Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Years!

I guess a progress report is somewhat in order. I have been back to the gym, working out. I am seeing progress, and that is good, but I still have a long way to go, and I have another 3+ weeks before I can try running again. I still have to wear a compression garment, and I am not going to lie, I am getting rather tired of it. Other than my incision hurting from time to time, I would say that the limited motion is gone.

The holidays were a fun time of year in some respects (rather boring in others). I started in a new position at work the week before Christmas, and since the holidays is a traditionally slow period of time, I spent the better part of the last two weeks scouring the internet for something interesting to read. Thankfully, a few people updated blogs, but I did succumb to one of my guilty pleasures -- watching YouTube videos of Mark Cavendish on my phone. For those of you who don't follow professional cycling, Cavendish was last year's green jersey winner at the Tour de France and won the rainbow jersey at the world championships. He is considered the fastest man on two wheels and is a character that I find just fascinating.

Aside from feeding my Cavendish cravings, I also watched some other interesting videos, like one about the man who ran a half marathon barefoot in the Arctic Circle and another from the doctor working at Everest during the 1996 tragedy. All of it pretty interesting in terms of the ability for mental drive to create physical abilities.

These videos saved me as I was scared that my complete lack of nothingness at work would make me incapable of carrying on a conversation. I literally ended a conversation with SO by saying, "I am scared that if I don't hang up the phone now, I will have nothing left to say to you tomorrow so have a good night!"

But, it wasn't all inactivity. New Year's Eve proved to be not as low key as I had imagined. It was the first time that I would be celebrating the holiday with my boyfriend, not just SO specifically, but the first time I could actually say I was in a real relationship on New Year's Eve. Yes, I am 30 years old, and it's my first relationship that lasted for any significant period of time.

We had a great night together, capped off by SO finally taking me "dancing." Now, I mention all the time, I spent a year of my life in the Caribbean, where it is common to go dancing almost every weekend so it's something I definitely miss. To try to satisfy my desire to go dancing, SO took me to this "club" near Crocker Park called the Savannah. I felt like I had walked onto the set of the movie The Wedding Singer minus an even remotely attractive lead singer of the band. There was that square dance floor, lots of older couples dancing, and an 80's rock cover band complete with Breakfast Club posters on the backdrop. I can't say I really danced all that well because I was laughing so hard, but for two people who truly love people watching, it was a perfect way to ring in the new year-- surrounded by 50 something's making out on a dance floor while tables and tables of people watched.

2012 started with my dreams coming true--literally. I dreamt that SO made me pancakes for breakfast and low and behold, he did just that. With a rather late start to the day, we kind of had to hurry to get to the CTC (Cleveland Tri Club) Polar Plunge at Huntington Beach.

Now, I will fully admit that I chickened out last year, and I didn't go. This year, however, as a member of the CTC board, I felt obligated to go and obligated to participate. According to MD's dry erase board, the water temp was around 36 degrees. Along with more than 300 other people, I ran into the water in my swim suit. Well, that sentence isn't entirely true, there was a group of guys behind us who wore coconut shell bras and hula skirts and a few others were dressed up in dresses and other attire. The problem with Huntington is that you can't just run in and run out, it's pretty shallow, so you kind of have to run about 10-20 yards into the water to get submersed. So, on the 20 yard run back, I could quickly feel all of the blood rushing to my lower extremities and worried that I might pass out, but I made it back and lived to tell the tale.
The best part of the affair was getting to see so many friendly faces at Panini's.

Now, if that wasn't cold enough, because of the surgery, I had swapped games to which I would accompany my dad to the Browns game. By the time I set out to leave to meet my dad, it was in the 30's with howling wind and rain. After adding an additional three layers of clothes, I walked out of the bathroom, and I asked SO's if I looked good, to which he said, "ahh... not really," a fact confirmed later.

I was kind of already running late so I rushed out of SO's house, I got about 5 minutes down the road when I realized I had forgotten my phone at his house. So, I had to rush back and was very late to meet my dad. We got stuck in traffic, and then we got stuck in pedestrian traffic. I felt horrible! I also felt quite warm. We parked about a mile away from the stadium and the 7 (not exaggerating) layers of clothes I was wearing were keeping me quite toasty, but that changed about the middle of the 2nd quarter when the lack of motion kind of set in.

When we got to the stadium, we had to go through the pat down line. Now, these lines are segregated into female and male, and as I got to the front of the line, the lady asked me, "are you female?" After I got over the blow to the ego of that question, I said yes and got myself patted down and met my dad in the stadium. I went into the bathroom and saw my reflection and gave the security guard the benefit of the doubt...there was so little of me that looked very feminine with all of those clothes on that the question was probably merited.

