Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ~Philippians 4:8~


Saturday, August 28, 2010

And Then There Were Seven

I have wonderful memories of the Saturday just before my surgery. That day, we had planned on leaving quite early for a little getaway with all the family to Corpus Christi. However, since my surgery was on Monday, I had to get the last batch of necessary lab work done no later than 48 hours prior to the surgery, so there was no way I could have gotten it done in the preceding days. So around 7am I went to the hospital to get that done and out of the way. Then off to the beach we went!

Funny and wonderful how our little family has increased. First the two of us with our two boys, then a beautiful daughter-in-law, and now two adorable little boys who fill us with joy. My eldest Son and his family had rented a room at a hotel/resort right next to the beach, so we just drove up and met with them.

It was a beautiful day, albeit hot, with a brilliant blue sky and only a few soft puffy clouds visible beyond the horizon. A perfect day for being at the beach, and our first real getaway with our youngest Son in quite a while.

It wasn't easy to keep from thinking about the upcoming ordeal that I knew would not be easy. It wasn't easy to shoo away the thoughts of my mortality, wondering if I would ever have sweet moments like this with my family again. It wasn't easy at all. But then I would see the faces of my loved ones, and I knew then, that no matter what lay ahead, this made it all worth it.

So I decided, right then and there, no drama, no tears, no sadness. Just live the moment and enjoy the blessings.

Notwithstanding, the trip did not erase the questions which have plagued me for years. There will always be moments in time when everyone asks why things have to be the way they are. For me it was why couldn't I have a normal weight with a normal physique? Moments where you wonder how in the world did I get myself into this mess? As an obese person, you ask and you wonder how food ever became such an issue and of so much importance in your life. You look at people and you wonder how is it that they are able to maintain a normal body without the constant cravings that you try every day to fight off. Is it genetic? I am the only 'fat' person in my whole family. I heard once that my biological Father's Mother was a large woman. Well, I'm petite, but the pounds really show on my small frame. Is it the environment of poor quality foods which are so abundant and more affordable than healthy food?

And so I'm off to try a new chapter in my life; a chapter full of hope for attaining a normal weight. The sun never sets on my hopes. They are always full of faith and knowledge that whatever the final outcome of this whole journey, it is in God's hands.

And I will work very hard to reach my goals. Because so much is riding on this.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On The Other Side- I Made It!

Back in May, I wrote a somewhat cryptic post, which left a few of my friends here puzzled and wondering what I was writing about. I apologize for sounding so vague. At the time I was not ready to share all my fears. I also was not certain that I could actually go through with the ordeal I was contemplating to undergo. I chose to chronicle my journey. The following is my contribution to fill in the gaps since that post. I hope the information will also be of help to anyone contemplating bariatric surgery. This is a long post, the better to journal my experiences:

I think that henceforth, my life will be a tale of either before or after the surgery I just put myself through. I use the term 'put myself through' because technically, it was not an absolute necessity, and I could have opted out and kept on living as before. Up until the moment they were wheeling me to the operating room I was crying, desperately wanting to scream "I don't want to do this!". I knew I was seconds away from the slumber of anesthesia, with no voice or say to add to anything that happened in the next moments of my life.

For almost two years, I studied and researched bariatric surgery, going back and forth between 'yes I want to do this', and 'no this is just too darn drastic for my taste'. Sometime during that phase, a bariatric surgeon opened an office here in town, and I went to my second Bariatric Seminar. I had attended one in San Antonio because that was the closest I would have been able to go for the procedure. Now the surgery was available in my city, but even then I was not convinced. That particular physician's route to surgery for his patients required a pretty long amount of time, as you had to be under a nutritionist's care for months, as well as undergo all the required exams and paperwork, before the surgery could be performed. And then another Surgeon opened offices as well, in another local Hospital. I attended the first of his Seminars this past April, after a slew of television commercials showing many patient success stories. I proceeded to attend several support meetings. I wanted to meet and talk to those patients, to ask them questions. The most prominent in my mind was the level of pain, and to know how they decided among the three types of surgery available. I learned that gastric bypass is the most drastic of the three, but the most successful route for consistent and permanent weight loss. The other problem I saw with it was that because the procedure rendered your  digestive system with gastrointestinal malabsorption problems, thus you would have to take multivitamins for the rest of your life. The lap band was something I would not have considered, because it made for having to make multiple trips to the Dr.'s office for readjusting. The next option, a gastric sleeve, sounded more like something I could look at. That procedure called for removing about 2/3 of the stomach, with the remainder left shaped like a slender, banana shaped 'sleeve'. Hence the name. The down side to that procedure, was that weight loss could cease if enough caloric content was eaten, however small the amount of food. The pros were that it was not as invasive (well it is invasive) as a bypass, and one only need to take vitamins for a year. All three procedures were laparoscopic, meaning the Surgeon uses robotic like tools to make small incisions in the abdominal area as well as for the whole procedure. This translates to faster healing of the wounds, but certainly not an absence of pain, as I was soon to find out. I knew that whichever procedure I chose, it had to be coupled with exercise in addition to eating a healthier diet. But in going back to the subject of how long the whole process took from beginning to end I would have to say it was brief and fast. My Lab work was done in late May, and the remaining exams and appointments were completed by early July. My surgery date was August 16, so it took less than 3 months from initiating the process to the day of surgery.

