An Anniversary and an Update

The Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of my heart surgery, and I have to say that things are going generally well.  Not without some speed bumps, of course, but overall I feel better.  As I mentioned in a previous post it’s hard to imagine that something so… big… could end up being such a positive.  And for all that I really am thankful.

The scars are fading.  I have regained most of the feeling in my left wrist… wasn’t expecting that, but it’s a good thing, right?  Stamina hasn’t fully returned, but to be fair I have not been exercising like I should.  All in all, I’d say an A-.

The Update

Ah, the weight loss program.  More speed bumps, but not without solid progress.  My issues with the food consistency is increasing.  My palatable options are becoming more limited.  Anything with a bread-like consistency is still off-putting to me.

I have been branching out and trying more dessert-like options, and some are very good.  There’s a recipe for lemon bars that is absolutely awesome.  I’m still making shakes.  There’s a handful of other recipes that are good.

I have also been cheating more often.  Not every day, but more often than I should.  The positive side is that I have been making better choices than when I started cheating.  Instead of a Wendy’s Baconator or some Arby’s half-pound beefy-cheesy thing or a Popeye’s 4 pc meal, all of which weigh in at 900 to 1700 calories, I’ve discovered Jimmy John’s Turkey “Unwich” (no bread, wrapped in lettuce).  I add cucumbers, onion, peppers, and pickles, and it’s a whopping 260 calories!  Nice, and surprisingly tasty.  Add a 20 calorie pickle and we’ve got a satisfying meal for under 300.  I could see myself doing this more often even after the program is over… which is kind of the point.

With all that I have, so far and as of this morning, lost 33 lbs.  I’m on the edge of slipping into the 220s, a place I haven’t been in near 17 years.  So, even with the frustration, I am able to adjust and still make it work in my favor.

…the world hasn’t ended… yet, anyway

It just occurred to me that I haven’t given a update.  We need to fix that, so here we go.

Overall the weight loss is going well.  It’s not a liquid diet.  There are shakes involved, sure, but not exclusively.  You don’t even have to do shakes if you don’t want to, but I find them convenient, and since I’m not really a breakfast person I find drinking a meal more palatable than eating a meal.  So, no, there’s real food involved.

Now, let’s not front, the food is not gourmet.  I’ve been able to make some pretty decent things, like an enchilada bake that is surprisingly good, and some banana walnut muffins that were awesome, and there have been a couple things that were absolutely horrible, but overall the food is… meh.  Let’s be real, even a ‘foodie’ like myself can sacrifice a few months of culinary enjoyment for my end goal of being a slimmer trimmer Ken.  We’re on track.

We are on approximately Day 21, and so far I have lost 16-ish lbs.  Was 19 lbs, but there’s been a couple ‘cheat days’ (including yesterday where I gained 3 lbs back in one day, that’ll teach me!), but overall I’ve been trending steadily down, and it feels good.  I’m finding (‘that’ deleted for Michele) I have more endurance and stamina for routine daily activity like climbing stairs and just doing simple chores.

Missy has lost just over 12 lbs as of the last weigh in.  We’re not supposed to weigh ourselves every day, but I have been.  I’ve gotten used to doing it since I was monitoring my sodium.

While encouraging so far, what is frustrating to me is that I am now down to what I weighed before my weight starting jumping up back in February.  I feel like I haven’t actually gained anything (pun semi-intended), but have merely got back to my ‘base’ weight, so now I am actually starting.  I know that’s probably not the right attitude to have, but that’s how I feel.

At least I can fit into my work clothes again and don’t have to wear my ‘fat jeans’.  🙂

It’s the end of the world as I know it… and I feel fine.

Ok, maybe not the actual end of the world, but these song lyrics make it sound a little more dramatic, a little more interesting, so we’ll run with that.  Life has taken a drastic change of course, however, and we’ll get to that later.  First, a sodium update.

I have successfully stymied my cardiologist.  My weight basically has not budged.  Even, as he put it, we have squeezed all the water out of me there is to squeeze.  Every time he checks I’m not bloating, so that’s good.  End result, he’s perplexed.  There is no higher dosage or stronger medication, so we’ve decided to maintain for the foreseeable future.  Which brings us to…

THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!  TA DA!!!

Missy and I both have embarked on a medically-supervised weight loss program.  We had our first meeting this past Thursday and started the actual plan today.  We’re doing the Health One (HNT) Meal Replacement Plan.  It’s medically-supervised (I already said that).  You’re held accountable.  You have accountability with both a coach and peers in weekly meetings.  There is no surgery.  (I have been told it’s based on a Mediterranean diet, but I cannot find anything to back that up.)  So… we’re taking the big leap.

