Don’t worry, it gets better

Over the month, I have made significant gains in the quantity of food that I can consume as well as the types of food I can eat.  The days of eating out and asking the waiter many questions about the ingredients in each meal are fading away.  I’m getting closer to eating a normal portion of food.  It makes me think back to what I used to be able to eat last summer and realize what I thought was a lot of food, was not  a lot at all.  No wonder I lost so much weight!  Plus, my body needed the extra calories to heal.  This is where I want to re-iterate to those who have just undergone surgery that you should not worry, it gets better.  My weight still fluctuates but I’m no longer seeing those drops of 1 lbs a week.

I’ve learned that there are two big things that upset my system:

1) Eating too fast – When you have a stomach, you usually feel uncomfortable about 20 minutes after eating.  It occurs after your brain realizes you are actually full.  This is the same for me as well; however, if I don’t chew my food enough it feels like I’m being punched in the gut until the food has been digested.  Since I don’t have a stomach, I don’t have that extra step of mechanical breakdown that the stomach provides.  Therefore, I have to chew my food a lot to compensate for this loss.  If I don’t chew enough, the food gets stuck or my intestines try to do this work and it isn’t nice.

2) Eating too much – When you have a stomach, it doesn’t feel nice.  When you don’t have a stomach, you can add – hot, nausea, intestinal discomfort, and pain in the abdomen (being punched in the gut repetitively) to the list.

The worst is when you put 1 and 2 together.  Then I really become the life of the party.

In terms of my medical appointments, my family doctor no longer needs to see me monthly for blood work.  My last blood work came back normal.  I continue to supplement my Vitamin D, multivitamin, B12, calcium, and Iron.  I don’t need to see her for another six months.  This is wonderful news!

Next month I will go for a follow up gastroscopy and I hope that I will be discharged from that clinic as well.  I will also be screened for colon cancer that day.  That same week, I will also be seeing a genetic counselor closer to home so I will not have to return to the big city for my follow up screenings.

My endurance has still not returned to 100% but I am learning how to pace myself to avoid those big fatigue crashes.  I remain optimistic that I will get back to where I was at before surgery as this year progresses.

So that about sums up my last month.  I’ll probably make another post in March after I’ve spoken to all those specialists again but until then, keep smiling!

 

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For the love of Oatmeal

Oatmeal love

I’m not sure what I would do without oatmeal.  Prior to surgery, I rarely ate it I was a cereal and milk kind of person.  It was fast and easy.  Now is a whole different story.  Oatmeal is one of the easiest things for me to digest and often a go to food.

I’ve learned more about oatmeal in the last 6 months than I had ever imagined learning about.  Oatmeal research? Sure why not.  Did you know that oatmeal starts as a groat?  If it’s cut smaller it’s steel cut oats and if those are pressed they are rolled oats? The thinner the rolled oat the faster it will cook.  So Quaker quick oats are thin and instant oats are even thinner.

Prior to surgery I would take my Quaker quick oats – pour some in a bowl with milk and microwave it.  After it was done, I’d add brown sugar and it’s done! Looking back, I can now see that I was missing out on a lot!

A few blogs ago, I mentioned savoury oatmeal.  Recently, I’ve discovered overnight oatmeal.  This has been a whole new ball game. Basically you combine a whole bunch of ingredients the night before and then in the morning add a little bit of fruit and you are good to go.  There are a lot of recipes out there but I have been  using one with 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1.25 cups of milk (lactose free), 1/4 cup of chia seed, and 1 mashed banana.  I leave it overnight and in the morning I put hemp seeds and blueberries on top.  I eat half in the morning and eat the other half as a snack later in the day.

I also have been eating oatmeal with a soft boiled egg on top with a layer of shredded cheese underneath.  I found the recipe online as well.  I never considered putting an egg on top of oatmeal before.

Oatmeal is also great as an ingredient in smoothies as well as granola bars.

For people who have had a gastrectomy, oatmeal is great because it has fiber in it and gelling properties for those who may have issues with soft stool.  It also slows transition of food through the gut.   I can eat a lot of it and still feel good afterwards.  Thank goodness for oatmeal!

