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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall; Can I Trust You AT ALL?

One of the most amazing things about this surgery is getting used to your new body.  At three years and two months post surgery, I have to wonder if I'm EVER going to be able to accept that I don't look like I used to!

When I was big, I rarely let anyone take my photo.  I posed for the "before" photo because I knew that I wouldn't look like that forever.  I DO have photos (from the shoulders up) that I thought were "good" pictures of me.  When I look at those photos, I'm appalled.  I don't remember being THAT big.  I know I weighed 305 at my largest, but I still don't remember being that big.  I looked in mirrors and NEVER saw myself that big.

So now, when I look at this much smaller version of myself in the mirror, I get a little freaked out.  Do I REALLY look that small?  How can I trust the mirror?  I don't think I can.  It's a little different when I look at photographs.  Photographs I tend to trust a little more...although I'm not sure why.

I used to feel SO pretty in this dress.  I was HUGE.

This photo was taken yesterday.  Me, on a HORSE.  I haven't been on a horse since I was about 12...I'm trying to make up for lost time.  There was so much I didn't get to do when I was fat.  Two weekends ago, I went back to Carowinds and rode every roller coaster I could find.  I had so much fun on the horse yesterday that I'm going to take riding lessons beginning November 5th.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that my former fiance, James, didn't think he could be attracted to me when I lost the weight.  So it's ironic that his "new" girlfriend (he started with her immediately after I broke up with him) is having gastric bypass on Monday!  I want to warn her about him, about how he'll try to sabotage her success as he tried to sabotage mine, but perhaps she has to find out for herself.  I've never met her but from what I see in photographs, she's considerably larger than I EVER was...

I wish her well.  I really do.  I hope she's taken care of the psychological reasons she has eaten herself into needing this surgery, so that she can lose the weight and KEEP it off.  I hope she goes to the post-surgical classes and follows every step to the letter.  But no matter how many classes one attends, no matter how prepared one thinks one is for this surgery, life afterward will NEVER be the same.  And I, for one, am SO grateful for the difference, even though I still find it hard to trust the mirror!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today, I am 57 years old.  Fifty-seven!  Where does the time go?  I remember dropping a bottle of cologne (Heaven Sent) out of my locker onto the tile floor of my high school.  The bottle shattered and the locker (and the lockers next to it) smelled of Heaven Sent for weeks!  It seems like it was yesterday...not 40 years ago!

Where DOES the time go? It's been more than three years since I had my surgery, and even that seems like yesterday.  But it's been a good three years...with ups and downs, of course, but a good three years, nonetheless.  

And I know that it's three MORE years than I might've had if I hadn't had the gastric bypass when I did.  I saved my life the day I decided to have the surgery.  There are few moments of absolute certainty in life, but the surgery saved my life--of that I am completely certain.

I was almost diabetic.  My blood sugars were borderline for a year or more before the surgery.  My blood pressure was high--to the point where my doctor was getting ready to put me on medication for it.  My cholesterol was always pretty good--but trust me, that's a reflection of good genes more than it is indicative of my previous lifestyle.

My life is very different.  I am able to do more today than I've been able to do in years.  There's a stable close to my house, and when I get paid again (this once-a-month pay is ridiculous!), I'm going to go horseback riding.  I haven't been on a horse since I was about 14 years old.  But I love horses--I love all animals, and I cannot wait to ride again!  On October 4, I'm going to Carowinds in Charlotte with a few of the teachers from school (all three of them are in their 20s!) to ride roller coasters and to scream and to have a FABULOUS day! 

Who says life begins at 30?  Or 40?  Or even 50?  For me, it started on August 5, 2011, six weeks before my 54th birthday.  Talk about a roller coaster ride!  Peaks and valleys and screams of glee...I am SO happy to be alive!

So yes, happy 57 to's looking forward to another 30 or so!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Little Girl Lost...

Before one has gastric bypass surgery, one has to go through some rather rigorous testing, including consultations with a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, nutritionist and psychologist.  I passed all these tests with flying colors, or I wouldn't have been able to have the surgery.  However, even with all the tests, with all the support, no one prepared me for what's going on in my life today.

I feel lost, for lack of a better term.  I don't recognize the person I used to look like, but I don't recognize the NEW body, either.  Here's a photo that my friend Dorothy took the day I had  my two-week post-surgical visit where I was (finally) allowed to eat solid food.  The photo commemorates my first bite of mashed potatoes.
By the time this photo was taken, I had lost about 20 pounds (and I had lost 5 before the surgery), so I probably weighed 280.  I honestly don't remember being THAT big. I KNOW that I was, but I never saw myself that big.

