Friday, September 30, 2016

excess skin removal: date set!

Surgery date:  February 27, 2017!!

I didn't need to schedule the surgery this far in advance, but I wanted to. I'm someone who needs something concrete to look forward to and plan for. Although I might do things spontaneously sometimes, I usually need a date on the schedule for the bigger things (sometimes even the small things); it gives me the push I need to get going and keep going.  I figure it will keep me on track with exercise, eating right, and saving money. 

I really need this to be on the schedule, because I can feel my motivation and discipline flagging lately. My trainer is on medical leave for knee replacement, so I'm going it alone for a month or so.  I'm still working out, but I find myself eating whatever I want, whenever I want, which basically cancels out any calories I burn while working out. I'm still building muscle, but I'm not losing weight.

Speaking of building muscle, I love the fact that my upper legs have shape to them now, because my quadriceps are getting bigger and stronger. My upper arms have muscle now, too. I find myself looking at them when I have to lift something, like a 40 lb. bag of cat litter or mulch. I'm pretty sure my husband has caught me doing that a few times. LOL

Now that the surgery is on the schedule, I find myself thinking about all the ins and outs, some of it routine, some scary, and some just weird.

  1. Will the fluid drains be really uncomfortable? How bad will they hurt when they're removed? (I've heard it hurts...)
  2. How much pain will there be? I'm a total baby when it comes to pain.
  3. How will I wash my hair the first few days? I dread going to my first follow-up, which I think is the next day, with wild hair.  My hair is naturally curly and requires gel to be tamed. I can't just get up and brush my hair like so many other people.
  4. How will my new belly button look and feel?  If you didn't know already, the surgery requires the belly button to be relocated. That totally freaks me out.
  5. Will I have phantom sensations in the areas where skin was removed? And because the skin will be pulled down, if I scratch under my boob, will I feel it lower in the abdomen? (Yes, I'm really wondering about that.  Do the nerves get moved as well and the skin??)
  6. How long will it be before I can sleep on my side? I'm a side sleeper, so sleeping on my back in a recliner is going to be awful for me.
  7. When they pull the skin down to tighten it, will that pull my boobs down lower? I hope not!
So, yeah, these are the things I'm thinking about. My pre-op consultation is on January 4, 2017, so I'm sure a lot of these questions will be answered then. Until then, I'll just have to Google it. Although, that's not always a good thing. There's so much conflicting information out there, and everyone's experience is different.  And then there's the photos.  Google photos of abdominoplasty and panniculectomy and see what you find...

Friday, September 23, 2016

excess skin removal: it's happening!

I posted last week that I was denied by my insurance for panniculectomy and abdominoplasty to remove the excess skin.  I was really devastated at the time, because I really want to be rid of this skin. Not only is it a reminder of so many years of being overweight and being harassed at school mercilessly, but it's just plain uncomfortable. I've been working out hard and consistently for almost 6 months now, and no amount of exercise will take this skin away. It's been stretched beyond it's limits and is worn out. So, the only other option is to pay for it myself.

I lived in dread for five days, worrying that it would be so expensive that it would be forever out of my reach--I'm not willing to take out a huge loan that will take years to pay, and I'm also trying to pay off my debt.  Well, I got the call Monday and the quote was WAY less than I thought it would be.  I was fully expecting $20,000.00 or more, which is why I didn't want to take a loan. Nope:  $7,000.00.  Seriously.  I was flabbergasted! The receptionist explained that the fee covers the panniculectomy and a full abdominoplasty with lipo, as well as the anesthesia (I should hope so! LOL).  I then asked how long the hospital stay is. She said it's out patient. WHAT?!  I can't even imagine coming home the same day knowing what they do for those procedures. Also the location of those procedures; we use those muscles for just about every move we make during the course of a day.  She said that I could stay overnight if I want to, but the hospital stay is expensive. And it turns out that even with insurance, people are typically home the same day.  Times have changed from when people were in the hospital for a week with the most minor surgery.