Missy’s and my motivations are very similar.  It’s not just losing weight and being healthy, though there is that, too.  But there’s more to it.  Ever since I was about 7 yrs old I’ve wanted to go skydiving.  I even had Missy and Matt convinced to treat me for my birthday the last two years with a skydiving trip.  It never happened because I weigh too much (for tandem skydiving).  I want to be able to go to a concert or a ball game and fit in the damn seats, reasonably.  From what I see even skinny ‘normal’ people have trouble fitting in them, they make them so narrow now trying to shoehorn everyone in to maximize profit.  We’d like to lose our CPAP machines.  I’d like to get back into routine walking and hiking like I used to.  Basically daily life things that make life a quality life.

Oh, and I’d like to stop taking these industrial strength water pills, too.  I’m sick of running to the loo every 30 minutes.  One day I went 18 times between 7am and noon.  I am not kidding.

Anyway, about 25+ years ago I started Weight Watchers .  I did very well, lost 11 lbs the first week, and that was with eating an entire medium pizza by myself the last day of the week.  But after a few weeks I slowly fell off the boat, and never did another weight loss program… other than occasional instances of just trying to choose healthier options in general… until now.

So what’s kept me from doing anything about my weight all these years.  Well, I’ll tell ya…

First, most ‘diets’ I do not find credible.  Most people gain the weight back afterward, and I don’t want to hear that even if I know it’s true.  And I know that people will either tell me that to my face or say it to others behind my back.  But if you think about it, if you go back to bacon cheeseburgers every other day afterward, of course you’re going to gain it back, even with this program.  Duh!  Granted seaweed and garlic smoothies are not sustainable long-term, but the idea is to change your eating habits.  There’s no getting around that.

Second, and I won’t front, fear of failure.  I like to eat.  I like to eat good food… a lot!  I never had the confidence that I could succeed.  And to be honest, I still have concerns.  But with recent events and other concerns, and the fact that I believe I have more self-discipline at this stage of my life, something inside me is telling me I can do it.  The program is 24 weeks, almost six months.  This will take us through both Missy’s and my birthdays, Thanksgiving, and right up to somewhere around Christmas.  Oh, and we will have to forego our weekly Thursday routine of eating out with friends after Toastmasters while the program is going along.  Holiday eating will be in moderation this year.

The first 10 weeks is relatively draconian.  The next 8 weeks we add in more fruits and vegetables.  The final 6 weeks we add in more meats and everything else that resembles a more practical diet.

Having expressed those two concerns, I believe that this program is different.  It’s not a guarantee.  It’s not a panacea.  But it’s reasonable and safe, and worth a shot.

I will make one promise.  I won’t run to Facebook and regale you all with how tasty and wonderful the recipes are.  (I wrote about people who do that in my other blog.)  I will, however, give random updates from time to time.

So that’s it.  That’s our big announcement.  Interesting where life leads you.

My View on Ken’s Sodium Struggle

It has been hard to watch Ken with this latest frustration. He is the heaviest he has ever been and it is water. He knows this, but it doesn’t make it feel any better when you don’t fit in your clothes. He cuts out a lot of sodium foods. Still nothing budges. I see how frustrated he is and can do nothing but encourage and pray.

This is something I have not had too much experience with. I have high blood pressure so I don’t add salt myself. I just have never had the water weight like this. I continue to support and do my best. I just know we will get past it. One more trial that we will win!

Quickie update

As I have said before, the farther I go out the less I’ll post, and there’s been nothing earth shattering to report, I feel like giving a quickie update, so here goes…

Sodium and Weight

The last week of May my Cardiologist put me on a much more serious dose of a new water pill, Torsemide, and off I went.  I was supposed to check in a few weeks later, but haven’t yet.  I will do so early this next week.

I still have the extra weight.  In fact, other than a couple short forays up to 268, I basically haven’t budged.  What HAS changed, and not for the better, is that now I am more achy, I am getting winded and getting tired easier.  Those aren’t good things.  Those are effects of the extra water weight.

We will get this worked out.

Scars & Body Image

A strange topic, but one that most people don’t talk about, so here I am.

My chest is looking very good, almost natural skin color.  You can still notice it if it peeks above my shirt collar, but it’s not bad.  There is no pain to this or any of the scars, which is good.  My arm scar is still not progressing as fast as the chest scar, but is itself moving along nicely and I have no issues with it.

Part of my left wrist is still constantly numb, and always will be.  Expected, warned, but just sayin’.  I hardly even notice, anymore, and I’ve always retained full functionality.

The only new development that I do not like is that I now have the beginnings of varicose veins.  On my inner left knee, next to where an incision was made to remove a vein for the surgery.  They’re small, but they’re still there.  I am NOT happy about this.  I have never had a varicose vein, until now.

Upcoming

I will have a major announcement in about three weeks, but don’t want to say anything just yet.  Not even hints.

