Thursday, March 30, 2017

RIP Dad!

This was taken after my college graduation in 2012. 
I feel like I should have written "daddy" and not "dad," as I called him "daddy" until my mom died in 2008.

I mentioned the other day that some things have come up at home lately. Well, this is one of them.

On Monday, March 20, 2017, my dad passed away at the age of 82.  He's now where he has wanted to be for the last eight years:  with my mom.

I started back at work last Monday after being off for three weeks for my tummy tuck surgery. I left around 1:30 pm since I was starting to swell up quite a bit. I stopped at a clothing store to hunt for comfortable elastic waist or drawstring pants that I actually like, which was about as productive as a hunt for Sasquatch. I then hit the drug store. I got the call when I was on my way home. Although I wasn't expecting that call (who is??), I wasn't surprised, as he's been in and out of the hospital the last few months. The last couple weeks he had developed some unexplained health issues, and that's typically a sign that the end is near.  We had a small service in his town over the weekend and there will be a burial with military honors in May (ground is frozen still).

We are almost exactly 40 years apart (I was a surprise baby, although my siblings would say I was an accident or even adopted).  My birthday is November 6 and his was November 10, so we typically celebrated together. I think around my birthday is when I'm likely to feel the loss of him most intensely.

This is a picture of us on our 80th and 40th birthday, respectively, back in 2014. This was taken by my sister-in-law. We can always count on her for great pictures!

When I was a kid, it was my favorite thing to go somewhere with my father. There was even one time where I wanted to leave my birthday party so I could go with my dad.  Everyone in the family tells me how he would whisper to my mom that he was going to the store, or wherever, so I wouldn't hear him, but when he got outside, I'd be in the car already. Couldn't fool me!  For some reason, the dump was my all-time favorite. Yes, the dump.  I think it was because 1) I got to go somewhere with him, and 2) I got to help toss things into the giant pit. It was a giant compactor, really, but I saw it as a giant pit in the ground that magically swallowed up all the unwanted things. (To this day, I LOVE throwing things out...)

It's such a strange feeling to now be without either parent. Who will I call when I have good news or want to talk about something? Realistically, I know I have people I can call, but it's somehow different. Parents taking pride in their children is different from siblings, other family members and friends' pride.  Also, parents are usually the glue that keep everyone in touch somehow, some way. Even if it's just to say that Sally is starting a new job or Mary is having a tough time. Now that the glue is gone, will everyone keep in touch? There are members of the extended family that don't talk anymore now that their parents are gone; it's so sad to witness. Family get-togethers aren't the same, because some of them come and others don't. Anyway, I digress.

I'm glad I got to know my dad more after my mom passed away in 2008. He was never one to talk on the phone previously.  Every time I used to call, he would say hi and ask how I was doing, and then ask if I wanted to talk to my mother. And that was fine, because I always gravitated towards her for talking; men just don't usually have a lot to say like women do. After my mom died, we started talking each week, usually for a half hour. (I swear he timed it, because when I looked at the time it was always exactly 30 minutes from the time I called to the time we hung up.) It was awkward at first, but then we got into a rhythm of subjects to talk about. I could always tell when he was tired or not feeling well, versus when he was feeling good. When he was feeling good, he would joke around quite a bit and laugh a lot.

Although I'm sad my father is gone, I'm glad he's no longer suffering, as he was getting weary of being sick and tired all the time. And he's with my mom now. She had always said that when she died, she would be sitting on the prettiest cloud in the sky. Now that they're together again, I hope they'll be sitting on that same cloud together somewhere in June, celebrating 63 years of marriage.  I can only hope my marriage lasts that long; it's something I aspire to.

Married June 19, 1954. My mom was only 16 a the time and my dad was 20.

I'm not sure what year this was, but I'm guessing somewhere around 2006. 
This was taken on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire.
My sister-in-law took this picture, I believe.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pure Protein Plus Bar

I know I've been quiet for a bit, but I had some things come up at home lately. I'll be posting about that soon. I'll also go back to my weekly cookbook project now that I'm getting back to cooking meals. For now, though, here's a review of a protein bar I picked up last week for an out-of-town trip.

