October 10th, 2007

Chalkboard

Three Weeks Post Weight Loss Surgery

I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to respond or catch up, gals, (and a couple of guys?), thank you so much for your comments, I enjoy them so much and they mean the world to me.

I've just barely been holding my head up, literally. I have this pinched nerve in my neck and have been wearing one of those silly looking collars -- the kind that make you look like you're faking whiplash, but I don't think I'm going to wear it anymore since it's dangerous to drive with, and I totally wiped out at AHHHs, (A popular Halloween store where we get a lot of our stuff), when a mean little Demon Seed child stuck out his foot on purpose and tripped me, and I really banged myself up -- bloody bruised knees, landed on my incisions, not fun. I'm getting better though, even though Beau brought home a virus and now I'm sick as well, bleh.

I'm seeing a wonderful new chiropractor and am going to see a pain specialist this Friday, and a neurologist to get an MRI, to make my more Western doctor doctor's happy.

This cold and flu thing usually happens to us around this time of year every year, darn it -- cool thing about home schooling is we don't have to deal with the stress of all that missed school due to Beau's lack of sleep, seasonal allergies, and assorted illnesses.

The point being that I'm still feeling pretty crappy, am still recovering from surgery, and am losing weight really quickly so I'm weak. Then if you add a new and super weird and painful nerve condition to my neck arm and hand to all the rest of the stuff I have going on health-wise you can see why it's hard to balance my life life with my on-line life. But I do love all of your and think of you often. As usual, it's all I can do to try and check in from time to time and keep my story moving along here as best I can.

The best news is that after three weeks of occasional kissing and cuddling Scott and I were finally able to get it together to make love, (for a while there when we were going through that super rocky patch he preferred that I say, "Have Sex," but I'm really feeling the love right now so, making love feels right, plus he is much better balanced with regard to us and our relationship in general now), it is amazing to me how important this is and how someone who thinks she's relatively intelligent can semi-miss how totally vital sexual intimacy is. Anyway, we screwed, and it was great and I (Oh God one of my cats just did a sudden fast lap around the room and used my chest and part of my belly as a spring board -- You should have heard me shout, cats, what do they think we're made of, hay?), am feeling so tenderly towards him today, and missing him.

Scott just started a new job, which means I wasted an entire year where I could have gone over to his house, and spent as much time as I wanted with him, or to be fair, as much time as he could handle, because he needs a lot of time to withdraw and be by himself. And he overindulges in things that comfort him and alienate me. Nevertheless it's a big change and a serious adjustment for both of us. But I am so grateful that he has work again. I'm praying that he can make this transition from freedom to the working world as painlessly and comfortably as possible.

Nothing new to report on the Mom front other than that we have a lot of doctor's appointments lined up for next week. As long as she's feeling well I'm feeling well. Although she keeps telling me that she doesn't have much of an appetite and then she went an ate a huge lobster dinner, with a big salad and ice cream, and then felt sick to her stomach for hours afterwards. Which reminds me of the most moving documentary I saw on HBO last night about anorexia and eating disorders called, "Thin." It was heartbreaking.

I am so television dependent when I don't feel well, and once I develop a habit, it's a struggle for me to break it. I'm forcing myself to go downstairs and go outside, do a little work on our Halloween yard haunt every day, get some exercise, and do errands. But when you really don't feel well, and you're already a tad agoraphobic, the television can become a potent anesthetizing draw, unless of course you watch the news and sad documentaries.

I am loving Mo'Nique. She did a two part special where she visited a women's prison where she interviewed these poor women and then put on a show for them that was soooo moving. I cried. I feel so sorry for victims of theft and violence, especially because we've had a series of burglaries in our neighborhood, two on my own street in the last couple of weeks, and someone swiped a pretty decoration I bought on ETSY that I had put on my front gate, but I still feel very sorry for these women. When you really listen to their stories with an open heart you can understand how they got to the point where they made the choices they did.

