Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

It’s been over two weeks since I last made a post and I have a feeling people are starting to wonder where I’ve been.  Good news. I’m still here!

A while ago, I mentioned that I saw a common trend in CDH1 bloggers.  When people start to do well, they slow down blogging because they are too busy living their regular lives.  Well this has happened to me as well and I’m super happy about it.  But more on that later.  First I wanted to do a big food and activity update since it’s been a while since I’ve really gotten into the nitty gritty of it all.  This is more for people who have had this type of surgery but educational for others as well.

Food update:

Being the holiday season, it only seems appropriate to start this post discussing food.  I eat frequent small portions throughout the day.  I have learned that smaller portions chewed well are the way to go.  I make sure to chew carbohydrates REALLY well since they are harder to digest.  I could stuff myself with calories to the point of feeling uncomfortable, but then I’m left feeling a lot of pain and agony for the next 1/2- 1 1/2 hours. Not worth it!

I will eat a bite or two of bread but most of the time I avoid bread.  When I do have some bread, it’s always some sort of brown bread (rye, whole wheat, pumpernickle) and ALWAYS combined with protein.  Even with my protein rule, I avoid white bread because it always makes me feel ill afterwards.  Goodbye, Wonderbread.

Thankfully, I am able to tolerate foods higher in sugar these days.  As long as I eat a load of protein before the meal, I seem to be fine.  I was able to eat a whole piece of tiramasu after Christmas dinner.   I paced myself over a period of about 20-30 minutes but I was fine afterwards.  This has come with a heafty price though.  More sugar = return of acne!  I had heard about this before but sugar is definitively a pro-inflammatory food.

One of my favourite things to eat these days is savoury oatmeal.  To make it you combine 1/3 cup of oatmeal, 1/4 cup of red lentils, 1 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Then simmer it all in a saucepan for about 10-12 minutes. Add hummus or salsa on top.  I like eating it for breakfast, lunch, or even a snack.  Another one of my favourite things to eat is cheesy eggs.  All it is is scrambled eggs with cheese mixed in.  Fast, easy, delicious and calorie loaded.

I can eat a wide variety of fruit (i.e. oranges, apples, watermelon).  I find fruit is better for satisfying your sugar cravings because not only is it better for you, it is also hydrating.  I continue to struggle with drinking enough liquid in a day.  I’ll be lucky if I consume greater than 500mL of liquid a day.  I’m often thirsty because I still usually choose food over liquid.

Speaking of liquid, I now have an easier time drinking straight water than before.  I’d prefer to mix it with something but I’m able to drink it if I’ve got nothing to mix into it.  It’s also better if it’s chilled with a lot of ice.  I also enjoy drinking cold tea.  It’s something I had a lot of when I was traveling in Japan and recently started drinking it again.

But probably one of the most interesting beverages to consume without a stomach is alcohol and caffeine. I recently learned that a 5 oz glass of wine consumed on an empty system can be quiet the experience.  Same goes with a cup of coffee.  I describe it like the alcohol or coffee is injected straight to your bloodstream.  I guess it is doing just that since there is no longer a reservoir with a sphincter to regulate the passage of liquids into your small intestine.

Activity update

As mentioned earlier, I have returned to the gym! I have been able to participate in a variety of group exercise classes twice a week at a lower level.  I bring juice water with me to each of the classes to ensure that I stay hydrated but also to prevent my blood sugar from plummeting.  During the class, I have to ensure that I don’t go all out like I used to because that results in near passing out.  Every class I have attended to this point, I have felt light headed at least 5-10x during the class and needed to back off.  It’s funny how it’s not my cardio or muscular fatigue that does it but my entire system throwing in the towel.

My mom and I participate in these group exercise classes together.   It’s funny for us to look in the mirrors at the gym and see our body shapes.  We are skinny.  We are toned.  We are both out of shape but no one would know.  That’s one of the pluses of having a total gastrectomy.  You are more lean than the average person because your body uses your fat for energy.   Last Friday during the step class I looked around the room and thought to myself, “who would have thought two people without stomachs would ever be doing step class?”.  A sight I would have never considered seeing.

