My Gastric Sleeve Journey

My Gastric Sleeve Journey

A New Stomach –A New Way of Eating – Reality Sometimes Sucks

I am almost 3 weeks post surgery and the reality of what I have done is hitting me hard. This weekend is Superbowl Sunday and yummy, fat-filled, tasty finger food is everywhere. This would be fine except I cannot make smoothies out of buffalo wings or pizza. Dips are not possible.  I tried to take chili and blend the crap out of it, but what makes chili delicious is the chunks of meat and veggies. Yes, I know. I am feeling sorry for myself. I am finishing 3 weeks away from work and friends and family and I am feeling lonely. The weather has been terrible, so visitors cannot come. The weight loss has stalled after my doctor took me off one of the blood pressure meds (a diuretic).

I am not a sweet food lover, and all these smoothies and Boost and yogurt and apple sauce etc, etc is starting to drive me crazy. I am bored and trying to create new flavours is an on-going challenge. I get to move to soft mashed foods on 02/12 and it cannot come fast enough. I already have my meals planned out. I know that protein powder will be a part of my life for a very long time, but if I can add unflavored powder to meatloaf and sweet mashed potatoes and casseroles, it will be none too soon.

I have never had a problem with odour in my life. However, since the surgery, no matter how often I shower and use deodorant, my armpits stink. My breath is bad, even though I floss and brush my teeth.  As well, my left hand smells different than my right hand (not unpleasant, just different).  Finally other parts of my body smell different from what I am used to. I did some research and all of this is a direct result of ketosis. Anyone who has been on a high protein, low carb diet will understand. It was widely believed (especially Atkins-diet followers) that once your body is in the state, fat burning is accelerated.

Ketosis is a normal metabolic process. When it doesn’t have enough carbohydrates from food for your cells to burn for energy, it burns fat instead. As part of this process, it makes ketones. Ketones are molecules generated during fat metabolism. Some of those ketones are used for energy; the heart muscle and kidneys, for example, prefer ketones to glucose. Most cells, including the brain cells, are able to use ketones for at least part of their energy. But there is one type of ketone molecule, called acetone that cannot be used and is excreted as waste, mostly in the urine and breath. But it can be excreted anywhere and effectively change the smell or taste of your body.  This should be temporary as the body is good at balancing itself and more healthy carbs will be introduced into my diet as I progress to Stage 4 and 5. There is some amazing information out there regarding ketosis. I recommend the following paper, called Ketosis 101. It explain nicely the biological and chemical breakdown, when the cells can use it and why is can be a desired state. Enjoy!

I wish to apologize. At first, I was not going to talk about being low, but I promised to be honest with my progress. Physically, I have healed very well. I still cannot believe that it is not quite three weeks since most of my stomach was removed.  But I seem to not enjoy eating anymore.  It has become a chore, a job – a tally of protein and vitamins and minerals. A balance sheet of whether I am taking in enough to live or not. I can feel the liquids I drink going into my tummy and moving and I get so full so quickly. I can feel when it is too much and when I might get sick. It is uncomfortable and just a bit demoralizing. And this is just at home. Once I start working again (tomorrow), it needs to be a full prep schedule the night before and in the morning, lest I don’t take in enough nutrients. It is indeed a brand new undertaking in the battle to be healthy and happy.

Okay. Enough of the pity party. I am sure that once I get back to work and have other things to deal with and think about, it will all be fine.  Once I again feel useful, I can get over myself. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

I took a picture of the large incision after it had gotten to a state that I felt no one would be particularly grossed out. It is right under my ribs on the left side. It is fairly healed, but it still shows some of the marks, scarring and reactions of the skin to my surgery. This was taken about 12 days after my surgery.

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A – Petechial hemorrhaging – This happened due to the trauma the tissues received throughout the surgery. I get this whenever they repeatedly take my blood pressure or I cough really hard. No surprise then it showed up here.

B – The actual incision – The length of this is just under 2 inches. Think about 85% of your stomach being removed from that. I did not give birth or anything, but it was not pleasant. Right above the incision is a lot of bruising that is left. It is now yellow and green and almost gone.

C – Staple holes – You can see the five staples holes below and above the insicion. No wonder it was uncomfortable with them in.  The staples were not that long, but there is about ¾ of an inch between them. This means the skin was folded in to hold the incision in place while it healed.

D – One of the marker lines they drew on me that refuses to go away. They outlined where my diaphragm, stomach and sternum were with marker before they began the surgery, Made me laugh when I saw that I was marked on. 🙂

E – Stretchmarks – Oh yes. I was going to ignore them but I am trying to be honest! Those stretch marks are not the result of a human baby, but the baby that is donairs, and pizza and chips and dip and all those lovely wonderful foods that were all delicious and devoid of nutrients. Those stretch marks will be there forever and I hope that in not ignoring them, I remember why this journey is important.

F – My hand. It was hard to hold up my shirt and take a picture. But mostly because I am a terrible photographer. 🙂

It is actually pretty cool seeing the progress from just a week ago. All the scabs have fallen off and alot of the hemmorages have healed.  All the marker is gone (finally!!).  It is getting better every day.

So, the beginning of this blog was kind of a downer. However, I did find things that could counteract the blues:

  1. WALK!!! – The weather is crappy, but I try to get out and do a bit of a walk, even if it is just around the building. Find some form of gentle exercise that keeps you moving and that you really enjoy.
  2. Get yourself some popsicles – I have found that at those times I just could not suffer another go at trying to force a smoothie into me, a popsicle helped. Find some suger-free ones of you can and try to get them kiddie-sized. I found that Chapman’s has a great option – . They are ‘no sugar added’ and are sweetened with maltritol and sucralose, so have them sparingly. They were just the thing to make my tummy feel better.
  3. Join a support Group – I was added to a closed group called the NS Weightloss Program Group. I also joined a group called Bariatric Pal. Regardless of your reasons, don’t go it alone. Having people to talk to that have experienced the same things you will is really important, especially when you are feeling low or scared. They will be your surrogate family – support you when you need it and kick you in the ass when you need it more.
  4. Take pictures of you – This piece of advice is one I have not followed yet. I hate taking pictures of myself. It has always bothered me. Thank God I did not grow up in this selfie generation!! But I will soon, if for no other reason that to track my physical progress.
  5. Regardless of how repeatative it gets, keep track of food intake. I like to write everything down lately rather than use My Fitness Pal. Just keep it up, so you know where you are.
  6. Find something you love to eat. I just happen to love cottage cheese. It is power packed with protein and is not sweet. It helps bridge the gap with everything is too sickly sweet for me.
  7. Get a fun tracker for your weight loss. I found all kinds of cool ones at Mine is below and yes, it has my weight. Deal with it. I have come a long way and have a longer way to go. However, I am proud of my progress and now with the growths out of my stomach, I should be able to succeed:

