Turning Into A Curmudgeon.

 

I see more and more Medicare/AARP kinds of junk mail now.   Vitamins and supplements.  Pharmaceuticals.  Reverse mortgages.  Sensibly-clad models in their 60’s smile vacantly from a glossy ad for a new ‘independent living’ facility.  Our old TV idols and favorite performers are hawking long term care insurance.  The boomers are retiring and we’re aging not-so-gracefully.  
Like kicking and screaming, I mean. What the heck?! 
 
Is every generation surprised when they start hitting 50 (or 60 or whatever) and they’re not ready? Does time sneak up on everyone and blindside us all?  I feel like I was walloped.   (Now listen to Wallop the Cat by the Wicked Tinkers.  Music begins around 1:15.  Did I tell you I love these guys?  Drums, pipes and kilts.  What’s not to love?)
Anyway. 
I mean, yeah, some folks seem like they were born old already…my teachers in elementary school seemed pretty ancient. But it seems like POW! I went from being a kid to being a young parent to being one of the ‘elders.’ Weird. And too soon. Way, way too soon.
 
I think the boomer generation – my generation – is steadily moving up toward the place where the ones before us are all gone save for a lone few, and it is kinda scary.  It means mortality, and not all of us are ready, if you know what I mean.
 
But it is inevitable.  Our turn is coming.  I understand, even if I’m not thrilled about it.
 
I just don’t want to see it in my mailbox, yknow?
.
image credit: Ethan Prater

Sanker.

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I try very hard to be thankful in my life, even for the bad things. (That’s tough, but I believe you need to be grateful at both ends of the spectrum and all in between.) And I try to recognize and express my appreciation and gratitude regularly and honestly.

Tonight I was thinking about that, and I wanted to share it with you.

I like to be appreciated. I think we all do. I think it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate others. So I try to return favors and give thanks for all the thoughtful little things in my day. Mr. Stuck is the author of a great many of them, so this one’s for him:

thank you for carrying the laundry basket
thank you for opening jars (and bottles and boxes and envelopes and cans and buckets) when my hands hurt
thank you for turning off my Kindle and tucking me in at night when I fall asleep reading
thank you for the flowers you bring home for no reason at all
thank you for remembering the tasks I forget
thank you for doing the vacuuming and sweeping and mopping 
thank you for waking up in the middle of the night to help me with my excruciating leg cramps
thank you for eating whatever I cook without complaint and for trying new things
thank you for telling me you love me every single day
thank you for being able to joke me out of a bad mood
thank you for being my interpreter when I’m not hearing well
thank you for being my cheerleader

thank you for taking the steps to be healthier and happier
thank you for helping me be happier and healthier, too

The more I express gratitude, the happier I am, and the happier I am, the more I express gratitude. My marriage is all the better for it.

Both of us make a habit of saying thank you, not just assuming the other person knows.  This is crucial.

I thank him for things he does and things he does not do. I thank him for decisions he’s made and goals he sets. I thank him for caring about me, caring about himself, and caring about us. I thank him for being a good father. I thank him for thinking of me and bringing home asparagus. I thank him for putting ice melt on the steps. I thank him for making my day – and life – easier.

Yknow, we all have plenty we can complain about.  Despite the impression some people give, it’s not a competition.

I choose instead to say thank you, and that has made a difference.

 

 

A Birthday Story.

Coconut Cake

So this last weekend I attended a birthday party for my very dear friend; I love her as a sister. She’s a gourmet cook, a planner, an organizer, and a doer. My friend is amazing in many ways, but one of the traits I admire most is her ability to bring people together. She is a most gracious hostess, a role she embraces with enthusiasm. I have helped with numerous parties and get-togethers at her home, where I’ve met dozens and dozens of her and her husband’s friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. These are people from all walks of life who come together around her table, and it is a glorious sight to see.

So it happened that as dessert was being served in the dining room, I was standing next to another friend, talking about her luscious coconut cake. After a moment he looked down at the dining room table and said something nostalgic like, Boy, that table sure has seen some good times, hasn’t it?  And I nodded and said, “It sure has.”

Around that table we’ve enjoyed many holiday meals, special desserts, and cheap Chinese takeout. We have assembled hundreds of kebabs and filled hundreds of plastic Easter eggs there. We have danced, sung songs and been an appreciative audience to violin, piano and guitar performances. We have given thanks, told jokes, offered toasts and discussed politics.  And we’ve played games: Greed, Family, Cranium, even Cards Against Humanity.

