Tag Archives: Bariatric Surgery

Getting better all the time…

It’s been a little over three weeks since the surgery.  The scale tells me I’m down about 26 pounds to 187 lbs.and I’m told the loss shows in my face, while I’m not sure I see it yet.  I have noticed the loss in my tummy – where the majority of my weight sat.  I’ll let you be the judge:

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Valerie and I went shopping on MLK day and I actually found a pair of pants, with elastic, that are 14 petite.  I am hesitating to buy much yet, as I know I’m going to lose more weight and thus sizes.  I am looking through boxes of clothes I grew out of to see what I’ve shrunk back into.  I’ve found that I fit back into a couple of t-shirts I bought in Vegas in 2008!  I have actually freed up quite a few hangers in the closet…found I have shrunk back into quite a few blouses. The pants are still “ok”, but will need to be replaced soon… as will some more blouses.

I went to the oncologist today.  During my procedure they found a small tumor, called a GIST, which stands for Gastrointestinal Stomol Tumor.  It was found on the part of the stomach that they removed for the sleeve procedure.  Dr. Billing and an associate Dr. told me that it was not abnormal, but these are not seen that often.  They are almost always benign, but they wanted to do pathology just in case.  They also said they wanted me to  to an oncologist for a follow up.  In 2010 I had seen Dr. Liao in Puyallup because I was severely anemic.  An infusion fixed me right up.  Today I saw Dr. Liao and he said that this GIST tumor was really very small, only 2 mm.  He said that they will sometimes give a pill to make sure the tumor doesn’t come back but in this case, there isn’t a need for that.  It was on the part of the stomach that was removed, but he referred me to a GI doctor to have an endoscopy (which will be my 5th or 6th I think) to see if there’s any sign it is in the rest of my stomach.  Then I will return to see Dr. Liao in 6 months and once a year thereafter for awhile to monitor me.

The discovery of this tumor, no matter how small, is yet another benefit of the surgery.  I know some have thought, or may even want to ask: Why did you have this surgery?  You don’t seem to need to lose all that much weight.  Was it because Valerie had it and had such great results?

These are not hard questions to answer.  First and foremost, I went into this not with the express reason of getting the surgery.  While Valerie and I had joked last year about doing it together — I’m really glad we didn’t! — I went to the clinic to talk about an incision-less treatment for acid reflux.  Dr. Kaufmann had said that I could do that, but because they discovered the hiatal hernia during my endoscopy, and because my BMI was right at the cusp and because I had other issues: sleep apnea, acid reflux, overweight, and type 2 diabetic, I qualified for the surgery.  At first we talked about the full Rouen Y surgery, but later, when Dr. Kaufmann described the pros and cons of both and that one of the cons with Rouen Y was that the intestines could twist and that would be bad…. I decided on the sleeve instead.  There is a possibility that the acid reflux could return at some time, maybe a few years, but repairing the hiatal hernia would be a big step towards reducing that.  So far so good… knock on wood.

Also since the surgery my blood glucose readings have been way down.  Where they should be.  I am really looking forward to the blood tests (yes I said that) in April to see where my A1C is.  I suspect it’s in the “normal” range.  I haven’t taken my metformin for a long time and I’m really doing great.

But one of the biggest benefits is finding that tumor.   Left to grow it *could* have become rather large and then turned malignant.  So, I am grateful to have had this surgery now.

Every day is a new step in the adventure.  I’m getting stronger and stronger.   I had developed a bit of an issue with a stitch, but am told it’s “normal” and will heal on its own.  I will see Dr. Billing again on Friday — along with my other follow up appointments — just to be on the safe side.