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Thanks for letting me vent. I was hoping I could bypass this stage, but I think it eventually comes to everyone. There is a grieving process in saying goodbye to your former life. This is a death. However, once you mourn, you need tyo realize that in this death, a rebirth has occurred, like the pheonix rising from the ashes.  It is okay, even expected to wallow for a short time, as long as you pull yourself up and get moving forward. My favourite quote of all time is from The Shawshank Redemption. Ellis Redding said it best – ‘Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.’ I am done dying. Living is the only choice left. Correction; living well is the only choice left.

Thanks again. Until next time!


Devo and the Wizard of Oz – Part Deux – There’s No Place like Home

Sorry for the delay folks! It has been a week since I last wrote and believe me, it has been interesting!

Just to establish goals once I am home, let me give a little background on some of the things I will be reporting. They are outlined below (The information provided is intended for patients enrolled in the Capital Health Weight Loss Surgery Program and written exclusively by Capital Health):

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So the diet progression, based on these goals is as follows:

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I am currently in Stage 3 and will be until Feb 12th. Some exciting examples of this type of diet are as follows:

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Jealous! Yeah, you’re jealous… 😉  Well, without further adieu,,,,

Thursday 1/15

( where we left off) 11:00 am – Amanda and Dale are here to get me! I said goodbye to everyone on the way out. So glad to be going home. Props to Dale’s mom for the loan of her car. I like it! We stop at the pharmacy closest to my home and get the Ursodiol. My doctor’s office is right there so I stop in and leave a message for Dr. Murray about the staples.  I get the Rx and we go home.

12:15pm – Amanda and Dale need to leave right away to get the car back. Amanda carries my luggage in and puts it on my bed. Mika is lying right there where my pillow would normally be. I had decided that since I have a memory foam mattress, it may be too hard to get out of bed, so I set up my guest room to sleep in and all the pillows were there. She did not move and seemed to not believe I was there. I thank Amanda and she left. I go back to unpack my bag.  Mika now believes and am home and is snuggling and talking up a storm! I unpack. And go to the kitchen. Mika follows. I know I am not supposed to, but I step on the scale. I am up 8 pounds. Wait, what????? Amazing! They actually pumped 8 pounds of fluids into me in 3 days. More, because some of that I managed to pee out! No wonder my arms hurt and are swollen!

1:00 pm – I get into the shower! Yes! Nothing feels better than a shower and a shower after 3 days in the hospital is better than chocolate and sex combined (well, as far as I remember anyway)! I am sure I will never get out! I have to be careful of my dressings. The incisions underneath are new and I must gentle. I scrub everything else and, with a twinge of regret, get out of the shower. Ahhhhhhh, that’s better!

2:00 pm – I am puttering around the apt. I get ½ cup yogurt and add milk to dilute it. Tasty!! I sit and check out my email. My phone is blowing up as congratulations and concerns come flowing in. My friends and family are so nice!

4:00 pm – I am going to lie down on the couch and watch the first of 8 seasons of ‘Two and a half Men’. My training partner in crime loaned them to me. So funny!

7:00 pm – back is still paining a bit, but much better. Mika is attached to my hip and refuses to let me go anywhere without her. Including the bathroom. Sigh…

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8:00 pm – ½ cup of lime Jell-o. How can something that tasted so good before the surgery now taste like slime?? I manage to get it down, but it is obvious that Jell-o will not be my fave thing.

9:00 pm – I am tired! Time for bed! I get everything ready, take my meds with sips of water and get Mika’s treats. I cannot bend over like I used to so I try to get as close to the floor as possible and then release the treats. Unfortunately, Mika pokes her head up and the treats go flying everywhere. One is stuck in her fur. Crazy cat! I manage to get it out and go to bed. Nighty night!

Friday 1/16

7:20 am – I am up. I did not sleep well. My guest bed mattress is firm and my back did not appreciate it. Fine. Tonight we will try my bed. It just means that I will need to move everything back to my room. No problem. I am still not experiencing any real pain in my incisions. They feel uncomfortable and tight, but I assume that is the staples pulling. Such a shame. I got that cool pain scale ready for no real reason it seems! I have my meds and then I make a smoothie. Because I have to count everything and make sure I have enough protein, I am tracking it, both in my Fitness Pal and on paper. The smoothie has 1 cup of 1% milk (9 grams of protein), 1 cup of frozen berries (2 grams of protein), and I scoop of vanilla flavoured protein powder (25 grams protein). This makes 3 cups of smoothie. Because my tummy is now the size of a small banana, I can only sip small amounts at a time. This smoothie will actually be eaten over 3 different hours in the day and give me a total of 36 grams of protein.  Solid start to my day!

9:00 am – lots of texts, FB messages and calls to answer.

11:00 am – nap time! I am so tired! I sleep in my bed. Success! I will be okay. Getting out is a bit tricky, but I manage.

12:00 pm – lots of water. I have to sip it, but find that 1 cup of water can very easily go down. The colder, the better!

3:00 pm. I think I will have some soup. I take some clam chowder (4 grams protein), add a tin of salmon (23 grams protein) and throw in a ¼ cup of low fat cheddar cheese (7 grams protein). Then I blend the crap out of it until it is smooth. This makes 2 cups of chowder, so two meals! Each one is 17 grams of protein! Not bad for my first official day home!

6:00 pm – I try some more Jell-o (1/2 cup = 1 gram of protein) and watch more ‘Two and a half Men’.

9:00pm – Call from my mom! We chitchat and laugh about the fluid weight gain!

10:00pm – Bed time! Take my meds, get treats for Mika (avoid her head this time) and go to bed.

