Thursday, August 4, 2011

Surgery day

In just a few minutes I'll be heading out for my second surgery - this time to remove the extra skin to return my stomach and breasts to "normal." I confess to lots of mixed feelings about this - I am absolutely looking forward to the outcome, but anticipate the next few weeks will be rough. Please send your love and light my way and lend your support to John as he puts up with me through this!

Thanks for being there for both of us...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Both Sides Now

"Something's lost but something's gained in living every day."

An amazing milestone I never thought I'd meet if I live to be 100 occurred today: a medical doctor told me to stop losing weight! Talk about an alternate reality. It's been almost half a century since doctors first started telling me to lose weight... I was reminded that the formula works both ways - the calories in and out ratio matters whether you're trying to gain, lose, or as in my case now, maintain weight. I feel pretty stable now - it's been about a month now since I've lost any weight, so I'm not worried, but he told me that I'll have to add more calories to my diet if I do start to lose any more. I still can't quite wrap my head around this - I wonder if the planets are out of alignment again? ;)

My labs came back great once again this quarter. The A1C hit another wonderful new low of 5.6. I see my endocrinologist in a couple of weeks. He's very conservative so I doubt that he'll let me cut back on my diabetes med any more at this time, but who knows? Perhaps he will. I'm beginning to think perhaps I will be off it altogether some day - not a thought that I've ever really dared to believe... but strange things do seem to be happening. And my thyroid is normal too - good news since we cut that med back last quarter also.

Triglycerides are almost exactly the same - just a wee bit above normal. My LDL/HDL ratio is awesome and showing "below average risk" and my cholesterol/HDL ratio is showing "low risk" now. Numbers can be good, can't they.

Total weight loss on the record now is 256 pounds. That's down 2 pounds in the last ~3 months, so more evidence that things have stabilized. This is good news! I don't think I'd know what to do with myself if any more bones start to show in unexpected places on this crazy new body of mine.

I'm finally feeling like I will come close to, if not meet, a full recovery from last June's fall now too. I am back to walking half an hour without pain and since I started seeing a chiropractor my lower back pain is less frequent and less intense. I truly didn't think those adjustments were likely to help, but it does seem that they are. It's all good. Hopefully this progress will continue.

Food consumption gets easier and easier - and accordingly a bit scarier too. I still have to be careful not to eat too fast, too much, or too fatty, but I can eat just about anything now. The scary part is that I really do need to exercise the habits that I was forced into that first year by myself now. Wow - kind of like a "normal" person - how do you all do this? It's not easy, is it?

Exercise is still a 4-letter word, (I know, not literally), but it is a lot easier now. I'm walking 5 days a week, doing non-impact aerobics one day a week and beginner yoga one day a week. I find myself half-way looking forward to the events even. Another alternate reality moment when I catch myself doing so.

I have been enjoying Sunday bake-athons. I try to make a batch of muffins and a batch of cookies or some other sweet treat every week so there's a more nutritious alternative than what we can find in the average market or bakery for my sweet tooth. I've discovered lots of fun wheat-flour alternatives with more protein and lower glycemic indices. I've given up on crisp baked goods with those ingredients, but if you're into moist complex flavors in your desserts there's a lot to be said for them.

So, you may ask me whether or not a year and a half post-op do I still think it's been worth it? If you do, I'll give you a resounding absolutely! Walking, talking and breathing at the same time are good things. Being able to take public transportation to work is a good thing. Not being able to eat a vast quantity of food isn't so bad... not being able to drink wine is so much less of a challenge than I expected it to be. I've gained so much more than I've lost (weight being the exception of course!) that I have no complaints.

Thanks for your continuing support! I've always loved "Both Sides Now" - there are two sides to everything, aren't there? The older I get, the more I understand this.

Both Sides Now - Lyrics by Joni Mitchell

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, i've looked at cloud that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things i would have done but clouds got in my way.

I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions i recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.

Moons and junes and ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real; i've looked at love that way.
But now it's just another show. you leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know, don't give yourself away.

I've looked at love from both sides now,
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions i recall.
I really don't know love at all.

Tears and fears and feeling proud to say "i love you" right out loud,
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, i've looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange, they shake their heads, they say
I've changed.
Something's lost but something's gained in living every day.

I've looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It's life's illusions i recall.
I really don't know life at all.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Auld Lang Syne - is it right that old times be forgotten?




Happy New Year! And 2011 is indeed a happy one so far. I wish you all you wish for for yourself - and more.

Yesterday was my take-care-of-gail day and the results are grand. I received the numbers from my last set of Labs and everything continues to move well in the health space. My diabetes medication is being reduced again because my A1c was 5.8 - another new (low!) record for me. My thyroid med was also reduced. My triglycerides still aren't perfect but they're down to 156 - another great improvement - I weigh less than that now!! On the record, I've now lost 254 pounds and I feel great.

With any luck at all I'll be back amongst the employed population next week (timing depends on completion of a pretty thorough background check). I will become a commuter, taking BART into San Francisco every day. I feel very fortunate in having had multiple offers to choose from. There were pros and cons to each job, but in the end I selected this one because I was really impressed with everyone I met that I'd be working with, the job sounds fun and interesting, and the benefits are amazing. I will be eligible for retirement compensation (fully vested!) in 15 months and if I stay 10 years will be eligible for retiree medical benefits for both John and I. John has an interview for a short-term contract job today too, so fingers crossed...

As part of the interview process for one of these positions I made my first post-op air trip last week. What a non-event that turned out to be - and that is a very wonderful thing. It's a lot easier to fly when you fit into one seat and can stand in the waiting line to board the plane. I didn't need a seat-belt extender and in fact and plenty of room to spare with the standard belt. I was able to sit in my favorite aisle seat on the outbound flight and the flight attendants and other passengers didn't jostle me once. I could cross my legs and the lap tray didn't stop half way down because there was no tummy in the way. On the way home the flight was fully booked so I had to sit in a middle seat - and neither of my fellow-fliers looked at me with abject horror when I asked to do so. I am truly enjoying these non-events that keep happening. "Normal" isn't half-bad! ;)

Surviving the temptations of the holiday season wasn't too difficult. It was harder than last year when I never felt like eating, but I managed to continue to lose a wee bit of weight and really enjoy small portions of some pretty wonderful things. This year I was able to cook again too - I baked lots of yummy things and I've made several pots of hearty yummy soups. My food restrictions continue with fried and/or greasy food, but I find that very easy to live with. If I can never eat a slice of pizza again, you won't hear any complaints from me. This new body of mine is still a bit alien, but I love it!! I feel 20 years younger - at least!

I think I look a lot younger too. I was interviewed for our weight loss surgery program's newsletter, and they asked for some before and after shots to include. Susan was kind enough to share some that she'd been even kinder in not sharing with me at the time they were taken. You may think it odd (I know I do), but I truly had no concept of just how large I'd become. These will serve as great reminders if I'm ever tempted to go back...

I think it's important to remember old times and old friends. Thanks for your continuing support. I never would have been able to do this without you...

The English tranlation (minimalist version from Wikipedia of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine ! (GME: my water's generally free! ;) )
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

"With a little help from my friends"

It's been about two and a half months since my last post. I'd hoped to lose about 5 more pounds then and guess what? I've lost another 16. This has truly been an amazing journey - now down 246 pounds from my high weight. I continue to feel great - can't wait for my next set of labs!! I never thought I'd say that!!

This new body of mine never ceases to surprise me. My left hand ring size is now a 6 - it was an 8 in Junior High school. Most of my clothes (that actually fit) are a misses medium size - shocking. Darn that Fern - she's won the dinner bet and I hate it when she's right - I'll never hear the end of it. ;) I'm discovering that I can't get away with that old "I have big bones" excuse. They seem to be protruding in the oddest ways/places these days and remarkably enough I'm beginning to think I may be fine boned - wow.

John and I went to see the latest and greatest Harry Potter movie at our local IMAX theater this week. I haven't been to a movie theater in years. When last we did so, I was barely able to squeeze into the seat and couldn't get out of it without a lot of help from the chair in front of me and John. This was a very different experience - plenty of room on the seat to spare and the width between the outside of my shoulders easily fit against the back of the chair. We were able to use our cup holder in between us - didn't need the space for my girth to hang over. I was a wee bit afraid that the smell of popcorn would lead me into temptation and was delightfully surprised to find that water was just fine - no cravings at all.

