Thursday, June 1, 2017

Three Months

I'm drinking a Carnation Instant Breakfast as I write this.  I'm having zero problem getting it all down and I'm not too certain that it will do the job of filling what used to be my full-sized adult stomach, the one that today, is the size and shape of a medium banana. As I sip, I can't help but recall Day One, post-op, my breakfast tray, and the hour it took me to ingest a few ounces of the same item, vowing with each forced sip, that I'd never eat or drink anything again.  Nausea and anesthesia fall-out ruled my life for the first twelve hours and all I truly cared about was getting back to my home.  That was three months and forty unwanted pounds ago.

It scares me to think how quickly time has passed.  Four times the short time span becomes an entire year.  At my age, I wish for longer time spans, less fleeting memories. But, in that time, I became an eye-witness to my life as it changed for what I hope, will be forever more.  I didn't cry, but I did fess up to "this" being the hardest thing I had yet done, in those early hours after being "sleeved".  I had a moment of intense fear and quite possibly, agonizing guilt for what I had done to my poor body.  How could I, how dare I, consciously and willingly make an irreversible change to what had been a body that had honored me with years of perfect health and strength?  Was I reversing my good fortune?  If I could not drink an ounce of Instant Breakfast, how could I ever have a normal meal again? Would any of my life return to normality? Again, I held back tears.  I did what I should have done many years before.....I decided then and there to take one day at a time, one meal at a time, one sip at a time.  A promise I was to forget over the next few weeks as I doubted myself and felt that I had become a "statistic", one who failed to see results following the loss of 80% of a stomach. I returned to that state of mind, and trusted my brain and body once more, drawing upon my deepest religious convictions and all of my self-preservation skills and I soldiered forward to where I am now, at the three month mark.  My blood work came back.  I passed with flying colors.  I have had no side-effects other than changes in food preferences.

Now, I can't think for one moment that anyone would be led to believe that I take any of this for granted.  When I first started writing about my "journey", I told my writing mentor, June, that I was going to knock it off.  I feared that my words would bore readers, that they would feel that enough was quite enough already. I was afraid of being billed as "self-absorbed".  June's response was "no, don't stop!" She encouraged me and kept me on track by suggesting that perhaps I might be of assistance to someone who was considering weight loss surgery, that my words might be just what they needed to hear. So, I chose to continue.  It has been said that it is when we write we discover much about ourselves and when I write, I am amazed.

Every journey begins with one step and all great journeys are made in faith.  Mine began with friends who buoyed and supported me, step by step.  My best coach ever, my husband Joe, who remembers all the things I forget and forgets all the things I remember and my amazing, amazing, mind-blowing friends who have kept me going with patience, understanding and generosity. I am grateful every day and thank God for this abundant gift, this beautiful array of loving people who encourage me, trust me and live my life with me.  They are so courageous! Friends who have taken walks, accompanied me on visits to the Surgical Center, making each one a fun trip rather than an annoying ride over the bridge when they could be elsewhere.  The friends who say "let's do lunch" or "how about dinner?" and don't avoid me because they think I don't eat. And, my best friend of all, my daughter, my "second-shooter" who I was reluctant to tell of my plans lest I would worry her. Instead of taking on the burden of worry or trying to discourage me, she made it her business to do the homework.  She researched and learned what would lie before me with the same fortitude that she has shown in making her own successful life choices.  When I was discouraged, she listened with empathy and made suggestions.  When I was encouraged, she celebrated with me and when I hadn't noticed signs of progress, she quickly brought them to my attention.  If I did this entire thing for no one else, I did it for her and her daughters and somehow, I think she totally understood that.

There will be more grunts and groans, of that I am sure.  Life won't always be this peachy-keen. I didn't buy an insurance policy that guarantees me perfect, lasting health and happiness.  I simply took a leap in faith and for now, it's paying off.  One day at a time and prayers for those who don't have choices, who have to go on journeys to far worse places.




Monday, May 15, 2017

Million Dollar Question

I heard a meteorologist on the Weather Channel refer to this May as one very cold and rainy one.  No, really?  This has been the most miserable month of May that I can recall in years.  Here in the Northeast, we haven't any guarantees at this time of the year but these past few weeks have been off the charts and everyone, everyone, is complaining....as if that would change anything.

Yesterday was the one day, after Easter, that I really count on for being sunny and bright.  It wasn't.  It was Mother's Day and it was cold, cloudy and eventually, it became stormy.  A Nor'easter.  Hard to imagine.