I asked about appealing the insurance denial; however, the receptionist explained that we can't appeal because my employer has specifically excluded plastic surgery from the policy, even in cases where it's medically necessary. I'd have to appeal to my employer directly and convince them to have the insurance pay. I've only been there for a little under two years and the quote was WAY less than I thought it would be, so I'm not going to do that.  If this was life-saving surgery, or maybe if I was having more complications than I am AND it was $20,000.00, then I might consider appealing.  But I don't feel like that's the right thing to do in my case.

The receptionist wanted to schedule me for the surgery, but I have a lot going on at work between now and the end of the year, and we're also short-staffed right now. There's no way I could take that much time off from work right now. I'm planning on February.  That gives work a chance to settle down and also gives me time to save money and prepare for the process.

I'm completely over the moon that I'll be able to have the surgery!  Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel is near.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

homemade iced mocha latte

Oh, how I sometimes wish I didn't figure out how to make one of these!

I'm not a coffee drinker, but I like coffee drinks.  Before my gastric bypass, I used to love getting a frozen mocha coolatta from Dunkin Donuts or iced mocha frappe from McDonald's. After surgery, though, those were pretty much off the table; they're absolutely loaded with sugar. A small mocha coolatta (16 oz.) made with whole milk packs 330 calories and 68 (!!!???) grams of sugar.  (I always got a large, which is 670 calories and 136 grams of sugar!) An iced mocha frappe from McDonald's is 420 calories. They don't specify size or amount of sugar, but I would have to guess it's a lot.

Recently I discovered Starbuck's. Being that I'm not a coffee drinker and I can't tolerate all the sugar in the iced drinks, I never had an occasion to go there.  I was at the bookstore in the mall, which has a Starbuck's inside the store, and decided to look at the menu. I assumed there would be nothing I could have, but then I noticed that you could get certain coffee drinks in a "skinny" version. That means nonfat milk and artificial sweetener. I decided to try a skinny iced mocha latte in the Grande size, which is about 16 oz. I forked over nearly $5.00 for it, but holy cow it was so worth it! It was delicious and chocolate-y! It didn't bother my stomach at all.  And the best part was that it was under 200 calories.

I could easily see this becoming an expensive habit, so I set out to make my own at home. I scoured the internet and the universal recipe seems to be a couple ounces of coffee, some chocolate sauce or cocoa powder, sugar, and a whole lot of milk.  I settled on one recipe and made it one weekend.  I substituted Equal for the sugar, used cocoa powder, and used Fairlife fat free milk (more protein and less sugar than regular milk).  The result was identical to the Starbuck's drink; however, mine didn't taste quite so artificial even though I used Equal in it. I used natural cocoa powder, although you can use whatever cocoa powder you have. My personal preference is natural, as it seems to have a better taste.

I definitely don't make this often, though, as I can see it becoming a very bad habit.  I reserve it for Friday mornings and weekends, and even then I try to limit it to a few times a month. Even though it's under 200 calories and has a ton of protein, I really don't want to drink all my calories.

So, here's my own recipe. It makes about 22 ounces, has 195 calories, 1 gram of fat, 18 grams of carbs, 12 grams of sugar, and 28 grams of protein. Yes, 28 grams!

Dawn's Homemade Iced Mocha Latte


6 oz brewed hot coffee (I use 6 ounces of water and one K cup; coffee must be hot)
2 TB natural cocoa powder (use any kind you like, natural or dutch process)
3 packets Equal or other artificial sweetener
16 oz Fairlife Fat Free Milk or any kind of milk you like

  1. In a tall glass or Blender Bottle, mix the cocoa powder into the hot brewed coffee.  This is key when trying to get cocoa powder to dissolve. The liquid must be hot. If you are using leftover brewed coffee, heat it in the microwave first.
  2. Mix the Equal into the coffee mixture. At this point you can chill the mixture or continue on to step 3. It depends how cold you want the drink and when you want to drink it. I sometimes prepare it ahead of time and chill it. Then the next morning I just add the milk and go.
  3. Pour the milk into the coffee mixture and stir.
  4. Chill in the fridge (if you didn't make ahead) or add some ice. 
  5. Enjoy!

