Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

Friday, June 04, 2010

For the record

It's been a few months since my surgery and I thought I'd update how I was doing... I've had a few trips back to Utica, NY for check-ups, and apart from my usual border-crossing anxiety (which is only equalled by my Mom's bridge-crossing anxiety) all has been well.

It took some time getting used to my new physionomy I can tell you. At first it was pretty easy to strictly adhere to my laminated sheet that was on fridge. The sheet was the food bible that would help my new stomach (a pouch that in its infancy could only hold about a teaspoon or two of food) heal and grow a bit more robust.

The toughest part at first was remembering to drink. The pouch was so small and tender, so nascent, that glugging water was impossible. If you forgot to drink enough, you just had to really pay attention the next day and remember to sip all day long to ensure that you eventually got your 64 oz. fill in. I still don't drink enough, but it is not because I can't physically do it. It has to do with how liquids and solids interract in the small stomach.

The gastric bypass ultimately is a tool that you can use to help you lose weight. It is a permanent tool that patients will always have access to, and if used the right way, the weight does come off almost miraculously. I can attest to it because every day I hop on my scale and wonder if this is really happening. I weigh now, what I did when I first went to college, back in 1997. I've dropped about 80 lbs. since February 10th and it continues to drop at a fairly steady rate. I feel like I look the same, since I see myself every day, but people who don't see me that often have commented that there is indeed, less of me.

Over the last few months since surgery, I had to slowly rebuild my tolerance to certain foods. When I began, my new stomach not only could not handle large amounts of food, but could only handle specific textures of it as well. Think soft. UBER-soft, if you will. After almost three weeks of yogurt, oatmeal, apple sauce and cottage cheese, I was really ready to graduate! It was a relief to move to semi-solids and protein that didn't come in a shake! Again, after another three weeks of tuna, salmon and for a change, more tuna and more salmon, I was very relieved to note that my laminated food guide said that I could try moist proteins (ground beef, chicken), bread(!), fruit and VEGGIES. Raw, crunchy veggies were what I think I missed the most.

So now I can eat pretty much what everyone else eats, except that it has to happen very, very slowly and the quantity is about 1/4 the size of a regular meal. Food has to get chewed extremely well and doesn't get accompanied with liquid. The reason this happens is so the small pouch stays full longer. If you have a drink with your meal, basically whatever you ate turns into 'soup' in your stomach and dribbles out the tiny aperture at the bottom. Then you are hungry pretty much instantly. The gastric bypass doesn't de-calorify the foods you eat, it just helps you feel full faster (because it is very tiny). The message gets to your brain quickly and you have to comply (and stop eating). Even though my new stomach can only hold about 1/2 - 1 cup of food at a time, when it gets full, it feels as though I've been to a buffet and am pushing plate #3. You know when you realize you should've worn your stretchy pants and not your jeans? That's the feeling you get!

The first six months after a gastric bypass is called the 'honeymoon' period, since it is the time when the weight drops off the fastest. The clinic in Utica has been very happy with how I'm doing and super supportive. I've dropped 25% of the weight that I'm supposed to (they have a mystical number in mind, and 18 months in which you're expected to do it). Some people drop 30% in the first 3 months, and some less. What I'm really happy about is that my blood sugar is normal and all my other functions appear normal as well (blood pressure too!)

The absolute best thing about dropping 80 lbs.? I can walk. Without pain. I can climb stairs, cut the grass, kneel (not for long) and take my dog around the block. This time last year, I could only shuffle and then, only with the assistance of a cane. I was borderline diabetic (was actually getting insulin when in hospital for surgery!). All of this has cleared up with the gastric bypass surgery, which I firmly believe has saved my life. What life I get to enjoy now...will be of the highest quality and with the most grateful acknowledgment each day for my fortune.

Now I get to start ramping up my excersize programme. I'm anxious to get back into weight-lifting (free weights, not my Self!) Also I want to get back on a bicycle. These are things that had just fallen away from me as I my health degraded... the idea of reclaiming the things I really enjoy doing is exciting to me. Who knows, perhaps in the next 6 months I'll be back belly-dancing and doing those deep knee bends in T'ai Ch'i.


(Below, some Googled images of what 80 lbs. looks like...)