I wish I could say that it's because I'm out running the roads and keeping busy, but I really can't. Strange though that this past year is almost a blur in the grand scheme of
things. I've been home now almost 3 months and I'm still running into people both online and IRL that don't know about everything that's been going on. For a bit there I felt
like I was a hot discussion topic or something, so part of me is a little glad to learn it wasn't as bad as it originally appeared..
In any case, the long and short of it is that after much consideration and consultations with specialists I decided to go for the WLS. In particular the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Some of you might remember that I had severe secondary secondary lymphedema in both legs after having had ovarian cancer years ago. My mobility had become seriously compromised because of the sheer size of my fluid filled legs. I couldn't even walk to the bathroom without being winded. I didn't spend a lot of time dwelling on it, some might call it optomism and others denial -- but I always looked at it more of making the most of the good days and hoping the bad ones passed quickly. What else can we really do? I had a dietician consulting with me for six or eight months, and I literally wrote down everything I ate. Over a 5 year period we'd changed our diet little by little, and we were making things like chicken breast or fish filets, lots and lots of salads. I'd pretty much cut out pop and had taken to carrying around a water bottle with me which really made a difference. So I was really relieved when the dietician was as baffled as I was.
Went back to the weight management clinic and was horrified to learn that I had gained some 120+ pounds in the 5 1/2 years since I'd last been into see him. He tried to make me feel better by telling me that he was confident that 1/2 to 3/4 of that was likely lymph fluid, but the bottom line was evident. If I gained at that rate for another 5 years I'd be dead. He recommended the gastric bypass and gave me a website to check out for more information. I spent the next 5-6 months on the net both on that site, and others reading everything I could get my hands on, talking to others who were thinking of having it, going to have it, had already had it. Asking all the questions that filled my head about the before, during and after. The website is www.obesityhelp.com by the way. It was (and still is) an invaluable resource. Not just the research site of it, but the support system that lives within it's walls I could not have hoped for more. Through the site I even found a few people who live closeby who were having the surgery as well, and as it turns out our kids go to school together -- small world!!! They also keep a calendar of upcoming surgery dates as well so there are a few of us who have befriended each other who share the same surgery date and keep in fairly regular contact. It's nice to be able to share the ups and downs with people who can say "I know just how you feel" and you know that they aren't just yanking your chain..
I went in for all my consults and they slotted my surgery for January 21, 2008. I expected to be in 2-5 days if we went in laperoscopically, and up to 2 weeks if he had to open my previous incisions to get in there. During the months leading up to it I was interviewed by a local tv station that was doing a piece on Weight loss. I had really wavered on whether or not to do it. I mean it's one thing to be a big girl, it's entirely another to expose yourself like that on national tv knowing everyone is watching you show off your flaws.
What comes next is my story as pertains to WLS, but I'd like to say that my surgeon was wonderful as was his team. I haven't met anyone else that had the issues or problems I had, or the mistakes that were made for me. My story should not be considered the norm..
The long and short of it is that there was a complication during surgery and I ended up in ICU. 4 surgeries and 3 surgeons working on me, almost 2 weeks in ICU. I'm lucky to be alive. Though we learned I had sustained nerve damage while in ICU from not being moved around. I couldn't move my left leg, wiggle my toes or anything. I could lift my arm but it felt like a lead weight, and I couldn't move my fingers or wrist at all. If that wasn't bad enough the wound specialist at the hospital wanted to put a vacuum therapy on my wound to heal it faster, and after only a week I was having trouble keeping anything solid down, and was complaining of pain in the abdomen but it went completely ignored -- like I didn't know what I was talking about. Well at the 1 week mark one of the nurses was doing the wound dressing and lo and behold the spot where I'd been saying hurt ALL WEEK sprung a leak -- the vac had pulled a piece of my bowel through the mesh in my incision and created a fistula (basically a hole) that was leaking fresk stomach bile/acid at an alarming rate. The more I drank, the more it flowed, and the more I flowed the more IV they pumped into me. The acid ate through everything too so they were changing the dressings and appliances used daily, and sometimes several times a day. It was horrible. I was bedridden for several months. When they finally decided to get me up nobody warned me that I'd be so weak, and deconditioned. I stood up quickly and excited to finally get out of bed, only to fall on the floor like a limp noodle. They had to use the lift to put me back into bed. It wasn't the only time they had to pick me up off the floor.. It was not my finest hour..
