Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Recovery from Surgery’ Category


It’s been a pretty full few days.

I had a dinner group meeting at Teresa’s, a favorite Polish restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, on Friday, 3 February. Due to the cold, it was a small group, but a pleasant evening was had by all.

Tuesday, I got some real movement in taking back my life – both literally and figuratively. I already had a dentist appointment for mid-afternoon, due to a loose tooth (more about that later), so I did one of the scariest things I could think of…I scheduled a beginner ride at the Peloton Studio in Chelsea (140 West 23rd Street, between Sixth & Seventh Avenues). Mind, I had bought a Peloton bike a bit over a year ago but ended up being too sick to use it for more than one ride. Also, I was having trouble with getting the shoe clips into the pedals, even after I bought toe cups so I could use regular sneakers with the bike. Well, my neurosurgeon cleared me to use the bike last week, so I figured I should go to the studio and they could show me why I was having issues with the clips. While I was on the phone with them, I asked if they had any really gentle classes, and explained my situation. The young woman I spoke with noted that they had a beginner ride on Tuesday at 1:30, but that I should come earlier to set things up. I did so, with the roomie accompanying me to watch my stuff and to make sure I had help after the dentist if I needed it. I got to the studio, signed in, had a studio account set up for me so I could book rides there when I want to, and spoke with the manager, who had a few concerns about my condition, which I was able to allay. I also was able to show her that I was flexible enough to bend from the waist and touch my toes while standing — something I hadn’t tried doing since the surgery.

Anyway, she decided to let me try the ride, and I’m thrilled that she did. I lasted for 15 of the 30 minutes, but I was able to raise the bike’s resistance from a start of 0 to 2, and get my cadence up to 85. I probably could have pushed through for the second half of the ride, but I had promised my surgeon that I would go slowly and not overdo it. Still, it felt so good to be back on a bike – even a stationary bike with my feet clipped in so I couldn’t fall off! I know I wasn’t going full bore, but it still felt like I was flying! Even better, I felt like me for the first time since before the heart issues happened! I would have even tried walking to the dentist (I had the rollator with me), but the roomie’s hip was so bad she was stopping every ten feet or so. When she apologized for holding me up, I just said to heck with it and flagged down a cab. It felt odd to be walking faster than her while using the rollator, but I think it means that I am making real progress to getting my walking back. Now if only they were not predicting heavy snow for tomorrow night into Friday…I would gladly try walking out for more than a couple of blocks. Oh well, I will get there in good time.

My Weight Watchers coach, the much-beloved Robert, recommended an app called Headspace to me a few weeks ago. I tried it, and love it. It’s a ten-minute-a-day mindfullness app. I highly recommend the free version to everyone. Further, if anyone does try it and likes it, feel free to add me as a buddy there.

Another free thing I came across in my Internet wandering is The Yoga Summit. One of the interviews there was by a woman named Danielle La Porte, who somehow resonated with me despite being about half my age. I checked out her website and blog, and decided that I wanted to try some of her methods.

So, things are starting to look positive again, for the first time in a very long time.

 

 

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I mean that quite literally. I have been starting the process of taking my life back again, post surgery. Since Thanksgiving, I have managed to get out of the house at least once a week. This week, I actually managed a dinner with friends on Saturday night and some grocery shopping on Sunday, both of which the ex was willing to provide transportation for. I also did both with my cane, rather than with the rollator or walker, so I am proud of that accomplishment. Mind, going out two days in a row left me kind of wiped out on Monday, but that sort of thing should pass as I get about more. The first time I tried to get out my front door (one small step up), I was exhausted with the effort; now I pretty much just hop out, so things do get better the more I do them.

I committed to my Weight Watcher coach to walk a bit every day, even if only with the walker and in the house. I have been good about doing so, so I am pleased with that so far.

My doctors and I finally seem to have adjusted my blood pressure meds properly. we removed one entirely and reduced a second by one-third. I am still hoping that when I reach my goal weight (currently around 160 lbs.) I will be able to reduce it some more. I have also decided that yoga is still a bit out of my physical reach, so I am looking for a tai chi class on the grounds that the movements are much more gentle.

I don’t really have the concentration to read right now, so I am slowly plugging away at Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, which is fascinating. I’ve always had a soft spot for books about history, and this one is very engaging. Chernow’s style is lively, and not at all “dry.” I can see why Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton by reading it. And, speaking of Hamilton, next time my friend Chris recommends seeing a play while it’s still in previews and relatively unknown, I shall follow her advice.