Valerie and I are looking forward to later this week when I resume a “normal” food diet.  At that point we can start to really plan our meals for work and home.  Valerie is doing great.  She has been at a bit of a plateau, but she hasn’t gained any weight, which is a good thing.  Together we are going to make this lifestyle change happen.  We are hoping that once we get on the same page, she will start to lose again.  She wants to be with me in “one-derland” (in the 100’s).  She’ll get there.   She looks absolutely stunning, if you ask me and even if you don’t.    It’s really getting to be fun to clothes shop again.  She says I’m inspiring her to follow along with me and once I get the ok to exercise (crossing my fingers for the good word Friday) we will  start taking more walks together.   We signed up for a “glow run/walk” at the Puyallup Fairgrounds (Western Washington Fair — it’s still Puyallup Fairgrounds to me) in May.  A bunch of people who are weight loss surgery patients at the Puget Sound Surgery Center are on a team and will all walk together.  It’ll be fun.   I was hoping to do the Seahawk fun run/walk in March, but I don’t know that I’ll be up to it by then.  We’ll play that one by ear.

That’s all for now.   Thanks for reading, and sharing our incredible journey with us.

 

 

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Drum Roll Please!

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Your attention please!

It is my supreme pleasure to tell each and every one of you the biggest news to date:

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Not only has Valerie been given the green light to stop taking her blood pressure medication, and her cholesterol has returned to better than normal levels, the big news of the day is:

                        100

WOOT WOOT WOOT WOOT WOOT

Yes indeedy, ladies and gentlemen! 100 lbs have melted off this lovely lady and she is excited as ever! While her weight is decreasing, Valerie’s health is increasing. The arrows are going in the right directions. The energy level has increased twofold and continues to grow. Valerie has even signed us up for a 5k in July! Most likely we will just walk it, but it’s progress that even a year ago would not have been in our vocabulary.

New and fun adventures are on the horizon. Hot air balloon rides, bicycle rides around Alki and yes… even skydiving are all adventures in our future… the very near future!

Celebration


Great News All Around!

After just six months the strides Valerie is making are absolutely phenomenal!  The list of accomplishments continue to grow:

      *   Two pounds away from losing 100 pounds

      *   The wardrobe is continuing to get smaller and smaller

      *   Her cholesterol has gone from 220 to 148!!!

      *   And…..drum roll please….   She is completely OFF the blood pressure medication!!!!

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As as you might guess, there is quite a bit of excitement in our house over this.  Valerie is progressing faster than expected, but not at an unhealthy pace.  Her doctors: Dr. Landerholm at the Puget Sound Surgery Center,  our general physician Dr. Goode (concierge doctor extroidionairre) and her counselor Mimi Rubenstein, are all very excited too.

It is so much fun to see her progress.  The energy level is great and we are starting to do more.  A few weeks ago, we went to NW Trek – a fee range “zoo” in our area for my birthday.  After the tram ride we walked through the wildlife area and enjoyed a pretty tranquil stroll.  I believe we each walked about 5000 steps that day.  When we got home, Valerie started talking about other “adventures” we can start planning from riding a tandem bike in Alki to riding Segways to jumping out of an airplane.  I believe her words were ” Lookit me, getting all excited about exercise adventures!”   Lookit her indeed.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of Valerie and her progress.  But the best part is seeing how proud SHE is!!


The “Victories” Continue

Another Sunday means yet another weight loss.  Valerie “inches” closer to her next goal of 75 pounds by only 1 pound.  The minor disappointment was tempered greatly by the fact that just the day before, we went clothes shopping at Macy’s.  Finding not one, not two, not even three but FOUR pairs of pants at the “non big girls store”   PRICELESS!!!   The smile on her face is something I will not forget anytime soon.  She is looking more and more awesome ever day… and by “awesome” I mean happy.  Additionally, Valerie walked all over the store and we actually walked around our condo neighborhood when we got home.  Things continue to look up, my friends and I couldn’t be any more proud of her.

Valerie has agreed to allow me to post some “before” and “after” pictures.   This was prompted by the fact that the sweats we bought her to wear to the surgery, which were pretty snug at the time, are totally falling off her.  The pants, the next size down are not fareing very well either as they are being held up by a diaper pin!  I had her do the stereotypical pose with the sweats.  The progression thus far is shown here:

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June 2014 — “Before”

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The sweats that just don’t fit anymore!

