Thanks so much for all of your support and kindness as I went through the pre-surgery preparation and panic period. If you'd like to read a bit more about everything in more detail I've been writing about it over on my journal. I just don't know how much I want to burden all of you with.
I had a hard day today because my dear cat suddenly crashed and I had to make the decision to have him put to sleep.
Having to deal with all of these feelings without the familiar sedating comfort of food has been challenging. It's also been inspiring in a way and kind of renewing if that makes any sense. I feel like this is a whole new life beginning for me, a new change to start over. I don't want to be numb and stuffed and muted. I want to be my vibrant emotional feelingful self and shove it in people's faces if they don't like it, rather than hurting myself by stuffing it down and taking on the shame that comes with being unique in any way in this society. I don't think this is going to be an easy path so I'm planning on getting my butt back to OA meetings and trying to find a super good eating disorder therapist. Any tips for a good therapist in the West LA/ Brentwood/Santa Monica area who be soooo appreciated.
I can't remember how much I've filled you in on. My surgery was with Dr. Carson Liu who had just moved to Century City hospital. I was his tenth patient. I managed to lose fourteen pounds before surgery and he was happy with that. He was able to do it laparascopically (route and y) but he had to put a drain in because my liver was so enlarged. He said it was infused with fat and three times the normal size. However having the drain wasn't that big of a deal at all. There was just a big gauze taped patch on my abdomen with tubes coming out of it that drained in to this little plastic squeezey thing. It wasn't pretty but it wasn't horrifying either and with the pain shots they gave me every six hours I didn't feel anything. I did have to ask my doctor to tell the nurses to keep them coming round the clock.
I also had some pretty bad back pain but it went away as soon as they gave me Valium. I don't know if it was because of the position I was in, lying on my back for two and a half hours during the operation, or because I have Fibromyalgia and my body reacts really oddly to pain medication -- I tend to get really tense when I take pain meds. Whatever the cause we worked it out so that I got regular shots of pain, anti nausea and Valium and I was fine.
I found that lying on my right side was where I was most comfortable. Also they brought me a recliner which is something hospitals have plenty of so all you have to do is ask, and that helped a lot too when I was sick of laying in bed.
I got up and walked right after I got out of recovery and it wasn't that hard. I had the squeezing socks on which I liked and missed when they took them away, and I waked as much as I could.
I hated being dependent on these nurses who were always too busy to want to help with anything as unimportant as comfort. They were there to take our temperatures, our blood pressures, prick our fingers, check the IVs and make sure we were still alive -- everything else was up to you. The IV's will drive you crazy, they beep if you ever pinch them off for a second, my best vein was in the crook of my arm so it went off all the time. My night nurse was mean enough to want to strap my arm to a board to keep me from being able to bend it rather than simply teaching me that when I see the word "Downstream Occlusion" on the machine and hear the beep, that all I have to do is push the simple little button twice.
I was in the hospital for five days, the longest for any of Dr. Liu's patients. I thought I needed the support. They weaned me off my beloved pain shots and anti nausea meds on Thursday and had me begin taking my meds by mouth. I had to learn how to smash things up really small because no one had the time to help me so sometimes I'd use the phone, other times I'd use a pen, sometimes I'd use a vase or anything handy. I was lucky and learned that I could swallow hard bits of pills if they were broken small enough. The nausea capsule opened out into a powder that was one of the most bitter disgusting things I have ever put in my mouth. After I was home for a couple of days I decided to try to swallow it and it wasn't any problem. Dr. Liu said I can swallow any pill that's smaller than a dime and so far I've been willing to try things that are about half the size of a dime.
I came home Friday and I felt a bit protective of myself and tender on the ride home, but again, no big deal at all. In fact I was amazed at how well I felt and how much energy I seemed to have. The first two days I slept so much that my family worried about me but I'm sure I was just catching up on all the sleep you miss in the hospital because they wake you up all night long to come in and check your vitals.
I took my first big walk (six blocks) the second night I was home and felt really good, tired but good. A few days later I drove myself to the pharmacy and went to Jamba Juice and got a protein berry drink. It was okay but I could only have about twelve small spoonfuls because it was too thick for me.