Atra and I are speaking again, thank God. I missed her and her family and I was really feeling lonely and estranged. I just kind of forced her to take me back and now we seem to be okay again. While visiting her, seeing how hard things have been with her having to be the primary caregiver for her Mother who has been almost totally bedridden, I could understand why she felt hurt that I hadn't come around more often and offered more help. I felt and continue to feel guilty but I only have so much energy and have been going through so much myself.

These photos are from my first follow up, two weeks post surgery, with Dr. Liu and his staff.

Me Before Surgery

This is the first shot of myself in what is going to be a series of parking lot self portraits documenting my weight loss. You can tell when I'm stressed and feeling crappy by my hair. If my hair is pulled back and unwashed, which it often is, (But for me my hair needs to be washed every other day or it looks like this), and my bangs are messed up and brushed to the side, chances are pretty good that I didn't feel well enough to wash it and blow it dry.

Me Two Weeks Out

I thought it would be helpful for me to see how my face changes from week to week. I'm also taking full length body shots but I don't want to share them until I'm thinner because they're upsetting to look at, at this point. And I cheated because I edited the hell out of this one.

Stomach and Band Model

So this is what I now have inside of me, and I feel weird and guilty and then kind of relieved and resigned at the same time. This is a model of a typical stomach with the O-Band or Lap Band installed.

The band fits around a small portion of the stomach close to the top. There is a tube attached to this that allows saline solution to be injected through a resealing port that lies just beneath the skin. This filling inflates this band tightening the pressure and narrowing this area around the stomach. It creates a feeling of fullness as it takes time for the food that fills this smaller portion of the stomach to empty out into the larger remaining part.

My surgery was much more complicated in that I have already had weight loss surgery, so imagine that this model has already been split into two sections, a smaller section like the one you see enveloped by the band, and a totally separate stomach, each closed off at the incised end by a row of staples. A branch that forms a sort of Y shape is created from my intestines to allow both stomachs to continue to empty into my intestines. The larger stomach, that is no longer attached to my esophagus and no longer fills with food, is still necessary as it produces gastric juices that empty into the intestines.

Many patients who have had the first surgery that I had will experience a dramatic weight loss, one-hundred-and-fifty something pounds, I think, in my case, but after several years, if all that is keeping you from eating more is the restriction of having a smaller stomach, once that stomach stretches, you will naturally be able to accommodate more food. Also once a compulsive overeater always a compulsive overeater so subconsciously I found ways to eat around my surgery and regained about a fourth of the weight I lost, maybe a little more.

Dr. Liu just happens to be a fabulous, meticulous, steady and ingenious surgeon and was therefore able to add the lap band to my already operated on smaller stomach, and hopefully this will work as a further tool to aid me in losing the weight I've gained plus the rest of the weight I so badly need to lose.

O-Band Port

This is what the port that is now semi-permanently installed in my belly -- just beneath the skin, above and slightly to the right of my navel -- looks like. Do you honestly think that if I thought I could do this any other way I would go through all of this to lose and maintain weight loss?

Lap Band and Syringe For Fills

This is the syringe that is used to shoot the saline solution into the port. I'm looking at that wide needle thinking, "Oh my God, how many times am I going to have to do this, and will it be painful?" While simultaneously looking forward to my first fill because so far I've lost about twelve or more pounds and have hardly been eating anything by white knuckling it. The weird thing is that once you get past the first few days of living on protein shakes it becomes easier and easier to give up food, weird.

Dr Liu and Gedi

This is my wonderful surgeon and his irreplaceable assistant Geddion. This is the second time they've come to my aid in terms of medical weight loss intervention. They're also pretty nice normal guys too, super funny while at the same time being very professional and caring.

Okay, these next three shots I'm shy about sharing because I look so Fab, not, but I want you to see how cute Dr. Liu is when you do things to embarrass him. Actually I want you or anyone who is considering having surgery with him to see how loveable he is beneath the uber professional veneer.