This photo was taken yesterday by my former student, Naomi.  We went to lunch and then shopping where I had to buy a belt.  (For the first time in my life!)  I wasn't sure that she was taking a photo of me--I actually thought she was taking a photo of the little dog sculpture.)

I'm not sure who that woman is.  Seriously.  It's MY shirt and purse, but whose BODY is that?  When people see me for the first time in a long time, they blurt, "You're so small!"  Cherry, at the Thai restaurant, said it.  Deborah, whom I hadn't seen in ages, didn't recognize me until I said, "It's me, Rhonda!"  Her reply was, "You're so small!"  So it must be true, right?  And yet, I don't FEEL small.  It's a bizarre paradox...I don't think I'm as big as the old photos show me to be, but I certainly don't FEEL as small as I look in this photo.  Having a concept of "self" is just foreign to me today.

I've had a hard time articulating this to the people in my life--and even to myself.  I hope this makes some sense...and if anyone else has had this body-image issue, PLEASE leave me a comment!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Move, a Milestone and a Problem

It's been a long time since I posted, since May, in fact.  I'm sorry.  I know that it's not fair to those of you who read this--I hope you're still with me even though my posts are infrequent.

First the move.  I'm living in North Carolina again; this time in Rocky Mount in an adorable house in the country.  My neighbor across the road (it's a narrow, private road) is a horse.  :-)  There are crops to the right of my house as well as behind it.  It's quiet here, except for the crows, which are noisy boogers sometimes.  

I'm teaching again; I really missed it, and I love the school I'm in.  I love my principal, my kids and my coworkers.  I really feel blessed, and returning to NC felt like I was going "home".  I have great friends here, and after working in the hospital for a year, I am really glad to be back in the classroom, which also feels like "home".  And I'm letting my hair grow out--here's an updated photo:

The milestone?  Well, it was three years ago August that I began this adventure, and as of today, I have lost 147 lbs, which takes my weight to 158, which is FIVE POUNDS less than I weighed in September, 1974 (the beginning of my senior year.)

How do I know this?  How do I remember?  I had knee surgery that September.  The nurse who weighed me for my admission had me step on the scale.  Those non-digital scales have those weights that get moved over, and she must've forgotten that she had moved from "100" to "150" because when she slid the little bar over to "13", she said, "Okay, 113?"  I didn't correct her.  It was the first time in my life I "weighed" 113--never mind that I didn't really weigh that; for one hospital stay, my weight on paper was 113!  So I remember it clearly.  I weighed 163.

And that was the last time I weighed even CLOSE to 163. And now I weigh 5 pounds less than that!  It's incredible.  People who I haven't seen in a while don't even recognize me.  My skinny jeans are size 12.  If I could afford to have plastic surgery, I would probably weigh about 130 and wear a size 8.  I'm small.  Seriously...for the first time in my adult life.  Remember three years ago when the naysayers told me all their hateful stories about people who gained ALL their weight back?  Well, it's three years later, and I'm not there!!

And the problem?  Sigh.  I almost hate to admit it.  I look great in clothing, but naked is another story all together.  No one prepares you for how you look naked when you have this surgery.  Seriously.  There is no preparation for the deflated balloon look that is so hard to view.  I try to avoid mirrors when I'm naked, probably more than I avoided mirrors when I was fat! I almost think I had more body confidence before the surgery than I have now, because when I was big, it was pretty much "what you see is what you get."  That's not true anymore, and I think my lack of confidence is one of the reasons I'm not dating at ALL.  I miss dating.  I do.  I'm just not sure about dealing with the excess flesh.  I think counseling may be in order...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Stretch Armstrong?

Remember that toy?  Stretch Armstrong?  The last name was a pun--he had strong arms!  But the important part of it was that he could be stretched and stretched--across a room!  

When I first had this surgery, nearly three years ago, people, being the doomsayers they are, told me that they knew people who gained all their weight back...and MORE.  Everyone had a sad story to tell about someone they KNEW.

Hearing that story freaked me out, so I asked the nurse practitioner in my surgeon's office if she had experience with people who gained all their weight back.  She told me that in her seven years of working in that office, she had NEVER seen anyone gain ALL their weight back. Yes, people gained back 10-15 pounds over a few years, but she had never seen ANYONE gain all their weight back.

