Eight Months Since Surgery

This year is really flying by! I honestly can’t believe it has been that long since my surgery. Despite some of the troubles, it has gone by very quickly.

Medically speaking, I am in kind of a lull time with no appointments scheduled until next month (although we all know that is subject to change). I just keep plugging away at my journey, and even though the scale is still a fickle friend, I, and others around me, can tell I am still losing inches a lot, so the numbers should catch up any day now.

A funny little side story: if you follow me on Facebook, then you saw me dressed up for my niece’s wedding last month. I looked and felt great, and the whole experience gave me even more confidence. I had to laugh though, because I had just bought the pants a week before the wedding, and the day of I had to keep pulling them up because they were loose! Even the belt was only doing so much help. When I shopped for them, the saleswoman measured me at a 59, so I was swimming in a 60, and the 58 I bought at the time seemed just right with a belt. I never even dreamed of trying on a 56, which I may have been able to use LOL!

Last week was a mentally-exhausting week for me. Everything was coming due financially, including my first increased rent payment. Of course this was also after the expense of the wedding (which I wouldn’t trade for the world!). I am going to have a couple tight weeks money-wise, but I should be okay by the middle of the month. I have had to take a little break from the gym, however, as it costs over $20 per trip to go there. (More on the gym and exercise later).

The big stress last week though was with my insurance matters, which I thought were all settled. I had found a state program through Aetna that I was told would cover all of my existing services, so I switched over in August. However, I found out from my county caseworker that Aetna and other companies have a history of not paying for the home help that I wanted to stay with, who has been a complete Godsend. Apparently, they tell clients that they can stay with their agency of choice, but then don’t pay them, and don’t ever send their own people to do the care, and just take the money from the state. Last week was several dozen phone calls, totaling over 8 hours of time, going back and forth between my county office, Michigan Benefits Enrolls, Aetna, Social Security, and Medicare. Now, I am back to straight Medicare and Medicaid, but had to sign up for a no-cost Medicare Part D prescription plan, which won’t go into effect for 2-3 weeks. I should still be able to see my most important doctors and centers, and hopefully this is the last of the stress. It was so draining at times that I was in tears. I wouldn’t wish this kind of trouble on my worst enemy.

So, on to happier things! Despite not being able to get to the gym, I have found new things to do at and around my apartment. I have started doing both chair and standing squats a few times a week. I almost always go down the steps in my building if I have to leave, check mail, or meet someone, and sometimes go up. If I have extra trash that I want to get out my apartment before trash day, I take it outside to the back of the building and put it the dumpsters. And, last week both Monday and Friday, I walked to the post office! The best part is that even though I still have to be cautious walking on all the uneven pavements and cracks, I didn’t feel like a complete drunk like the first time I did it! Yesterday, I got in over 6,000 steps and never went to the gym, just a couple stores, and most of the time in those I was not pushing a cart. Confidence and self-esteem continue to grow exponentially!!

When I do get back to the gym, I have so many options available to me that I am really excited to mix things up even more. Of course I have my leg and arm strength training (remembering to check the resistance from now on LOL), and for cardio I have the treadmill, recumbent bike, regular bike, rowing machine, stair climber, Ark trainer, and soon again I will try the elliptical. I don’t know about you, but I know that I never imagined I would be interested in so many choices, and that I have arrived at a place where I can comfortably try them!

My housing search continues, with both setbacks and progress. I put in pre-applications for three different co-op complexes that are primarily senior-based but I thought had units for mobility-impaired as well. These were in Ecorse, Belleville, and Dearborn Heights. Well, Saturday I got a notice that the first two are only 62+ apartments, so I guess I am on the waiting list for Dearborn Heights. This week I am going to look into some complexes in Taylor that are closer to expressways than I originally thought.

I will close for now. I apologize for not writing a report in a little while, but last week really took so much out of me. I know things can only go up from here, and still believe that everything happens for a reason, even if that reason isn’t immediately clear. Thanks for reading and continuing to be interested. I love you all immensely!

