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!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Think ME

The hardest adaptation in the world for me is the one which demands that I think of myself first.
I'm totally unfamiliar with this type of thought and it is, I am told, vitally important that I adopt this new and different approach.  I've spent almost sixty years thinking otherwise.  I'm not self-absorbed and I was trained very well in the art of putting everything and everyone else before myself.  So, now it's time to think otherwise and it hurts.

I am so blessed.  I cannot even think of one thing irregular about my recovery from my Gastric Sleeve surgery and on Tuesday I will go for my six-week check up.  I'm waiting for my hair to start falling out but not a strand so far.  I have escaped nausea, vomiting, abdominal problems, fatigue and a gamut of other things I am told that others who have preceded me in this crazy thing have suffered.
Thank God, I am still healthy and hearty.  But, it takes a lot of work and a lot of thinking to maintain that status.

So, every day, from now on, I am going to think of ME and the things I will need all day to keep me strong and healthy. It doesn't work if I don't and I've had a few days to prove that to ME.  I left the house for a whole day yesterday with very few instant sources of protein.  Big mistake.  I can't go many hours without protein.  I do get "hungry" but not often enough and certainly not with the same urgency that my hunger once had.  My stomach feels empty at the appropriate times for the most part but getting 60 to 80 grams of protein in a day takes more than hunger signals.  It takes diligence and being prepared.  This morning, I did it again.  I knew my father's food supply was getting low so I took off, did some errands, and then did his and a bit of my own, grocery shopping.  Lunchtime passed and when I finally got to his house to deliver the goods, it was well past one o'clock.  I was grouchy, lethargic and in a full blown low blood sugar mood from which I did not recover until I ate and called Joe to blow off steam.

From now on, I don't leave home without my "supply".  I have a lovely little insulated lunch bag, one I bought especially for this time,  I also have a brand new set of plastic containers.  Think Bento Box.
I'll pack it up in the morning, pretending I am a child that I am sending off to school.

I am a child.  I still have a lot to learn.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Angel in the Waiting Room

I accompanied my Joe to an appointment at the plastic surgeon's yesterday.  Our dear Dr. Jones removed a benign cyst from his forehead.

While we were sitting in the waiting room, an adorable young woman bounced in.  She had a chic, short hairdo which I noticed at once, and a very nice body, topped off by a lovely face, angelic.  I watched as she wiggled her way into Dr. Jones' office and figured that she probably was going to see him for some breast enhancements.  She didn't look like she needed that or, for that matter, anything else in the realm of plastic surgery but hey, it's what she thinks, not I.

I've been a patient of Dr. Jones for the past four years.  He's my good buddy, having performed my breast reduction surgery, the one thing that on my death bed I will pronounce as THE best decision I've EVER made.  I love him. And, I love everybody in his office, including Jenny who does the scheduling for his surgical engagements.  I hadn't seen her in a very long time so she took five and came out into the waiting room to hug me and catch up.  I told her about my sleeve and how discouraged I was.  She related to me that Dr. Jones sees a lot of patients who come to him following massive weight losses, for skin reductions.  In telling me this, she referred to my bariatric surgeon by name......just as the young woman I had been envying, was within earshot. She stopped in her tracks and said "I'm a Dr.Kruger patient!"  What???

She took out her cell phone and immediately pulled up a photo of a very overweight woman who in no way bore any resemblance to the one standing in front of us.  "This is ME, five years ago" she proudly told us.  I've lost it and kept it off.  She was here for a follow up for her abdominal skin reduction procedure she added.

Well, I umbrella-hooked her right over to my chair and asked her how long it took before she lost weight....."Oh, a good five months before I saw any results"

I've always had a thing for angels.  I believe in them and know that they are out there, that they appear in various forms, just when we need them.  If we open our minds and our hearts, we will see them and even speak to them.  You see, God can't be everywhere no matter what He tells us.  He's too busy and I know He has better things to do than reassure neurotic people like me. So, He sends his worker-bees and I met yet another one just yesterday.

Thank you God.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cat's in the Cradle




What a mixed up set of emotions.

I usually take my father to the barbershop for his shave on Thursday mornings.  On Monday afternoon, he called and asked for me.  I was not home and Joe explained that I was working, filling in at my chiropractor's office.  His response to that, laughter as if it was the most foolish thing I had ever done. Working?  Me?  How very funny.  I'm not sure if it is his dementia or is it just that same old story.  I get laughed at a lot by my father, never taken seriously.  I often wonder if my mother and he had many a laugh at my expense in that sun-room that they treasured so much. The one I'm going to bomb after he vacates the house permanently. I honestly don't know why they thought that I was a good subject for ridicule but ridicule they did.  I think maybe it had to do with the seriousness with which I approached life.  Because they limited my ability to think myself able to do great things, I had to fight hard to get to where I got.  I held a job that should have belonged to someone with a much higher degree than I ever achieved.  I conquered fears and got myself to New York City, competing with the best of them in my field and I captured the flag.

Naturally, as the good daughter that I am, I called him as soon as I got in the door and agreed to take him to the barber the next day.  I didn't question it.  I just did it.

The next day was one of those torrential downpour days.  Not only was it raining, it was cold and miserable.  It did not set the mood for daughter-father-delight.  So, when I arrived at his home and he was seated in my nice warm car, I asked him why he had to go to the barber today instead of waiting until Thursday.  His answer?  "I had nothing to do".  My blood pressure? It really went through the bloody roof.  I had lots to do and driving through the wrath of God wasn't on that list.  I felt bad after explaining to him that this wasn't his best idea, he apologized, and said the words that I so rarely hear from him.  "I appreciate it"

No, I do not enjoy elder care.  I do not enjoy having to tell my 95 year old, adult parent to change his clothes, take a shower, and brush his teeth.  I know it is humiliating for him and it's tiresome for me.
I've raised my children and they are nowhere to be seen.  I'm in this alone.  My brother, when I appeal to him for some respite, sends me funny texts, telling me ridiculous things to tell our father as if our father has any sense of humor.  My brother doesn't spend enough time with him to realize that the part of his brain that would find some of this funny, is spent.  Gone with the winds of old age.

So, I exercise compassion.  I do what I have to do.  I get the job done and I feel guilty every minute of my life.  I wake up guilty and go to sleep guilty, wondering how other people escape this torment.
And every once in a while, I pull in the reins and a little song goes through my head, and I try to understand for just one minute that behind all that dementia or whatever you call the distortions of a 95 year-old, there's a loving, breathing human being who took care of me as a child.

