37 Weeks pregnant – Home stretch

The pregnancy bump is in full force, although most identify it only on side profile.  I am all baby.

I am now onto the final few weeks of pregnancy and it has been another adventure to add to the books.  I left off at a 33 week update and I would say that the home stretch has presented itself with a few more twists and turns.  Pregnancy is an individual experience for every woman myself included.   I always wondered what the last few weeks would bring as those are the weeks your baby is packing on the pounds, taking whatever it needs from its host.  Yeah I said it, my baby is eating me.

I last left off questioning my iron and hemoglobin levels.  I had a clinic visit on March 11th where my levels were deemed low but not so low that something needed to be done.  But let me back up a little. Previous to this visit (end of Feb) is where I learned my levels had not increased but additional blood work was run.  I received a phone call on March 4th from the dietitian that my zinc level and albumin levels were also low.   Zinc is important for immune system function and albumin is a type of protein.

So what did this mean? Start taking 10mg of zinc 2x a day.  This brought my individual supplement total up to seven.  But wait there is more!  Zinc competes with iron and calcium when it comes to absorption in your body.   So they cannot be taken together and I need to take it twice a day, along with taking iron twice a day and calcium once a day.  You can see where this is going.  So for the past few weeks my supplement regime has gone something like this: wake up – prenatal vitamin and vitamin D, 2 hours later – Zinc, 2 hours later iron, 2 hours later, calcium, back to zinc, then iron….somewhere in there B12 and Omega 3.  Inevitably, I forget one of them per day.   I’ve tried putting them all in a bowl in the morning and slowly taking one whenever I head to the kitchen.  I feel for all of those people who need to take daily medication.

I decided to finish working on March 21st.  This would be about a month prior to my scheduled due date.  This was not an easy decision and it ultimately boiled down to my inability to stand or walk for prolonged periods of time, I was down to fifteen minutes.   The difficult part was that my brain was all gung-ho but my hip was saying, “Noooo”.  The baby has been growing and started to push right onto my sciatic nerve during movements and would send shooting pain down my leg.  I was fearful of falling while treating patients and this is what ultimately stopped me from working.  Those who know me, know that I LOVE my profession and what I do so when I stopped, it was like a piece of who I am was also taken away.  Not to mention, leaving my work fam for a bit.

But in my heart, I knew that this is temporary and my physio self will be replaced with a new self, “mom self” very soon and some of this void will be filled.   I did not really want a full month  (or more) off of work though.  However, I have always suspected that the baby may come early at 38 weeks.

As people know, I am a big believer of the universe’s plan and working in certain ways for certain reasons.  Let’s now jump ahead to my March 25th appointment – Ultrasound and clinic visit (week 36).

During this visit, I learned that my Ob-Gyn is a master at the sandwich approach of explaining things.  For those of you who do not know, this is where a person will begin telling you the great things, followed by some bad things but closing with great things again.

She began by explaining that the baby is growing well at an estimated weight of 6lbs 1oz and the blood flow to the placenta was looking good. Amniotic fluid, also good.  Then she asked how I was feeling and if I had been feeling the baby moving.  I replied, that there was lots of movement.  Here I thought, she would now say, “Great, see you next week for follow up”.  But instead I got, “the radiologist called me after your ultrasound and mentioned to me that your placenta looked odd”.  She followed up with drawing a picture that demonstrated that my placenta is calcifying and was getting calcium/fibrotic deposits inside.  This is normal for someone who is around 41-42 weeks term but advanced for someone who is 36 weeks. Especially since my 32 week ultrasound was normal.  From my understanding, this means that the placenta is hardening and eventually it will stop working as it should.  This was the centre of the sandwich.

Next she went back to the good news, “but your baby is growing and the blood flow looked good”.  Followed by, “I think we will want to induce you next week or the week after before it stops working as well”.  I think after I heard, “induce next week”, I just nervously laughed and left the clinic filled with many emotions.  Excited baby is coming very soon, shocked that baby is coming so soon, happy I only get a week maybe week and a half off work, upset that I only get a week or so off work, etc.  I’m happy my mom was with me at this appointment to clarify some details for me afterwards.  I’m pretty sure I went to La La land after that news.

