Category Archives: Post-Surgery

The Scale Says What?!?….3.5 Years. Success. Amazing.

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As I am about to enter my 2nd year  with APHSA, I have had some time to reflect on what the past 42 months has meant both personally and professionally.  First, I can’t believe it has been 42 months (and most importantly December 13), that I checked in at Fair Oaks Hospital for life-changing surgery with the team from Blue Point Surgical.  Under the direction of Dr. Amir Moazzez, I underwent having bariatric surgery with the election that is known as the sleeve surgery where 85% of a person’s stomach is removed.

For more years than I care to remember, I was the chubby (yes, fat), funny girl that worked hard to be one of the crowd.  I was living a great life but struggled privately with many health issues – anxiety, sleep apnea, PCOS, always being tired, IBS, low back pain, addiction to food (I always wanted something to eat), leg pains – however, even with this private struggle I worked tirelessly to be healthy.  From as early as I can remember, doctors would say – eat less, move more – it takes time and dedication.  How does one move more when they are tired and in pain most of the time?  You don’t.  You come to accept that this is the way life is and will be.  Then bariatric surgery was introduced to the world.

I watched a couple of friends go through the early surgeries with success but never felt I was a candidate.  For years, as indicated in earlier posts, I read about the advances with this type of surgery as I was curious if it really worked.

I had moved to VA for my career which meant a new set of doctors.  One suggested that I have sleep study done which lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Now added to my pills was a cPap machine.  However, I started noticing that I had a bit more energy and at least was getting some solid rest plus even lost a few pounds.  I found that I was working harder to eat better and move a bit more but was always in pain because when you are carrying close to 300 pounds on your joints they aren’t too happy – and – they will rebel.   I found that I was going to the doctor more often – it seemed that we just couldn’t find a cause for the pain – except for the weight.  Being assured that I was not alone in the quest and that I was a candidate for surgery, my doctor encouraged me to go an informational meeting – no strings attached, no commitments – just go and listen.  Being a bit skeptical that I was truly a candidate, I didn’t go right away.  A side note: during this time period another industry peer had this surgery done.  I watched quietly as I saw her successful progress. 

The “straw” that broke me was taking narcotics 3x a day while doing a meeting in July 2010.  I either had to do something drastic or change careers.  Physically I just simply could not do what I loved doing as it was too physically difficult.  I was exhausted not only from the long hours but from the pain that I experienced every day.  I couldn’t get across a trade show floor or run up the stairs without being totally out of breath.  There were times that I would become so flushed from pushing myself that colleagues and attendees would think something was wrong with me.  But I could not do my share – I had to prove that the fat girl could carry her share of responsibilities. Within a week of that meeting, I went to the informational meeting that changed my life.

Has the road been easy?  Yes and no.  Let me explain.  Yes, as I quickly accepted that what the doctors were saying. I need to do as they were instructing and be present for every moment of this new journey.  It was THE journey that would change my life, my career and my future.  I work in a profession where dining out and cocktails are a regular course of life.  It is during these times that I struggle with my surgery…I want to be social but food is still a trigger…so I struggle when I am out with friends and colleagues for a dinner where there are multiple courses and lots of cocktails – a couple drinks (if that) and a few bites of an appetizer – I am full.  If I overeat, it comes back to haunt me.  If I drink without eating, I am plastered within the first drink.  I am still learning the balance as I don’t want food or drink to control my life again.

The positive results outweigh the struggles or negatives.  I am free of five medications and the cPap machine.  I am not in constant pain.  I can wear a size 10/12 (down from 24/26). I can walk into almost any story now and buy clothes off of the rack – current trends and fashionable clothes – I am not any longer relegated to the few plus size racks.  My blood pressure is the best it has ever been my entire life. I can run a 12 – 14 minute mile – never ran before.  Finished walking a half marathon and raising funds for LLS and have done five additional races.  Continue to find opportunities to add a walk or run to my day with my wonderful dog, Bentley.   I can sit in the exit row on an airplane – and – I am on them a lot these days (translation – no seat belt extender).  I don’t get the “look” when I am sitting next to someone now – and – if you are overweight, you understand what I am speaking about.

I work every day to make smart (and smarter) choices.  I work on the “voices” in my head when I get tired and want to eat whatever I can find rather than taking five minutes to think it through.  I struggle to not to become obsessive about the numbers on the scale. I weigh myself every day as a method for me to check myself.