Dr Liu and Me

Hee hee hee. I love Doctor Liu. First of all I obviously trust him with my life. But he's also a great guy. He's truly brilliant but he's also reserved and shy so you wouldn't know that he has a great sense of humour and is a terrific husband and father who adores his family if you didn't just haul off and cuddle up to the guy. Despite appearances this tends to bring out the best in him and he actually broke out his laptop and showed me dozens and dozens of pictures of his unbelievably beautiful, (And we're talking a ten plus on the scale of loveliness here), family. No barriers for me.

Dr. Liu and Me Two

Terrible shots of me, but hey, I wouldn't be undergoing another surgical procedure if I were thin and glammy looking, right? I don't know why I slouched over so badly when I took these pictures. Maybe I was feeling shy. (Funny how no one knows that about me, I'm so good at faking it, plus I was feeling soooo crappy that day, I'm also good at faking feeling well, it's sort of entrained in me -- maybe a vestigial Marymount thing -- be nice, be friendly, be considerate at all times, etc.), I think he was too. Afterwards he looked at the pictures on my digital camera and said, "Oh, I'm leaning away." I'm guessing he doesn't get snuggled too much by his patients.

Okay here comes the last and probably the most shocking and revealing shot of my body, a close up of the part of my belly where I've had all the work done so that anyone considering the surgery can see what it looks like. For size purposes -- wish I'd taped a quarter to myself -- the largest incision, where the port is, is only just a bit larger than an inch, maybe an inch and a half wide. I'm going to put it behind the cut in case you can't handle this, but honestly it's not that bad and I think you can.Collapse )
Chalkboard

Cancer, Television, Halloween, and A Couple of Friendly Geese

I'm home in bed watching another cheery documentary called Sexy Cancer Chick about a young woman diagnosed with incurable liver cancer. It's very moving and the woman who wrote, directed, and stars in it, is so friendly, upbeat and vivacious -- she's just incredibly likeable, like my friend Mary. And of course anything like this certainly makes me feel so grateful for the semi-good health I do have; the life I have, the promise of a future, no matter how uncertain it might be due to unforeseeable circumstances, but God it's so much better to have this freedom. It must really suck to wake up every day and have to think about Cancer, to be burdened with the constant monitoring and worry -- having to think all the time about medications, blood, cell growth, and mortality, to say nothing of feeling crappy from medications.

It breaks my heart that people have to live like this. I mean I'm so thrilled that medicine has advanced to the point where people can buy so much time for themselves, but so sad that they have to endure such toxic regimens in order to do so, and all the while knowing they may not have the opportunity to grow old and grey. I keep reading articles about all of the advancements that are "just around the corner" and hoping the people I love can just hang on until then.

Will Scott be able to live long enough for there to be enough advancements in medicine to heal his crooked spine and prevent him from getting the cancer that has killed off every single member of his immediate family, or that he risks getting whenever he smokes? Is it really possible to work on the Like Attracts Like principle espoused by The Secret and think ourselves well, thereby keeping these kinds of illnesses at bay, or envisioning a cure for anything we develop into being?

Will we live long enough for stem cell research in other more enlightened countries to have reached a point where we can grow replacement organs, or find ways to inject ourselves with microscopic semi-organic robots that can root around through our systems and repair damages so that I won't ever have to worry about anyone I love having to suffer and die. Will it happen in time for Beau, Scott or me? And what's so bad about dying anyway? I kind of like the idea of it for me. I just don't want anyone I care about to go away while I'm still here -- selfish I know, but there it is.

This is a pretty wonderful documentary despite my recent lack of balance in what I've been choosing to watch on television lately. Forget the news though, just forget it. I do like watching anything edifying and educational, things that help me become a better, more compassionate person, but sitting here thinking about Mom, Mary and Betsy, with my pinched nerve in my neck sending these weird painful electrical vibrations down my arm and into my index and middle fingers, weak from weight loss from consuming so much less food than I am accustomed to, while occasionally blowing my nose from this miserable cold, I don't know if this is what I should be watching right now.