Saturday 1/17

6:45 am – I am up. I slept a little better, but Mika is at my door, crying! I have to pee. Thanks cat! After a chat with Nikki, I decide I should change my dressings. I am seeing my staples for the first time. I regret not having someone here to help. I could take the sight of staples in skin in someone else, but in my own body, it is really grossing me out. I was advised that the hospital to open them and let them air dry, but I just can’t. Some of the staples are poking out and the sight is terrible!! I cover them back up ASAP! I am a bit surprised. I thought the stomach would be removed through my belly button. However, that is not the case. It was removed through an incision right under the left side of my ribs, close to the sternum. It is the largest incision and has the most staples. It is also the one pulling the most. I have six incisions in total and 4 are right on the fat roll above my belly button. Really? This makes it incredible hard to see if I am covering them properly, as I have to use the mirror. The old dressings have very little blood and all seems to be healing well. Once I am covered, it’s meds and brekky time!

7:30 am – I am making Carnation Instant Breakfast complete meal. I package (7 grams protein), 1 cup milk (9 grams protein) and 1/8 cup of egg white (3.5 grams of protein), which totals 19.5 grams. Yum!

9:00 am – I decide I should go for a walk. It’s okay outside, I think it is best to walk around the building and see how I take the stairs. All is good!

9:30 am – ½ cup of yogurt (6 grams protein). More TV watching!

11:00 am – I finish off the rest of the soup. Yum! 17 more grams of protein!

12:00 pm – I am drinking so much water in between ‘meals’. I find it is easier to process the protein when I make sure to keep sipping water.

5:00 pm – I am going to try an experiment. I am blending oatmeal until it is a powder (5 grams pro). Then I cook it according to directions. I add a ¼ cup of applesauce, some apple pie spice and some vanilla protein powder (12.5 grams pro). Then I add some milk (1/2 cup = 4.5 grams pro) and blend it up again for good measure. It is not bad! It’s a little thicker than it should be. It takes a while to get it all down. Another 22 grams of protein!

7:00 pm – I am having caffeine free tea with lots of milk (1/4 cup).

9:00 pm – ½ cup yogurt (6 grams pro)

9:30 pm – a quick chit chat with my mom

10:30 pm – Bedtime!

I really won’t continue to bore you with every moment of my days. Most times I am just trying to get my protein in, resting and walking. I will just note the highlights.

Sunday 1/18

8:30 am – I am not feeling that well today. Bowel movements have been few and far between up to now as you can imagine. However, this morning, it is not an issue. My tummy is gurgling madly and I am in the bathroom a lot already. I may have pushed it with the oatmeal! It’s hard to believe that it has been less than a week since my surgery!  I think a BOOST (16 grams of protein) is in order.

9:30 pm – I manage to get in 65 grams of protein over the course of the day! Yay me!

Monday 1/19

7:30 am – I am really sick today. I have terrible diarrhea and bad cramping. I try to eat, but I just end up in the bathroom.

6:30 pm – I only end up getting 27.5 grams of protein in. I sleep and drink water and apple juice.

8:00 pm – I weighed myself again. I am down 14 pounds! Cool!

Tuesday 1/20

7:30 am – I am feeling so much better today! I am down another 2 pounds. I make a smoothie (42 grams of protein) over 3 cups.

12:00 pm – more soup! This time I mix cheddar cheese soup with cream of mushroom and garlic soup (8 grams pro). I add tin of Flakes of Turkey (24 grams pro) and add 1cup milk (9 grams pro) and 1 cup water. This made 4 cups of soup! Each serving is 10.25 grams of protein.

5:00 pm – Yogurt time! (6 grams pro)

8:00 pm – I manage to get in 60.5 grams of protein. So full!

Thursday 1/22

8:55 am – Up late today! Today I am also getting the staples pulled out. Yay! I can’t wait! I have Carnation Instant Breakfast (7 grams pro) with 1 cup milk (9 grams pro) and ½ scoop of protein powder (12.5 grams pro).

1:45 pm – I am showered and ready to go to the doctors. Her office is about a 15 minute walk from my house. I bring some water with me so I can continue to sip. This will be my first long walk outside since I came home. My appt. Is at 2:15 pm. I love my doctor, but no one ever has their appt. on time. Wish me luck!

2:30 pm – It starts snowing. Really?? Ugh….

3:00 pm – I am in an office. While I am waiting, I go and weigh myself. I am down another 4 pounds! Whoot!

3:10 pm – Doctor is here. I have a care package for her. It is a staple removing kit, some papers for the records and some dressings. She gets all the info about the surgery and enters everything.  Then I hop up on the table. I am scared it will hurt. I am such a wimp! I only have a total of 17 staples it turns out. 5 are in the large incision. Most of them just pinch a bit. Some are stuck in the scabs and hurt coming out. Of course all of them in the big incision are that way. Blah! Then she takes an alcohol swab and cleans up everything so she can see my progress. Sting!!!!! Again, I am such a wimp! 🙂 She is very impressed with the how well they are healing. Next, we check the blood pressure. Before my surgery, I had controlled high blood pressure with two medications. My arms were so flappy (Dumbo ears I call them) that my doctor needed a very large cuff. To top it off, my stolic number is very hard to hear and the diastolic could not be heard at all. She always needed to use a machine. That all changes today. A regular cuff is needed and the machine cannot read my pressure because it is too low! Dr. Murray finally reads it the old fashioned way at 92/70!!! She instantly takes me off one of the meds (the cheap one of course 🙂 ) and I have to come back in two weeks to have it checked again. I feel fine! Not dizzy or anything! Oh well!

4:00 pm – Now, I can check the Lawton’s next door for cottage cheese. I have been craving cottage cheese. I can have it, as long as I blend it up. I go in to the food section. Balls! No cottage cheese! I will have to wait until tomorrow. I am not schlepping all over just for cottage cheese. My incisions feel so much better except the large one. I do not want to walk home and risk slipping. The wind is really picking up. I get on the bus and go home.

5:00 pm – Soup time!

Friday 1/23

7:30 am – up! I have a lot of errands today (pay day!) so Boost is best for breakfast (16 grams pro).

9:30 am – I am showered and ready to go! I get some water and some grocery bags and head for the bus stop.

10:30 am – I get to the bank and then stop in to work to see everyone! I have never taken this long a ‘vacation’ and I am sort of freaking out. But as I get in, I can see everything seems the same. Of course! I wander around and visit. I discover that standing for long periods cannot be accomplished as of yet. My shoulders hurt and my incision is giving me a little trouble today, There is actual pain. Maybe at a scale of 1 or2? It was a great visit. I got through all of my emails, checked in on everyone, showed off my new svelte self and then left.