Some of the best times I’ve had in that house have been around that table. And this is where I see the power of the gift my friend has, because here, we are all equals.

Around that table sit the housewife and the artist, the winemaker and the corrections officer, the teacher and the landscaper, the student and the retiree, and the scientist and the yoga teacher. Police and former addicts, strangers with no place to go, vegetarians and carnivores, Harley riders and bicycle racers, they’re all there. Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Heinz 57 — makes no difference because we’re all friends and family. That table is like a little melting pot, and we all have that in common, even if little else.

All because of my friend — whose heart, as Mr. Stuck might say, is as big as Texas.

I wanted to give this toast to her on her birthday, but before I had the chance, she gave a most eloquent and emotional talk about love, standing on a chair so everyone could hear. She called upon us to reach into our hearts and think of what makes us happiest, then to send that warmth to a mutual friend who could not celebrate with us because she is undergoing treatment for cancer. It was very moving, and nothing more could be said. Our hearts were as one at that moment, and I hope our absent friend could feel the love.

So I offer this up as my tribute to my incredible friend, who used her own special day to shine light on someone else, because that is her way. It is through her that so many of us from so many different places in life have come together to be friends, and I am forever grateful.

You are amazing and wonderful, and I love you.

 

*
photo credit: Southern Foodways Alliance

Group Hugs.

Last night was another successful meeting of our WLS support group.  I cannot emphasize enough how important these meetings are to me: the interaction of people in all stages of WLS and the guidance of the bariatric program manager make it educational as well as entertaining.  If you are considering bariatric surgery, you NEED these meetings.  If you are scheduled for surgery and are completing your pre-op obligations, you NEED these meetings.  If you are post-op, in any phase, you NEED these meetings.  Why?  Because we talk about things that you need to know.  We ask the questions you might be too afraid or too embarrassed to ask.  We care about each other: we throw our support behind our members when they are struggling, and we celebrate their successes.  It’s like group therapy.  When was the last time you received a round of applause? 

Weight loss is difficult for a lot of us.  We struggle with the physical part, and we struggle with the mental part.  Having surgery isn’t an easy fix, and it doesn’t abolish the need for eating right and exercise; you still have to make those changes to stay in recovery from obesity.  People who believe, as I used to, that surgery is ‘cheating’ or the easy way out, have not gone through it.  I had surgery, and I’m still in the stage where the weight comes off pretty quickly.  But it does slow down, and my appetite is returning, and I still have to consciously stay on track.  Let me say right here that without the support of my family, my friends, and the WLS group, I would be having a lot more trouble with that.

What keeps our group so successful and engaging is our leader and facilitator, Connie.  Connie comes to each meeting with a topic or two that she wants to bring up for discussion; she gives us recipes and tips, articles of interest, and suggestions for books or blogs to read. But what I appreciate most from Connie is her honesty.  As a bypass post-op, she gives us examples from her own experience.  As a bariatrics nurse and program manager, she gives us her professional opinion and observations.  And as a wife and mother, she gives us the human, personal side of being in recovery from obesity.  Often her husband is there as well, giving his perspective.  The meetings are interesting and interactive; everyone participates, not because they have to, but because the environment is comfortable and supportive. 

One of the ladies made a very revealing point last night.  R has just begun her 6 months of pre-surgery appointments, which for some of us are a battery of nutritionist visits, psychological and sleep evaluations, and tests, such as EKG, barium swallows, and endoscopies.  She said she’d been obese since she was a child; she has no idea how she will look or feel after she loses weight.  Over the years, she said she developed a ‘victim’ mindset, where she could blame obesity for so much of the unhappiness in her life.  She could feel sorry for herself and make excuses.  She said it became a way of life.  Then she admitted that she was scared, because once she has surgery, she won’t have that crutch anymore.  She wonders what she will do once she has reason to be happy. 

That really made me think.  We’ve all been scared of change.

If you have spent your life shaming yourself and allowing others to shame you for your obesity, if you have cultivated feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t jump in the pool with the rest of your friends, if you have nurtured that self-loathing that we are famous for – then it IS scary to change.  Change of any type is daunting anyway.  You must realize that the whole persona that you have developed over a lifetime of obesity is a construct; it is not the real you, even though you might believe it to be.  It is a shell that has hardened over the person you are. 