Food wise my first two days home were hard emotionally for me. My body felt full enough with my little one ounce cups of protein drinks. But I never ate from real hunger anyone and I found myself just screaming inside for a bagel with cream cheese or mashed potatoes with butter and salt. I helped myself through this with six to eight ounces of protein drinks and or watered down fruit juice and ice chips every hour, and reading Carney Wilson's books and two books about Bariatric Surgery that I found on online, Obesity.org or Obesityhelp.com. Reading other people's experiences has helped so so much.
Weight wise I weighed in at 312 the day before my surgery and this morning I weight 296. I find this so hard to believe. Since I have been in such denial about ever having gone about 300 it just seems natural for me to be on the losing side of it, but I know it's an accomplishment and am grateful.
The cravings for food have abated a bit and I think I can handle this liquid or pureed diet a little longer as long as I can keep the food coming in, or more like the protein, and add a few new things every now and then. My nutritionist told me I could get some low fat small curd cottage cheese tomorrow and I am super excited about this. Today I had a war with a stick of string cheese and I just bet you know who won. I ate that cheese with such relish, but I chewed it up really well and did okay. To be honest though, I wouldn't know if it made me nauseous because I keep taking the anti-nausea meds. I've always been a little barf queen so we knew this was going to be a likely side affect and I got on them right away rather than waiting, suffering, and then calling in for them.
I have six incisions and they really are tiny. It's hard to believe I was so worried about the scars these would leave when my entire abdomen is covered with stretch marks, but I'm sure these are going to continue to heal really well. Two of them on my right side are all healed and don't even need a Band-Aid to cover them anymore. There is another one on my right side under my breast that is just about healed now, it's nothing. The one on my left is also hidden by my breast, and there is another one that is sort of lower down on the same side that is looking fine as well.
The only other wound I have that you probably won't have to deal with is the one from the drain which is just above and a little to the right of my belly button, also no big deal, but this one is taking longer to heal.
I did suffer a complication with my wounds that was a little scary and yucky but again nothing to worry yourself about prior to your surgery. It turns out that I am allergic to these little thin strips of steri tape that they use to close the incisions. After a few days in the hospital things started to really itch and I noticed red raised areas under the tape but no one took it seriously.
Then the night I got home from the hospital I was going mad from the itching but wanting to be a good patient I got an ice pack and just pressed it against me and that felt so much better. But in the morning when I checked the tape, all I had to do was touch it and fluid started to leak out of it in places where I hadn't had any wounds. I started to peel back the tape and a big piece of my skin came with it. I was scared to find that there were blisters everywhere where the tape had been. So sadly on a Saturday with no one in my doctors office to call, I had to figure out how to clean and dress not only my regular wounds but all of these big hurting blisters as well.
I think they should have everyone put a little piece of this tape on themselves before surgery because I have talked to three other people who had the same problem. The tape is made of latex and some people just can't tolerate it, which explains my, ummm, dislike of certain sexual playthings. I hope I'm not shocking you. Anyway the best plan for post op wound care is to wash your hands, and use Q-tips to apply hydrogen peroxide to anything open and/or weepy, then to dry it with the Q-tip, apply Neosporin, then cover it with whatever sterile Band-Aid or Telfa pad you prefer.
So here I am, feeling hopeful about my weight loss and the new life that lays ahead of me, grateful to be on the other side of this surgery that I was in sooooooo much fear of, grateful to all of you and to my excellent surgeon and his staff and everyone involved in my care. I sent an arrangement of flowers to my doctor and took lots of pictures that I printed out on a digital printer I bought for myself as a gift for bravery, then put them all in little thank you notes and passed them out to everyone at our first support group meeting. I'm also feeling pretty vulnerable and raw emotionally and this is on Valium and Vicodin so Lord knows what I'll be like next week, but I've been more tearful and more joyful that I've been in a long time.
If any of you want to talk or need any support or want to chat or anything feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love you guys, we are special, feeling, sensitive, creative, beautiful beings who have every right to make this decision for ourselves for whatever reason we deem necessary. Fat or thin, losing or gaining or hangin' out on some plateau, we are beautiful just as we are, we deserve to be cherished and admired, and we are so brave!
All my love and respect,
PS: I've been watching a lot of Comedy Channel stand up comedy and it helps a lot to just let my laughter come roaring up out of me, rather than spending too much time focused on the war and SARS. I've decided that just because I need to pull in a bit and focus on my own life and recovery for now, does not mean that I don't care and love everyone over there who are involved in this terrible war.