However, I did ask if I could keep doing Zumba (since I was still doing it…36 weeks proud!). The answer was, “umm, I don’t think we want to increase your heart rate to make your placenta work any harder than it should”.  I knew this would probably be the answer but I needed to hear, “No”.    So to my Zumba community – I will see you all after the baby is born!  However, I was cleared to continue with Yoga and general gentle exercise.

Once we left the clinic, I was booked for another ultrasound on April 1st (the following Monday) as well as a non-stress test (to evaluate baby’s heart rate and levels in utero).  Then an induction date would be set based on these results.

Now back to my belief of universe working in certain ways.  Although it was shocking to know that our baby would be here before the second week of April.  I had always said, “I hope the baby comes around 38 weeks”.  This will definitely be the case now.  In addition, my hip continues to get worse  as the baby grows and maybe this was also another way to get me back to normal faster.  Finally, my eating has become more difficult and at my last clinic visit, I actually had lost some weight.  I now sit at a 16lbs weight gain with this little guy.

So everything for a reason right?  Brandon and I are really looking forward to meeting this little guy and having a new chapter open in our lives.  I know that labour and raising him will be a challenge, but what’s life without some challenges?  The harder the challenge, the sweeter the reward 🙂

 

 

 

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29 Weeks Pregnant – A well overdue update

Hey Friends!

This stomachless pregnancy update is well overdue. I made the mistake of watching “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” followed by listening to her entire audio book and have been de cluttering like mad the past few weeks. I wondered when the nesting would begin but Marie has kicked it into full gear. But today I take a tidying break to give you all a much needed pregnancy update.

Since my last update, I have seen my Ob-gyn twice. Once just after Christmas where I was referred for a blood work up for my iron levels as well as to measure my blood sugar levels, and more recently Jan 24th where I completed my 28 week ultrasound as well as got updates on my previous blood work .

Normally women who are pregnant complete a glucose test around 24 to 28 weeks to test monitor for gestational diabetes. From what I understand, this involves drinking a large quantity of a sugar beverage followed by a blood work one hour later. Due to the no-stomach-thing, I did not have to do this test. Thank goodness because I think it may have killed me. Or just given me violent diarrhea and full scale dumping. Instead, I completed some blood work.

Throughout the month of January, I continued to work my regular hours and regular duties. I continued to attend the gym 1-2x a week for Zumba and home yoga daily for about half an hour. My fatigue level started to increase near the last couple weeks of January and I started to look green and pale at the end of the day. I was falling asleep on the couch around 8:30pm every night but figured it was just regular pregnancy fatigue. I also started to have minor dizzy spells and felt slightly faint during the last couple of tracks of my Zumba class. You probably know where this is going.

On my Jan 24th follow up, I was notified that my iron level was low and I needed to double up on my iron supplements. I have been taking Ferramax 150mg since my surgery as stomachless folk often have iron absorption issues post total gastrectomy (TG). This made all too much sense after hearing my results and started doubling up immediately. Within a week my energy levels improved as well as my colour. I will likely have this level rechecked in the future to ensure I am not anemic and if it remains low – I will be referred for an iron IV infusion. This is also common post TG and in pregnancy (especially during the late 2nd trimester into the 3rd).

In terms of my blood glucose levels, I did not have gestational diabetes so this was a bonus. Continue eating ice cream, baked goods, and chocolate for me! I am convinced this baby will be 1/4 chocolate.

On this visit I also had a 28 week ultrasound. At this point in time, I had gained about 10lbs above my pre-preggo weight. The issue the Ob-gyn is concerned about with people who have TG’s is the baby not gaining enough weight. Much to my surprise, I was notified that the baby is currently in the 73rd percentile. Which means that he is bigger than average! I heard these scans are not the most accurate for actual birth weight but I’ll take it. I am hoping to have a 6-7 pound baby but if this scan is accurate, I may have an 8 pounder. Yikes! Maybe I better slow down on the sugar….

In terms of physical mobility, my right hip and pelvis continues to be an ongoing issue and although I am doing as much as I can for it (Yoga, stretching, Physio, and massage therapy) it is getting worse as the baby grows. I’ll spare everyone all the details as I do not like to complain but I am confident that it will all go away once the baby is born. I am determined to keep up with my physical activity though throughout all of this pregnancy.