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Major Accomplishment

As most of you saw yesterday on Facebook, I have officially reached over 200 pounds lost from my highest weight. That was completed in about 19 1/2 months! That fact continues to astound me! I can’t get over how much that, even though I still have a long way to go, that I have my life back in so many ways!

My NP at the weight center is very happy with my progress. It was kind of funny because we kept looking at why the numbers have slowed down. She repeatedly said that she didn’t want me thinking she was harping on me, it was just that she can see that I am doing everything right so we wanted to rule out any possible issues. We pretty much came to the conclusion that the body is still trying to catch up to me. Having lost so much in the year before surgery, the body is probably still in shock and saying Hold Up Here!! That is why I am paying attention to the numbers less and less. I know how I feel, how my clothes feel, my diabetes is gone essentially, blood pressure under control, down to less than half my original prescription medications, ,etc. I could not have done this without my tool, and I still plan to continue my success!

They took some blood to make sure vitamin levels are still good, and also I finally got to discuss my sleeping issue. She wrote me a prescription for a low-dose of Ambien to try, so as soon as I can drop it off and pick it up, I will give that a shot. If I experience any of the side effects or wake up with dirty dishes in the sink that weren’t there when I went to bed, I will stop it. But hopefully this will help me sleep throughout the night!

I don’t go back to the weight center until October 9, and it seems crazy that it will then be 9 months post op! This year has really flown by!

Elsewhere, I have not been back to the gym since Tuesday, as my back is better but still not great. Yesterday, after finally getting home, I had to take a pain pill. It seems pretty good today, but I wanted to be safe and give it one more day to relax. As long as I am up to it tomorrow, I will return and do both cardio and strength training, but at an appropriate pace. Again, I am not giving up, just listening to my body. I hate when things like this happen, because I am really enjoying trying different things at the gym, and if you don’t work out, you don’t know that feeling of being wiped out and totally energized at the same time!

My quest for a new place to live continues, with little progress, but a few epiphanies. I realized that I should not be limited to locations due to transportation, because the most important thing is to have rides for medical appointments, and insurance transportation should take care of that no matter where I am. And, if I am in a better location closer to shopping and a gym, my other transportation costs won’t be so high as they are now. Also, I am trying to get out of Section 8 housing and looking for strictly income-based leases. Here, I am penalized for trying to earn and save money. Just doing my work-at-home part time job for under 10 hours a week, they raised my rent over $100 a month, and this place is not worth that much. Before that, I was just thinking about looking for a part-time job outside of the home, maybe working 20 hours a week or so somewhere, as my confidence is getting so much better. But if I did that, all that money would go to rent. The next few months here are going to be pretty tight for me. I found a couple options, but not a lot yet, so if anyone has any leads, please let me know. I would love to be in a semi-central location like Livonia, Farmington, etc, but really anywhere north or west of River Rouge would be an improvement LOL!

I think there were other things that I wanted to discuss this morning, but they have escaped my mind at this time, so I will bring this to a close. Your support and encouragement still amaze me, I love you all so much!

Some Updates

I realized its been a few weeks since my last entry, and that is a good and a bad thing. Not too much relating to my journey has happened, positive or negative. I just keep plugging away, and not paying attention to the numbers on the scale but rather all the things I can do now that were not possible less than a year ago.

Most of you that follow me on Facebook have seen that I have been pretty successful at adding new strength and cardio exercises at the gym. I am loving the new variety, and my confidence at trying new machines that seemed intimidating or foreign. Just in the last couple weeks, I have tried the arc trainer, the rowing machine, and the regular exercise bike, along with adding in three leg machines. The arms are going well, with the exception of the bicep curls. For some reason, those just seem to kill my arms, especially my left one. This may be just me, or it may be due to a trait that the Martino men have where we can not fully straighten out our arms. I may try the machine another time or two, and then if I still am feeling too much pain I will discontinue it and perhaps find a replacement.