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The “after” picture — as of Easter Weekend and four months post surgery.

See what I mean?    The pounds are just melting off and I couldn’t be more excited for her!


Time for a New Title for the Blog?

I want to begin with a heartfelt apology for going so long without an update.  I really have no excuse other than life got in the way.  Rather than list all the things that have kept me from updating, I’ll just dive right in with the update.

The title of this update is an accurate reflection of what is currently happening with Valerie.  As her sister, Leanne, suggested…Valerie has become the “Incredible Shrinking Woman”.  I really dislike the word “literally”, but in this case it’s very appropriate.  As we approach the 4 month mark – according to our home scale- Valerie has hit……Drum roll please…….. 72lbs.  WOOT WOOT!!!  We saw Dr. Landerholm Friday and the official “medical scale” results showed 60lbs but that was the “before surgery” weight and our scale is the “after surgery” weight when they had filled her full of liquid before sending her home.  Either way this is definitely great news.   Shouting from the rafters news!!!  Jumping on the couch like Tom Cruise news!!! At this point the change is seen in her hands, shoulders, elbows and face. I told her the other day she needs to call the cops because someone stole her chins!  I do believe Valerie is looking younger every day. She is actually smiling more, which is wonderful to see.

At least two clothing sizes have gone by the wayside and a third is very close.  She has shot right by some of the clothes in the closet that were a bit too small before surgery. I cannot begin to express how proud I am of Valerie and the progress she has made.  It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but she’s also been fortunate enough to not have suffered any sort of major setback.  Her spirits are high as is her determination.  There have been a few missteps along the way as she learns what she can and cannot eat, and a few life lessons involving eating too much and / or too fast.

Of course, all this positivity is not the only side to the story, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives.  Actually, we try very hard not to use the words “negative or “difficult”.  “Challenges” is the word we focus on.  The biggest challenge thus far has been food, as you might imagine, but not for the reason you might think. The amount of food consumed at a time is a bit of a challenge to comprehend.  Each meal is about 1/3 to a half a cup of food.  At first, Valerie would look at the plate and think “Really?  Is that all there is?” But now, when we are eating at a restaurant and we see a bowl or plate of salad come by, she thinks “Really?  You’re going to eat all that?”  It has been a very interesting paradigm shift.  I struggle with the shift in terms of how much food to put on her plate.  I am afraid of giving her too much food.  One of the concepts Dr. Landerholm shared with us is, when eating at a restaurant for example, the wait staff may come by and see that the meal is only partially eaten and ask if everything was ok and maybe even note that the food doesn’t look like much has been eaten.  At this point a person may eat more to make sure the waitperson doesn’t get the wrong idea.  The consequences of those actions can be very uncomfortable.  I won’t go into details.  Weight gain could ensue, causing depression and, boom, the cycle is perpetuated.  Luckily, Valerie’s fear of becoming ill or stretching and gaining weight is strong, (“the force is strong with this one!”) which will help avoid those consequences.   MY fear is becoming that “waitperson” and dishing up too much food at a time.  While Valerie is very good about stopping when she is full, I just don’t want to provide the temptation to “clean her plate”.

In the meantime I have discovered that I cannot become a contestant on “Worst Cooks In America”.  I really thought I had a good chance too, but whaddya know?! Turns out I know my way around a kitchen.  AND I’ve actually created different ways to prepare fish and chicken.  I don’t know that I will make it to “Chopped” or “Iron Chef”, but I am feeling better about my abilities.