It’s been awhile…

…yes, indeed, it has.  You’ve heard the old cliches… life gets busy, you feel better and start forgetting, yada yada yada.  And all that’s true.  I have been feeling better.  Life has been busy.  You forget things as mundane as keeping up a blog.  All that stuff.  And while things have been going in a generally positive direction, for which I am deeply grateful, all has not been perfect.

Back on December 18th I talked about water weight, sodium, and weight in general.  My cardiologist and I got things worked out pretty quickly and things were going along well… until mid February of this year.  Nothing had really changed, and I started gaining weight in leaps and bounds.  Long story short I gained about 22 lbs in just over two months.  I usually hover around 242-ish, give or take a pound, or two, on any given day.  Now I’m hovering in the 260 to 265 lb range, the highest I have ever been.  At least I seem to have plateaued, but it still feels defeating.

For about two months I didn’t think it was water weight, so I didn’t contact my cardiologist, which was a mistake.  I wasn’t showing any of the other symptoms.  I wasn’t bloated (heavy, uncomfortable, but not bloated), I wasn’t achy, I wasn’t short of breath, or any of that other stuff, just gaining weight rapidly.

Once I woke up and realized what was going on, to the doctor I went.  We decided to change one of my medications, the ‘water pill’, and increase it and my potassium to twice a day, lower my sodium intake as much as possible, and go from there.  I’m still hovering, which is kind of disappointing.  I owe him a new blood test next week, and we will reassess then and move forward.

The moral of the story:  Don’t be proud.  Don’t be stubborn.  Stubborn is dumb!  Stubborn is dangerous.  Stubborn could lead to congestive heart failure.  That’s not a real fine option.  Don’t be stubborn!

Upcoming:  Rehab & glucose monitoring.  (For my own reminders, more than anything.)

Setback? Nah – Missy’s View

I was not panicked. Just concerned. I did not think that I needed to worry too much, but I did pray. I had to pray we got there in one piece, as the roads were a bit dicey. We got there and I dropped Ken off at ER so I could park the car. I knew he would be in a room when I returned and he was. They had already started hooking him up to do his EKG and we were once again drawn into the crazy world of do a test and wait.

At one point they gave Ken a nitro pill. After that the symptoms subsided and they did another EKG. His EKG had changed ever so slightly. Right after this they took him for his CT scan. I sat in that little room thinking about the fact that the nitro effected his symptoms. For the first time I started to worry. I started to get major anxiety. He was gone a bit and I really just needed to see him. I was very relieved when they brought him back and said they were thinking of keeping him over night for observation. This was a relief because I WAS worried at that point.

I left Ken so I could go home and get some things for us. (Yes, I stayed with him.) I made a couple phone calls as I was leaving the hospital and warming up the car. Then took my time going home. Once I was home I gathered items and took care of the cat. On the way back I stopped to get something to eat. I sat and ate it before heading back. I guess I took too long because Ken started to worry about ME. Time to settle in for the night.

I slept on a cot and we got a few hours of sleep. Not much though. The morning brought more testing and waiting. We made do but it was a LONG day. When the Cardio doctor came with his nurse practitioner they pretty much said they knew it was not his heart. However, the doctor started talking about staying another night. We wanted nothing to do with that! They sent him for a stress test and called it good. We finally got out after 5 that night. 24 hours in the hospital, but it was all worth it to know he was well and safe!

From the wife’s point of view!

Setback? Nah.

I really need to fix my header area.  But I digress, already.  *sigh*

Anyway, things have been going well.  Astonishingly well.  I feel good.  I feel better.  I can do more now than before the surgery.  That’s all good.  Then this past week I hit what I thought might be a speed bump.  Around last Monday I started having some chest… not pain, per se, but… discomfort.  It wasn’t bad, but I was a little concerned.  As the week went on it remained, but it lessened.  Ok, I thought, it’ll go away.  I spoke to some people at rehab about it on Monday, and we agreed it might be natural long-term side-effect of recovery, but to still keep it in mind to have it looked in to if I thought it necessary.

Fast forward to Thursday, and I’m home from work for another reason, but I’m really not feeling well, either.  The discomfort in my chest has suddenly increased, and is very uncomfortable.  It was in the center of my chest and my upper chest in front of my shoulders.  I describe the pressure as standing against a wall, trying to take in a deep breath, and feeling pressure on my chest because the wall will not give way.  I also felt pain/pressure when I would move suddenly and/or turn abruptly to either side.

But at the same time I don’t *know* what it is.  I’m also constantly told, “If you feel anything bad have it checked immediately.”, so I did.  Later in the afternoon, Missy and I headed down to the ER again.