Meals and eating have gone well, and I treated myself last week by purchasing an air fryer that I found on sale for a great price. I am excited to try it. I think tomorrow night I am going to make chicken breast tenders and brussel sprouts in it! If it works, I will post a picture of the finished products! For those unfamiliar with them, air fryers are like mini convection ovens where you cook or “fry” all sorts of things with no or very little oil, so it is a lot healthier for you. With my oven not working that great, this will be nice to have some crispy food again!

To get a little down on myself, there is one issue that is causing both physical and mental trouble. Below the extra skin of my stomach apron is a bulge between my stomach and inside left leg. This area has been around for quite some time, and is most likely the source of my lymphedema. However, with my weight loss and ever-shifting body shape, the bulge is more pronounced than ever. I can only wear certain pairs of shorts out in public now because it sometimes comes through the legs of them when I sit down. The only real long pants I have for everyday wear are sweats, which I do wear every time at the gym now, but are not great during these summer months. I have a couple inexpensive pairs of lightweight active wear pants on order from Walmart and should get them next week. The physical trait is not only a burden for getting around in certain situations, I have become so self-conscious about it and just catching a glimpse of it makes me want to cry. Unfortunately, this is part of what I will have to wait to have removed surgically until I have been at goal weight for about six months, so I am guessing I will have to deal with it for at least another year. I’ll take flabby arms and thighs any time, I just can’t wait to get rid of this problem. It’s crazy how large and heavy it is!

This Monday I go for my next round of eye injections for the swelling, and then the following Monday I see my NP and psychologist at the weight center. There I will definitely inquire about a prescription to help me sleep. Most nights I am still averaging only about 4-5 hours, and that is usually broken up into segments. Brightness, temperature, etc, do not seem to make a difference. I have tried so many natural remedies that I think it is time for the strong stuff, at least on a temporary basis.

I think that is about it for now. I apologize for not writing sooner. I love you all, and your continued support and encourage still amaze me every day!

Diet & Exercise Appointments

Wednesday this past week I visited with the dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Weight Center. Both visits went fairly well.

Jessica, the dietitian, went over all my medications, fluid intake, diet, and everything in between. Interestingly enough, I discovered I had been taking half of the recommended amount of calcium citrate, but because the kidney stone was most likely caused by too much calcium, she said to keep doing what I have been doing. She did confirm that I can now try things such as bread, brown rice, and pasta, as long as they are whole grain and I eat my protein and vegetables first. I am going to start out slow, but it will be nice to incorporate some more variety into my life.

Truth be told, the visit with exercise physiologist Lori was more interesting to me this time. It was nice to hear that I am making the right kind of progress, even with my setback with the kidney stone. She likes that I am easing into new things and not pushing myself as much. She thinks that my plan to do about an hour at the gym 4-5 times a week is good instead of the 90 or so minutes I was doing before. I did find out that I was doing exercises in the wrong order. I should be doing some kind of cardio warm-up before doing the strength training, something to get my muscles and joints moving. So that is why today I did the treadmill, then arm machines, then the recumbent bike. She also says that shorter times on each cardio machine will make it more diverse and allow me to play with things like speed and resistance more often. She likes that I am working on things like incline and going hands-free on the treadmill as well, working them in a little at a time rather than during the whole routine. I have to say today I went hands-free for several shorter periods, and I was a little sore, but nothing like I was the last time where I could not bend over for 48 hours afterwards!

We also discussed adding in leg exercises, and so next time I am at the gym I am going to try those along with some cardio. She recommended starting with the leg press first a couple times to see how I like it, and then slowly add in leg curls and leg extensions. She said to add one at a time so that if something doesn’t work for me, I know which one it is. We talked about other machines as well, but those are designed to concentrate on specific areas of the legs, so she said let’s master these first and then get more specific if we need to.

I am also going to add the rowing machine into my cardio rotation soon, so that I have three different exercises to choose from and don’t have to do the same thing every time. And, I will also try the Planet Fitness 30-minute express workout soon as well, as that has a little bit of everything and should be low-impact enough to not hurt myself on any machine. Lori also told me that I can do chair squats if I have a day that I don’t feel like going to the gym, or just want to get a little something in at home. Once my whole apartment mess is resolved I will get into those.

