Tag Archives: Community

A Quick 4 Year Update!

Jen20132017v1

I’ve changed in more ways than one since my gastric sleeve surgery four years ago! The mental and physical changes still amaze me this day. My journey to a healthy life is always evolving and for that I am ever grateful!

Life is a bit crazy these days with a move in the works.  While we’re only moving 30 miles away, it’s a bit more difficult when  you’re moving to an island!  As soon as we’re settled, I promise I’ll have a more detailed post of my life at Down the Scale.

In the meantime, I wanted to note that it’s been four years since I had my gastric sleeve surgery.  This year as been full of ups and downs, literally and figuratively, but I still believe that surgery was the start of a much better life for me.  I am healthy in more ways that I can measure.  There are always challenges in life, but I feel more prepared to tackle them since I began my journey to what is now a healthy life.

I’ll share more of my four-year journey soon.  Thanks for reading and more importantly, for supporting me through the years.  Yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to support and encourage those who seek change.  Thank you for being with me as I continue my story, going Down the Scale…

Advertisements

Standing Strong in the Midst of Uncertain Waters

16797033_10210952390717955_1811793304679448124_o

Here I am on a floating dock, but standing tall. It’s the perfect metaphor for where I am in my gastric sleeve journey. While I’m not sure where the water is going to move me while I’m on the dock, I’m still standing firm. I am happy that I am confident where I am in life, but I know it’s OK to change direction and seek help no matter what!

 

I looked at this particular photograph the other day and realized it was the perfect metaphor for how I am feeling these days: standing strong in the midst of uncertain waters. For the past few months, I’ve felt out of sorts and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Oh, I could say that say that the move to new state and all the changes that come along with it is the cause for my fatigue and stagnant physical and mental health. Even with trying new exercises, going to bed early and eating better, I just seem to be coasting along on my continuing journey to being the healthiest “me” I can be.

Even though I’m standing tall and living my life happily, something kept nagging at me, that perhaps all wasn’t right. Falling into bed exhausted at 9 PM wasn’t typical for me, a former night owl. I cut out all the sweets from the holidays and still felt hungry and in need of caffeine constantly. I kept trying to improve at my swim class, but I was still tired after each class.

Finally, I decided to do something about my health. While I’m almost four years out from gastric sleeve surgery, I reminded myself that my journey isn’t a straight line. I am always looking to improve and sometimes you need help when the improvements you make on your own aren’t working. There is no shame in admitting you need help, whether it’s with physical or mental health. It was time to look for help.

Since we’ve moved to a new state, I needed a new doctor. I picked a naturopathic doctor. I wanted to get a new perspective on my health and while it might seem contradictory, I want the least about of medical intervention in my life. Going off high blood pressure medicine was one of my favorite successes with my weight loss, so I would like to improve my health as naturally as possible. Trust me, I’ll all for medicine when necessary, but if I can be better through proper eating and exercise, I prefer that method!

My new doctor looked at my June 2016 blood work in shock. She couldn’t believe I was functioning with such low iron levels. I told her my previous doctors didn’t seem too concerned but I could tell she was. And when the new blood work came back in, my fatigue all made sense. My iron is extremely low and might be the cause of other symptoms I have like itchy skin. I’m on iron supplements in hopes it will bring my levels up, otherwise I need to do an IV infusion. Between my supplements and improved diet, I hope to avoid the IV, but I will do what is necessary to for my health.

Besides the regular blood work, we did a food sensitivity test since that could also a reason for my low iron absorption, although gastric sleeve patients can have vitamin and mineral absorption issues as a result of surgery. The look of horror on my face when I read the results must have been Oscar-worthy. It said high sensitivity to wheat, dairy, sugar, and coffee. Yes, I said coffee. Losing wheat and dairy from my diet wasn’t as horrifying as the thought of coffee and sugar.

No, I didn’t run from the doctor’s office. Instead I went to see a nutritionist to work on a month-long elimination diet. I will eliminate the foods that show I have a high sensitivity for a month and then slowly add them back to see how I react. I’m not starting it until after my birthday on March 8th, but I’ll keep you posted. Or perhaps you’ll just hear a crazed woman calling out for coffee and know that it’s me.