I was concerned about my weight dropping during this time; however, with the combination of holiday goodies and holiday eating, I have maintained.  I am around 107lbs these days and still going strong.

My job

There was a job opening to manage the clinic where I work.  I am currently working part time but my long term plan (even before surgery) was to eventually treat part time as well as work administratively part time.  Since I am on the upswing, I decided to apply for this position.  It was a new challenge that I was willing to accept.  Just before Christmas, I received word that I got the position.  Currently, I am managing a team of around 18 people as well as working about fifteen clinical hours.

Overall

Last post I ended by stating:

“I used to count down the weeks closer to one year post surgery because I think I was waiting for something magical to happen and suddenly, I would be back to normal.  Back to the way I was at this time last year.  But this is not true.  I won’t be back to the way I was last year.  I’m going to be better.”

The moment I made this decision so many great things happened in my life.  It could not have been more fitting.

I can’t talk about 2014 out loud because I always get overly emotional.  It was a year full of life lessons, challenges, and a lot of personal growth.  It was an important year for me but I am so ready to say goodbye.

Happy New Year to everybody.  Let 2015 bring on many new exciting adventures.  Thank you all for following my blog.

Awesome quote

 

 

Seven month update – I’m not “sick” anymore

I had to count back the weeks in order to figure out that I’m now at seven months.  Seven months and one week to be exact.  This is a good thing though.

At last Sunday’s family dinner, I was discussing with my family about how I am waiting to figure out what I’m doing with my life until I hit my new normal.  Then my mom said, “Maybe this is your new normal” and that got me thinking.

Right after surgery, I was all about getting better as fast as I could so I could return to all my activities of daily living as soon as possible.  In my mind, I would be returning to work after one month or two of recovery and back to the gym by month two for sure.  Obviously, this was not the case due to some post operative complications.  My doctors as well as my family and friends kept reminding me that I did just have a major surgery and not to push too hard.  Recovery can take a year.  Over time, my mindset changed from being really gung-ho to I’m not at 100% and need to take it slow.  I believe I started to feel like I had a disability because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.

During my third month of recovery, I returned to work part time and although I was already a happy person, I became a really happy person.  I had always known that returning to work was good for your mind but now I had personal proof.  I didn’t realize how much I loved my job until I went back.  I felt a lot better all around.  Unfortunately, I could not work as much as I had hoped for and the feelings of having a disability continued to linger.

After my mom mentioned that I may be at my new normal, I had a huge mental shift.  I can’t be disabled for the rest of my life!  I am not going to let not having a stomach be a “disability”.  It will be more of an ability. An ability to go above and beyond.  An ability to show people that you can still function without a stomach and not to feel sorry for me.  My story is one of success not sadness.

Completing the Santa run was a challenge but proof that I can still do the physical activities (within reason) that I was able to do before surgery.  I started back to the gym last week and have been to two group exercise classes (yoga and a light low impact class).  I have been sore every single day of this week due to delayed onset muscle soreness but that’s okay.

I used to count down the weeks closer to one year post surgery because I think I was waiting for something magical to happen and suddenly, I would be back to normal.  Back to the way I was at this time last year.  But this is not true.  I won’t be back to the way I was last year.  I’m going to be better.

5km without a stomach

Good news!  I didn’t die from doing the 5km Santa Jingle.  There were some shady moments, but I made it, and to this day my body lives to tell the tale.

As a physiotherapist, I would never recommend doing what I did to any of my patients…but of course, I did it anyways.  Brandon and I have participated in this 5km run/walk for the past three years.  Everyone is required to dress up in a race issued Santa Claus outfit and run/walk 5km.  It is a very scenic race as it takes place along Hamilton’s Bayfront Park.   When I registered at the beginning of November, I had planned to run/walk the race.  In my mind, walking would be the best and safest option since I did not train for this race.