We had a great time at the Tasters Guild dinner on John's birthday this week. The photos in today's blog are courtesy of our dear friends Susan Mountain and Tom Regner from that evening. The beautiful pearls that I'm wearing in these were my mom's - I couldn't even fasten them around my neck pre-surgery. I enjoyed myself thoroughly that night, sampling each of the five courses and bringing most of each home as leftovers, passing on the what-I'm-told-were fabulous champagnes that were poured. In general I'm eating pretty much whatever I want now, with the exception of greasy foods and bread. The latter just swells up too much for comfort in my new stomach and the former makes me "dump" - a very less-than-pleasant experience. I feel so fortunate to have had such great success with this medical procedure. I can easily live with those two restrictions forever if need be.

I am still struggling with the consequences of that stupid fall that happened in June. With physical therapy and a couple of steroid injections I can now walk for 8 minutes (almost to the second!) without my hip hurting. I do still seem to be getting better, but the instant gratification queen that is Gail is pretty annoyed that I'm not back to 100% yet - 6 months does seem like it's more than enough recovery time to me. The doctor tells me to be grateful in that I am still getting better, so I keep trying to remind myself of that. My knee and my back bother me occasionally also. I can't predict what will trigger either of those. I definitely advise against falling after 30 and without enough padding to cushion the blow...

Last night was yet another wonderful celebration of John's birthday. Some truly outstanding friends joined us to make his day complete. We all "tolerated" a round of Beatles Trivial Pursuit - all of us against John and to none of our surprise he severely trounced us all. We are the luckiest couple on earth to be blessed with such wonderful friends. We "get by with a little help from our friends" indeed. I can't thank any of you enough for all of the support you've given to both me and to John throughout this journey. I can't wait to see where the next twists and turns take us!

With a little help from my friends - The Beatles

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm,I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love.

What do I do when my love is away.
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you're on your own)
No, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna to try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love.

Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time.
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm I get high with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to love.
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Ooh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
with a little help from my friends

Thursday, September 16, 2010

90% Excess Fat Free!!

The greatest wealth is health. ~Virgil

Almost one year post-op and doing great, great, great!  I saw my surgeon yesterday and she calculates that I am now 90% excess fat free and have been fortunate in exceeding both hers and my own expectations as I've lost 230 pounds now from my dreaded high weight a year ago April. My lab results just keep getting better and better - all my docs are happy, and happy docs adds to a happy Gail!  I think I may just have another 5 pounds or so I just might be able to get off this crazy new body of mine - truly astoundingly amazing!!  

Today I had my baseline bone density scan.  This baseline is recommended a year post-op as one of the risks of the surgery is developing osteoporosis if my calcium level doesn't remain high enough - and yes, I take supplements every day for the rest of my life now.  One of the good things about being overweight is that walking is the definitive weight-bearing exercise, so most heavy people have great bones.  My old weight seems to have made my bones nice and strong - the tech showed me my chart after the scans were completed and it couldn't have been greener or higher - as of today my bones look good.  Of course they're pushing against my skin and protruding in the oddest places! I did study anatomy so knew I had them, but haven't felt them in more decades than I'll admit to, so feeling them these days is a strange and wondrous thing...

Clothing is also interesting these days... believe it or not I'm fitting into Misses sizes - for the first time since I was a teenager.  It's quite a strange thing.  I suppose I'll blame this on Fern - she MADE me do it - MADE me try on a darling top she selected at The Rack that I would have never, ever even tried to pull over my head (and don't tell Fern this) and it fit and looked great! I bought some trousers that weren't pull on - zipper and buttons - and they look (and better yet feel) pretty darn good too!  

I'm still struggling a bit with recovery from my less than graceful work tumble 3.5 months ago. The latest update is a cortisone injection a couple of days ago in my left piriformis muscle (not so much fun, but nowhere near as bad as one in the wrist).  As described in Wikipedia: "The piriformis laterally rotates the extended thigh and abducts the flexed thigh. Abduction of the flexed thigh is important in the action of walking because it shifts the body weight to the opposite side of the foot being lifted, which keeps us from falling."  The latest suspicion is that I severely bruised this muscle when fell, hence the ongoing pain and slow recovery.  Before the injection I was frequently in pain and couldn't walk for more than a couple of minutes without having to limp.  Today I was able to walk about 5 minutes without limping and until then I didn't have any pain at all.  I'm pleased that the injection seems to be helping - but bummed that it's not an instant cure.  I was able to climb some stairs close to "normally" for the first time since the fall yesterday - so definitely progress.  The physical therapist taught me how to use my left leg by relying on a motion using the ball of my foot and my upper front thigh muscle to try to make it all work.  I have to concentrate as it's not at all a natural feeling, but I can do it - progress.

My new job is still great - still new in so many ways, yet I truly feel the professional satisfaction that comes with knowing that you're making some good contributions to your organization and the job satisfaction associated with the acknowledgement thereof.  It's so nice to work for and with people that thank and appreciate you!!  And my team is awesome - lots of caring, committed individuals.

I truly hope this finds you happy and healthy.  Both are wonderful things to be...

Photo is courtesy TGR via my cellphone (thanks T!), taken at the last Pompous Twits Event at the Grodins

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

- C. S. Lewis

10 months post-op and doing great!! As of last night I'm down 216 pounds from last April's high weight. Wow! I've now exceeded my goal and think I might be able to lose another 10 or so before moving into maintenance mode. Time for a new goal! I never dreamed that this could be me!! I feel great. I can eat pretty much anything now in "normal" quantities, the exception remaining fried foods. And I am very OK with that. My doctors are all happy with my progress.

My only physical issue results from a tumble I took at work about 6 weeks ago (yes, grace personified in front of several of my new colleagues). Last week I had 2 of 3 MRIs so far to try to identify the source of continuing pain in my left hip. I've not been able to walk pain-free since the fall, and Lord knows I never thought to see these words come out of my mind, but I truly miss walking! I had gotten up to half an hour to an hour every day and really, really miss it. I have great hopes that these latest MRIs will show something innocuous that can easily be fixed. At the moment of the fall I missed all that extra padding I used to have - until I realized that we'd have likely had to have the fire department paramedics come out to help me get up if I still add those extra pounds. I highly advise against falling after age 30...

I continue to enjoy my new job. I'm really impressed by the commitment to excellence my co-workers exhibit. I've hired some great new team members and am still looking for a couple more. I really like the start-up mentality compared to the old established culture - everyone wears lots of hats and there's never a dull moment. One or two dull moments might be appreciated, but I'll take the craziness over boredom any day! (I know, be careful what you ask for...)

John's job search remains frustrating. We have a couple of other friends with senior accounting backgrounds that are also finding this market less than hospitable. People with jobs aren't moving around much and contractor rates are coming down, down, down as employers have so many candidates to choose from. This too shall pass. In the meantime, it's been nice to have Chef John's famous meals almost nightly. Given the crazy weather we've had this year his garden is just now becoming productive so garden-fresh produce is starting to enter the mix. He's also had some fun renewing his bridge skills and working through some honey-do list items around the house.

Photo is of me last month helping to celebrate Gayle and Jim's 25th anniversary

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


“There are four questions of value in life... What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.”
Don Juan deMarco (1995) as uttered by Johnny Depp

I think it's time to stop counting days after surgery -- it's over 8 months now and I continue to feel more wonderful seemingly every day!! Lots of energy -- it's quite grand.

As of today I've lost 196 pounds from last April's high weight -- truly amazing. Every time I think the loss is going to stop, it starts again, albeit more slowly than it was at first. I had some blood drawn for testing this morning, so fingers crossed those numbers will come back good in a couple of days. I saw my internist and she's hopeful we can knock another med or two off the list when those results come back. I see my surgeon and endocrinologist next week and hope they are happy too.

I'm still on my honeymoon with my new job -- I love, love, love it still. I hope I can hang on to that feeling for a while yet. My staff is great as is everyone else I've met -- a lot of people committed to doing the very best they can to make the company successful. Yes, it's a job, but the "feeling" of the people there overall is very positive, in spite of the hard work everyone seems to be putting in.

And of course I'm still on my endless honeymoon with John... I love, love, love him and always will! :) He continues to be my rock, not to mention chef extraordinaire. I am a little less picky about my food, but just a little. I still can't digest fat well so avoid that. My favorite dishes remain mostly vegetarian soups but I've found a strange (for me) new affinity for fish dishes -- quite odd for me. Our favorite Mexican restaurant makes a lovely chicken tortilla soup, and is happily modifying it by leaving out the tortillas and cheese for me so I'm getting some of those great seasonings back in my diet. And our local Thai place will make Tom Yum with scallops and extra vegies for me too. It seems I just need to ask and most places are willing to make the magic happen. It is very nice to be able to enjoy spices again. There are still some flavors I dislike, but if I like it, it doesn't have to be kept down to a pinch of this or that anymore.