Other than the weather, what made yesterday unique, was the presence of my mother-in-law.  She's 102 years old and still going rather "strong" for her age.  Her full-time care provider took a nine day vacation so, before I could censor myself, the words, "have her come here", fell out of my mouth.  That was before my father, a mere 95 years old, landed up in the hospital and then the rehab center for treatment of pneumonia.  His illness came on slowly and defied my attention.  I thought perhaps it was a little cold, a cough, maybe even an allergy when I heard his groggy voice each morning for a week.  Next, a much-anticipated visit from our granddaughters took up my time and my attention and before we all knew it, he was off in an ambulance.  So, it's been child care and elder care since mid-April.

What good is living through a whole day unless you learn something from the hours?  I've had nothing but time to observe the stages of life.  Each day, when I dragged my weary body through the halls at the rehab center which also serves as a skilled nursing facility, I witnessed lives being drained of the juices that had once kept them plumped.  I watched family members putting in time as if they had done something terribly wrong for which they were now being punished.  And I wondered, how much longer would this go on for them?  And each day, I went through the same topics with my father, trying to act as if the questions were brand new and the answers were understood.  Until the next time, sometimes five minutes later, when the litany would restart.  "What's it doing out there?", "
When am I getting out of here?", "Are you coming tomorrow?".  Relentless.  And now, he's home and the same questions get asked over and over.

My husband's mother can't see due to macular degeneration.  She can't hear much, even with a hearing aid.  She has virtually no muscle strength in her arms or legs so she can't walk without assistance, something she does not always seem to grasp, so she requires constant observation and supervision.  She, like my father, has dementia.  Their brain synapses have become rusty.  The thoughts and ideas cross slowly and oftentimes, they go haywire.  It's sad. It won't get any better and I'm told that in my father's case, one day it will accelerate quickly.  He's holding his own for now.  His home is safe and there is very little he can suffer as he shelters-in-place.  But he also needs supervision.

So, yesterday, I spent the day wondering.  When will this all end?  Will we miss them, or have they truly worn out their welcome?  Are we going to be too old to appreciate our "freedom" when it finally does arrive?  Is it okay to resent all of this?  What will next Mother's Day be like?

Who will take care of us one day?  That's the Million Dollar Question.
i
P.S......for those of you who have been so supportive, in every aspect of my life, especially since my surgery....wait for it......38 pounds!!!  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Doris




When my son was ready for Kindergarten, I had more than the usual trepidation.  Yes, it was a big occasion, that day that we went to register.  I joined the legions of mothers who had blazed the trail before me and off we went to the elementary school in our town in preparation for the start of school months later.  I knew my child was bright.  I thought all kids were pretty smart.  I promise you, however, that I did not teach him to read when he was three years old.  But, I was about to be labeled as "one of those mothers" for at least the first five minutes of his Kindergarten registration.

It went something like this.  The paper had questions that the soon-to-be student would be asked by the soon-to-be-teacher.  She would ask either myself or Josh questions that would give everyone on the registration team some background information on the child.  He sat down and glanced at the paper on the little table and proceeded to answer the questions before she asked them.  Okay, she said....let's just go with it.  You just tell me the answers was her mystified response.  Next, she asked him to show how well he followed directions.  "Josh, I want you to pick up that box, bring it over to that table and then bring it back to me".  No response.  Total disregard for her direction.  "Oh come on, you can do it...it's fun".  Then, from the mouth of a well-bred five year old came these exact words:  "If it's so much fun, why don't you do it?"  I nearly died.  She never missed a beat.  "Hmmmm.  Excuse me, Mrs. Guardino".  She exited the room and re-entered with the school psychologist in tow.  Both of them conducted the rest of the interview and both of them were beaming.

My child was (and still is) different.  It was a  few years later, when we had struck up a beautiful friendship with his teacher and her husband, after a momentous year with our child, that she confessed that she had honestly thought that I was the instigator of Josh's early learning and that I had taught him to read.  Yeah, right.  I was busy nursing a baby, being an Earth Mommy, a card-carrying member of both LaLeche League and Another Mother for Peace.  I was also teaching Lamaze classes and baking my own bread while my husband worked six days a week for his little family.  I hardly had time to teach a child to read, nor did I actually know how to do that.  That's another whole story in itself.  This is a story about a teacher, an amazingly brilliant, kind and wonderful teacher who changed the course of our child's education from Day One.