Oh, times have changed.  Mine is probably the last generation to give a damn about parents and their needs as they age.  Joe and I are pacing the floor, talking about our options for the day when we both are "free" as if we were waiting for our kids to go off to college.  We both have elderly parents and we have no timeline on that next step in their development.  We're not looking at college catalogs. We're not planning vacations.  We're just waiting.

And at least once a month, we're told by one of our kids that they don't have any "time".......

Thank you, Harry Chapin



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Inside-Out

Oh, so, it's April.  So, now it's okay that it rains every day, right?  And March, it did NOT go out like a lamb.  It roared it's way out like a lion, combined with rain, sleet and general misery.

I'm waiting for some consistently good weather and when I look out my bedroom window, the prospects seem awfully narrow.  Yeah, right, the humming birds are on their way and should arrive in a few weeks.  I bet they're smarter than that!

Every year we complain about the fact that Cape Cod does not usually experience a Spring.  But every year we forget that we said that the year before and many years before that.  We crash into Summer.

But I need Spring, I truly do.  Enough of the grey skies, the brown, bare trees.  Enough of the heat on, the blankets wrapped around my entire body as I sit in my old lady chair in the corner of my cozy bedroom.  Enough of my cozy bedroom, the drapes shut tightly on the slider.  I want to tear down the plastic sheeting that has been up since early Winter, blocking cold air from creeping in through that slider.  I want to take down the insulated drapes that hang on the kitchen slider.  I want to see what's outside because the inside is making me miserable.

So today, just for the heck of it, I'm tearing it all down.  Let the wind leak through the sliders, let the sky stay grey and the trees brown.  Today, I'm wearing my inside out and hopefully, Mother Nature will get the hint.  Enough already!


I'm going to paraphrase here but you'll get my point:  MR. GUARDINO, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL!!!!!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lose That Scale Already!!




I hid it but only from myself. Took it out of the bathroom and placed it on a shelf in the basement closet.  Oh boy, I'll never use it again!  Who was I kidding.  Every morning, instead of hopping right on in the bathroom, I stole down the stairs and got it out of the closet.  What a very un-smart thing that was.

The scale.  My nemesis.  The thing that rules my life?  Apparently.  If you insist on meeting someone early each morning and basing your entire day upon that meeting, I guess you could safely say that your life is being ruled by that "person".  My scale is very much a "person", one with enough of a brain to know that if I visit, I will come away with some form of emotional response.  So, like any other person who craves attention, it beckons me to get on for a ride, to pay attention to it and to consider it to be the most important part of my life.  That's what's been happening and it isn't a new story.

My mother was on a perpetual diet.  I grew up with the knowledge that food wasn't a very good thing, that it was okay for some people, but not for me and certainly not for my mother.  To this day, a whole array of diet books line the shelves in my father's den, almost five years after her death.  Together, we attended one of the earliest groups of Weight Watchers in our area.  Good God, I could not have been more than 12 years old.  The "numbers" were so important to both of us.  To me, because I was learning, to her, just because she had spent a lifetime up to that point, using the scale as a measure of her happiness or a reason to feel depressed.  She allowed that depression to become part of a viscous cycle.  Weight loss, happy and reason to continue eating plan.  Weight gain, a signal for depression and reason to eat as a way of compensating.  The scale, an emotional trigger. I knew the whole drill by heart by the time I was a teenager.

What is this total pre-occupation with numbers?  Why is the amount that we weigh so much of an issue that it causes us to weigh more? I understand the importance in the morbidly obese (but maybe they got there by scale-sabotage too), but why, why, why is it the be all and end all?  It's just a number, isn't it?  Does it make us more valuable if we weigh less?  How about self-esteem?  Aren't we happier when we are not burdened by what others consider "normal" or "acceptable"?  How many of us resort to food as a result of feeling burdened?  And tell, me, why is it that the first thing that happens during a doctor visit is the weigh-in?  Can we simply refuse?  Yes, we can.  And maybe more of us should.  Maybe we should start asking, "why is this important?".  Getting weighed is the number-one reason women avoid seeing the doctor.  Think of how many lives could be saved through early diagnosis and prevention if the scale were never used in the office?

I turned to my wise Muse this morning after I stupidly stepped on that damned scale in my bathroom and saw a gain.  Despite what the dietitian at the
Bariatric Center professed, yes, it is entirely possible to gain weight at this stage of my recovery from surgery.  I know what I saw. My Muse texted me this sage advice:

THROW YOUR SCALE AWAY!  YOU ARE DOING ALL YOU CAN.  SO LIBERATE YOURSELF FROM THE SCALE.  THROW IT AWAY AND DON'T EVER STEP ON IT AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

And if that wasn't enough:

WEIGHT IS THE GRAVITATIONAL FORCE BETWEEN THE OBJECT AND THE EARTH. THAT IS ALL.

So, I'm taking a well-needed break from that nasty scale.  I'm focusing on better things.  Spring is here and the weather is sure to improve.  I'm going to take walks, not for "weight loss" but for the opportunity to be out, observing the beauty of my surroundings.  I'm going to use that time to listen to podcasts, maybe some lively music.  But I'm not focusing on how much I might lose when stepping on the scale the next day.  I won't, because I won't be able to.  That scale is being permanently removed from any place I can access.  I should have done that a very long time ago.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Baggy

Okay then!

I did enough griping about my scale, stuck in one place, numbers not moving.  Now, it's time to share some good news.  Guess what?  It's moving. In the absolute correct position.

I had to figure a lot of things out on my own and by George, I think I've got it.  A few calls in to the Surgery Team. They did very little except reassure me.  Come to think of it, that's a lot!  A bunch of visits to the Bariatric Forums on line, armed with the knowledge that most of those people, the bigger losers, are probably half my age and two times my starting weight.  That would account for the fact that they were dropping pounds like flies and I wasn't.  I had to have patience as everyone on my support team urged.  And I did. And it has finally paid off.  My scale is behaving quite nicely, thank you, and weight is coming off.  Finally.

A day with my "stomach" is not like a day with any other stomach I know.  Yes, I do get hungry. But that's a good thing.  Call it "head hunger" if you will, but it is a signal that tells me that the bit of my stomach called a "sleeve" is empty and probably should have something in it again.  So, I give in to the signal, making choices that are protein-first, and the signal goes away. I spend hours in my kitchen, either prepping or cleaning up.  Remember, Joe's still got 100% of his stomach!!   Come meal time, I am still following the "soft" diet and, protein first, getting some veggies in along for the ride.  Again, my sleeve works very efficiently as it gives me yet another signal. This one says, NO MORE! If I don't listen, I pay the price.  Do you know how it feels to be "stuffed" and to not have the capacity for one teensy bite more?  God bless my recliner chair.  I take to it like Winston Churchill, and I wait for the feeling of way-too-much to leave.