I should have known better.  I am a competitive person and watching everyone run past me at the start of the race was not in the cards.  When the gun went off I started jogging at an easy pace.  So far so good.  Then my muscles started to get tired – quads, hamstrings, and glutes.  I started to feel a little short of breath.  I thought to myself, “I must be at least 2 km by now” and then I ran past the 1km sign.  Good times.

I told myself I would try to run at least half of the race but around the 1.5km mark I had to walk for a little because I was starting to feel lightheaded.  After about 30 seconds, I started to run again.  I ended up doing the run in a run/walk format.

At the end of the race, I was eager to check my results.  I managed to finish the race in 34 minutes and 48 seconds.  I placed 18th out of 28 people in my age category.  That means I beat over half of the people in the 30-34 age category.  I know that this race isn’t very competitive but it’s a fun one.    I’m not sure where I placed overall yet as the final results haven’t been posted.  I’m hoping I’m in the top half.

Last year, I ran the race in 29 minutes and managed to place 2nd for my age category.  But there’s no sense in comparing my times to last year.  This year’s circumstances were significantly different.  I’m just happy I beat someone.  However, next year it sure would be awesome to place in the top three for my age category….without a stomach!

Okay hot Epsom salts bath time.

Still smiling!

Still smiling!

Food for thought, literally!

Since I’m still sore from the Santa run, I thought what better thing to do today than blog!  But more on the race later. First let’s talk food.  The holiday season is usually associated with family, friends and especially good eats!  However, over the past week, I have found eating more of a chore than for enjoyment.

As most North American’s are aware last Friday was Black Friday.  Canada has started to jump on this bandwagon and there were deals to be found as well.  I was off work last Friday and since I’m all about getting a good deal, I definitely was at the mall at 8:30am looking for a bargain.  My mother-in-law and I visited the mall, the local supplement store (Popeye’s), and of course, Value Village.  After the day was done we had shopped a solid seven hours.

I knew it was going to be a big day so I packed my trusty lunch pail with snacks.  Included in my lunch pail was half a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter and apple slices, a kind bar, and an apple.  This is a good idea in theory; however, to be an efficient shopper, you need two hands!  So I found myself eating bites of my food while driving between locations.  I managed to finish all of my food by the end of the trip but realized that we probably should have stopped for lunch somewhere in there.  Missed meal. Not good.

Missed meals didn’t matter before surgery.  Missed meals really matter now.  I believe my metabolism is just as fast as it was prior to surgery and this is why I have been having such a difficult time maintaining my weight (besides the stricture, but that’s old news now!).  My mom always says, “food is medicine” and this is so true.  I have to think about eating every two-three hours or I end up losing weight.  Fifty percent of the time I don’t even feel like eating but I know I need to in order to stay healthy.

It’s difficult to discuss weight gain in a society that is focused around weight loss.  I know people struggle with weight loss and I sometimes feel bad for complaining about it.  However, I would take my stomach back in a flash if it wasn’t trying to kill me.  Living without a stomach is not an easy path but a necessary one.  Not everyday is hearts and rainbows, but you have to keep your head high, stay strong, and continue to celebrate any achievement throughout your recovery, big or small.

Which brings me to another recovery achievement.  I actually baked and ate home made cookies this week and it has been GLORIOUS!!  Mom, her friend, and I baked four dozen cookies last Tuesday.  Actually, I just watched most of it happen but I was able to reap the benefits.  I ate one of every type of cookie over a three hour period and was fine.  I was so happy, I decided to bake flourless peanut butter oatmeal cookies on Saturday.  I searched the internet for a while before I found this recipe.  I was looking for a cookie recipe that was low in sugar, higher in protein and other foods that slow transition through the gut.  **note, I used my homemade roasted almond butter instead of peanut butter because I ran out of peanut butter**

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After they were completed, I ate one….waited….waited….20 minutes passed….success! No issues.  I have been talking about them every day since Saturday.  I don’t know if I would recommend this recipe to those who are early out of surgery but I think at the three month mark it may be safe.  I also wouldn’t recommend eating more than one at a time.

So although eating may feel like a chore sometimes, I must continue to focus on the positives.  I can now eat cookies and not worry about the extra calories.

Dessert anyone?