The most recent downside to life lately is a broken tooth yesterday... yuck. I broke one over Memorial Day weekend several years ago too -- I hope the holiday's not trying to tell me something. It is unlikely to be related to the surgery -- the last broken one was pre-surgery and in a tooth that had a filling put into it the same day as the this one around 20 years ago.  I had a temporary crown put on today and the numbing injections are starting to wear off -- I've stopped drooling now. :) Of course it's starting to hurt a bit now too -- thank goodness for liquid Tylenol -- I suspect I'll be using a bit of that tonight. The permanent crown is due for installation in a couple of weeks.  

TTFN (for those non-chatters out there, Ta Ta For Now)

Photo is me last week with cousin Sophia (Phil and Christine Engstrom's 3 year old) at her and her twin brother Phillip's birthday party - and yes, it was very windy that day!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The secret to staying young...

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” - Lucille Ball

Day 212 AS

What an incredibly fabulous glorious (add superlatives ad nauseum) day!!! And thanks to Lucy, I feel I can say I loved turning 33 today! ;)

I feel so very blessed on this birthday this year. As of Tuesday I was down 186 pounds from my high weight last April. I feel great! John and I went exploring today, the first exploration of which was to the Filoli mansion and gardens. While we were both struck by the abundant beauty, a couple of my favorite floral displays today included the garishly overblown (in the most fabulous way of course) tree peonies and the perfectly pruned wisteria. Our last stop of the day was at a local nursery where they still had some cut sweet pea flowers (the April birthday flower and one of my favorites!) for sale at an incredible bargain rate -- suffice it to say several bunches are now enhancing our table.

The VERY best news of the day is that our dear friend who underwent follow up to melanoma surgery last week got her lab results FINALLY today -- and the skin they excised around the cancer site and the two lymph nodes that were removed are all cancer free. Woohoo!! I was "reborn" on her birthday last year (my surgery day) and now we have great cause for celebration today on my birthday -- how cool is that?

The next best news is that I accepted a new job offer today and will start on Monday. The opportunity is VERY exciting. I'll be the Manager of Professional Services for a company that provides payroll, HR, benefits, time keeping and the like systems for mid-size employers. I interviewed with the VPs, the COO and the CEO last week and it feels like a great fit. I love the culture they are trying to instill and I know I can deliver a ton of value right out the gate. It's still operating with venture capital funding, but the last time I did this was at ProBusiness, and it turned out to be the very best job of my career to date. And the former ProBusiness CEO that took that company public is the CEO of this company... more cause for optimism, even in this yucky economy. John has a lead on a short term contract also, so with any luck at all we'll both be back in the work force soon... fingers crossed.

It sounds strange, but I feel like my weight loss helped a ton in landing this new exciting job so quickly. The company's in the same town as our home so is a wonderful commute. It's in a fairly large office building where it is the named tenant and inhabits the 3rd floor. Nice appointments... and very clean! I interviewed with the CEO in one corner of the building after which he escorted me to the COO's office at the opposite end of the building. A long walk at a nice clip -- and no huffing and puffing -- and no worry about having any either. This time last year I'd have had to ask him to slow down and might have even had to ask him to let me stop in the restroom on the way just to give me a moment to catch my breath... no issues at all of course. And I know I looked "right" for the job in my Jones New York suit.

Our support group this week was all about the numbers -- and statistically speaking, my numbers keep on continuing to get better. My BMI is still not normal -- I fall into the obese category still -- yet it's down to almost half of what it was this time last year... amazing. My waist circumference is still in the danger zone, but my waist to hip ratio is good now -- before it was bigger than my hips. I'm 26 pounds from a reasonably good BMI now and that feels so achievable. I'm down another size in clothing now -- and have hopes of going down one more yet. It's ALL good.

Thanks to all of you for your continuing support, not to mention the masses of awesome good birthday wishes I have received. Today has truly been special... thanks to all of you, and especially to my darling dearest John.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ah ha moments -- sweet pleasures

"Partake in some of life's sweet pleasures. And yes, get comfortable with yourself." Oprah Winfrey

Day 197 AS

Happy birthday Mom wherever you are... I miss you a lot. You'll be glad to know it's a glorious day today! The sun's shining brightly and there's a cool breeze in the air -- I wonder if you requested it just for us? I like the thought if nothing else.

I'm doing great! I haven't been happier in ages. Support group last night was all about reminding us of the 10 good habits of successful weight loss maintenance. I'm still losing, but practicing those habits will no doubt stand me in good stead when the time comes that that has stopped. The three most important of the ten are exercise, 3 meals a day with no snacking and if you must snack for it to be a protein drink or a protein bar, and finally, no beverage with the meal and for at least an hour afterwards. Other than the first I'm doing great already -- exercise will no doubt always be the bane of my existence.

I'm officially on the record for minus 182 pounds now from last April's high weight, 60 before and 122 after surgery. John and I have had a chance to enjoy several day trips now in our couple of weeks of co-unemployment. Yesterday we went to Lake Berryessa but made a wrong turn and ended up at Lake Hennessey instead -- didn't even know it existed but it was beautiful and a lovely drive to boot! We ended up in St. Helena for a late lunch. My increased mobility is such a joy. John didn't have to drop me off and then hunt for a parking place -- I could easily keep up with him as we walked all over the down town area seeking our best option. Afterwards went to Dean and Deluca and drooled all over the fabulous food and wine offerings -- and I felt very grateful that I could live vicariously through the drooling on old memories without feeling any temptation to buy the place out and take all that decadence home!

I've had a few more fun ah ha! moments in the last couple of weeks too. The latest was today -- I enjoyed a yummy lunch with some former colleagues (it was great seeing them!). One wanted to sit in a booth -- I didn't think I could do it -- I haven't sat in one in an awfully long time because I didn't fit. And guess what? I do now!! :) It was nice having a cushy seat instead of one of those hard chairs.

I went clothes shopping in stores for the first time in years and years too. What an interesting experience. Being "normal" is an odd feeling -- realizing you have to try clothes on because even within a given vendor sizing is inconsistent. After trying on 40 "interview" garments, I came home with only three and felt a little disappointed. The next day I joined a friend at her home to try on her old "interview" clothes -- she's lost a bunch of weight over the last year and a half herself, is my height, and her high weight was about 10 pounds more than I am now. I discovered my problem looking for clothes the day before trying hers on -- I was looking at things that were too big! What a bizarre thing that was -- I was sure I wouldn't fit in any of her beautiful clothes when I saw the sizes, and surprised myself by finding many already fit and many are really, really close to doing so. She sent me home with suits, silk blouses, an evening gown and lots, lots more... What a wonderful friend!!! And better yet, we have similar likes in apparel -- I would have bought these myself had I come across them first and they had fit me back then.

My friend's timing was perfect as I had my first interview this Monday with a company that I'm very interested in and I believe is interested in my skill set too. I have been told I'll be invited back for further interviews which I take as good news. There are a couple of exciting opportunities, so fingers crossed!!

Another random ah ha moment: when John drives the Volvo he sits back really far and pulls the steering wheel back to meet him. In the past when he hasn't pushed the steering wheel back in and I get in the driver's seat it's bruised me badly as there wasn't enough room for my abdomen -- my key automatically moves the seat forward to my sitting position, but the steering wheel movement is manual. I got in the car after John one day and took off driving and it took a few minutes to even realize the wheel was too close to me -- my arms were not extended as I like yet there was a ton of space for my abdomen... it sounds odd, but it was a big ah ha moment for me.

And yet another random ah ha moment: my upper body strength has totally gone to pot. Not too surprisingly, Fern jumped on the thought in my last blog post of inviting me to her gym to check it out. I surprised myself a few times there -- some happily so. One less than happy was my upper body strength. Between the years and years of carpal tunnel syndrome issues, tendinitis, and that awful shoulder injury a couple of years ago, I've become quite a weakling. I'm going to have to add some strength training to my cardio work along the way here. I couldn't even do a shoulder press on one of the machine's without assistance -- even with zero added weight. Yikes. And we all know what a pain avoider I am -- I'll definitely be trying something different in the near term. Some of the good ah ha's though included finding how strong my legs are -- not surprising given all of the weight they've supported I suppose, but still nice to see -- and the fact that I could actually sit on some of the machines that I didn't think I'd fit on. I definitely have a warped perspective on my physical size -- I think my body's larger than it is now. It's one thing to know that, and another to really believe it. I suspect that one's going to take me quite a while to synthesize.