Now, I have a new problem.  My clothes are baggy.  Or is it that they're just old, tired, worn out and stretched?  Hmmmm.  I think that was my stomach's problem.  I am truly sorry for it. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Plea for Graciousness

Why can't people just say "thank you" and leave it at that?

There's such a need to defend one's knowledge nowadays.  Is it the Internet?  Has everyone suddenly become such an expert on everything?  What happened to education the hard way?  Where did, "I know this because I spent fifty years of my life doing work in this field" disappear to?

Am I the only one who gets sick and tired of hearing people complain about their medical problems, often in vivid details...."I had diarrhea all night", "I can't stop throwing up", "I just still don't feel well"?  And, I am I only one who feels wounded when I find a bit of new information that my experience (I took my nursing boards in 1968), and pass it along to the "afflicted" only to be told that he/she has all the medical knowledge in the world.  Huh?

We live in a crazy world, at crazy times.  We have doctors who are overworked and feel underpaid.  They don't have the time to answer all of our questions.  So, oftentimes, we are left to figure things out on our own.  Were it not for friends who cared, friends who I trusted and respected, there are so many things I might have missed regarding my own or a family member's health or welfare.

Years ago, I taught childbirth classes.  I can't recall all of the details of each and every class but I can remember the wisdom I would attempt to impart at the final class.  I watched the faces on my prospective parents for six weeks and I knew that they needed everything I had in me at that, which would be their last one before being set out on their own.  I talked about the post-partum, what to expect and what to not expect.  Perfection was on the "not" list.  "Confusion, fatigue and hormonal instability" were on the "to" list.  One of the biggest pieces of advice I felt that I had to give was an easy one....."Take whatever help is offered, even if you feel you do not need it.  If your neighbor asks what can be done for you, say something like this...'.if you're going out to the store, pick us up a container of milk, thank you' ".  Why did I think this was so important?  Well, I went on to say, "if you keep saying that you don't need anything, they will stop asking and when you really do need help, it won't be there for you".  I still think I gave some darned good advice and I hope that my new moms and dads had ridiculously large amounts of milk on the shelves of their refrigerators.

Just sayin'

Monday, March 27, 2017

Almost April

Time for an update

The way I see it, I will be ending my fourth week post-op tomorrow.  Time for one of my boring updates.  Please bear with me.  This blogging is also meant to be a form of journal for me so if you don't feel like reading on, you are forgiven.

I did a lot of research on my own, unfortunately after surgery, on the weight loss outcomes for older
Bariatric patients.  By "older", the literature refers to all of us who are over age 60.  In fact, we're referred to as "elderly" by the researchers.  Blah, blah, blah.....outcomes are "different" with less success than in the younger patient groups.  We are expected to lose slower and one of the reasons is our "sedentary" lifestyles.

Okay, let me set this out there....you will NEVER find me at a gym.  I think they are seed beds for bacteria and icky diseases.  From what my husband tells me, most of the people at his gym don't seem to have a clue about hygiene and he is meticulous, wiping every piece of equipment free of the sweat from the person before him.  He never wears clothing that would allow his skin to come into contact with anything at the gym.  He also tells me stories of the rude behavior and disgusting sights in the locker room.  So, nope, I'll take a pass.  Don't get me started on other things that happen at gyms.

So, I walk for exercise and I never sit still when at home.  I'm up the stairs and down the stairs and up the stairs.  For an "elderly" person, I'm fairly active and always looking for ways to get my butt in motion.  So, maybe the theory applies somewhat but.....

I have not lost one single ounce since March 19th. and it was slow up until that point, when you look at the low caloric intake and the activity.And yes, I drink the buckets of fluid every day and just yesterday, took a 2 mile, brisk walk at the beach.  Had to be brisk, it was cold and windy!

I put a call into the Bariatric Surgery group and await an answer.  For the time being, I'm just ready to consider myself a statistic again.  

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Disillusionment Baby

As I drove to pick up my father for his weekly visit to the barbershop this morning, I passed a trio, waiting in the cold for the school bus.  There was a mom, a young boy and what I guessed, the little sister.  I'm assuming that the older child was the one who would soon be on the bus, leaving his baby sister behind, because she was pushing a doll in a stroller.  At once, a feeling of sadness came upon me in the split second that it took to recall memories from my own childhood.

Things were different back there in the fifties.  Our lives, as children, were filled with wonder and playing was our heart's desire.  I seriously think that we had imaginations that were so much more expansive than those of today's children.  I mean, we really thought that the things we played with had lives.  The boys were real cowboys, the girls were real mommies.  And, our parents made sure that we had all the best ways in which to create our dream worlds. Days were filled with the joys of becoming whatever or whomever we wished to become.  There were very few limits to our ability to transport ourselves into the roles of grown-up super people.  How many little boys suffered broken limbs from their leaps of "tall" buildings as Superman?  How many little girls had babies who never grew out of infancy?

My mother and father were two of the greatest parents a kid could have.  Christmas always earned them that high rating.  They outdid themselves each and every year.  I'm sure my brother had the best of toys a boy could have and I know for certain that I had the finest dolls and doll equipment.  My mom loved my love of dolls and must have gotten such joy watching me play.  I loved my dolls.  I never for one minute ever thought that they were not real babies.  I strolled them in strollers, dressed them, bathed them and even fed them.  Remember Tiny Tears?  She drank from a bottle and needed diaper changes.  Of course she was real.

So, why was I sad?

I guess it was my own stupid kid fault.  I thought it would never end.  I thought that my babies would be with me forever, need me forever.  I wonder if the thought has crossed the little sister's mind?  Does she talk to her babies?  I passed too quickly to see....was her baby holding a Smart Phone?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tradition......Restriction.






                                        


I listen to Broadway show tunes in Joe's car.  He has Sirius Radio.  I only have a three month trial on my new car and won't continue it at the end of this period.  Howard Stern is one of the owners of Sirius and no way will I give him my money.  But, I do enjoy this particular station, especially for the memories it digs up as I make my way to and from the to's and from's.

The other day, a perfect number popped up.  Do you remember Zero Mostel and his famous character, Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof?  He opened the show with a song that set the pace for what was to come. The song...."Tradition".

The song stuck in my mind and it now replays over and over. Whenever I eat.  But instead of "Tradition", my brain is playing "Restriction'.  I'm funny that way.

