Friday, July 29, 2016

The Little Things

Photo Credit: ClevrCat via Compfight cc

Let no one ever tell you that laparoscopic surgery is a painless option. It just aint true.

Now, don't get me wrong. It is a vast improvement over the old "split 'em down the middle" surgical options that were used in the days before the scope. But, still, having a series of holes punched into your stomach muscles requires some getting used to.

The holes themselves don't look all that big, really. But, here is an experiment for you. Take a sheet of paper. Hold it with one hand, and try to punch your finger through it with the other hand. Not real easy, right? Now put 5 small holes in that piece of paper, in a roughly star-shaped pattern. Now try pushing your finger through in the middle of those holes.

Punched right through, didn't you?

Yeah, that is the problem with the after effects of this surgery. All the structural integrity of your core muscles is suddenly gone. Climbing stairs, sitting up, raising your arms above your head, for goodness' sake - all are now major efforts. Hiccups and coughs make you feel like you are being torn in half. Lor keeps reassuring me that the discomfort doesn't last for long, but my goodness it sure doesn't feel that way right now.

Stamina is also a thing of the past. I can walk just about 5 laps around the inside of my little house before I need to lie down and catch my breath. Luckily, there is a benefit to all this lying around: I am getting to catch up on my binge-watching. I finished a 4-hour documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers yesterday, then started on the Foo Fighters' "Sonic Highways" last night. Good times.

Overall, I am actually coming through this a little faster than was expected by Lor and my medical team, believe it or not. I would already be trying to walk around outside, were it not for the fact that our current heat wave would squash me like a bug if I ventured out into it. Hydration hasn't been a problem either - I am simply sipping something every 2 minutes (I have a timer and everything), and that is keeping me well above the 64 ounces a day mark. Today I should pass 60 grams of protein for the first time since I got home. Progress.

I can hardly wait until everything knits back together, so I can start working out again and fight off this body-wide case of "sag" that I am currently undergoing. Only a few more weeks to go!

Good Thing I Still Like Protein Shakes,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Photo Credit: taduque via Compfight cc

"Daybreak. More aches, more pains" - Roger Zelazny

So, the good news is that I did get released from the hospital, and am now at home, in bed.

The bad news is that getting out of the hospital became a whole lot more complicated than any of us had anticipated.

Yesterday, at 6:15 AM, Dr. Tyner (my surgeon) came in, took a look at my incisions, had a chat with me about things to do at home, diet restrictions, and the like, then told me I would get released from the hospital right after "breakfast". (You know, 2 1-ounce protein shakes and a cup of broth.) I should be out by 9 - 10 AM at the latest.

At about 9 AM, Lor began loading bags down to the car. As she left, I noticed that two of her were leaving. Well, I was kinda tired, double-vision can happen,  so I just decided to close my eyes for a minute.

When I opened my eyes again, nothing was in focus in the entire room. I must have looked walleyed, because any time I had both eyes open, everything looked juxtaposed, like the effect from bad 3-D glasses. This was alarming enough that I decided I had better call Lor. Only then did I realize that her phone was sitting on the table next to mine.

By the time she came back, I was in the midst of a full-blown seizure.

Now, looking back, it seems very clear that I maybe could've, I don't know, used the nurse call button right next to me? I can honestly say it never occurred to me. As it tuned out, the seizure was the least of my problems. Immediately following the seizure, I suddenly had the dry heaves, broke out into a cold sweat, and just for funsies the room would spin around any time I opened my eyes. 

And this, my friends, was my very first instance of  "dumping syndrome" - too much material winding up in your reduced stomach pouch, causing all of the above symptoms. After about an hour of this, my nurse finally had to come in and shoot me full of Ativan, to prevent a further recurrence of seizure activity. The Ativan did what it always does,  and it was lights out on Planet Hawkwind.

Somewhere around 2pm Lor woke me up to inform me that if I wanted to get out of the hospital at all yesterday, I was going to have to get my mental faculties together enough to answer some questions to the discharge nurse. Ativan does lovely things to short-term memory before and after its application, so I don't remember the exit interview. I must've gotten through the question and answer session, because next thing I remember I was in a wheelchair, headed down the elevator to our waiting car. My light sensitivity was still so bad that I kept my eyes closed the whole way home, then slept most of the afternoon and evening.

So, a summary of the surgical experience? The last day in the hospital was a nightmare. I am sore as heck, especially any time I cough or have a hiccup. One of my meds tastes so bad that I am having trouble eating anything else for hours before and after I take it due to the nausea it creates. And any time I am out of bed I am still shuffling around as if my feet were taped to the floor.

And I wouldn't trade it.

I once told my primary physician that I was going through the surgery because I was finally more afraid of my weight than I was of my seizures. Yes, the seizures are disappointing. But, just with the weight loss I have accomplished so far I have the option of pursuing healthier activities to try to get a handle on them. I am no longer tied to a couch or a computer chair, doing nothing but eating while waiting for the next attack to arrive. The more weight I lose, the better my seizure control becomes.  Sounds like a 2-for-1 special to me.

Now I just have avoid driving Lor crazy for the next two weeks while rehabbing my punctured core muscles.

Not Trusting Anyone Who Says They Were Back At Work The Day After This Surgery,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I Made It Out Alive!

The breakfast of post-bariatric surgery patients!

We have officially made it through surgery!