Josh was allowed to be "different".  Yes, he could spend his kindergarten hours under her desk. There was very little she could teach him and he had to do his time.  She hooked him up with little Jimmy Chin, because he, too, was "different" and together, they spent most of their time.  With all of her wisdom, she convinced the principal to do something more extraordinary.  Josh was to spend his mornings in her classroom and then, afternoons in a combined first/second grade.  This was never before done and it was risky but it was the right thing at the right time.  It took a woman with courage and love for a child to stick her neck out and we will never, ever forget that.

Doris Kelley remained a friend of our family.  I'm sure there were hundreds of other children and families who grew to love and appreciate her over the years before she retired from teaching. Her warmth, her wit, and her intelligence kept her in our hearts for over forty years.  Our son just turned 46 and that Kindergarten registration blazes in my heart as if it happened yesterday.

Doris Kelley left this world late last week.  There's a new star in the Universe and it is a bright one.
Rest in peace, Dorie.  You made an impact, lady.  There will never be anyone like you in our lives.
How can a mother ever say thank you enough?  I can't.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Drenched

I was born in a snowstorm and married in a snow storm.  Every time I plan an outdoor event, the weather prevents it from happening as planned.  Need a drought to end, call me and ask me to plan a picnic.  Want to use your new skis?  Ask me to make a hotel reservation for a nice mid-Winter get-away.  I promise you will have more snow than you bargained for.  It never fails.

So, you can blame me. Totally beat me up and drag me around the block.  It hasn't stopped raining in what seems like forever this Spring.  The merry month of May is starting off on a poor footing.  Not only does it rain, it pours, all day and night.  I know, April showers, blah, blah, blah. But this is beyond that point and as I look at the forecast for next week, guess what?  Days of rain ahead.

Yes, I'm guilty.  I did it and did it good this time.  Together with my husband, we conspired.  We built and air-tight reservoir replenishment system.  We beg your forgiveness.

Our brand new, very expensive but worth it on a sunny day, patio was completed just before the first of the Monsoon events.  Flower pots out, new furniture, Romanesque fountain in place, Rosemary bush, solar spotlights on our outdoor artwork.  You name it.  We got it.  And, as I glanced around, on that one last sunny day, as I took it all in and appreciated it with all my heart, I uttered these words....

"It's probably going to rain all Summer"

I'm sorry. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

You, Me and Alvin Ailey

  Alvin Ailey was an African-American choreographer.  He was an activist and....he founded a dance company that revolutionized participation by African-Americans in modern-day concert dance. It all happened in New York City in 1958 when a tiny group of dancers changed the perception of American dance forever with a performance of his choreographed piece, the stunning "Revelations".  Oh my, oh my, oh my.

The 92nd Street Y in Manhattan was the stage for that famous performance.  Ailey drew upon his "blood memories" of growing up in Texas.  Those were of the blues, spirituals, and gospel. They were his source of inspiration and it is in his masterpiece, Revelations, that this becomes incredibly clear.  Almost too-much-to-bear, clear.

When I was working in New York City, one of my colleagues was a physical therapist and the Alvin Ailey America Dance Theater was a client.  It was easy for me to become an Ailey fan.  Free tickets to performances!  I'll never forget the thrill.  That thrill?  It all came back last Saturday afternoon when I escorted my eleven year old granddaughter to her first introduction to the world of modern dance.  Earlier, sometime during the Winter, we sat together for a live-broadcast performance of Sleeping Beauty by the Bolshoi Ballet.  She was enraptured.  I loved watching her face and hearing her tell me that she "loved" it and wanted more.  The miles between us make it difficult to fulfill every dream but on Saturday, when I drove up through the traffic, to meet her on a sidewalk in Boston, I knew it was worth every moment. A dream was in progress. We were going to see Alvin Ailey!!!

The performance did not disappoint.  Each exquisitely choreographed number was amazing.  These dancers are the best in the business and their movements, testimony to the beauty of the human body.
The thrill was there and it built to a crescendo when the final thirty five minute piece, the masterpiece, was performed.  I was near tears when I told Lucy how fortunate we both were, to be seeing this in real time, on the beautiful stage of the Wang Theater.  She recognized "Wade in the Water" from having seen it in school on YouTube.  Her music teacher must be a very wise one for having selected this for the students to comprehend the African-American contribution.  She knew instantly that the dance consisted of a series of spirituals.  It was as incredible then as I am sure it was in March of 1958 and,  I'm sure the audience at the 92nd Street Y were moved to their feet just as this audience was, by "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham".