I am again whisked into a room in the back… I later learn they have 36! rooms in the ER and that it’s not common, but not unusual, for them all to be occupied at the same time… and am asked a slew of question, the usual poking and prodding, and so on.  But because this is heart related they do an EKG, which came out fine.  The doctor was afraid of a possible blood clot, which is not unheard of for people after heart surgery, so they do an X-ray and a CT Scan.  Those both came back negative.  It is decided to have me stay overnight for observation… which I had kind of predicted would happen before I even went in… to do some more tests in the morning and to consult with the day’s cardiologist.

I felt gypped because, during my surgery, I had a very small broom closet-like room that was very sterile and cramped.  This time I had a very nice and spacious room that was actually comfortable.  But I digress, again.

The next day I have another EKG, an Echocardogram, and a treadmill stress test.  The EKG (which might have been the night before, I forget), was even better than the first time.  The Echo was fine.  The stress test was fine.  Interspersed between these tests is consultations with the Hospitalist (on-call doctor of the hospital), an on-call cardiologist and his nurse practitioner, pretty much everything heart-related is ruled out.

As coincidence would have it, I already had an Echocardiogram scheduled for the next Monday, which I now no longer needed.  In talking with the on-call cardiologist, he wants to keep me for a second night of observation “juuuuust to be safe”… where have I heard that before?… and because my regular cardiologist was on-call the next day, but Missy and I quashed that pretty quickly, and he backed off, though I sensed grudgingly.  It was after this that the treadmill stress test was done.

The cardio nurse practitioner was present during my treadmill stress test, and afterward she saw that I was not suffering any heart ill-effects.  Bottom line, through an incredible series of process of elimination, it was determined that it was most likely just inflation in my chest cavity and/or around my lungs.  I have some anti-infamatory medication for the next 30 days and instructions to take ibuprofen as needed.  I’ve been out for two days and I feel much better.  In my non-medically trained opinion, the inflammation makes the most sense.  So here I am, telling another story, and I hope it helps someone down the line.  We shall see.

As a last point, I want to reiterate again what amazing and stellar care I was given by everyone at my local hospital, especially the nurses.  I said it before and I’ll say it again, the nurses make or break the entire experience.

Appreciation and the New Year

For the past several years I have seen people who were happy that the last year had passed. Just in a general sense. 2016 and 2017 seemed especially to draw people’s individual ire. I’ve only seen a couple people that wanted 2018 to “FOAD”, so maybe things are getting better, but meh, maybe not. I guess it’s all individual perspective, and that’s fair.

How do I feel about the passing of the new year? I’ll tell ya how I feel. I am most certainly looking forward to an even better 2019, but all in all I felt that 2018 was a good year.

Seriously. Honestly.

How can that be? A case could be made that I was somewhat near death in 2018, being lucky to not have had a heart attack, having had major open heart by-pass surgery, and on and on. So much negative. But here’s the deal and here’s why I feel appreciative and good about it… I did NOT die. I did NOT have a heart attack. My issues, through mind boggling coincidence and chance, were caught in time that they could be fixed… and they were fixed. That’s not a small thing. I have every reason to be appreciative for what has worked in my favor. And I give a lot of credit for my progress and attitude to my medical care givers (family, friends, doctors, nurses, rehab people, etc.) in being both competent and compassionate… making my experience actually pleasant at times. The outpouring of help, in all forms, has been overwhelming. I had very few instances where I wanted to condemn the people working with me.

In spite of my deep-seated grumpiness and natural cynicism, I’ve also been a somewhat “glass is half-full” kind of person all my life, so I’m sure that has a part to do with it. I’m ok with that.

I know other people who have issues and/or experiences that are not as easily-fixed and/or satisfying as mine, and I do not intend to be smug about it or throw my feelings of good fortune in anyone’s face. But the flip side is that a great many more people don’t have the issues I have, either. It’s all individual… I see this a lot in rehab. For whatever it’s worth, I do feel that one’s own attitude plays a part in their own recovery. The mind is powerful. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but it helps. Use it to your advantage.

Clearance!

Well, kinda.  I went to the doctor today.  Routine follow-up appointment with the heart surgeon.  Had an x-ray done first.  Went for the appointment, first met with his nurse, whom I had developed a special rapport with the last few months.  For example, she said she was going to put me in Room 11, so I said I didn’t want Room 11.  She, being the cool and sarcastic person that she is, instantly picked up on what I was doing and we shot back and forth humorously for a few minutes.  It’s pretty good when you can connect with a person like that in spite of seeing each other only half a dozen times.

Anyway, the doctor comes in, asks how my breathing and (lack of) pain is doing, tells me my x-rays look good, that my breast bone has completely healed, and… that I am cleared of all physical restrictions.  No more weight lifting limits.  Woohoo!

Ok, I do need to keep being mindful of things.  If something suddenly seems out of place, or suddenly hurts when it shouldn’t then give a call, but otherwise I don’t need to see him anymore.  I’m good with that.