Aside from feeling bad when my dad spilled his beer, I had a really good time at the game. My dad kept worrying about me as I was kind of shivering, but I really wasn't that cold. I really like football, and I had a blast high fiving the guys sitting around us when the Browns started playing football at the end. I could have done without the obnoxious Pittsburgh fan a few rows ahead of us wearing a Harrison jersey, but for the most part, it was a fun game.

The only bad part were all the sore loser fans yelling at all the Pittsburgh fans to go home that they weren't wanted! I wanted to yell at these people, "have you seen how depressed this city is?" I wanted to say to the Steelers fans, "Thanks for spending your money here, why don't you stay the night, maybe grab some food before you leave."

While it was probably the coldest New Years Day of my life, it is easily one of the most memorable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Progress Report

It has now been over three weeks since the original surgery, two weeks since the second surgery. So, what's the progress???

I am no longer walking like an old lady or like someone who threw out their back, which is great because I was getting mildly tired of having to explain to people what was wrong with me. While I have obviously been fairly public about my surgery in this blog, I have not been very forthcoming with details at work, mainly because of my manager's attempts to get me to postpone/cancel my surgery because it was inconvienent for him. While I know that putting it out on the internet for all to see makes it available for even him to see, but I am only facebook friends with one person from work so it's not widely known. I am also easily annoyed when people state the obvious, particularly when you are physically incapable. For instance, back in 2001, I was on crutches for six weeks after my ACL reconstruction surgery. Week after week, I would have the same people come up to me and say, "You are still on crutches?" "Well, DUH!!!" I'm not carrying them around with me because I feel like my armpits haven't suffered enough yet. Or, back in 2008, when I had my hammer toe surgery and was a boot for a month. "Did you hurt your foot?" "Nope, just wanted to give my left calf muscles a rest." I think I did a fairly good job of answering people's questions and appreciating the sympathy, but I know I snapped at one person and feel mildly bad about that... would have felt worse it had been someone I actually liked.

I got the drains out last Thursday, probably should have blogged about that, but getting those things out was like heaven. I don't know if it was the mental or actually physical pain, but having them in my body made it difficult for me to walk, to stand up straight, and to get comfortable. The drains themselves were these eight inch white flexible contraptions that looked like a rubber covered cheese graters. When they come out, it was this really weird sliding feeling. I am pretty sure that the right one was wrapped around my bladder or something because I could feel it loop through my insides as it came out, a really weird feeling. The difference between having them in and out was night and day. I was able to sit, I was able to stand, I was even able to buckle my pants.

I have started working out!

Last Saturday, was my first debate tournament since November, and I was genuinely excited to be there. I had hopes of being chill and watching my kids compete, but that didn't happen. The tournament was at Stow High School, and if you don't know anything about Stow High School, think of your favorite airport terminal (besides CAK) and that's the building. I spent the better part of the day chasing after judges walking around in my typical speedwalk fashion. The problem with that building is that it's staircases are on the end of the hallways so going upstairs requires going down about a 100 yards to the staircase, up the stairs, 200 yards across the top floor looking for whoever and then down another flight of stairs to the 100 yard walk back to the library where I was stationed. For someone whose biggest exercise in 2 weeks had been walking up two flights of stairs, it was a lot of walking. For the last round (there are typically four), I opted to watch my "A" team debate, and after forty-five minutes of rest, I came out and felt like I had gotten hit by a MAC truck. Every muscle in my back was on fire. My mom wanted me to go to a holiday party with her that evening, but my body refused to let me off the couch. I guess I overdid it.

After recovering from that episode, I went to the gym for the first time in 3 weeks on Wednesday and walked about four miles on the treadmill. It wasn't really exciting, but it was something. Last night (Thursday), I set up the bike on the trainer and rode for an hour. I tried to work on cadence and isolated leg drills, but I found myself pretty tired, but it was good to feel like I was doing something, making forward progress.

The doctor has given me the okay to walk, to swim, to bike, but high impact stuff like running is out for the next month. I also think OTS (out of the saddle) on the bike is also out. I still have to wear a compression garment, but the tape is off the incision so I finally get to see what it looks like, not going to lie, not very good right now.

It should be said that I weighed myself after my workout on Wednesday, let's just say, BIG MISTAKE.