It's not super pretty, but it's delicious! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

updated workout routine: more weight and more reps...again

My trainer just had knee replacement surgery, and I really think he has too much time to think up ways to torture me. Rather than adding something new to my routine, which I already slog through begrudgingly, he added more weight and more reps. I know, I know. There's an end result in mind and I have to do a lot of drudgery to get there, but it sucks nonetheless. I long for something new to do. Since I'm on my own until he gets back, I pick one or two days and make up my own routine.  The other three days I do the prescribed routine, which he said is fine with him. But I definitely look forward to him coming back in a few weeks.

The "new" routine consists of:
  • Jogging in place, jumping jacks and mountain climbers, alternated three times for a total of 8 minutes
  • 4 sets of 20 walking lunges holding two 15 lb. free weights by my side
  • 4 sets of 20 body squats holding one 15 lb. free weight
  • 4 sets of 20 kettle bell swings with a 25 lb. kettle bell
  • 4 sets of 20 squat jumps (I still HATE, HATE, HATE these!)
  • 4 sets of 15 push-ups
  • 3 sets of 20 reverse lunges using a 15 lb. kettle bell (not liking these anymore...boring! I actually use 20 lbs. since it's easier when I'm at the gym at work.)
  • 3 sets of 20 sumo uprights using a 25 lb. kettle bell
  • 4 sprints, 50 yards each
  • Stretching exercises for my back and hamstrings
  • Plank, as long as I can hold it
I've been slacking off a lot on the plank, and I really need to get back to it in order to strengthen my back and core. I stopped for awhile because my back was hurting more, which turns out it was because I was wearing my back brace too much, which was actually weakening my back. So, I've weaned myself off the brace and I'm feeling better overall.  Knees are doing good, too, since I'm doing the hamstring stretches every time I work out.  (BTW, hamstring stretches suck, too!  I'd rather be snuggling with Leia.) I recently downloaded an app for my phone called the 30-day Plank Challenge. You plank everyday for an increasing amount of time. Day 1 starts off at 20 second and Day 30 is 5 minutes (!!??).  I haven't tried it yet, plan to start tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2016

excess skin removal: denied by insurance

Well, I heard back from the plastic surgeon this past Wednesday about the claim sent to my insurance company for excess skin removal: I was denied. 

I can't say I'm surprised that I was denied, but I'm still extremely disappointed nonetheless.  I can't even appeal it, because there's no room in the policy for possible approval based on medical necessity. I was quite deflated, so Wednesday was Not a Good Day for me. It basically sucked all the motivation out of me. I know, that's extreme and I shouldn't let this cause a huge setback, but I was really counting on this. I didn't realize until the last month or so how much I want to do this. It's not really cosmetic at all.  It's about comfort. I want to be able to exercise to my fullest ability--certain exercises are tough or just not doable at the moment because I have all this hanging skin in the way.  I want to be able to button my pants and not have tuck in all that skin like a shirt. (Yes, that's really what it's like.)

Anyway, the surgeon's office is going to put together a quote to see how much it would be for me to pay on my own. I'm not confident that this will be attainable in 2017, but we'll see.  When I visited the surgeon for my consultation in August, she said that she typically discounts her fee in the event the patient has to pay out of pocket. (Makes me wonder how much these doctors inflate their costs when they know insurance is paying, but I guess that's the way this system works.) So, I'm hoping it's not totally outrageous. I'd surely have to get a loan for part or all of it, which I don't really want to do, but if it means comfort for me in the long term I'll do it.

So, as it stands now, I'm waiting on a quote from the surgeon's office. In the meantime I'll continue to workout and eat right. I'll try to use this as the push I need to get the surgery. Since I can't rely on insurance to help with the cost, it's all on me now. If I stop working out and eating right, I'll have wasted a lot of money in terms of a personal trainer and bariatric surgery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

small victories

I haven't had many small victories at all in the last few weeks, as my eating has pretty much spiraled out of control. Not sure why, really. Maybe because I haven't put any serious effort into advanced food prep, such as washing and chopping the celery for the week, chopping the cheese for snacks, boiling the eggs, etc. It seems I go through cycles:  I shop and prep everything ahead of time, so I'm set up for the week; then I'm away or get lazy one weekend and don't do anything, which leads to grabbing whatever I can during the week; then I get back on track for a week or two. Lather, rinse, repeat. These cycles are what is causing me to not lose as much weight as I could have by now. I've lost about 17 pounds since starting with a personal trainer back in March; however, I feel it could be more.  So, I'm making a supreme effort this week to stay the course.

