Sunday, August 4, 2013

4 Years On & Still Kickin On!

I recently 'celebrated' my 4th year post gastrectomy anniversary. My initial thoughts on that day were "wow, has it been that long?" and later, "wow, its only been 4 years". I am still in awe of what our amazing bodies can do and some days, marvel at the fact that I can live such a normal life with some pretty remarkable new plumbing.
It has been so long since my last post as I have been 'getting on with life'. Both my husband & I have celebrated 40th birthdays in the last 2 years, and continue to enjoy our marriage and family life. Our children are now 7 & 8 and keep us busy with school, extra curricular activities and we all have a very active and healthy social life.
I returned to work as a teacher aide and after a year decided that this new career choice was not for me after all. The long hours and constant physical activity did not agree with me. Fortunately I was offered an opportunity to return to a previous role as a Shiseido Beauty Consultant and I am loving my work again. Short 5 hour shifts, 4 days per week with a 4 day weekend every 2nd week.
After my initial weight loss, I maintained a steady 61 kilos for some time until early this year when I embarked on a get fit & get healthy phase. I adopted an 80% Paleo Diet for 3-4 weeks and dropped 3 kilos around my middle and increased the level and frequency of exercise to at least 3 times per week.
I have maintained my new weight of 58 kilos by continuing to exercise each week with a Zumba class, some walking, some occasional jogging and bike riding, and by cutting back on the amount of processed food that I had been consuming.
My B12 levels are great and I now have an injection every 12 weeks. I had an Elevated Liver Function result late last year, with some debilitating pain similar to that which I experienced, prior to having my gall bladder removed. All test results were inconclusive and as yet, I have not felt this pain again.
I continue to have an annual Mammogram and MRI with no cancer having ever been detected. I made contact with the Brisbane Genetic Counsellors recently and was surprised to learn that the risk for CDH1 Gene Carriers like myself of contracting Lobular Breast Cancer in our lifetime, has now increased to 60%!
My life is full, fun and I have many things on my 'bucket list' that I wish to enjoy in the future but every day, in some little way, I am reminded of what my body has been through. It may be a few minutes of nausea induced by swallowing a handful of vitamins, an explosive bowel motion, the onset of yet another Urinary Tract Infection, a few moments of dumping syndrome or hypoglycemia, thirst, or, just wishing I could eat a whole bowl of icecream and an entire chocolate bar again.
My sister Trudy & I are both looking forward to organising and raising awareness about our first Brisbane NSFC Walk 2013 and so shall be busy over the next 3 months!

Friday, March 25, 2011

More Surgery Ahead

Since my last post (5 months ago) a lot has been going on in my recovery! I ended up having an ultrasound to try to determine the cause of the pain I felt in my upper abdomen. (I had rested vigorously for a whole week and felt much better, only to have the 'sharp pain' return whilst hanging out the washing one day). The ultrasound did not show up anything relating to the pain I was feeling, but it did show that I have gallstones.

I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon, Dr Nathanson in November. He was ecstatic to see that I have regained my regular weight and that I am a 'picture of health'. Upon examination, he has discovered that I have small ventral hernia just above the incision sight, and of course, recorded the fact that I had gallstones; something he tells me is quite common in gastrectomy patients post surgery. We decided that the best course of action was to have my gall bladder removed and have the hernia repaired at the same time.

I had not had any symptoms from the gallstones until mid January of this year, when I experienced the most excruciating pain I have EVER experienced in my entire life. Touch wood, I have not had another 'attack' since; and do not particularly wish to experience that pain again. I am on the waiting list for surgery, so I may go in within the next 3 months.

I no longer have pain (from the hernia) but I do feel a little cautious of this region in my abdomen. My core 'stomach muscles' are not very strong at all and I feel that once everything has been sorted out in there, I may feel more inclined and more confident to work on those muscles with some gentle exercise. From time to time, I feel a little discomfort (relating to the gallstones) and it scares me. A feeling of being 'winded' or strangulated around the diaphragm overwhelms me at the oddest of times.