OK, yes, I’m nervous about this diet, but with the help of my nutritionist I feel like I can do it for a month. Really, I barely ate anything for the first month after my gastric sleeve surgery, so I know I will survive. Her suggestions of new meals that included bacon are encouraging. Really, as long as I have bacon I’ll be OK. And I have a list of coffee substitutes to try so I might just get through it without sobbing every time I pass Starbucks.

So, I have a plan to improve my nutrition, but what about improving my exercise routine? While the swimming class  I’m doing is challenging and different, my first exercise love is running. It’s the perfect activity for me physically since I can do it indoors or outdoors. Mentally, I love it because I can do it alone with just my music, or I can run with a friend. And while I’ve been running for over four years now, I just can’t improve my time. No, running isn’t all about pace and distance, but I feel like I’m just not going anywhere with it, so to speak.

Every day I am thankful to my ever-supportive husband who knows just when to encourage me out of my comfort zone. While the whole family met with a trainer at our new YMCA, the hubby asked about running trainer for me. Forget candy and flowers, this woman is happier to have a trainer! My first training session was last week and it was encouraging and humbling. We did some tests and exercises to see where I am in my physical fitness. I’ve come along way since my pre-weight loss days! But when I stumbled during the session, it was a good reminder that there is always room for improvement.

And this is the main reason I am working with a trainer: to improve what is already working. I exercise more than I have in my life, but I’d like to be more efficient. I’ve researched fitness online and through books and magazines, but having an expert work with you one on one can’t be beat. You can’t hide in the back of an exercise class when it’s just you and your trainer. This is getting me out of my running comfort zone.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m unhappy with where I’m in my weight loss journey. I spent too many years thinking that “life would get better once I (insert any goal here)” and I know that’s not true. I am proud and ecstatic with the success I’ve made in becoming a healthier and happier person. What I didn’t know before I began this journey was that there isn’t an ending to it. Sure, I might reach my goal weight, eat healthy every day, and run races, but those are just milestones along the way.

There will be times that I need to adjust what is working and there will be times I need help from professionals. And I will always need help and encouragement of my family and friends. Thank you for supporting me here at Down the Scale while I continue to stand tall in the midst of ever-changing waters of health and happiness.

New Workout and Friends in a New Hometown

bd4e6a743aeb93e9e09220cf56b83739

Since I started my gastric sleeve surgery journey over three years ago, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who encourage me to keep active.  My friend, N., started me on running journey even before I had surgery, and she continues to encourage me to try different workouts like spinning.  My other friends like A. and R. ran races with me and I even ran my first half-marathon with my college and adult friend, B.

Now that we’ve been in our new hometown for a little over a month, I’ve struggled with keeping active.  Instead of walking my daughter a half-mile to school each way, I walk down the street to the bus stop.  I am still unpacking  and getting settled into our new place, so I’m not running as often as I like.  With winter approaching, I was concerned about keeping active.  Running in 30 degree weather doesn’t sound as appealing as sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee, does it?

As I’ve shared many times, my weight loss journey is just that…a journey.  It’s not just about weight loss, but about continuing to strive for the best me I can be.  I realized that if I want to continue to keep the weight off and improve both my physical and mental health, I need to be proactive.  Last week the family joined the YMCA and today was my first visit.

I knew from previous experience, the Y is a great place to workout and meet people.  When we moved to Florida when my oldest child was an infant, the Y became my go-to place.  And even though I was obese then, I kept active, albeit slowly, and I met other stay-at-home moms.  Finding a community, especially with little kids, was my saving grace.

I finally committed to using our new membership this week and I was fortunate enough to have a new friend show me the ropes.  While volunteering at my daughter’s school a few weeks back, I meet another mom, S., who mentioned she belonged to the Y.  We made plans to meet today and I am so grateful we did!

To make a new friend in a new hometown is always a relief and comforting, but to make a friend who also likes to work out and has a positive energy and spirit is even better!  S. was kind enough to show me all around the Y after we walked about three miles on the indoor track. We’ve even made plans to try out the pre-masters swimming program in January.  I am so thankful to have found someone who is active like my San Francisco friends.

I still have new plans, including coming up with better, more interesting eating habits and ways to incorporate being active besides workouts,  to develop as we settle into our new hometown.  But I feel more grounded now that I have a new workout place and friend.  Sometimes, it’s just the little things that help you feel grounded, and in my case it’s the little things that help me continue to go Down the Scale…

 

 

Another Goal Met: My Half-Marathon and More!