I spent so much time bawling my eyes out. Not great for a normally upbeat person, but here I was stranded 5 hours from home. Everything I brought to do required two hands and my left hand was pretty useless. I couldn't hold a cup, or even a book to read. I never really gave a lot of thought to how much effort it takes to do most things that we simply take for granted. I was completely heartbroken when my hunny brought me up a laptop so I could play only to realize that not only could I *not* type, but I couldn't even really sit up properly to watch movies on it without hurting myself. I'd brought my DS, books, magazines, writing materials, I'd had so many plans for all I was going to get accomplished. -- So much for that!! I was pretty jazzed the day that I realized my fingers had come back enough that I could type again. It was slow going at first, but now I'm almost back to where I was though some days I have to put the keyboard up because my hand cramps up on me. My foot and ankle however haven't been so fortunate. I still have a drop foot/drop ankle and had to get a brace made for it to hold it up so I don't trip over it when I'm walking. I also had to order a new wheelchair and walker because my old ones had outgrown me.. or rather I'd shrunk enough that it really felt like I was carrying a big box on my lap and trying to maneuver the chair around it. Both insurance and ADP only cover them every 5 years and it had only been 2, so now I have to wait to see if they consider my size drop a big enough deal not to have me have to have it pro-rated. I won't know for a few months though.
At about the 8 month mark I was finally *finally* transferred closer to home where I spent 3 months more in hospital. I ended up spraining my ankle -- yep the same already injured one -- and after a month of making me walk on it saying that I should just walk through it, work through the pain -- the whole no pain no gain philosophy. They decided that not only should I *not* walk on it, but perhaps I was doing more harm than good by walking on it. Over the next couple of weeks that was their excuse for sending me home from Rehab. This was done against the advice of the OT who'd done the home assessment. THey tried to force me into a convalescent home we couldn't afford, and finally sent me home by ambulance to avoid the issues about my house not being accessible. IT didn't matter that I couldn't get into any room but my livingroom, had to use a commode chair because of this, and that all the services that we were told I could get were being denied me. It's been a long LONG haul.. and it's not done yet. WE're still making enquiries and trying to get things all straightened out. Life has been a string of contractors, health care professionals, consults, inquiries, and back around the circle again.. I've lost a year of my life.. most of my hair, much of what was left of my sanity.. but there's more.
My asthma symptom's are GONE, my diabetes numbers have been in check for more than 6 months now, I don't seem to have sleep apnea any more. My lymphedema is still prevalent but my legs are now smaller than they've ever been. As of Dec 10th, the day before I came home I had lost 268 pounds! Some days it still doesn't feel real, and then I'll come upon a picture from even a year ago and I'll find myself staring at the person in the photo. Similarly the face that looks back at me when I look in the mirror doesn't look a thing like me.. she's a stranger to me, but one that I'm looking forward to getting to know.
I'm walking a bit more with a walker at least in the house, and last week I got to do stairs for the first time in well over a year. It was only the 3 stairs to the landing and back up with the physio but it was still THREE STAIRS!!!! I was phoning my inlaws and my Dad like a crazy person raving about this new accomplishment. Good thing they love me or they'd have sent me to the loonie bin long ago.