After it was all over and my Lucy was returned safely to her mother, I posted an Instagram, a photo of the two of us, arriving at the theater.  Her response......"memories".  I kinda have to agree.  Yes, memories are made of this stuff.  Beautiful memories.  Thank you Lucy and thank you Alvin. May your memory last eternal.  You rocked our souls.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Seven Weeks


Head Hunger weight loss surgery





Harder to believe than the six week mark is the seven.  Still holding my own and trying to get it all figured out but it is, thankfully, so much easier and there are some results.  My daughter, for instance, came to visit last evening and she told me that there is a huge "difference" in my appearance.  So, I can breathe a bit easier.  I am not failing!  Oh sure, it has its moments.  I still get hungry but I am an avid reader of Bariatric forums and I know I am not alone.

Head hunger. That's what they, who are supposed to know this stuff cold, call it.  It differs from other hunger in that it is an emotional response rather than a physical one. Sorry, it is not what I have been experiencing.  Hyper-acidity.  That's more like it.  So, I am trying a new medication.

What bothers me most about all the "remedies" is the fact that I hardly ever took an over-the-counter medication.  Now, I have an arsenal of them. Vitamins and fiber pills and antacids to name a few.  My hope is that one day soon, I will have only vitamins in that arsenal.

The days of Spring that I had longed for are slowly slipping by without delivering their goods.  The weather has been the usual for Cape Cod in the Spring.  A no-show.  We have lots of chill in the air still and a thick white cloud fills the sky where blue is supposed to be.  It's hard to feel inspired and easy to feel that the fun days of Summer, those days spent spinning around in our swimming pool, will never show up.  Oh, they will. And I'm sure that I will be venting about how much I dislike heat and humidity.

For now, I just want those blue skies.  Oh boy, do I want to return to my life.  You know, the one filled with hope and promise and friends and laughter.  I'm tired of looking up remedies.  I'm bored with reading forums and trying to decide if the writers are telling the truth when they say things such as this....."I've lost 50 pounds since I was sleeved in the middle of February and I walk 6 to 10 miles a day".  My answer?  If you've lost 50 pounds in less than three months, you probably do not have the strength to walk 6 to 10 miles a day.  And when do you drink that water that the Bariatric people tell us we must take in every day, no sooner that one hour after a meal and no less than 30 minutes before. Oh, give me a break.....there aren't enough hours in a day!!!!

That's a whole other "head" something, don't you think??

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Six Weeks????

A six-week time span used to seem like a very long time.  At least that's the way it went when I was forty years younger.  But now, time has a way of flying by and six weeks feels very much like three used to.

I went for my six week post-op visit this week.  Progress report here.  I'm still living the Bariatric Life and growing more and more accustomed to having very little choice in the feed-me department. I'm still on what is known as Stage 4 and won't progress to the big 5-0 for almost two more weeks but then, in the light of things, two weeks is an incredibly short time.  I honestly don't know where the past six have gone and what I had perceived as ultimate challenges, well, that's kid's stuff and it's all behind me now.  If you had told me some time ago, that I would be living on liquids only, for two weeks, I would have asked you to have your head examined.  But, I did it.  And give up coffee?  Wine? Anything with sugar? Pasta? Bread? A glass of water with a meal? Yahoo!!!! I did it.

With my ever-present-sidekick Beth, up we went to Wareham for the big visit.  This time, I met again with a Nurse Practitioner.  She answered a lot of my questions.  She was very nice.  Some of what she said made sense.  Other things I'm not too sure about.  She told me that I can now lift more than 10 pounds.  Wow!!  My father would have starved if I did not lift more than 10 pounds every week. I survived.  Good grief.

The hardest part and I mean it sincerely, of this whole new way of eating, is the big "rule" that says
that one cannot drink a half hour before eating and close to an hour after.  I'm not thirsty any other time of the day.....in fact, I cannot get in the recommended number of ounces of fluid per day.  Water makes me gag.  That is, unless I am told that I cannot have it.  There are a few other "rules" that can be altered to suit the occasion and the individual but this one about drinking within eating times, it cannot be dissed.  I saw a perfect little video that really impressed me and I thought I would share it.  It gives you an idea of how a "sleeved" stomach operates and why, should we be dining together, I will not join you in a cocktail.  And, cake and coffee? Ask this guy.

Enjoy!