I also mark my daily progress by the pair of pants I can wear and if I can actually button the top button. Today's jeans are my normal nice jeans to wear to work on Fridays, haven't been in option in a month. I can button the top button but it's not comfortable. Hopefully, that will change by next Friday. It's a sign of progress as the swelling continues to go down, and I can start to see the muscles that reside in my abdomen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Surgery #2 - The Bubble

When I first removed the girdle contraption that they put me in after the surgery, I was a big disappointed as there was this big bubble, for lack of a better word, across my belly right where the skin roll use to be. Now the folds of skin were no longer there, but this bubble was pretty significant. When I read the post op information, I realized it was most likely filled with fluid and would require being drained by the doctor. I was relieved it was common, but annoyed it was there.

I didn't see the doctor until Tuesday (6 days after surgery). My mom and I had this nice Tuesday afternoon where we did a little shopping then went to lunch. She was going to go with me to the doctor, but I decided it was unnecessary, and she could drop me off at my apartment where I would get my car and drive myself.


Well, when I got to the doctor's office, the doctor saw me right away and was surprised to see the bubble. He said that it wouldn't be a problem and that it would be best to put in the drain, and when he did, fluid started coming right out, which was what was expected, but then it stopped. I was watching pretty intently when the doctor said to me, "are you really going to watch me do this to you the whole time." Well, that was enough to trigger my flight reflex. I started getting woozy and soon enough the only thing I could see was one eye of the nurse standing in front me as everything else was blacked out. They got me to lay down before I completely passed out, but the doctor kept working on my bubble. He was poking it in various places trying to get the fluid out, but there was no luck. The doctor asked me to come in on Thursday to see progress and other options. I read in between the lines that even though he didn't say it, I was pretty sure the main option was an additional surgery.

So, when I got there Thursday, he looked at me and said, "well, I hate to tell you this, but after I saw you on Tuesday, I had my assistant reserve some time in the operating room Friday afternoon because the best way to get rid of this is for me to go in there and remove it. Ok, minimally invasive to my work schedule, would be able to work Friday morning then go to the hospital, no big deal. Then it hit me: afternoon surgery means no food, no water all morning. BIG BIG PROBLEM. This no eating no drinking thing led to what I will consider at least one of the worst 10 days of my life yesterday.

Most people who know me, know that Marie without food is not someone you want to be near. CS, who has gone to so many races and tours with me I have lost count, has a scale of my blood sugar level. Marie hasn't eaten in a while, she's an 8, she hasn't said anything for 20 minutes... we are moving to a 9. My mom often warns people to stay away if I am hungry. Apparently, I don't handle it well.

It should also be said that I was suppose to take my debaters to a two-day tournament down in Canton, and while I am not the biggest fan of 2 day tournaments, I was really excited for this one as a bunch of my former debaters were coming back to judge, and I was really looking forward to seeing and talking to them. Still plan on going down there for a couple of hours, but it's not the same.

So, Friday morning, I woke up early to try to get as much done at work as possible. The doctor did say I could have clear liquids, but that wasn't going to help my Diet Coke addiction. I was hungry, but okay until about 9:30, and that is when the caffeine withdrawl headache started. By 10:15, I was starting to feel nauseous and couldn't fathom staying at work for a couple of more hours. I got up and looked at a couple of people, and they immediately told me to go home. I logged off my computer, went to my car, and to add insult to injury, it wouldn't start. I had to go back up to my group and get someone to give me a jump so I could get home. Seriously, was my car battery dying absolutely necessary?

I got home and laid on the couch waiting for my parents to pick me up. I was beyond miserable. My head was just pounding, and I was sick to my stomach. They drove me to the hospital and as soon as I got out, I started dry heaving in the walk way, then, the two advil I had taken came up in this nasty yellow bile. Yes, my caffeine withdraw gave me a migraine.

A nice volunteer pushed me in a wheelchair to the surgery center. The doctor was fortunately running early so I had my surgery about an hour early, for which I was extremely grateful, I wanted knocked out from this agony. After putting in the IV, I have never looked forward to an IV more in my life, they gave me some drugs, and it was like magic. The headache went from an 8 on the pain scale to a 1.

When I woke up after surgery, I felt great, no headache, no nausea, no anesthesia hangover. There was a lady who was across an aisle from me, and she had had a lump removed for her breast and was very happy to find out that the lump was benign. The last time I had been in that particular hospital, it had been for my thyroid surgery, when they removed half of it, not because they thought I had cancer, but because all of the tests had come back inconclusive. I recall waking up and wanting an answer to that question so I have cancer or not. When they said no, it wasn't cancer, it was a surge of relief and joy. I was very happy for this lady even though I didn't know her because I have had a glimpse into that hell she had gone through before the surgery.

