Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

King Tut in a CPAP mask


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Life Beyond CPAP

My CPAP rubber parts have been soaking in white vinegar/distilled water for a final cleaning before I pack the whole thing up to put away in the back of my closet.  The machine itself cost over $1,300 so I’m taking very good care of it, just in case I need it again at some point.

But for now, and hopefully forever, my sleep apnea is gone.  I had a home sleep study that showed my apneas have gone from 38/hr to 1.3/hr – and normal is under 5/hr.  I only snored for 3 minutes the whole night.  I was happy dancing to hear the word that I’m normal and no longer need the machine to help me breathe at night.

Much as I didn’t like being tethered to my ResMed CPAP, not using it has been an adjustment, one I didn’t really expect.  For one thing, it’s awfully quiet in the room.  Roomates told me at conferences that the machine didn’t make that much noise, but as the masked person with the elephant hose, let me tell you that there is a persistent wooooshing sound in my ear as the air moved.  It was actually comforting and after getting used to it, the sound helped me sleep.  I think I’ll get a “white noise” sound machine to do the same thing for me now.

My special CPAP-friendly pillow is in storage and I’m adjusting to being able to move my head without the mask shifting out of position or the hose wrapping around my neck and strangling me.  Well, not really, but sometimes it felt like that.   Now, though, after several months of restless sleep and fatigue, I wake up feeling rested and having had deep, vivid dreams – which means I’m getting REM sleep.

One of the things I had heard before my surgery was that bariatric surgery patients – both bypass and lapband – often found that medical conditions often disappeared on their own.  Things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.  So I had suspected that my sleep problems, which began acting up 2 months after the surgery, were related to getting a lapband.

Losing weight can also help the apnea go away or at least be more minimal in intensity.  But I’ve been almost this low before one year after I got my CPAP, and all that happened is that my air pressure were adjusted slightly.  This time, it’s quite different.  I’m more than ready for it.


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Feeling More Normal

Last week at this time I was feeling pretty crummy.   Today is a vast improvement.  The lab results came back normal, so there are no nutritional deficiencies I need to fix.  Best, though, was the visit to my lapband surgeon on Monday morning. He and the nice nurse (as opposed to the one I talked with last week) were very clear that I am more than a lapband to them, and that I should have contacted them weeks before – not for the dizzyness so much as the fact that I was throwing up multiple times a week.

It seems that what I thought was an adjustment period to more band restriction actually was a big red flag that there was too much fluid in my band.  And there wasn’t that much in the first place.  But as the doctor said, this isn’t a contest.  Some people need a lot of fluid for their proper restriction and others just need a little. It’s a matter of figuring out where each of us are on the spectrum.  I now have clear instructions on when to call the office for an adjustment.

As for the “OJ or no OJ” part of the whole upset last week, the nurse just laughed kindly and said that a glass of OJ wouldn’t kill me if I needed one, even though juices do have a ton of sugar.  Maybe a small glass would do it, or eating an orange instead of drinking, although that may be a problem due to the membranes around the sections.  Skins and things are still problematic.

I’m also apparently getting way more protein than I actually need (that’s me, always striving to win the top prize) and I can cut back a little on that and incorporate more fruits and veggies.  Such as grapes with cheese, or peeled apple slices dipping into peanut butter, or chopped apple slices added to chicken salad.  I’d been afraid to do this because I didn’t was afraid of throwing up food.  Well, duh, I was throwing up a lot so no wonder.

Since my visit on Monday morning, I’ve noticed that I’m actually hungry but able to stay within my 1000-1200 calorie range with low-ish carbs and fats.  I haven’t had tummy problems at all this week, and have been pushing fluids, since all the doctors agreed that my dizziness, fatigue, and lack of energy were probably the result of dehydration.  How you can be dehydrated on 64 oz/day, but maybe all that throwing up messed things up.  In any case, I’ve been drinking 80+ oz and feeling better.

Moral of the story:  don’t disregard persistent physical symptoms.  See a doctor/healer and have things checked out.