1:30 pm – I hit Sobeys for some grocery shopping. After paying all my bills, I do not have a ton left, but I don’t really need much. This is a blessing with this surgery. I cannot eat very much so grocery bills are a little less. All I need is some soup, milk, baby cereal (yes, baby cereal. It is a good investment, nice and smooth on your tummy and chock full of vitamins and minerals. I got Gerber’s Wheat, Yogurt and Raspberry.). Some smoked oysters and light tuna packed in water are on sale. These will be great blended into soups or to wait for the stage 4 diet. And last but not least – COTTAGE CHEESE!!!!! The 1% 500 gram size is on sale! I get lots. It is a whopping 15 grams per ½ cup serving, so I am very excited to add it to my diet. Shopping is quick, but I am tuckered out and the grocery bag is heavy. I have enough money for a cab and take it.

2:45 pm – I am home and unpack the groceries. Mika is so happy to see me! I take a nap on the couch.

5:30pm – Whoa! Long nap! The large incision still hurts and I have to cover it with my hand to move. Weird, but there it is! I am having blended cottage cheese and no one can stop me! Yum! It is as good as I imagined. I am not surprised that my body likes it. I always enjoyed salty snacks as opposed to sweet. It is a nice change from sweet smoothies.

Saturday 1/24

8:00 am – I am up. My incision does not hurt today. I almost forgot about them until I touched the scabs in the shower. Getting better every day!

8:30 am – Cottage cheese time! I get so full after a ½ cup and it takes me a long time to eat it all up! (15 grams pro)

10:30 am – I try the baby food I bought. You add water and presto! Brekky! I also added some strawberry protein powder and amped it up for addition protein. I really need variety in my diet and this helps add it! (23 grams pro)

1:00 pm – More cottage cheese? Why not? 🙂 (15 grams pro)

5:00 pm – Soup time! (11 grams pro)

7:00 pm – I think cottage cheese is a great way to end the day! (15 grams pro)

9:00 pm – I figured it out and this was a 79 grams protein kind of day! I think I will lay off so much cottage cheese. It helps ramp up the protein but I am sure it is too much. Too bad. 🙂 The weight loss has stalled  as well. That’s okay. I was getting a little scared!


I think that is more than enough for now. I hope this close look at my day-to-day helps others who have yet to take the surgery.

I have to tell a very great secret. I thought I would chicken out. I hate change. I hate disruptions to my routine and usually do not succumb to them easily or quietly. Even as I was being walked to the OR, I thought I would change my mind. But in the end, I didn’t. This is SERIOUS! Make sure you mean it. Somewhere inside of me, I must have meant it or I would have never taken it as far as I did. I have no regrets. Do I think I will have bad days? Of course! It would be naive of me to think I won’t. Stupid. This surgery will be another tool in my repertoire to battle terrible food and life habits I had established. This is the change I must embrace and succumb to.

I will continue to chronicle my journey. This is very cathartic for me and on those days that I may be floundering, I can look back and see my accomplishments and the strides I took to get where I am. Nothing happens all at once and I need to keep that very fresh in my mind. I hope you will join me!


Devo and the Wizard of Oz

I am at last back to tell my tale. It’s long so, I will break it up into two parts; Part Une will be about my time in the hospital and Part Deux will be after I get home.

Part Une – Follow the Yellow Brick Road 

Tuesday 1/13

5:00 am – I am up and getting the final things ready for my stay in the hospital. Nikki is picking me up soon.

5:20 am – Nikki is here. For the occasion, Mother Nature decided to dump a good lot of snow on the roads, which the DoT has not seen fit to clear yet. Good thing Nikki is a good driver and we pretty much had the roads to ourselves!

5:45 am – We are at the VG. Though parking is ample, it is all 2 hour parking close to the doors. Annoying but we are in good spirits. Nikki wants to stay until I wake up. So nice! 🙂

6:00 am – I am registered and the nurse is gathering my information. It is all very quick. We are escorted down the hall, where I am led to a room to change. I put my coat and shoes in one bag and the clothes I am wearing into my luggage. I put on a Johnny gown and a housecoat over that and blue booties. My bags are then tagged and placed with others in the hallway to go to my room when I am assigned. Then I sit with Nikki.

6:20 am – A nurse wants to do a final check on my vitals and weight. All is good! Then I go back and wait.

6:50 am – I and another lady are escorted by ‘Al’ to the 11th floor for surgery. I feel a little conspicuous as I have no underwear on! 🙂 But I guess it’s the same for all patients so I deal. I have to put on a blue hat and tuck in my hair. Then I am lead to the very end of the hall and asked to lay down on the gurney outside OR. Al lays some very warm blankets over me. The three different surgery team come and visit. The anesthesiologist and his intern were first. I was told to put my arm under the blankets to keep them warm. It is apparently easier to find a blood vessel for the IV that way.  Then another group explained what would happen and asked if I had any questions. I asked if they would be using glue, sutures or staples. They assure me it would be sutures. The last group made sure I was comfy and ready.

7:15 am – A lovely nurse comes and asks if I could walk into the OR. Shame. The blankets are so cosy! I get up and walk in. She introduces me to all the teams. I lose the housecoat and hop up on the operating table. It is cosy too and has lots of pillows and blankets. The nurse covers me up and the IV goes into my left hand.  Then a mask is put over my face. It is oxygen and the nurse said to concentrate on breathing in. Then they add a needle into the IV. The nurse said it is something to relax me. I keep breathing in the oxygen. Finally, the nurse said the last needle is to put me to sleep. I am out….

12:35pm – I open my eyes. I can see a clock on the wall. It says 12:35 pm. I was in recovery. My throat hurts and I cannot talk. I don’t really want to. A nurse come by and says ‘Hello sleepy head! Are you in pain?’ Getting right to the chase then.  I wasn’t, but she gave me morphine anyway. I fell back asleep.

1:24pm – I open my eyes again. I am so glad the clock is right there. I hate not knowing what time it is! I can hear the nurses chatting. I am a bit concerned. Why is it so late in the day? Where is Nikki? Are they keeping her apprised of my recovery? I fall asleep again.