Over the past 42 months, I have had moments where I cried uncontrollably … out of joy and disbelief.  I never thought I would ever be smaller than I was in high school.  And turn heads?  Right that happens to the cute ones not to the fat girl – yes, I am experiencing that phenomena as it happens now from time to time.  I still see the “fat” girl in the mirror and work tirelessly to make sure she doesn’t reappear.

I have also had many moments where I experienced such wonderful support and encouragement from friends and family.  My father, who is 80, made my day when he hugged me Easter 2012 and lifted me off the ground – it was an overwhelming moment.  The pride on his face was worth any amount of pain that i endured for the surgery.  When I attended Expo! Expo! in 2012 and people didn’t recognize me – totally overwhelming – I learned from that experience to always have photos to share with those who wondered what all the fuss was about.  Jane Dahlroth who went through this journey with me and continues to do so.  Susan Haning who is responsible for getting me addicted to running/walking competitively.  Chris who is learning new ways to cook and understand that pasta, rice and pork are not part of my diet any longer.  Friends who check in on me from afar and send me notes of encouragement. My sister, Janell, who stood by me when others thought I was taking an easy way out to lose weight.  My “village” will always continue to be a part of my journey…I could not have done it [cannot do it] without you.

I still love to cook and continue to add to my cookbook collection.  I eat just about anything I want except for pork, pasta and rice.  I eat more protein than carbs.  I drink less alcohol now.  I drink more water and green tea.   I enjoy going out with friends as long as I can plan ahead regarding menus.

When I think about what the last 42 months have been like here are some words that describe this journey

Amazing. Wonderful. Blessed. Supported. Encouraged. Struggle(s). Work. Surprise. Positive. Strength. Impressed. Challenge(s). Hard. Emotional. Happy.  Sad. Shift. Game Changer.

I trust that as you read this post you will be inspired to take control of your life or at least an area…make a shift, cause a change, become the person that is hidden below/behind the facade…you will not only change who you are but you will be able to impact someone around you — many times without even knowing that you have done so.

The Scale Says What?!?…27 Months Does Not Erase the Mental Tapes…yet!

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As one goes on a the journey of transformation and changing a lifestyle to better health there are obstacles that get in the way sometimes.  For me, one of those obstacles is what I “see” when I look in the mirror, pass a window and see my reflection or look at pictures.

Of late, here is my battle:  I have successfully lost over 135 pounds.  I have dropped 14 dress sizes.  I no longer need a cpap machine to sleep soundly at night.  I no longer take high blood pressure, anti-anxiety, high cholesterol, thyroid or pain medications – yes that is 5 – count them 5 – medications gone!  With all of these successes one would think that I would be floating on air and happy as a lark!  YET, I battle with myself as I see the person who started on this journey 30 months ago, counting pre-surgery months – taking all the medications, not sleeping through the night, not able to sit in an airplane seat without a belt extender and so many other things!  So I have been doing some thinking about why … why can’t I get rid of the mental pictures, erase the tapes – why can’t I see what others tell me that they see….

Here is my analysis of this part of the process…

  • I lived with these real images for more than 40 years – so they were my friends.  Losing this much weight is like a death – there is a process – much like death – that one has to go through.  I believe I was so wrapped in the excitement of the success that I didn’t properly grieve the loss of “my friends”.   I am now grieving them and so I have had a few moments.
  • For many years, I identified myself with my work instead of finding hobbies or other interests outside of work.  When one is fat, you bury yourself in work and work hard to be successful so no one thinks that you are lazy or not able to perform the job that you are assigned.  I am now finding new interests…in fact, I am walking in my first half marathon ever!  I am so excited and feel empowered in a way I can’t explain! And when it is over, I will find another one to focus on…who knows what I will accomplish before I turn 60 (several years from now :))
  • I am in transition in my career.  When transition happens, it causes upset to our routine.  And for me, I need a routine to keep me on track.
  • I have started eating more carb-laden foods which I wish I had not learned that I could still eat because they give me comfort. I still have not eaten rice or pasta (yes that is about 27 months without these two comfort foods).  However, I have convinced myself that good bread is not bad for you…guess what…not true.  While I need to increase my carbs due to the training, I need to find the right carbs to eat.
  • I started allowing foods that I thought I could ignore to be brought in the house again – cookies, chips, breads, unhealthy snacks.  I am not as strong as I thought and need to go back to keeping things out of the house that are too tempting.
  • And finally…it is a journey that is one day at a time!  And these few weeks of set back are giving me pause to re-focus and get back on track!  Besides, I refuse to buy larger clothes!