Yes, I did it! I ran my first half-marathon on May 8, 2016! Sometimes I can’t believe I went from this woman in her first 5K race in 2012 to this woman who ran her first half-marathon!

Here I am celebrating at my first half-marathon and my first 5K! Gastric sleeve surgery has changed me in so many ways!

Here I am celebrating at my first half-marathon and my first 5K! Gastric sleeve surgery has changed me in so many ways!

What was it like to run 13.1 miles? I’ve thought a lot about it this past week and I finally decided the best way to describe it is to compare it to my weight loss journey. Let me share the ways…

First, committing to a half-marathon was like committing to my gastric sleeve surgery. I wanted to change-up my running routine and a half-marathon seemed like the right choice. In August I registered for the Disneyland Tinker Bell marathon and then I knew there was no turning back. It was like when I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery. I started in October 2012 researching this life-changing procedure and had to wait until June 2013 to have the surgery due to my insurance company’s rules.

Waiting for a major event is tough. It gives you time to worry if you’re making the right decision. You question if this really is the right thing to do. Now, running a half-marathon isn’t quite like reconfiguring your stomach, but committing to new things can be scary. And just like when I announced on my blog that I was having surgery, I proclaimed that I would run a half-marathon. For me, sharing my goals helps me be accountable for my actions. When your friends and family want to know how your prep work is going for a new goal, you can’t hide!

Just like I prepared for the half-marathon, I had prepared for my surgery. I did all the homework on how my life would change with the sleeve. Weight loss surgery is a physical change and of course, it means you change your eating habits and exercise routine. But it is also a very mental change and in some ways, it’s the more difficult change you must make to be successful. I went on websites and I talked to people who had the surgery. I took in as much information as I could.

For the race, I also read as much as I could about running from magazines and websites. I joined Facebook groups about Disney races so I could prepare as best I could. During my race training, I reminded myself of all the changes I made to lose weight, so I shouldn’t let a training schedule scare me. Well, it did when I started. I followed Jeff Galloway’s program for the Tinker Bell run in the beginning. I changed it up when I had other races. I started the training with my first 15K which was not in schedule! It was a difficult race, but my local running partner, R., kept me going. We had to finish for the hot chocolate! Finishing this race gave me the confidence that I could do longer races, but it was a good reminder that it would be tough.

And I’ve tackled tough things during my Down the Scale journey. Weight gains, boredom, lack of confidence, stress and depression are just a few problems I’ve met and admittedly, I still fight. So even when my training runs became longer, I knew I could do it. I would do it my way, which to most runners is really slow. I run. I walk. I run again. My training pace was under the Disneyland required pace of 16 minutes per mile, but I worried about it anyway. I even tackled hills, including my beloved Golden Gate Bridge, to build my stamina and to try to quiet my fears. If I can run 12 miles throughout hilly San Francisco, what was 13.1 miles of flat Disneyland and Anaheim?

“It’s scary, that’s what!” This is what I said to myself at 5 AM on a dark Sunday morning when race day arrived. Fortunately, it was only a moment of doubt as my amazing race partner, B., kept me focused and excited about what was to come. Let me take this moment, to share how much it meant to me to have my friend, B., with me for this special day. I have known her for over 20 years and not only was she an incredible friend and sorority sister during our college days, she’s been there, via long distance though my adult life and my weight loss journey. When I asked if anyone would like to join me on this race last year, she said yes and flew across country to do it. B. is someone who I admire for so many reasons and to have her running next to me was more than I could ask for.

B. is one of many people who have supported and encouraged me since I started my journey. Listening to B.’s pre-race pep talk reminded me of all the people who have made my success possible. I remembered my fear of hitting the publish button on my first blog post, hoping I would be supported and not ridiculed for choosing weight loss journey.  A whole new world opened up to me, full of cheerleaders near and far. People shared their stories with me all while encouraging me to go after my dreams of a healthy life. By sharing my story, I have strengthened relationships and made new friendships that keep me going.

The smiling faces and cheers from strangers along the course reminded me of all the “real life” cheerleaders I have in my life. They have cheered me on during my successes, big and small! Now random strangers were encouraging to keep running (or keep swimming as it was a Disney race after all). From high school marching bands to the Red Hat Society women to Tinker Bell, there was joy and well wishes throughout the miles!

My amazing friend, B., with me at Radiator Springs during the race! Disney races are the perfect ones for first time races since you know you're doing to stop for photos!

