Part 3: The Road to Recovery
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
*I've decided to write a series of blog posts on my weight loss surgery journey to get my old Spark Friends caught up on what I've been doing over the past year and a half and to help inform people about the weight loss surgery process. So here is Part 3: *
So sorry for waiting so long to get to posting Part 3! Things have been incredibly hectic at work and I started half marathon training after work, so I haven't had much time to sit and type up a long post.
When we left off, I had raced through O'hare airport only to sit at the terminal for like three more hours. But I did actually make it back to Rochester, where my devoted husband picked me up in the wee hours of the morning.
The first week back home dragged on forever. I was literally just trying to survive from one minute to the next. We went grocery shopping and stocked up on the soups I'd be eating for the next few weeks, drinkable yogurt, and soy milk for my protein shakes. The 7th day post-op (second day home) I was allowed to start taking my vitamins again. I was still on my anti-nausea pill. But I was off my pain meds and I was still only allowed to have clear liquids, except for my protein shakes. My "food" consisted of protein shakes, broth, sugar-free jello, and sugar-free popsicles.
It was my full time job trying to keep track of my vitamins/meds, sip sip sip my water (goal was 1 ounce every 15 minutes), get some protein in, walk frequently, and nap a lot. The water was probably the hardest part. Before my surgery, I used to guzzle water all day long. I probably drank close to a gallon a day. In the first few days post-op, even the TINIEST sip was an ordeal. I would immediately feel this gurgling in my throat, then my esophagus would constrict, causing terrible pain in my chest, then the water would sit like lead in my stomach, then I would often have to burp. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable and often painful. I found that marching in place while sipping helped some. But just trying to get the bare minimum of 64 oz. of water in per day, even sipping all day long, was a real chore.
I was, of course, also VERY tired. I was operating on a minuscule amount of calories per day. I was healing from major surgery. And I was struggling to fight off dehydration. I napped a LOT. I laid on the couch a LOT. I regretting my decision to have surgery in the first place a LOT. I cried a LOT. And I questioned if I would ever feel "normal" again. It was not the best few weeks of my life!
At 10 days post-op, I was allowed strained cream soups. That was exciting, because I finally got to have some varieties of flavors. I literally bought every single flavor of creamed soup my grocery store had and tried them all. My favorites were Campbell's Condensed Cream of Shrimp and Progresso Chicken & Cheese Enchilada. Spicy things didn't seem to disagree with me, so I even tried my grocery store's Buffalo Chicken Chowder from their hot soup bar and it was HEAVEN in a cup!
Fifteen days post-op, I had to go back to work. That was NOT a good situation. I was still really struggling with fatigue and it was a real challenge to make it through a full day of work. Pretty much that whole first week I just went straight to bed as soon as I got home. It was also a challenge trying to fit my sipping and "eating" into my work day.
I made a slight turn for the better at 18 days post-op when I was allowed pureed foods plus I could have cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, shredded chicken, and tuna. That was when I got to really experience the restriction of my new stomach for the first time. My first scrambled egg took me 45 minutes to eat and I still didn't manage to finish it. I had to get up and reheat it in the microwave a bunch of times over the course of those 45 minutes. Then, at the end, I was lying on my back on the floor in my living room I was so painfully full. I learned that if I overate, the food would just get stuck in my esophagus, which really really hurt!
But once I got the hang of how much (or how little really) I could eat, I was very happy to be on REAL foods finally. I was able to get in more calories and didn't feel nearly so run down. I found some recipes online for the pureed stage and having things like "baked ricotta" made me feel almost human again. I actually managed to not puree a single thing through that whole stage, which was good, because the idea of pureed meat grossed me out.
At 28 days post-op, I was on to my soft food stage and I could have ground meats and legumes, so the very first thing I did was get Wendy's Chili. It was sooooooo good! I was shocked that I couldn't even eat half a small chili, but I was thrilled to be eating "normal" food! Things really got a lot easier from then on out. I was able to get enough calories to sustain me and I felt like a real life person again.
At 40 days post-op, I had a whole new reality check when I moved on to solid foods though. It was VERY VERY hard to judge how much of a solid food I would be able to eat without getting overfull. And at that early stage "full" was like an on/off switch. I felt fine, felt, fine, felt, fine, then one bite too much and it was "OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO DIE!" There was no gradual build up. So there was a lot of trial and error around that time and a lot of lying on the floor in pain. Though I never actually threw up.
From then on out, things really did start getting to be pretty normal. I went to Virginia on vacation with my husband and parents at the 2 month mark and I was able to eat at restaurants, eat meals with them, do activities, and I felt like a whole, normal human being. I didn't have problems with any specific foods. I stayed clear of breads because they filled me right up, not leaving any room for my protein. I found that raw vegetables made me very burpy, so I avoided those as well.
I got into a pretty normal routine with my food to make sure I was getting 100 grams of protein a day. For those of you who don't know, after WLS, protein is your TOP priority. You have to put protein first always and only eat other foods if you still have room. I was advised by my nutritionist to get 100 grams of protein in as soon as possible and I did a really good job with that by picking high protein snacks and meals. I also ate a fair number of protein bars. As soon as I was allowed solid foods, I switched from protein shakes to bars immediate. It took me 55 minutes to eat the first one, but I quickly got to where I could eat one in 5-10 minutes. I was soooooooo sick of protein shakes by that point. Plus I found that, since protein bars are solid, they sit in my stomach longer and keep me feeling full. Just have to be very careful when choosing protein bars to not get ones that are either super high in carbs/sugar or saturated fat.
Alright, that covers most of my recovery. In my next post I'll talk about getting back into exercise and how much weight I lost over those first few months.