It Could Have Been Me


Robin Williams played Genie in my favorite ever Disney film, Aladdin

Robin Williams played Genie in my favorite ever Disney film, Aladdin

Robin Williams died yesterday.

When I heard the news, I was at a wedding reception. My immediate reaction was to make light of it. Not because I found even a shred of humor in his death, but because of where I was. I did not want anything to dim the newlyweds’ joy. Yet the happiness of the young couple was not the only reason I tried to shrug off the sadness of Mr. Williams’ death. I just did not want to admit, even to myself right then, how deeply the news was affecting me. I did not want to make room for the thought pushing to the front of my mind.

“That could have been me.”

Every newscast talks about the addictions he battled throughout his life. Most talk about the deep, consuming depression that marked the final months of his life. Some even suggested that Robin Williams was able to use the humor that entertained fans for decades to hide the depth of his family and friends.

I’ve been there. I don’t have the acting chops or comedic timing of Mr. Williams. But I have faced depression and addiction, even suicidal thoughts. I’ve hidden these things from my family and friends. Sometimes I’ve been very successful at hiding, sometimes I haven’t. For years I have lived with the fear that these demons would be the end of me. Even now, when it may appear to others that I have my life together and my issues under control, I am scared that one of those monsters might jump out and grab hold of me.

My addiction is what concerns me most. I don’t do any illegal drugs and I very rarely drink. My drug of choice is food. I am an emotional eater, using food to celebrate victories or mourn losses. Sometimes I crave sweet and creamy; sometimes I crave salty and crunchy. The problem with food addiction is that I can’t stop eating. God designed my body to require food in order to survive. The types and amounts that I shovel into my mouth, though, are not a requirement. Even knowing that, I can’t make myself stop. And that depresses me more. Which makes me reach for more food I should not eat. Which adds to depression. Which….

You get the picture.

I am relatively sure that depression won’t “get me.” Difficult as it has been, I have accepted that this depression is a part of who I am and the treatment for it will always be a part of my life. Those closet to me have learned the signs of an untreated me- because I have made the choices in the past to stop treatment. They know what to look for and for the most part they know what to say to make me choose to get back to treatment. At this point, in time, I feel confident that depression will not bring an end to my life.

I can’t say the same about food.

Robin WIlliams as Peter Pan in Hook in my second favorite of his films.

Robin WIlliams as Peter Pan in Hook in my second favorite of his films.

My sons like the movie Spaceballs. There is a scene where a newscaster says Pizza the Hut got locked in a car and ate himself to death. Now, I don’t think I will literally eat myself to death, but I worry about y food choices could be doing to my body. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I am not hurting only me, I am hurting God when I allow my addiction to control me.


Yesterday, the dual demons of addiction and depression ended the life of Robin Williams. His legacy of laughter will live on through films and internet clips, though the laughter might be a little bittersweet as the world mourns his loss. Today, I vow to fight those same demons in my life. I don’t know yet what my legacy will be or how many lives I may touch. But with God’s help, I won’t let mental issues keep me from finding out.

Rest in peace, Robin. Enjoy Neverland.

Weight Loss Goals

On May 10, I weighed my highest weight ever. The scale at the bariatric clinic read 445. I had mixed feelings when I read that number. On the one hand, it was embarrassing to see what an out-of-control attitude toward food had done to my body. At the same time, I was giddy at the thought that it was the highest weight I would EVER be at! What the scale will say near the end of this journey is anyone’s guess. But I am determined to not be this big ever again!

My ultimate goal is to weigh 180 pounds. That is still more than the “ideal” weight for a woman my height. Even my surgeon said that I should weigh about 135 pounds. That seems much too small to me. I’d like to get to 180, and then we’ll see what happens.

But that ultimate weight goal is just too much to tackle at once, even with the surgery that I have had. What I want is to be healthy. I want to be able to play tag with my sons, while they are still young enough to want to play tag. My oldest is 10 now. How many more chances to play tag in the park with him do I have? So I’ve decided to break up my ultimate goal into smaller goals. I though I’d share some of those here, to help me be accountable for reaching them. I hope to check back in every now and again to update them and let you know how I am doing!