When I bought my new stomach, little "Prada", I bought more than just an anatomy re-configure.  I bought a tool, a working, breathing tool for doing a job.  If it's weight you want to lose, what you need is something that will help you eat less.  I got one of those.  Mine is known as "restriction" and there is a very good reason for this.  When you eat, you might keep on going until either the plate is empty (my husband's method) or you get a sense of "fullness" and even though you may push on beyond this point, at the end of the meal you might realize that you actually have eaten more than your stomach had room for and you may feel uncomfortable or remorseful.  A few burps and you're on your way. I have a whole other way of dealing with the question of how much is enough.  Mine is called "restriction".  I eat slowly, small bites at a time that I chew to the consistency of applesauce and then, all of a sudden, a signal pops up.  Loud and clear.  Oh boy, does it ever.  I get a tightness in the tummy and I know that it is time to put down the fork and call it a meal.  I don't dare go beyond that point.

So, Zero, you are on my mind at breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day of my new life.  Restriction pays off.....perhaps slower than I, who always likes to see results, would want it to but it does work and that nasty scale proves it.


What I did not know before surgery, was that the weight loss was going to be slow.  No, I'm not resorting to Weight Watchers.  I am sticking with my program, eating slowly and waiting for restriction to announce itself.  I'm a Fiddler, sitting on a rooftop and this, my friends, is my new tradition.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Mystery

I'm trying to see the humor in all of this but today's it's hard.  Today is my first real day of being discouraged.  Hey, I'm allowed!

I just tried to eat one whole scrambled egg and had to stop half way through. That's called "restriction" and it is what keeps people with sleeves from eating any more than a few morsels.  It is not a new feeling.  I've been experiencing it in varying degrees since Wednesday.  Eat more than that signal allows, and spend an hour burping and feeling generally uncomfortable so the learn-as-you-go method really does work.

My scale tells me that it is happy with the weight I am at. That my body does not want to weigh less, despite the lack of food and the tiny number of calories.  I can't do anything more to make that change.

I must remember what I learned in my preparation for surgery.  One of the big things that I did not want to, but did, hear is that there are no guarantees.  Some bodies just don't respond to this whole thing.  I've stopped reading blogs from people who had surgery on my same day.  They're cruising along, dropping pounds like flies.  It makes me sad and angry so I just don't do it any more.

God gives us tools for our lives.  He works in strange ways.  I've always been very tolerant of the needs of people with special diets and of course, with people who have distorted body images. I don't think I needed a lesson in how to acquire any new virtues therein.  But, maybe He has other plans for me.  Maybe He wants me to be even more aware of the hell my son goes through with his Celiac Disease.  Maybe he wants me to learn to accept my fate and to be there for someone else who finds the same thing in his or her life.  I honestly don't know.

For now, all I can do is wait for the message.  I gave it my best, absolute, best, try.  I really, really did.
I just don't want to be told to drink more water.  Please do not do that.  I drink so much and have no idea of where it goes.  Some things are just meant to be mysteries.  I'll accept that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Egg Down

The long-anticipated scrambled egg.  I have to report, it went down without a glitch so far.  I'm kinda disappointed because I honestly thought that I was going to have to stop, halfway through, because I was already feeling full.  Not so.  I could eat a dozen.  Maybe that's head hunger?  I don't know but it is discouraging.

This new stomach, it's only a tool.  There are no guarantees that after all this, I will lose weight.

But, I gave it my best shot and I'm ready for the next health professional who suggests that I lose weight and resorts to scare tactics such as "you are going to die from heart disease".   Bring 'em on, I'm waiting.

I have come full-cycle now with using this blog as a way to keep everyone posted on my progress.
I'm fine.  I really am. I'm back in the groove, ready to get together with friends again, go to movies, take walks, entertain.  Thanks for checking in and caring.  This stuff can be boring. Trust me.  My own daughter gave up being interested within the first week.  My son asks once in a while.  My father thinks I had something done to my foot, for what reason I do not know, but he's deemed me all put-back together so he's moved on.

So, I'll update from time to time but from now on, I'm returning to writing about other stuff and other people and there will be times when I write about gratitude because that's the most important thing in the world.  I'm so grateful to my friends who showed their love and their concern.  About that, I could write an entire book.

We dodged a big bullet yesterday.  The Nor'easter that was headed our way with the promise of many inches of new snow, materialized in the form of an ocean's worth of rain and wind.  The sky is blue, the air crisp, and the sun is shining.  The promise of Spring has returned and with it, let's hope the patio contractor returns soon to complete the job.  I can't wait to have our new patio so that we can fill it with good times and our beautiful array of friends.

Gotta go.  I'm still hungry.  Remember.....I tried!!!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Week Two, Done.

Scrambled eggs on a plate.

Today marks a momentous occasion.  It is the official end to my two weeks of the famous post-surgery liquid diet and it means that two short weeks ago, I underwent surgery.  Now where did that time go?  I've healed and Joe's learned to cook.  Time well spent.

The past weeks have not been difficult.  I count my blessings for I know that not everyone who gets
"sleeved" has the same results.  Post-op complaints range from constant nausea to pain in the abdomen with each movement.  I've also been 100% compliant.  And, I know, that has a lot to do with my outcome.  For some reason, I think my surgeon wasn't too sure of my ability to get through all of this with flying colors.  He based a lot on my "age" and boy, was that a mistake on his part. I could have led a parade of people years younger than myself, at the hospital.

So, tomorrow, it's the real world.  Re-entry. Just like a baby, eating solid foods for the first time, I will be trying them on for size.  I get to add things like cottage cheese, eggs, soft cheeses, pureed fruits, overcooked vegetables and a small but welcomed list of other things.  I'm told that it would not be wise to scramble 2 eggs.  I've been consuming bowls, not just little cups, of creamed soups and broths, whole containers of Greek yogurt and gallons of drinks so it is hard to imagine that I won't be able to get one whole egg down at a sitting.  This should be very interesting.

So, I'm ready for a good night's sleep.  I feel like the kids do on Christmas Eve.  Let's get to bed, sleep and get the night over-with so that we can wake up to Christmas Morning.

I hope that Santa remembers that I have been a very, very good girl.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Best Wishes

Greeting card. Flowers. Watercolor. Roses. Festive bouquet. Best wishes.
I have been drifting around on a Bariatric Forum.  I find it interesting to hear the stories of others, especially those who were "sleeved" on the same day as I. I already picked up a few tips from some of the contributors and hopefully, have helped a few with my own comments.  This is how I am going to roll. I am not going to attend support groups  Sorry, I'm just not a support group kinda gal. I am ready, willing, and able to give support to anyone who needs or wants it but I can't sit in a circle, sharing stories and what I know will be a catalog of "recipes", with a group of strangers.  That has never worked for me in the past and I doubt that it will do me much good in the future.  Were it such a great tool for success, I would have become a Weight Watcher leader by now.  I do my own thing, always have and always will.

