Tag Archives: Vertical Sleeve Surgery

Drum Roll Please!


Your attention please!

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


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:



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!



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:


June 2014 — “Before”


The sweats that just don’t fit anymore!

April2015Sideview April2015FrontView

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.


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.