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Between a Medical Rock and a Hard Place

It’s hard enough to follow medical instructions when you only have one set of them.  Having more than one set puts us patients between a medical rock and a hard place.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing some dizziness when I bend down or stand up suddenly, plus headaches, lack of energy, and fatigue even though I’m getting at least 7 hours of sleep using my CPAP.   People at work have been asking if I’m okay because apparently I’m very pale.  I finally decided it was enough of a concern that I should get it checked out.

Yesterday I went to the health plan and got checked out. They took 4 vials of blood to run a battery of tests including checks on levels of B-12, vitamin D, potassium, and iron.  I was asked what I eat on a typical day and how much I usually drink (60-68 oz of water).  Even without seeing the lap results, the doctor said it seems my potassium and electrolyte levels are low, as well as probably my iron.  The things I know I’m doing right are protein and calcium, but I haven’t really figured out how to eat the right kinds of foods to give me nutritional balance in much less food and with the restrictions that come with the band. There’s a lot I can’t eat.

I was told that I should be drinking Gatorade in addition to my water, to increase my electrolytes, and having a glass of OJ in the morning.  While I adore OJ, the lapband people told me to avoid all juices and fruits because of the natural levels of sugars and carbs.   They want me eating about 40 gms carbs per day, which I haven’t begun to reach.  But since my last fill in late January, I’ve been working hard to keep my carbs lower than I did before – and now that I think on it, that’s when I started to feel dizzy and tired.

So what to do:  listen to the “whole body” doctor or the “lapband and weight loss” doctor?  No matter what, I’m going to be violating someone’s medical advice.  I called the lapband office to talk with a nurse, but found them pretty dismissive of me getting advice from anyone else, which made me more upset.  She called back 10 minutes later to say the surgeon wants to see me on Monday morning at 8am. Lab results won’t be back by then but being able to talk with him and not just nurses is a Good Thing.

I’m willing to follow a limited eating program.  I knew that was part of the deal when I got the band – and let’s be honest, it’s just necessary on any food plan.  I don’t expect to be able to eat everything I see or want.  But I want to feel better, have more energy, be more balanced even if it means the weight loss is slower.   I’ve lost 85 lbs at this point in under a year; it’s going to be slower from now on anyway.

I just wish the doctors would understand that I’m a person and not just a lapband or a set of numbers on a lab report.  It’s my job to remind them and figure this out for myself if they can’t come to terms amongst themselves.

Image source:  http://allergyasthma.wordpress.com


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Feeling the Restriction

I had my second saline fill almost a month ago and am finding it much harder than I’d anticipated after fill #1.   There definitely is restriction and I find that I’m PB’ing almost every day, so I’m watching food very carefully.  I think the problem today was eating too soon after having taken a pill (which is hard by itself).  Every day it seems that something goes wrong, but I really don’t know why I couldn’t keep down yogurt.  I mean, how can you gag on yogurt?

So I was anxious going to Boston this weekend, since it meant eating out and being away from normal routines.   I stocked up with some NuGo Chocolate Peanut Butter bars for the train rides (it’s a 2 1/2 hr train ride from New Haven to Boston’s Back Bay station, only 2 blocks from my hotel; no way was I going to drive).   I also brought a water bottle I refilled often, and a blender bottle with individual packets of protein powder.   I rounded out my meals with Greek yogurt parfaits from Starbucks, which was right in the hotel.  I’d hoped to be able to have a crab cake appetizer at Legal Seafood, but given the state of my tummy, the yogurt and protein worked out better.  Plus they were lots cheaper.

But being in Boston was wonderful.  I’ve only been back once since moving away in 2007 and it was great to see old stomping grounds and do a little shopping (zilch at Filene’s Basement, which doesn’t have many fluffy lady sizes at all but scored a pair of on-sale womens petite pants at Talbots that fit perfectly).  Didn’t really feel like spending much time in the mall, though I walked around for exercise, but I finished my Friday getting a hot stone massage at the spa, which was awesome.