April 1st marks four months since the surgery.  At times it feels like just last week and other times it’s like the surgery was a lifetime ago.  In many ways, we are in a new lifetime.  A parallel universe of sorts.  Everything is the same yet everything is different. Valerie’s counselor, Mimi Rubenstein (a fantastic help in this whole process) has coined a new term “the new norm”.  The life before surgery will heretofore be known as “Before Surgery” or B.S.   This is particularly appropriate because the factors that led to the need for this procedures can be categorized as B.S. The factors, the reasons why food became an issue that contributed to the “condition” of obesity, shouldn’t have happened.  Yet it did.  The surgery is but a tool to help shift the paradigm to a more positive life.  It’s a circle.  We’ve all heard it.  If you feel better, you do better.  Once you begin to see the results you are motivated to do more.  Continued progress leads to empowerment.


“I just want to eat something substantial” Holidays and challenges

Hello again. It’s been a long time since the last post. The holidays and getting ready for them really took up quite a bit of time. So… this post is going to be rather long, but I hope worth your time in reading. Two weeks out the diet graduated from plain liquids to pureed foods. I became pretty handy with a handheld blender, as did Valerie. I had to go back to work and she was on her own. One of the first pureed meals was cream of potato soup. Valerie said it was tasty, but a bit on the rich side and didn’t sit well. First lesson learned. Valerie also had some cottage cheese and pears, pureed. She liked that and was added to the menu. The protein drinks continue to be consumed, though we are trying to find alternatives as the creamy shakes are getting boring. I found a protein drink at Walmart called “New Whey” that has 47g of protein in it. Valerie mixes it with some water and gets over half of the daily goal of protein in with that drink alone and it’s a liquid as well so she’s getting two things covered at once. It’s a little thick and needs much more water to make it “drinkable”. Valerie had her first meeting with the nutritionist via telephone. Among offers of ideas for consuming protein, the most important message was that if it came down to the choice of getting 60g of protein in per day and 64 oz of water/liquids in, Valerie should concentrate on the liquids. The nutritionist did say that Valerie is “normal”. I’m glad the status of “normal” was confirmed. Valerie had a difficult few days this last week. She started to not feel well… just sort of “blah”. Her body is really trying to adjust to all the changes. For a few days now it’s as if she is trying to have a period. Nothing much as of yet, but the majority of the symptoms are there. The cramping doesn’t help because it’s still a bit early to tell if she’s feeling hunger or pain or what. The scale also showed a gain of two pounds, which upset her more than she thought it might. I tried to reassure her that there will be ups and downs as she goes along, but there are more downs than ups. She has lost 24 pounds (if you add back the two she gained) and that’s still a pretty significant loss! Sunday, December 14th, was Valerie’s first out of the house excursion since the follow-up visit with the doctor on the 7th. That trip seemed like it was months ago. Valerie said she needed to remember what it’s like to leave the house. Ha! We didn’t go too far… just two stores and one was just inside to the customer service desk. The shopping in Macy’s took a little bit of a toll on her. There is a big difference between walking around the house– even if it’s down the stairs and back — and walking outside. Valerie said outside you have to think more about each step you take so you don’t fall in front of strangers. For the record, she didn’t fall. She got tired, but no tumbling. I was ready with my score cards too!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/830/79314888/files/2015/01/img_0378.jpg Week three brought a change to “mashable” foods. It was an improvement but Valerie approached it slowly… baby steps. Valerie’s fear of overeating and experiencing the side effects — throwing up, diarrhea i.e. “dumping syndrome” — has kept her from over doing the food intake. The side effect of that is that Valerie was only consuming liquids. While that was fine for the target liquid intake, she was beginning to feel like she was never going to eat anything “normal” again. “I just want to eat something substantial” was the phrase I heard often. The “mashable diet” was scheduled to last two weeks, with the target date of introducing regular foods the week following Christmas. For this reason, and because there was no vacation time left to be able to take the day after Christmas off, we decided at Thanksgiving that a trip to Spokane for Christmas was not going to happen. It was a difficult decision because Valerie has never been away from her family at Christmas. It was in the third week after surgery that the “meltdown” happened. We had been told that depression would be a factor and Dr. Landerholm actually said that Valerie should not be surprised at how surprised she would be at being depressed. Yes, I wrote that correctly… feel free to read it again, I’ll wait. It’s an interesting and very “real” concept. Valerie spent a good deal of time preparing for this surgery and felt as though she was ready to handle anything and the depression wouldn’t play a very big part. Sure, there would be some “blue” days, but she was definitely surprised at the degree of depression that hit. With the holiday approaching, the lack of “substantial food” and a slight slow down in weight loss — which righted itself quickly– Valerie became overwhelmed with emotions. I am the type of person who wants to right all wrongs; to make everything better. We decided to go “home” for Christmas even if it meant an over and back scenario. I think that decision was instrumental in lifting Valerie’s spirits. The weekend before Christmas brought a bit of a weird health scare. Valerie developed a strange fever that seemed to be only a night-time experience. Each night, Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st, at about 9pm each night, Valerie would get red cheeks and her face would get really hot. I took her temperature and it was 101.2 on Friday, 101.8 on Saturday and 102 on Sunday. The oddest part was that the fever would break during the night, followed by a headache and then she’d be ok during the daytime only to have the fever return at night. The musical strains of the Bee Gees came to mind.