After 6 months of waiting, diet changes, and emotional roller-coasting, at about 9 AM local time yesterday, the greater curvature of my stomach was removed. The struggle made manifest, the dream is real, and any other pithy sayings I can come up with may be applied, In short: we are done,

The surgery itself went pretty well, i am informed by my surgeon The aftermath was a little chaotic, though. In recovery I was in agony from gas pressure from all the various gases pumped into my body during the procedure. My inflated abdomen was so distended that it was pushing on my incisions from the inside out. In my post-surgical logic, I asked both Lor and the recovery nurse for a pen or pencil, so i could put my own hole in my abdomen to release the painful gasses. They declined my request.

The incisions themselves are not nearly as dramatic looking as Lor's were. I don't look like i have been in a knife fight - I look more like I made poor life choices involving climbing a barbed-wire fence.  The holes themselves are still very painful, but the nursing staff here have kept right on top of administering pain meds, so the majority of the time I just don't care about the pain.

My surgeon has already been in to see me, and informs me that i could be released as soon as tomorrow morning if i stick with the program here. Doing everything i can to get home soon is foremost on my mind. Though the staff here are awesome, it is still a hospital, and I do not like hanging out in them. The sooner I get home, the better.

The real mind-blower came while visiting with my parents yesterday. Apparently, Dr. Tyner went out to meet my family after the procedure was done, and made the observation that since I had done so well in my weeks of prep before the surgery, he would not be surprised if I lost 100 more pounds post-surgery.

Let that number sink in for a minute.

Another 100 pounds down would leave me at 148 pounds. This is what i weighed at 16. Pretty sure that, whatever my "goal weight" ends up being, it will not be that low.

But, boy, the concept of weighing in at 180 at the end of this all? That is pretty remarkable.
Sorry for the later than normal update today. I have spending most my time walking around the hospital or sleeping, We will catch you all again on Thursday!

Now, How Long Before I Get Back To Solid Foods?

- Hawkwind

Monday, July 25, 2016


Lor and I on July 23, right before my surgery. I am at 248 here. She is at 188. She got a 6-week headstart. Cheater.

At the point in time when this is posted, I am getting prepped for surgery.

However, when I am writing this, I still have a few hours to go. I had been getting increasing frantic as the days went by. Lor finally had all she could handle on Saturday, and decided to force me out of the house.

Here's where we went:

This, my friends, is what we call "The Valley". A little tiny town in the Northern part of New Mexico, sitting alongside the Rio Grande. It also happens to be where I grew up - as did 4 generations of my forebearers. 

When I was younger, I was convinced my hometown was the ass-end of the Universe. The moment I had the chance, I got the heck out as quickly as I could. No small town life for me, nope. I was destined for bigger things - a bright and glorious life that could only be achieved in "The City". And, over the years I have grown to love Albuquerque, and come to consider it home. I certainly have no regrets about moving here.

But...there is something about the place where your roots are. I am forever spiritually invested in the place that gave me birth and acted as my home until my twenties. The graves of my grandparents and great-grandparents are all within a few miles of The Valley. While spending just a few hours up North on Saturday, I could feel myself growing more centered - my anxiety sloughing off like a snake shedding its skin. Sure, I can do this, I was able to say to myself. Northern New Mexico produces self-reliance and toughness. It was a glorious reminder, and yet another demonstration of Lor's wisdom in hauling me up there and then stepping back and letting my ancestors do their work on me.

The end result? I am back to feeling great about the surgery and the changes that will result from it.  By the time you read this, I am probably already done with my surgery, and watching the pretty lights in recovery, or possibly getting settled in the room that will be my home for the next two days. 

Tomorrow I should be back behind the wheel of Misdirected, and will let everyone know how it all went. Thanks for tuning in, and for all the support you have provided the two of us with over the past few months!

See You On The Other Side,

- Jeremy (aka Hawkwind)

Friday, July 22, 2016

One Last Look Ahead

Well, this is it.

After 5 months and 90 blog posts, this is the last post I will make before the day of my surgery (July 25, 3 days from today.)

On Monday, at 7:30 AM (MST), I will get taken back to pre-op, and within a couple of hours, my whole life will change. Again. After 80% of my stomach is removed, I will get moved out to the general population of the hospital for a couple of days. There, I will sleep or shuffle slowly back and forth around the hallways, hauling my IV rack around behind me. Until, on Wednesday, they send me home, where I will collapse into a real bed for about a week or so.

Where am I getting this vision of the future from? I just watched Lor go through it, about 5 weeks ago. It took her three weeks to really get her feet back under her, and I know darn well she is tougher than I am. I am resigned to some quality bed time post-surgery.

I will continue to keep everyone informed as usual - my next blog post will be from the hospital, either immediately pre- or post-surgery. Let's go with "pre". Lord only knows what I would say if I wrote something immediately after surgery. Anesthesia can do some strange stuff to the mind.

How do I feel about it? A mixture of dread and relief. Dread because I hate hospitals sooo much. Relief because I will at least be done with waiting. Lor even informs me that I will be done with feeling like I am constantly starving, so there is that to look forward to. 

Curiously, I am not afraid of the procedure itself. We have picked some amazingly competent surgeons in a world-class organization focused exclusively on bariatric surgery. After some of the horror stories we have heard and read about these procedures being performed by less experienced doctors, we are so glad that ABQ Health Partners Bariatrics was available to us.