After leaving the first recovery room and going back to the second, they sat me up, and the headache and the nausea came back. After an hour or so in recovery, they let me go home, but as soon as I got in the car, I thought I was going to throw up. I didn't, opted to lay down and was able to get home without any problems.

As I laid there, I got some frustrated texts from my sister, and SO called me. He said I sounded good, but I felt like that was far from the truth as my head was still pounding. Around 7:30, my mom gave me some mashed potatoes, and that was the straw the broke the camel's back. 10 minutes after taking my first bite, I yelled at my mom that I was about to throw up. She handed me a towel, and I threw up the diet shasta, the 2 cookies I ate at the hospital, and the three bites of mashed potatoes that I had just tried to consume. Mind you, throwing up right after you had your abdomen opened is pretty much the exact opposite of what you want.

I then took a couple of Excederin PM and started feeling better. They worked wonders actually. I fell asleep and woke up with no headache. Thank you drug makers for making my day of agony go away!

Now, after scraping out my "bubble" the doctor also put in 2 drains in my abdomen which I will probably have for the next week. Every 8 hours, I am suppose to drain and log how much fluid has come out. I am totally unsure of what I am going to wear for the next week to cover them, but such is my lot in life.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Recovery - Things I Have Learned

It has been five days since my surgery, and here are some of the things I have learned about myself and my parents.

1. Percocete does not have the fun side effects of viocodin.

Back in 2008, I had a hammer toe surgery. I know that many people like Barberton Hospital just fine, but for me, that was a one and done. First of all, the nurse put me in a "one size fits all" gown. Now, I don't know how many of you are familiar with Barberton fried chicken, but let's say "one size fits all in Barberton" left me with a sheet that I tried to wrap around myself three times. Then, the anasestologist gave me enough of whatever cocktail that I literally couldn't wake up. After about three or four hours, they forcibly woke me up and basically kicked me out of recovery into my sister arms. Now, she was suppose to take me to my apartment, but since I couldn't stand up on my own, I went to parents house where I fell back asleep and didn't wake up until the next day. I recall not eating a thing that day because I felt that crappy. Then, the doctor gave me viocidin, and I spent a bulk of that particular weekend texting a guy I had dated that spring telling him he was right about me and some of my personality traits. Oh wow, was that an experience!

This time around, however, I actually had a gown that seemed to fit, even feet warmers that were my size. I did struggle with sleeping for the next two days, but I was popping those pain pills like tic tacs. Someone mentioned to me before the surgery that you will be surprised by how many movements start in the core and will cause you pain, and she was definitely right. No text messages from anyone saying, "man, how many drugs did they give you?"

2. I need to re-evaluate my 1 to 10 pain scale. When I was in the hospital, just sitting there, I told them 4, even got down to a 3. I think the problem was that I was just sitting there with an IV of drugs in me. They didn't ask, "try to move and tell us what the pain is" because that probably would have been closer to an 8.

Granted, as she was sitting there, I think my mom had to stop herself from saying, "yeah, Marie's '4'" is probably closer to most people's 8 or 9. Why, because like many people who have suffered from physical therapists, I know what my '10' is and have only reached it once. That's right, getting hit by a car, still an 8 compared to the sadistic workings of one physical therapist named Mike. Ten days after my ACL reconstruct knee surgery, I mean, the staples were still in my knee, Mike put me stomach down on a table as he wanted to measure the range of motion I had re-acquired. I think I was at 40 degrees without any help. Then, Mike started pushing on my leg to see how far it would go, 50 degrees, bearable, 60 degrees, painful, 70 degrees, the tears started flowing, 80 degrees the begging for him to stop began, 90 degrees, the screams for mercy started, 95 degrees, and he finally stopped. I recall sulking for a few days afterward because it had hurt that badly. The moral of the story was sitting there a few hours after surgery, I should probably have been a 6, but no, for me, I could only muster it a 4.

3. I come by many of my "messy" habits honestly.

While SO and his engineer particular ways are starting to rub off on me, I still have a lifetime of a little mess being acceptable to overcome.

4. Bodily functions from coughing, laughing, sneezing, and going to the bathroom hurt, enough said!

5. I am probably the person in the world who finds my mom the most funny.

Last year, my mom asked me to help her put up the artificial tree, or what my dad calls "the ornament." Sure, I said, how hard could it be? Well, when we "finished" and still had about 10 branches left over, we decided that it wasn't the job for me. The entire time, I had mental images of SO standing there watching nearly puking at the job we were doing. This year, I helped, but she kept making these comments that aren't really funny to anyone but me. For instance, we were looking through ornaments, and she said, "now where are those Rote singers." I knew which ornament she meant, but it still makes me laugh as I know she was pointing out the irony as no one in their right mind would think of our family singing as a beautiful thing. I have had to yell at my mom multiple times to remind her that laughing does indeed hurt.