One other requirement for the surgery was that I had to lose 5% of my weight before surgery. About two weeks before surgery I was told I had to lose a little more. Between the start of my journey into surgery and the day of surgery, I lost about 18 lbs. It doesn't sound like much, but to me, it's substantial. My experience is unique, and I know every one's is different. A couple of days before surgery, to add to the discomfort of the whole experience, I started my monthly cycle. I was mortified, because I wondered how I could possibly lean forward to change pads and undergarments- not to mention showering! The thing that kept going through my mind was what if I rupture the stitches and staples! Believe it or not, as hard and painful as it was, I somehow got through all that.

I did suffer before the surgery. I was a mess of nerves and anxiety. The thing which kept me sane was the thought that I had to do this for my family. I know everyone said to me I should do this for myself. But realistically, if I hadn't cared enough about my health before to stop overeating, I wasn't about to go under the knife for 'my health' either. I knew my focus had to be on what I loved most next to my Creator: my family. I knew they wanted and needed a healthier Wife/Mom/Grandma in their lives. They understood even better than I did that I was a very unhappy camper with a poor quality of life. I drew strength from their encouragement to go through with the surgery. It was my beloved Husband who stood by me through every moment prior, during, and after. And even now, continues to help me in all the things which I could not possibly do on my own.

Of the things which lead up to the day,  I will write about on another post. For now, I will share that when I awoke from the anesthesia, I immediately felt pain. I could only moan softly, and it felt like even breathing hurt. I remember hearing other women moaning in the recovery room. I assume some of them had also undergone the same surgery. The Dr. who performed the surgery usually operated on Mondays and Tuesdays, doing about 5 operations a day. I believe I was the last one on that Monday last week. Thankfully, I would doze off intermittently, but then awake to the realization that I was in pain and discomfort. I barely remember finally being wheeled to my room, where my Husband was waiting. After a few minutes, a nurse came in to instruct me that I any time I wished I could press the little 'morphine' pump to release the pain killer. It was set to release only the amount needed. I barely remember it, but I know I did press that little button a few times! When my eldest Son and his family came in, I instantly felt exponentially better. Just the sight of my two little Grandsons provided relief. I could actually talk! Funny how love is such a powerful pain killer.

My surgery took place around 2:30PM last Monday. My Sweetie tells me I was brought to my room around 4:30PM. One of the things which causes great discomfort is a buildup of air in the abdominal area. I'm told they fill your stomach with air to check for signs of leakage. But I'm not too clear on that, so I may be mistaken. In any case, it wasn't until about 9PM that I asked to go to the bathroom to relieve my bladder, which was full due to all the liquids from the I.V. I then told my Sweetie I should probably walk to relieve the gas buildup, since I was already up anyway. And so it was that each time I got up during the night to go to the bathroom, I would walk the hallways. It was so painful, and I remember walking so slow, barely creeping along. One of the things I had worried about prior to surgery was the knowledge that I would not be allowed to drink water or any fluids until the day after surgery. I worried because I normally always drank a ton of water. I just really loved drinking water and ice! And I worried that I would be dying of thirst. Interestingly, I never once felt thirsty, I think because I was just in so much pain. Therefore before I was allowed to drink any liquids I had to undergo a test the next day. I had to drink a vile tasting liquid, then stand in front of an x-ray type machine, and told to swallow. The xray doctor would then examine those pictures and then report to the Dr. if there were any leaks in the stomach. Once I got clearance, my first meal there consisted of chicken broth, jello gelatin, and water.

