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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Joy of Roy

Sometimes when you are going through a rough patch, life introduces you to someone or something that brings a smile to your old curmudgeonly face... that for me has been Roy Boy.  I have never been around a Bassett Hound until I met Roy in June. My daughter married a wonderful young man this summer and I became an instant Grandma to Roy. Both of the kids work at LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you are unfamiliar, it is a remote mountain resort on the summit of the Smokies. Access is by several different  trails varying from approx. 5-8 miles. They stay on the mountain for about 3 weeks at a time and come down for a week or so. Roy stays with me and my dogs.                                      I can stand in my yard and look up at the mountain and sometimes, on a clear day, see the outline of the roof of some of the cabins.
Reservations are made about a year in advance. The season is from mid March to mid November. A good link is if you would like to read or learn more about the lodge. Alyson and Chris Virden are the lodge caretakers. Alyson writes a great daily blog complete with her fantastic photographs.
At the beginning of the season, all the large items such as propane tanks, pallets of canned food and other large items are dropped by air left via a helicopter. During the season, a team of llamas make the trek twice a week to the lodge to bring supplies and to take down laundry and other items.  Many people day hike and visit the lodge area, rest for a while and then head back down. I have done that a couple times in my life before the old devil Fibromyalgia took up residence in my body. I would usually go in Boulevard trail , about 8 miles and then down Alum a 5 mile jaunt. You certainly knew you
had been on a hike the next day, but it was sure worth it. Below is a picture of me and my mom taken in 1984. We did the round trip 13 mile journey that day.
I had my daughter pose in the same area and recreate the shot earlier this year. I would give anything to be beside her, but I am not physically able to go in person, but oh how I go in my mind from time to time. I can smell the pine forest and the distinct odors that the higher elevations produce. I sure do miss the little things of life.
 Note she took my walking stick I have in the picture from 1984. My dad gave it to me in the 1970's. His uncle had made it from a grape vine and it was probably 50 years old at that time.

Today my daughter posted this on her Facebook page:

Yep, what ever mother wants to see... the fruit of your womb out dangling on a ledge. She definitely is her mothers child. But if I were on Leconte I would be admiring the sunset from the ledge too.
 I have totally digressed from Roy Boy.  He just makes me smile on bad days, which have been too many lately. The rain and weather in the south has been hell on us folks with muscle/joint issues this summer.              
 My other doggies, which are smaller and much shorter, dance in little circles while I am making their meals. Roy has been observing this and decided to try it. But considering he is so long, he had to make a large loop to get that body to make a completed, albeit very slow circle. He looked like the slinky dog from Toy Story.
Apparently, from what I can read, Bassett's are the comedians of the dog kingdom. His short little legs and those huge Bassett ears are in themselves enough to bring a smile, not to mention that face.  Today he decided to have a running frenzy in the yard and all I could think of was Dumbo. I expected him to go airborne at any minute and circle over my head. Yes, Roy was a much needed diversion this summer.
Below are a few more Mt. LeConte photographs.
LeConte Lodge 

Courtney and Beau taking a sunshine break earlier this month...lucky ducks!