All in all though, I am feeling great! Since November 2010, I have been taking Fefol slow release Iron Tablets (once daily) and my iron levels, even though they are still very low, have increased slightly. I am still having a B12 injection every 8 weeks, and have now added a women's multi vitamin to my daily regime. I have also just reintroduced taking magnesium powder once a day, to help with cramping, sleeping and energy levels, particularly around the time of my period. I have found the magnesium to be very effective. I have had a bone density test and will now have one every 3 years to watch for calcium deficiency. I have tried taking a powdered calcium supplement but it tastes horrid so I am taking a break from it for the moment.

I am eating VERY well and even indulge in a glass of wine 3-4 times a week. I do have to ensure that I balance my protein with carbohydrates at each meal or snack time to avoid any dumping symptoms, and a small meal at about 9 or 9.30pm aids in being able to eat well at breakfast. My weight is fantastic at around 60 - 61 kilos and I am so very pleased about this. If I do happen to 'get sick' and lose a couple of kilos, I know that I have that little buffer of weight that will ensure that I do not look 'sickly' or too thin.

My life is very busy. I completed my Teacher Aide studies and I am now continuing with more study this year in the field of Children's Services. I have been working as a Relief Teacher Assistant between 2 - 4 days per week for the last month as well as continuing to do Tupperware parties and deliveries 1-2 days per week too. From time to time, I do have a day where I will just 'crash' and not be able to manage to do anything but nap and snack all day; that was the day I had today. A little sleep in on the weekends is always nice too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh no...

I seem to have 'pulled a muscle' or something in the area where my stomach would have resided, behind the scar. It feels like a muscle tear and I am hoping that it repairs itself in the next day or two. The pain when I sneezed earlier on this evening, was more excruciating than the pain I felt just after the surgery itself. I hope that it is not a hernia. I don't know what a hernia may feel like, so I shall just wait and see what happens, and try to take it a little easier. What a bugger! I am a little cranky with myself, I think this has occurred simply from over extending my stomach muscles, not that there is much strength or muscle tone in their to begin with...

May be suffering a little from constipation; stopped taking the Iron tablets due to this problem occurring and switched to a liquid iron supplement. Have been taking about 4mls every other day and still don't seem to be as regular as I was a few months ago. I should really become a little more vigilant in this area as I need to ensure that my Iron levels increase significantly. I could definately benefit from drinking more fluids too. Still not able to drink water on its own; have been mixing a little Gatorade powder in with my water and I seem to be able to tolerate that ok.

Back onto full cream milk, which surprised me. Not that I have much anyway, just a little in my coffee/tea and cereal from time to time. It tastes just fine. I have actually come to a point in my journey through my recovery post gastrectomy where I have 'run out of things to try and eat'. I have tried everything! All the yummy treats, the fast foods, the pastas, meats, dairy, nuts, alcohol, breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables; I can eat them all! There is nothing left that I would like to try and eat again, I've eaten it!

The biggest changes for me post gastrectomy thus far are:
1. I no longer like ice cream or chocolate - they tend to make me feel 'sickly' after eating them.
2. No desire to drink alcohol - I can drink it, but it just doesn't 'appeal'.
3. Water - drinking water on its own makes me feel nauseous.

I have actually GAINED some weight ALREADY !!! I can't believe it! I have put on about 1.5 kilos (3lb's) in the last month following a holiday to Ballarat Victoria. I actually feel a little uncomfortable around my middle. . . .mmmm, may cut back on some of the junk food.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First Anniversary

A whole year has passed since beginning my journey through life without a stomach. I feel like celebrating! I've made it! And I am doing really well.

Eating. No major dramas. I eat everything and anything. Still a little cautious with white rice. I pay particular attention to eating rice slowly because if I don't, it often finds its way back up. If I gulp my food or take too large of a mouthful and don't chew it up really well, this too can cause some discomfort. I am eating breakfast, morning tea snack, lunch (usually left overs from dinner the night before), afternoon tea snack, dinner at about 6.30pm and another small dinner at about 9pm. Sometimes I may also have a small meal at about 4pm, if I am at home. I no longer desire icecream or chocolate and rarely partake in these indulgences. Its hasn't stopped me from trying though. . . This has been a BIG change for me as previously, I would eat copious amounts of icecream!

