But You Don’t Look Like You Had Cancer

Blogging is a great way to reflect on where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I’m going.

At this phase in recovery, a lot of people around me in life don’t realize I don’t have a stomach. And when I do mention it, I feel like I’m weird for even having said anything. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain my circumstance when necessary in the ‘condensed elevator speech’ version that doesn’t make me or them feel so awkward.

So a few weeks ago, I was lucky to be able to attend No Stomach for Cancer’s Spotlight on Gastric Cancer event in Philadelphia with Dr. Parry Guilford as the keynote speaker. It was an awesome conference with great insight into the future of the medicine for CDH1ers. I learned about a possible future cancer prevention pill which would attack mutated e-cadherin. This means that in 15 years, CDH1 mutation patients could keep their stomachs and live!!

I got to meet my fellow stomachless blogger Rachel and her energetic stomachless mom!!
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On the way, a lot of people from Houston were flying to Philadelphia for the larger conference hosted by the American Cancer Society. I’d bet most people heading there were researchers or worked for the pharmaceutical companies.

When a man on the plane asked me a simple question, here’s how the conversation went:

Him: “Oh, why are you going to Philadelphia?”
Me: “I’m going to a gastric cancer conference.”
Him: “Oh, are you in research?”
Me: “No.”
Him: “Oh, then you’re a doctor!”
Me: “No, actually I’m a patient.”
Him: Look of astonishment, turning to feeling a bit awkward for having asked the question.

I am fairly young. I consider myself to look pretty healthy, somewhat athletic, and maybe too skinny. So when people see me, they don’t think I look like someone who had cancer or who is missing a stomach. How do you explain your circumstance to people who feel your physical appearance is incongruent with what you’re telling them?

Here’s conversation two, as I was picking up my young son from after-school care:

Son (while nonchalantly playing with a toy): “Yeah, my mommy doesn’t have a stomach. Yeah, she had it removed so she could have me.”
Older girl classmate: Look of absolute confusion. Looks toward the teacher for an explanation.
Teacher: Look of even more confusion. Looks at me, looks confused back at the confused girl, looks at my son who thinks everyone knows you can live without a stomach.
Me: Awkward laugh.. “Yes, he’s telling you the right thing. I don’t have a stomach. I had my stomach removed. It wasn’t so I could have kids though”
Teacher: Still confused. “What?”
Some silence
Me: “It was because of cancer.”

I don’t feel like I had cancer. My gastrectomy got all my cancer out before it became a problem. It was curative with no chemotherapy. I don’t feel like I can “claim” I had cancer, but quite frankly it seems to be the simplest explanation that most people can get their head around. And everyone knows that cancer sucks.

And the conversation I have at work every week or so. Most stomachless folks will smile as they read this because I’m sure they can relate.
….
person: “Can I come to your desk to discuss XYZ topic?”
me: “Sure thing. I’m here.”
person (sees remainder of food I need to finish at some point): “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re eating. I can come back.”
me: “Oh no!! Just ignore the food. I kind of just eat all day. I promise it’s not a problem.”

Maybe I’ll get better at explaining my circumstance as time goes on, but for now it’s just a bit strange when it comes up.

Onto regular life, as I continue to supplement iron multiple times a day (with vitamin C to increase absorption), my strength continues to grow. I’m able now to work out 4 days a week, and I think I’m holding to gaining weight. (Yes, my scale actually broke, and I haven’t replaced it.) The current routine I’m trying out is an attempt to include my love of running with some more strength classes. I run 5-6 miles 2x a week, then take a bodypump class and a boot camp class (which is more like athletic conditioning). I can tell I’m gaining muscle strength; I don’t have a trainer to tell me what I’m accomplishing in body composition, but I can tell. And during my workouts, I can tell that my strength is growing. I’m able to lift more, sprint harder, complete the entire class without feeling like giving up. This is a great place to be at now. I’ve notice my growing strength is really helping my running pace again, much to the chagrin of my running friends who have to push to keep up with my increasing pace. Haha!!

My regular pants from before my gastrectomy fit me again. 6 months post surgery, I had lost so much weight and muscle mass that I was swimming in all my clothes. Now I feel like I’m back!