So why the naysayers?  Can it be that people just don't WANT to admit that this surgery WORKS?  Last week's Grey's Anatomy mentioned a patient who had had gastric bypass surgery but that the stomach pouch and intestine had stretched out and needed to be repaired.  However, the show didn't mention WHY his pouch had stretched, and nothing more was mentioned about that patient.  I was hoping that they would expound on the subject, but they did not.  I'm not sure why they didn't address the issue--perhaps there was pressure from the bariatric surgical community.  Perhaps they didn't want to dump more fuel on the fire. Perhaps they didn't want to further the idea that everyone who has the surgery gains ALL their weight back.

I definitely can eat more today than I could two and a half years ago.  But I still can only eat a very small amount.  About half of a half of a chicken breast.  If I have one more bite than I should, I get sick.  One bite more.  How on earth could I possibly gain ALL my weight back?  On any given day, I weigh between 158 and 163...depending on intestinal issues more than anything else.  Maybe it's a surgical problem?  Perhaps the people who are "gaining back all their weight and then some" are doing so because they have inept surgeons?

I don't have any answers, and I can't speak for everyone.  Personally, I don't know ANYONE who gained back all of his or her weight.  I DO know that I'm still about 145 pounds down from where I started nearly three years ago--and I don't imagine that I'll be STRETCHING anytime soon...

Friday, May 2, 2014

Body Parts and Broken Hearts

I want to ask you a question.  What is your favorite body part?  Seriously.  Think about your body--that glorious mass of bones and tissue that covers and protects your heart, lungs, liver and other organs.  What's your favorite body part?

My favorite body part USED to be my eyes.  I still love them--they change color and are sometimes greener than they are at other times.  My eyelashes are really long and curly, and I love them.  People notice them, and I get a lot of compliments.  But I have a NEW favorite body part--my collarbones.  

I love my collarbones.  As you can see by this picture, they are rather prominent.
I love them.  I find myself stroking them, rapping on them (they make a cool hollow sound), grabbing at them.  Collarbones.  I've always HAD them, but before the surgery, I couldn't see them or feel them. My collarbones are this wonderfully TANGIBLE sign of the difference this surgery has made in my life.

There's a new documentary called "All of Me" about women who have had gastric bypass surgery.  These women used to be "fat acceptance advocates", but one by one decided that the health benefits of the surgery were right for her.  Some of these women lost a lot of weight; a couple did not.  But what struck me was the fact that a few lost friends and/or spouses.

My question to this is WHY?  Why do friends and lovers feel threatened by this surgery?  When I had mine,my fiance James didn't want me to do so.  Although he took me to the hospital, he left me on Friday night and didn't come back to the hospital until Sunday to pick me up.  He didn't throw away the junk food in my house that I had asked him to throw away.  I knew that it was the beginning of the end for us. He admitted to me (after I pressured him for an answer) that he wasn't sure he could be attracted to a smaller me.  He later said that he was afraid that if I lost the weight, I'd no longer be attracted to him.  (I'm not sure but I think that was insulting--did he not TRUST me?)

A woman in the documentary said that her new body didn't match her husband's sexual desires, but they are "trying" to hold their marriage together. He had moved out but they were dating.  Other women in the film talked about losing friends.  I had a friend--someone I thought was a GOOD friend--Crystal.  She and I used to meet for dinner whenever our busy schedules allowed.  But when I lost the weight--and began to look good--she was just too busy.  What happened there?  I'm not sure, but I theorize that she felt threatened by someone who would take the spotlight away from her. She stopped calling, didn't return my calls and didn't even seem to notice when I "unfriended" her on Facebook.

People make the mistake of thinking that weight-loss surgery is the EASY way out.  It is NOT easy.  It's difficult and scary and physically demanding.  Losing 145 pounds was one of the best things that ever happened to me...but it's not without collateral damage.  Still, as I stroke my collarbones, I regret nothing...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Difference!

I know I'm away too long between posts, and I apologize.  Life has a way of getting IN the way.  I'm working second shift at a hospital (3-11:30), and it seems that all I do is work and sleep.  There seems little time for other things, but I DO have news.

First, I'm published!  Yes, I've been published here all along, but I've also published my first novel.  Its title is The First Nine Lives of Isabella LaFelini, and it's available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.  You can also get it for Nook at Barnes & Noble.

Second, my weight is lower than it's been since I was a teen.  159.  Remarkable.  I weighed 163 the September of my senior year of high school, so this is UNREAL to me!