My amazing friend, B., with me at Radiator Springs during the race! Disney races are the perfect ones for first time races since you know you’re doing to stop for photos!

Nothing is more exhilarating than to run through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Radiator Springs when you’re a Disney fan like me. I’ve thought about all the times I’ve walked both Disneyland and Disney World and before last year, not once did I think that I would run in the parks. I have always enjoyed Disney parks even when I was obese, but when I lost weight, these trips became even better. To think I’ve gone from worrying if I would fit in a ride to running through the parks in a half-marathon was a bit surreal.

Just like the struggles I faced in my beginning of my gastric sleeve journey, I struggled during the race. 13.1 miles is long. Really long. Especially at Mile 8. Yeah, you’ve gone 8 miles! Oh, shit, you have 5 to go!! My walking intervals became longer than my running intervals. I was chewing on my Sports Beans like they were crack. I dug deep in my head and heart to remind myself I could do this. My longest run was 12 miles so I knew my body could do it, even though my thighs were trying to disagree. It was my head and my soul that were struggling the most.

And just like when I doubt myself in my abilities to keep healthy, I turned to my support group. In this case, it was B. who knew just what to do. She started timing our intervals. She pointed out the amazing scenery and the encouraging crowds surrounding us. She reminded me again and again, of this special race we were running and that we would could do it! I will be forever thankful for her determination to keep me going and for her reminders that I could succeed.

What also kept me going was seeing my ever-supportive hubby and kids near the finish line. They are 3 of the biggest reasons I had surgery and that I continue to work on my health. They support me in everything I do and this race was no exception. While I was pretty excited to see Captain Hook at the end of race, it was the smiling faces of my family that made me cry. I hope that my kids see that even though their Mommy is a bit crazy and stressed a times, that she’s also silly enough to dress like Tic Tock Croc and run 13.1 miles for fun! I’m not sure if they’ll ever know how much they help me to achieve my goals. I just hope that seeing me set up goals and then meet them, even with much difficulty, will encourage them to do the same.

Running over the finish line made me cry, too! B. turned to me and said, “You did it!” and that just made me cry more. It also made the woman next to me cry, too, after she hugged me. And that is also another amazing thing about sharing your joy…it affects everyone around you! The best running races are the ones where everyone encourages each other, and the Tinker Bell race was one of those! Even though I’m sure the woman giving out medals was exhausted, she took the time to let B. take a photo of me getting my medal.

I'm sweaty and exhausted, but excited and amazed that I finished my first half-marathon!

I’m sweaty and exhausted, but excited and amazed that I finished my first half-marathon!

And while this isn’t the most flattering photo of me from the race, I think it’s an important one to share. Yes, I’m sweaty and exhausted from the run, but I was overwhelmed with emotion receiving my medal. For me, it’s like an Olympic medal! From stumbling through my first 5K as an obese woman to running a half-marathon as a healthy woman, here I was, a better version of myself that I never dreamed was possible. Pushing myself through the race was just like pushing myself throughout this weight loss journey for the past three years. I chose to set a goal and I followed through. This is my success.

The post-race day is a bit of a tired blur. I had time to shower, take family photos with B. and enjoy beignets with no guilt. We left that same day and the car ride home was long. My thighs complained for 2 days about the race, but the rest of me was actually in good shape. I did take a week off from running, but I’ve started back up. Somehow, it’s not as fun without the cheering crowds and views of Disneyland, but it always feels good to run.

Yes, I’m back to running and I haven’t picked my next race. No, it’s not going to be a marathon! Honestly, having run 13.1 miles, I can’t even fathom running twice that amount! Even with my B. as my coach, I think I half-marathons are my max! I have set some new running goals though. I want to work on my pace and endurance. Running will always be my first love when it comes to exercise and while I want to keep physically improving, I don’t want to lose the positive mental benefits I get from it. Goals are important, but making them reasonable is important too.

Thank you to everyone who supported me during my training and my race. From my first cheerleader, N., who started me running to R. who runs with me locally to A. who restructured my training schedule and took me out to celebrate my race, I am incredibly blessed to have so many people like them in my life. When I started on journey 3 years ago, I thought it was just about losing weight. It turned out to be so much more. I became heathy. I became a runner. I became a writer. I became the person I wanted to be, but never thought I could be. Once I started sharing my fears along with my goals, I was finally able to tackle my weight as well as my mental health. While I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning, the most important thing I’ve realized is that I can do what I want to do! It’s not always easy and failure is part of the process, but it’s a journey worth taking. I plan to keep running and keep setting goals as I continue to go Down the Scale…

Nothing is better than celebrating your half-marathon with your running partner afterward! We stopped for photos before beignets!