interior of cabins

Friday, July 26, 2013

Back To Square One ~No Sleeve For Me

I thought I was so sure.... I made all my plans for the surgery, my daughter is coming to help me for a week and then POW!  It all started Wednesday when I attended a four hour mandatory class prior to the Gastric Sleeve procedure that was scheduled for August 5th. The nurse went into detail on the surgery , aftercare and the possible complications. Of course any surgery carries the possibility of complications that can lead to serious illness or death. We all know that. I managed pretty well for the first hour or so. The chatter was light and I was in a room full of all women, mostly middle aged,excited about starting a new chapter in their life. I was the only one who had already had a previous bariatric procedure so I wasn't quite as giddy as they were. I knew all too well the reality of vomiting and terrible nutrition absorption following my lap-band in 2004. I am very versed in the fact that a quick fix carries dire consequences sometimes. I have had a failed piece of silcon/plastic in my stomach since January 2012. I have lived with pain, nausea,vomiting, severe acid reflux and the re-gaining of approx 40 pounds that I had finally shed.  Soon the discussion of the surgery procedure was explained. The surgeon would cut away approx. 70-80% of your stomach, leaving you a small banana shaped new stomach. Your new and permanent stomach will hold less than what your mouth will hold...that is why you must chew your food till it is mush and not over eat.
  The liver must be lifted out of the way for the surgery, so you will be on a liquid diet for up to two weeks before the surgery to reduce liver fat. I was still doing o.k. until the dietician took center stage to tell us how and what we should eat following the surgery and then after six months when you go to a "regular" diet. The thought of the reduced food volume didn't bother me at all, but when we discussed dehydration is when my antennae went up. She kept stressing  how important it was to keep your water intake high. This is not news to me since I battle dehydration everyday of my life as a sufferer of HPOTS. I am always in a level of mild dehydration even after drinking 60-70 oz's  a day.  And then she said the words that changed everything "the first few days after surgery, you can only drink 1oz of water every 15 minutes and you will break that into two small sips about 7 minutes apart, anymore and you will vomit". Oh Snap... that will not work for me. When I wake each morning I have a bottle of water ready to drink before I even get out of bed. One thing us Potsy folks know is that when you are feeling like you are about to drop over or faint, you have to guzzle water ASAP, lots of water,with a side of salt.   The extremely small sips is the first few days, but then she added " you will never guzzle big swallows of water again or you will be sick".  I knew at that moment I had a big problem that would probably keep me from having this procedure.
I went on to get my labs drawn and tried to keep a positive spin on the procedure. The other ladies were all very excited and I knew that first of all, none of them would have a clue what Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia was and I didn't have the energy or desire to try to explain it once again. I know that this surgery has been very successful for many people and I don't want to discourage anyone from considering it, but it is a huge life commitment. It is not reversible and if you continue to overeat you will stretch the small stomach to a larger one and you are right back to square one. You have to take Prilosec everyday of your life and if you smoke (i don't ) you run a risk of getting ulcers that will never heal. I really appreciated the honesty of the staff for telling us the bad along with the good. Another big "oh hell no" was when the nurse said some women who have stopped having periods will start them again after this procedure. She said women of child bearing years must use two forms of birth control for a year after the surgery. Not that that is an issue with me, since I am a born again Virgin. I was so bummed and confused on the long drive home. I cannot do anything to put myself in a state of dehydration.  On Thursday, I emailed the doctor at Vanderbilt to see if he had an opinion or any guidelines on the subject. Within an hour he had answered me and said he had little experience with POTS and gastric surgeries.Apparently most people who have POTS are not overweight.
He did say that anything that restricted my intake of water was not good, and that if it was a serious complication for me, they would have to put in a port and administer IV fluids to keep my body at a level to keep me from having runs of Tachycardia. Obviously, this is a no brainer. I have about 40 pounds to lose, I  will not take such a risk for minimal weight loss. I might feel different if I had 100+ pounds to shed. But I doubt it. One other thing that bothered me was that most of  the women in the class were much smaller than I expected. I would estimate that all but two were only 20-40 pounds over their goal weight. I just expected to see much heavier people. I started to wonder if this is yet another fad. But, to each his own and we all know our own bodies and I know I can't take the chance of being unable to guzzle my H20. I called the office and cancelled the revision today.I will just have the lap-band removed and come home the same day if all goes well.
I am both disappointed and relieved. I have been on the pre-op diet for a couple days and really feel good getting the high protein diet. I have not had any sugar or sweets of any type since last weekend and I sure can feel the difference in my energy level and in the clarity of my thoughts. Even if I had went through with the sleeve, I could still eat sugar filled ice cream,cookies, candies, demon is sweets and I know the answer is a change in my overall eating habits. I am going to have to break up once and for all with my evil lover. It is an abusive relationship, but yet I stay.  My brain knows how bad I feel after the sugar high fades, but this is an addiction like any other.  I hope to continue this pre-op diet even after Gary is removed. I was talking to my sister and If I could incorporate the low cal/high protein diet into my eating habits I think it would be helpful. Maybe two days a week and then the remaining days eat a healthy diet sans sugar/junk food.
I know I have made the right decision for me to cancel because of the possible POTS complications. Hopefully, If I can stay away from the sweets and try to find another way to self sooth I can someday feel better.
Life is all about our daily choices and what makes each of  us happy...well, I should say content or resigned to life  in my case.
 Happy was one of Snow Whites Dwarfs.....