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Scheduled to go back to work on Monday the 22nd, Valerie stayed home and I did as well in case we needed to go see either Dr. Landerholm if this was surgery related, or our primary doctor, Dr. Robert Goode. (who, by the way, is an excellent and affordable concierge doctor in the Seattle area. I would highly recommend him!) We heard back from the surgical center and the consensus was that the fever was not related to the surgery. So, we put in a message to Dr. Goode. He was actually on vacation but took our call. Valerie had ventured out to the internet to research the symptoms and the fever seemed to be related to the medications she was taking. At the time of the surgery, there were two medications she had that were timed released. These couldn’t be crushed, so we had to get non-timed released versions. According to the internet research Valerie did, this could be the reason for the fevers. Dr. Goode agreed to call in a new prescription of the timed released medications for her. The fever returned Monday night, but it was much lower–about 99 — and continued to lower as the week went on. Valerie’s first day back to work was December 23rd. It was exhausting — not only from the standpoint of work itself, but the stamina wasn’t back to normal at that point. When we got to the car to leave that night, Valerie said to me “you were right”. As excited as I was to be right about anything, I managed to push forward and ask the inevitable question “I was? About what?” She said I was right that she should have done more to get ready for returning to work. I had been trying to encourage more activity to increase her stamina. Lesson learned. Tuesday night was spent with last-minute preparations for Christmas…finishing up wrapping presents to be taken with us. Wednesday we were released early from work and we took off. The drive was good with hardly anyone on the road and no snow in the passes to contend with either direction. We returned home just before midnight on Christmas night. Christmas eve, Valerie started to get a sore throat and while we talked quite a bit on the way over, we didn’t talk much on the way back because it was starting to hurt. Friday she started to get a bit worse with a dry cough that wasn’t really “productive” just a tickle that wouldn’t stop. The more she coughed, the more it hurt. Unfortunately the cough got worse and she couldn’t sleep because she would wake up every two hours with a coughing fit. The fever had been replaced with this continued cough. I kept asking Valerie to call Dr. Goode, but she has this “3 day theory”…. if the symptoms continue after 3 days THEN the doctor is called. However, Sunday morning she woke up and said she thought she wanted me to take her to the minor emergency clinic. We did. After about a 30 minutes we were called in and she answered all the PA’s questions, the answers which were entered into the computer. She left and the “doctor” came in. I use the quotations because other than the scrub pants, he really didn’t look like a doctor. He really looked more like someone they pulled off the street and said “hey, you.. you get to be a doctor today”. He asked the same questions the PA asked and didn’t look a the computer or anything else. He was putting on a mask as he came in and eventually told Valerie to sit on the exam table. He looked in her mouth and physically jumped back – I kid you not – about a foot and said “Oh..that throat is really red”. He backed up to the counter across the room and crossed his arms and said “Looks like you have tonsillitis”. Valerie said “That would be ok but I don’t have my tonsils”. He stumbled and said something like “well… the tissues sometimes grow back”. The he asked what she thought about doing and she said that she was thinking a “z pack” of antibiotics would be a good idea. He asked if she could handle them and she said yet. He said “Ok, I’ll call it in” and left the room. I couldn’t believe it. I am still flabbergasted. Valerie’s tonsils had been removed over 50 years ago. We’re pretty sure if they were going to grow back they would have done so by now. The cough has kept her out of work for the last week, which has been frustrating from the standpoint of being unable to go two hours without coughing and accompanied by the fact that this week has been without pay as there isn’t any vacation/sick time left. Valerie again turned to the internet and figured out that the symptoms are very much like walking pneumonia. Dr. Goode was consulted and along with some cough suppressant pills that were prescribed, she is now using an inhaler and it has helped quite a bit. So we are somewhat caught up. This weekend is being spent continuing to rest and get better so she can go back to work on Monday the 5th. A note: the other “fluffy Chicadee”, Courtney, had her surgery on December 23rd. We have communicated a bit during the recovery and she seems to be doing pretty well. There will be more on her story as soon as we get a chance to get together and chat.


