Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey


NOTE: I received this product as part of a product test.

As most of you know, I’ve been in cardiac rehab for most of the summer. This product is designed to help people with their workouts, so I figured I would see if it had an effect on mine.

Branch chain amino acids are essential in building protein in muscles. The contents of this particular formulation of branched-chain amino acids includes L-Isoleucine, L-Leucine,and L-Valine. What makes it different from many other formulations though is what it doesn’t have. Completely vegetarian, it excludes additives, artificial ingredients, binders, eggs, excipients, fillers, gluten, preservatives, soy, starch, sugar, or wheat. The serving is two capsules, and the recommended times to take this supplement is either 45 minutes before a workout, immediately after a workout, or between meals. According to the packaging, they can also be taken any time the body needs an extra fuel boost.

So, did I find it had an effect? Yes, I did. I had better recovery times from my sessions, and even seemed to have more energy going about my day – although I am still nowhere near where my brain says I should be, but I know that recovery from open heart surgery is not just a six-month quick thing.  Still, I am making progress, and I honestly can say that I feel this product has made a positive difference in that progress over the last month. I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.


I don’t often admit to having weaknesses. It’s partly a “badass” thing; partly just stubborn. However, this week has been really rough.

I’m feeling stuck in so many places and ways that it’s not funny.

First, the PT is at a point where the upper body stuff is working just fine. However, the lower body stuff, which is not cardiac related, really, is not doing so well. I’ve gained a bit of weight — up to 286.4 lbs. as of this morning — and I feel it. Whenever I can’t do something at PT, the therapist just nudges me about my weight. Yeah, I have to lose the weight again; I know that. But that’s a long-term project, and it will take the time it takes. Constantly pressing me about it is not gonna help. It seems that everyone who knows me knows that except the PT, though.

The recent spate of deaths hasn’t helped. Robin Williams suicide was devastating to me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being his age, and that he’d been battling depression. And even though Joan Rivers was 81, her death really threw me for a loop, as it has many people, partly because she was so full of life and energy. The death of an online friend in her 30’s from surgery very similar to mine has not helped, either. Nor did the death of fan/writer/filker Roger Clendenning, at age 44, also from complications of heart surgery. I know death is inevitable, but it’s been hitting far too close to home in far too many instances.

My sister and my aunt are still at war with each other, although I have mostly managed to stay out of that. But they are each saying the same things about the other one, and it’s kind of weird to listen to. My aunt is feeling not so great – she has nerve issues similar to my sciatica. Because she’s 91, her doctors are not rushing to operate, and she is very unhappy that her mobility is even more restricted than it used to be, not to mention being in pain. My sister is also having physical issues,

And the final straw on the last month or so has been watching my oldest friend (not Naomi – this is the surviving friendship that went back all the way to my sophomore year of high school) go through getting a breast cancer diagnosis and not being able to be there for her because of a misunderstanding on her part because of something she thinks I did. See, after my surgery, I had told my ex that she was the first person to call, because she was so important to me. He did so, and when she went on for a bit about how she had helped me by doing research before the surgery, my ex listened quietly. She decided that this meant I had been badmouthing her — something even my sister acknowledges I would never do, especially not to this friend — and refuses to even listen to me. I left her a Facebook message, and now the ball is in her court, but the sad truth is that if she knows that little about me after 47 years, the only thing I can do is let her go and wish her the best. However, it hurts like hell.

This doesn’t mean there are not good things in my life. I have other friends, many of whom I can lean on for just about anything. I am getting my health back, although the process i a heck of a lot slower than I want it to be. My roommate continues to be willing to put up with me. I’m about to turn 62, something that – until my surgery in March – was looking less and less likely.

Please don’t take this entry wrong. I am not looking for sympathy. I’m merely recording what is going on with me, which I did promise I would do about the recovery process. To omit the not pretty part would do the journey less than justice. Really, the journey so far has been largely a good one, although way too slow for my taste. I just don’t want to whitewash over the not so good parts, lest I forget that there are times when it *is* a struggle.

 

 


Yesterday, I ran across some old challah bread that the roomie had left in the fridge. It hadn’t gone moldy, and I was looking for tuff for breakfast, so this is what I did.

Individual Bread Pudding

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice challah (old is better)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1/2 pinch lite salt
  • 1-2 slices of ham
  • Leftover taco seasoning
  • Handful of shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

  1. Tear up the challah and the ham and put it in the bottom of a shallow baking dish
  2. Beat together the egg and the half and half to make a custard. Add the salt and the taco seasoning
  3. Pour the custard over the bread and ham
  4. Top with shredded mozzarella
  5. Pop into microwave for 2-3 minutes (I put it in for two minutes, then checked it and put it back for another minute)
  6. Enjoy

It was everything a good savory bread pudding should be, without a lot of muss and fuss. I suppose I could have stuck the dish under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to brown the cheesy top, but it was just fine without doing so.