We did it!  Nothing is better than celebrating your first half-marathon with your running partner afterward! We stopped for photos before beignets!

A Good Reminder?

Normally when you get a letter from the DMV stating you can renew your license either online or by mail, you jump for joy.  I can’t think of anyone who enjoys waiting in those long, endless lines at the DMV.  So when I received my letter, there shouldn’t have been a doubt that I would avoid the DMV, but I haven’t renewed it just yet.  It’s all because of this photo:

Here is my driver license photo from 2011, pre-gastric sleeve surgery. Not a bad photo except for the extra 100 pounds I weighed!

Here is my driver license photo from 2011, pre-gastric sleeve surgery. Not a bad photo except for the extra 100 pounds I weighed!

 

This is me from 2011.  It’s obviously pre-gastric sleeve surgery.  It’s actually not a bad photo except for the extra 100 pounds I was carrying.  I can avoid the hells of the DMV and just live with this photo another five years.  So why am I even contemplating renewing my license in person?

Of course, it’s all about the photo.  It’s an upsetting reminder of the literal and psychological weight I was carrying.  Sometimes I forgot who I was back then.  I have many friends tell me that they just think of me as I am now:  healthy and happy, not the obese woman who hid so many painful feelings.  And on a practical note, it causes delays when I present this ID at the airport or for any type of verification.  I get a few raised eyebrows when I give my ID to someone, but I’ve just learned to smile and say I’ve lost weight to keep the line moving.

A new photo will represent the new me. The healthier and happier me.  I would say a new picture would show the person I am striving to be:  the woman who does her best to be treat her body and mind with the respect and nurture she needs.  I will always be a work in progress, but I think my current photos show me as the person I want to be and not just an obese woman.  Because let’s face it, when you look at a picture of someone who is obese, most people notice the obesity first, if they can even look past it.

Besides avoiding the DMV, why would I consider keeping this photo? Well, it’s a good reminder of how far I’ve come.  Yes, I am proud of my success, but honestly, I struggle every single day with food.  I am embarrassed to say I’m still struggling with the holiday weight gain.  I’m letting stress and fear get in my way.  I am working on it through exercise, positive reflection, more mindful eating, and a bit of good old-fashioned prayer.  Looking at my driver’s license photo is tangible proof of my success.  More importantly it’s a reminder of where I’ve been and gives me the encouragement to continue focusing on my weight loss journey.

I have about a week to decide if I should keep my current license photo or go get a new one.  Any thoughts, my readers?  One of the greatest parts of my journey is the encouragement and advice I receive from my friends, family and blog community.  I would love your opinions as I think about braving the DMV and continuing to go Down the Scale…

Sharing the Good After Sharing the Bad…

When I post a blog entry like last week’s From Shame to Hope, I always worry about how it will be received. I seem to forget that every time I share a difficult situation I’m having in my weight loss journey, I always feel better afterward. By sharing my experience, I feel a huge sense of relief. Being honest is difficult, but so rewarding. And let’s talk about all the support and encouragement I receive from family and friends. It’s a good reminder that once you share your problems, you are not alone.

Here I am wearing my new workout clothes while hiking on a different route with a great friend! Changing up my routines is doing wonders for my gastric sleeve journey!

Here I am wearing my new workout clothes while hiking on a different route with a great friend! Changing up my routines is doing wonders for my gastric sleeve journey!

In last week’s blog, I came up with some plans to get out of my funk. What I found was that changing things up really worked! Here’s what I did:

*Acupuncture! I thought it was time to approach my health in a different way. I had a short, but pleasant experience at my sister’s wedding last spring. I kept thinking I should try it and one of my biggest supporters, N., has told me for months about her acupuncturist.  I finally went to her last week and what a great session! The doctor was informative and calming. No, the needles didn’t bother me at all. The hardest part was relaxing for 25 minutes! I am going back this week. I think coming at my stress and weight gain from a different angle will help me immensely.