Saturday was Family History Day, co-sponsored by Ancestry.com and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  They had hoped to get 350 people and ended up getting another meeting room and topping out at 731 people, the max that the fire code would allow in the spaces.  It was a totally awesome event with 6 different classes (2 offered twice) on topics on immigration and naturalization, organizing materials, getting the most from your ancestry.com subscriptions, Family Tree Maker software, and resources available through NEHGS.

They also brought in professional equipment for free scanning of documents onto individual flash drives as well as offering free individual consultations with professional genealogists.  I took advantage of both – they were great opportunities and were booked up through the day.   I’ve been playing around online with new eyes and am starting to figure out how to better track what information I have and what steps to take next.   The event was so worth it on many levels.


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New Year’s Thinking

Saturday is my official weekly weigh-in day, although I usually weigh myself every morning.  This was the first one of the new year which was cause to look back and take stock of the year just passed.  A lot has changed:

  • January 1, 2009:  weight 305 lbs
  • April 3, 2009 (day I started WW again):  weight 310 lbs  (up 5 lbs)
  • October 29, 2009 (surgery day):   weight 261 lbs (lost 49 lbs)
  • January 2, 2010:  weight 236.2 lbs (lost 73.8 total with 24.8 lbs down post-op)

I didn’t start the year with one of those crazy goals of losing 65 lbs in a year.  I try never to create goals that are so specific and big because that makes them look impossible before I even start.   I just knew that I was unhappy at that weight and both disgusted and scared that I’d gained back 95% of the weight it had taken me 2 years to lose  from 2002-2004.   I was also tired of being unhappy, disgusted and scared.

But my wake up call was hearing from the orthopedic surgeon that I needed a knee replacement but doing it at that weight, there was no guarantee that it would last more than 3 years.  No way in hell I would do that major surgery without reassurance that it would last at least 15-18 years.   It’s a chicken and egg thing for many of us:   in order to lose weight, we need to exercise which is hard when the joints are bone-on-bone.  But repairing the joint requires us to have lost considerable weight first – which is hard to do with the bad knee.

So instead of beating myself up and saying, “Oh, I’m lazy and terrible and need to lose 160 lbs by the end of the year,” I just did one thing at a time.  It’s a lot more impressive looking back and seeing what was accomplished but I can’t say I mapped it all out.  I’m a big planner but this time my brain is in a completely different place and the results just follow from taking one next step after another.

I haven’t added as much exercise to my lifestyle as I need to, and am taking a next step to change that, too.  I got a Wii console and Wii Fit Plus for Christmas and now that Christmas is packed away, will be setting that up so I have an at-home exercise option.  On dark winter days I just want to come home after work and hunker in with the cat.  But there’s no reason I can’t do exercise videos, Comcast fitness on demand on the cable, and/or Wii Fit to get the blood moving.  Is it the same as a gym workout?  No, of course not.  But for a couch potato, it’s a change in the right direction.

Not a goal but an expectation for 2010 is that I will drop my weight into ONEderland for the first time in 30 years.   With that will be a complete wardrobe change, since everything currently in the closet, dresser, and storage bins will be too big.  I’ve already packed up and given away clothes that I’d been saving for some day if I ever lost weight and there’s not much left to pull out.  While I won’t invest in a full wardrobe, I’m going to need clothes!  Especially with a family wedding and a national conference to attend within the next 6 months. I can finally start shopping in stores with prettier clothes with better fitting options – and I’m going to take them.

I am not the same person I was last year.

  • I’m smaller and taking steps to continue my positive directions with body image and size.
  • I am eating healthier and in realistic portions.
  • I am happy with and proud of what I have accomplished.
  • I have more self-confidence and pride in my appearance.
  • I walk faster and with less pain.
  • I am treating myself with respect, both mentally and physically.

I’m going in the right direction and know I will accomplish what I’ve set out to do, no matter how long it takes.


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Heading back to work tomorrow

Pumpkins on the StairsMy restful healing time off is over and I head back to the office tomorrow morning.  After 2 1/2 weeks of sleeping until I woke up, the clock will rudely awaken me at 5:30am.  Tessie and I have gotten used to not hearing the clock, and I’m not sure which of us will be most deeply asleep when the assault comes.  She’s going to miss me lots, as I will her.