In terms of eating, my appetite is the best in the morning to mid day. Although, I have been eating a lot, my weight gain has been minimal. This morning I was at an 11 pound gain. As he continues to grow, the baby is taking all the good nutrients he needs and my body composition has been changing. Less muscle mass…larger belly. I think I am all baby.  The evening is a different story. Often it is hard eat the same portions I was able to eat a month ago and I have issues with food getting stuck. Dinner time is the most difficult. I find standing and eating the easiest. Sometimes, I try to shift the baby position around as I suspect my intestines and pseudo stomach are getting all bunched up and the pipework is getting kinked. If I’m successful, I usually feel a good gurgle and the stuck food sensation goes away. I also try not to eat too late into the evening to avoid bile reflux in the middle of the night.

Believe it or not, my surgical scar looks better than it ever has and I think all this belly stretching is stimulating more cell repair. I also think this baby is breaking a lot of old adhesions from surgery. You go baby!

Anyhow, my next follow up is next week. I am down to the every two week appointments now. I am now 11 weeks off of my estimated due date. Homeee Stttreeettccchh!!

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Me at 27 weeks pregnant

Pregnancy post total gastrectomy

I have been a little MIA from the blogging world over the past few months. Not because I didn’t have any ideas but I was saving up for some big news!

After last years adventures with IVF + PGD +PGS followed by a natural pregnancy and a miscarriage, we are happy to announce that we are expecting. I write this with both excitement and hesitation. As you all know, I am an optimistic person and prefer to see the light in situations. However, after experiencing a miscarriage, it is hard not to be semi-guarded when expecting. We announced to our friends and family after the infamous end of first trimester, but I did not feel comfortable posting anything onto social media. After speaking with Brandon and thinking about it long and hard, I decided that I wanted to blog about being pregnant without a stomach as it may help many other women trying to make that tough decision about when to have their stomach removed. I know I was there back in 2014 and it was not an easy one.

I was one week out from meeting with a fertility clinic as it had been almost 1 year since our miscarriage last year. I decided to take a pregnancy test about a week before the appointment and much to my surprise, it was positive. I was four weeks pregnant. This was back in mid August.

I had suspicion that something was going on as I was able to eat some ice cream, which I shared with the world on my last blog post. This happened to me last year before the miscarriage. I was able to tolerate sweeter foods easier. That was my first sign.

I called the fertility clinic to let them know about our natural pregnancy and they still followed me for the first eight weeks. At this point, I was transferred to a high risk maternal fetal medicine clinic. During my appointments at the fertility clinic, ultrasounds were taken at the six week and eight week mark. Each one filled with nerves that we would receive bad news and then joy that things were going well.

Once I was transferred to the high risk clinic, I first met with the regular maternal fetal medicine clinic and a genetic counselor to discuss the hereditary nature of the CDH1 genetic mutation as well as how one can go about testing a fetus for the gene. We had already decided in advance that if we had a natural pregnancy the child would not be tested until it is old enough to make the decision on their own. But for those who are interested, doctors are able to test for the gene using Chorionic villi sampling or amniocentesis. At this point, the expecting parents can decide to terminate the pregnancy or keep it. It is not an easy decision for anyone, that is for sure. In Ontario, these tests are covered which adds more layers to the decision making process of IVF with PGS/PGD (costly) vs. natural (testing is covered).

Thankfully, we were already prepared for all of these decisions as my genetic counselor discussed all this with me back in the day when I found out I was positive for the mutation.

I had morning sickness from weeks six to week fifteen. It actually was afternoon/evening sickness which allowed me to get through my work day but knocked me out at night. I experienced brutal nausea from about 4pm to when I crashed at night around 8pm. I attempted vomiting hoping it would make it stop but that is one thing that I have not been able to do since my stomach removed. So it was basically like being stuck with constant motion sickness for a nine weeks. Props to all the women who have this throughout the entire pregnancy and for those who don’t, you are lucky!

Around week six, I started to develop coccyx (tailbone) pain which has progressed into right sided glute/hip pain which radiates a quarterway down the back of my leg. Thankfully, I have many great physios friends who with who have been keeping it manageable. It is a real pain in the butt!!

In week 16, I was able to feel the baby kick and in week 17, I was able to see some kicks and feel them on the outside. They say that people may not feel these things until 20 weeks or later in pregnancy but I think us stomachless people are so body aware, we pick it up faster. The baby kicks more after I eat, I am assuming because all the intestinal noises from digestion must be pretty loud in there for it. The baby is sitting on my left side and fairly low.