I don't even hazard to guess how much I might or might not get. I mean really.. what is a year of YOUR life worth? I couldn't even begin to put a price on it. I keep thinking about all I missed. I'd never missed any of the kids plays, interviews or anything and in one fell swoop I missed a pile of biggies. Eldest daughter's sweet 16, youngest daughter's grad, Son's play, Youngest daughter competing in the local area Idol competition -- a piece she wrote herself and performed acapella and taking 2nd place too! Missed Cadet ceremonies, and camp ones too, I missed seeing Eldest's first day of work, and didn't actually even see her work uniform til MONTHS later.. calling home with the webcame on a few occasions, or having hubby bring up pictures was nice but in no way was that anything like actually being there. Those are things that no amount of money will ever give back to me. I guess when push comes to shove I'm really torn. People keep asking me if I regret going for this surgery -- and the answer is really two fold. Do I regret having missed a year of my life? You bet I do! Am I sorry for all that my family went through this year both because of me, and because I wasn't here -- Yes of course! Do I miss my hair? My boobs -- Yes! Am I frustrated at this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and feeling like I have so much to make up for and knowing that I can't change or fix any of it.. Oh yes... But on the flipside... do I regret having dropped so much weight? No! Am I upset to see my Size 4 and 5X clothing hanging on me like a family sized tent on my now much smaller body - Heck no! Am I heartbroken that I'm only one a couple of medications now instead of the truckload I was having to take before... well DUH.. it really is a mixed bag of tricks..
My biggest regrets from this year aside from how long it took to get back all that was lost to me for a while, is seeing how it all took it's toll on my family. Hubby was run ragged, Inlaws were bowled over trying to maintain our house and their's too, all the while with teenagers playing both ends against the middle -- all the time. Here I was in hospital and fielding calls from one complaining about the other, then the other complaining about Dad, and then the inlaws like some big scary triangle soup. I'd get off the phone and just bawl. I felt so guilty for missing everything, for not getting to get out and buy specials like I normally did, for not being there. It's over a year later and I'm still getting brow beaten for the Sweet 16 party that we were supposed to have when I got home, but then I didn't get home til 2 weeks before Christmas. We'd been planning some birthday suprises to do a big 16 +1 this year, but then in the weeks leading up to it she got a new b/f and started acting up and getting into trouble. MIssing curfew, cutting classes.. friends were making plans and she wanted concessions, and we made a few over the holidays -- because they were the holidays -- but we were clear that was it.. when she wanted to make plans for a Monday night after getting herself grounded again only 2 days after getting out of grounding she was told no.. So she went to school Friday made up some stories about having called home and went to her boyfriend's place. She's been there ever since. I understand from the grape vine that it's all being blamed on the evil stepmom, but I had no part in any of it. I'm tired of being the convenient scapegoat for everybody and everything. When it's in their favor you're Mom, and all the terms of endearment and when it's not you couldn't wipe the crap off your shoe. (SIgh) Such is the life of a step monster I guess.. I should probably be used to it by now, but every once in a while it blindsides me again.. but I hear that it seems to be the norm within my parent friends in general not just step parents.
Funny how being away from home so long makes you so thankful to be in it.. I don't have any big plans or hopes for faraway vacations, I just want to play in my house and in my garden. Plants, Pets, and my Family and friends.. what more does anybody need? Maybe a lobotamy is in order..
I will always remember the day I got to take my first steps with the high wheeled walker. I phoned my Dad and he laughed and said wait, didn't you take your first steps some 40 years ago? I had to laugh too.. He kept giving me heck telling me not to do too much. SO worried I'd hurt myself. I love you Dad! But boy oh boy If I could have driven that bed nascar style down the hallways I'd have been SO there.. I was dying of boredom in that crazy place. I was in a room by myself for the first 5-6 months, and then had a variety of room-mates for the last month or so. You sure meet some interesting people when you're in jail.. er hospital for so long. I was there for just shy of 8 months, before we got tired of the hurdle dance we were playing with one of the local hospitals trying to get me closer to home for physio and then back for surgery in a few months. I was missing everybody badly, I wanted to go HOME. They finally went in sept 2nd to do the surgery and a few weeks later I was finally transferred closer to home. They say whatever doesn't kill you makes you strong but I am thinking that Smell at this point isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Hope all is well with everybody. Hope we can catch up soon..