It's just that I recorded it so long ago and this whole DVR storage thing makes me anxious. I feel as if I have to watch everything I record and erase it before I hit some data filled television computer chip level and end up losing anything dear to me at the whim of this machine. As I said, I've been saving this for a long time and I have to watch it some time. So far I've already heard an oncologist tell this lovely woman whose story this is that treatment is like a chess game between the tumors she has and the toxic medications they can give her to fight the tumors, hmmm... Watching and waiting for the tumors to make the first move. Having to embrace the fact that she has slow moving stage four cancer. This is exactly what is happening to my Mother.

"With cancer every little action feels potentially dangerous. Would a cough ever be just a cough? Sometimes I miss just being able to just tune out. We can't always live in the fire. You know we're human beings -- we need to escape a little bit and I feel like with cancer you don't have that opportunity."
--Kris Carr

Well, I've already watched Weeds, Dexter, and Tell Me That You Love Me, which has a lot of graphic sex but is also pretty burdened with heavy relationship issues so that leaves Californication and America's Next Top Model. I think I'll stick with this for now and then I'll wrap up my night-off in bed with Kleenex, a blanket, and a six pack of cats, while watching something light and funny.

Halloween-wise I've managed to get myself to do a wee bit of work towards the end goal every day, and I feel pretty good about this. Despite feeling utterly crappy I was able to hang up several dozen bats, a couple of scary animatronic head things, decorated the bird cage and the Halloween Tree, put some of my paper collectibles in their case by the door, placed some light up skulls along a walkway, hung up some more paper lanterns on the porch, and organized a few other things. Not a lot, but enough for someone with a virus cold thing.

Anyway, what I really wanted to do was share these pictures so I can move on to Halloween;

Lake Balboa

This is a small lake in the valley near where Scott lives. We took a nice walk here the other night. I discovered it years ago before they modernized everything and fixed it up. I preferred it before; wild and natural. But it's still beautiful.

There is this enormous dam that you can see as you approach the valley from the 405 freeway. It once was filled with water but now has been completely reclaimed. Part of it was set aside as a nature preserve and park. About a week or so after my surgery, and just when Scott was about to begin to start his new job, I thought it would be good for both of us to get out and take a walk there. It was a lot of fun and a good idea.

Sparklers At the Park

This was the first shot I took that day. I love photographing children, but because I worry their parents might think I'm some kind of freaky stalker, I get a bit shy and snap the shots too quickly, and not with an entirely steady hand as you can certainly see here. But it was a lovely moment -- this little girl playing with her now illegal sparkler. Sparklers remind me of magic and faeries and my childhood so I still like the picture despite the lack of focus.

Park Pathway

This was the beginning of our walk. The sun was starting to set making everything green turn to gold. It was lovely.

Geese Friends At the Park One

And here finally are our little love birds, the geese who adopted us for about an hour -- one wonderful hour. These geese were sooooo cool and the highlight of my week. Scott and I had just begun walking along the trail and were making our way to the lake when my keen animal protective senses spotted some kids hassling these geese.

I just have a kind of radar for this kind of thing, and so sick as I was feeling, I limped on over there to give them hell. After they left we resumed our walk, but shortly after this a little boy chased them back towards us. We told him to stop bothering them and from that moment on they became our best friends, following us like golden retrievers. It was amazing and so much fun. They just tagged along beside us for our entire walk, going everywhere we went, stopping every once in a while to nibble on some grass, but if we got too far out of our site they'd come running with those cute webbed feet.

Geese Friends At the Park Twp

People were actually asking us if they were our "pets." I hated leaving them behind, but I know the life they have is better than anything I could provide for them. I'm just worried that they've become too dependent and trusting and people can be mean and dangerous sometimes. Still, I so loved being able to reach down and pet a goose walking by my side. And they were so soft and had such terrific little goosey personalities.

So that's it for tonight. I have some eBay sellers to try to put at ease because I was expecting some money today that should hopefully come super soon. And then it's all comedy all night, and cat cuddling.

Love You,
Jacqui