My greatest support has come, and continues to come, from my friends. People who truly know me and people I truly know.  Most of them are thin, few of them even know what it's like to have a weight "problem".  But, they're there, all of them fresh and ready to cheer me on.  They have been there from the start.  I have encountered only one , shall I say "opponent". This, by the way, is the one person who professed to have known me "best" or at least, she, held that thought.  In the end, it became abundantly clear that she knew me the least and a long-lasting friendship came to a screeching halt.  It was this person who questioned my motives and boldly asked me why, "at my age" I would consider doing this.  Huh?  I'm not a hundred. And even if I were, I would still have been just as appalled.  Why? Why?  Why not????

On one of the forums, I came across a video done by a young man on the cusp of having his own surgery.  He answers the question, why?,  beautifully when he tells his YouTube audience that he has made his decision based upon some pure logic.  He's overweight, always has been.  He's tired of the fight but knows that this is not the easy way out by any means. But, he's 43 and knows that while he is healthy now, he won't be in ten years.  Like me, he does not have any real health issues.  Now.  Like me, he knows that surgery and big lifestyle changes become harder as we age.  So, like me, he made the decision to change what he can when he still has a choice and when he knows he will be able to pull it off.  Like me, he isn't in this for the "looks".  Like me, he isn't interested in appearing better, just feeling better.  Just changing what can be changed before it is too late. I like him.

I hope that my anonymous YouTube friend is as fortunate as I have been.  I know he's nervous about the surgery and very possibly, scared about the recovery.  He won't tell his Italian mother.  He doesn't want her to worry and knows she will.  Bless his soul.  I hope to find a follow-up video one day soon. I was nervous too.  I was sure that I wanted to be right there, at that time, in that pre-op room.  But surgery always presents a risk.  I had to sign a boat load of papers that testified to my understanding of those risks.  As I lay there, in between signing and getting poked and set for the procedure, the miracle of technology allowed me to check my email on my phone.  I received a note from a friend that lifted my spirits and carried me through the waiting time and the hardest moments of the recovery time.  It is a note that everyone should have in their in-box, at least once in a life time.
It was from my friend Patti.  God, I am so blessed.

All the things I love about you are unaffected by weight gain or loss. 
Best wishes   -   Patti

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Leaving Stage Three



Well, I'm almost there.  My "new" life has "new" goals and of course, with each, new rules and new opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment.

The Bariatric Surgery diet is conveniently divided into stages.  A "Newbie" learns, during the months of preparation, that passing from stage to stage post-operatively, one allows the reconstructed stomach to heal and to learn to contain food again.  Follow the rules, and it is expected that the organ will cooperate and will set up a pathway between itself and the brain and all will be well but different.
Don't follow the rules and the pathway gets interrupted and the poor, wounded stomach will not heal. Don't drink enough fluids and dehydration surely will ensue.  The professionals on the team drill all that into the heads of their patients.

So, the very first Stage in this healing/learning life is met with tiny sips of water only hours after surgery.  Following the successful ingestion of a medicine cup filled with water, four small bottles of water are left at the bedside and it's time to prove you really want to go home in two days.  Sip, sip, sip, get those bottles chugged down.....without chugging.  Nurses come around, perhaps not as often as they should, but their eyes are on the prize.  They also have a goal.  Want to work on a Bariatric floor, make sure your patients get that fluid down orally in addition to intravenously.  From that point, the assaulted stomach is asked to accept some more fluids the following day.  This was not an easy task. Suddenly, everything that was the slightest bit sweet, tasted like it contained only sugar.  Jello, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Crystal Light and Snapple became the enemies.  I thought I was going to be nauseous forever and had a tiny moment of buyer's remorse.  The third day, still in the famous Second Stage, I felt a bit more tolerant and took in some more fluids in all of their forms.  My ability to get home was based upon my ability to empty things that were brought to me by the Dietary Aides, God love them.  Each tray was a monument.  Every slide of food, a weapon against remaining in that bed, walking the floors, dragging an I.V. pole.  If you know me, you understand that I was not going to stay another night in the hospital and I was going to convince my doctor to D.C. the I.V.
From the moment I became un-tethered, I met the food tray with new resolve.  "I'm getting out of here tonight!" So I dumped my tomato soup down the bathroom sink, put on my own nightgown and turquoise robe, and did a dance for my doctor when I met him in the hall.  Bam!

I came home, as I had anticipated, well into Stage Three.  I honored my new "pouch" which I now refer to as "Prada".  Excuse me, but if I have to rename my stomach, I'm giving it a fitting name. Think designer handbag if you don't mind.  So, for the past, not-quite two weeks, I have been feeding Prada clear liquids, protein drinks, strained soups, broths, artificially sweetened Greek yogurts devoid of anything that resembles fruit, teas, waters, and not much more.  I am proud to say that I did it.  Not once did I waiver.  Prada lets me know if I'm "eating" too fast or drinking more than sips.  Prada has been kind and we have worked it out together.  We're ready, together to move on.  We've made it through the storm and it's all down hill from here, or at least I hope so. One more day and I start "mushy" foods. I'll add a whole lot more to the list of things I can have and I am told that I will have to chew very slowly and listen to Prada when I'm getting the signal to stop.  It will be a learning curve, one that will take me through the next four weeks.  I'm not ready for more than this and I'm still following those rules.

In four weeks, I betcha I'll never eat another flavored yogurt or drink another Snapple.  Plain water never tasted so good.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's Hear it for the Girls

This is one of my absolute favorite photos.  I took thousands of them when I was in Italy all by myself following my mother's death.  For an entire month, I walked around the town of Assisi and my camera was firmly planted in my palm, ready to capture moments that I never wished to forget. One afternoon, these two beautiful ladies showed up.  As un-obtrusively as I could possibly be, I aimed my camera, hoping to find a story. My camera was my conduit to the stories that I knew I would later be writing, that the people and places I came upon were pieces of a big picture, participants in a life so large it could only be recorded one frame at a time. The pre-travel goal was simple.  I needed time to heal of course, but I wanted to find stories.  I needed to have new frames of reference that would carry me through the rest of my life if not through the mourning of a cherished one.

