Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stage 3 & 4 post Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy Surgery

To read my story from the beginning start here , then here then here then here

Sorry for the terribly long delay regarding the next stages of my story. It was around the time of the last post that this whole cancer messwas going on and all I could think about was do I have it or don't I have it, so I wasn't up to posting any more blogs.

But now that mess is over!

So where were we?

Ok - stage 3 - pureed food (read baby food). By this time I had not had solid foods in 3, almost 4 weeks. I had no desire to eat, but I knew I had to because I was wasting away, physically, mentally and emotionally. Physically, I had gone into starvation mode because of low protein and low caloric intake. Mentally, it was hard to focus on anything - I swear I have no clue what I was doing during that time, I just remember walking back and forth to the kitchen every 15-20 minutes to get my 2 ounce protein shake or 2 ounces of water and then going back to sit in my chair. I also remember A LOT of Law & Order..... thank God for Law & Order - original, SVU, Criminal Intent - they are always on, no matter the time of day, you just have to keep the faith and keep changing channels.

So Stage 3 - I was so excited - FOOD! Real Food! Okay, well not REAL food. More like real food I had to prepare then throw in the blender until it no longer resembled food anymore. I had done a lot of research online and I studied my food diaries that were given to me by the dietitian and I went to work. I have to admit, this was where the rubber hit the road for me. I have never spent as much time researching what food was, how it was going to affect me, how many calories, what were the nutritional benefits, how do you balance calories to nutrition ...etc , etc, etc. I of course had lived my life on diets - I ate what Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig told me to eat or i would restrict myself on the latest and greatest craze....(Cabbage Soup Diet... never again...banana milk day killed me every time). But I never really figured out what I was doing or why I was doing it. I just knew that the commercials or posters told me that if I do what these people tell me to do I would lose weight and be happy.

But this time was different. The goal was 1000 calories with 60-80 grams of protein. It is really damn hard to get that much protein in with those few calories, especially when you have NO DESIRE to eat. I was more like a scientist than a chef. I would lay out all of the ingredients for a possible recipe, calculate the calories and nutritional content, alter the recipe to get the biggest bang for my buck, then measure it all out, cook it, puree it, and then weigh it into 2 ounce servings. And it is not like I could do just one meal, because you don't want to eat the same meal, all day, for 3 days. So I was calculating, cooking, and preparing many meals all at one time. The great part was once I did all of that, I had easy frozen portions, and all I had to do was heat and serve. The bad part, I would discover later, was that i would find myself not tolerating certain foods, so all of my hard work would be wasted. Certain foods just would not go down or stay down.

Quite a few of my recipes had cheese in it. I had an Italian recipe with ground meat, ricotta, and tomato sauce. I had a ground meat with Campbell's cheddar cheese soup. I did Chicken with cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. I tried a turkey with gravy. My biggest protein, but worst digestive enemy was Tuna salad. I also had Greek yogurt, cream of wheat, and cream soups, but those were more for comfort as nutritionally they were not as great as the pureed meals. Most meals had to be a portent with a cheese or a sauce to help it to go down smoothly.

I did start to feel better almost instantly once I was getting more calories in. I went back to work, started rehearsals for Tamarie Cooper's summer show, and started to realize things did not fit anymore. This was working. It was really really working. Within the first few rehearsals, it was time for measurements and sizes, and I had no clue what to tell them.
A. I had no clue what size I was.
B. I had no clue what size I would be on opening night.
C. I had no clue what size I was going to be when the show closed.
A quick jump ahead - the entire rehearsal process and run of the show was from late May to late August. Most people thought I was insane for agreeing to the 14 hour days (work then straight to rehearsals) so close after the surgery, but truthfully, it was the best thing for me and my journey. I was busy... really really busy and I had no time to sit around and stare at myself willing the pounds to melt away. I was very active and the activities filled my soul with joy because I was doing what i love with people I love. Tamarie had pulled costumes that I was certain would never fit me, but low and behold they fit, were too big, or by the end of the run, they were falling off of me. It was AWESOME!!!!!