My victories:
  • Last week I passed by the bagels in the store and didn't buy any. That's a feat for me--bagels are my kryptonite.  I buy two or three under the guise that they're for Bob, when really I'm hoping he forgets about them and then they're all mine. Mine, I tell you!
  • I hard-boiled a dozen eggs this weekend and prepped my celery for the week.
  • I went to the gym with the BFF last Friday night. That's not a big deal normally; however, my trainer is out on medical leave for knee replacement and I usually train with him on Fridays. This was the first week that I didn't have a Friday appointment. Since Bob was working late, my first inclination was to grab some sushi and go home and watch the Golden Girls all night. (I know, I lead a very exciting life.)
As I mentioned, my trainer is out on medical leave. Since I won't be seeing him for a month or so, it's going to be really important that I get my nutrition under control and I stick with the workout routine and schedule. I just have to remember that his being out for a month isn't a license for me to "take a break." Not only because it's a waste of money if I don't keep up with it, but because he will know as soon as I got back for my next appointment with him. Obviously he will be able to tell if I'm struggling. Plus, I'm convinced that he just has a sixth sense about this stuff. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

the new foster baby: Marty

So, we have a new foster kitty and his name is Marty.  The original intention was to not be a "foster failure" since we already have a million cats; however, with Oscar not having much time left, it's likely we will adopt him. We got him from the Stratford Cat Project.

We got him last Sunday. We put him in the front bedroom with his own cat tree, toys, and food. It took a couple days before he would come out from under the bed. We tossed Tiffany in there with him Monday night and that's what got him to loosen up a little. Tiffany couldn't have cared less about him, but he was a little hissy at first. He's fine now, though.  Throughout the week we introduced another cat or two by bringing them into his room. Felix and Oscar didn't care at all; Max, Leo and Leia were a little growl-y; and Bailey wasn't, and isn't, too happy, but he's a bit of a Mr. Cranky Pants sometimes with certain cats. I'm not sure about Thelma, Louise, Lou and Thomas.  I didn't bring them upstairs.  

That's Tiffany with Marty.
We've been playing with him every night.  He loves to play and get pet.  He's a regular pur monster, too.  We went to the store and got him his favorite toys:  plastic springs and mice.  He doesn't seem all that impressed with them right now, but he may be playing with them when we're not home.    

Today I opened the bedroom door and let Marty out to explore. Surprisingly he came out within a half hour.  All was quiet--no fights--so Bob and I went out for the day. When we got home everything still seemed OK. I just checked on Marty and his feet are dirty.  That means he was downstairs exploring. (His feet aren't dirty because the house is dirty.  Bob cleaned the fireplace yesterday in order to run a chimney liner, and the hearth is quiet dusty still, which means Marty was in the living room inspecting the hearth.)

He's a shy guy with a freakishly long tail (Seriously. LONG!) and big ears, but he's a sweet kitty.  It just takes him a little time to get comfortable. Noises seems to make him a little jumpy.  Once he's comfortable, though, he's looking for belly rubs and purring up a storm. I have a feeling he will become ours eventually.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

new Quest bars: oatmeal chocolate chip and blueberry muffin

I've been looking forward to the new Quest protein bar flavors and they're finally here!

This morning I had to go get new tires.  Correction:  I had to get an alignment and get my tires balanced, but ended up needing all new tires. I had a feeling that would happen, since it's been 2 years since I got my last two tires and who-knows-how-many since I got the other two done (way more than 2 years!).  So, $813.00 later, the vibration is gone, the thumping noise is gone, my car is no longer pulling to one side, and it's a really smooth ride.