Tomorrow we're headed up to the Sierra Foothills to pick up wine for the next Tasters Guild dinner. The wildflowers should be spectacular -- fingers crossed. We did a day trip to Lodi last week and enjoyed lots and lots of mature lilacs in full, glorious bloom along with the first pink dogwood I've ever seen. Magnificent!! Fern and Roger are playing hooky with us which should make it even more fun. There's a cool day-lily nursery up there we'll visit -- not sure if they'll be in bloom yet, but no doubt there will be some grand sights to see.

Thank you for your continuing support and good wishes friends and family... sending lots of love and light right back to you...

Thursday, March 25, 2010


The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. - Allan K. Chalmers

Day 177 AS

Today has been an "interesting" day. My work day started off with the dreaded white envelope and the words so many of us are hearing lately: "today is your last day of employment here." And remarkably, rather than feeling wildly emotional, I felt an incredible sense of relief -- like the Dementors have lost the battle and I've arisen victorious with joy and hope and optimism for a future that I haven't looked forward to in an awfully long time professionally. This in spite of now being a, as John coined it, 0ink family -- zero income no kids. He had a great interview himself yesterday, and although it may not pan out, there's hope that if this isn't the "one", the "one" will soon be coming his way. Now we need to hurry up and rush and see how much (cheap!) R&R we can squeeze in before the next round of insanity comes our way and enjoy some of this bench time together.

Does this mean I can no longer come up with excuses to not go to the gym with Fern? Hmmmm... I might actually have to consider it now! I feel more energetic already!! I've already threatened John with daily walks!! I'm going to miss Peggy threatening me, so I guess I'll just have to take on her role and threaten someone else instead -- pay it forward kinda.

Support group was good this week -- I'm now more than 170 pounds lighter than I was last April. Woohoo!! I suspect I might even look half way decent in that new suit or two I'll have to acquire for interviewing back in the real world. ;) I had been planning to start a new job search soon anyway as I've been so unhappy, but was holding back on investing in apparel until my weight stabilizes. Again, Fern to the rescue: buy a couple of good ones with good lines and get over it -- simply have them tailored later when I do. Sound advice. And shoes... hopefully these darn gout attacks will stop and I can wear some classy shoes instead of these lovely stretchy knit topped shoes. My feet have shrunk along with the rest of me -- it's all still a bit surreal to me.

Bumping up the protein intake has helped tremendously with my hair loss. While I still see some every day, it's lessened dramatically -- we're talking a few strands a day now vs. a few dozen strands a day.

John and I had fun toodling around town this afternoon, running errands together. I returned victorious to Tasters Guild tonight. The chef prepared a luscious sounding menu so I attended for the first course comprising some cajun-seared scallops over a bed of green papaya and other yummy things. It was so great to see the old gang, many of whom I hadn't seen since last April. The warmth of my reception was almost overwhelming!! The feedback was amazing -- the happiness for me and my new self surrounded me. I can't even begin to describe the feeling. Awesome awesome awesome!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

82% (excess) fat free!!!!

Day 165 AS

This is the week for statistics I suppose. Some really amazing ones! I really feel like I'm doing very well and I so wish I had had this procedure performed years ago now!! That being said, you can't force this on anyone -- they have to be ready emotionally as well as physically, and I wasn't until last year.

Tuesday night's weight loss surgery support group was interesting -- a plastic surgeon came in to talk about body contouring post major weight loss. Wednesday morning I saw my surgeon for the 6 month post-op follow up and yesterday afternoon I saw my endocrinologist for our now back to quarterly visits. Following are the recaps:

Plastic surgeon: Cool guy in Danville. John joined me and we both liked his approach -- he includes occupational therapy with his procedures to limit your risk of injuries post-op and maximize your comfort. You know me, the comfort queen! This summer I'll go see him for a consultation -- I won't be ready for a year or so for any work, but it's good to start researching -- not to mention saving your pennies! The stomach and back lifts are $20K if performed at the same time -- yikes! Insurance may cover a small, small part, but it sounds like it's a long battle to wage. If money were no object there are so many things you can do it's amazing. No wonder Phyllis Diller became addicted to this! These guys really are sculptors. A little nip here, a little tuck there -- move this fat from one undesirable location to a more desirable location or take it out altogether. Fascinating.

Bariatric surgeon: She was really pleased with my progress. Here's where the stats start. As of Wednesday I'm down 168 pounds. I've lost 82% of my excess body fat. Triglycerides are still a wee bit high, but better than last time and still to be expected as I'm still losing weight rapidly. Vitamin D is at low end of normal range, and recent research shows that women who've had this procedure need to be at the high end of normal to help avoid osteoporosis so I'm adding some more Vitamin D to my supplement list. I'm not getting enough protein so need to bump that up more. It's hard now for me to do so since I still don't enjoy any meat, fish or poultry and I'm sick and tired of the protein drinks and powders, but I guess I need to suck it up and just do it. I got some new low carb protein bars and hope those will help. John's plying me with other options too (I love John!!). He made some more of my new favorite vegie soup and included some edamame beans in it -- delicious. It's not just vanity around my now-becoming-major hair loss, but it's also about losing fat instead of muscle -- not enough protein and muscle goes first -- not a good option obviously.

More stats: kidney and liver function tests along with all of the other metabolic tests -- all normal. Woohoo!! And another med is now OFF the list -- no more Prevacid. My new stomach should be healed enough now to tolerate food without help and I haven't had any signs of reflux in months.

Endocrinologist: Best news of all! My A1c (average blood sugar over the last several weeks -- normal for a non-diabetic is under 6 and for a diabetic like me is under 7) -- wait for it -- 6.1!!!!! This is awesome -- the lowest ever recorded for me I think. I'm still on one oral med for the diabetes, and may be forever, but this is so much better than two orals plus max insulin! We talked about reducing the dosage of oral med I'm on now, but I asked, and he agreed, that I will stay on this dose one more quarter and see what happens. The med I am on does not cause those dreadful low blood sugar incidents I used to get, so there's no risk there.

The other good endocrine news is that my thyroid is catching up with my new body finally so he reduced my thyroid supplement too. I have to retest in a month to see if we can take it down even more. I appreciate his conservatism -- when my thyroid level is too low I'm exhausted all the time, so I like taking the supplement down a little at a time and see what happens.

So that's it on the medical updates. As for personal updates, pretty much same old same old. John's new job search continues, not helped by the higher than the national average unemployment state in California. He is getting leads though, so there's hope! We had a few dear friends over to enjoy the Oscars on the big screen and had a lovely evening. My stupid gout attack is diminishing, so I can walk with limited pain again - yay. There continues to be more work on my plate at the office than this one human can perform so frustrations still abound -- this too shall pass.

It's a gorgeous day today thankfully after yet another day of torrential downpours yesterday. The hills are bright green -- you can see why the Irish named our home town Dublin! In honor of the upcoming holiday I'll close by sending the Old Irish Blessing to you:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thank you for your continuing support, love and light!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


"You've got to say, I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough I can have it. It's called perseverance." -- Lee Iacoca

Day 158 AS

Tuesday marked the 5 month anniversary of my gastric bypass. It was also support group so I weighed in and did the whole body fat analysis thing. I'm now officially down 163 pounds from my high weight last April, 60 pre-op and 103 post-op. Truly amazing. While I know the first of a couple of plateaus can come any day now, I'm still running at an average of a 4 pound weight loss per week.

As for BMI, I now no longer fit the criteria for the procedure -- I've moved out of the morbidly obese category into about the middle of the obese category for my height. I am hoping I can lose about 50 more pounds moving be to the overweight category... my goal has never been to become svelte, just comfortable and healthy. I'm getting there it seems!! Next week I go in for the next round of blood work and the week after see my surgeon -- I can't wait!

I've almost down another size in clothing -- I bought some pants in a lower size on a great sale so they'd be ready to wear in another month or so and wore them yesterday. And it's grand to buy panties in a package with multiple pairs for less than $20 when I'm used to paying more than that for a single pair. I look at some of the new bargain clothes I've purchased hanging on hangers and think I can't fit in that... and I do. It's really, really a surreal experience.