While I continue to work on erasing the tapes – both mental and visual – I am forever a different person than I was 27 months ago.  Today at my check up with Blue Point Surgical, I heard phrases like…’great blood work – your numbers look amazing’; ‘you look great’; ‘keep up the good work’; ‘you are in tune with what you need to do to keep on track’; ‘you are an inspiration’…so while I have had a bit of mental set back, I know that I have come a long way in two years and have no regrets of having surgery and becoming healthy, which was my #1 reason for having the surgery done.

What are your battles when it comes to making a transformation in your life?  What have you done to overcome the obstacles and declare success?  How do you deal with setbacks?

A visual reminder of how far I have gone in 27+ months…

Donna with Tjay Spencer at Starwood Academy Awards Event

Donna with Tjay Spencer at Starwood Academy Awards Event – March 2014

Who is the girl in pink?

This is where I started – Sept 2011

 

The Scale Says What?!?…12 Months Makes a Difference

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Where does the time go?  Didn’t realize I have been so remiss in posting updates until I started sharing my blog this weekend with a friend.

Thanksgiving 2012 has been a bit challenging for me.  It was a year ago that I shared with my family and friends that I was having my surgery.  I am back with them a year later a much healthier, happier person.  However, it was a difficult time for me.  While I have learned new habits, changed my food habits, tastes have changed – in part because of the surgery – and in part because they had to in order for me to be a success…the worlds that my family live in have not changed.  So I worked with what I had…added what I could…and made the best of it.

What challenges could there be?  I can hear that question loud and clear.  Carbs were the worst.  Recently I have been feeling challenged by the excess carbs that are being added to the menus in my home since my husband has retired.  And it was no different this weekend.  From freshly baked dinner rolls to more than seven pies (but I did contribute two bean pies to try to introduce a new taste to the family) … it made for difficulty in navigating the Thanksgiving buffet.  Selecting turkey over the ham loaf wasn’t hard but walking past the dinner rolls was like slicing my wrists.  I was dying to dive in and never look back.  But I didn’t.

I stood for myself and asked to have unsweetened tea made.  I did enjoy asparagus wrapped with bacon and baked.  My brother-in-law didn’t realize that he was helping me have a bit of enjoyment with his addition to the menu. Thank you Dan!  And my sister, Janell, added fresh broccoli to the menu.

Okay, enough whining.  I am keeping my eye on the prize of being healthy and it is one day (well in this case,  a weekend) out of the big picture.  When I look at pictures from last year compared to this year – I have made great strides.  Over 110# gone forever.  I am drinking my Body by Vi shakes while I am traveling to help keep me on track.  It has made a difference between caving in totally or not.

During my trip back to Ohio, I was able to catch up with some friends.  To remind myself how far I have come, I stopped in to see Lee Kelly and take a picture in the same spot where we took one last year.  This my friends, is my measure of success….

I am thankful for the success that I have had the past 11 months.  I am pleased to see that the closet is starting to fill with smaller clothes and that the fat clothes are gone.  I am having fun finding new clothes and new looks.  It is an amazing feeling to walk into a store and buy “pretty” clothes that make me feel pretty.

So for the quick comparison – I re-created a photo with my dear friend and wonderful supporter, Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving Day this year.

With Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving 2012

With Lee Kelly on Thanksgiving 2011

With Lee on Thanksgiving November 2012

With Lee on Thanksgiving November 2012

So my friends…as I approach my year anniversary of the surgery that has changed my life, I leave you with this thought.  When you want something bad enough, you can have it – simply put it out to the universe and begin living as if it is so – and it will come to pass.

If you are reading this blog and are considering one of the bariatric surgeries, I am very open to listening to your concerns as well as sharing my insights to help you make a decision that is best for you.

Watch for the annual update blog!

The Scale Says What?!!!…The Journey Continues!

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It has been a while since I wrote an update on my journey to better health.  I’ll start with the great news…I had my six month check up and Tiffany, the PA, at Blue Point said words that I didn’t expect to hear…You are no longer considered obese!  My BMI is below 30 and that makes me normal in the medical world.  Holy cow!  Did I hear her correctly? So I asked her to repeat it.  And she said it again.

The other news she gave me was that all of my other numbers – cholesterol both the good and the bad, Vitamin D, B, and all the other things they check are all GREAT!  Blood pressure is so low that I don’t recognize it.

And it didn’t stop there…I have lost 72% of my pre-surgery weight.  They consider a patient successful with 60 – 65% weight loss. And I am not done.  I am excited to continue the journey to better health.