2:30pm – I open my eyes. A nurse says I am ready to go to my room. I nod. My throat is really raw. I ask about Nikki. I know her back must be killing her. I hope she went home, but I need to make sure. I make the nurse go look for her. A nice gentleman comes and pushes me and my bed to my new home on 9A in the Centennial building. It was supposed to be room 81. When we get there, there is no room at the inn. I can hear them arguing and yelling at someone who approved it. Finally, there is an opening in room 84. So in I go. It is near the window, so that is nice. Everyone gets me hooked up and settled in. I ask about Nikki again. They were looking. I ask about my luggage. My cell phone is in there and I can at least tell people I was out of surgery and in a room. They said they would try to find it. I ask someone to call my mom and let her know I was okay. It was late in the day and she would be worried. Then the nurse takes my vitals and gives me a cup of water with a sponge stick in it. I am not allowed to drink anything, but I can suck on the wet sponge. I am very grateful. I take that sponge and swabbed my gums and tongue. Much better!! They give me some dilaudid. Then I fell asleep.

4:30pm – They found my luggage! Yay! I have the nurse dig out my cell phone and I start texting. Nikki had indeed gone home, but a nurse had kept her apprised of my progress. For some reason, my surgery was not even started until 8:45 am! What were they doing with my unconscious body until then??? No.. I don’t want to know. 🙂 I still can’t speak very well and it hurts like a sun-of-a gun. I keep falling asleep, but I suppose that is to be expected.

6:30pm – The nurses wake me again to take my vitals and inject dilaudid. They are so nice.

8:30pm – I have to pee. A nurse comes to unplug my IV and helps me get to the bathroom. I was in a surprisingly little amount of pain. I felt like I have just did a 2 hour core workout and that was it. My shoulder blades hurt worse than anything. I went to the washroom and discovered that Aunt Flo came to visit. Really??? The nurse hooks me up for that and I am good to get back to bed. I feel better walking, but I am tired. I do a little more texting and fall asleep.

10:30 pm – Night shift! I am again awakened by the lovely nurses (Jane & Laura – Both RNS) taking vitals. A lovely lady from the surgery team asks how I am doing. I complain about the pain in my shoulders. She explains that the air that they have to pump you up with sometimes goes to the muscles in the upper back after laparoscopic surgery. Interesting!! So all is progressing as it should be. More dilaudid and my regular medications and it’s sleepy time!

Wednesday 1/14 

12:00 am – I have to go to the bathroom again. The male nurse helps. His name was Jordan. I get back into bed. The IV machines beep an awful lot at night and kept walking us all up (I was in a ward). So this pattern continues every 2 or so hours until morning.

6:15 am – Jane and Laura come in to take my vitals. A surgery team comes in and asks how I am doing. None of them are my surgeon, but I am sure Dr. Ellesmere is around. They check out my incisions and state they look good. My wet sponge is exchanged for a new one. It tastes a bit like peppermint to me. My back and tail bone. Hurt. The bed is uncomfortable and I am not a back sleeper. I text my friends and family some more. I get up and call a nurse to unplug me so I can go the bathroom. (By the way, while I am in there, I have to pee into a ‘hat’ – a lovely plastic device that is placed along the lip of the toilet bowl to catch urine. Then the nurse can measure how everything is functioning. You’re welcome. 🙂 )

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I notice that my hand the IV is in is starting to swell, but not much. Otherwise, I don’t look bad. I put on a big sweater and go for a walk! I feel better walking. When I come back, I get more pain killers.

7:00 am – Shift change! I am quite used to shift work at the hospital, as my mom was a nurse my whole life. Christine (LPN) and Rorri (RN) were the day shift lovelies. Christine was who I saw mostly. She helped me get up and walk and got my luggage when I needed it. She brought me my day medication. I <3s her! Back to sleep.

9:00 am – Time for the swallow test! This test comprises of me standing in front of an x-ray machine and while I drink the most vile solution on the face of the earth (think very bitter and metallic at the time), the doctor moves the table I am standing on around to watch its progress into my stomach. Congrats! No leaks! Awesome! Now I need something to take that taste out of my mouth. I cannot wait to get back to my sponge!

9:20am – I am back in my room and taking my medication. My hand and arm are swelling up a bit more. No one seems that concerned about it. They are pumping so much fluid into me that they feel it is normal. Okay then! Nikki is coming to visit. Yay!! I start sipping water like I have been in the desert for a month! I still have no real pain in my stomach or incisions. It is all in my back and now my left arm because of the swelling. Christine brings me some Tylenol.  I text some friends and family. I still cannot talk for a long period of time.  Sleepy time!

1:35pm  – Drat! I fell asleep and Nikki here! Not long though. Whew! She stayed for a while. I was nice. She went for a walk with me.

4:00pm – Tests are back and they have confirmed that there are no leaks! Whoot! I get lots of water and a popsicle for supper.  My arms are really starting to ache and they are both starting to swell up.  I decide that some more dilaudid is just what I need. Lots of texting. I read for a bit as well.

8:30 pm – More medicine. My left arm is starting to hurt and has really swelled. Still no real concern from any of the medical staff. My incisions look perfect. I continue to walk and then decide to lay down. The good news is I get to go home tomorrow. The bad news is I have to stay one more night.  This bed is torture. My arms are really starting to hurt instead of ache.

Thursday 1/15

12:00 am – I wake up in agony. My pain level is about a 7. My arms, back and tail bone hurt. My IV is unplugged (it has a battery reserve) so I get up to go the bathroom by myself. Unfortunately someone already has and the ‘hat’ is still there. Yay! Walk time! I head on down to the nursing station and meet Jordon. He comes back with me and cleans up so I can go.  When I get back to bed, I just sit on the edge for about 20 minutes. If there was a chair, I would sleep there. Everyone is snoring. Good thing I brought ear plugs! Jane brings me more meds for my arms and plugs the IV back in. I cry to myself for about a minute. I am in pain and very tired. But I remember I am going home that day and it would soon be over. I fall asleep.

5:00 am – up again. Might as well stay up. Jane and Laura are doing their rounds. Somehow, I fall asleep.

7:00 am – I awake to someone dropping off food. Well, in a manner of speaking. It is a box of Boost peach flavoured complete meal replacement and a little container of cranberry cocktail. Looks like manna from Heaven to me. It marks another improvement in my recovery. Rorri checks on me and sees my arms are so swollen. She saline locks the IV (basically, she blocks off the needle in my hand with a plug instead of the IV drip) and releases me from the IV.

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Yay! Now I can go to the bathroom without dragging it around! Best morning ever! I am officially released a short time later when Dr. Ellesmere visits and is super happy with my progress. I sit on the edge of the bed and enjoy my breakfast. Christine brings me soap, washcloths and towels so I can clean up. I do so gleefully.