6. I am easily addicted to backgammon.

I installed a backgammon app on my phone, and my eyes have literally started hurting from playing the game the entire weekend. It has to be the number's thing, I don't know, but I can't stop playing it!

7. Two days is my threshold for showering. I still love her dearly, but my first roommate in college, LM, had a tendency not showing for days, maybe even weeks at a time, as a kind of social experiment. I will say that she has/had this huge head of curly hair that she couldn't really wash everyday, but she would start to smell. I recall one Sunday evening, she asked me, "can you smell me." To which I responded, "YES!" She then said, "No you can't." That is when I started my bad habit of banging my head against the wall. (not really a habit, but I feel like doing it all the time). After two days, I had had enough, couldn't look in the mirror, nearly used a stick to take my clothes to the laundry. Ahh, I like feeling clean!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Surgery

Yesterday, I had the surgery I have wanted to have for the last seven years: I had the excess skin removed my from abdomen, and while they were at it, they removed the not so lovely lovehandles on my back.

As most people who know me know, I grew up as a bigger girl and by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I hit about 240 pounds on the scale. I believe that is the largest I ever got, and I don't think I was that heavy for very long, but I was well over 200 pounds for my entire high school career.

Throughout the rest of my time in high school, then in college, and finally when I lived in the Dominican Republic, I lost all of the excess weight and was down to about 150. I have dropped to as low as 143, when I was bumming around Australia with not enough money, and have gotten back up to 175 (when I just stopped paying attention for a few months) but for the most part, I stay around 154 during the summer and 162 in the winter.

So, all of these facts are fairly well known, but what was the final motivation to have the surgery? Well, there are about two things that have happened that convinced me it was time.

First, SO and I were at a triathlon (The Great Buckeye Challenge), and we both came in 2nd in our age group. I also came in 4th overall. Mind you, I probably would have won the race if I hadn't done 85 miles on the bike the day before, but I wasn't racing to race, I was racing to see how the run would go. Anyway, we took a picture together with our respective plaques, and there it was for all to see: a big fat roll at the bottom of my jersey. Now, standing next to SO who has about 5% body fat doesn't help, but it is so discouraging knowing how hard I work and how that fat roll never goes away. Second, I finished my second Ironman in two years and still had the same sentiment after finishing, that I am fat or at least that I will always look fat.

Being a fat girl for most of my life has created body image issues that were reinforced by this excess skin just hanging from my abdomen. Those issues have translated into confidence issues and insecurities that never seem to go away. While I know that most of those things are mental and can't be fixed by the physical, it should be easier to work through those mental issues when I am not looking at this stretched out skin

So, after dealing with all the red tape of having surgery and getting the time off work, I finally had approval for the 3oth of November and the week following off for recovery.

I had the surgery about a half mile away from my apartment, and I had to be at the Health and Wellness Center at 6:15. My initial thought was to walk there on my own, and just have SO or my mom come pick me up after the surgery. After talking about it with my aunt, she suggested this was a very bad idea. In the end, SO ended up taking me in the morning, staying throughout the surgery, then helping my mom get me into her car.

Really, the entire thing was pretty noneventful, other than having to have two anti-nausea shots after the surgery. For those athletes out there, all of the doctors and nurses were pretty amazed by my heart rate. When I got there in the morning, it was 52 and while having surgery, it was in the mid 40's. They were not alerted as the doctor informed them that I am an Ironman and am in very good shape.

While waiting for me, SO sharpened his backgammon skills by using my backgammon app on my phone. I taught him how to play on Sunday, and I am already worried that he will be better than me soon.

After recovering from the two anti-nausea shots, SO helped me into my mom's car, and I gave him a kiss and a thank you and went home. I was in that miserable state of only wanting to be asleep but I suffered through the 15 minute car ride and fell asleep as soon as I got in the lazyboy at my parents house.

I think around 4, I had some toast and was finally able to get my phone out to text some people to let them know that it went well. I fell back asleep and had some mashed potatoes around 8pm.

Getting around is a bit difficult. I walk kind of hunched over and very slowly, but I know that will continue to improve.

I took some photos on Tuesday before the surgery so I will expect to have a photo diary of how this thing goes. My total recovery is 4 weeks, so around Christmas, I will be allowed to get back to my normal workout routine. I am allowed to walk and climb stairs so I hope not to lose all muscle tone, but it's probably good for my body to get some much needed rest.