I am, admittedly, kinda worried about the "5 shanks and a boot knife" results, but 5 weeks out Lor is already rocking and rolling with pretty much full use of her core muscles, so I suppose I have real evidence in front of me that it isn't as bad as it looked. 'Cause boy, did it look bad.

Mainly, I am ready to get home on Wednesday, so I can lie around and binge-watch all the shows I have been stacking on Netflix, and go through my old DVD collection. 

I will keep everyone in the loop as things progress. Only 72 hours to go.

Ready For That Tasty Hospital Food,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fear of Failure at the Finish Line

Photo Credit: schiiiinken via Compfight cc

After another grueling 8 hours across the desert (including 4 different multiple-mile construction zones) we have returned home. Arizona is safely behind us, and we will not return until the average temperature drops 20 degrees.

At least.

An interesting (and discouraging) shift took place while we were there, though. Throughout the process of switching to a low-carb diet, I have rarely actually been hungry. Even the first 6 days of the liquid diet didn't make me hungry - just cranky and stupid. Oh, I have had cravings, of course. But real, live hunger? That had not been an issue. 

Until our first day in Tucson. 

Since our arrival there 5 days ago I have been ravenous. I have never been closer to breaking diet protocol than I am right now. I am so ready to throw it all away so I can go have a waffle. Topped with blueberries and whipped cream. With 6 fried eggs, and maybe 12 pieces of sausage. And a cheeseburger for dessert. That kind of hunger. My stomach has literally hurt constantly for 5 days straight.

This is not only discouraging, it is frightening as well. I am afraid of "falling off the wagon" and eating so much that I regain enough to disqualify myself for surgery. (Not sure how I would regain 53 pounds in 4 days, but who said fear is rational?) I fear sneaking out behind Lor's back to go binge somewhere and then lying about it when I return home - you know, addict behavior. I am even afraid to be in proximity to pretty much any "real" food right now. When Lor threw away half a boiled egg last night that she couldn't finish, I almost cried.

The real fear, though, is what happens after surgery? I know that removing the greater curvature of the stomach takes with it the majority of the ability to produce ghrelin - the hormone responsible for hunger. But I can't wrap my head around how that will feel right now. My biggest fear is that I am going to come out of surgery and feel exactly the way I feel right now - that my whole life post-surgery is going to be a constant, gnawing hunger that I am fighting off 100% of the time. I know myself well enough to know that I won't succeed in that case. And then all this, including having the majority of one of my major organs removed, will have been for nothing.

Lor keeps trying to encourage me, pointing out the fact that I have been taking in only 600 calories (plus or minus) a day while expending more than 3000 a day in moving activities every day that I have felt this way. I am difficult to encourage. I just know that I have 4 days left until surgery, and I don't want to fall flat on my face, here within sight of the finish line. 

87 hours until I cease eating entirely for surgery prep (at 10 pm on Sunday). Wish me luck in keeping the faith until then.

Dying For A Quarter Pounder,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In the Land of the Hot, Hot Heat

Day 3 in Tucson. Out in the deserts around us there are the skeletal remains of pre-surgical bariatric patients, caught for eternity in the act of reaching for a protein shake or Powerade Zero forever just out of their reach.

But, seriously, it is freakin' hot out here. So hot that yesterday I ignored all the warning signs and pushed a little too hard through the antique stores and thrift shops with Lor and our recently relocated friend, and had my very first heat-triggered seizure. Just to make things perfect, this occurred in a claustrophobic thrift shop where I was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling shelves covered in glassware, china teapots, and ancient porcelain dolls.

Ever tried to keep your balance during a seizure when surrounded by hundreds of old breakables? I don't recommend it.

Luckily, Lor got me outside before I racked up any damages, and we called off the expedition. I went back to our friend's apartment and took a cold shower to drop my core body temperature, then went to sleep for an hour or so. I got out of it with nothing more than a small bite on the inside of my cheek, and what will probably be a lifelong phobia of tightly packed thrift stores.

But, seriously, this is what happens from hauling myself out into the desert on a protein-shake-only diet, then working myself into the ground, then exposing myself for hours to what passes for normal July weather here in Arizona. A "normal" person would have passed out, maybe. Since I already suffer from epilepsy, my brain just took the shortcut of having a seizure. I knew darn well that this was a potential outcome.

I just didn't plan for the whole antique store part.

I can't stress enough - if you are planning on going through this process, do not follow my example. Protect yourself while you are operating on such a low caloric level. Stay hydrated. Do not expose yourself to extremely high, brain-frying heat.

And you might want to skip antiquing, too. Just to be safe.

24 Hours Until I Can Get Out Of This Heat (And Six Days Until Surgery),

- Hawkwind

Monday, July 18, 2016

400 miles and 50 pounds

Photo Credit: Snap Man via Compfight cc

During the final 2 weeks before gastric surgery, you are supposed to be gentle with yourself. Your liquid diet leaves you operating under a pretty severe caloric restriction, having to be careful to maintain your 60 grams of protein (to avoid malnutrition) and 64 ounces of water a day (to avoid dehydration) to make sure you do not damage yourself while undergoing the crash weight-loss that will reduce the size of your liver, giving your surgeon more room to operate. Caution is key.