Goals for me—

  • Buckle my seatbelt comfortably
  • Take a bath not a shower
  • Lose 50 pounds by August 8 (the day my sons go back to school). I am well on my way here, as I have already lost 31 pounds!
  • Walk at least half an hour a day, at least 5 days a week.
  • Do my cardio dance DVD at least 2 times each week.
  • Walk with my mother in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life Survivor lap.
  • Do at least 10 more laps in the Relay this year.
  • Complete a 5k in 2011. I am signed up to walk in the JDRF Walk For The Cure on September 17.
  • Be off my high blood pressure medication by my next birthday.
  • Enroll in ballroom dancing classes
  • Complete on 9-hole round of golf, walking!
  • Lose at least 135 pounds by May 23, 2012 (that is half of the weight I want to lose in the first 12 months after surgery)

That’s all I can think of at the moment. I don’t think that any of these are too unreasonable, at least not with the healthy eating I am learning and the exercising I plan to do. Oh, I so cannot wait to see Dr. Finks tomorrow to be cleared to start exercising! The energy level I already have is amazing to me! I really am anxious to take advantage of it.

Feelin’ Good

 It’s been just over a week since my sleeve.  I am feeling GREAT!  No idea yet how much weight I have lost.  Friday morning, I go see my PCP about some of the heart complications that popped up after surgery (which are under control now due to the cardiac medications I am on) and I will be weighed then.  Never in my life have I been so excited about stepping on a scale as I am now!!!

The dietitian at the University of Michigan asked me to keep a log of the foods I am eating each day.  She said that will help her to see where I might need to make changes to keep the weight coming off and to keep it from coming back.  But a food log looks so boring….  LOL I decided to “spice it up” by writing down not only what I ate, but how those foods made me feel.  When I started the pre-op liquid diet, I wrote how much I dislike Cream of Wheat.  Yesterday, after not having any since the day before surgery, I wrote how much I was missing it.  I made a packet of the instant stuff with extra milk (to make it thin enough to drink), vanilla protein powder, and a dash of cinnamon.  Oh, it was so yummy!!  The real NSV (non-scale victory, for those who may not know the term!) came, though, when I realized that the one packet was enough for me for two meals!!  NEVER would have believed that a full packet would satisfy me, let alone just half a packet!

So then I went upstairs to get ready for my day.  I slipped on a blouse that I have always worn with a tank underneath because the blouse doesn’t button comfortably around me.  It DIDN’T button comfortably around me, I should say!!  This morning, I can button it and there is even some room!  The weight is coming off!!!!  Oh, I cannot tell you how excited I am!!

Life with a Sleeve

On Monday, I had a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. I wish I could say that I feel great and that I have absolutely no regrets. But, OA only works when you are completely honest. And in all honesty, I’ve been wondering a lot about my decision this week. Not that there is anything I can do about it. What’s done is done, and this surgery cannot be reversed.

First, let my share my pre-surgery stats. My weight as of Thursday, May 19 was 425 pounds. Yes, I know that is a rather larger number, but I feel good about it. Why? Because on the day I started my liquid-only diet, my weight was 445. A twenty pound loss in 10 days—without feeling like I was depriving myself—is pretty awesome! And when I think that it was May 19 when I started on a food plan and I have not deviated from that plan—WOW! Sixteen days of abstinence feels pretty good!

My body measurements as of Saturday, May 21, 2011:

  • Neck 16.5 inches
  • Bicep 21.25 inches
  • Bust 60.25 inches
  • Waist 61.5 inches
  • Hips 73.5 inches
  • Thigh 34 inches

I was a little bummed that I didn’t get weighed at all while I was in the hospital. I have to see my PCP next week, and I will get a weight then. It is gonna drive me halfway insane not knowing my weight until then!

The surgery went well. I was a little scared at first. There are risks with any surgery. A part of me was concerned that I might not survive the surgery. But I told my husband on the way to Ann Arbor, “I am going to die if I don’t do something. At least if I go on the table, it will be because I was trying to make my life healthier.” I have purple marks on my belly where the doctors could have made incisions—six different places. But one of those places wasn’t needed. The incision areas are itchy now. They were just glued shut, no stitches or anything. As they heal and the glue dries more and more, it itches more and more. But I am being good and not picking at it or anything.