9:00 am – I text my friend Amanda and tell her I am cleared to go home whenever. Christine come back and removes the IV needle from my hand. My poor arms. They feel better already! I ask Christine to bring me my bags. I get dressed and clean up a bit. I notice for the first time that my tummy has been marked on. Hmm. It won’t come off with soap very well. May take a few tries. I have my rx for the gallstone stopping meds and lots of dressings. I also find out that my incisions have staples after all. Bastards!! My family doctor has to take them out.  Christine also left me with a staple removal kit for my doctor. That should be fun…

11:00 am – Amanda and Dale are here to get me! I said goodbye to everyone on the way out. So glad to be going home. Props to Dale’s mom for the loan of her car. I like it! We stop at the pharmacy closest to my home and get the Ursodiol. My doctor’s office is right there so I stop in and leave a message for Dr. Murray about the staples.  I get the rx and we go home.

I think that is more than enough for now. Part Deux – There’s No Place Like Home tomorrow!


On a Clear Day, I Can See … Lime Jell-o!

It is the last day before my surgery. My surgery time was just confirmed as 7:30 am on Jan 13th. I have to be there for 6:00 am though Good thing I have a friend to drive me!

Today, being the last day is very special. I get to drink and ‘eat’ all that are clear. So it is an apple juice, Jell-o and broth kind of day. I am sure it is good for my health, but if I never see broth again without veggies and meat, it will be too soon. On the other hand, lime Jell-o is the bomb!

I am finishing packing for the hospital. I don’t want to take too much, or too little. I guess I can pack yoga/gym pants, as I will be living in them for a bit. This makes me sad. I will miss my jeans. I basically live in them. They are comfy and warm in the winter. So I am enjoying them immensely today. Some things you will want to pack are:

  1. Toothbrush & toothpaste/floss /mouthwash
  2. Deodorant
  3. Lipblam
  4. Hairbrush
  5. Case for your glasses, if you wear them
  6. Books/Notebook/Pen
  7. Puzzle books
  8. Headphones/MP3 player/Cell phone
  9. Phone Charger
  10. Earplugs
  11. Slippers
  12. Housecoat ( I am using a big sweater)
  13. Clothes you will leave in (make sure your shirt is loose and have gym/yoga pants)
  14. Any meds

I think this is about it!

I promised that I would document my surgery experience (well, not the actual surgery. I will be asleep) and measure my level of pain/discomfort. I found some excellent scales for this, as seen below:

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I would have rather used this one below, but I think I would pretend to be in a lot of pain, just to abuse the Justin end of the scale 😉

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I have a pretty good pain tolerance, but we shall see! I will be honest with how I am feeling and all the glorious loveliness that goes along with this procedure. I will note what I am drinking, how much, how tired I am, how much exercise I can get through, how gassy I am (I have been advised that this is a doozy for a bit!), how loud my neighbors are, what cool shows are on TV – you know, the important stuff! I am bringing a notebook with me so I can get it all down.

That’s about it for me for now! I will be back as soon as I can! Stay cool, keep your chin up and believe that you are always worth putting you first! 🙂 See you on the other side!


Ma’am, Step Away From Those Chips and No One Gets Hurt!

Sorry that I have been away for a couple of days. The last few days have been very hectic. Between work and chores and getting my cat and I ready for this surgery, I have been run off my feet! So, today entry may be a little long, but worth it! 🙂

So, as we all know, I am in the thick of prepping for surgery on the 13th   (only two more sleeps!). It appears however, that I may have over done it a little bit and followed the proposed diet too stringently.

Let me ‘splain. In the mornings, I have been making a huge smoothie that is chock full of protein powder, juice or milk, fruits, and spinach. Besides water or David’s Tea caffeine-free tea, that is all I will have all day. When I get home, I was eating 1 cup of soup. If it has lumps, I blended them out. I also had water. Before bed, I had a cup of David’s Tea (Mother’s Little Helper) and water with my pills.

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I was helping to de-Christmas my office area and holding my arms above my head was really hard. I couldn’t understand it. The next day, I had to make a run to the bank. It is downhill from my office and is usually a very easy, quick trip. Not this time. My thigh muscles hurt and I found it hard to catch my breath. It was hard and slow to walk back up that hill and to use stairs.  I was completed winded when I got on the elevator to go back to the office.

I decided to consult with a colleague. She is big into weight lifting and knows a great deal about nutrition. I asked her about she started and how she felt. It turns out that I was only taking in 600-800 calories a day and falling way short on my protein intake. I was really happy with the 13 pound weight loss in two weeks, but it had left my body unable to repair itself. We quickly surmised that I was not getting enough protein and enzymes needed to rebuild muscle. She was full of tricks to move the needle on that. One great piece of advice was to add egg whites to smoothies.  Just ¼ of a cup has 7 grams of protein in it (I used NaturalEgg Simply Egg Whites). As well, she recommended tuna and salmon. I cannot have them solid yet, but I can add them to soup and blend them in. (I use Clover Leaf Pink Salmon, 106g. A whole tin has 23 grams of protein). These were great tips to up my levels and should help before and after the surgery.

And they worked! I roamed around Wal-Mart Saturday and the general shopping area for quite some time. I came home and cleaned and did not feel tired, nor did my muscles hurt. The weight loss has slowed, but I think that is for the best.

On Friday, I went out with my old work manager and she took me to Darrell’s. If you live in Halifax and are hankering for a treat day – go! They make the best milkshakes in the city!! I had Chai and Tamara had Vanilla- Peanut Butter. I know right? Their milkshakes are bringing ALL the boys to the yard! They are located down by Sobeys in behind Fenwick St. I am sure it was a bit fattening and I could not finish it, but it was so nice to spend time with my friend, that it more than worth it. 🙂

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Speaking of Friday, I went grocery shopping, to make sure that I had everything at home and be ready for after the surgery. It was the first time I had gone grocery shopping since I started back on my liquid diet – and IT WAS HARD!! I had to avoid aisles and shop for things I had not really shopped for before.  For instance, a chewable multi-vitamin was never a concern before. Things I normally get I could not this time. No bacon or eggs or sold meat was allowed in my cart. No raw veggies either.