Who are these ladies?  Where are they going?  In a matter of a few seconds, my mind whirled with questions and I knew that there were so many possible answers.  They were oblivious to me and my camera, engaged in a conversation.  As they walked uphill, possibly a metaphor in itself, they continued to talk, neither needing to stop to catch a breath.  Apparently, they were conditioned to the demands of their walk, probably having done it on a regular basis for many, many years.  Did they always ascend this hill together at the same time each day I wondered.  One story finds them having just left the home of a friend or a relative.  Were they related?  Sisters?  Sisters-in-law? Cousins? Or, were they life-long good friends?  Were they gossiping?  Maybe they were planning something or sharing a recipe.  Or were they sharing mutual concern over the health of a loved one.  Maybe they weren't coming from a place at all.  They could have been on their way to a familiar location or home.
My questions will never be answered.  I can always enjoy the photo and speculate but it does serve as a constant reminder of the beauty of sisterhood.

This is not about celebrating International Women's Day.  I celebrate that every day, thank you.  But this is about girl friends, gal-pals. You have been MAGnificient and you know who you are.  You are a cause for jubilation each and every day and in my life, you have made your presence known in an even more joyous way than you have ever before.  The last weeks have brought you out in force.  You have called, emailed, texted, visited, driven and taken time to share.  Without you, I would have a lesser life.  With you, my life is filled to the brim with more than I could ever hope for. The times we spent together allowed us to share, gave us the opportunity to catch up on all aspects of our lives and hopefully, solve some of our own little problems.  Women are naturally endowed with that ability, the keepers of secrets, the solvers of problems.  We have power and we have strength and we are not afraid to share love.

Yesterday was filled with post-op medical visits.  My darling friend Beth drove the 45 minutes to the surgeon's office and waited for me.  We needed that time to catch up.  Our lives have been too busy and complicated lately and our regular weekly days-out had fallen by the wayside.  When she dropped me off, we hugged and promised to resume our weekly rituals as soon as we can.  The day before, my amazing pal Lynette picked me up for some R&R, getting me out of the house and helping me to re-enter the real world.  We shopped, we sipped tea, we shared and I was left with a beautiful basket filled with all of the right tools for pampering myself.  How did she know that I needed just that?  Girlfriends.  They know it all.  Intuition.  Empowerment.  Brave spirits.

My day ended yesterday with one final note of pure woman-power, when I had my appointment with my GP, Patty Fater.  She's an amazing woman and I am totally blessed to have her as my very own doctor.  I simply cannot explain her.  To know her is to love her and to trust her and I do all of the above.  When I asked her why I wasn't losing weight despite my low caloric intake and why I wasn't running to the toilet despite my high fluid intake, she put my mind totally at ease.  She spoke to me as only a woman, grounded in the truth would.  Here's what she said:

"Your body is still in a protective mode.  It does not know that you did this intentionally.  It assumes you have been assaulted and it will hold onto everything it can, including volumes of water, until it is sure that you are okay.  Then, and only then, will it feel free to release anything"

I hugged her as we parted and then I gave her some of my wisdom.

"If you are scared that you will go down the same path of one of your ancestors, that heredity will be the only view of the future, be brave and change what you can. And, if you are not completely in love with your doctor, your friend, then find another"

On the scale this morning.....lost a pound. Things are changing.  My body knows I'm a woman!!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Week "Out"

Well, I made it.  Got through a whole week!  This time last week, I was getting ready for the journey's start and now, boy am I ever on that journey.  I'm still trying to get that massive amount of fluid down, still sipping because if I go too fast I get a pain in my "sleeve, formerly known as my stomach" that alerts me.  My Knight in Shining Armour came to the rescue again yesterday with a stop off at CVS after I found good information regarding the hunger pangs.  The rumblings that had been so overwhelming, have a lot to do with acid in the stomach,so liquid Gaviscon was suggested.  A quick text to the Joe and a bottle of the elixir arrived home with him.  One or two teaspoons and relief!  Now, I'm not going to say that I am totally un-hungry.  Let's wait til the week-after-next to make that assessment, but I am grateful to not be entertaining troops in the little banana that is at the base of my esophagus.  That was soooooo discouraging.  That, and the no-show at the scale.

I decided to take control of everything in my life again so yesterday was "Lay-Back Day".  I made a conscious effort to record everything I ate and drank so that I'm ready for the post-op visit with the nurse practitioner (that should be a story in itself) on Thursday.  I have an app on my phone called "Bariatastic" and it's all there.  Not even a thousand calories.  Plus lots of water.  Plus....a gigantic chunk of walking time yesterday afternoon.  Joe dropped me off with my iPhone earbuds and my Pandora Broadway Show Tune station and I never stopped for 45 minutes.  Not bad for an old broad at one week post "rip it out and run", is it? I'm grateful for my being in whatever fitness classification I fall into.  I went along at a good clip, never got winded or sore and today, not one twinge. So, needless, to say, I'm also ready for the "you have to exercise" speech.  You know the one, it's usually delivered by a 30 year old or an overweight doctor.  You get my drift.

My advice to anyone post surgery, no matter what surgery, is to slow down, take it easy.  Remember that your body and brain have been traumatized and it takes time to heal.  Just because you look all put back together or even notice the absence of pain, it does not mean that you are ready to face the entire world all at once. Sitting and thinking have their virtues.  Being mindful is a highly recommended past time.  And, about the hunger, I guess it isn't a real problem. After a nice relaxing day during which I pampered myself, I helped Joe cook his dinner.  It was an amazing version of chicken piccata.  It did not bring on one longing.  All that was stirred was the lemon sauce.  We made asparagus and I delighted in capturing the cooking water and claiming it as a "fluid".  In a mug, next to my chair, it was gourmet-ville.  I dreamt about pureeing the stalks and today making a creamy soup, another "fluid".

So, here's to another day, more special than yesterday for a number of reasons.  Why, a mere 46 years ago today, we became parents for the first time.  I held my beautiful baby son in my arms and promised him that I would protect him from harm all the days of his life.
He's a beautiful human being.  So smart and talented.  He's made us proud and been a source of comfort.  So, today, I dedicate to Joshua Charles Guardino.  Interestingly, it was Josh who questioned why I was doing what I was about to do.  He said that he did not think I was a candidate for weight loss surgery, that he loved me just the way I am.  Well, Josh, I am what and who I am and this is how I do it.  I love being loved.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Starting Week Two




I came home from the hospital, feeling as if perhaps, a mistake had been made, that I did not actually have surgery.  I felt fine, ate and drank fine, albeit small quantities and very, very few calories.  I warded off the dreaded dehydration and even managed to get some liquid protein resources down.  I wondered about this "restriction" stuff that everyone talks about. My only complaints were the constant gnaw, gnaw, gnawing that resembles hunger pangs, every minute of the day.  That, and the fact that the scale defies me and will not budge one ounce from the day before the procedure.  Just maybe....maybe, there's something that they didn't want to tell me quite yet?