Everything from the clothes you choose to wear to your facial expression, your body language, and speech, is a response to your negative self-perception. 

·       Your drab, monotonous wardrobe enables you to fade into the background and not attract attention to yourself. 

·       Your facial expression is often sour and forbidding, making others less likely to engage you; you rarely look anyone in the eye. 

·       Your body language says many things: I hate how I look; I am ashamed of myself; I am not worthy of your attention or love; my body is in pain and so is my spirit.

·        Your speech may be quiet and hesitant, as if you would rather shrink into the floor than talk; or you may be loud and defiant, as if daring anyone to challenge you.  That chip on your shoulder? It’s more like a 2 x 4, my friend.

Is this the real you?  I think not.  I think the real you was lost in there somewhere as the protective shell got thicker and harder as the years went by.  The real you, the vital you, the you with dreams and ambitions, struggles silently against the literal and figurative weight of obesity.

M, who proudly said she’d never missed a meeting, shared that when she was heavy, she hid herself in brown, black and gray.  Now, she’s celebrating her post-surgery body and spirit with bright colors and fun accessories because they make her happy.  She said, “Don’t wait!  Do it now!  Wear the colors that you love!”  She’s right.  Don’t wait until you decide you’re ‘thin enough’ to wear red, or horizontal stripes, or bold prints.  Start making yourself happy now.

My mother used to admonish me to stand up straight and look people in the eye, and I always did.  As I got heavier, however, my posture suffered, and because I was so miserable, I just slumped.  I kept my eyes on the ground as I walked, not only because my balance wasn’t so good, but also because I was unhappy and didn’t want to see the reactions of others as they passed.  Recently, I have found myself walking with a more confident stride and a smile on my face for the people I meet.  There’s a lightness to my step that hasn’t been there in a long time.  It feels good.

It’s time to dig deep and reacquaint yourself with the person you really are inside.  It’s time to remember the things that made you happy and to encourage them.  It’s time to put a smile on your face, especially when you look in the mirror.  It’s time to stop judging yourself by others’ criteria and let the real you shine.  This is a journey.  As we shed the pounds, we can shed the old assumptions and attitudes, too. 

We can either complain because the sun is in our eyes or bask in its warmth.  Which will you choose?

 

photo credit: roland

No Apologies.

Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.
– J.K. Rowling

So, as an important part of building the new, healthier us, Mr. Stuck and I go to a  monthly weight loss surgery (WLS) support group.  Normally there are 15-20 people there for the two-hour meeting; they range from those who are learning about WLS options to pre-op and post-op patients.  We’ve been going for over a year, and we really enjoy it.  It is run by a bariatrics R.N., Connie, who is also a couple of years post-op.  (I highly recommend to anyone considering WLS that they find a group and go.  You learn so much.)

We arrived a few minutes into the meeting, while people were introducing themselves around the circle.  We took our seats and listened until our turn came.  We gave our names and a brief update (surgery type, surgery date, how we were doing).  I noticed there were a few new faces tonight, but I didn’t see Cindy, my “surgery sister.”  (She and I had realized just before our surgeries that we were scheduled for the same day, so we connected in that way, dubbing ourselves “surgery sisters” for fun.)  She is a lovely, vibrant woman who seems to lead a busy, stressful life.  I liked her from the start.

A few minutes later, Cindy arrived.  She made her way to a chair, and I noticed how refreshed she looked.  Even though she was dressed casually, in a yoga-style jacket and pants, she was made up and looked very nice.  She had a smile on her face and a light in her eyes.  I was glad to see her.

When it was Cindy’s time to talk, she took a deep breath.  She apologized for being late, but said she was doing well, 6 weeks post-op like me.  She said she had discovered something, and she wanted to ask the rest of us about it: self-esteem.

She said she had been thinking about how heartbreakingly sad it is to, as she put it, “apologize yourself out of life.”  She said, “I spent all these years apologizing — for everything — and smoothing things over.  I swallowed it all; food, shame, anger, hurt.  I pushed it down.  I made it go away.  But I’m done.  I’m not apologizing anymore.  I’m not sorry, and I’m not rude, but I’m done.  Now, it’s about me.  It feels crazy as I adjust to this new body and new life.  Am I hungry or not?  What do I want to do?  I feel powerful!  I feel joyful!  I feel blessed.  And I want everyone to feel that way.”

