Two years! – a 24 Month update

Today marks two years since I said farewell to my stomach. Do I miss my stomach? Yeah, I still miss it. But as time passes I learn more and more about living without the organ that would have killed me.

I’m currently sitting at 120lbs. I’m starting to look like I did prior to surgery. Afterall, I’m only 5lbs off. However, I am more lean than I was before surgery. No complaints. For those of you who are afraid of nor gaining the weight back, it will come back but it takes time and effort.

I eat a lot. A lot. I’ve never counted calories but I eat frequently. I believe this has contributed to gradual weight gain. The other day I was offering my brother some snacks from my backpack as it was near dinner time and he hadn’t eaten yet.

Me: “Banana?”
Brother: “no thanks”
Me: “Trail mix?”
Brother: “no thanks”
Me: “Starburst candy?”
Brother: “no thanks”…pause….”how much food do you have in there?”
Me: Laughing, “granola bar? Lifesavers? Peppermint?”

I always have food on me. The fear of needing food and it not being there still sits with me. When you need food and you don’t eat, things go downhill pretty fast. Nuts are my usual go to food. I also still like “kind bars” and “quest bars”.

I can tolerate most foods now. I can eat sweets but in moderation and spaced out overtime. Two weeks ago I learned I can eat ice cream cake. Huge score!!!
On Friday, I ate half 1/4 of an assorted subway sub and 1 cookie and felt not too bad. If given the choice, I still avoid bread due to the carb crash but I’m able to eat it in small quantities without dumping. I miss eating sandwiches so sometimes I eat them and deal with the aftermath. I call it foggy brain.

My energy levels have not returned to where they were before surgery. I am not sure if they will. Brandon said I lost my energy storage tank so fatigue hits me faster. Sometimes I can go all day and other days it’s like I haven’t slept in days. Pacing is key. However, sometimes I get frustrated that my energy isn’t where it should be and just push through the fatigue. I’m still unsure if this will help me overtime or just lead to burn out.

I am able to work about 30-32 hours a week comfortably. This allows for a good work-life balance. It took me a while to understand that this was my ideal balance as I used to work 42 hours a week and man the house. I am working on accepting that 30-32 hours as a physio is what I’m able to do now. It’s been a tough fact to swallow (pun intended).

As I look back over the past two years losing my stomach has been more of a mental struggle vs. physical. The surgery was the easy part. When you are super healthy and decide to have a life altering elective surgery based on statistics you have to be mentally strong.

I have good and bad days. The bad days aren’t even that bad anymore. But on those not so good days, I’m thankful that I have a strong support system in place. Not only do I have my family and friends, I’ve made great connections with people around the world going through a similar situation.

I often read the posts of people early out of surgery and remember those tough times just after surgery. I also read back through my own posts to see how far I’ve come. Time really does heal. For those just fresh out from under the knife – hang in there!

As my life returns to a consistent normal, I find myself searching for interesting topics to blog about. Someone once told me that I will stop blogging when I feel like I don’t need the blog anymore. Although I’m not fully ready to stop documenting my adventures, I may be scaling back the frequency of the posts.

Thank you all for following me over the past two plus years. Life is all about celebrating the small things. Keep smiling!
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Feeling thirsty? – a 23 month update

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One of the biggest things I struggle with is staying hydrated.  Prior to surgery, I would easily consume 2 litres of water a day.  Now, I will rarely drink greater than 1 litre of liquid a day and on average I consume around 500ml.  I’m lucky, I never lost the ability to feel hungry post gastrectomy.  After my stomach was removed and I was allowed to eat again, I would eat anytime my mind told me I was hungry.  I didn’t want to lose this mind/body connection so like Pavlov’s dogs, anytime I would get a hunger pang, I would eat.   Eating was key early on.    I understand how it can be tough for people to lose weight due to the association between the brain and hunger.  If there wasn’t an association than I shouldn’t feel hungry since I don’t have a stomach and therefore don’t have the neurotransmitter that is released to the brain to make you feel hungry.

I have heard that if you feel hungry, you may just be thirsty instead.  It is hard for me to distinguish between the two but more recently, I have tried to choose liquid instead of food when I get this feeling.  About 50% of the time, I no longer feel hungry after having a few sips of something.  The other 50% of the time, I don’t feel hungry anymore but instead I feel a little faint (process of elimination, body needed food).

Water is usually available most places but when you have an issue with drinking water, what do you do? I didn’t realize how many sugar loaded beverages are out there until you are looking for something specific.  Movie theatres are the worst. Most of the time I bring my juice/water combo or purchase a tea.  Recently, I have tried to bring a canteen with me in an effort to stay more hydrated.

It’s funny that the best beverages to go down the pipe is coffee, wine or juice+water.   I try not to drink too much coffee because I don’t want all the caffeine so often I resort to decaf. Carbonated beverages are the worst. Darker beer is better than light.  Wine and Caesars are smooth sailing.  Someone must be trying to tell me something.

For some reason, drinking water post gastrectomy seems to be an issue for many people.  When I asked a dietitian about it, she had no idea.  I think it has something to do with the surface tension in water. Ice cold water is easier to drink vs. warm water.  Filtered water is easier than tap.  If you think back to basic science class, when you placed water in a test tube a meniscus formed. I think that may happen in your esophagus as you swallow combined with some air make it feels like you could be swallowing molasses.

Maybe this is TMI (too much information), but I often monitor my hydration status by the colour of my urine. Also, after consuming a glass of liquid, it will often go right through me over the next 30 minutes to an hour.  I am guessing that it is a combination of having less storage space as well as regulating sphincters from my stomach and that my kidney’s are super efficient now due to my lack of liquid consumption.

It always amazes me how the human body can adapt.  Bottom’s up!