The problem happened Tuesday morning. A nurse came into my room to check my vital signs around 5:30 or so. My blood pressure was high (not a big surprise as it has run high for a while now—and is one of the reasons I wanted the surgery) so she returned with a syringe of something to help bring that down. Almost as soon as that medication went into my IV, I felt odd. I was hot all over, sweating when I’d been comfy before, and my heart was racing. I felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. I told my husband who told the nurse who told the team of doctors…. An EKG was ordered immediately and I was moved from the general surgical floor to a room in the cardiac unit where my heart could be monitored more closely. They told me my heart had gone into a fib—arterial fibrillation. The way I understand it, part of my heart was beating too fast and the other part was not beating fast enough. There was concern that possibly my sleeve was leaking (that was ruled out with the swallow study, which showed everything inside was just as it should be.) The doctors insisted it had nothing at all to do with the medication that I’d been given for my blood pressure. Still not sure if I believe that, but OK. I was told that this is a normal complication of surgery near the heart muscle, but that they were rather surprised to see it in a woman my age. Even though I’d been prepared to walk within hours of the end of my surgery, I was not allowed out of bed. The doctors wanted me to get into a normal heart rhythm before I moved much.

I was put on medications right away to bring my heart back into a normal sinus rhythm. It didn’t work as quickly as hoped. Actually, I think it was the third type of medication they tried that actually worked. Because it took so long to get it under control, I expected at least one extra day in the hospital.

Imagine my surprise when the surgical intern asked me Wednesday morning if I’d like to go home that afternoon! Once my heart rate was under control, I was able to get up and walk around without problems. After I passed the swallow study, I was put on clear liquids and I tolerated that rather well. The intern wanted to advance me to full liquids and said if my tummy tolerated that OK, I could leave Wednesday afternoon. It went well and I was home with my husband and sons by 5:00.

I did have one other problem while in the hospital. All of my medications need to be either crushed or in liquid form for 2 months, standard procedure for bariatric surgeries. They ordered a liquid version of my anti-depression medication. The problem is that it was flavored with peppermint, and I am allergic to peppermint. Knowing that most liquid medications have a nasty taste, I just took this in one swallow. So I didn’t notice the peppermint taste until after the entire dose was down. Not that it stayed down. The nurse stood beside me, rubbing my back as it all came back up. She felt so horrible because she knew I was allergic to peppermint, but had no idea the medication was flavored with it. The next morning, we tried opening the capsule and sprinkling it on my food. That has such a disgusting taste that I can barely get it down. So now I am waiting for my psychiatrist to call and let me know what to do. I’d love to go without the pills until my tummy heals enough to be able to tolerate taking pills, but I am not sure that is a very good idea. Maybe I can mix it with sugar-free chocolate pudding. Everything tastes better with chocolate, right?

The Date is Set!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to write for today.  It’s time to start my ABC blogs and I have an idea of how I want to do those.  But when I got ready to sit down and write my first blog, the phone rang.  And that little phone call changed my plans!

Instead of starting my ABC blog, I am writing about something else–my surgery.  More specifically, I am excited to announce that a date has been set for my bariatric surgery.  I go in on May 23 for a gastric sleeve.  I cannot tell you how excited I am about this!

May 23 is just two weeks away!  After all this time of waiting and planning, it’s hard to believe I am just two weeks away from surgery.  One of my cousins referred to it as “the first day of the rest of your life.”  In so many ways, it feels like I am starting a whole new life.  So many things are going to be different.  But that is OK.  I mean, the way things have been is not really wonderful, not for my health.  This will be the first step toward a much healthier me.

It does mean I have a busy week coming up.  I have appointments on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week.  I have to meet with the actual surgeon who will perform my surgery (Dr. Finks, who I have seen in passing but not actually met yet), go to a nutrition class, and then meet with the anesthesiologist.  Oh yeah, and I need a pre-op physical.  Not really looking forward to that, but it’s part of the surgical process.   I have been ready for a surgery date since March.  No way am I going to let a little physical get in the way!

Pictures will be coming soon–I promise!!  My plan is to post a picture of me along with my weight and my measurements before surgery, the day of surgery, and every month on the anniversary of my surgery.  That way, we can all see together how my body is changing as I eat less, eat healthy, and exercise more!