I still can't tolerate more than a wee bit of fat in my diet, but I suppose that's not such a bad thing. I'm not a vegetarian by any means, but all of the food I'm enjoying the most is leaning in that direction -- I still don't like any meats or poultry much and love tofu. I had a great salad for dinner last night (thanks to Robin for recommending Panera!!) with salmon in it. John had the rest of it for lunch today. :) Yes, I'm officially a cheap date now -- what can I say? He made a fabulous batch of a very hearty vegetable soup (you know how that stuff grows and grows as you keep adding different vegies to it? one of those!). Tonight he's making a batch of baby bok choi, mushroom and tofu soup -- yum yum.

The good news is I CAN tolerate a little sugar. Those of you that have not already heard this and who know me well will laugh when you read this: I can eat a chocolate chunk cookie now -- over 5 days that is! Too funny. The cool thing is that it's a very, very satisfying experience repeated over 5 days vs. the olden days where it was great for a couple of minutes.

The bad news is that I'm continuing to lose hair. I hate it. I avoid looking at my scalp when my hair's wet as best I can (it is a challenge to miss it). I'm spending a few extra minutes in the morning fluffing and spraying after using hair thickening products to try to keep it from being publicly noticeable. I'll be glad when this hair growing cycle ends and it starts to come back! Hopefully it will come back with even more of a wave in it than when I lost so much hair with the ovarian tumor I had 12 years ago.

On the job front still no major nibbles for John, but some interest is out there for his skills which is a very good thing. I'm a little embarrassed by the candidate experience he's gone through with my own company, but let's not go into that... hopefully future candidates will benefit from the feedback I've shared internally.

That social challenge I mentioned in my last post is still out there. I did join John for the last Pompous Twits event since it was at Steve and Elaine's. I had a great time visiting everyone for a little while and then moving off to the living room with Elaine, Carol and later Matthew and April. It was a very enjoyable evening -- particularly not feeling like I had to stay at the dinner table all night like I tried to at the last WAFFLES dinner. I continue to pass on Tasters Guild dinners, but may go next month -- the menu sounds great and one of the appetizer courses sounds like something I can enjoy -- and then spend the following week eating all of the rest! :) I eat about a cup of hearty soups now, and about 1/2-3/4 of a cup of solid food at a sitting.

My job continues to be incredibly frustrating, but I am very grateful to be employed. Every now and then there are glimmers of hope, but then they're dashed to dust. I'm campaigning for a hopeful week next week -- please send positive vibes my way...

Speaking of positive vibes, please send even more and more and more of them to our dear friend Tricia. She is recovering from surgery and we're looking forward to seeing her again very soon.

Next Friday, March 5, is Banish the Balrog day, known to the general public as Dress in Blue Day. Please help raise awareness about colorectal cancer and the importance of screening by wearing blue on national Dress in Blue Day! For all of my age 50+ friends, and for those younger with a family history of this scourge of the Balrog, please, please, please go in for your screening as soon as possible.

Take good care...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Existence today

“There is a point where in the mystery of existence contradictions meet; where movement is not all movement and stillness is not all stillness; where the idea and the form, the within and the without, are united; where infinite becomes finite, yet not” -- Rabindranath Tagore

Day 132 AS

I suppose the fact of my not posting for 37 days is the best indicator of all that this journey is no longer the center of my existence. That being said, it's still a very important part, and in response to queries from several of my wonderful friends I am posting an update.

Overall, I'm doing great! As of last week I've lost 146 pounds from my high weight last April, 60 pre-op and 86 post op. There are lots and lots of perks and a few problematic areas, but all in all no regrets for having chosen this path.

Categories of change and current state:

1. Health -- saw my endocrinologist last Friday and he's thrilled with my blood sugar numbers -- both fasting and late in the day. I'm still on one oral med for this which is so much better than two and max twice daily insulin doses. This is probably my biggest personal win. My blood pressure's great and my last blood tests continued to have normal kidney and liver functions -- yay. The awful gout problems I was having both pre- and post- op have finally subsided -- I appreciate being pain free. We'll test cholesterol and thyroid again in March -- the former will likely still be high and hopefully the latter will be a little high which would result in reducing the dosage of thyroid med that I'm still on. We'll see!

2. Mobility -- I can move with so much less pain it's hard to compare to this time last year. I love the human mind and our ability to block out bad memories!! Stairs are still really a challenge -- my knees aren't happy with them at all -- but at least they're possible now. I can walk without gasping for air and I can stand for much longer periods of time. I can get out of my chair without wishing for a crane -- it's all good.

3. Food -- I can eat a little more now, as long as it's the "right" food and I don't eat too much or too quickly. Anything with more than a wee bit of fat either comes back up or spends an hour or more of painful time passing through my digestive system. On average I'm eating 4-5 ounces of food unless it's a really liquidy soup and that might be closer to 8. My favorite lunches and dinners are dense soups -- I'm loving split pea, bean with bacon, hearty vegie soups and as strange as it may sound hot and sour soup made with tofu instead of pork. I generally don't enjoy meats much unless extremely tender and in a non-fatty sauce (I hate dry meat now -- too hard to chew when dry). John made a wonderful red bean and barley soup last week that we both enjoyed.

On the issue of too much -- this is going to be a hard habit to break! I am rarely hungry so eat when and what I'm supposed to most of the time, but if something actually tastes good, it's hard to listen to those signals telling me that it's time to stop -- particularly after eating what still seems like a small quantity compared to the old days.

On the issue of too fast -- this too is going to be a hard habit to break, particularly in a restaurant setting. I went to lunch with a great colleague last week and had some delicious, reasonably healthy pho soup. Although I ordered the smaller portion, there was still enough for four meals there for me. I knew that, so planned an appropriate amount for consumption, but the rice noodles were impossible to separate so my bites were too big, and although well chewed, too close together in timing and I had to excuse myself from the table to go lie in the car until he finished his meal. Hopefully lesson learned, but it's going to be a hard one to remember.

4. Appearance -- I look in the mirror and don't recognize me anymore. It's quite odd. I've gotten over the dark sunken eye phase thankfully -- God bless "Eye Hope" by Philosophy. I do miss some of the facial fat -- I'm seeing wrinkles I never saw before, especially in my neck. Ugh. Now I understand why old ladies where turtle necks and scarves -- camouflage! I suspect I'll end up there too before too long! My fear of hair loss, as happens at this stage with the majority of post-ops, has been realized. It started a few weeks ago and hasn't stopped yet. I hate it, but it's not as bad (yet) as it was with my ovarian tumor 12 years ago, and I do realize it's temporary, so I'm coping reasonably well. Thank God for a great hair-dresser! She simply cut in some more layers and told me to wear it more messy and no one will ever notice. :) Clothes are a joke -- even my skinny clothes have started literally falling off. I'm out of super plus and into regular plus sizes now for the first time in more years than I can remember. The good news is they're a little cheaper, so I'm searching sales for a few pieces to tide me over to wherever the end of this journey may take me. And I'm seeing bones and veins and other weirdness I had no idea existed within my body!!

5. Socializing -- this is the tough one. So much of our interaction with friends has focused around gourmet food and fine wines that this has been a challenge to overcome. I simply can not (nor do I want to) sit down at a table for hours on end plowing through course after course, each more decadent than the last. We went to our beloved WAFFLES dinner last week and I made the massive mistake of forgetting to bring my own dinner. While no doubt every course was delicious, none were "OK" for me -- each had too much fat and/or too many complex flavors and 3 had seafood that I haven't been able to stand the smell of yet. I don't enjoy any wine or alcohol smells/flavors and the fat literally makes me sick. I wound up with dessert as my meal -- a little fresh whipped cream (no additives) with fresh raspberry puree (no additives) and fresh raspberries in a whole wheat phyllo cup. Not exactly my typical protein first meal, but tasty and it stayed down at least. Note to self: remember to bring your own dinner next time!! It was great visiting with our friends, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more had we been playing a game or cards or had some other activity than just food and wine all night. Our hostess was great and I had pre-warned her that I am now a somewhat finicky eater and that I'd probably read a book part of the evening, and she graciously agreed it would be OK for me to do so, but I felt bad doing so nonetheless. I guess that's an issue I'll just have to get over if I am to keep on going. Either that or simply find others that like to play games too and keep trying other activities.