While I was waiting for the tires to be installed I walked the plaza. There's a Staples (it was warm and humid in there so left pretty quickly), a Dress Barn, Big Lots, GNC, and a few other stores.  I decided to stop in GNC to see if they had the new Quest bars. They did!  I grabbed two of each, plus four other flavors.

I wanted to dive into these right away, but I waited a bit.  This is why I try not to buy protein bars--I tend to treat them like candy bars, when I should really save them for after a tough workout or as a meal replacement.  I was able to wait until I got home, but not too long thereafter.

The Blueberry Muffin is delicious and sweet. It tastes like blueberries, just like it should. And it has little bits of cobbler pieces.  Not really sure what the "cobbler" really is, but it tastes good.  The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip was good. There were some little bits of oatmeal and chunks of chocolate. The oatmeal seemed almost non-existent, though. And it seemed a little heavy on the cinnamon.

I decided to make cookies out of them, like I'd seen on another website. All you do is cut each bar into 8 pieces and bake them at 325 for 6 minutes. About halfway through the baking time you smoosh them down with a spatula or spoon to flatten them. Makes me feel like I'm eating cookies and it allows me to trick myself into eating less. Note:  These cookies are small, about the size of a 50 cent coin.

The verdict?  I like the Blueberry Muffin better as a bar and the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip better as a cookie.

Monday, September 5, 2016

update on oscar

I've really dreaded sitting down to write this update, because it's not good news:  Oscar has bladder cancer and doesn't have much time left.

I recently posted that he and Leo had to go for re-checks. Leo checked out OK, but Oscar needed an ultrasound, which was this past Wednesday. The doctor who does the ultrasounds (he travels from office to office) didn't get to the office until 4 pm, so I had to wait until Thursday for the news. The vet explained that there was a tumor in the bladder and that it was most likely a carcinoma. There was a chance of a melanoma, but not all that likely. The tumor is large and if they remove it, they will need to remove 50% of his bladder. There's the option of chemo, which isn't quite as good as surgery. With both options, there's no guarantee it won't come back. In fact, it's likely that it will. There's also a chance that it's metastasized to the chest. While doing the ultrasound the doctor noticed suspicious spots in the chest area, but x-rays would confirm. After speaking with the vet, I opted to allow him to live out his life. They think he's about 14 years old, and I don't want to put him through all that.

It's so strange, because he's running around--and actually playing--just like usual. There's no indication whatsoever that anything is wrong, other than that his urine output is low.  But I know soon enough the time will come.  I asked the vet how would I know he's ready to go and she told me the signs to look for.  So, that's what we're going to do:  let him live for as long as he has, and give him anti-inflammatory pills to help with any inflammation and maybe slow the growth of the tumor a little. When it's time, it's time.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

today's breakfast

Well, actually Friday's breakfast. But who's keeping track?

I went to Stew Leonard's Wednesday night and bought some of their awesome 9 Grain Bread. It makes the best grilled cheese. Although it's not very often I eat that anymore.  Nowadays I buy it maybe once a year and usually use it for toast or as a base for an egg and cheese open-faced sandwich.  That's what I did Friday morning since I had the day off from work.

I just toasted a slice of bread, added some goat cheese and a couple slices of tomato (tomato is courtesy of a co-worker's garden), and then topped it with a fried egg. It took some extra time because I toasted the bread first--I didn't want it to be soggy.  Then I added the goat cheese and tomato and put it under the broiler. Once that was done, the egg went on top along with a ton of cracked pepper and a little salt.

It was delicious, but messy.  Juicy tomatoes and runny egg yolk.  This is a fork-and-knife kind of breakfast.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

WTF is this??

OK, someone needs to tell me WTF kind of plant/weed/bush this is.  Bob found it growing next to the barn while he was out splitting logs one day. It's weird looking, with spiky leaves, big spiky green "pods" (you can see them if you look closely), and big pink flowers. At first I thought it was some alien weed I'd never seen before, but then I saw it in someone's front yard as I was driving to the grocery store.  So, anyone have any ideas?

UPDATE:  I'm told this is Datura stramonium, AKA Jimson Weed.  Interesting....