She asked around.  “Did you feel it, too?  Did you find it?”  She continued, choking back emotion.  “I thought I was a good person.  I am a good person.  I thought I had it good — I thought my self-esteem was fine.  I’d get up, clean — but I didn’t know.  I didn’t know!  I can’t tell you how different it feels from thinking you have self-esteem to really having it.  You can tell people about self-esteem and self-image all day, but the reality is, you can’t.  They won’t know.  They have to live it.”

I listened to Cindy as the words rushed out of her mouth unbridled.  Everyone was understanding and respectful, even as she talked much longer.  “Why don’t we think we are worthy?  Why don’t we see ourselves as equal to everyone else?  Why do we have to apologize for being who we are, living our lives, and taking up space?  Why do we convince ourselves we don’t deserve to be happy?  We have just as much right to be happy as anyone else.  We DO deserve to be happy.  We are worth it!”

With that, she sat back, still very emotional.  One of the ladies got up, walked over to Cindy and gave her a hug.  Connie pointed to one of the new faces and asked him to introduce himself to the group.  He told us he was a couple years post gastric band surgery.  As he told his story, another regular, Merele, arrived.  She looked a bit flustered.  When it was her turn to speak, she said, “I am so thankful for you all.  You have no idea how much it helps me to be here.  You are all family.”

Merele went on to say that she was several months post-op; the ‘honeymoon period’ of having no appetite was over and it was difficult for her.  She said she was really struggling with that.  Merele, like Cindy, was very emotional as she shared how she is finally giving herself permission to be happy.  She said, “I have stopped worrying about other people.  It’s okay for them to have their meals, but I can’t pay attention to that.  This is my new life.  This is ME!  I had to make this huge change, and it’s for the better, but it’s scary.  I have to make my own choices, and I choose to live.  I don’t want to die inside as well as outside.”  Merele also got a hug.

As I listened to these ladies, I took notes.  No apologies.  Choosing happiness.  Change can be scary.  Struggles.  Joy.  Self-worth.  Cindy  said, “I’m 60 years old, and I should have known this when I was 40.  My daughter is 30.  I want her to be happy, too.”

 ***

So many lessons in life.  I am no more of an expert than anyone else is.  Do I have self-esteem?  Not really, but I can feel a spark of change in how I view myself.  But I also feel that I have wasted a lot of time, and I feel guilty about that.

I wasted my sons’ youth as their obese mother who was unable to wrestle on the floor with them or run footraces across the yard.  Subsequent injuries and illness made everything worse physically, and my self-image sank, as well.  Pretty soon, I was referring to myself as dowdy and dumpy, and all the negative voices in my head became reality.  I was a slob. I was tired and lazy.  I felt helpless.  I was unable to change my situation.  I was unhappy.  I was depressed.  I felt guilty because I wasn’t better, thinner, prettier, more fun, younger, in better shape, smarter, whatever.  And as we all know, that cycle of negative self-fulfillment just rolls along.  Overeating>Guilt>Depression>Overeating>Guilt>Depression.

I have been slender for short periods of time after stringent dieting and self-denial. Each time I felt a rush of confidence in my new look, enjoying the compliments and approval.  But each time that confidence was hollow, and fear hid in its shadow.  I was always afraid — that I would gain the weight back (I always did), and that I was a failure.  I saw that people who had never looked at me twice were now friendly to me, and that just underscored it.  No matter what kind of a person I was inside, whether I was smart or funny or kind, it meant nothing if I wasn’t worth looking at.  That is what they taught me.

So then I would feel phony.  And angry.  The fat that had always been my armor, my permission to be a mouthy smart-ass, was gone, and I’d wish it back.  ‘Life was easier fat,’  I’d tell myself.  I didn’t have unwanted attention from random men.  I didn’t get the catty looks and competition from women.  I wasn’t viewed as a threat, I guess.  I didn’t have to care about my looks, because nobody was looking, anyway.  And then it became easier to tell myself I wasn’t worth it.  I couldn’t do it — it was too hard.  I had failed again.  You see, I pretended to have confidence, but I didn’t really have it, and as soon as the doubt crept in, it was easy to cave.