Just like my surgeon, I am blessed to have a team of Jessica and Lori that celebrate all of the victories and benefits I have achieved apart from the scale. It is so nice to have such great support. I won’t see these two for three whole months (unless any issues arise), and it will feel strange not seeing them for that long, but that also shows that I am getting better and stronger in my journey.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. Nothing exciting here except laundry tomorrow LOL! I love you all!

Six Months Post-Op

I can not get over the fact that six months has gone by since my surgery, and all that has happened in the last year and a half. It still amazes me!

I saw my surgeon today for follow-up, and lets get into the numbers:

Heaviest known weight: 558 on 12/31/15

Surgery weight: 438 on 1/3/17

Today’s weight: 360

78 pounds gone since surgery, and 198 gone forever overall! Surgeon is very happy with the progress and my health as a whole. He said my surgery scars are healing very well. He also said that I may have a small hernia near the belly button that we will keep an eye on. It does not hurt, so he said it may just be where my belly button comes in. Nothing to worry about at this point.  We talked about my kidney stone, and he did say that both kidney and gall stones are common after bariatric surgery, so he advised definitely keeping up on the fluids. My funniest moment was when we were discussing my lymphedema and the stomach apron, and he said that we will probably have to look at surgical options to remove the excess skin. I said yes, but inside I thought, “Duh!!” LOL!!

I wanted to tell you that I have gotten a big mood boost the past week to ten days with residents of my apartment building. I have had about a half dozen in that time tell me how good I am looking, even seeing me about 5 days apart. My one neighbor on this floor didn’t know I had the surgery, and when I told him all the details, he fist-bumped me and said that the effort is definitely showing, that he is noticing all the time, and to keep up the great work!

I have also noticed that clothes are continuing to fit differently, and all my flab and extra skin is constantly shifting, so I am positive I am losing inches like crazy. As I was discussing with my sister-in-law, I am quickly learning that that and my health are a better gauge of what is going on than the numbers on the scale. I have noticed that it hurts to sit in certain positions more often because my tailbone is more exposed. I have some back pain which I have not had before, and have found out that is common as well.  I bought two 2X shirts yesterday at Meijer, and even though I don’t think I am ready to wear them outside of the house, I could get them on and it is only a matter of time before they fit beautifully! The stomach apron and all the extra skin around my upper legs and thighs are really getting inconvenient sometimes, even though I know they are good signs. I know I am probably at least a year off from that type of surgery, but it will be such a blessing when I get it! I make my own soundtrack when I walk from parts of my skin slapping against other parts LOL!

Wednesday I see the dietician and exercise physiologist, and it will be interesting to hear what they both have to say. I know that at six months I am able to add back in some bread and such, but I want to very careful and cautious about it, and only add the right things. I also want to talk about strength training exercises for my legs and working those in so that maybe that will have some impact on the flab. I see a few machines at Planet Fitness that look interesting, but again I want to make sure I am doing the right ones. I will also ask her opinion on the 30-minute express workout at the gym, and see if she thinks it would be a good idea a couple times a week just to mix things up.

Also coming up this week on Thursday is Orientation and Assessment for the county door-to-door transportation, even though I have started using it. Supposedly it should not be a difficult appointment, and then he will approve me for transportation for a couple years. Hopefully there will not be any problems there.

Happy Independence Day tomorrow to all of you. For me this year the day is taking on a different meaning as I am going to celebrate my independence and getting my life back. What an unbelievable journey it has been so far, and it is far from over!

Love you all!

Healing

Good afternoon everyone. I am recovering fairly well from my kidney stone procedure this past Wednesday. The first couple days were a little touch-and-go with pain and sensitivity in that area down there, but for the most part that has gone away.

I will be calling the urologist early next week for a follow-up appointment, and there I hope that they determined what caused the stone, and maybe some ways to prevent more in the future.

