional on my behalf.

It seems that announcing “I made the bed three days in a row!” is not quite the watershed moment for the rest of the world that it is for me.

Rainbows and Unicorns

Last week, I admitted to you all that I have yet to get a therapist/counselor to work through my depression with. This is still true. I have gotten a referral to what I hope is a person able to deal with my idiosyncrasies and will be calling them for an appointment later today.

However, what has happened is apparently the Prozac has begun to kick in.

I will admit, I was expecting a more…dramatic result from the Prozac. I sort of had it in my head that there would be a period where my body got used to the medication. Then, one amazing morning, I would wake up and step into glorious sunshine, surrounded by rainbows and unicorns.

After all, that’s what happens to normal people every day, right?

Instead, I find that I’ve grown a little more stable. I am not yelling at Lor at the drop of a hat. Going outdoors is not causing me to burst into flame spontaneously. I wash the dishes without being prompted a half-dozen times.

And, oh yes, there is the subject of the bed…

The Bed, Unmade

Let me explain how depression works.

A normally adjusted person takes a look at an unmade bed and thinks: “I need to make the bed.” Maybe they get it done, maybe they don’t, depending on how late they are for work, etc. But the acknowledgment is there.

A depressed person takes a look at the unmade bed and thinks: “Why should I even bother to make that bed? I am just going to screw it up in a few hours anyway. Just like I screw everything else up. So what’s the point? In fact, I might as well just go back to my unmade bed and lie there…”

So, yes, the fact that I have been making the bed for a few days in a row is actually significant, though it probably doesn’t look like it to the untrained eye.

To me, a made bed is a victory. A small one, yes, but a victory nonetheless. It also represents potential. “If I can do this,” I think, “maybe I can do something else too!”

In the past week, I’ve completed a few things around the house, managed to get my professional life back off the ground, and even spent some time with my extended family.

All on the strength of making the bed in the first place.

Filling The Spaces

Of course, this is only the beginning of rebuilding a functional life after my depression derailment.

I still need to get back to regular posting here on Misdirected. Today will represent the first time I have posted in back to back weeks in a few months, so we will tentatively chalk that one up as “progress.”

But there are so many other things that I am going to have to start over on. it is literally tiring to think about. I haven’t been to a gym in weeks. I haven’t run over a mile in who knows how long. My personal trainer certificate hangs on the wall gathering dust, as the works I had intended to build around it remain unstarted.

And don’t even get me started on the subject of my fiction writing. I have probably not come up with an original idea since the beginning of the year.

So much remains undone, in fact, that I can actually feel the weight of them bearing down on me. There is so much, in fact, that I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack fluttering in my chest, just trying to comprehend how I am ever going to get it all done.

I just have to sit back for a minute and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth, practicing mindfulness, all the things the self-help gurus tell you to do that you are secretly sure aren’t really working. I am just going to have to remind myself that change happens incrementally, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that all I can do is all I can do.

So, I’ll just wait with one ear listening for the sound of Lor getting out of bed. Then I can go collect my early-morning hug and kiss, and reassurance that someone loves me and believes in me, even if I don’t believe in myself.

And then, I’ll make the bed.

Not Looking Forward To My First Day Back At The Gym,

– Jeremy

PS: Five days left to go on my Epilepsy Birthday Fundraiser over on Facebook. Please consider it if you are looking for an important cause to support!

Toxic

Toxic

I am trapped in a toxic relationship.

I’ve always thought of myself as pretty strong – able to overcome most things. Hell, I’ve lived with epilepsy for 15 years now, right?

But this particular relationship just keeps coming back and biting me in the ass. Every time I think I have escaped, it reaches out and grabs ahold of me again, drawing me back into its grasp.

The moment I give in I am simultaneously enraptured and ashamed. I know for a fact that what is coming will be humiliating and painful. But, in the name of a few moments of pleasure, I take the plunge anyway.

The really hurtful thing is this – my relationship is literally toxic. I keep poisoning myself and I can’t seem to stop.

Too Close To Home

Less than a quarter mile from our home is a cesspit of sin and amoral license, known as “Sonic Drive-In.”

Oh, they sell things I can eat. Grilled chicken sandwiches and basic burgers I can remove the buns from. They make a decent boneless chicken wing 6-pack if I am in the mood to spread my eating out over a couple of meals.

But that is not where I go wrong.

Every once in a while, about once a month or so, the urge overwhelms me. We go to Sonic, and I buy the most forbidden of fruits:

Ice Cream.

When we pull in, I try to rein myself in. I will get the “Mini” size. My self-directed negotiation makes me promise myself I will split it in half. I will contain my lust for Fudge and Ice Cream whipped together – I will keep myself together.