Getting your head straight after weight loss is tough, and it’s a constant struggle.  The old you vs. the new you.  The negative vs. the positive.  Excuses vs. reason.  Old habits vs. new choices.  Apologies vs. confidence.  It’s a daily fight, because surgery doesn’t change your head or your heart.  As you adjust to the new reality and the possibilities surgery has given you, you still fight the hurtful words in your head when you look in the mirror.

But you’ve got to remember you’re winning this time.  No apologies.

photo credit cod_gabriel

You’ll See.

Like so many other things – parenting, for instance – weight loss surgery is one of those situations where people tell you, “You’ll see,” in an ominous, knowing tone. 

“I would NEVER let my kid throw a fit like that in the store!  MY children will behave when we go out.”
Yeah, well, you’ll see…”

“There’s no way my kid would say that to me!  No way!”
That’s what I thought, too.  You’ll see…”

“Seriously, I’m supposed to chew this bite of chicken, like, 25 times?  That’s just gross!”
Well, yeah, it’s a lot, but you need to.  You’ll see…”

“You don’t miss coffee?  Oh, I would DIE if I had to stop drinking coffee!”
No, I don’t miss it that much.  It’s different now.  You’ll see…”

And indeed, I did.  I found out that eating (I’m still on soft solids, progressing prudently) is different from what I remember.  Eating or drinking too quickly, or failing to chew adequately, has its consequences – and they’re immediate.  One – you’ll wonder how that quick drink of water solidified into a chunk with sharp edges as it fights its way down your esophagus.  Ow!  Two – being full used to feel like, ‘yeah, I’m full, but I can eat those last couple bites of lasagna — bring on the cheesecake!’   Now, when I am getting full, my tummy feels like it’s already stuffed up to here (points at Adam’s apple), and I’m swallowing like mad to keep it from rising further.  Full means ‘up to my neck.’  And there isn’t any more room.

I’ve found that the best remedy for that full feeling is to sit back and give that little tummy some room; usually, the discomfort is gone after about 15 minutes.  Other sensations I’m becoming familiar with?  Hiccups.  Bloating.  Burps.  Seriously.  Unwelcome and uncomfortable.  I realize this is due to my body adjusting to the foods I eat, the air I swallow as I eat, and the medications I take, which now include a fiber supplement.  I hope that these things settle down as time goes on.  (Nobody told me that I’d be able to compete with my sons in a belching contest.  At this point, I might even win!)

I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a lot of painful leg cramping lately, more than usual, so I’m probably low on potassium.  Didn’t expect that.  Time for a banana.  Which reminds me — nobody told me I’d have monster breath, either.  I can’t chew gum (I bite my cheek every time), so I have to keep some mints handy so I don’t scare people away.  (If I’ve scared you, I apologize.)

Crushing my pills and taking them with water is still working out pretty well, except for my @#$&*^$#@ vitamins.  Mr. Stuck reminded me that if I don’t take my supplements, my hair will fall out.  He’s right, of course, and I rather like my hair, so I once again tried to figure out a good way to take these powder-filled capsules.  (The Omeprazole caps are filled with granules, which present their own challenges, but I digress.) 

The first (and last) time I tried, I opened the capsules, poured the powder into a 1-oz medicine cup and added water, much like I do for the rest of my meds.  Big mistake.  The powder and water repelled each other, in some sort of strange electrostatic dance, and the powder would not mix.  Instead, it adhered to the sides of the little plastic cup, and floated mockingly on the surface of the water.  When I swished it, it stuck to the cup.  When I stirred it, it stuck to my finger.  When I tried to drink it, it stuck to my tongue and the inside of my mouth.  I don’t know how much water I had to drink to wash it down, but it was a lot, and it turned into chunks with sharp edges as it went. 

Mr. Stuck’s next idea was to put the powder into my daily protein shake.  Sounded like a plan, so today I gave it a whirl.  Um, no.  Again, the powder sticks stubbornly to the side of the Blender Bottle ® and no amount of monkey gyrations will shake it down (yeah, I tried).  So now I’m drinking a chunky, funky-flavored protein shake (oh, yum) with bits of dry, bitter powder suspended in it.   What do these people expect me to do?  I guess I need to try the powder in a spoon of applesauce or something, even though I don’t want to.  Sure looking forward to the 3-month mark, where I can finally swallow my pills whole again.