 

First Stomachless Snow Day!

The snow day today reminded me of where I was at this time last year.  Very stressed about finding out I was CDH1 positive and trying to determine the ‘best’ time to have my stomach removed.  I had my repeat endoscopy with biopsy a few weeks prior and was awaiting the result.  On Feb 5, 2014 (another snow day) my mom and I braced a snow storm to find out my result of my repeat endoscopy.  That day I was told that there was microscopic cancer cells in my stomach.  It was shocking news but weirdly enough, a day of huge relief.  I had to break the news to Brandon as he was snow blowing our driveway. Not very fun.

Fast forward to 1 year later.  I don’t think of having Hereditary Gastric Cancer Syndrome on a daily basis.  Since having my stomach removed, I rarely think about my increased risk for the other cancers (breast and colon).   There are a few things that do remind me that I have the mutation though.  Whenever I have to go for screening and when Brandon and I bring up the child discussion.  A couple of weeks ago I was screened for lobular breast cancer and my MRI and mammogram came back clear.  Phewf!  I will be having these annually from now on.  In March, I will be screened for colon cancer and you can bet that I am so excited for that procedure.  Detox here I come….haha.

Last week, I visited my family doctor for my overdue monthly check up and I mentioned the fatigue I was feeling.  I like to blame fatigue on nutritional deficiencies which may be part of the issue (I mean my body IS still adjusting from the weight loss); however, she identified that the fatigue is more likely from going too hard too fast.  She also re-iterated that I need to slow down sometimes because the day the stricture was fully dilated was the day I started to fully recover from the surgery.  It was both upsetting and encouraging to hear this advice. Encouraging because it means that where I’m at isn’t really my new normal and upsetting that I am way behind others.

After the snow today, I decided to shovel the driveway.  This is something that I usually enjoy doing as it is good exercise and give me an excuse to get some fresh air.  After shoveling the walk my arms were tired.  It was very surprising because I thought I was more in shape.  After shoveling 1/8th of the driveway, I was feeling a bit dizzy and out of breath.   So two quick calls to my brother (thanks Chris!), I had the snow blower going and I was off to the races.  But this was no walk in the park either.  Half of my driveway is down sloping which meant pushing it up the driveway multiple times.   In the end, I managed to do the whole driveway as well as learn how to use our snow blower. No Stomach, No Problem.
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I am amazed about how frequently I eat and how little weight I gain.  I always feel bad saying this but then I remember that I live without my stomach and I would have loved to keep it if it hadn’t tried to kill me.  Again, Rachel 1: Stomach 0.  For the first time last week, I actually forgot to eat lunch.  The feelings of being hungry are very prevalent some days, and almost absent others.  I continue to eat Kind Bars as a quick go-to snack.  I also continually snack on nuts.  Sometimes these can get boring.  Thankfully, my co-worker shared this recipe with me for no bake protein bars and they are delicious and full of calories!

No-Bake-Energy-Bites-Redo-6

Get the recipe here

I supplemented the coconut with slivered almonds (more protein!) and used just a small amount of dark chocolate chips.  I also added 1/3 cup of “raw meal” protein powder.  I also needed a little more peanut butter than what was listed because of the raw meal.  I will warn my readers that these are highly addicting.

In terms of my body image issues  I have learned to accept my body and I actually really like it.  Now when I look at old pictures of myself, I seem a lot bigger.  It’s because I’m used to myself now.  People say that I look fantastic and now I can accept it when they tell me.  Telling myself that I looked good even when I didn’t believe it, has come to fruition.

Last post, I talked about the 90:10 rule.  Another thing I have learned without a stomach is that everyone has a story. Most of my patients view me as a small but mighty physiotherapist.  But few of them know why I have a thin figure.  On the outside, you may look great. But on the inside, everyone has a story.  Now when I see people in the group exercise classes at the gym, I start to wonder, what’s their story?

For those considering this surgery, living without a stomach is not a hard life.   It’s just a different life, which keeps everything more exciting.