I'm married to my Joe for 47 years so far.  One of the reasons we have a successful marriage is that we have succeeded in developing and keeping fine-tuned senses of humor.  We've gotten through many a tough time due to that virtue.  Over the past few days, I still chuckle to myself about a conversation we had in the pre-op area when I really wanted to sign off with some heroic sounding words and here's what it morphed into:

Me:  "You know Joe, there are no guarantees"

He:  "I thought you said it was very safe!  You know Hon, it is not too late to back out"

Me:  "No, I'm not backing out but......there are no guarantees that, having gone through all of this so far and all that's ahead, that it will be successful.  You know, there are no guarantees that I will lose weight"

He:  "That's okay, at least you tried"

Me:  "Also, some times when the surgeon gets into the abdominal cavity, he has to stop, doing nothing more, because he finds something that had not yet been discovered, making the patient a non-candidate for the surgery"

We ask the nurse if this has ever happened before and she immediately answers, "Yes....just a few weeks ago......" Gulp.

Me:  "Well, too late now Joe.  All I can say is that I damned well better not wake up with a copy of
"WEIGHT WATCHERS, WEEK ONE" clutched in my hand."

We practically needed to be wheeled out together on the gurney at that point.  It wasn't too long after that the anesthesiologist showed up.  He was so darned young and cute and he was blushing.  He probably thought that he had brought some itchy-kitchy feelings to the old bag awaiting her turn in the O.R.  I had all to do to keep myself from rolling off.

Well, as you already know, I the WW manual was not issued.  I was a perfect candidate and I hope that the procedure was done in accordance with the Sleeve Gastrectomy Manual instead.

My tummy continues to rumble, I'm starting to understand the "restriction" feeling as I do get it now, after a mere 2 sips. Howevefr, I still feel hungry and envy the sleevers before me who will tell you that from Surgery Day One, they never again felt hungry.  I've been checking in on forums to see if I am the only one who was hungry at this point and if I'm the only non-loser and it has been comforting and helpful to discover that I am not.  Seems my problem might be due to excess stomach acid and will go away soon and the weight loss, well it's not as fast as one might imagine under the best of circumstances.  Too much, too fast?  How can that be healthy.  Let's get back to that good ole baby. What if I told you that my baby gained 20 pounds in 2 weeks?  You'd probably send both of us to the hospital on a jet plane.

Where is that Smart Baby any way?  We have a lot to talk about.  Remember, I'm looking for a two week old who not only can talk but can use logic, good sense and have an eye for fashion.  Hmmm, I might have to do a lot more figuring out on my own.  This week, I resolve to totally slow it down, act like a certified two-week old baby, and see what happens.  Bwahhhhhh!!!!!!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Smart Baby Day


Day Three at home begins.  So far, all I can say is that as baffling as it all sounds, I am managing to get through this first week of the liquid diet and I don't feel tired, weak, nauseous or in pain.  I have more energy than I should have and have to keep reminding myself that less than one week ago, Dr. Kruger (an unfortunate name for a surgeon) came through my belly with a chainsaw and helped himself to a chunk of my stomach!  Were this thirty years ago, I would still be laying in Intensive Care and now that I think about it, my grandmother, due to stomach "problems" had less of hers removed 40 years ago and died while in the hospital.

So, it gets easier every hour it seems.  Apparently, I have been successful in getting enough fluids.Soupy-solids, not so much.  I'm progressing slowly in that department.  I read the info sheet that the dietitian handed out for this week and I willingly admit that I'm not up there with the best of the Protein ingesters.  That will come.  So much of that stuff is sweet and sweet is one of my new hate words.

I don't sleep any better ( and you know, I don't weigh much less yet) so when I woke up in the middle of last night......hungry......I had plenty of time to think about the situation at hand, er in abdomen.
I pictured what is now called my "pouch" and realized that the feeling I was experiencing was not "hunger".  It was the feeling of "empty" because it was not full. I thought to myself "This is what a baby feels like  when it wakes up crying at night. " What does an infant know of "hunger"? It just feels the loss of food in its tiny pouch that one day will be called a "stomach" and it cries so Mommy and Daddy will fill it up.  My mother is deceased and in a gazillion gazillion years there is no way I would call upon my father for sustenance and my incredibly amazing husband who would do anything on the Earth for me, was making it pretty clear that he was sound asleep so I got myself out of bed and into the kitchen.  Earlier in the day, we were in a store and I spotted little "portion cups" with lids, the type that they give you with your take-away food.We picked up a pack, knowing that we were directed to do so by the angels. I portioned out the amount of plain Greek, high protein yogurt that I imagined would fill my pouch into a little cup, and brought it back to the bedroom.  I sat down in my comfy chair and fed my inner baby.  Just enough.  I was correct in my estimation. As soon as I got the monkeys in my brain to stop swinging from tree to tree, I was back to sleep.

My Bariatric Team encourages support group attendance.  It's almost mandatory.  They believe that sitting in a group, listening to others either complain about how deprived they feel or spout out recipes for Instant Milk Enriched Artificially Sweetened Pudding, impacts upon ones success. Trust me, for a lot of people, this becomes a lifeline.  I know that I'm not going that route.  If for no other reason, I have Joe on my side, he's my sounding board and Director of the Cheer Squad.  I've got friends, oh-my-God-do-I-have- FRIENDS, who are right there, crashing me through the ceiling.  So, here's how I figure it.....instead of attending a support group of recent "Sleevers", I'm going to sit down with a group of smart babies.  I think they know a lot more about how to keep a tiny stomach full and how to keep those diapers wet.

Today, Smart Baby Day, Number One. Bring it on!!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Stage Three Continues




  • Broth
  • Unsweetened juice
  • Decaffeinated tea or coffee
  • Milk (skim or 1 percent)
  • Strained cream soup
  • Sugar-free gelatin or popsicles










Coming home from the hospital, I found myself somewhere between a child on Christmas morning and a very determined older woman.  Hmmm.  What's that all about?Well, for months prior to surgery, one studies and gets tutored on the various Stages of Nutrition.  There's a pre-op phase, one in which it is advisable to start cutting down on ALL the things on likes and trying for a weight loss of approximately 1% of one's body weight.  All the things include caffeine, alcohol, sugar and rich foods. The reason is simple.  All the things one likes are all the things that make a liver fat and heavy.  In other words, the risk of complications, right there on the operating table, can be attenuated if the liver is lightened.  Fat, heavy liver, more risk.  So, there's that