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Change of Mind~ The Gastric Sleeve

 Oh how I love my weekends... I look forward to them like I once looked forward to my yearly vacation. Now I am too tired and too broke to take a yearly vacation. I usually take my vacation days one or two at a time throughout the year by adding a day here and there, and added to a  three day weekend to get that most cherished of all mini vacations : FOUR days off in a row!  You  folks who suffer from a chronic issue with either pain and/or fatigue understand how wonderful it is to know that you don't have to put on a bra and makeup for a few days!! Heaven Baby!  Point being, I love the weekend, but Sunday afternoon always rolls around and you start the dreaded prep work for the Grind. This week is going to be particularly busy for me for a number of reasons. We will be having training at work on new software for dispatching which I'm sure will be quiet stressful in its self. On top of that I have made a major change in my plans of the removal of my lap band. I initially planned to just have Gary removed on August 5th and opted not to have any further surgery, but I have had a change of mind. After much worrying and watching these pounds just continue to accumulate I have decided to have the gastric sleeve procedure. I fear that when the band is removed and I have absolutely no restriction on my food intake, I will go through another cycle of intense weight gain. I don't think my already fatigued body can carry anymore weight. I have gained about 40 pounds in 18 months. I cannot exercise much due to the POTS. I am trying to ride a recumbent bike 10 minutes a day to start my process of reconditioning. If you have the type of POTS I do (hyperandrenergic) , my heart rate goes from 60-70 bpm to  140+ bpm by simply standing. The doctor at Vanderbilt said absolutely no cardiac exercise to start with when you are in a "deconditioned" state. Love that description.You have to work slowly to increase your cardiac workout.  On Wednesday, I attend a half day class at the hospital about the procedure. Then the following week I go for all the consults with the NP, anesthesiologist and the nutritionist. So I am two weeks away from the surgery...conflicted still to some degree about the fact that I will lose a section of stomach and that it is not reversible. I have been online reading forum posts from patients who have had the sleeve. So many say "the best decision I have ever made" then you see the ones where everything that could go wrong has and the people are in a bad place. I know every surgery has risks and possible complications. I am trying to weigh the negatives of carrying these extra pounds and the health risks associated with them to the surgery/post surgery complications.  I know this for sure... I didn't think I could be more miserable than I was a couple years ago, but let me assure you I am 10X worse now than I was in January 2012 when this lap-band failed and the weight gain began. I am both physically and mentally flat-lined. I'm in a depressive funk that I battle each day to claw myself out of ...
So the decision has been made. I can't continue to endure the daily struggle to just walk across the parking lot or down the hall at work. I am responsible for my life, both the good and bad. I can't get to the point of deconditioning to where I can't take care of myself. It is my responsibility to make the mortgage, feed and cloth myself and take care of business daily. A gals got to do what she has to do, so in two weeks I once again take a radical step in this battle of the bulge. I have an excellent surgeon in Knoxville who has done over 700 gastric sleeve procedures. He is very highly recommended by other physicians and past patients so this relieves my anxieties to a certain degree. So I am trying to embrace this as another new beginning and get myself in the right frame of mind to relax and prepare for the big day.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Solitary Life