6. Miscellaneous -- I've moved my car seat forward three times now. It's so nice to be able to comfortably reach the pedals without having my tummy jammed into the steering wheel! A colleague "forced" me into riding with her in her cute new sexy two door vehicle, and although very low to the ground and as such a bit tough on my knees, I amazed myself by being able to use the seat belt without an extender and had plenty of slack to spare!! Compliments -- kind of fun! John gave me such a sweet one last weekend -- told me my skin looked better/healthier than it had in 20 years. Lots of people being really supportive -- it seems the physical difference has become most noticeable in the last month or so.

7. Those that know me won't be surprised that I think of this category last: exercise. I hate exercise. With every bit of my being. I hate to sweat and I hate to hurt. What possible redeeming quality could there be in doing something that almost always results in both? I'm fighting this with every bit of my psyche, kicking and screaming all the way. I do not want to exercise, even though intellectually I know I have to. I don't know that I'll ever conquer this one -- I need to just suck it up and do it, but I really really really don't want to. I miss Scott as a buddy in this space (and others too, but really need him here). We had great long walks debating life at the Lab distracting us from the reality of the walking we were doing. I went on a couple of nice walks at my current employer's place with another colleague last week and it was easier to bear with some distraction, so perhaps that's a strategy to capitalize on a bit. If I really have to... arghhhhh...

Moving on to life in general... John's layoff is still frustrating to bear, especially for him, but he's doing a great job organizing himself and getting out there in a new job search. He met up with some former Lab buddies and won a local contract bridge tournament last week -- go John! Sad that Coach Pete's left USC and hoping the new guy doesn't screw up too badly... We went to the Tech Museum a couple of weeks ago and visited the traveling Star Trek exhibit thanks to Santa -- very cool! I still can't get over how tiny those actors must have been after seeing their costumes. I figured out how to get lots of extra treasure chests in Facebook's Vampire Wars games so have been leveling up several times a day lately -- and you'll laugh at this: I won the "compulsive shopper's trophy" in the game yesterday for visiting Elder Jeremy 7 days in a row and buying (with vampire game money which they call blood of course!) his wares. John could have told you I earned a compulsive shopper's trophy in real life a long, long time ago! :) We shared a fabulous games/movie day/evening with some dear friends in January also -- I think we all had a great time. I still haven't put that great new lens to work yet, but the temptation is getting greater as the rain diminishes -- of course I write this as the skies are graying up again...

Enough ramblings for now... As always, I send you lots of light and love and wish you all the very best!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

-- Buddha, Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta

Day 95 AS

What a lucky woman I am!! I feel most fortunate, and grateful there for.

Total food freedom day has arrived. I can now eat anything, even raw vegies and fruit, so salads are now officially back in the mix. I still have problems if I exceed my capacity, but now can have a LITTLE sugar and fat too -- moderation in all things, even moderation.

Christmas yesterday was wonderful. Santa was more than kind. John, on his behalf, provided some photography motivation in the form of a fabulous new macro lens for my big Canon SLR camera and a handgrip add-on for my little Leica. We had a lovely Christmas Eve celebration the night before with wonderful friends and family. My first one with "forced" moderation and it was OK!! I consumed half of a Triscuit with the most amazing mushroom pate that John made -- it was OMG delicious!! Made with porcinis, chanterelles, almonds and cream -- truly delightful. Later I had 3-1/2 Swedish meatballs and a couple of bites of Honey-baked ham (thanks to Fern for reminding me to slow down my eating process and to chew chew chew!!). I passed on all of the herring and other fish, meats and cheeses this year, but I heard rave reviews for John's chef skills, well supplemented by his sous-chef Roger. There is still a ton left, so I suspect I'll nibble on an item or two here or there over the next couple of weeks. The gravlax I'm told set new records for wonderfulness. John attributes it to the extra aquavit he used in the curing process. Of course no aquavit, beer or glogg for me this year -- but John did find a nice still bottled fancy water that I enjoyed immensely, along with the smell of the glogg spices.

Health wise all continues to go well. I saw my internist last week and am now down officially 130 pounds since that scary April high weight -- another 70 would be lovely if I can do it. I'm still plagued by lack of motivation to exercise and know I need to find a way to get into it. Ugh. That's the only way I'm going to do another 70 though I know. My internist also noted I have a ton of nervous energy now (weird to have any kind of energy I must confess after so many years with none!!) and suggested I look into some kind of meditation. There's a Buddhist temple in the hills about 20 miles from here. Her husband took a class there and really enjoyed it so I may check it out. The only issue I have with it is that it's Thursday evenings from 7:30-9:30 and I turn into a pumpkin at 9. We'll see!!

The gout finally seems to be under some degree of control -- yay. I can actually wear soft leather shoes again without wanting to scream in pain by the end of the day. My blood pressure is awesome -- no more dizziness or exhaustion. Cholesterol's a little high, but all my docs are attributing this to the period of rapid weight loss -- all that fat floating around in my blood instead of settling into my body waiting for excretion apparently. My blood sugar's still a little high, but my endocrinologist increased my oral med dose and it's almost right now... One oral med vs. the olden days of two plus max dose of insulin is quite a wonderful change in my mind -- one I could be happy with forever if we don't get any better than today's med routine. Of course, this is another big reason to psych up for the dreaded exercise thing -- that would help both the cholesterol and the blood sugar.

All in all, although this hasn't been my favorite year, I have to say it's been a good one for me. I'm so glad I made the decision to have the surgery. There are times I emotionally wish I could just sit down and eat a ton of some wonderful thing or the other, but the physical difference in my digestive system prevents me from making that bad choice. Feeling so much better, and having so many dramatic improvements in my overall health have definitely been worth the (fortunately fairly infrequent) moments of longing for the olden days. The other awesome benefit is the improvement in John's longevity that's followed -- he's lost a lot of weight trying to help me eat more healthily and looks great!! We're going to have to save our pennies in the first months of the year to buy both of ourselves new wardrobes. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good news!

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” -- Anne Frank

Day 79 AS

I hadn't realized it's been so long since I posted! Apologies to those who've been asking...

I saw my surgeon yesterday and my progress is astounding! I'm down 124 pounds now since my April high. She calculated I've lost 58% of my excess body weight. My blood tests came back great overall -- normal kidney and liver functions, calcium, B12, iron and other vitamins are normal (a concern with this procedure -- looks like my supplements are working!). My cholesterol was good although triglycerides a little high but that's to be expected with rapid weight loss I'm told. My fasting blood sugar's a little high too, but I test every day so knew that already. The surgeon was still amazed it was so close to normal with only one oral med now -- vs. two in the past and massive doses of insulin. I do so hope the insulin days are over... time will tell, but so far so good!

I was having problems with low blood pressure and those are now gone. I have a lot more energy as a result and no more dizzy spells -- woohoo. Still some annoying gout issues in my big toe, but I'm trying a different med now and it's definitely better. Hopefully after the next few months that will get back to normal too.

Thanks to my office neighbor, the headaches that have been plaguing me at work due to the fluorescent lighting may now be at an end -- fingers crossed. She had the great idea of removing the lights above my desk. That helped a ton, but the lights in the hallway still led to a low level headache. To the rescue once again, Robin loaned me a big umbrella that we set up in my line of vision to the hall lighting and voila -- not one headache today for the first time since I returned to work. Go Robin!! This is saying a lot as the stress level generally totally sucks at work right now, so headache free in spite of that is totally awesome.

I went out to lunch for the first time today with another wonderful colleague, Belinda. What a great time we had! The server was concerned that I wasn't enjoying my meal as I still eat so little, but it was delicious -- no worries. I felt quite odd telling her I just don't eat that much -- never something I ever thought I'd say. I drove -- still paranoid that seatbelts won't fit, even though intellectually I'm pretty sure most will now. I've been enjoying the little milestones as different accomodations for my size that I've made have been going away -- Belinda pointed out one I didn't even know was gone now, that being the ability to cross my arms over the steering wheel as I crank into a parking place. In the past my arms would be limited pretty much to the bottom of the steering wheel, likely because I had to sit back so far to fit behind it. I've had to move my seat closer to the wheel a couple of times now!