*New Workout Clothes! Once I committed to running about three years ago, I made sure to buy nice workout clothes. I figured if I wanted to be a runner I should dress the part. Once again my friend, N., helped me this week by taking me to Lululemon for the first time. I’m not sure I would have gone on my own as a store that sells nothing larger than a size 10 still intimidates me. N., my personal fashion consultant found (on sale!) a new pair of running Capri pants and my first running skirt. She assured me that I’m not too old for ruffles on my booty, so I bought the skirt with my Tinker Bell Half Marathon in mind.

*Apple Watch! Yes, this was a huge splurge. It’s an early anniversary present from my amazing hubby. Trust me, its way more romantic of a gift than flowers! I ran with a Garmin watch before, but recently started looking into a FitBit as I wanted to track my overall health. Fortunately, I have an extremely tech-savvy husband who did the research for me. He concluded that an Apple Watch was the best investment. Who I am to argue? I love seeing my walking and running stats. I love that it reminds me to stand up and move around every hour. I also like that it connects to MyFitnessPal so I can easily track my exercise along with my food intake.

OK, by now you’re thinking, “Jen, you’re spending a lot of money to get out of that funk!’ Trust me, the spending, or the monetary investing of my health, is done. And while all these purchases have helped, I also made “free” changes this week like:

*Food journaling! Yes, I hate it, but it really does help. I’ve decided to track my food on Monday through Thursday to start. If my weight loss continues, I think this will be a less stressful tool. MyFitnessPal does make it easier to track my diet and helps me be aware of my mindless snacking.

*Changing up my exercise routine! Each week I make plans to meet up with one or two friends to exercise with. Sometimes it’s running, some times it’s walking. I will learn how to run and talk at the same time! I’m also changing up my program by extending my exercise time, adding stairs, and changing my routes to keep inspired and challenged.

*Positive Mindset! This is the most important change I’ve made this week. Some days you just have to scream at yourself (OK, in your head, not aloud) and say “You’ve got it pretty damn good!” To have a loving family, supportive friends, and a healthy body and mind shouldn’t be taken for granted. Sometimes you just need to step back and look at yourself from the outside.

I’m happy to share that all these changes helped me lose three pounds this week! I am thrilled with the weight loss and the positive changes I made this week. Yes, I’m out of my funk and heading back Down the Scale…

Going Down in Size and the Scale…

Two weeks after my incisional hernia repair and tummy tuck, and I'm up and going!

Two weeks after my incisional hernia repair and tummy tuck, and I’m up and going!

It’s been two weeks since I made another “investment” in myself. I’m recovering from my abdominal hernia repair and tummy tuck surgeries relatively well. I’m sore, tired and emotional, but I’m slowly getting back to normal. I thought this recovery would be easier than my gastric sleeve surgery, but I’m not sure that it is. The physical pain is worse and the emotional aftermath is more than I anticipated, but just as I knew my sleeve surgery was worth it, I feel the same way about this surgery. The past two weeks are just another part of my journey to a healthier me.

So, let’s go back two weeks ago. The ever-supportive hubby and I arrived at the same hospital in the morning. I was excited, nervous and dying for a cup of coffee. Not eating before surgery is easy, but no coffee is torture. I forgot my coffee desires once I went back to pre-op. This experience was easier than last year’s experience. Losing 100+ pounds makes an IV go in a lot easier and quicker!

The strangest part of pre-op was having my plastic surgeon, Dr. C., take a Sharpie pen to my body to mark the incisions and areas where he would remove the skin. The reality of my future body hit me. I would have a “normal” stomach. The reality of the future pain also dawned on me as I saw how much he skin he would be taking. To distract myself from that thought, I asked Dr. C if they would weigh the skin they removed. OK, I know it sounds gross, but wouldn’t you want to know? He promised me he would let me know.

Finally, I went in the operating room and I was out before I knew it. I’m not sure what my surfer-dude anesthesiologist gave me, but I went under quickly and I woke up in the recovery room feeling great. My nurse kept the good feelings going with a cup of delicious ice chips. My mood continued with Dr. C walking in. My hernia surgeon, Dr. J, finished his part first, so Dr. C was there to check on me and call my husband with the results.

Everything went well according to Dr. C. I was thrilled to have my hernia repaired, my intestines put back into place and the skin removed. Dr. C. gave me the number I asked for…three and a half pounds of skin and fat removed! Yikes! No matter how much exercise I did, I would have never worked that off my stomach.