When I was a little girl, I spent most of my time alone. My father was a veteran of WWII and was over fifty years old when I was born. He suffered terribly from the malaria he contracted in the Philippines and PTSD. Our home was a ticking time bomb... as long as it was silent, it was tolerable. I have very few memories of before my parents divorced and I have absolutely no memories of my mother and father ever speaking to each other. I have a sister seven years older than me that I pretty much pestered as little sisters have a tendency to do.  She and my favorite cousin Pat would shut me outdoors to entertain myself.   My  mom worked each day in near by Gatlinburg and my dad was permanently disabled and basically home bound ,not to mention pissed at the world. He would work the tobacco patch and garden early in the day and then return to the house around noon to rest and sleep. This was when the code of silence had to be strictly adhered to or hell would break loose.  I would stay outside most of the time, playing in the woods or in the creek.  I was fearless and  regularly ventured into the deep woods alone to eat tea berries, stomp on devils puffballs and play fairy houses with the lush moss as their carpet. I loved the songbirds and all the wildlife I would see occasionally and I did not fear them.  I wasn't much of a girly girl.  I wanted a holster and pistol for I longed to be a cowgirl, galloping across rolling fields and prairies. On my fifth birthday I got a stick horse and  it was possibly definitely  the best gift ever.  That same fall,  I realized there were other children  and a terrible place called "school" I must attend. We lived about a quarter mile from the small school house and my poor mom had to literally drag me screaming and fighting in the door each morning. My school chums would later tell me they would gather around the heater and watch out the window each morning to witness the tantrum I threw as she pulled me through the gravel. Sometimes I would be completely flat and limp.  I was boneless before it was cool.  I have a few memories of those mornings. After I got into the daily routine and made playmates I chilled out a little.  I suppose it was this early independence that has laid the groundwork for me to long for solitude in this stage of my life. I went through a period during my twenties/thirties and forties that the thought of being single and living alone terrified me. I stayed in a unhealthy marriage way too long because of fear of being alone. I had just been diagnosed with the Fibromyalgia and couldn't imagine facing the future without someone to support and help me. Even a toxic spouse was better than no least that was my belief at that time.But life has a funny way of showing you who's boss. I had a very close relationship with my mother and the loss of her in 2006 to breast cancer was life altering. But the shaking had just begun....within one month I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma cancerous mole on my face. Fortunately, it was found very early and my prognosis was good. The next month my marriage of twenty five years imploded and became dust. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I was sick, divorcing and terrified. I was thankful for the support system I had in my daughter, sister, and my lifelong girlfriends who fifty years earlier watched me come into their lives kicking and screaming.  They knew I was a fighter and I would be o.k., eventually.  A year or so later my daughter moved to Colorado. I wanted to scream "don't go!", but I knew she needed to take flight and find her own path. I didn't want her to feel the responsibility for my life and happiness that I had always felt for my mother. That is not fair to a child. I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin and somewhere that little person who traversed the hills and woods alone, playing with imaginary friends was wakening. I have talked before about how I actually don't live alone, I have my inner child to nurture daily. I love the solitude of my life.
Outside of work, I don't socialize at all except with immediate family and best friends.  My medical problems dictate much of my life. I only have so much to give and I will never again give any of my energy to undeserving/selfish humans. If I can take care of myself, so can everyone else.  I have a family of furry friends  who need and rely on me and that is where I am centering my limited energies. I won't say that I don't miss the human touch, I do. Sometimes I dream of intimacy, not sex, intimacy. Big difference. It would be nice to trust and love again but I don't think it will happen. My wall is pretty much impenetrable at this point. On the other hand, not being responsible for anyone except yourself is quite intoxicating.  I am too tired and ill to put any effort into a relationship, and as we all know they require a lot of time and attention, not to mention shaving your legs on a regular basis. So I have embraced this solitary life and I'm trying to redefine who I am daily. If I could have one wish it would be to be energized and healthy for a season so I could spread my wings and do a little flying of my own.