Ten minutes later, I am looking into an empty small drink cup, wondering where I went wrong. And being tempted to lick the last vestiges of whipped cream off the inside of the cup.

Five minutes after that, I am locked in a bathroom for the next few hours. That’s all the time it takes for me to begin paying the price for my lack of self-control.

The Failure of Negative Reinforcement

A large portion of the early success of any kind of bariatric surgery is negative reinforcement. After surgery, your stomach has been shrunk to such a degree that overeating produces discomfort and, in some cases, outright sickness. For many of us, certain foods are especially difficult to handle – sometimes leafy greens, occasionally tougher proteins, some folks even have difficulty with certain liquids.

But just about all of us can’t handle processed sugar anymore. We even have a specific term for it: “Dumping Syndrome”, categorized by sharp pains, foaming vomit and long-term diarrhea. This is usually enough to encourage us to stay the heck away from foods containing processed sugar.

Usually.

Negative reinforcement does not always work. There is always that one child who doesn’t learn the first time and keeps trying to stick the silverware into the electrical socket.

I am afraid that, in this particular case, that child is me.

Negative reinforcement usually works for me, too. It only took two trips to the hospital to be treated for kidney stones. After the second visit, I started making sure that I get in my 64+ ounces of water a day.

But I just can’t seem to make the ice cream thing stick.

So, every few weeks, I find myself camped out in the bathroom for several hours in a row, wondering why in the hell I keep doing this to myself.

The Tangle In My Brain

Seriously, now: there is absolutely no reason that my body would be craving processed sugar.

I get over 70 grams of protein in every day. That is usually balanced by 60ish grams of carbs. A multi-vitamin takes care of any other missing dietary components.

There is literally nothing in processed sugar that my body needs.

Plus, I can pass up the brownies, the Little Debbie snacks, the Snickers bars. It is simply this one “food” that triggers this reaction in me.

In short, it is all in my head.

Mind you, this is not minimizing the problem. The great majority of our bad dietary decisions are “in our heads”, which is why healthy folks have so much trouble understanding obesity. “Just put down the cheeseburger”, and all that.

Something simply misfires in our brain, and next thing you know we are neck deep in addictive behavior. And yes, Virginia, there is such as thing as psychological addiction. It is not the same as physical dependence/addiction, but it is a real condition just the same.

And food addiction is extremely pervasive among those of us with obesity. So much so that many patients of bariatric surgery turn their food addictions into a different type of addiction: alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc. The surgery that changes our physiology does nothing to change our mental processes.

The Quest for an Ice Cream Cure

I am a fortunate case – I haven’t relapsed into overeating or started drinking Jack Daniels by the gallon.

But I just can’t manage to stop poisoning myself once a month.

Lor has tried to help. Every time I decide to do it, she warns me what is coming. I tell her “I know” and do it anyway. Then, after an hour or two in the bathroom, I invariably ask her “Why did you let me eat that?”

Addictive behavior is rarely fair to loved ones.

It has been suggested to me that I seek professional help. It just seems so overboard to start talking to a counselor because I make myself sick every few weeks.

On the other hand, do I wait until I am doing this to myself once a week?

Accepting failure is hard – especially when it seems so minor. My weight hasn’t changed. My clothes still fit. I am still able to do a host of things that I couldn’t two years ago.

And, yet, still: every time we drive by, I hear Ice Cream calling my name. A sweet siren song, promising moments of pleasure followed by hours of pain.

Maybe We’ll Just Move Next Door To A Salad Bar,

  • Jeremy

18 Months and Counting (A Post-Surgery Progress Report)

A Post-Surgical Progress Report

They say that time flies ever more quickly the older that you get. Even knowing this, I was still startled to look at my calendar and discover that this week will be the 18-month anniversary of my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is tough to believe that I am already a year and a half out from that amazing life-changing decision.

The changes are still overwhelming: everything from my waistline to my plate size has shrunk. Meanwhile, my stamina, physical activity, and interest in life all have grown by leaps and bounds. I hear on a weekly basis how I am “not the same person” that I was two years ago, and I can only nod in agreement. The version of me that sat around the house exclusively eating and gaming is no longer a part of my life.

The Tech Support Trap

Now, I (still) spend quite a bit of time online, mainly following up on interactions with those who are either considering or struggling with bariatric surgery. And I am noticing a trend towards “horror stories” – people reporting all the terrible things that happened to them as a result of bariatric surgery.

Let me say upfront: bariatric surgery is a scary thing. Things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. It is not a shortcut to weight loss by any means. It is a last-ditch, dramatic solution to chronic obesity.