My tastes are changing, too.  I drink cocoa or tea as much or more than coffee now; when I do have a cup of coffee, I rarely finish more than half.  Even the 12-oz mocha I ordered this weekend sat untouched after I drank less than a quarter of it.  The broccoli-cheese soup that Mr. Stuck thoughtfully bought for me was horrid when I tried it.  The clam chowder I had for lunch last Friday must have been too rich for my baby tummy, because I had to throw most of it away.  I suppose some of it will come back as time goes on, but for now, things taste different.

Since surgery, I’m down over 20 lbs.  It’s coming off fast.  I’m sure it will slow down now that I am actually eating food I can chew.  It’s easy to lose weight on a liquid or almost-liquid diet.  I’m glad to be eating food again, even though I’m not quite to the raw vegetables stage, which will be the final part of the post-surgical diet.  I am sooo ready to eat food that doesn’t have to be soft, pureed, or pre-chewed.  I am ready for some stir-fry chicken and veggies, or a fresh, crisp salad, or even an apple.  It can be tough to get through these first few weeks of restricted eating, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

You’ll see.

 

 

photo credit striatic

And How Was Your Week?

Finally.

So last Tuesday, the 10th of December, I went in for my surgery.

We reported in at just after 7 a.m.; actually, I was standing just inside the building near the reception door waiting for Mr. Stuck to take care of the parking fare when the check-in desk called to ask where I was.  I had been standing there a few minutes already, watching him through the window, but I hadn’t checked in because I was pocket-less and he held my ID and insurance card.  Eventually man bested machine, and then he was standing next to me, handing her my driver’s license.  We finished our paperwork and had just found a seat in the waiting area when they called me to prep.

At prep, all of the normal things happened: I was fitted with my bracelets, I changed into my hospital gown and non-skid, unisex tube socks, I settled into the gurney with a blanket (a heated-air blanket, even!) an IV was started, and my surgeon stopped in.  In between, I met several nurses, a nurse-anesthetist, my anesthesiologist, a patient care technician or two, and the assisting doctors.  I also said and spelled my whole name several times and confirmed my birth date to anyone who asked; in the fray I was also answering questions, the same questions I had been asked and had answered before: who is your doctor?  what is he going to do?

I remember being rolled out of there into an elevator and then into the operating room.  The last thing I remember is a nurse talking to me after emptying a syringe into my IV port and putting a mask on me, but even that’s a bit fuzzy in my mind.

Not me. photo credit Zdenko Zivkovic.

I guess it took me awhile to wake up; I was two hours in recovery before I was brought to my room and Mr. Stuck was allowed to visit.  Sure seemed warm in the room; I kept kicking off blankets and requesting ice chips and cold washcloths for my forehead.  No fever, but I was just too warm.  Besides my pain control IV, I was hooked up to a couple of monitors as well as oxygen, because my O2 level kept dipping.  My respiratory rate is slow and always has been, and the monitor didn’t like that at all.  Periodically, the respiration monitor (whatever it’s called) would go off because I wasn’t breathing fast enough and it apparently thought I had stopped.  No, I was still breathing, just at my own, slow, pace.

Each time I hit the button to get more hits of Dilaudid, a cycle began:  the narcotic entered my bloodstream; I would relax and drift off; the alarms would sound as my respiration slowed and my oxygen dipped; I would wake with a start and sharp inhale;  the monitor, assured I was again breathing, would go silent (most of the time), and with my muscles tense and heart pounding I would again feel the pain and need the Dilaudid.  Over and over and over this played out. The oximeter’s alarm was about four times louder than the respiratory alarm and sometimes the alarms wouldn’t cancel once my stats came back into their ‘normal’ zone, and I would have to wait for a nurse to silence them.  This went on from the time I came back to my room until after 2 a.m. — about twelve hours!  It was awful and it just wouldn’t stop.  If the nurses were getting tired of the routine, and they were, you can imagine how I felt.  When they called him, the doctor told the nurses that I was exactly the type of patient who needed those monitors on.  I’m sure he’s right, but it was a long, sleepless night.

Around 2 a.m., the doctor allowed the alarm to be turned off on the respiration monitor as long as they got me a better cannula (the nasal oxygen tube) so my oxygen saturation would rise.  Thank the Lord.  I was able to get a few hours of shuteye until the resident doctors made their rounds some time around 6 a.m..  But at least I finally — finally! — got some sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It’s me, but the pic’s a few years old.