Catching up on a great past event -- Thanksgiving. Our visit with my dad and his wife was fantastic. It was so great seeing him!! We went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant the night before the holiday. I enjoyed some yummy Pollo de Caldo (their concept of a chicken and vegie soup) for that dinner and a couple of subsequent lunches. John outdid himself with Thanksgiving supper. He brined a fresh free range turkey using Alice Water's famous recipe, originally shared with us by our awesome home-chef friend Carol. He made some traditional stuffing, his now-famous ancho-chili sweet potatoes, perfect gravy and a Splenda-based pumpkin pie. I made some Splenda cranberries and found both of the Splenda dishes surprisingly tasty. I did exceed my half-cup collective limit by a bite or two and paid the price for a short time afterwards, but it was totally worth it. I learned my lesson and kept in line with leftovers. One of my favorite leftover creations of John's was a 1/8 of an Ak-mak cracker with turkey and low-fat jarlsberg melted over the top -- yum yum.

We hosted our first dinner party post-op last week in honor of John's birthday. It was great seeing everyone. I was worried about how I'd deal with 4 courses, but it turned out to be a total non-event. I am still seemingly full all the time so simply passed on appetizers, (in spite of how good they looked), had my normal meal portion of the entree and passed on the cheese course and dessert. I experimented with a Splenda flourless chocolate cake for me and it was a nightmare -- glad John picked up a decadent "real" one for everyone else. I guess I just need to practice modifying recipes a bit more. Fortunately no worries as I wasn't at all interested in dessert as it turned out -- another quite odd feeling for me. John opened some lovely (as I was told) old wines that everyone enjoyed. I'm glad I have no interest at all whatsoever in wine still and hope that continues, given the negative consequences for me after having had this procedure. The only downer of the evening is that it was one of my "bad" days -- I seem to have one a week or so where I just feel generally crappy. Thank God for such terrific friends though. I had to go lay down for a few minutes after the entree and when I got back up all of my lady friends were in the kitchen calmly (and wonderfully!) taking care of clearing the course. I am such a lucky person to be surrounded by so many awesome people.

Speaking of awesome people, John remains the awesomest. I'm so glad I broke that promise to myself to stay away from men for life a couple of months before we met! :) My life would be so sad and empty without him. He finished an incredible exterior holiday light display last week. He received the best ever compliment too for it. A lady had stopped her car in front of our home at dusk. He was rolling the trash cans to the curb and given it's a little odd for someone to do that around here he checked to make sure everything was OK with her. She had a couple of young kids with her and responded that all was well, they were just waiting for Santa to wake up. We have had a very jovial Santa blow up for many years now (some of you may remember the year some hoodlum slashed him and I had to stitch up his wounds. I'm extra glad I did so now!). Sure enough a couple of minutes later the timer switched him on and he lit up and blew up and "woke up." They stop by every night on their way home from day care to see Santa wake up -- how cool is that? :)

I truly hope you are enjoying this holiday season. There's so much to be thankful for. I love the Anne Frank quote at the start of this blog entry. I hope we all find our true potential.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

“When you are in the valley, keep your goal firmly in view and you will get the renewed energy to continue the climb.”

-- Dennis Waitley

Day 58 AS

Not a lot of change other than down a couple more pounds and the good news that I'm finally starting to get back my stamina, due in some part I think to normalizing my blood pressure. My internist switched me to a less powerful med at its lowest dose -- and at first that made me go even lower. She had me cut that in half (no mean feat as the tablets are the tiniest ones I've ever taken to start with!) and that seems to be doing the trick. I haven't had a dizzy spell in several days and I am starting to feel more energetic -- yay.

The lighting at work is still making me want to rip my hair out and scream at my inability to cope with it. I have a new incandescent lamp on my desk and a new glare screen on my monitor, so am hoping, hoping, hoping that this helps. Fortunately I can do a lot of my work remotely, as long as I can connect to a network and have a telephone available, so I continue to work at home part of the day.

I saw my endocrinologist a couple of days ago and we're increasing my oral med at night in hopes of getting my morning tests back under 100. The good news is that after a couple of days it's down to 125 again, so we're close. I'll try it a couple more days and if it doesn't make it there I'll increase my morning dose also. The great part of this is that if successful, I'll be able to continue without insulin and without a second oral med... a great improvement from my pre-surgical state! I'll be doing kidney function tests again in a couple of weeks and am hoping they come back normal as this particular med can sometimes affect them.

More good news (from my perspective at least!)!! "Food freedom" day arrived a couple of days ago -- I can eat whatever I can tolerate now (except salads (too hard to digest still the experts say)) which will have to wait another few weeks). Rules are protein first, vegies/fruits next and carbs last, and I can still only eat 3-4 ounces at a meal, but it's nice to have more options. I may just enjoy a spoonful of dressing for Thanksgiving with my turkey. Last night my dad called to let me know that he and his wife will be coming up from San Diego to visit for the holiday so we're really excited. Hopefully this visit will end better than his last one when I had to leave them to rush John to the ER. That was followed the next day by emergency surgery to remove the alien empyema from his collapsing lung... we definitely don't want to do that again!! I'm thinking maybe kicking back, watching the parade and some football may be a lot more fun.

The other nice thing about "food freedom" day was that my restriction on drinking vs. sipping liquids was lifted also. This has cut my vitamin/med taking time in half almost since I don't have to chop everything up into small enough pieces to swallow with a sip of water. After two months that was becoming quite annoying -- particularly in the morning trying to get ready for work in a reasonable amount of time. Yippee.

One last bit of good news to share. This morning we had our annual IT all-hands meeting at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. I had no problem walking and talking at the same time with everyone else -- no breathing issues and no pain. It was AWESOME!! Also AWESOME was the fact that a few colleagues I respect (and like!) well were awarded for their accomplishments in the past year -- one of which even was one of the overall winners -- very cool, and very well deserved. I'm so proud of them!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Back to work day!

"We don't do a whole lot socially yet, ... but when it comes to knowing you have a friend and a co-worker, it's pretty unique." -- Lisa Stone

Day 44 AS

Another milestone day: return to work day. I was exhausted before leaving the house, but managed to actually make it in at 8 -- my goal. Who would have thought showering, doing makeup and hair, and then dressing, could take so much out of a body? I found myself stopping to rest every 10 minutes or so -- insane. I'm definitely looking forward to getting my stamina back!!

It was lovely walking into my department's area -- the first thing I saw were some beautiful balloons (the crowning glory was a purple and pink dragonfly!) flying high above my desk. I love balloons -- nothing could have been nicer! On top of that, there was a great card and a lovely chrysanthemum plant. What a lovely group of colleagues I have -- I am most fortunate indeed!

The introvert in me had a hard time dealing with all of the attention -- a lot of people came by to welcome me back. I had psyched myself up for the once overs I suspected I'd be getting. I truly appreciated those who were direct and made no bones about it -- not so much the (very, very few) that gave me what I think they thought were subtle top to bottom glances. That being said, it was great catching up with everyone! A lot has changed in almost 7 weeks... and yet, very little at the same time.

The one thing I wasn't at all prepared for was the impact of fluorescent lighting on my eyes. Wow. About an hour after I arrived I had an awful headache that fairly quickly escalated to a blinding headache. And silly me left my liquid Tylenol at home (note to self, bring some in soon!!). At first I thought it was just my normal "I'm tired" headache, but after closing my eyes and trying to relax (which normally dissipates that in a matter of minutes), no relief. I had a couple of meetings after that, which (thank you guys!) my colleagues agreed to have in darkened conference rooms. After those, it went away. Within half an hour of being back at my desk it was back. Yikes. Another note to self -- bring in sunglasses (John suggested old-fashioned accountant's shades!) when next in the office.

One colleague had a plausible theory as to why the lighting may have been bothering me so much -- my senses of smell and taste are still hypersensitive. Perhaps my sense of sight is also?

It's great working with so many concerned, thoughtful folks... I'm going to work from home tomorrow in hopes it will be a pain-free day. Then back to the office Monday, liquid Tylenol and sunglasses in hand! Another note to self -- bring in some V8 as a back-up lunch plan in case you're coming down with a blinding headache during lunch (eating tuna salad, no matter how good it is, is not easy when you're on the border of becoming nauseous!).

A bunch of people pitched in and picked up different parts of my job while I was gone, so I'm incredibly grateful for the fact that the transition back is going to be a cinch from an actual work perspective. Everything's current, so my only catch-up need is to review where everything's at from a status perspective and to pick up the reins once again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse."

-- George Sheehan

Day 41 AS

Back to work in 3 days on Thursday... I'm looking forward to it intellectually, but not quite so much physically. It will be nice to get my brain back to things that are a little more stimulating than Facebook games (although I must say my Mafia Wars and Vampire Wars rankings have improved significantly during this hiatus! :) ). It will be even nicer to see and interact with some of the wonderful colleagues I am blessed with. But... I hope I can make it through a full day physically. I'm glad I'll only have 2 days this week back before the weekend... I suspect it will take a little time to get my stamina back.