But, it also must be said: it also is not automatically a disaster waiting to happen. As someone who used to work in tech support, I can tell you this: the vast majority of people posting on forums and in chat rooms are those that something went wrong for. When things work, we rarely feel a need to draw attention to them.

So, allow me to shed a little light on what happens when bariatric surgery goes right.

Shiny, Happy Patient

My personal experience with surgery was almost unblemished. (Other than that unfortunate incident of trying to eat sourdough immediately post-surgery.) I obeyed my nutritional guidelines, paid attention to my surgical team, and embraced my new pre-and post-surgical diet. After all, I figured, I was getting ready to have 3/4 of a major organ lopped off…no point in going forward with that if I wasn’t willing to make all the attendant changes that went along with it, right?

And it worked! Waiting in the pre-surgical area, my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, did not recognize me thanks to the weight loss I had already experienced thanks to the pre-surgical diet. (I had already dropped from 302 pounds to 248 pounds pre-surgery.) The weight loss after the surgery was consistent, and I actually beat my personal goal of weighing less than 200 pounds. By August of 2017, I had lost all the way to 175 pounds: nearly 130 pounds of weight loss.

Not only did I lose weight, but there were other, less visible results. I was able to head back to the gym. We began hiking at least once a week, sometimes more. We walked/ran in the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo” 5K in May of 2017 – an actual “bucket list” item of mine for decades.

For every negative associated with the surgery (loose skin, yuck!), there has been at least one positive (a 34-inch waistline, like I had in my 20s!) And there have been several positives with no negative whatsoever: for example,  I can now hike 8 miles. And not collapse for days afterward.  This from a guy who, only 2 years ago, could barely walk the dog four-tenths of a mile.

Tough to see the downside to that.

Regular Maintenance Pays Off

So, coming up on two years out, this is where the shine is supposed to start coming off. Many patients complain about creeping weight gain returning at this point in their bariatric journey.

So, just to be sure, I checked this morning: I am currently at 176.3 pounds.

Let me run that by you again: for 6 months now, I have been within a pound or so of 175 pounds. Once a week, every week.

My secret?

Regular maintenance.

You see, this is also the point where many bariatric patients start investigating “When can I…?” As in, “When can I start drinking soft drinks again?” Or “When can I start eating Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies again?” Or, worse yet, “When can I stop working out all the time?”

See, that is the problem with bariatric surgery. Many folks don’t realize that there is no traditional recovery period from bariatric surgery. All the surgery does is “reset” your weight and metabolism so that you can NOW develop the habits you never did before.

If you are wondering about when you can start embracing negative habits again, the correct answer is: you can’t.

Not if you want to maintain your health and your weight loss, anyway.

I know people who have regained about half of the weight they lost after surgery. Because of this, many claim that surgery was a wasted effort for them.

Now, anything that allows you to lose half of your excess weight can’t be a bad thing, in my book. If you lost 100 pounds then regained 50, you’re still 50 pounds healthier by my calculations.

But I personally would rather maintain the lifestyle I learned pre- and post- surgery, and not have to deal with buyer’s remorse.

As the kids on the Internet like to say: Your Mileage May Vary.

A (Small) Example

Yesterday we got together with Lor’s family for a dinner and birthday party for my niece. As we all gathered at the dining room table, I had a chance to reflect on what our lifestyle changes meant.

For dinner, Lor and I spilt a 6-ounce steak. I also added an ounce or so of shredded beef, and 6 or 7 mushroom slices. Since I was feeling saucy, I even added a tablespoon of mashed potatoes in lieu of fresh corn on the cob.

My nephew, seated next to me, took one look at my plate, and asked: “Uncle, how can you live on that?”

I looked past him to the family portrait on my Mother-In-Law’s wall. Taken last Christmas, it featured Lor’s entire half of the family. Standing front and center in the group, I stood. Smiling.

The same person who, until 2 years ago, made every effort to avoid being photographed for any reason whatsoever.

How can I live on it? A heck of a lot better than I used to live on obesity and shame.

Bariatric surgery: it isn’t for everyone, but it sure as heck has done the job for me.

Though I Do Still Miss Girl Scout Cookies,

  • Jeremy

2017: The Recap

2018The Misdirected 2017 Recap

By the time you are reading this, it will be 2018.

I’m actually putting this together on New Year’s Eve, 2017, during the early morning hours while everyone else in the house is asleep. But, by the time it reaches the world, another year will have passed. Our household will be on our way to Colorado to return our nephew to his parents. And we’ll be staring down the throat of another oncoming year.

Why the negative imagery? Reflexive action, I suppose. We were SO happy to see 2016 in the rear-view mirror. “Wow, glad that’s over with! 2016 was such a lousy year. We will never see anything that bad again!”

2017: “Challenge Accepted.”