Unfortunately my good mood faltered once I got to my hospital room. My poor roommate was in pain after whatever surgery she had and she didn’t speak English. She and the great nurses managed to communicate when her family wasn’t there, but it made for a chaotic setting. It did distract me somewhat from my own issues. The nausea set in as soon as I settled in my room. I do not handle the IV pain medication well. I must have had my own language issues because I couldn’t get the nurses to take me off it They would give me anti-nausea medication thankfully, but it made for a long night.

The next morning the hubby joined me at the hospital. Once Dr. C and J., Dr. J’s physician assistant come by and told me I needed to stay another night, I sent Dave home. I learned from my sleeve surgery that I needed to sleep as much as I could so Dave didn’t need to keep me company. Also, I felt better having him home with the kids. Much of my surgical anxiety comes from my children’s emotional well-being. Knowing Dave was with them helped me.

So, I was stuck another night at the hospital. I was not a happy camper. Just when I was resigning myself to another night of nausea and noise, an angel appeared. I didn’t think it would be in the form of a tall, slightly German accented man. This nurse happily took me off the IV pain medication. Nurse A was my hero! He switched me to a liquid painkiller, which even with its rock candy dipped in Kool-Aid flavor, was 100 times better. The nausea went away and the neon green lime jello was finally appealing.

When Dr. J and J, the physician assistant, arrived the next morning, I was sitting in a chair chatting with Dave. They smiled and said I looked like I was ready to go home. Yes, I was! Of course, it’s never that simple. I kept hearing that line from the song “Hotel California”, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Nurse E needed discharge papers from Dr. C and he was in surgery. Can I tell you how wonderfully persistent Nurse E was for me? She called, she texted and she kept calling until she received the discharge information. She and the hubby helped me get ready to go home which included finding an easy way to get dressed with my drains.

Yes, I was sent home with two drains, one near each hip. From what I understand, they are there to help with recovery, but I found them to be a huge pain and gross. I now have more sympathy for men and their external genitalia. These bulbous shaped drains were pinned to my shirt, but they bounced around and I was always worried about sitting on them.

Finally, I was home to see my babies! My ten-year old’s smile was beautiful and soothing. My six-year-old managed not to squeeze me like she normally does and it was her glowing smile that made me feel warm and fuzzy. And all the “pretty things,” like her butterfly nightlight and flowered shaped trinket box, she insisted on giving me from her room, kept the mood light.

So I was home with my spectacular family when the reinforcements arrived! My always thoughtful friend, N, organized a group of friends to help pick up my kids from school and bring dinner. We were spoiled by all the generosity and help. It was just another reminder of how lucky I am to have such a special group of friends.

Six days after surgery, my drains and many of my bandages were removed. I could finally see some of the results of my surgery. I think “Holy Sh*t” were my exact words the first time I looked in the mirror. I was shocked by my new stomach, in a good way. Although my incisions are Frankenstein-like and my abdomen is swollen, I can see that I am considerably smaller. Let the photos show you:

Here is abdomen on the day of surgery and two weeks after.  What a difference!  I can't wait to see what it looks like when my tummy isn't swollen and is completely healed!

Here is my abdomen on the day of surgery and two weeks after. What a difference! I can’t wait to see what it looks like when my tummy isn’t swollen and is completely healed!

Impressive, if I may so myself. I cannot wait to see what it will look like when I heal completely. I know I will never have the abs of a supermodel, but I don’t care! I just want to have a “normal” body.

So here I am healing and finally getting out and about. I am nowhere near 100%. I tire easily. I am very sore. My incisions itch now and then and they’re still gross to look at. I didn’t expect to be so emotional, but some days I am weepy. I think it’s because I feel a bit helpless and unproductive. In theory, it sounds great to lay around and rest, but after a while it is surprisingly depressing. I never thought I would have strong urges to get up and clean and organize my house. Who knew I would have laundry withdrawal?

Hopefully, these cleaning and organizing urges will be around when I’m allowed to resume normal activities. I’m listening to my surgeons and my personal doctor, Dr. Hubby. My ever-supportive husband is incredible. He is handling his normal responsibilities plus mine while taking care of me. Once again, I realize how lucky I am to have him as my partner in my journey.

Just as I took charge of my health in June 2013 by having gastric sleeve surgery, I am happy that I took charge once again and had the hernia repair and tummy tuck surgeries. Every choice I make that improves my health is worth any pain, depression and nausea if it gets to me to my final goal: being the healthiest and happiest person I can be.