So, in the name of caution, we have now driven 450 miles to engage in 3 days worth of household moving for a friend of ours. Not just to anywhere - to Tucson, Arizona, where it is so hot that you can literally fry an egg on a manhole cover. (Look it up - it is on YouTube.) 

Today is actually not that bad, so far. A rainstorm showed up last night and brought the previously miserable heat down to a tolerable temperature. And, as a reward for my interstate moving efforts, I had a surprise waiting for me this morning.

Today, I am finally down 50 pounds.

I had actually not expected to hit this marker until next week sometime, after I leave the hospital. (7 days to go!) But, it turns out driving and then moving heavy objects around are fairly significant calorie burners. Who knew? Accordingly, I have arrived at the half-century mark a full week earlier than I expected.

I want to be able to minimize it, and blow it off as no great accomplishment, but that isn't really how I feel about it. It is a major accomplishment, and an excellent start on where I eventually want to wind up. This is not part of a post-surgical honeymoon period. Getting this far required work, and sacrifice, and a whole lot of discomfort, It is the hardest thing I have done since I developed Epilepsy, and it is probably right up there in my personal list of "hardest things ever done." I am proud that I have made it this far - it encourages me to believe that I will be able to maintain this focus and discipline after my surgery and for the rest of my life. After all, after next Monday I will have the tool of the Sleeve to assist me.

I know that many of you that follow the blog have questions about your own weight loss. But the fact is simple - if I can do this, anyone can. There is no reason for anyone to remain shackled to obesity - whether by making lifestyle changes, or by the more extreme measure of going through surgery to support those changes. You, too, can do this.

The household is waking up around me, so it is time to get back to moving heavy objects. I hope the heat does not descend today like yesterday - it was like working in an oven.

Praying For Rain,

- Hawkwind 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Day I Threw Down With the Founder

One of the primary sources for support and information for those of us going through bariatric surgery is the World Wide Web. We can find medical info, tips and recipes, "journey" blogs like Misdirected and The World According To Eggface, and good old fashioned "support" sites.

Early on in our process, a friend introduced us to a closed Facebook group for bariatric surgery support. The support group (who I will not name, you'll see why shortly) was an outreach arm of a company that manufactures, among other things, protein shakes.

The group was a bit disconcerting, to say the least. The atmosphere was very similar to attending a group of religious fundamentalists. Here, though, the "devil" was carbohydrates, and the holy writ was something like "Drink our protein shakes every day, lest ye experience regain."

I tried, I really did. I spent months on this group, looking at recipes, investigating nutritional advice, reading about other people's experiences with bariatric surgery. But I was perpetually taken aback when the group leaders would brutally slam members whenever they would mention the forbidden word: carbohydrates.

The primary enemy, as this group's moderators see it, is anyone teaching that Everything In Moderation (EIM, as they called it) was a reasonable diet after surgical recovery. Nope, they very mention of adding white rice, or a potato, or pasta to a post-surgical diet was enough to send them into full-on frenzy: "EIM is a ticket to failure! Any carb ingestion will ultimately doom you to a regain, and ruin your diet! Carbohydrates are what caused your obesity!" (All paraphrased, but you get the point.)

Oddly, one of the primary products this group was promoting was a program to re-start weight loss after a regain, centered around purchasing their protein shakes.

For months I had remained silent. But this morning, a member of the group posted a copy of her Phase 3 diet - you know, the diet handed to her by her surgical team. But, after all the anti-carb info she had received from this support group, she was a little uncomfortable with the carbs included in this diet. 

This is what fearmongering gains you, you see. Lor just finished this transitional diet, on her way back to normal foods. It includes several soft foods that would not be considered low-carb friendly. Things like applesauce, mashed potatoes and the like. Things that are retraining the recovering stomach into digesting food, and not pure liquid. This poor woman was worried that the minuscule amounts of "unhealthy" carbs in her recovery diet would somehow damage her attempt to lose weight via bariatric surgery. 

Was this woman encouraged, that this was a temporary phase, intended by her doctors and nutritionists to ease her through a two week period?

Nope. A group moderator instantly jumped in with the following:

Moderator: "I wouldn't touch those foods with a 10-foot pole!!! Here are some awesome choices!!!" 

The "awesome choices", of course, included a recommendation for the company's protein shakes.

This was just too much for me. Where was the advice to "follow your surgical team's instructions."? What, exactly, was the basis for the expertise that allowed this moderator to direct this questioner to an alternate source of nutrition, rather than the one dictated by her surgical team? I removed the muzzle I have been wearing for several months, and replied:

Me: "Every time I start to get comfortable with the ***** group, something like this happens: ***** directly contradicting advice from a patient's medical team, all in the name of selling more protein shakes. I am fully aware that ***** is in business to sell shakes. But the number of times I have seen this kind of ***** activity makes me very uncomfortable. The fact that someone represents themselves as ***** on this group does NOT supersede advice from your surgical team, folks.

Asterisks represent redacted names and identities, not expletives.

Within 10 minutes, the Founder of the group had appeared. Her initial post told me that I was "missing the message" if I thought the group was doing this to sell shakes. This was not surgical advice - this was nutritional advice - advice that was being used by surgeons across the country because it worked! Hundreds of people were regaining weight because they weren't obeying the advice found in this group!

All in all, it was a very "How dare you?" kind of post.