I had to go out of town last weekend and had to stop at the drug store to get some Advil, a birthday card, some snacks for the trip, and pick up photos I had printed. I decided to grab a couple protein bars since I've been really off my game with protein since my tummy tuck.  I saw this one and decided to grab it.  I bought the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor since that's all the store had (drug stores don't usually have a good selection of quality protein bars and flavors).

It's got 21 grams of protein, 200 calories, 15 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of sugar. There's also 4 grams of sugar alcohols. I normally avoid sugar alcohols as they tend to not agree with me, but I knew 4 grams wouldn't cause any problems.

I've had the Pure Protein ready-to-drink protein shakes before and found them to be very sweet, so I never really used them as a new post-op unless that was all that was available.  I should have remembered this and just walked on by these bars.  I think they were going for a bar that has the look and feel of a Quest bar, but they missed the mark. Big time. It looks like a Quest bar and the texture is somewhat similar, but the taste....barf. I don't even know how to describe the taste, really. It didn't taste anything like chocolate chip cookie dough. The "chocolate chips" were kind of like little flakes that had some crunch to them. The ingredient list says "chocolate flavored chunks," but these were absolutely NOT chunks. I ate about 1/3 of the bar and threw it out.

I would say if there's absolutely nothing else you can find in the store and this is your only option to get a big chunk of protein in for the day, go for it. Otherwise, if you have the time and inclination, go to another store and get something else.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

tummy tuck "after" pictures

Here they are, what you've all been waiting for:  my "after" pictures. But first...

"Before" measurements: waist, 40"; hips, 48"; weight, 208 (morning of surgery).  The large hip measurement was largely due to my excess skin. 

"After" measurements:  waist 39.5"; hips, 44.5"; weight fluctuates between 200 and 203. So I lost about 3.5 inches of skin from my hip circumference and just a tad from my waist. This may change, though, since I'm still swelling; swelling can last for several months.  I'll take measurements again next month.

Here you go...


I had to crop this one a lot, because my scar is directly above the pubic area, which I obviously didn't want to put in the picture. My belly button looks so weird to me. But it's no longer frowning! The stitches were still in it at this point, which was a few days ago. The scar might look terrible, but the surgeon is very happy and says it's looking great. It will fade and soften over the next year. As you can see, I have some yellowing on the skin which is late-blooming bruising.

This was taken today. My stitches are out of my belly button. Apparently when you have real hips your underwear don't fall down. (That was a daily problem prior to surgery, no matter what style of underwear I wore. So annoying!)

I'm still swollen, but that should go away in a couple months.

So, how do I feel?  Physically, I feel pretty good. My skin still feels tight, but I don't have any pain. I'm sleeping in my bed again, although I'm still on my back, which I HATE; I'm a side sleeper. I've tried laying on my side, but I'm a chicken at the moment. I think I'm worried I'll mess something up inside, so I haven't done it.  I have more mobility. I'm still working on standing completely straight. It's a combo of tight muscles/skin and being afraid to stretch myself out; however, I'm upright enough that I'm no longer having back pain, which is a relief. I definitely have swelling, which makes me uncomfortable sometimes and limits me as to how long I can sit upright. I switch between the recliner, my computer desk and sitting up on the couch. I find that I have the most mobility in the morning, so I try to do whatever I need to do and then I relax the rest of the day. I still do some very light things around the house, but I try to stretch out in the recliner later in the day. And I get tired easily. I don't mean that I need a nap after taking a shower or throwing in a load of laundry, but I generally do need to sit down for a bit.  Mentally, I feel good. Way better than a couple weeks ago. But I still struggle with not being able to go back to daily like 100%, even though I've been cleared to do so. I know it takes time, but it's frustrating.

And here is a before and after so you can see how marks on the skin's surface get relocated due to the pulling down of the skin.

Before surgery, the freckle on the left and the laparoscopic surgery scar on the right were well above my belly button.