In terms of weight gain, I have gained about four pounds since becoming pregnant. The Ob-gyn recommended that I gain 5-8lbs by week 20. I also recently completed my anatomy scan which occurs around weeks 18-22. Again, I had some ‘scananxiety’ but thankfully, everything was normal. I have still not gained much weight and I have a small bump. My Ob-gyn was not concerned about the lack of weight gain as it is too early to tell if the baby is growing appropriately.

Anyways, I plan to keep people up to date about how things are moving along. Pregnancy post gastrectomy is not a topic that many blog about so I think this will serve as a good platform to blog more frequently again.

Ice cream

It has been just over two months since my last blog post. Time sure does fly! We are having a real summer here in southern Ontario – hot and dry. I have been spending much of this summer studying for an exam that involves progressing my diagnostic skills and treatment skills as a physiotherapist. But that is a whole blog in itself. Needless to say, I have been a little MIA from the blogging world.

But I’m back for another reflection post.

One food that I have always loved is ice cream. I have mentioned it many times in previous blogs and purchased the biggest cone to eat prior to saying farewell to my stomach. Not only is it delicious but often, eating a cone is associated with a fun social outing with friends or family.

Unfortunately, I still do not tolerate it well in larger quantities (i.e. greater than 1/4 cup). So every time we stop for ice cream, I am faced with a decision – eat it and risk feeling unwell (usually bloated, fatigued, and rapid heart rate) or kindly pass and often take a few licks off your husband’s or friend’s cone.

I came across a quote that states, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and I am not a person who likes using the phrase, “I can’t”.

Last night after a nice dinner with friends in Toronto, we stopped at an ice cream place called, “Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery“. They are a small ice cream shoppe that makes home made ice cream and apparently has some of the best ice cream sandwiches downtown. Once again, I was faced with the decision to pass or to try. This shop had a small 4oz size cup.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

I ordered the 4oz cup of mint ice cream. Was it the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Yes. Was I scared to eat it. You betcha. Did I feel bad after? Surprisingly not as bad as I had expected.

Life is too short to pass on the things you love. Life is too short to be afraid.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Happy August everyone!

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But first….coffee

I have never enjoyed coffee as much as I have over the past three and a half years and counting.   Maybe it’s because it’s easier to drink than water. Maybe it’s because it wakes me up. Maybe it’s because it helps me poop.   You may be thinking TMI but you know it’s true.

I mean, other people love coffee too, but there’s just something about drinking coffee without a stomach.   The caffeine goes to your brain fast, real fast.    Curious to know if it was just me or if it was a stomach-less thing, I decided to do a mini-poll among my stomach-less friends and we all decided that coffee is just great.  By the way, I don’t have a huge sample size to back this up (four people to be exact) but I’ve also seen on the support groups that I follow that those who can tolerate this wonderful beverage also love coffee.

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Breville Barista Touch with a shout out to “My Gut Feeling”

In November of last year, Brandon and I decided to treat ourselves to a semi-automatic espresso machine as an early Christmas gift to each other.  Since then, I have developed a greater respect for baristas and better understand why my Starbucks coffee may cost $6.  Thanks to YouTube, I have been able to become my own barista – spending countless hours learning about tamping, grind size, brew time, frothing, and or course latte art.

Besides the benefits I listed earlier, consuming coffee has other health benefits.  A recent study published by the British Medical Journal concluded that consumption reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and stroke (1).  It also reduced the risk of developing specific cancers such as prostate, endometrial, melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer and liver cancer (1).   Consuming coffee also reduced the risk of developing type II diabetes, gallstones, gout, and renal stones (1).  Heck, it even reduces your risk for developing liver conditions such as cirrhosis by half! (2).  When it comes to your brain, it may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease (1).  Women post total gastrectomy should be aware that it may increase the risk of fractures due to calcium absorption; however, if you add calcium (milk or cream), you may help reduce the effects (1).

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Cheers!

Besides the physical health benefits, there are other psychological benefits associated with coffee. It’s associated with many good times.  I’ve had many great conversations over coffee with friends and family.  I will also rarely blog without a coffee beside me.  Oh and it played a large role in getting through six years of university.