My first true "public" outing in months occurred Saturday night as we attended a Halloween Birthday party to help a dear friend celebrate a milestone birthday. I almost didn't attend as it was one of my less-than-good days, (it seems I have around one of those a week), but sucked it up and went anyway. I'm glad I did -- aside from celebrating the special day, it was great seeing so many friends and getting caught up on what's been going on these last few months. I lasted almost two hours -- not too bad!

Yesterday John set up our new Wii game and we both played Wii Fit Plus a while. It was kind of fun, for exercise, surprisingly enough. I was thrilled to not have to modify the balance board. I had been looking at this a few months ago when I was over the weight limit for the game and knew of some work-arounds, so was ready to implement them, but amazingly enough I'm substantially under the weight limit now... woohoo. Not only that, but if the scale is accurate, I'm down another 8 pounds from last Tuesday... not bad.

Now, if we could just get my blood pressure up a little. It's still running around 100/60. I hate to think this, but perhaps the stress of the work place will help later this week... time will tell.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can - there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”

-- Sarah Caldwell

Day 37 AS

Some great news from Tuesday's blood work: liver function tests came back normal. Although that's what we expected, it's still a relief. We'll never know why they were high last time, but it does seem a reasonable assumption that the trauma of the surgery was a contributing, if not the only, factor.

Some not so great news from my blood work: my uric acid levels are elevatated (10 vs. normal range top of 7). That means that my foot joint pain is probably not anatomical, but gout flaring up. I guess that's better news than not. My doctor told me this is very common with rapid weight loss, and googling confirmed her statement. I suppose that's one of the reasons my surgeon told me the surgery wouldn't help get rid of my gout -- but she didn't tell me it might make it worse. Oh well... the prednisone should help. I just took my third dose and it doesn't ache as badly, but it certainly still hurts. Next week we'll talk about different treatment if need be. The sad side of this are that I've been taking medication twice a day to keep my uric acid levels lower and I haven't had any wine since May, and it's happening anyway. Kind of a bummer -- pain without any of the pleasure ahead of time to make it worth it.

Lest you think me ungrateful, I am very happy the results aren't reversed. I'll take a normal set of liver function tests any day over lower gout results if I can only have one or the other.

The support group meeting was great this week -- over 40 people there! I had my calendar mixed up, so the plastic surgeons weren't there (they'll be there next time). With that many people there were a lot of interesting discussions. One of the useful tidbits for me was the acknowledgment that my broken thermostat is normal. Even though I've only lost 100 pounds so far, it physically feels more like 200 when it comes to temperature -- I am cold seemingly all the time when I feel good now. The post-op only group theme was "change" with a focus on the psychological changes people may/may not have 2 or more years post-op.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"The tragedy in life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach."

"The tragedy in life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach." --Benjamin Mays

Day 35 AS

Another exciting milestone on this 5 week anniversary of my weight loss surgery: I have "officially" lost 100 pounds since my high weight in April - roughly 60 pre-op and 40 post-op. Woohoo!

I saw my internist this morning for a follow-up and she seemed very pleased. Even after cutting my blood pressure in medicine in half I'm still running low -- 100/70 today. I have to monitor it twice a day and if it stays here I'll have to cut it in half again... what an amazing thing. Now if only my blood sugar would follow suit -- my endocrinologist and I haven't quite gotten that where it belongs yet. It's lower than it was a couple of weeks ago with the addition of an oral med, but higher than I like it to be. I see him again in two weeks and we'll see what magic he can pull out of his hat then if it's not better. This seems crazy to me as I'm eating so very little, but it is what it is.

My walking's suffered over the last week due to a sore foot joint, so my internist looked at that today. She pondered whether to send me to a foot doctor for a cortisone injection or to try that amazing prednisone for 3 days again and decided to start with the latter. As soon as I eat lunch today day 1 will start. I remember taking this a couple of weeks before surgery and I felt great -- it eliminated all pain in my body for over a week. Hopefully it will do the same again, and by then clear up the inflammation in this joint altogether and I can dodge the cortisone injection bullet -- I hate those!!

The other slightly nagging issue out there was my last set of liver function tests. We're all assuming that it was just a post-op anomaly, but just in case, my internist had me retest that today too. Fingers crossed they come back normal this time...

This is one of those two outing days... late this afternoon is support group. A couple of plastic surgeons are coming to chat with us about that challenge. I'm more than a year away from that, but it doesn't hurt to get the information so I will attend.

My 100 pound "reward" (aside from the health improvements of course) is a Wii system and a Wii-fit plus game. Hopefully this foot will stop being so annoying and I will find the games somewhat motivational. Exercise remains my greatest challenge.

Showering still isn't perfectly normal, but for the second time in a row at least I didn't feel like throwing up after getting out of the shower today -- yay. Still exhausting, but better that than both. As for the nausea I felt every time I brushed my teeth, the good news is that switching back to an old-fashioned manual toothbrush has helped tremendously. Brushing my teeth is a pleasure once again. Ok, that may be an exaggeration of sorts -- at least it's a non-event now and I don't dread doing it.

Ending on a positive note, I had a lovely afternoon Sunday visiting with two of my colleagues. It was great seeing them and catching up on office and personal going-ons. I really appreciate both of them making the time to come over and say hi! I return to work next Thursday -- six weeks after surgery. I'm looking forward to seeing all of the great people I work with -- and hoping by then I won't be so darn tired all the time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On having a good right hand...

“I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it.” -- Spoken by Nicholas Cage in "City of Angels"

Day 30 AS

I'll start today with the good news that John's hand surgery today went very well. If you ever need a hand surgeon in the Bay Area, he's batting 1000 -- he did a great job on my right hand last year and seemingly a great job on John's right hand today. Plus he's a really cool guy! And John's Mr. Mellow -- even more than usual. Valium is a good drug too it would seem. ;)

Tuesday was my red letter day -- real (albeit soft!) food -- something I could actually chew. What a relief from the prior four weeks of only liquid and pureed food. I can now report that I can eat processed turkey and low-fat jarlsberg swiss cheese and my new digestive system can tolerate both. I'll slowly add more foods like other processed meats, poached chicken and fish, eggs, cheeses, over-cooked vegetables, over-cooked pasta and over-cooked rice during this 4-week stage. The key is for the food to be soft soft soft. I'm still struggling with getting to my daily goal of 75 grams of protein, so hopefully this will help.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On eating and drinking...

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

Day 27 AS

Not a lot to report. Same old - same old. Overall doing pretty well. Dizziness has thankfully subsided, I'm left with just feeling tired all of the time now. Yesterday was a little weird -- I had a hard time keeping pureed foods down, and was kind of sick getting out of the shower (yuck) but that seems to have thankfully subsided today.

The other weird thing is that I'm still not hungry. I know the head-hunger is going to hit me one of these days, but so far, so good. I am eating 3 times a day because I need to -- not because I want to at this point.

Next big milestone is tomorrow -- I get to start eating "soft" foods for a month. Just like a baby, I'm supposed to add one food at a time to make sure I can tolerate it. If it doesn't work (and I shudder to think what that means!) then I wait a week and try it again. John got me some good supplies to try -- an assortment of "processed" meats (recommended as it will be easier to chew to the required applesauce consistency -- I can also eat poached and boiled meats -- ugh), eggs, and some soft low fat cheeses. Ripe bananas and canned fruit (with any syrup washed off) are also on the list, as are overcooked potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice and pasta. The hard part is that I also have to start the no beverage with meals for the rest of my life phase or for 30 minutes afterwards. I've always consumed tons of water with my meals so this will definitely take some getting used to. Hopefully with the meals only being 3 ounces (3/8 cup) in total I won't miss the water too much.

The number one priority remains getting all of my protein in. I am still struggling to get to my goal of 75 grams/day.

Thanks to John I have found another pureed food I like: smoothies. Yum! Yesterday he made a banana smoothie for breakfast and added some of Elaine's protein supplement -- it was delicious. We tried kefir for the first time with this and found it pretty tasty -- filled with protein. A few days earlier he made a banana strawberry one that was pretty tasty too. One thing I've noticed is that I still prefer "simple" flavors -- not too much spice or too many complex flavors. That seems to be getting better with time, so hopefully in another week or two that won't be an issue any longer.