Back to the baby food. This stage lasted for 3 weeks. It got old. It got boring. Especially since I was having trouble with some of the above recipes, so I was repeating the same meals over and over again. But, I was busy, so I just treated it like medicine - just do it and get it over with. I was still not able to take my vitamins regularly because I would get very sick to my stomach, but I was getting my calcium from the never ending supply of Tums or Maalox antacids that I was popping quite frequently. I had a lot of acid and food intolerance, so most meals ended with the chalky dessert treat! Later I found a daily dose of Zegrid helped with the heartburn/reflux. I ended up taking the Zegrid for about 3-4 months, and eventually, my body had settled down, I knew my triggers and it was not a problem anymore.

One of the things I was missing the most during this time, and still do miss, is drinking while eating. You are not supposed to drink while eating because there is very little room in there, so you don't want to waste precious space with fluid. It would take me a good 1/2 to hour to recover from a meal before I could start drinking again. Now it is more like 15 to 20 minutes, but if I attempt to drink too soon after eating, the whole meal goes down the toilet.

Stage 4 - Food - REAL CHEWABLE FOOD. Oh happy day. I can eat again. I can chew, I can crunch, I can savor individual ingredients instead of a mushy mix of all ingredients. Back to normal, just much smaller portions! Right?!?!


Not so fast, Missy. Yes. I could eat. But I quickly realized food would never be the same again. I can only speak for myself, but I will honestly tell you, nothing tastes the same as before the surgery. I believe it to be entirely emotional. Eating is no longer an event, it is a brief passing time in my day. One that I am very conscious of, taking time to plan ahead, but not something that consumes or comforts me. I used to think of my meals like little parties. I couldn't wait to go have dinner with friends - hours and hours of chips and salsa, and fried gooeyness topped with margarita after margarita. That does not and cannot happen anymore. For one, it is not a healthy choice and it is what got me into trouble in the first place and two, there just isn't room and would likely get stuck, and I would be miserable.

One night, shortly after moving to the food stage, I told my family, I wanted Mexican. i want to go to a Mexican restaurant, order a meal, and feel normal. I thought about it all day, where we were going to go, what I was going to order, how amazing it was going to taste. I ordered something soft - cheese enchiladas. The hot plate came, i took 2 bites and the moment was gone. It did not taste as good as before, my body was angry at me for what I was putting in it, and I had to leave the table to walk off my uncomfortable feeling. After this, I realized things were changing forever - I mourned the loss, and got over it. Change is good. Putting on pants that did not fit because they were too big felt soooo much better than putting on pants that did not fit because they were too small. It was just that simple.

Well... one great side effect of this journey is my ability to instantly fall asleep at a reasonable time, which is what I must go do now. More to come.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Phew!! That was close!

Well... let's just start with the punch line:


Now to catch you up.

So, apparently you find the craziest things when you lose 110 lbs. I found a mass. A large uncomfortable mass the size of a ping pong ball. At my 6 month post surgery appointment, I showed my doctor. I tried to blow it off, he said, no....this is a *significant* mass that needs to be investigated. So we did. 2 CT scans, 2 MRI scans, a needle biopsy, and several weeks later, I finally got results today that the mass/tumor is benign - it is just a pain in my ass....literally - TMI?!? Maybe - but I am so damned relieved I could care less if I am sharing too much or not!!

This holiday season has been ROUGH! I have been hovering over a situation with manic thoughts from, "Oh you silly girl..this is nothing... you are so over dramatic!" to "Well, maybe I need to start making videos for the boys..."

It has been awful. It has been a terrible awful 2 months

The situation became more dramatic and frustrating with each call from the MD office - no, CT scan not enough, he wants MRI. Nope, MRI inconclusive - he wants a biopsy. The biopsy - (Good Lord, it was painful)- preliminary results - spindle cell - needs immunostains to confirm malignant or benign... wait wait wait.

Well, the wait is over. I am so blessed and relieved. I just have to have surgery to have it removed - and though it will be an unpleasant experience I am sure - it will be FAR less unpleasant had the results been different.

Cancer Free Happy Dance!!!