After surgery, they're below it. Kind of weird, huh?  (Note:  This picture was taken in the mirror so they're on opposite sides from the other picture.)

And how do I feel about my appearance?  I'm happy. There's some puckering along the incision, it's all scabby, and some of the purple marker is still there, but it's still very early and that might improve on its own. My belly button looks weird to me, but it's still healing, too. At first I felt like my thighs were suddenly HUGE and very saggy. But it's because my big ol' flabby belly was covering it before and now it's not, so my thighs are more obvious to me. And no one else sees the "huge" thighs; they comment on my skinny legs. I don't think anyone but me sees my "perceived" imperfections. True with all of us, yes?  And I think it's only natural to want to erase all signs of a lifetime of obesity and look like everyone else I considered "normal" when I was bigger, but at some point I need to accept myself as I am. For me personally, I don't want to go down the road of feeling like I need other work. It's just going to cost a ton of money I could be using for other things, and I'll never have perfection.  I just keep in mind that a lifetime of obesity is always going to be something I carry with me:  my insecurities, saggy skin in certain places, stretch marks that the tummy tuck didn't eliminate, etc. I just do the best I can with what I have. As long as I don't regain and I'm happy with me, that's what matters to me.

It's weird not having my flabby belly there.  It was with me for so long. Thinking back, I don't ever remember a time when I wasn't overweight. I find myself maneuvering in the ways that I did when I had my belly, such as squatting down with my knees pointed out in order to pick something up, or standing further away from the sink because I think my belly is still there.  I'm sure I'll adjust in time, though. I'm also thrilled that I can now see my feet, and I don't have to worry about finding shirts that are long enough to cover my belly roll and...other things.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

gluten-free granola: nutty cranberry maple

Recently I had a chance to try new snack:  Nutty Cranberry Maple Gluten-Free Granola by Bakery on Main ( a gluten-free bakery). It was purely by chance. A box of snack bags was shipped to someone at work and they put it in the cafeteria for all to enjoy.  I had more than one that day. :)  (Note:  I don't have celiac disease, or any other issues with gluten.)

I honestly didn't think I'd like a gluten-free product. I'd seen all the gluten-free breads and such in the grocery store, and they just don't look very appetizing. The sandwich rolls look like they could kill someone if they went airborne, and most of the products just don't look quite right. This granola was delicious, though, and I really enjoyed it. I really liked that the maple flavor wasn't overwhelming. There was just a hint, which is usually not the case with products containing maple flavor.  One thing I will say is that this shouldn't be left out in the open air. It can get a little sticky.

I love how this looks. You can see all the little goodies packed into the mix. If you're someone who likes the folded, super crunchy potato chips, you'll probably like this texture. It's got a ton of crunch. 

As you can see, the ingredients are all natural. I don't see anything artificial in there, so I'm thinking you can find this in Whole Foods and other natural food stores. Actually, I found this in the mainstream grocery store in the natural foods isle. This bag (12 ounces) was $5.79.

Calorie content appears to be less than regular granola.  There's 8 grams of sugar, which is manageable for me.  Carbs are high at 20 grams, but it's granola so there's really no getting around that.

Would I buy this again? Most definitely. But I'll need to eat it in moderation, because it's just so good!

If you want to check out their other products, go here:  Bakery On Main.  You can shop online!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

after the tummy tuck: a sneak peak

Here's a little teaser for you all.  I'll take proper "after" pictures, scar and all, next week. As you can see, I've got my compression garment on. It's on 24/7 pretty much.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

when will i feel normal again?

 I have to say, recovering from this surgery is hard. Very hard.