Drinking. Still not able to drink water confidently. I do attempt sipping some from time to time and I am very aware that I need to pay some more attention to increasing my fluid intake. I will have 3/4 of a cup of coffee in the morning, a soft drink (can of coke, lift) or juice, half a cup of tea in the afternoon and a juice or sips of water in the evening. No desire for alcohol but have enjoyed a couple of sips of beer from time to time. I have switched to A2 milk (an easily digestible milk) and use it in my coffee, tea, cereal and protein shake.

Weight. Stable. I dropped 1.5 kilos in the second week of May when I picked up a head cold (typical for me at the start of Winter each year). I just didn't feel like eating very much for two days and poof! I shed 1.5 kilos (3 pounds). This freaked me out a little and prompted me to add in the 9pm meal of an evening. Have gained back just .5 kilo. Currently maintaining 59.2 kilos (130 lbs). I have a healthy BMI of 22 and I am in the middle of the recommended weight range for my height. Total loss to date, 17.4 kilos (38 lbs).

Vitamins. Just received my 12 month (post gastrectomy) blood test results today. My Iron levels are too low and I have to begin a supplement of Iron tablets every second day. B12 levels are good, having B12 injections every 8 weeks. Drinking an ISOWhey Protein drink most days, mixed with A2 milk.

Exercise. Haven't been to the gym in several months now. I was going at least twice a week but found I was getting very tired and headachey, particularly on the 'gym' days. And my life is SO very busy, I am finding it a real challenge, fitting it in. Planning to begin a new regime with the more achievable goal of attending the gym at least once a week (at least until my membership runs out at the end of the year). Will reassess then. Do lots of incidental exercise, particularly with the kids.

Work/Study. Doing 4 - 6 Tupperware parties per month and managing well with this workload. Attending evening meetings twice a month. Lifting large and awkard boxes (filled with Tupperware) and carrying heavy bags in and out of the car and homes. Studying to become a Teacher Aide at TAFE, attending the college every Thursday morning. I completed two weeks of Vocational Placement (prac) as a Teacher Aide in a kindergarten in May, working 6 hours a day, five days a week....was very challenging. The first two days of each week I endured a massive headache and was very exhausted during, and for a about five days after the prac. Not sure if I am looking forward to another 2 weeks of prac in August as I am concerned about coping physically. The work is not difficult but I think that it is more of a challenge for me as this is the first time I have been back to 'fulltime work' since having children, and it is an entirely new and unfamiliar work environment. I am thinking that maybe working 3 days per week would be more manageable for me at this point in time, and in my life.

Life. Very busy! With a husband, two children under five, a dog, a household, groceries, washing, ironing, cooking, baking, swimming lessons, school and kindy drop off and pick up, studying, assignments, and a half a dozen Tupperware parties thrown in here and there....I never seem to stop! And don't want to either!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Where does the time go....

Seven & a half months have passed since the day I had a gastrectomy. I can still recall that morning with such clarity.... I was so upset.

And now even I am amazed at my recovery. All of a sudden, about 1 month ago, the vomiting (or regurgitation as I have referred to it previously) just stopped. I couldn't believe it at first....and didn't tell anyone until at least a week had passed. (I was very excited). Now, it is only on the odd occasion that during those first few mouthfuls of a meal, I may feel something similar to a lump in my throat, but rather, a lump down lower, perhaps where the join between my oesophagus and intestines sits, and then a light 'hot flush' feeling overcomes me. I just stop, put my fork down and take some slow, deep breaths and wait 30 seconds or so until it passes, and I'm good to go!