It took a long time the next day to get discharged, but we finally did, and we made it home after stopping to pick up my prescriptions.  I suddenly took very cold and started to shake; even my teeth chattered.  I had been so overheated in the hospital, but now I was freezing!  This was the anesthesia talking.  Mr. Stuck tucked me into bed with extra blankets and got me my medication.  My belly was bloated and sore; I just wanted some rest.  After a few hours, I awoke to rejoin the family.

I’m glad everything went so smoothly for my surgeon; apparently, chaos reigned (rained, too) at home. Bo, the Epileptic Chihuahua had suffered a couple of seizures. Number One Son ran his car out of oil. Number Young Son’s car has to quickly be rendered safe and drivable to give NOS a way to work. Mr. Stuck’s truck has been inoperable for several days, waiting for a special tool, because it is leaking fuel.  But these are not things for me to worry and kvetch on; my job is to rest and get better.

Today, four days after surgery, here’s what I know:

  • Although at first disappointed that I didn’t get a heated-air gown, I found that the heated-air blanket is just as good.
  • I have five neat incisions from an inch to an inch and a half long on my belly, which is still a little sore inside.  No tape, because I’m allergic, but all 5 healing nicely.
  • I am still burping from a lot of trapped air (‘scuse me), but I am not so bloated now, and I am sleeping well.
  • I’m not hungry, but I am thirsty, so I am constantly sipping small amounts of fluids.
  • Last night I didn’t need to get up and take pain medicine at all during the night.  Yay!
  • I am tolerating strained soup, protein shakes, tea, jello, and water just fine.
  • Mixing ground-up prescription pills into your food and drink is worse than nasty, and I will stop doing it the very moment I can.  Bad memories of marshmallow creme and crushed aspirin came flooding back.  Mr. Stuck says Actigall is worse than anything I’m taking.  I’ll take his word for it.
  • Omeprazole is my new best friend.  After the couch and the heating pad, I mean.

And now, if you’ll excuse me…

liquids
a few of the things on my nutrition pyramid these days.

 

 

My Rant for Friday.

So far, the worst things about this surgery have been the two-week pre-surgical diet of two meal-replacement protein shakes and a light meal per day and the prohibition of NSAIDs one week before.

Let me just say, the protein shakes aren’t bad.  In fact, the chocolate flavor (which I bought) is very similar to the sugar-free chocolate Jello pudding we used to eat when we were on the Atkins diet.  Unfortunately, the texture of the shake is quite like the pudding, too.  It’s thick and very filling, which makes it tough to drink.  It’s rather like trying to ‘drink’ a Frosty from Wendy’s.  You kind of inhale with your head back and the bottle tilted to your open mouth; the stuff rolls in there and you gulp it down.  No ladylike sipping here.  But that’s not the problem.

The problem is, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and these shakes are very sweet.  I’m having ‘chocolate pudding’ twice a day, every day, for two weeks.  Granted, I could have tried a different flavor — vanilla —  but I suspect it would have been the same, or maybe worse, sweetness-wise.  Ugh.  I’ll be ready to go back to real food after surgery, even if it’s pureed.  I just need more of a flavor variety and less sweet stuff.  Tomato soup, here I come!

The other problem, which is more distressing to me, is not being able to take my arthritis medication because it’s an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug) like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ll be able to go back on it after surgery, which would be awful.  While my prescription arthritis medication doesn’t take away all the pain, it does make a significant dent in it, which Tylenol does not.  Tylenol is great for headaches, but does not touch my joint pain.  My other alternative is Oxycodone, which I have been taking in order to sleep comfortably.  It does help.

Other than that, I’m feeling good and am mentally ready for this.  There’s a little stress in reaching the goal I’ve been working toward for so long, and a little stress from it being Christmas time, but I’m holding up well.  I have a great support system.

 

photo credit Derrick Coetzee

Part IV – Glasses For My Ears (or, I Hear Ya).

I arrived at the clinic early to fill out the required paperwork, and was called up right on time.  The audiologist was matter-of-fact when I told her about my hearing history; she was familiar with Meniere’s, which was a relief.  She tested my hearing in the booth, and when I emerged, confirmed the ‘cookie-bite’ diagnosis of my childhood. 

And this is the part where my life changed.  She said, “We have several treatment options for you.” 