One of my friends noted in her LiveJouranl that she had lost her MedicAlert bracelet and had to replace it. This led to a conversation with the roomie, and we decided it was time for me to get one. Since I am working at getting more mobile, I will probably not be in sight of the roomie, Naomi, or the ex at all times, so if anything happens while I am wandering about it could be useful. It’s taking me a while to get used to it, though. It’s not something I ever thought I would need. However, I have finally come to realize that taking care of myself is a Good and Useful Thing.

So that’s where things are at this week. It’s pretty good, although I am missing Dee this holiday season more than I have before. I miss hugs and cuddling, although right now I don’t want any hugs where hands travel below the waist, lest I rip the scar from the surgery open more. Still, I am alive and getting well, which is a lot to be grateful for right there.


Sigh. I know, I know. It’s been way too damned long since I’ve even tried to write anything.

I do have a good excuse, though. I had spinal surgery (nerve decompression and laminectomy from L3 to S1) on 27 September, and sitting up to type has been more than I could do for a long time.

One of my conditions for letting the surgeon have at me was that my rehab would be at home; my six weeks in a rehab over the late spring/early summer convinced me that I never want to be in a rehab/nursing home again. Fortunately, my surgeon, the most excellent Soriaya Motivala, believes that you make more progress at home, and faster than in a rehab, so that was no problem. Once the infection was cleared up for good (I had to wait a month after the stint in the rehab to make sure it was all gone), everything – except me – moved pretty quickly. I saw Dr. Motivala in early September, and we set up the surgery date.However, her assistant, the otherwise wonderful Jennifer, forgot to tell me that now that I was a cardiac patient I would need more than just a clearance from my primary care guy. This meant that on the 16th I got a call from the hospital noting that none of my paperwork had come in. So, I then had to set up all of the clearances except my primary care guy (who I had seen the day before). Between Naomi Moslow and the roomie, I made all the clearances in time, which was amazing.

The surgery took place, as planned, and I’ve been recovering since. I was released from the hospital on 1 October – just in tie for the High Holy Days.

Unfortunately, due to the need for the surgery, I missed a lot of stuff during the summer/early fall, including a wedding, a funeral, and – most important to me – the dedication of the Torah that my cousin Mitch’s synagogue had commissioned in his memory. I’d really been looking forward to that, but it was two days before my surgery, and I realized that there was just no way I could do a ride up to Mount Kisco, sit through the ceremony and the meal after, and then ride back. Since I didn’t want to take attention from the ceremony, I stayed home, instead. This coming Monday, I will be missing the funeral of a fannish acquaintance for the same reason. I have spoken to one of the friend’s kids, and since he’s also had similar surgery to mine, he understands why I won’t be there.

I have to admit, the healing process has been much slower than I would like, which I attribute to my weight as well as my age. Let’s face it: you just don’t heal as easily at 64, while carrying a lot of extra weight, as you do at 24 while carrying much less extra weight. I have not given up on relosing the weight, however; to date, I have dropped 64 lbs. I still have a ways to go to reach my goal, but I will get there. It’s been an even more interesting journey this time, since I decided when I rejoined Weight Watchers, that when stuff came up, I would deal with it, rather than just brushing it aside for later. I also made a decision that seems, in retrospect, to be one of the smartest decisions I’ve made around weight – since I am not expending anywhere near the number of calories I used to when I could go walking every day, I cut down the amount of food I was eating proportionately.

I got a huge piece of the puzzle of me the other week, and I’m still processing how to deal with it. I had ordered a lamp, and it needed different bulbs than the lamp I was replacing. My ex went off to get the proper bulbs, and I was lying in bed crying. The roomie said to me, “Deb, it’s okay. It was just a stupid mistake.” My response, which I never expected, was, “But I’m not allowed to make mistakes.”

Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but my father used to beat the mess out of my sister and me if we made mistakes, no matter how small, so I had apparently internalized this, and carried it with me for my whole life. Now that I know it’s there, though, I can work on reminding myself that I AM allowed t make mistakes. I can also give thanks that while I carried this around for most of my 64 years, I don’t have to carry it around for my 65th year.