I've even started drinking coffee again and I'll have one most mornings. My family all went to dinner Sunday night for mum's 60th at a lovely Thai restaurant....I ate so much food! And with no consequences! I even ate white rice with my Chicken Panang Curry. (I did come home and just sit for about a half hour or so as I felt rather full). This full feeling is different to the full feeling I had felt prior to the surgery. It actually feels like I filled up my intestines with so much food, that it was 'brimming over the top', up into the chest area and I had to just wait until I passed some gas and the food that was 'brimming over the top' had a chance to slide down a little further. (Sorry about the detail.....).

Something else I realised whilst reflecting recently is that I haven't had hiccups since the surgery! Bazaar..... And I still don't have an appetite. I never feel hungry or have any 'hunger pains' or tummy rumblings. I do feel something that I can only describe as a 'bubbling' in my oesophagus that occurs now and then, and this triggers me to stop and think about when it was that I actually ate last. Usually, it had been a few hours and can be fixed with a snack or a meal.

If I have eaten too much at any one sitting, for example a heavy pasta dish of the same serving size pre surgery, I will sometimes get the shakes and feel light headed, about an hour later. I think this may have something to do with my blood sugar levels increasing rapidly? I settle it down quickly by having something to eat. (Yes, more food...weird, I know!)

I had a blood test at 6 months and waited ages for the results to come in. Finally, a week later, I called the surgery and found out that they had no need to call me as my results were all normal! That was a surprise. I am taking a sublingual B12 and Iron tablet each day and have had three B12 injections in 7 months. Last week I got to a point where I just couldn't focus on anything, everything became very vague and I was becoming flaky. I had to check how long it had been since my last B12 shot, it was 9 weeks. I might make a note in my diary for about the 8 week mark....the B12 boost certainly makes me feel more energised.

My weight is still exactly the same, 60.2 kilos. That surprises me too. I have stopped obsessing and only weigh myself once a week now. I am happy with my body shape & size and it would be great if I can maintain it, as it is.

Something I don't think I have mentioned previously is that between months 3 - 6 post surgery, I was shedding a larger than usual amount of hair. My hair is collar length, fine and naturally wavy and there is a lot of it. Or should I say, was a lot of it. At first, I just thought it was the usual summer moulting, but I was losing handfuls of hair each time I combed it of a morning, more on the days I washed it. Even my hairdresser noticed the difference in the volume of hair, but she was quick to point out all the new growth occurring. The hair loss has settled down now and I will just have to deal with lots of little fly aways as this new growth comes in. I think hair loss has something to do with the trauma the body has been through and perhaps a lack of protein.

To wrap it up, I am remarkably well! We (my husband, 2 kids & I) even went camping a couple of weekends ago with the car club for 2 nights. Food was not an issue and I even had a beer! And for the first time ever, I drag raced my husbands 1972 Valiant that was an adrenalin rush.....

P.S. Thank you Karen & Cindy, I really appreciate and value your feedback and comments.x

Thursday, January 14, 2010

6 Months Post-Op

It has been 6 months today since I had my stomach removed. Wow! I ate a whole iced doughnut today whilst walking around the local shopping centre with my children. Three months ago, I would have gagged on the tiniest nibble of this very naughty treat. Sometimes I just cannot believe what I am able to eat! Big beautiful ham & salad crusty bread rolls, fat homemade hamburgers, spaghetti & meatballs and my best Pizza eating effort so far has been 4 slices of Pizza Huts Super Supreme Pan Pizza.

I still have some drama from time to time. That feeling of food 'getting stuck' as it is on its way down still occurs. I little bit of regurgitation later and I feel back on track and able to finish my food. I have decided that the best way to beat this is to remain calm, relaxed and stress free whenever I approach food. Every time I am in a relaxed state, food is my friend. The moment I let a little stress or tension take over my body, the drama begins. (Even the tiniest amount of stress can cause problems). And I love eating out! No stress need to decide what to cook, when to cook it, prepare the food, present it, do dishes or clean up.....!

I have dropped another kilo since my last post and have now maintained 60 kilos (132 pounds) for about 6 weeks. My perfect weight! Smack bang in the middle of my recommended BMI range, and also my goal weight. I am a little obsessed with weighing myself each morning and I record my weight in my diary every Tuesday.