I was released later that second day, but not before a visit from the Dr and the nutritionist. Once home, that first week all I could take were broths and juices. I was instructed to keep myself well hydrated and to drink plenty of water. It wasn't until the fourth day that I actually felt better. And every day since then I've had a lot of improvement. I try to walk a lot, and to drink plenty of fluids. I've continued to lose weight, but not as fast as I would like since beginning to eat soft food. The real test will be when I am free to eat 'real' food. For now I'm just happy to be able to say I made it to the other side of the anesthesia and the surgery. I did worry that I might never wake up from that. I also know that in the moments before the surgery I could have been braver and called the whole thing off. But I opted instead to just commend myself to the Lord, and let him operate on my behalf. I am thankful that he did. Now, I pray the Lord will see me through everything that lays ahead always and throughout my days on this Earth.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ode To My Abuelita

"You want to come to the beach with me Grandma?"

What is an Abuelita? She is that old woman who bears gifts and treats when you see her, whose eyes are always twinkling with love, and whose gray hair shines like spun silver. She is that solid tree under whose shelter you run when Mommy and Daddy sound too stern to bear. You know she can never say no to your requests. And you cry with so much sadness when you say goodbye after a long or even a very short visit. She is the reason you always pray to God that she will be around for many, many years- at least until you're all grown up, so the pain won't be so great when the final goodbye must be said. You know she has walked many a mile in the scorching heat to bring you the best ice cream she can afford. She always had coins in her pocket for your afternoon snack- those tasty tostadas or mango or cucumber on a skewer, all liberally sprinkled with lime juice and chile powder. And during those long ago dog days of Summer, you could always count on her for a refreshing and icy cold paleta or raspa- meaning popsicle or snow cone. She would set up the washtub and fill it with water, your favorite  bath in the world, just so you could jump in for a cooling dunk on those hot days. And during the Winter, she would bundle you up, and make sure there was plenty of wood or coals in the fire to keep you warm.

Fast forward fifty years later. Here I am with two precious Grandbabies of my own. I so want to be just like my Abuelita. And you know what? I think I'm getting there. Now that they've begun to talk, I am relishing every moment I am able to spend with them. The sweetest word to an Abuelita's ears? Grandma! My little munchkins are not bilingual just yet, so they're only able to speak English, but I like the word Grandma so very much! The word Abuelita may have to be learned a little later. The word Grandpa also thrills me beyond words! What is it about these two little human beings that they are able to wrap my heart around their little fingers? When I was growing up I always heard that you love your Grandchildren more than your own children. In my youthful ignorance, I could not understand that. The fact is, you love them just as much as your own, only now there is a sweetness so undescribable in the love you feel. I think it's the aftertaste of wisdom. A wisdom which tells you that they won't always be little and helpless. That soon they will be fledglings- testing their wings and their limits. That time is short and fleeting. And that there is but just enough time to pass on as much love and kindness and goodness that you possibly can. Life gives enough of the other things, Your station and your calling and your duty is to pass on those things which you hope will impact their lives in a positive way. Their parents will too of course, but they have so much responsibility and weight to bear, that sometimes along the way, it's easy to lose track of those things which matter most. It's the same for ALL parents. As Grandparents, I just want us to add even more good things to their lives- a sort of complement and enhancement. I want to do what my Abuelita did. She provided so many wonderful memories, and they did serve a very useful purpose. They helped to soften the blows of life. Through all the difficult times, her love and the memories of her kindness confirmed in me that there really are good people, that God really does love me, and that I came from good stock. A good genetic pool. Oh, maybe not poets or scientists or playwrights- but people with a good heart. I do believe that is what God wants of us, among other things. And I want Elias and Owen to always know that. Already Elias has shown he too has a good heart. He did call me on the phone to tell me "I'm feeling much better Grandma. You want to come to the beach with us?" Not many adults will take the time to let their Parents know they are feeling better when they've been sick so they won't worry. But my precious little three year old nietecito did.


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