During pre-op workshops and meetings, nutrition is a constant.  Over and over and over, the dietitians emphasize the importance of following the guidelines lest one will suffer dire consequences.  Lists of foods are presented.  Ideas, suggestions, recommendations come at you from all angles.  Eat this, not that.  Add this for protein,  Subtract that for its empty calories.  Drink this.....but not during a meal.  Stop drinking fluids one hour before a meal.  Start again one half hour after.  Chew slowly....sip like a snail.  Oy-yoi-yoi-yoi-yoi.  Lists, booklets, leaflets, blog sites, websites, forums, apps, appointments, classes.  And then, you're in the hospital and the dietitian appears, arm in sling, discomfort on her face.  You're hurting but she's in pain!!!  Poor thing had Rotator Cuff surgery somewhere during your pre-op weeks and she has to go to every patient, pour out highly important information and all you can do is wish she would go home and take care of herself.  Yep. That's what happened.  So, I took the new set of lists.  I tucked the new set of directions for when I got home, into my vast number of other papers and the trays arrived from the kitchen and I pushed them aside and ate a few sips here and there.  I know I was being monitored in some fashion but don't know how accurately.  "We need to know how much you ate on this shift.  We also need to know how much you peed."  How?  By looking at what I left on my tray?  And the pee....well, I know how to measure that and report it but I sure as hell wasn't going to let it sit in the bathroom waiting for a kindly but overworked nursing assistant to come pick it up like my roomie did.  I've emptied tons of pee in my nursing days but you know what?  Out of desperation, I emptied hers and it was the only time I almost tossed my cookies.  Boy, am I rusty!!  Anyway, long story short, on the day of discharge, like a naughty girl, I emptied half of my tomato soup down the bathroom sink.  Of course I did not realize that it would take some kind of cleaning product to erase the vestiges.  Good for my roomie.  She had it coming.  I only wish her dumb brother in law needed the bathroom when he came to visit.

So, yesterday, I had a day on my own and it wasn't easy.  Like the Christmas-kid, I wanted to try all the new foods from the list.  I was eager to sample things and to conform to the demands of hydration.  It was rough.  I got a lot of "stuff" in but spent the day wondering if the rest of my life is going to be like this day?

Got up this morning with a whole new resolve.  I drank 11 ounces of Muscle Milk, Light, and did some more reading.  My team is aggressive with this Third Stage.  By now, I'm okay if I'm only on Clear Liquids for another week, as long as I have 64 ounces in a day.  I won't die of starvation although my hunger hormones seemingly have not exited the building as promised. I intend to be patient with that too.  All is well and I'm not in pain and not nauseous. And I don't intend to empty another measuring device of pee so long as I shall live.

Be good, Do good, Feel good.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Home,Sweet Home

I got those angels working overtime yesterday.  In the morning, my surgeon said that I did not look ready to be discharged and suggested that maybe another night stay might be what I needed.  He obviously did not know me......first of all, how could I look ready, sitting in a messy bed, sporting  a hospital gown that I had donned when I arrived for surgery, the one that is big enough to fit fourteen large people in it......totally tethered to an I.V. on a pole? I mean really, I did not have any lipstick on and not one vestige of glitter!  I begged for one thing only.  Please d.c. the I./V. and I'll show you "ready".  I needed desperately to be discharged yesterday.

My life since Tuesday?  Different but certainly not as drastically changed as one might expect following the removal of 80% of one's stomach.  Through amazing technology, once we got the ball rolling, the deed was done in under an hour.  I woke up in the recovery room wondering when the procedure was going to start.  Nothing more, nothing less. The excellent, breezy care that had started with my pre-op....fun nurse, cutie-pattottie anesthesiologist who wasn't more than fifteen years old, and my nonchalant surgeon, continued from Moment One post-op.

Tobey Hospital is very small.  It does not rank up there in people's minds as a "hospital of choice" It does not have fancy new wings and departments.  It's been on the same footprint with very little change in appearance, since the thirties.  But, it does hold the rank of "Center of Excellence" in Bariatric Surgery and for that, there are many, many good reasons.  A Center of Excellence title is earned by institutions that have concentration of knowledge, experience, resources and research.  One of the hallmarks of COE's is the existence of teams. I was in very good hands the entire time .  I cannot emphasize how comforting that was.

Evening One was not a comfy one.  There was pain but there was a morphine pump and it worked. I'm not a good sleeper under the best of circumstances so under the worst - noisy patients with visitors, night shift nurses who for some reason don't realize that their voices are LOUD, in and out with vital signs, lights on, lights off, infusion alarms beeping every time I twisted my body.  If not mine, then my roommate's.  No sleep

Post-op Day One.  More of same noise,  interrupted naps and now....time to start sipping fluids.  I don't want to discourage anyone who may want to have this surgery one day but the desire to eat, sip or have anything whatsoever enter the body through the lips can be daunting.  I had a tough time when the meal trays arrived.  Especially since, each shift of nurses need to account for what has gone into that body.  Very hard getting 32 ounces of ANYTHING in during an 8 hour day.

The only way to do Bariatric, non-invasive surgery is to blow up the abdominal cavity with air.  Once it is inflated, the surgeon can see, through tiny cameras, what's going on inside there.  Think of those pictures we see from the Moon.  The astronauts scooting about on the moon surface.  That's what happens inside there.  Punch 6 holes in the belly, enter with the cameras through some of the holes,lift things, poke things and then quickly staple the length of the stomach, clip it off, and pull it through that hole in the right side of the abdomen.  No wonder that hurt so much when I was walking only hours after I woke up!  The air that gets shot in there, Nitrous Oxide, has to come out and the only way to get that moving is to keep moving.  Lots of small walks, dragging an I.V. pole, holding onto the back door of my gigantic hospital gown, down the halls and back.  Move out air!  Burp. Burp. Remember, it's in my abdominal cavity, not my intestines.....not for a few more days.

My diet for the next two weeks....liquids only.  Not only clear liquids.  I can have a range of not-so-clear liquids and that includes yogurts and creamy soups.  My taste for sweet things has vanished and that has made it a chore on top of a chore.  Perhaps that will return.  No real sugar allowed.  Real sugar and too much intake of anything will cause results that I will not care for.  Low-sugar or no-sugar.  I'll do what it takes and I'll just keep on sipping.  I have to.  I can't let my doctor down.  He told me he did not want to see me in his E.R. for 30 days.  He's afraid I will suffer dehydration.  That's why he wanted to keep me tethered to that uncomfortable bed another night.  Little doe he know, I no more want to visit his E.R. than he does and a return to the hospital.....well, that's not an option.  Isn't that precisely why I put myself through all of this in the first place?  I intend to be the healthiest contributor to society that I can possibly be and hopefully, that will include being a strong arm to someone else who needs it in an hour of darkness.

For now, sip, sip sip and thank you to everyone of you who have contributed to my success thus far. Without supporters, this job could be a whole lot harder.