I couldn’t believe it.  Really?  I told her what I had been told so long ago, that there was nothing they could do about it; she agreed that while that may have been the case 40 years ago, advances in technology have brought effective treatment for sensorineural hearing loss (nerve deafness).  She showed me a selection of hearing devices and explained how they worked.  They were not large and bulky and made of ugly beige plastic like my grandpa wore; these were small and compact with a nearly-invisible ear piece and wire.  They are not merely amplifiers; they are programmable to compensate for your personal hearing loss. 

My new best friend.
My new best friend.

She asked me if I’d like to try them.  She put them in my ears and programmed them to my test results, which makes adjustments almost completely unnecessary.  She told me that the change would be subtle, but that I would begin to notice sounds I never noticed before.  She made small talk with me as I wore them, even slyly stepping outside the door while talking.  I started to cry when I realized that I could hear and understand her even though she was out of the room and not facing me.  That was huge.  Huge!  

I walked out of her office fitted with a pair of hearing devices, marveling at the rustle of wind in the trees, the sounds of conversation nearby, and even the slight cough of a passerby.  I was in tears off and on the rest of that day and the next, a mixture of joy and relief and self-awareness; now, I’m not shouting — I’m being told I talk too softly.  Now, I can understand what people are saying to me.  Now, music sounds even better.  Hell — the whole world sounds better!

Hearing loss, and its associated social stigma, is a thief.  It robs you of communication with the world and the people you love and gives you isolation in return.  It negates your enthusiasm and replaces it with frustration and defeat.  It takes away your sense of self and security and puts dependency in their place.  Hearing loss often meant the slow, progressive death of your social life as you withdrew further and further.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With the help of two remarkable instruments, I am improving my social and psychological well-being.  So, I will be straightforward about it – I wear hearing devices.  They are so much more than hearing aids – they are like ‘glasses for my ears’.   

side view device
Can you tell?
closeup device
There it is.

That’s my story.  And it could be yours, too, if you have undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss.  Don’t wait a moment longer.  You’ll be amazed at what you’re missing.

 

 photo credit recordinghacks

 

Part III – Lend Me a Hand.

new glasses
My new specs. Stylin’!

My eyesight is poor; I have one myopic (near-sighted) and one hyperopic (far-sighted) eye.  I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 7 years old, and bifocals since age 35.  Nobody makes fun of me for wearing glasses, nor should they; it is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Before I had my hips replaced, I used a cane to get around.  Nobody made fun of me for that, either; they recognized that I had a need for it, and that was that.  No shame necessary.

Yes, that's me.  That zipper is on my jeans.  ;-)
yes, that’s me.

But because of the stigma attached to hearing loss, people won’t admit they need help.  Often the perception is that wearing a hearing aid makes you appear less intelligent.  Hearing aids are assumed to be for old or disabled people, and that stigma is a very real reason that a lot of hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated.  It didn’t help that older hearing devices were large and bulky; people did not want to wear them because they were ugly and awkward. 

The irony is, though, that untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than today’s hearing devices.  Chances are good that you have chatted with a person wearing hearing instruments and never noticed them.  On the other hand, constantly asking someone to repeat what they said, turning the volume up on the radio and TV, and speaking loudly are tell-tale signs of hearing loss. 

Sufferers struggle on a daily basis to hear and understand their environment; it can be exhausting and socially isolating.  The hearing-impaired person feels frustrated, angry, defeated, embarrassed and ridiculed.  Eventually, many drop out of life, in a way.  They stop trying and withdraw, because that is easier.  As for me, I resigned myself to a lifetime of permanent hearing loss.

A dear friend of mine has a rare gene mutation that causes, among other things, eventual deafness.  She also attends a lot of concerts and shows, and had worked for many years in an industrial environment.  She had been having difficulty when more than one person was talking or where background noise like television would mask the softer sounds of conversation, just like me. She got hearing aids, and she told me she loved them. 

Even after she told me that, I rationalized that her case was different, and my hearing loss was untreatable, because that’s what I had been told as a child.  It wasn’t until Mr. Stuck talked candidly to me about my hearing – telling me that even my sons and my friends were noticing that it was getting worse – that I agreed to go see an audiologist again.  I warned the Mr. that it would probably be a waste of time, but I would go.

Continued in Part IV...

photo credit Ephemeral Scraps