Getting Healthy Step by Step

Every now and again, I see something on Facebook that really catches my attention. This week, it was an ad on the side of the page. The ad was for a program called “Step by Step.” (And no, it has nothing to do with New Kids on the Block. Thought I should point that out for those of you who know my NKOTB fascination!) This is a healthy living challenge sponsored in part by the local hospital. The goal is to promote better food choices, exercise, and a smoke-free lifestyle for people in Jackson County, Michigan. I thought about it briefly before I took the plunge and signed up for the challenge.

It doesn’t “officially” start until May 1. Still, I am starting to make some changes. Like adding fruit to at least one meal each day and adding vegetables to at least one other. And I am moving more. Yesterday, I set a timer for 10 minutes, ushered my sons out of the house and started walking. When the timer went off, we turned around and headed back home. I had planned to take the dog, too, but he busted his leash. UGH. I thought trying to walk a lively black lab would help to raise the intensity of the exercise. But, just walking was better than what I normally do, which is sit at home, thinking, “You know, I really should exercise.”

Today, I did another of the small suggested movements on the site. I put on one of my 1980’s CDs and danced while I was cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, and making dinner. That was so fun! And it felt good.

Something that I have been doing lately is working. I saw a woman Monday night who I haven’t seen in a couple of weeks. She said that I looked good, that she can tell I am losing weight, and that I just seem to glow. Yea! It felt good that someone could see a change. I know I have been feeling a change. Clothes that were much too tight last summer are starting to fit!

Small Victory!

I had a small victory in my battle against my weight this week. I slipped on a pair of slacks that I have worn in the past, slacks that about 2 months ago were too tight and 3 weeks ago fit just right. When I wore them on Monday, they were too big! I didn’t notice it at first. I noticed that they felt very comfy around my waist. But as I walked around WalMart in those slacks, I kept having to pull them back up—they were slipping off of my hips! My big, huge Avery hips are shrinking!

Now, I am not insane enough to think that I will ever have anything other than Avery hips. But it feels so good to know that maybe those Avery hips don’t have to be big, huge, and wide for the rest of my life!

What If…?

Recently, I had my psychological evaluation at the University of Michigan for my weight loss surgery. One question I the doctor asked was, “If you are not approved for surgery, what will you do?”

An interesting question. It’s one I had not thought about before. And to be honest, it is a question I have not been able to get out of my mind since it was asked.

The answer I gave was that I would be upset, but I hope that I would be able to keep with me what I have learned in the weeks I have been preparing for surgery. I’ve been eating healthier and seeing a big difference in my energy level. I’d like to think that even if I do not get approval from the review committee to have the surgery, I will keep these lessons with me and keep building on them.

Truth be told, I am pretty sure I know what my immediate reaction would be: I’d break down in tears and grab the nearest comfort food I could find.

Is it a good thing that I know this about myself? I suppose it is. But I am not sure that knowing this, that recognizing that I would handle that disappointment by turning to food is enough to stop me from doing it.

I know that I can’t do this alone. I know that it will take the help of God for me to ever be able to handle this addiction to food.

Addiction to food. Funny. I know that is what is going on with me, yet it seems odd. Food is something that is needed for life. How can something that I need to have in order to live be the thing that is slowly killing me?

Evaluation Day!!

It’s here, it’s here!!!! My medical evaluation at the University of Michigan. I have been looking forward to this for about 2 months. It was not real easy to sleep last night. It felt a lot like the night before Christmas. I can only imagine what it will be like the night before my surgery.

My husband and I talked about the surgery after we went to bed last night. I realized that all the fears I had have disappeared. My biggest fears were that I would not pass the psych evaluation or that I would learn that my heart is not strong enough for the surgery. The psychiatrist I’ve been seeing since 2005 thinks I will have no problem with the evaluation “as long as you are honest with your answers.” And after my weekend at the hospital last week, I know that my heart is healthy. At least, it is as healthy as a 35-year-old heart beating in a 430 pound body can be. The cardiologist I saw in the hospital said he is willing to sign his consent for me to have the surgery.

The concerns that I have are not so much about the procedure itself as what life will be like afterward. Is that silly? I don’t know. I’ve always been a big girl. Will people look at me differently when I am smaller? And will the people who know and love me feel differently about me when I am smaller?

Oh my! I just noticed the time. I’d love to write more, but I have to get my 3-year-old to a sitter, the car to a repair shop, and myself ready for my sister to take me to Ann Arbor. I’ll write more this afternoon.

Ann ArborHeart diseaseUniversity of Michiganweight loss surgery