Yes, there was pain in the beginning; there's still tightness, numbness and weird sensations; and I have a pretty limited range of motion which is improving. But I'm talking about having to just sit around all day, everyday, with pretty much nothing to do and not much I CAN do. I can do some regular things, like shower and brush my teeth. It obviously takes longer, but it's easier now that my drains are gone.  I can bend over, but it's a pain in the ass:  it pulls on my back muscles, which are usually aching because I can't yet walk upright completely, and it's a little uncomfortable since I'm bending an area that was operated on. This means I can't really help my husband with scooping all the cat litter boxes and feeding the cats requires assistance. I also need help putting stuff in the oven and taking it out (I froze a couple casseroles before surgery). And Murphy's Law has kicked in big time since the surgery. If it can be dropped on the floor, I will drop it. And then I have to decide if I want to attempt to pick it up so I don't have to ask someone to pick it up for me, or leave it there all day in hopes that someone will notice it and pick it up (about 50/50 odds in my house).  I can't lift anything more than 10 pounds, so if I do laundry, I can't bring it upstairs to be put away (Who am I kidding? It doesn't usually get put away; it lives in the basket until we need it).  I can't really wash dishes, because the position puts a lot of strain on my already-strained back muscles. I know, because I tried.  I can manage the laundry and I can fold it, although I need one of those grabbing tools so I can get all the socks that I drop on the floor.

Tiffany trying to capture the balloon. She eventually got it
and ran with it, but let go and ran away
when she realized it was following her.

Yes, I have great company in my cousin and husband (who are both awesome BTW!), but I'm still left with being in a recliner for 90% of the day, watching TV and playing on my phone. I have other things I can do. In fact, I had a whole bunch of things I lined up:  jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku (thanks to my wonderful team at work), a cross stitch I started for my best friend like 10 years ago and never finished, and a couple books on my phone.  I tried doing a puzzle yesterday, but couldn't sit in the chair for long. I did one Sudoku puzzle, but got bored with it. Actually, I think the problem yesterday was just a general restlessness, along with a dose of swelling and discomfort. I really haven't done any reading. I usually read at bedtime, but I'm finding that after about five minutes I'm ready to sleep. Haven't attempted the cross stitch, although I got as far as having my husband get the bag for me. As you can see, I'm filling some of my time by taking pictures of the cats.

I'm making progress physically. I can shower more easily now that the drains are gone, although washing my hair is an exercise in contortion. I do a combination of facing forward and leaning over, followed by attempts to face the other way and lean back under the water so I can stretch a bit. I need something to hold onto for that, though, since I sometimes lose my balance. All my tape and gauze is gone, although I have a band-aid over my last drain hole, which I'm not ripping off because it's one of the good ones that will likely survive Armageddon before it falls off on its own (and it's in a sensitive spot...). My abs are still pretty tight, but that's improving a bit. I find that once I get moving around I can stand a bit straighter. That should clear up in the next week or so.  I really don't have any pain other than my back muscles, which is from walking hunched over. I will say that I have a lot of itchiness at the tops of my legs near my hips and around the ends of the incision. That's from healing and the nerves repairing themselves. I know it will pass, but it drives me insane sometimes.

Louise got caught red-handed stealing the flowers.

I never thought I'd miss the normal routine of personal hygiene, working, grocery shopping, and taking care of the cats, the house, and the husband.  Basically, just doing "stuff." I've had a few emotional moments where I wonder if I'll ever feel normal again. Logically I know I will, but it seems so far away. This isn't like having my gallbladder out, or having the gastric bypass, where I bounced back in a week or less. I know I'm in for months of swelling and numbness, no exercise, and having to wear a compression garment nearly 24/7.  But then I remember the payoff:  my stomach is flat (FLAT!!), I'll eventually have a greater range of motion, and I won't have to deal with the unpleasantness of the extra skin hanging on me (rashes underneath, having to tuck it into my pants, having to rearrange it so I can sleep on my side comfortably).

It's a long road, but I'm making progress. I just want "progress" to happen a lot faster!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

tummy tuck: recovery

Well, I made it through surgery and all that extra skin is gone and now I'm recovering.

Today is day seven of recovery (counting surgery day) and I'm feeling decent. A couple days ago I would have said "pretty good," but the swelling has kicked in so my compression garment is getting tighter, and I'm dealing with the back pain related to being sedentary and sleeping in one position. I don't feel terrible, but I don't feel quite as good as I did on Friday.