So, now, I want to be a little more circumspect. Yes, I am glad this year is over. Yes, 2017 was a pretty crap year for the general public residing in the USA. But, it was actually a decent year for our household, all things considered.

The Good…

In terms of fitness, it was really a banner year.

Our fitness journey continued from 2016’s double-barrelled bariatric surgeries. In May of 2017, I actually hit my post-surgical goal weight of 185 pounds. That same month, Lor and I participated in our first ever 5K, the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo”.

By July, I had settled in at what is apparently my new “normal” weight – 175 pounds. I was able to go into my one-year follow up at this weight, and at 25% body fat to boot. I’ve successfully lost just a hair under 130 pounds total, thanks to the combination of surgery and lifestyle changes.

July also brought me my exam for the ACE Fitness Physical Trainer certification. I have never been prouder of a “C” passing grade in my life. Since my development of Adult-Onset Epilepsy in 2004, I had pretty much resigned myself to never being able to learn anything long-term again. That professional certification means the world to me.

I was also able to meet another long-term personal goal: In September, my first novel, Inheritance, was published by Fiction Vortex. I literally have placed the novel on a shelf above my desk, just above eye level. Not as an ego-prop, mind you. (Though it certainly works for that.) Mainly it reminds me that I can do things that I had never thought were possible for someone with my disabilities.

Just to top off the year, we were able to re-enter foster care in November. We didn’t expect it and had made no plans for it. But, when a previous foster kid calls out of the blue and asks for help, you do your best to pitch in. We did, and now have a seventeen-year-old girl in our household. She is wild and unsettled and drives me crazy and I love her to death.

Other parents inform me that this is just about par for the course for raising a seventeen-year-old.

…The Bad…

Yikes, where to begin. Our country still reels from crisis to crisis like a drunken monkey. Racism and factionalism have been released to begin openly taking a place among us again. Our national governmental processes were screwed with at the highest level by a hostile foreign nation. Hundreds of our fellow citizens are being gunned down in the streets by both private individuals and bad-apple law enforcement officers.

Yet, we still manage to pay attention to the Kardashians as if they were somehow of equal importance to all this.

Personally, our families are aging and ailing. We buried family members and watched others continue wasting away. The immortal titans of our childhood were revealed to be mortal, and fragile. The very bedrock that our families are built upon seems to be shifting and eroding.

And, as a bitter topping for the crap-cake, freakin’ Tom Petty died.

…And, The Ugly.

For a year filled with success, there were sure a bunch of failures to go right along with them.

We were supposed to actually run a 5K before the end of the year. Never happened.

I wanted to tackle the La Luz trail up the front of Sandia Crest this summer. It was to be my demonstration of my personal victory over the limitations of obesity and epilepsy. Except it never happened, either.

For that matter, we never managed to go camping even ONCE in 2017. Mainly this had to do with my work with Fiction Vortex. But this does not represent any malice on their part – it just represents my inability to plan.

And NaNoWriMo was probably the biggest single artistic failure I have ever undertaken. Not only was I unable to complete the goal, but it left me so emotionally tapped out that I lay mostly fallow for the entire month of December. No fiction, no blog posts, no marketing, barely any contract work and editing. Very little contact with the outside world, in fact.

Basically, I lost two months of productivity by trying to write an entire novel in one.

So, yeah. There was that.

The Shining Goals of 2018

I have no desire to jinx us all by talking about how 2018 has to be better than 2017 or anything like that.

That said, I do have some intentions and goals for 2018.

Misdirected will continue on its merry way for 2018. Now nearing 2 years out from surgery, we will be focusing more and more on lifestyle and diet maintenance, social and emotional issues, and other community-specific thoughts. Given that I am now a Personal Trainer we will probably include some exercise-based content.

The rest of my Fiction Vortex team will be finishing up their Season One novels in February and March of 2018. I am looking forward to getting those novels published and into the hands of our readers. And just wait till you see what Season TWO has in store…

Speaking of Fiction Vortex, Fictionite has launched and is gaining traction as we speak. I am pretty excited to be acting as an ambassador for our awesome fiction-sharing app. (Starting at the Albuquerque Comic Con, January 12 – 14, 2018.)

I am going to get my Patreon site out of Neutral and moving forward once more. My patrons have been essential in making sure that I am able to create blog content, market books, etc. Imagine what we will be able to do with, say, double the amount of patronage…

And, of course, I will be completing the next book in the Brian Drake series in 2018. In fact, the first episode of Inheritance: Executor will be arriving on Fictionite in March of 2018.

You’d better go download Fictionite now, in fact. You’ve got a lot to read through to get ready for Season Two of Ash Falls.

Have A Safe, Happy, And Blessed 2018,

-Jeremy