But I’m getting bored at home, and lonely.  I only had one visitor while on my leave and although I’ve talked to plenty of people by phone, email and Twitter, it’s just not the same as face to face people contact.  I’m guessing that close to 1/2 of the day tomorrow will be spent checking in with people and seeing how much stuff piled up in anticipation of my return.

I feel a little as though I’m in high school.  What will I wear?  What will I do for lunch?  What if I forget my password(s)?  What if no one likes me?  Well, okay, that one isn’t really an issue.  But still.  What will I wear?  I’ve lost 12 lbs since I was there last, and have clothes for it being colder but not so much for the 50’s.  But I want to show off a little and not go in on day one wearing ultra-baggy clothes.  We’ll see.

Food will be a little tricky.  I’m eating small bits 5-6 times a day and am bringing some of those teeny Glad plastic bowls so I can divide up some yogurt from the dining hall (I know they have some I can eat) so I can split it into different “meals”.  Tomorrow is the first day of Category Two, which means I can add fish to the menu, but it makes sense to try it at home first before bringing tuna to work, in case my body has problems.

As for the passwords, well, I’m hoping finger memory will bring them back when I need them.


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Real Food Tastes Wonderful

funny-pictures-kitten-and-stuffed-animal-make-a-punNot that I’m eating a lot of it.  But still, it’s way more tasty than endless ounces of water, Crystal Light, and my small portions of ensure.   No, I’ve graduated to 8 oz of soft food per day.  This week that includes eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, mashed potatoes, thin oatmeal, and canned or cooked fruit and veggies.

After seeing the doctor yesterday for my follow up, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things to make sure I had the right stuff since my shelves were pretty bare of almost everything except at least a dozen little tubes of Crystal Light tubs.  I was almost overwhelmed by the amount and colors and aromas of food in the store and was glad I had a very small list and could spend not too much time.  I’m not ready to be around accessible food like that.

My first meal was 2 oz of 0% Fage with 1 canned peach slice.  It took me 30 min. to eat and tasted divine.  Dinner was 2 scrambled eggs, except I couldn’t eat both – it was too much food – so I gave the last part to the kitty, who gobbled it up.  She’s thrilled that mommy is back to having food she eats on plates for her to investigate.

My incisions are healing nicely, especially now that the bandaids are off (somehow everyone forgot to mention that I only needed them for 2 days post-op – I think they need to rewrite some of their documentation).  I go back to the surgeon in 2 weeks for my first saline fill.

For those who don’t know, the lapband system has the actual band part itself, which separates out a small pouch at the top of the stomach.  It holds about 1 oz at a time.  The band fits around the pouch and is connected with very tiny tubing under the skin to a port that’s sutured under the skin in the middle of the abdominal area.   Nothing is visible to the naked eye except the surgery scars.

Inside the little band is a tiny balloon that is filled with saline solution injected into the port, going down the tubing and filling the balloon, thus tightening the band to make it more restricted.  Except of course they only fill a tiny bit at a time, and sometimes fluid can be removed if the band is too tight.  My whole band only holds 10 cc of fluid, which is not much.   It’s a dance of sorts to find the “sweet spot” of fullness that allows me to eat/drink what I need but restricts me from overdoing it and eating everything in sight.  Not that that’s likely now, since I get full on an ounce of yogurt!

I’m feeling good, except for my continuing knee pain, and as of this morning, and down 59.2 lbs since April.  I don’t really know my surgery day weight, since I gained about 7 lbs of fluids while I was in the hospital and lost all of those plus another 10 lbs.  The doctor told me to expect only about 5-6 lbs more in the next two weeks, which still sounds pretty good to me.

I pulled some clothes out and realized I can wear things I haven’t worn in at least 4 years – and some things are too silly looking to keep wearing.  It helped that I saw Stacy & Clinton yesterday on a WNTW rerun, and their makeover victim candidate’s before clothes looked a lot like mine.  Major incentive to weed!