As I go through this journey, I am being challenged to “rewire” my brain to think more positively, to be kind to myself (yes, Tiffany, I am practicing your instructions), and to make me a priority.  From accepting compliments from well wishers and friends to loving the look I see in the mirror now, I am learning how to embrace the newness of this in my life.  This is a challenge that many have when it comes to weight loss – whether it is through the process of surgery or other methods – and it is one of the reasons that people can fail.

So how do I deal with this new phenomenon? Learning to simply say “thanks” and not to undermine a compliment – not as easy as it sounds – but I am practicing every day.  I have begun beginning my day with a positive affirmations such as “have joy today in all that you do” or “today is the best day in the world” or “hello beautiful” – just a few things that you would hear if you were able to listen in on my morning ritual.

Another new thing that I am doing is a “time in” where I spend 10 minutes a day simply being quiet.  Now for those that know me – you will find that fascinating – but it is giving me time to reflect, put things in order and understand where I need to head on this journey.  I have to give the credit for this concept to Tim Durkin who was the facilitator at the IAEE Krakoff Leadership Institute this past May.  It is very challenging to be quiet for 10 minutes a day but I am finding it to helpful to keep me focused.  Thanks Tim for sharing this with us.

I am thankful for all the goodness that has come my way as I go through this journey.  My willingness to talk about having this surgery has given me the opportunity to share with people on a level that otherwise would not be.

What are you thankful for that has come your way as a result of making a major change?

P.S.  As I close, I realized that I haven’t told you the best news…I have lost 85# and am in a size 14!

 

 

The Scale Says What…More Musings, Insights and a photo update

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Wow! where does the time go?  I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted in a while and a LOT has happened since my last post.  So where do I start…accountability? new look (you are dying to see the pictures – don’t peek)? insights? new discoveries?

Recently, at the Journey’s Support Group, the surgeons came to our session – amazing how caring these guys are – and the time they put into helping us be successful.  They reminded us of how we have to do the work – they simply operated on our body  –  the work is ours to do to create real success.

Let’s start with accountability (that is the most painful sometimes in this journey)…I strive to keep exercise at the forefront of my schedule…and it is difficult when it was never a priority before.  However, I see the results when I do make it so it is becoming more and more important.  So I am not making it to Zumba every week like I want to.  But I have recently tried a yoga class and signed up for six weeks.  I am convinced more and more that exercising must be, like many things in our lives, convenient and easily accessible.  So I found a yoga class that is 5 minutes from my office, is designed for baby boomers and beyond, the instructor works with bariatric patients regularly and I can do it over lunch!

As I approach my six month anniversary (13 June), I look back with amazement with some of the “walls” that I have climbed over, through or walked around.  I was having issues keeping solid food down and I constantly felt as though my system was irritated.  The doctors suggested and did an endoscopy to check for scar tissue from the surgery (this is commonplace) and no scar tissue.  They discovered a slight irritation that was caused, most likely, when I transitioned from mushy foods to solid foods.  This caused some acid reflux – they put me on Nexium and the symptoms have been erased and I am able to keep solid foods down.  This was probably a wall that I broke through once  the issue was resolved – it was aggravating not being able to eat solid foods.

Guess what happens when you lose a lot of weight?  Your shoes get too big – can you believe?  Now what shoe size do I wear?  Not sure but I know it is a pain in the tush (oh yeah that gets smaller also LOL)!  Recently, I wore a blister on my heel as a result of my shoes rubbing from walking.  Dressy Birkenstocks out there anyone?

So the update is 80#…and counting.  Wearing dresses (yep!  dresses!) and looking at clothes in the regular sections of the store.  Daunting for sure.  I’m not used to looking at the clothes of “normal” people (whatever normal is) – other people wear those clothes.  I know you are dying to see it — my new photo!

2012 May photo

I’m still amazed when I look at this photo!

In my recent discussion with my wellness coach, the subject of fear arose.  I was describing how I am having a difficult time letting go of my plus-size clothes.  They are my friends. They are comfortable. I know them.  They are gone on many trips with me.  I know it sounds crazy.  So there are several questions that I ask – does letting go mean letting go of a part of me?  What if I need them sometime down the road?  Is my holding on to them setting myself up for failure?  I have so many clothes and they are beginning to pile up and bug me – part of my vision for 2012 and beyond is less and less clutter (more on that later).  So my coach and I agreed to a goal of me removing three piles of clothes and donating them over Memorial Day weekend.  Wish me luck and help hold me accountable!