My medical doctor has told me that this surgery doesn't work.  Yet I'm living proof that it does.  He said that everyone he's known (except me) has gained back all their weight, and then some.  He calls me "the exception to the rule."  It's more than two and a half years after my surgery, and I still can't eat more than a few bites of food at a time.  HOW can people gain all their weight back?

Maybe people push too early and expand their stomachs while they are still healing. Maybe they haven't healed whatever pushed them to put so much weight on in the first place. I don't know.  All I know is that I eat anything I want (in tiny quantities) and I just keep an eye on my weight.  I don't gain more than a pound or two--and then I lose that pound or two.  I've always been one to retain fluid, and I think that's all those extra pounds are.  

I'm not worried about regaining all my weight--the way my doctor says his other patients have--because I have slain my demons.  I no longer look at food as a means of protection or something to hide behind.  It is a means of sustenance...and once in a while, enjoyment.  It doesn't RULE me, though--and that's the difference.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Waiting for "The Call"

It's officially Monday.  The day I get my "news".  For those of you who may have missed the last post, or who may not be my FaceBook friends, in a few hours, I'll learn whether or not I have breast cancer.

The repeat mammogram was Monday.  I went in thinking that I'd be told that there was no reason for me to worry--that my mammogram was fine and that I could come back in a year.  Instead, I was told to take a seat down the hall and that the nurse would be in.

Those in the know know that such procedure isn't for good news.  Ever.  The nurse directed me to a "conference room" where she informed me that I needed a biopsy.  It was set for Friday.  It left me in terrible pain, swelling and bruising...and now I wait.  I wait for a phone call that could make me happy or that could change my life forever.  

I'm terrified.  No lie.  I've imagined my reaction to the "good" call--euphoria and tears of joy.  I've imagined my reaction to the "bad" call--fear and apprehension and tears of sorrow.  Either way, I'll know in a few hours...

So many of my FaceBook friends have been lovely and supportive...for which I am now and will forever be grateful.  You truly DO learn who your friends are when the chips are down...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Playing Catch Up!!

Holy cow!  I haven't written here since APRIL of LAST year?  How is that possible?  There have been many, many changes in my life in the past ten here are a few:

I'm not teaching any more.  I'm not sure I'm "done" with teaching, but I most definitely needed a break.  The group of kids I had at my last school in NC was a rough one--although my Honors' students were delightful for the most part.  I got tired of being told "f&ck you" on a daily basis--and there was little or no support from the administration.  So, rather than teaching, I'm working in a hospital emergency room.  It's intense...and very difficult on some nights, but I've really enjoyed the change.

I'm also not living in North Carolina anymore.  I have returned to New York, where my mom lives.  She's 82, and her health has declined over the past several months.  I'm glad to be here for her.

My weight?  After all, I did start this blog to help me (and others) with life after gastric bypass.  I'm happy to say that I've continued to lose weight.  I currently weigh...drumroll please! 161 pounds.  That's 2 pounds less than I weighed as a high school senior!  How incredible is that?!I started at 305...and now weigh less than I did when I was 17!  I have a lot more energy these days, and while my knees still hurt, they are far better than they were!  I am living with cortisone injections (my mom's house has a LOT of stairs), but I have other health issues I need to deal with before the knees.

On Wednesday, I found out I have a "growth" (my doctor's words--I think it's a euphemism for tumor) in my left foot which is irritating the tendon and causing me great pain.  I'm having an MRI on Thursday to try to get a clearer picture of exactly what I'm dealing with.  However, the foot will probably have to wait as well, as I got a phone call on Thursday that is probably going to change my life forever.

There is something in my right breast.  "Calcifications" that have changed significantly since my last mammogram.  I have to go for a "diagnostic" mammogram and ultrasound on Monday.  I'm scared to death.  I tend to be a bit of an agnostic...that is, I WISH there was a higher power, but I'm not sure if there is. However, I DO believe in the power of positive thinking, so I'd appreciate positive thoughts, my friends.  I don't know what else to ask for...I thought a friend was going to go with me, but it turns out she's running a workshop, so I'm on my own.  It may be for the best...

There.  I've said it.  I've only told a couple people at work, my mom and my youngest brother, but let's see how many people actually READ this blog.  And I'm sorry that I have to write such a serious post as my first post back.  I WILL say, however, that I did NOT take my life back just to lose it to breast cancer, so expect a FIGHT.  :-)

Thanks for being here...I'll have immediate results on Monday and will post accordingly.