In other news, cardiac rehab goes apace. I managed 6 minutes on the treadmill this morning – my sciatica wasn’t acting up – and 30 minutes on the cross-trainer at a workload of 7. The SciFit Power Trainer got 15 minutes.

I’ve been getting out a bit more than before, so I’m pretty pleased with that. Yeah, I wish the healing was going quicker, but I’m trying to not be an idiot and overreach because I don’t want to burn myself out. I’m planning to go see the Walking with Dinosaurs thing with a friend, and also have a mammogram coming up, so life is busy.

Went to dinner with my sister yesterday, and had a nice time, and I made it into Manhattan for one Friday night dinner, and to downtown Brooklyn for another.

I’ve also been getting some writing, which makes me very happy.

The not so great news is that I seem to have become a picnic ground for a mosquito, who has left a number of bites across my back under the bra-line. They are not fatal, clearly, but they are uncomfortable. Sadly, they are not in a spot I can reach to put aloe or lotion on, so I will just have to live with it.

So that’s what’s been happening with me. How are you guys doing?

 


It’s really been a good while since I posted, but life has been, well,  life.

On 21 May, I started cardiac rehab at Lutheran Medical Center. At first,they had me going twice a week, but  — two weeks ago — that got changed to three time a week. This is a good thing; it means they think I can do more now.

Today, however, I have done something that I have not been able to do since the surgery. I got up and got myself the two and two-thirds blocks to the express bus, and took admit into Manhattan. I am, in fact, at the Starbucksat 49th Street and Madison Avenue, waiting for my friend Nancy to let me know she is almost here. (Nancy is doing me the great kindness of taking me to the  cousins’ get-together this afternoon, since my sister isn’t going.) I’m trying one of their new iced tea concoctions – Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade. It’s pretty good, too.

I’m pretty happy about getting here. Granted the walk to the bus that normally takes five minutes took me twenty this morning, because I had to stop and rest about once per block, but still…a month ago, I couldn’t have gotten that far at all, let alone carrying my bag and the motorcycle helmet Nancy loaned me.

Speaking of “carrying”: I still have to consider every ounce I bring when I leave the house. The good news, however, is that – with a lot of help from the ex – I have also been able to do some light grocery shopping, and some other local errands. He was even kind enough to invite me to a barbecue last weekend.

In not so great news, the roomie had to head to California yesterday. Her best friend has decided to stop going to dialysis, and to stop using the oxygen prescribed for her.  The mutual friend who has been acting as caretaker since April had to go back home to handle some stuff within his own family, so the roomie is out there, and will remain there until either the mutual friend can make it back or her friend passes. Needless to say, the roomie is really rattled by this.

I am now at a point where I am looking at trying to blog on a more regular basis. I am not sure yet just what that will look like, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Anyway, I just wanted to do a short update here to celebrate having gotten to Manhattan under my own steam for the first time since the surgery.

 


or so Mira, the Cardiac Therapist tells me.

I need to get a new set of resistance bands, since mine have long vanished. Mira wants me to use the green one to exercise with, the goal being to stretch my sternum without breaking it. She is quite pleased with me, as am I.

I really have been taking Meryl and Maks as my role models for recovery. Today I did 2 sets of 20 minutes on the recumbent cross-trainer, the first at a workload of 4, the second at 3 (my legs were starting to tire). I did 2 minutes on the treadmill; not my best, but I had doubled my time on the bike from 5 to 10 minutes, and my legs were getting tired. I also did the SciFit Pro 1000 Upper Body machine for 8 minutes (4 one way, 4 the other) instead of 6 minutes. Unlike a regular gym, however, I get my blood pressure and O2 level checked after each exercise, and a large part of Mira’s job is to talk me out of doing more than I realistically can, although I keep surprising her with just how much I can do. Hell, I keep surprising me with how much I can do. Hard to believe that just over two months ago I was lying on a table with someone’s hands in my heart, cutting away at one wall of it.

Tonight, I’m going to dinner with some of the usual Friday group. We are hitting e-Sushi, a lovely sushi place on Flatbush Avenue near Quentin Road. Their all-you-can-eat deal is a very good one, with kitchen items as well as the sushi and sashimi. There will be some faces in the group that I have not seen for far too long, so this makes me very happy.

In other news I have started taking on a few small projects, as my energy allows. I hate not being able to contribute to the household, so it feels good to be able to cover at least some of what I normally do. I am, as always, very grateful to have friends who are willing to step up and help me through. My sister and her lovely friend, H, kept me busy walking a bit last weekend, as did my friend, Naomi.