I am participating in Kathleen Ronald’s deClutter U for the next 12 months.  In addition to decluttering my weight, I am learning that clutter can be in any part of our lives…it is not all about piles of papers, collections and stuff – it is also people, environment, schedules, experiences, etc.  As part of this bootcamp, I am discovering the “stuff” that is cluttering my mind, my vision and ultimately blocking my dreams.  If you haven’t thought about clutter in this way, I encourage you to do so.  It is very enlightening!

I could spend the next few hours rambling on about all the new-found energy I am discovering or the way I am able to focus a better but I must also sleep.  So I close with this thought – borrowed from my Mary Kay Director, Kellie Hammett – “I did the thing I feared the most, excuse me while I cheer! Now here I stand a braver soul and all I lost was fear” (EENSD Arlene Lenarz) … so the next time I post, I will have lost some fear (and clutter) plus a few more #!

What is it that you fear the most?

Until next time – stay healthy, believe in you and above all remember…it is a journey!

Happy Memorial Day and blessings to all our men and women who have given and are giving their lives for us to live in America!

The Scale Says What! March Musings

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Surprises can be nice…and fun…recently I went back to Columbus to see friends, many of whom, were not aware that I had began this journey to have a healthier lifestyle…at Gregg Dodd’s Ugly Sweater Party.  I had purposely not posted pictures of the “new” me on Facebook so there would be the element of surprise.  Or was it that I wanted to hear them praise and congratulate me?  Probably a bit of both.

When I started this journey, I thought I would not enjoy friends commenting, congratulating, asking questions or even acknowledging the physical changes that they could see.  However, 2+ months post surgery and I am finding that this is one area that I can be encouraged.  While still not great at accepting compliments, I do have a sense of “wow, I am doing this journey successfully” when people acknowledge the work I am doing for myself.  I do have to be careful not to get on a soapbox about nutrition and labels when people ask questions about surgery or the how much I am eating – it is exciting for a couple of minutes but not 30 minutes.

I am of the opinion that humans crave (and I am sure there is science out there to back up my humble opinion), consciously or unconsciously, praise and acknowledgement.  I think back to my childhood and when I wanted attention – I acted out by being a brat, doing something I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, etc. – that resulted mostly in negative attention but nonetheless it was attention.  As adults, we still want attention, approval and acknowledgement.  And when we don’t get it we find other ways to get/give ourselves attention

Let me give you an example from my own life…I have found through this process that outwardly I displayed a lot of confidence.  However, inwardly, I was not as confident as I acted.  Results:  I second guessed myself, I made snap decisions, I “took control” and “fixed” things [whether they needed to be fixed or not – I “always” knew a better way].  Consequences:  I got attention – most times not positive attention, I have been passed over for promotions, I haven’t advanced as far in my career as I would like, I had to buy bigger clothes to cover up the weight, health issues developed, I was exhausted all the time – this created other results:  This negative attention “confirmed” my fears and thoughts – I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or pretty enough to succeed…that then created a different set of consequences – I ate in an unhealthy manner, probably (well matter of fact) drank too much at certain times and basically didn’t care.  As you can see, it is a very vicious circle! On December 13, I broke my circle!

So, today, I acknowledge that I haven’t been so good to myself for several years.  I am proud that I am taking control of my life and going on a journey that will forever change my emotional, physical and spiritual mindset.  I care about me.

As I was sharing with a friend recently about some of my struggles to ‘get it right’ [my schedule, eating, etc].  He gave me an excellent (a big “A Ha” moment for me) suggestion…think of this as an event and create a daily ‘run of show’ for myself. How brilliant!  Thank you MA!  You are the best!

See it is about having a supportive circle of friends and family that will get you through…so if you are reading this and thinking about changing your destiny by having bariatric surgery or changing your lifestyle to be more healthy…go for it!  Surround yourself with supportive people – chose your support group carefully and engage them in your journey.  By the way, your support group does not have to include your blood relatives – it is nice if they are on board – but do this for yourself and you alone! 

Here is the new look of one proud girl…

Me, Lori, Megan, Gregg and Diana - we all ditched our ugly sweaters...thank goodness mine didn't come home with me - donated for a good cause.

The Scale Says What … Photo Comparison…

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I spent Labor Day weekend in Ohio and this photo was taken of my brother Kenny, sister Janell and me. Who is the person in pink? Who let her go out looking like this?

 

 

Gregg Dodd was in DC for the weekend and we went to The Front Page for brunch. A quick picture before we went our separate ways for the day.

 

Surgery Day - December 13 - ready for life changing action!

 

 

Jan 1 2012 - Just 3 weeks post surgery - FOUR sizes smaller for slacks and THREE sizes smaller for tops! Starting to enjoy the benefits.