Why no quotes here? Because within 20 minutes of her very angry post, she edited it to a much more friendly tone. But, as far as I was concerned, the damage was done here. Any site that is directly opposing medical advice, and then responding quickly, defensively, and angrily when called on it, is probably not a source I need for assistance with my weight loss. I replied to that effect, then left the group.

It's too bad, really. Some of the recipes were great.

Back In Search Of Sane Bariatric Surgery Support,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pre-op Prep

Day 4 of the liquid diet. I grow crankier and dumber by the minute, it seems. The weird thing is, I don't feel particularly upset at any given moment. But, whenever I am interacted with, my responses all seem to come out of the "annoyed" section of my vocabulary. Lor has been very tolerant, and has not cut my head off and buried me in the backyard.


In the midst of this not-so-great emotional adjustment, I got to travel across town for my pre-operative appointment yesterday. This was a new experience for me - during Lor's pre-op appointment I was in a nutritional appointment, so I missed the whole thing. I imagined tons of highly technical information that I was going to completely misunderstand due to my current brain fog.

Luckily, the appointment was nothing more than a re-hash of all the experiences we just went through with Lor's surgery. On the day of the surgery, I will consult with the anesthesiologist and my surgeon. They will roll me back to a surgical suite and inject me with something that will put me to sleep. They will then inflate my abdomen like a beach ball so the surgeon has lots of room to work in. They will punch a hole in me to correct my hiatal hernia, then punch 5 more holes in me to perform to the removal of the "greater curvature of my stomach." I will then be returned to the hospital room to recover for 48 hours.

I was struck by how much the pre-surgical briefing minimizes the actual trauma they will be inflicting on you. True, they will not be slicing me open like a dissected frog in biology class. But they will still be leaving me with the equivalent of 5 shank wounds and a puncture from a belt knife. I have read many testimonials of people who say they were back at work immediately after their surgeries. Quite frankly, I don't understand how. Lor is only now getting back to where she can bend or flex at the abdomen comfortably, and she is 4 weeks out from her surgery as of yesterday.

Speaking of 4 weeks out, Lor got to have her 4-week post op appointment yesterday while I was having my pre-op appointment. (That is how closely we scheduled these surgeries.) She has been returned to the land of Those Who Can Eat Real Food. Her visit to Trader Joe's yesterday was a lot like a child being taken to a candy store. I have never seen someone so excited about the prospect of eating salmon, bananas, and kale chips.

After my 6 weeks without real food, I am sure I will have a whole different perspective on that too.

Ready To Have My Brain Turned Back On,

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Lights Are On, But No One Is Home

So, the first 24 hours of the liquid diet phase is over. I consumed 3 protein shakes, 2 sugar-free popsicles, 1 greek yogurt and 80+ ounces of water - while only occasionally staring longingly into the refrigerator at things I could chew. I got a little cranky towards the end of the day, but I suppose this is to be expected on a day where you only ingest 725 calories all day. (I did manage 93 grams of protein, so yay Muscle Milk shakes!)

But the really weird part occurred right around 3:30 yesterday afternoon. We were sitting in the office of a title company, working on scheduling the closing on our home, when I very distinctly felt my brain shut off. It is hard to describe it otherwise - one moment I was looking over the paperwork, the next I was unable to focus on anything, reading the same line over and over. I am real familiar with this condition - this is how postictal state feels: that is, the period of time after a seizure. But there had been no seizure to accompany it.

I struggled through the next half an hour - forgetting my email address, filling out paperwork incorrectly, trying to remember how to sign my name, for goodness sake. I smiled a lot to make up for it, and we exited the office.

I mentioned it to Lor cautiously, fearing this might be some weird interaction between the severe caloric restriction and my epilepsy. She just nodded her head. "Yeah, that's what happens when you are on the liquid diet. You come down with brain fog."

Wait...she felt like this for 4 weeks?

Yes, it turns out that, for Lor at least, the 4 weeks of liquid diet were accompanied by serious mental confusion and inability to focus. She spent the whole first week like this, recovered for week 2, and then the surgery tipped her right back over the edge into "brain fog". She is only now really getting her mental legs back under her. 

If everyone feels like this while they are going through this process, no wonder they are in a bad mood! Being unable to think straight for a month would drive anyone crazy. We were told to expect fatigue, not mental confusion, during this process - which makes me wonder how many people are just going to bed rather than trying to think.

For maybe the first time in my life, I can be grateful for my experience with epilepsy. I have over a decade of experience in getting through life with my brain functioning at "a sub-optimal level" (as a neurologist would put it.) But it is a very strange sensation - normally I just sort of sit quietly somewhere while post-ictal and wait for the lights to turn back on. Here I am having to push through, not expecting to get back to normal...until August sometime.

Thank goodness I am a writer and am used to sitting around and staring at a blank page, waiting for the next idea to arrive. Can't imagine how this would work if I was an airline pilot. Or a brain surgeon.

1 Hour & 30 Minutes - Longest Time To Write A Blog Post Ever,

- Hawkwind

Monday, July 11, 2016

Wheels Up

Well, it is official. I've been through the classes, I've done the 3+ months of reduced carb diet, I've even received the letter from my insurance company telling me that I am approved. Only one thing left to do before surgery.

Today, the liquid diet phase begins.