So for those who have made it through their total gastrectomy, can tolerate coffee, and love it as much as I do – go reward yourself with a sweet coffee machine. You deserve it!

References:
  1. Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Nov 22];359j5024. In: Ovid MEDLINE(R)[Internet]. http://ovidsp.ovid.com/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&PAGE=reference&D=medl&NEWS=N&AN=29167102
  2. Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Buchanan R, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Systematic review with meta-analysis: coffee consumption and the risk of cirrhosis.   Aliment Pharmacol Ther [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2016 Mar];43(5):562-74. In: Ovid MEDLINE(R) [Internet]. http://ovidsp.ovid.com/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&PAGE=reference&D=med8&NEWS=N&AN=26806124

 

 

Three Years! – Obviously a 3 year update…

Today marks three years without my stomach.  On May 23rd, 2014, I said farewell to my stomach…never to be seen again.

What can I say about three years without my stomach.  I’ve become happier, wiser, and more balanced.  I put my priorities in things that matter in life – health, family and friends, and fun.  Although this video looks pretty staged, I really like the message within and it sums up how my life changed after I dodged the stomach cancer bullet.

 

In terms of my weight, I have been sitting at 119-120lbs for the past month.  I’m now 5lbs off my pre-surgery weight. My summer shorts from last year, don’t fit anymore.  It’s weird to say that I’m actually happy about that.  Who says that?!?!

My energy level continues to improve.  The body is an amazing machine, if you push it a little bit at a time, it will adapt.  Look at Marne and Steve who are completing feats that even those with a stomach don’t achieve.  Amazing.

As for eating, I continue to push the envelope on what I can and cannot eat. Sometimes, you just want to eat something so you do it. You regret it later but the brain is a funny thing…give it enough time and it forgets the pain and you do it again.

The other day I watched the recorded, “Spotlight on Gastric Cancer” that was held in Seattle this year.  My mom and I went to the first annual one in Philidelphia and hope to attend another one in the future as it is a great opportunity to network with those in the CDH1+ community.

During this presentation a question was asked, “What sorts of things do you wish you would have known about at the time, or what kinds of things have you learned since that you wish you had the knowledge about from the beginning?”  It brought back a lot of early recovery memories and I thought it would be helpful to give my two cents.

>  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.  Food is scary after you’ve had your stomach out.  You know, even 3 years out…some foods are still scary.  During my first year of recovery, I couldn’t tolerate sugar well.  Now, I can eat it in moderation (i.e. a full cookie, a small piece of cake, small portions of freshly baked breads).  I’ve had great success stories and some not so great ones.

>  Make sure you are mentally strong and have a good support network.  One thing about this CDH1+ mutation is that it really plays with your mind.  It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off of.  Having your stomach removed is like 10% of the recovery game, the other 90% is the mental component.

 >  if you don’t have anyone to speak with, you can reach out to the no stomach for cancer community, genetic counsellor, and social media

>  Facebook: CDH1 Mutation GeneSupport group for partial and total gastrectomiesStomachless Living Support Group – Support For Full & Partial Gastrectomies

>  Test your body. Push it a little and see how it responds.  A little bit of pushing will go a long way.

>  Go to a centre where they are well versed about CDH1+ as well as the prophylactic (curative) total gastrectomy.   My genetic counsellor as well as my surgeon are all within the same hospital network.  I continue to be followed annually.

>  Probiotics.  They have been a game changer for me over the past 6 months.  I think I was lacking something and now I’m afraid to stop taking them. I’ve noticed a great gain in energy since I started. On the same note – take your vitamins.   B12 deficiency is real and can have long term health consequences if your levels aren’t maintained. Also monitor your iron, calcium and vitamin D.

 

I’m sure there are a lot more other tips but I don’t want to drag this post on and on.  The past year has been even better than the previous two years. I am excited to see what this next year will bring to the table!

 

 

 

Exercise is medicine – 2 year, 10 month update

I openly admit I’m a yo-yo gym attender. Looking back on old blog posts, I’ve mentioned always starting certain exercise activities and then not mentioning ending them. Well the secret is out, I only usually attend the gym in the fall to winter months. After that I end up falling off the bandwagon because the weather is too nice to work out indoors. I switch to playing women’s fastball in the spring-summer. Currently, I only indoor rock climb and participate in my yoga with Adriene intermittently.