In other medical news, and this relates back to the weight a bit, my doctors have finally adjusted my blood pressure meds to reflect the weight loss. The industrial amount of diuretics they had been giving me were so extreme that I was totally dehydrated, no matter how much liquid I drank. For a while, the doctors were so pleased with my readings that they were weaning me off the drugs at the rate of one per visit, but when it took the cardiologist three tries to even find my blood pressure, they decided to cut all but one of the blood pressure meds. We are all still watching my readings (my cousin the doctor suggested I get a home monitor, so I could take morning and evening readings and show them to my primary care guy), but so far everything seems to be okay. As I rehydrated, I gained a little weight, but my legs now look like legs instead of bones covered with skin.

So, on the whole, things are improving – even if it’s not as fast as I would have it happen.On the other tentacle, one thing I learned after my heart surgery in 2014 is that it remains important to be kind to myself. In this case, that means listening to my body and doing things when it is ready to do them, rather than trying to hurry things up.

I will try to write more regularly again, but I am making no promises at this point. I am hoping to write at least once a week, but it depends on how well sitting up goes on any particular day.


Yeah, I know – it’s been way too damned long since I’ve posted. Life does that sometimes.

Somewhere around March, I realized that I had fallen into a pretty bad depression. The weight gain, the impaired mobility, the inability to get the MRI I needed, the loss of several relatives and friends all served to hit me pretty hard. I started working my way out from under, and have been coming along slowly but surely.

One thing that helped is that I have been getting more social again. That started with the 25th anniversary party for two close friends. Two adventures lie therein, btw. The first was finding an appropriate gift for our friends, which entailed a trip to Eichlers, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue. Being a Sunday, parking was a pain, and we ended up parking around the block from the store. The Ex held my arm as we walked there, and the kind store staff found me a chair to sit on so I could catch my breath. We got the couple a lovely Havdallah set. The second was the saga of the lock. The morning of the party, I got up, got dressed (a beautiful long dress from Holy Clothing), and was checking my email when the Roomie came in and told me she couldn’t unlock the front door. I went up front to check, and sure enough, it wouldn’t unlock. Called the Landlady, who was in the Poconos. She called her dad and sent him over, so we cleared enough space by the front window to hand out our keys so he could try to open the door from the outside. No luck there. Next step was that we removed the doorknobs so we could try to manipulate the mechanism from the inside. That didn’t work.I was beginning to think I’d have to climb out the front window to get to the party. Called the Ex, who was also going to the party, and he came by. We got the Landlord’s dad to open the side gate, and the Ex came to the back door to try to push my bed forward by pushing the door open. To do this successfully, I had to try to move the 140 lb. Peloton exercise bike that sits in front of my bed. Not fun, but somehow I managed to do it. Marc got the door open enough that I could climb over the bed and out of the apartment.Then it was down some stairs, up the alleyway, then up a bunch of stairs. We got to the venue, and it was down some more stairs, which was a bit much, but I made it. The party was lovely, and while I was out the Roomie called a locksmith, and had the lock replaced properly. So we now have a properly working lock.

Since then, I have been out on several Friday dinner missions, a Saturday mission that included a book party, then a walk of about three blocks (2 half-avenue blocks and one street block) to a local ramen place we like and knew could hold a large group, and a Passover Seder that included a climb up stairs and down the same stairs. Pretty good for a mobility-impaired person who also has sciatica. In fact, these days, the sciatica is more of a problem than the heart is.

Today was my three-month cardiologist checkup. He was delighted with my blood pressure (132/80), and even more delighted to find my heart murmur has gotten a bit softer. Best of all, at some point – about three weeks ago – my ankles stopped looking like grapefruit and have started looking like ankles again. My left ankle is totally unswollen at this point, and the right one is so slightly swollen that you have to really look to see it. The legs are unswollen, too, which is nice. I also had a bit of a walk – the car service missed the turn at East 27th Street, so I had him drop me at the corner of my block, and walked the one-third of a block to my house.

I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan since the end of March and have lost 20 lbs. so far. I still have a long way to go, and I’m still annoyed that I have to do this all over again, but I can be annoyed and be working on it or I can be annoyed and doing nothing about it…I’d rather be the former, so that it gets done. I am taking advantage of their coaching program, since I was able to book my coaching sessions with my favorite lecturer. At some point, I will be able to get around enough to go to meetings, but for now, this is working, so I am happy about that.

Anyway, that’s about where things are for the moment, so I’ll be heading off to eat breakfast. Talk with everyone again soon!

 

 


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?

 


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.

 


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