After surgery on Monday I wasn't feeling too bad. As a matter of fact, I felt quite alert. Obviously the drugs hadn't worn off yet. Getting up and to the bathroom was difficult and Bob had to help me get up. But otherwise I didn't feel too bad.

Tuesday...did not start out good. And I had to go to the surgeon later in the day, which I couldn't imagine having to do in my state.  I woke up and the pain and muscle tightness had set in. I woke up somewhere around 4 am having to use the bathroom. Even though Bob was sleeping on the couch just a few feet away, I didn't want to wake him up. Also, I was in pain and didn't want to get up at all. Although I had set my alarm to wake me up every four hours to take the pain meds, I found that they wore off after about 2.5 hours. I was hesitant to take them more often, but then said screw it. I took the equivalent of three doses at once. But since the pain was at about an 8 from the meds having worn off, it wasn't quite as much relief as I was hoping. So I laid there for another couple hours, dozing off and on. Finally I couldn't take the combination of the full bladder, gas pains (narcotics stop you up!), back pain and overall pain anymore and had to go use the bathroom. I must have spent at least a half our psyching myself up to get up. Then once Bob was in front of me to help me get up, I spent at least another five minutes sliding myself to the edge of the recliner and trying to decide when the right time was to actually get up. Eventually I got up, but holy cow the pain!! I honestly felt like I was tearing in two. It was awful. Then I had to get to the bathroom, use it, get back and get back in the recliner. I did it, but it was tough. I was actually sweating from the pain and crying because of the overall misery. But then something wonderful happened: the surgical center called to check up on me. I explained the pain issue and that the pain was at a constant 6 most of the night. I was told that they had given me one of the strongest narcotics they could and couldn't really give me anything stronger. I was then told to take Tylenol along with the pain meds, because it enhances the effects. After I hung up I immediately took two 500 mg Tylenol.  Best suggestion ever! My pain lowered considerably and I felt much better the rest of the day. I made it to the surgeon's office, where she declared that everything looked great and I was cleared to take a shower. No thanks. It was hard enough getting myself to her office.  She changed the dressing in my belly button (the look on Bob's face was hilarious!) and also the bandages around the drains.

Wednesday was better. Still difficult to get up and down, but I started doing it on my own. It was tough, but I managed.

Thursday I took my first shower since my cousin was arriving that day. It was a project, but I managed it by myself and didn't pass out or anything. I washed my hair and the important parts, but that was it. We threw the compression garment in the wash, as it was covered with leakage from the incision and drains. In the meantime I put on my second garment, which was smaller and tighter but I managed. Once the bigger one finished in the wash I threw it back on. I did pretty good the rest of the day and spent a little more time walking around the house. We had a casserole for dinner, which I had prepared and put in the freezer a couple weeks ago.

Friday I was back at the surgeon's office and got one drain removed! I was so nervous thinking it would be painful, but it wasn't at all. I felt maybe a small twinge but that was it. And I wouldn't even call it pain or even really discomfort. I will say, however, that I had the forethought to take my pain meds before we left the house. She took all the surgical tape off, as well as all the bandages. She told me to call on Monday and let her know the output on the remaining drain and if it was low enough, it would be taken out.  Dinner was pizza delivery.

Yesterday was emotional for me. Basically it was a "when will I feel normal again" thing. I didn't expect, at all, to be feeling good by now, so I didn't have any unrealistic expectations there. But the whole sitting/laying in a recliner 24/7, with nothing but TV, my cell phone, and a few walks around the house to occupy my time was (and still is) really getting to me.  I honestly didn't think that being this sedentary would bother me as much as it does. But I know this will take time. I knew it going into this. I just need to deal with it. Plus, the swelling has started. I managed to cook breakfast for all three of us yesterday, and I was ready for a good rest after that. Dinner was Chinese. When they went to pick up the food, they stopped at Walmart and got me some bra extenders for the compression garment. It has a hook-and-eye crotch, but with me being so tall, it was uncomfortable to keep it fastened. But without it fastened, the garment keeps riding up. So, I hooked together two bra extenders and now I can fasten it. Also, my sister came to visit, so that was great.