The chip aisle was the biggest challenge for me. Chips are my kryptonite. LOVE chips. And if you add chip dip? Well, I am in heaven. I remember the first forum we went to. Dr. Ellesmere was talking about potato chips and how they act as liquid in the stomach. Well, if I am on a liquid diet and they act as liquid, then I should get some, right?  WRONG!!! I literally ran through the aisle and got out of there fast. Like a-killer-was-after-me-and-my-butt-was-on-fire fast!

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It seems a little ridiculous now, but I recognize that these challenges will always exist. Each time you find it within yourself to avoid or confront that which has been holding you back, the next time will be a little easier. At least, that is the plan!

I have learned things from this week:

  • Always log your food in your journal. Whether you are hand-writing it or using MyFitnessPal, making sure you are eating enough nutrient dense foods is CRUCIAL.
  • Do not rush weight loss. I know its cliché, but it did not add up in a month. Neither will it come off in a short timeframe. It will be work and I am WORTH IT.
  • DON’T be afraid to ask for help. Not only did my friend Kate help with the protein enigma, but my friend Nikki, who had the surgery two years ago explained a lot to me. It really helped give me perspective on this type of experience. She also offered to go with me to the hospital on surgery day. I thought I would be fine, but the minute she offered, I felt a tremendous weight come off my shoulders. I did not realize I was so worried. If I had just asked, I am sure I could have a whole room full of people with me. My support system is amazing and my cup truly runneth over.

Thanks for hanging out and taking the time to read my words.  I know I made quite a few references to products and places; I have included links below, in case anyone wanted to research those items. I will post one more time before my surgery. I may be a bit before I am back after that, but I will post as soon as I can.

Thanks again! Enjoy!

PS: Speaking of butts on fire, here is a 30 day exercise routine I plan on commanding when I heal up. If anyone wants a head start, let me know how it works out for you! Go get those gutes & abs!!!

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The Countdown Begins in Earnest – Without Bacon

This past Tuesday, I needed to go to the hospital for the final check-in before my surgery. It was at the Victoria General hospital in Halifax, in the Victoria building on the 10th floor. I was able to meet with a myriad of fun, laughing, smiling, frigging hard working people. I am sure it is not their job to do so, but they really put my mind at ease.

I first met the admitting nurse. She was a busy bee! But very efficient and knew her stuff. She took all my information, including insurance and placed it all via stickies on I think about a million pieces of paper. She would pull off a few, stick them to her arm and them to the paper one by one. Good thing her arm was not hairy! Of course, many it was at one time and she de-fuzzed it with the stickies! 🙂 She provided me with lots of scary hospital reading material and then I had a seat to wait for my next step.

Next was the RN. She was so funny! We laughed about everything. I talked about my mom being a nurse and we reminisced about the old ‘dressed fully in white from head to toe’ scenario. She burned her white nurse’s hat when they no longer had to wear them. I am sure many nurses did! She explained the procedure and how my days would go at the hospital. She explained that I would be called the day before my surgery (the 12th) to tell me when to show up for surgery on the 13th. I would need to come to the 10th floor and sign in to wait. Then someone will come and take me away to be dressed and then go to the OR. After surgery and when I wake up, as long as my blood pressure is not too low, I am moved to the 9th floor to convalesce.  Usually the day after surgery, I do the ‘swallow’ test, to make sure there are no leaks. Yes please! Let’s make sure of that! 🙂 Then if I passed that test, I get to go home the next day. Whoot!

Next was the pharmacy technician. She made sure all drugs and vitamins were logged and that they knew what I was taking and when. We had already had a phone conversation about what I was taking before, so this was really quick. She was training a new technician, so it was very entertaining. 🙂

I was next scheduled for an ECG. Because of my blood pressure, they wanted to make sure the ol’ ticker would stand for the surgery. I remember my last ECG. I was stripped down and cold gel was spread over certain points all over my torso and chest. Then huge sucker pads were attached. It was weird! But advancements in medicine made this one easy peasy. I only had to unbutton my shirt and she placed small disposable pads to various areas and one on my leg. Then she attached the electrodes. I felt nothing painful or cold. And chatty! She was so talkative and friendly. She told me some hilarious stories from when she was in school. She must put all of her patients at ease instantly.

After a brief wait in the waiting room (I was watching Pawnathon. It was cool and made me wish I had cable!), I was off to see the anesthesiologist.  He asked the weirdest questions about my teeth and fillings. This is because the breathing tube they insert may do damage. Eek! He explained how the IV may be when I wake up (it may be in my hand instead of my arm) and he also outlined where various pads would be on my body to monitor blood pressure and heartbeat. He also told me when and which medications I could take the day of surgery and then sent me on my way.

The last stop was blood collection. I had to wander up to the 11th floor, take a number and wait near the kitchen (cruel! I was starving by then). The nurse came and got me and I plunked my butt into a big comfy chair. I think she pulled out 5 vials of blood. It seemed to be a lot! She was very sweet and smiled easily.  It was a super cold day, so conversation was abundant. Welcome to the Atlantic Provinces! If nothing else, there is always the ever-changing weather to chat about.

Alas, all good things must come to an end! That was it for me at the VG.. For now anyway. The elevator ride was interesting. We were going down, hit the 4th floor when a weird guy got on. He clearly worked for the hospital in one capacity or another.  All of a sudden, all the lower floors that were selected blanked out and we were headed back up. I think the weird guy had an override key or something. Other guests of the elevator were unimpressed! Eventually, I made it to the main floor and was outta there!

It’s funny. I was scared until I went through all of this.  But everyone was wicked nice and really knew what they were doing. I am now completely ready. I have a habit of looking at food blogs and one yesterday really caught my eye. The truth is I. LOVE. BACON. It must be my worst food addiction. As far as I am concerned, bacon should be in everything.  So this bacon burger really did it for me:

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It strangely represents why I have such tummy troubles and why I put on so much heart clogging, knee hurting, soul crushing weight. My co-worker was amazed I could look at it and not be craving a burger. However, I was good! It does look absolute, monstrously delicious, but I was okay. I was full of protein smoothie and drinking some delish herbal tea. And it was enough.

I am ridiculously proud of the restraint I have shown and can only strive to make sure it continues. With the amazing support system I have, I cannot help but ROCK IT! 🙂


Coffee, Why Has Thou Forsaken Me?