I’ve done this for the past 5+ years and over the past three I’ve noticed a trend. When I exercise, I gain weight.

What?! Wait? When you exercise you gain weight? The pre-gastrectomy old me would have said…”shut up and get out of here”. For the past two gym seasons I’ve managed to put on about 4 to 5 extra pounds. As soon as I stop, I lose it and drop back down to my usual 111 to 112lbs. I’ve also noticed that I have more energy and require less sleep.

Many of the benefits I’m reporting are well researched in the literature but it’s a whole new world when you actually experience it.

I only attend the gym 1-2x a week (step class, zumba class, or aerobics) and go for about a 45 minute walk 1x a week. That combined with my active job is enough for me to maintain all those positive benefits.

Another quick thing I wanted to mention is that I started taking a probiotics (by fluke and a bit of another story) and have noticed my energy level increase significantly. For two weeks, I operated like I did before surgery and it was unbelievable. I didn’t realize it was possible. After that I had a pretty hard crash for a day or two but those two weeks were fantastic. I’m now afraid to stop taking them. I really believe they help with digesting food post gastrectomy which improves nutrient absorption. I tried to perform a literature review to see if anyone had done studies on probiotics post total gastrectomy but didn’t come up with much. If anyone has any scientific evidence about this, I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

So there it is: Exercise IS medicine

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All ready for the gym

Cereal is back on the menu

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I miss cereal.  Let me re-phrase that, I missed cereal.  I have attempted to eat cereal a few times each year in hopes that one day it won’t go right through me.   I am excited to report that that two weeks ago was that day.

For me, cereal was a breakfast staple for many years. Not only was it quick and easy, there were so many varieties to choose from.  I could wake up, eat a bowl of cereal and be out the door in no time.  I missed cereal.

Often I would walk through the grocery store, pick up my old favourite cereals, read the ingredient lists and then return the box back to the shelf for I had vivid flashbacks to my dumping syndrome day.  Many varieties of cereal have a high sugar content with glucose or fructose being in the first few ingredients. In addition, I try to avoid too much unbleached wheat flour as it makes me feel ill.

Two weeks ago a box of Multigrain Cheerios ended up in the shopping cart.  Not only were they one of my favourites but they were also on sale.  The sugar content was 6g per 1 cup.  Cheerios are also high in iron.  It was time to try eating cereal again.

I started with half a bowl of dry cereal in the evening.  It’s better to eat sweetened foods later in the night because my mom and I both believe that a “buffer” is created with food eaten earlier in the day.  Less chance of dumping.  After finishing the bowl, I waited for the inevitable to occur….but lo and behold. I was fine.   No gut pain. No gurgling. No fatigue or nausea. No dumping!

Feeling excited, I ate a small bowl of cereal the next evening with milk.  Again, I was fine.  High fives occurred all around in our house.  Also a little dancing. Okay, a lot of dancing.

The next test was to eat it first thing in the morning. No buffer. Fear, yes.  This morning, I poured myself half a bowl of cereal with milk.  I told myself to eat it slow but I definitely ate it in 10 minutes.   About 10 minutes after I finished, I started to feel my heart rate rise.   But about 10 minutes after that, I was fine!  No fatigue, no diarrhea, no nausea.  I’ll take it as a small victory.

A big turning point came about 2-3 months ago.  I decided I was tired of avoiding foods I wasn’t sure about and that I would just go for it (within reason).  Up until then, I was apprehensive to try new foods or foods that had caused problems in the past.  It’s frightening because you don’t know it’s bad until it’s too late.  Much like drinking too much alcohol.  Everyone is having a great time until it really hits you. By that time, it’s too late to turn back and you must deal with the consequences.  It was time to face my fears.

Since then I have discovered that I can tolerate more than what I had previously thought.  It’s exciting that as the months pass, I find myself adding more and more foods to the can have list and not the can’t have list.  A great start to 2017!

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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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Cruising stomachless style – a 21 month update

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There’s something to be said about cruising without a stomach.

Late last year my husband and I booked a cruise to the Carribean with another couple.  None of us had ever cruised before but thought it would be a good trip as we heard that there is something for everyone.

Prior to leaving, I had some fears about the meals. Would they be readily available? Will they have my oatmeal for breakfast? How much sugar is in those mixed drinks? After experiencing dumping syndrome in full force last month, I can say that the fear of it happening again was loud and proud.