For those who have joined us recently, the liquid diet phase means this: every "meal" I have, for the next two weeks, is a protein shake. To break up the monotony, I also get to have a few snacks every day: one cup of yogurt, up to 4 sugar-free popsicles a day, and/or all the broth I want. I also need to be ingesting at least 64 ounces of water a day, but I am an old pro at that by now - I've been doing it since March or so.

We have some very recent experience with this liquid diet thing - Lor did it just about 6 weeks ago. It is not pleasant - she was constantly craving the ability to chew anything. Plus, the adjustment of one's body to the reduced calorie load has a bit of a negative emotional side effect.

In other words, I can expect to be cranky as heck for about the first week of my 4 weeks on nothing but liquids.

The results are pretty profound, though. From the point where Lor started the liquid diet to where she exited the hospital, a period of 3 weeks, she dropped a total of 13 pounds - a little over 4 pounds a week. 

I've now been at this for 25 weeks, since I started the pre-surgery diet early, at the same time Lor did. I've managed to lose 41 pounds in that time, averaging about 1.5 pounds a week. Our surgical team constantly tells us not to compare weight loss numbers, but I am going to anyway - If I am down another 13 pounds at my post-surgical weekly weigh in, 3 weeks from today, I will have lost 54 pounds total.

I will be below 250 pounds for the first time since 2004.

When I weighed around 250, I looked something like this:

2002 - Somewhere between 240 and 250 pounds.

Yeah, I'll take that. 

Protein Shakes, here I come.

Wishing There Were More Interesting Flavors,

- Hawkwind

Friday, July 8, 2016

How To (Not) Write A Successful Blog

Photo Credit: Adam Mulligan via Compfight cc

As someone who writes a blog, I tend to read a lot of other blogs. It perpetually amazes me how many blogs are not about people's lives, thoughts, or experiences. No, the great majority of the blogs out there right now are focused on...wait for it...telling other people how to write a blog.

I've looked over many of these other sites, and have come away with two potential conclusions. Either I don't have the slightest idea what I am doing, or everyone else in the blogosphere is out of their minds. See, the most successful writers out there are making suggestions on using their platform to make money by telling people how to create a blog that will tell other people how to make money writing articles talking about using your blog to make money.

Go ahead and read that sentence a couple times, if you need to. Essentially, it works out to being a pyramid scheme at worst, or a distributor/representative kind of relationship at best. The product being sold is nothing more than the idea that you can be successful selling the idea. It spins the head right around, but that is not preventing people from shelling out money to buy guides on how to achieve success.

Why, on Earth, am I tackling this subject? I've finally gotten one too many emails from supposedly well-meaning souls who claim they have read Misdirected and want to sell me their special guide (for anywhere from $.99 all the way to $49.99) telling me how to fix it. Curious, I have gone in search of some of this information for free, and I have learned I am making the following mistakes:

"Misdirected comes out too regularly." Apparently, I should be "reserving" my content for publication only one day a week. I should write down post ideas as they come up, but not share them immediately. I should spend the rest of the week after writing my one article out on social media, promoting my special single article for that week.

"Misdirected articles should be in a bulleted or numbered list." Called "listicles", I have written a few of these for other blogs and websites. Not sure how that would translate here: "5 Things That Lead To Obesity" or "3 Ways to Not Fall Off The Roof of Your House", perhaps?

"Misdirected should contain a lesson and end in a challenge." Hmm. How about "Overeating leads to obesity. Now put down this blog and head to the gym!" Is that about right?

Seriously, now, folks. I write Misdirected more as a journal than an advertisement. It is a conversation I have 4 days out of every 7, with about a thousand people a month. I included AdWords support a few months back, yes, but that is probably about as far as I want monetization to go. I have no desire to start heavily promoting the blog - what would I say? "Obese person records his life! Film at 11!"

Thanks to everyone who is reading Misdirected due to their interest in the journey Lor and I are taking through Bariatric Surgery. I have no intention of embracing the "fix your blog" advice I get on a daily basis, but if you want to write your own blog, feel free to use the tips above to drive your creation to many thousands of hits a day.

You know, no charge.

Monday Is Liquid Diet Day,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Garden of Regrets

Photo Credit: soikkoratamo via Compfight cc

How do you look at your life? When you sit down and think about the life you have led so far, how do you visualize it? I know people who think of their lives as a climb up a mountain side. Many I know look at life as a road, stretching before and behind them into infinity. Another person I know has described her life as a painting that she is creating as she goes, working the canvas from one side to another.

I look at my life as a garden. Decisions, relationships, and opportunities all grow from a plot of common ground. A few (very few) flowers have been carefully tended, given water and sunlight, and have turned into flowering blossoms that provide the beauty in my life. The rest...well, the rest are half grown and dead, having withered away due to neglect or forgetfulness, or have even been intentionally been allowed to die. To me, my life is a wasteland of drooping and blackened husks, punctuated with the occasional splash of color.

Why share this admittedly depressing visualization with you? Mainly because of the fears that are coming along with my current life choices. After a long period of stasis, my life is suddenly filled with activity and choices. And I am desperately afraid that I will screw those choices up.

For example, when dealing with the issues that come along with buying a house that is nearly as old as my parents, I can't help but have some thoughts about that other house. Twenty years ago, Lor and I were simple country mice, living in a little town in northern New Mexico. My parents decided to move to the big city, and invited us to move into the home they had been living in - the home I grew up in. About a year later, chasing dreams of being a rock star in the big city, I moved us to Albuquerque as well, selling that house and leaving small town life behind forever.