Sunday was my last coffee day. We broke up. It was the last day for that delicious hot creamy beverage to wake me up and soothe me as I have never been soothed before. Coffee and I had a special relationship, even at work. It was just the excuse I needed to get up from my chair, stretch and take a quick walk and talk to some friends along the way. My team partner, Katie, got me an awesome TARDIS mug for Christmas and it loves coffee too! (yes, I am a Doctor Who lover. Deal with it. 🙂 )

Despite our love, the break up was necessary.  And so, so hard! However, it got me to thinking about all the stuff in my life that I will have to break up with once my surgery is completed. I made a quick list:

  • The unattainable idea of the perfect flat smooth tummy
  • Hiding out in my apartment, not answering my phone
  • Thinking people are staring at me at the gym and not going because of it
  • Feeling bad about my size and deflecting compliments
  • Not asking for help
  • Of course – donairs!

As you can see, this list needs to be broken up with. It is debilitating, crippling, twisted, brutish, nasty and short (added just for you Thomas Hobbes enthusiasts) and holding me down. With all of that ugliness out of the way, think of all of the awesomeness my life could take on!  Long walks in the neighbourhood! Long walks in a friend’s neighbourhood! Real gym time. Genuinely accepting compliments! Real me time! Positivity will reign and there will be no time for despair or gloom.

Do you have a list that you need to break up with? It’s that time of year to make new starts. Maybe we should always take stock into what we need to do to make sure fears and negative actions are not getting in the way of a beautiful life. So take action! Love yourself! Do what is best for you and those you love. That’s an order. 🙂

Thanks again for your support! I appreciate it more than I can say. And now, for no reason at all, a picture of a hamster tending bar –

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Thoughts, Concerns and Donairs

I decided that humour will be the basis on which I chronicle my journey. A wise woman once said to me ‘If you cannot laugh at life, then the alternative is not worth living’. I am determined to hold onto that thought.

You may wonder why the gastric sleeve surgery is the current surgery of choice. I know I did. I researched and researched. I scared the pudding out of myself some days and gained renewed determination on others. In the end, although I continue to weakly waffle, I know I am ready and will be at the hospital for my appointed date with destiny.

The different surgeries available are as follows:  Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, Sleeve Gastrectomy and the Adjustable Gastric Banding.

Click to access quick-comparison-chart-of-procedures.pdf

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each type. Although I am sure I could argue each one, I am happy with the choice the doctors have made. It appears to have just the right amount of stability and complication to make it the best choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a closet full of concerns. First and foremost, I live alone with my cat.  Although I have so many friends locally that will provide me with all of the support I need, they cannot be in my house 24/7. They have lives too. But I am a fairly independent person and I am sure that with my friends, I will be fine. I have read other blogs from people who lived alone and did very well. As long as I can suck back some Boost and blended pea and ham soup and get to the toilet in time, I will be golden!

Second, I will be missing work. I know, I KNOW!! That is okay and my team will be alright without me. But that does not soothe the control freak inside. She is screaming at me and really having a hissy fit. I am determined to still be as available to my team and colleagues as much as possible while healing and back to work within 3 weeks. I can work from home if they need me. This makes the control freak a little happier. A VERY little!

Third, I will miss donairs. Not just donairs either! I will also miss pizza, shawarma, Mickey D’s, taco and beer night at The Fickle Frog with my buddies, coffee, the Blue Burger and truffle fries at the Stubborn Goat and my homemade eggs Benedict. I am a fabulous baker, and I love to make everything delish and share it with my colleagues and friends. In fact, I almost backed out of the surgery based on this very concern! Then I had a chat with myself. “Really? That is the reason you are going to go with? Really? Not a leak, or necrosis, or organ failure or death? No. Your reason is not being able to eat the junk that has basically destroyed your health and put you here. Yeah. That makes sense. You should go with that.” With that conversation, the food concern went out the window. Reverse psychology tactic wins every time!

Fourth, and perhaps the most important, I am scared of the changes to my social circle. All my friends and family are massively supporting this.  They have been amazing and I know they will support anything that will change. However, I love eating and drinking and laughing with them! So, I hope they all will like bowling night! Or fun runs! Or going to putting ranges! Or just a quiet night playing Cards Against Humanity (the most offensive and hilarious game ever!). Many of my relationships will be altered, but I know that they are strong enough to weather the change. They may even become stronger and more fulfilling.

Oh, and my boobs! I am definitely gonna miss them!  They are what I got going on right now! 😉

Thanks again for hanging out with me on this journey. The actual surgery date is Jan 13th, so I guess that is when the real stuff begins. But every journey has its preparation stages. And like most prep stages, they seem to take the lion share of the time and energy. If prep is done well, it will all be worth it in the end.


My Gastric Sleeve Journey

I was really at a loss as how to start this blog. I wanted to chronicle my journey and really only meant it for me, but there is something final about committing it to a public forum. Readers will keep me on track – honest.  I hope!

My history is such that I have not really had any conviction when it came to my weight goals. Not since I was a teen anyway. I have SO many excuses, but they all boil down to one thing – I would always start out strong, but after a few months, my desire to be healthy was outweighed by my desire to be with friends, drinking beer and eating donairs, pizza or whatever.  Unfortunately, all of this terrible abuse to my body has taken a toll. I have growths in my stomach and my health is generally not awesome.

About a year ago, I made a decision to stop the cycle. Due to my health (and a waiting list), I was invited to join a forum for gastric sleeve surgery. My friend Amanda came with me and there we met the nutritionist, nurse, psychologist, and surgeon. We learned a lot about the surgery.  It’s simple. The surgeon will laproscopically cut off 80-85% of my stomach, staple the edges of what is left together and remove the rest through my belly button. Easy peasy right? And from that moment on, my life changes forever.

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I also had a chance to observe my fellow surgery candidates.  Listen to them. I could fully understand why we were all fat. So much whining about what was needed. Why bother coming to the forum if there was no intention of following through? This may sound weird, but it angered me and bolstered my determination to succeed.

I followed the diet and lost weight. I exercised. I found the summer much more bearable. Old clothes fit better. Newer clothes did not fit at all. I was happy. But old habits tried very hard to step in. I still was eating donairs and pizza and drinking with my pals. So the weight loss slowed. But it was there. And if I could lose that weight, then I could continue to lose it, with some help.

I look forward to the day when I am not always sick to my stomach. I look forward to the day I am healthy. I look forward to the day when I am back to my fighting weight. I look forward to sleeping well. I look forward to being driven again by desire and not food.

I look forward to a time when I can be 100% the person I was meant and want to be. Thanks for joining me on my journey!

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