First Post Op Check Up

1st Post Op Check up

Yesterday marked one week and one day since surgery and the first day Valerie has left the house during that time. Every day is a little bit easier. Getting up, showered, dressed and “beautified” is still a bit physically draining, but Valerie is taking it all in stride. She’s been very good at listening to her body and resting when the little voices inside say “hey… we’re tired over here!!” To be clear… that was just this writer taking creative license. Valerie does NOT have little voices in her head. At least not any that I can hear! 😉 But I digress. Daily acts of living are getting easier and easier despite the fact that it takes a bit longer. We celebrate each success and continue to have a positive outlook.
It doesn’t hurt that the scale continues to make its downnward spiral.

The drive to Edmonds was pretty uneventful save for me trying to make up time we lost with stopping for gas, but I managed to get us there on the dot! We didn’t wait too long for Jillian, Dr. Landerholm’s assistant, to invite us in. First stop: The Scale. What had once been the appartus that struck fear on each visit was now a welcome friend. Eager to find out what their scale said, Valerie kicked off her shoes, handed me her purse and stepped right up. Down 26 pounds. Weight loss is to be expected with a weeks worth of a liquid diet, but this is great.

As we waited for Dr. Landerholm Valerie told me that she has noticed the weight loss in her face. The double chin is gone. THE DOUBLE CHIN IS GONE!! Unfortunately when you are with a person every day, you don’t always immediately see the differeces in their physical appearance right away. Ok, yes, that’s a bit of a cop out and an excuse for not noticing right away, but it’s partially true. I think if I sat and stared at her for a period of time as I tried to asses the change in her appearance she’d think I was being a creeper. To my credit I DID notice that her arms feel a bit skinnier. I even told her that. Her reply: “I’m not trying to lose weight in my arms”. We both laughed for a bit on that one!

Dr. Landerholm was pleased with the progress thus far. He reassured her that the learning process is just that, and he was impressed with her restraint while eating the cream of mushroom soup — strained so no mushroom pieces were ingested. Rather than take a spoonful at a time, she just dipped the spoon into the soup and then licked the spoon. It provides just enough to get the taste without taking too big of a “gulp” and risking the uncomfortable feeling of it being stuck, or taking extra long to get down. The Dr. asked about different things — pain level (little to none internal, a bit of pain around the incision where they removed the stomach), bodily functions (she is normal at this stage though if the loose stool continues into week three or if the frequency increases we are to call him), whether or not she has thrown up (no, thankfully), and her energy level. He looked at the incisions and they all look pretty good. One has a bit of reddness, but we will keep an eye on that and get some lotrimin or use Neosporin if necessary. Dr. Landerholm declared Valerie to be right on schedule and doing very well and he gave her a green light to start the pureed part of the diet last night.

All in all this journey is progressing as scheduled and that included stopping to smell the roses!