That house would have been completely paid off for nearly 10 years now.

These are the kind of thoughts that come and sit upon your chest at 4 in the morning when you are getting ready to buy a different house - one that I will not have paid off until I am in my seventies. Every bad decision I have ever made leads me to question every choice I am currently making. 

Another great example: We don't talk about it much, but Lor and I were actually divorced for a period of 4 years, before reconciling and remarrying on what would have been the 20th anniversary of our first marriage. (Follow all that?) That is significant for a pretty big reason - the car accident I was in that caused my adult-onset Epilepsy took place in the parking lot of an apartment complex. The apartment complex that Lor was moving into after our initial separation.

So, goes the theory, if I had just worked a little harder on our marriage the first time around, I never would have developed epilepsy in the first place, right? Though I sort of have the belief that everything happens for a reason, I am not enough of a fatalist that I think I was predestined to make the choices I have made over the years. I think choice is important - I think it is what defines us as a species, as well as moral and spiritual beings. 

But, if choice really matters, then making the right choices now becomes really important. The surgery coming up here in a few weeks no longer seems like the natural conclusion to a series of life events, but instead looks as yet another chance to screw my life up by making the wrong decision. With the exceptions of both times I married Lor, my track record as a decision maker is not a great one. Selfish choices on my part have led to some very bad results for my little family. I am not looking back on the previous 40+ years with pride right now, but instead with regret, and a longing to have made a few major decisions differently.

I am not sure why this is jumping on me 18 days (but who is counting?) before my surgery. But I am just fervently hoping that the seeds I am planting in my life right now can be watered and nurtured into a different kind of garden - one filled with living plants that will eventually bloom. I would love to spend the final half of my life, whether that be 4 years or 40, surrounded by beauty, derived from the seeds I am planting today.

It doesn't seem that much to ask, to hope that I am planting seeds filled with life this time around.

Trying To Find My Watering Can,

- Hawkwind

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summertime Blues

The enemy on the rooftop

Quick, what is less comfortable that a fat person in 100-degree heat?

Exactly - two fat people in 100-degree heat.

All props to Lor, who is shedding weight like our Chihuahua sheds fur, but she still has a way to go before she has reached a "climate comfortable" weight for here in New Mexico. And, as for me, I can't even see the promised land of a body no longer covered in fat from where I am standing. 

So, of course, yesterday during our 100-degree heat wave is when our evaporative cooler decided to give out.

For those of you wondering where the heck I was yesterday, I was busy dying of heat stroke in my living room. The cooler has been slowing going out on us for a while now - I replaced the lime-encrusted pads a couple weeks ago, for a few days of blessed relief, and then...nothing. When I went outside to take a look at the cooler (mounted on my roof, of course), I could literally see steam rising out from the pads. So, not willing to get on my roof when the sun was at its highest, I went out every couple of hours to hose the pads down from ground level, using a "jet" attachment on a garden hose.

Obesity begets creativity.

When evening finally came, and the sun had dropped below the horizon, I hauled my ladder out to the side of the house, and hauled myself onto the roof. A couple things here - my ladder is rated at 225 pounds. I am currently rated at 263. The noises it made as I cautiously climbed up were alarming, to say the least. Then, the really fun part - I have an 8-foot ladder. My lowest point of access to my roof is 9 feet off the ground.

Have you ever seen 260+ pounds of sweaty male trying to balance on the top step of a ladder in order to leap across the gap and onto his roof? No? The neighbors were taking bets on when I would fall and what size of a crater I would leave. I eventually sort of leaned across onto my roof, onto the still-steaming tar and shingles (ouchouchouch), and kinda crawled my way up to safety.

Investigation proved what Lor had suspected (and suggested) all along - my water pump, which had been working perfectly well 2 weeks ago when I replaced the pads, had finally died. Disgusted, I removed it and returned to the ladder.

Only now, I couldn't reach the ladder anymore. No matter how I grunted and groaned, I could not get my foot down onto that precarious top step. (You know, the one 2 steps above the text saying "Do Not Climb Above This Point".) Ashamed and exhausted, I called Lor to come out and hold the ladder and direct my steps as I kinda crawled backward (ouchouchouch) off the side of the house onto the ladder.

Once inside the house, we began our research. I could order a pump off of Amazon, but it would take two days to get here, while we withered away in the heat. I checked the website for Home Depot, and discovered a replacement pump for less than Amazon. It was now 9:03 PM and Home Depot closed at...10 PM. We briefly discussed which bill we would not be paying this month in order to buy a new pump. (We are poor folks, remember? Why do you think I haven't bought a new ladder? Tall ladders are hideously expensive.)

I then rushed off to Home Depot, found the pump, bought it with our gas company payment (who needs gas in summer, right?), and rushed home. It was now fully dark, but I was unwilling to wait until the next morning to get this done. Lor had spotted a better location for the ladder (when I fell off, it would be onto softer ground), so I grabbed a flashlight, and scurried back onto the roof. At least it was no longer searing marks into my flesh any longer.

An hour later, thanks to the fact that I can hold a Mini-Maglite between my teeth, the repair was complete. The pads were getting saturated once more, and I could now make the treacherous journey back down to ground level. I sat on the floor in the hallway directly under the now functioning swamp cooler for at least half an hour, as a reward for my valiant efforts.