On Thursday I started reducing my usage of the narcotics and only took them when I woke up, went to bed, and went to the surgeon's office. Today I''m going to try skipping them. Most of what I'm feeling is back pain and muscle tightness in my abs, and I think Tylenol will take care of that.

This week has flown by and everyone has been great (thank you!!), even the kitties (I think they love me being home).  Let's see what this week holds.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

tummy tuck: the procedure

As you all know, I had my tummy tuck done this past Monday. I'm on day three of recovery, and it's not quite as bad as I thought it would be. It's tough, yes, but I'm not writhing in pain and in tears 24/7. Although I will admit there were tears yesterday morning. More on that in my next post.

I had to be at the surgical center by 8:40 am Monday morning, and the procedure was scheduled for 9:40 am. Timing seems odd, but whatever. I couldn't eat anything after midnight the night before; however, I was allowed to have certain liquids up until 6:30 am Monday. Among those was water, black coffee or tea, a bunch of stuff I don't remember, and cola. I thought cola was really strange, but since I don't drink soda anymore, I didn't bother to ask why that would be allowed. I had a little water and that was it. I arrived with my bag in tow: both my compression garments (two different sizes--I let my surgeon pick which one she felt fit best), clean socks and underwear, pajama pants to wear home, my lanyard (drains attach to it when taking a shower), and my license and insurance card.

I was very proud of myself for not having to take the Valium my surgeon prescribed for anxiety, but once they called my name the tremors set in. I wasn't cold, but I was shivering anyway. The nurses said that's my fight-or-flight response kicking in. After I suited up in my purple gown, compression socks and booties, they had me give a urine sample and then weighed me (208 pounds). They took my medical history and all that good stuff, then I went back to the pre-op room. I sat in the recliner while they hooked up a hose the gown. Apparently it pumps in warm air. Very heavenly. They then piled on some warm blankets in order to bring my veins to the surface. Just like last time, they could run the catheter in my hand so they had to do the bend of my arm. They said the veins in my hands are small. And through it all, I was still shaking.  Eventually I calmed down, though. Bob came in and sat while my surgeon marked up my body. He said it looked like a road map with circles, solid lines, and dotted lines all over the place. Then it was showtime. Bob kissed me goodbye and I was taken to the OR.  It amazes me how small ORs can be. It's not like you see on the primetime shows, although maybe it depends on the procedure being done. It was cold, too. So, they had me lay down, the IV started...and then I woke up in recovery two minutes later (or so it seemed).

The procedure started at 9:40 am and I was woken up at 12:30 pm, so it was pretty quick. I really wasn't in any significant pain, which was nice. I was definitely in fear of waking up in excruciating pain. It was more like a stinging, burning feeling. It wasn't terrible. They gave me some IV pain meds, but when I felt they weren't working they gave me some toast (so buttery and delicious!) so I could take a dilaudid pill. That seemed to work better. I looked down to see that they had put the compression garment on me before I woke up, I had my two drains, which are in the pubic bone area, and there was a bunch of gauze tucked in all over.  I still had purple pen marks on me, but most were gone.  Then they started getting my clothes together, got me dressed and in a wheelchair, and I was out the door by 2:30 pm. It amazes me that things happen that fast, but that's life in the 21st century I guess.

The ride home wasn't bad. I was nervous because there seems to be an above-average amount of potholes in my town. I got into the house and into the recliner and relaxed the rest of the day. I wasn't feeling tired, so I did a lot of texting and Facebooking. But once I started on the pain meds, I got pretty groggy and I've been dozing a lot. I'll be in the middle of reading something on my phone or watching TV and I just doze off, which is unusual for me.  But I need the rest so I'm not complaining.

So, how many pounds of skin came off?  7.7 pounds. I was hoping for more, but felt it would be 5 to 8 pounds.  At least now I will have a greater range of motion, I won't have to tuck my skin into my pants, and won't have to rearrange it when I turn on my side in bed.  And it won't itch in the same damn spot anymore!