Speaking of walking — if anyone wants to go walking, bearing in mind that my energy does still crash out suddenly, and that I do need a few more rest stops than I used to, I would love to hear from you to set up some walking dates. I spoke to Mira today, and she agrees with me that being able to walk from my house to my doctor and my cardiologist (four blocks from my home) by June 18 is a very doable goal. We also are starting to discuss moving me to three sessions a week after next week’s two sessions. This pleases me greatly. It occurs to me that I should talk with her about whether I can use my little one-pound weights for anything at the moment. I’m reading the book that came with my therapeutic yoga kit, and working on yoga breathing, which I learned long ago at Integral Yoga, on 13th Street in Manhattan. They are the best place I know to do yoga, and I will be getting myself to their therapeutic and chair yoga classes once I am a bit more able to travel on my own.

My Medicaid case manager called me this morning, and says that I am doing well enough that she no longer feels the need to check in with me every week, but that I should call her if I need anything, and she will let me know what hoops need to be jumped through in order to make it happen. I thanked her for her help, and told her I would miss hearing from her.

The roomie and I have hired a woman to come in every other week to do some light cleaning since I can’t do it myself at this point, but I got spoiled when I had the Home Health Aide helping me out. We agreed that it was an expense that made sense for right now.

There has been enough humidity in the air that I had the air conditioner running for the last two days. It often seems to be more humid in the apartment than outside, and this week has been no exception.

Anyway, I should get going so that I am ready when Marc gets here to pick up Sue and me. Have a good evening and a great weekend!

 

 


It’s been an interesting weekend.

On Saturday, I managed to make it to the House Three Skulls 30th Anniversary Event, held at the Estonian House, on Long Island. Naomi Moslow was kind enough to drive me there and back (she is also a member). Had a very good time, and got to see a ton of friends, and have some very good food. I need to do more events as I get better.

Other than that, this week has been pretty low-key. I got a couple of writing projects, which is always good. I have not, however, been up to pushing myself to walk more. I did speak to my Amerigroup caseworker, who has arranged cardiac rehab for me, and I have an evaluation set for Monday. Unfortunately, it’s at Lutheran Hospital, which is nowhere near me. The caseworker says that the insurance will provide transportation there and back, which I hope is accurate.

I still can’t seem to sleep more than 4-1/2 hours at a stretch, which is a bit annoying. I hope that will eventually change, but it is what it is for the moment.

The hard thing for me right now is that I do find it discouraging that I cannot walk as far as I used to, but I also don’t seem to be inclined to push my limits too far. What walking I can do is without a cane, which is great, since at one point I thought I would be stuck on a cane for the rest of my life, but I seem to not be overly motivated to get my tush out of my chair and go walking a lot. I need to work on that, and I know it. If anyone wants to go walking with me, or meet me in Brooklyn or Manhattan for social stuff, that would be a huge help in getting me off my duff. I’ve never liked just walking for walking’s sake; when I used to walk all over, I had destinations to go to, and things to do. I suspect that having some of those again would be helpful. I’m not sure what the cause of the malaise is, but I know I need to break it in order to continue to get better.

So, that’s where things are at this morning.

 


Since I last wrote, I’ve seen the surgeon for a follow up, had the home visits from the PT that my insurance would cover, and had my second follow up with the cardiologist. Everyone is pretty pleased with my progress, but there are a few changes in the works.

First, I am walking more. I have gone from about 300 steps a day to about 680 steps a day (average as noted on FitBit). This is pleasing, although I wish I could do more already. However, I can get in and out of my sister’s van now, which I couldn’t do for months before the surgery.

This morning, the cardiologist and I discussed bringing my blood pressure down. When I was doing nothing but lying around all day, it was fine, but as I have become more active, it has started rising again, which the cardiologist tells me is my body starting to come back to its version of normal. We agree that I need to start the diuretic again, but he is easing me into it, which works for me. He noted that I have a left branch bundle block, which basically means that the “electricity” i my body is going slightly lower on the left side tan the right. We will watch it, but so long as I remain asymptomatic, its just something to know is there. Also, the heart murmur is much reduced, but it may never go away entirely. Again, something to keep an eye on, but nothing to worry about unless I start showing symptoms or it starts getting worse.

When I am off the amiodarone in another week, I will be looking into cardiac rehab places near me, so that I can continue to build my stamina. I am continuing to try to go out a bit, and extend my walking range, which is progressing, although not as fast as I’d like. The main thing is that I have to remember to stop when I need to, and not to try to push my way through to the point where I burn out. For me, that is hard. I’m used to pushing way past my comfort zone in order to get stuff done, and I just cannot do that now, or I could screw all the progress I have made.

As far as work goes, I have been accepted for a project I want very much to work on, so that is good. I am starting at the minimum due each week, and will build up to doing more.

Anyway, that is what is happening at the moment. If anyone is local to me and wants to do something, or even wants to just come over and hang out, or walk to the park with me, that would be most welcome, since the largest obstacle to my recovery is me sitting around all day.

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