When travelling, the arrival and departure days are the most difficult. These are usually long days with limited access my comfort foods. Often you are unable to bring fruit or meat through the security gates. This knocks bananas or wraps. Also, depending on the airport, there are limitations on what you can purchase to eat.

In true trip spirit, I picked up a bunch of Kind bars as well ingredients to create my own trail mix.  Often I find the mixes in the stores are too sweet so instead I mix a variety of unsalted nuts with pepita seeds, sunflower seeds, and craisins.  It was my mom’s recent creation that I copied but I digress.

Our flight was at 7:30am which meant we had to be at the airport for 5:30am. Add in transport time and we are now at 4:30 am. But I can not forget to factor in last minute packing time so I’m now up at a healthy 3:45am. I wasn’t hungry when we got up so I didn’t eat anything. I figured that there would be a Tim Hortons there where I could order a breakfast wrap. Much to my surprise, the Tim Hortons at the airport did not sell breakfast wraps which left only muffins and bagels. Both would have resulted in my first vacation excursion – the porcelain throne. At this point, trail mix for breakfast didn’t look so bad.

Thankfully, we were given an in-flight meal which was a small sausage quiche with potatoes and sausage on the side. I wish I had taken a picture to display how unappetizing it looked but when you haven’t eaten breakfast and you are slowly running on empty, you’ll eat.  I scooped out the egg portion but left the pastry. I didn’t even attempt the potatoes and sausage as it was already a rich breakfast. So I may have eaten 1/2 a cup of egg substitute for breakfast.

After we arrived at the airport we boarded a bus to take us to the port. By the time we cleared customs, got our boarding pass and boarded the vessel it was rounding on 2:30 pm. Needless to say, we were all hungry, stomachless or not!

In true cruise spirit, the first place we located on the ship was the buffet.  It must have consisted of at least 10 different areas.  There was a bar just allocated to different types of bread.  There was even an area where someone would create you your own custom built ice cream sundae!  If I still had my stomach I would have loaded my plate until it was overflowing with food, eat it in 10 minutes and then return for seconds.  Maybe I’d even eat some dessert and then go back for more main course.

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The bread bar

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But there is a double edge sword to this buffet.  I was like a kid in a candy shop with only 25 cents to spend.

Each time I visited the buffet, I would survey the land to see what was available. Then I would narrow it down to my top few dishes.  Often they were the high protein, biggest- bang- for -your -buck kind of dishes.  Rice…no thanks.  Mashed potatoes? Maybe for the weak.  Steak – That’s what I’m talking about!  After finishing my small plate of food, I would often say farewell to the buffet and see you in a couple of hours.

I spent some good time at that buffet. In the mornings, I would get up early and go get early breakfast (oatmeal with walnuts, sunflower seeds and a mashed banana) and then go for late breakfast around 10:30 am (bacon, eggs).  I would also eat early dinner at the buffet around 4-5:30pm and then 2nd dinner around 8:30pm.  One day my friend was looking for me and she decided to check the buffet and of course that’s where she found me. We had a good laugh.

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One of my favourite mid day snacks – build you own nachos

When it came to 2nd dinner time, we often ate in the main dining room which consisted of a three course meal. I would often just order the main meal and share it with my friends. If I wanted an appetizer, I could often finish it but then only eat 1/4 of the main meal. The cool part is that the dining room dinner had many sugar free options that were listed on the menu. This also included dessert!  I definitely took advantage of the sugar free ice cream.

I couldn’t drink many of the beverages offered on the vessel as most of them were mixed with juice loaded with sugar. One day I happened to catch them refilling a juice machine and the first ingredient was high-fructose corn syrup, followed by glucose.  I quickly dumped out the glass of juice I had been holding.  I mostly ordered white wine, beer, or caesars on the ship.  I had sips of my husband’s frozen mudslides and other delicious sugary drinks.  I missed having frozen daiquiris, margaritas, and other delicious frozen beverages.

So maybe I couldn’t eat heaping amounts of food at the buffet. Maybe I had to bypass the ice cream bar.  Maybe I had to avoid the sugary beverages.  Maybe the buffet was a constant reminder of life prior to my total gastrectomy.  However, I have to focus on the positives.  I ate like a Queen those seven days and how much weight did I gain? Much to my own surprise. Zero.