So, how was your day?

Not Sure About This Home Ownership Thing,

- Hawkwind

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day

Photo Credit: vpickering via Compfight cc

Happy Independence Day to all my U.S. readers!

We are today at the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The whole "anniversary" concept has me thinking this morning, about the timeline we have been experiencing as we move up to (and in Lor's case through) bariatric surgery and the lifestyle changes that go along with it. I am left to kind of scratch my head and wonder: where are my anniversaries going to be?

Will I celebrate next January 11, the anniversary of the day where I stepped on a scale and saw 302 pounds displayed? The actual "moment of clarity" where I realized that I was no longer in control of my own weight and my own life, and needed to do something about it?

Or maybe, instead, I should note February 28 - the day of Lor's first Bariatrics appointment. Though my own appointment with the bariatrics team at  ABQ Health Partners was not to arrive until March 3rd, the day that Lor went in to meet with her surgeon and decided to move forward with surgery is the day that this process really got started - where we made the team commitment that, whether or not we were both approved for surgery, we would both go through the lifestyle changes together.

Another possible "independence day" anniversary would be June 1 - the day Lor started her liquid diet phase. Her preparation for surgery had a very profound impact on my own diet and lifestyle as well. It represented, for both of us, the day our old lives ended and our new relationships with food began. 

Or, I could just go with the old standard, and choose my upcoming surgery date as my "new me" anniversary date. On the 25th of July, for every year from here forward, I can look back at the hideous self-portraits I keep on my phone and be reminded of what I do not ever want to return to. 3 weeks from today (not that I am counting) I pass the Rubicon - the point past which there is no return.

So many transition points to reflect on and the year is only half over. I am also looking forward to dates like:

  • My first sub 250-pound weigh-in.
  • The first day I can fit into a 38-inch waistline.
  • The day I can bench press 145 pounds again.
  • My first Christmas with both sides of the family after our surgeries.
And so on. Man, I could be giving myself anniversary presents for all of next year.

Enjoy your holiday!

Looking Forward To Personal Fireworks,

- Hawkwind

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Mathematics of Post-Surgery Diet

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The joy over getting to eat "real food" again didn't last very long here, now that reality has set in. And the reality is: 2 Tablespoons of protein based food and 1 Tablespoon of "Other" does not a meal make.

Consider the simple mathematics here. One of our favorite dishes has been the "Frittatas" that Lor has been making for a couple months now. Essentially crust-less quiches, they are little baked disks of egg that I originally discovered at The World According To Eggface. These tasty treats can be filled with any number of things, making them a perfect post-surgery food.

However, when they contain nothing but egg and cheese (all that is allowed in Stage 3 of post-surgery recovery)...their nutritional value drops pretty dramatically. Consider the numbers: One large egg works out to about 6 grams of protein. One cup of shredded "Mexican Blend" cheese contains about 24 grams of protein. A frittata recipe calls for 4 eggs (24 grams of protein) and 4 ounces of cheese (12 grams of protein). This mixture is then ladled into a mini-muffin pan, containing receptacles for 24 mini-muffins. 36 grams of protein, divided by 24 frittatas works out to around 1.5 grams of protein per frittata.

A recently surgically reduced stomach can handle usually 1, maybe 2 of these little guys.

Have you spotted the problem yet?

3 grams of protein, multiplied by 3 meals per day = not nearly enough protein intake for the day. A full day's worth of protein for Lor, measured in frittatas, would work out to 42 of them. No way to handle THAT load post-surgery.

OK, so let's just do the egg stuff for breakfast, instead of all day. How about we have some canned chicken for lunch instead? A serving of canned chicken, happily, is 2 ounces - just about the amount a post-surgical tummy can handle. 2 ounces of canned chicken works out to 9 grams of protein. You can dress it up, maybe, add some mayo or some chopped celery or something, but at the end of the day, 9 grams of protein is what you are going to get.

So, Breakfast of 2 frittatas = 3 grams of protein. 2 ounces of (hopefully decorated) canned chicken = 9 grams of protein. That brings us to 12 grams for the day. Dinner had better bring it hard.

So, let's select something that we are always reading about as a "natural super-food": Salmon. Surely, some canned salmon for dinner will totally get this daily diet done, right? Let's see...a serving of canned salmon is...3 ounces. Ouch. That is never going to work, not immediately post surgery. Let's cut that number in half then, try to work our way through 1.5 ounces instead. A full serving of canned salmon would be...hey! "17.5 grams of protein"! Excellent!

Oh...right. Right. We're only eating half a serving. OK, so 8.75 grams of protein for 1.5 ounces. Less than canned chicken, then. Depressing. So Breakfast was 3 grams of protein, Lunch was 9 grams, Dinner is 8.75 grams. 20.75 grams of protein, total. 

So, that was depressing. Where else can we get some protein...oh, right! Snacks!! We get two yogurts a day, too! So, let's grab a yogurt for each of our snacks during the day. Each of our Dannon Greek yogurts is worth...12 grams of protein. So, 2 yogurts works out to 24 grams of protein! Which brings us to a total of...44 grams of protein for the day. Out of a requirement of 60 grams a day for Lor.

Well. That sucks.

Guess we are not done with those freakin' protein shakes just yet after all.

Wondering How I Am Going To Manage 100 Grams A Day When It Is My Turn,

- Hawkwind