I have been managing to get to the gym about twice a week, where I really enjoy the Pump (weight training) and Combat (martial arts style workout) Classes. I endeavour to become a little more disciplined in attending at least 2 regular classes per week.

Still staying up way too late at night. This will need to change dramatically within the next couple of weeks as my son Cooper starts school at the end of the month and I will need to up bright & early and out the door each day at 8.30am! The trouble with staying up so late is that by mid afternoon, I am in desperate need of a nap, barely able to keep my eyes open, even more so by the third or fourth day. And then as soon as I have a nap, I am not able to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, and thus the cycle continues.

Still not able to drink water with ease. I have discovered that a can of Coke goes down really well; not a good habit I intend on keeping. (I never drank Coke prior to the surgery). I am also drinking the kids Popper Juice at the moment (no more than 1 a day) as it seems to quench my thirst (250ml Pine Orange Juice in a box). Have had 3 cups of coffee in 6 months (BIG deal for a 2 cup a day lady....) and have completely gone off tea. I can't really remember the last time I drank any sustagen or gatorade....have just been getting on with living!

Work wise, I have stepped down as a manager, which relieves a lot of pressure, however I am continuing to be a very active Tupperware Demonstrator. My goal is to average 2 parties per week so that I can pay for my childrens private schooling. This is a very achievable goal and a comfortable one too that I feel I will be able to manage physically.

I made a doctors appointment for Monday; just thought that I might get a blood test to see where my B12 and Iron levels are at now that I have reached this little 6 month 'mile stone'.

I think I have covered everything! Had a wonderful Christmas & New Years break with a lovely holiday to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast with my family. And its also where I decided that my goal for 2010 if to remain relaxed and stress free. (Mainly for my own healths sake, but also for my family). I am now really looking forward to my journey through the 'next 6 months'.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Results are In

The results from my first blood test post gastrectomy came in showing that my Iron levels are very low at 5, with the normal range being 10-33. And my B12 level is on the decrease as well, 365 with the normal range being 160-800. My GP recommended I begin an iron supplement immediately and a B12 injection asap.

Within a week of beginning the iron supplementation and after my very first B12 injection, I began to feel much more energectic. I am no longer getting sleepy in the afternoon. It seems as though I can do so much more now!

My appointment with my surgeon has been post poned until the 17th November. I am still experiencing difficulty eating a meal, with it not going down and staying there....however the frequency of dramas occuring seems to be less. I was regurgitating about once per day and then it became once every 2nd day and now it is even less than that.

I have been eating less, sometimes it is so much easier to just not eat to avoid any drama. And sometimes I just try to snack lots, all day. Last night I felt like having a beef stir fry with lots of fresh vegetables and a little bit of rice. Well, I may have really wanted it, but my body just didn't want to take it in. I kept trying and trying, and finally after some really gut wrenching vomiting, I managed to eat a very small portion. Later, I heated up 5 frozen cocktail springs rolls and ate them just fine, with a little sweet chilli sauce.

I just bought some A2 Milk, a full cream milk that is supposededly easier to digest. I tried it last night as I finished the night off with a sustagen milk shake, and it seemed to settle better in my tummy than my regular light milk. Will keep this up.

I am still losing weight, now weighing 61 kilos (134 lbs). (Have lost a total of 15.6 kilos or 34 lbs). People are now really noticing how different I am looking. I look good!

Joined a gym. Can't wait to start doing some Pilates classes and using the weights machines to build up my muscles and strength. I really need to do some toning! And of course, exercise always makes you feel so much better. Will stay away from cardio for the moment. I will see how my weight is going after Christmas.

My brother's wedding was just beautiful. A gorgeous day and the entire bridal party looked so glamourous! I am pleased that I managed so well to last all day and right through until 1am. The food was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed eating ALL of my creamy ravioli. That was the entree, but served me fine as a main.

Another busy weekend ahead as we celebrate Cooper's 5th birthday with a party with 14 of his friends! Aaaah, what have I got myself into!!!!