I have to give a quick shout-out to Beaumont Health. I have had almost everything performed by them in my journey (except for Wound Care and my initial time at Detroit Receiving in the beginning). All the staffs at Taylor, Troy, Dearborn, and Wayne have been incredibly friendly and helpful. I never expected to not be so nervous in an OR, as I still have traumatic thoughts of all my surgeries as a child, but the nurses and techs have all made me feel relaxed, have treated me with respect and dignity, and made me as comfortable as the situations could be.  Because of my past, I still get very nervous in pre-op, but then the actual experience never is as bad as I think it will be. After I have left each hospital, the staff from the floor or center has called me the day after to make sure I am doing good and if I have any questions, and I have received thank you cards from the staff in the mail. The one from this week actually have everyone’s signature that I came in contact with, and they wrote who they were (recovery, pre-op nurse, etc). That little gesture means so much. Maybe other hospitals are doing this now, but Beaumont is the first I have seen. Great patient care and customer service!

I am still not very happy about having to remove the two-foot long stent at home, but I am sure I will get through it okay. It’s funny because the nurse said it does not feel as bad as having a catheter taken out, but then recommended taking a pain pill thirty minutes before LOL. Not exactly reassuring! I was supposed to do it Monday, but my home help worker Yvette does not believe I will be able to access it on my own because of the extra skin hanging from the stomach, so she will help me when she comes on Tuesday. She definitely deserves some recognition – she has been a blessing so many times!

I have stayed safe and decided that I will wait until a day or two after the stent is removed to resume going to the gym and such, as hard as it is stay away. I just don’t want to cause any issues in that area and make things worse somehow. I am going a little stir-crazy though!! I can’t wait to feel more active and vital again.

Elsewhere, some things are coming together, and I am still in limbo on others. I filled out the necessary paperwork May 31 for the Department of Health to cover my Medicare transition, and have yet to hear anything back. If I don’t by mid-week, I will start stalking my case worker again.

However, I did get another deferment/forbearance on my student loans for a year, so that is good. And, I turned in my updated information to the housing commission yesterday, and it looks like no issues there. I also asked about relocating to another public housing area, and she said that after October, I just have to give 30 days notice, and that it is okay to get on other waiting lists now. So, my next big project is researching locations and then maybe trying to see them in person. I really wish I could pick up this building I am in and just relocate it to a more central area, ha-ha!!

Thank you for all the prayers and thoughts last week, that love made all the difference for me during this new experience. Love you all!

Obsession

Good Afternoon!

Just a brief note to catch everyone up on more of my journey. The most difficult part of this for me has to be not putting too much stock in the numbers on the scale. I’ve written about it before, and I have been better mentally, but it is still extremely challenging. I just expect more dramatic results, but I forget that I came so far before I ever had the surgery, so my body will be different.

Anyway, I try to weigh myself with my home scale once a week, on Wednesdays. Last week I missed it because that was the beginning of my not feeling well and the trip to the hospital. I weighed myself yesterday, and my weight was the exact same that it was two weeks ago, to the ounce.

I was, of course discouraged. The numbers have been at a stall for quite some time it seems. But, then I had to remind myself that considering what I went through last week, this was actually pretty good. For three days, I probably only consumed about 500 calories or less due to stomach pain and the hospital’s crazy diet. I was also very short on protein and water consumption those days, which can impact things as well. Plus, in the hospital, I was pumped with IV fluids and anesthesia for some of the time. That can also cause gain. So, to remain steady over that time really isn’t the end of the world.

And, there’s more. There are certain cargo shorts that I prefer to wear because the longer length looks better with my legs. Unfortunately these are still from the more expensive big and tall online store. Anyway, I had been wearing size 4x in these, and I took a big chance and ordered two pairs of 2x, thinking that I could use them eventually. They came on Saturday, and they actually fit!! From 8x to 2x in under a year and a half! Also, my home help person still insisted that I am losing, so we measured the inches around my waist yesterday, and I am down 1.5 inches from the end of March!

So, my body is still responding, just in different ways. Hopefully the scale will start reflecting it soon, but at least I know that I am still headed in the right direction.

Just had to share my victories from this week. Love you all!