On the food front, a blog commenter Jeff mentioned I focus on food more now. I’d have to agree. Ironically, my gastrectomy has made me more appreciative of good, quality foods with lots of flavors. If you can eat good quality proteins, add all the flavorful elements and feel good afterwards, it’s a big win! You appreciate everything that tastes good, makes you feel good and stays down. Not many people have had to go through an extended phase of not being able to hold food down, so they can’t quite appreciate what it means to eat food and keep it down.

On the life front, I’m happy. My CDH1 diagnosis focuses me on what truly matters in life. I don’t think about it everyday, but it sits in the back of my mind. It gives me a good reminder to push away what doesn’t matter. I strive to strike the right balance between God, family, my health, and work. So long as I keep my iron up, I seem able to keep up, although a bit hectic at times. I try to remember everyday to build up the people around me and remember they too have a story. People and true relationships matter. And everyone has a story.

One final note to articulate just how everyone has a story. I met some new folks for a group run last week. One guy was faster, so we ran ahead for a great run!! I chat while I run and got onto the subject of not having a stomach. (The good thing about distance running is I had plenty of time to explain my story!) We were talking about genetics, its link to cancer, medical protocol and more. As we were talking, he mentioned how odd it was to hear my story. He then proceeds to tell me that his mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer many years ago. She was told she would live 1.5 years without surgery, but with surgery could live 3 years. He pushed his mom to have the surgery because he wanted his mom with him for the full 3 years. After the surgery, his mom had so many complications that she passed away within one year anyhow. He felt guilty. He said, “I think about my mom a lot when I go running.” I said, “Yeah, I understand. I think about my dad a lot when I go running too.”

Everyone has a story.

A Newfound Appreciation for Iron! 1.75 years post total gastrectomy

Now when I sit down to blog (in glorious peace and quiet), I have to calculate how long it was since my surgery. It’s hard to believe that in June I will have been without my stomach for 2 years! I’m at the phase now where I’ve truly lost track of how long it has been. My lack of stomach no longer dominates my life or my thoughts. My body still reminds me periodically, and I sometimes wonder what my life would be like today with my dad and aunt still in it. I’d like to think those are gentle reminders to focus on what’s important in life.

As the title eludes, I have been taking my separate iron supplement along with my multivitamin and B complex supplement. That addition of iron to my repertoire of daily supplements has led to super energy Marne again…tons of energy!! And it’s amazing how far I had slipped without realizing the root cause. I eventually felt bad enough that I looked it up and realized I exhibited all the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. I also figured my exhaustion and pace slowdown in running was because I was getting older and out of energy. I ran 5 miles yesterday and was able to drop my pace down into the 7:00 min/mile range again. It’s amazing how much more you can force your body to do with normal iron levels!!

Per WebMD, women age 18-50 require 18mg/day, while men get away only needing 8mg/day (you guys stink!). Between that and my bypassed duodenum, I quickly trended into the iron deficiency anemia “fogginess” and exhaustion. But I’m happy to report, a simply daily supplement of ferrous sulfate is getting me back on track. Make sure you buy the non-coated caplet. Something about the coated one tore up my gut and left me feeling a bit ‘off’.

Onto the story of life…
I love the way my fellow stomachless blogger Steve put it: less things, more memories. To that end, when my son said he wanted to go skiing, we were able to make it happen. Our trip included a LOT of family time, skiing, an airplane flight (half the fun for the kiddos), snow tubing, ice skating, a Utah Jazz basketball game, first ever visit to the great salt lake, and great food! The trip was a blast!! I’m always worried I’ll forget to book a flight or that the activities I plan will be horrible, but I’ve been very impressed how somehow everything just falls into place and works out.

Here is a brief synopsis of my stomachless food and ski tour….

I’m a huge fan of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I actually vicariously enjoyed food in the early post-gastrectomy recovery days by watching the show. So, of course I looked up a few spots to check out and settled on the Red Iguana 2 in Salt Lake City. Here’s the mango chicken enchiladas! They were fabulous, and I ate 1 1/2, took the rest to go. I ate my last half 30 minutes later. It was delicious, and I’m picky about Mexican food.
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We had the opportunity to sit on the patio on the beautiful sunny day. Here’s me and my extremely supportive husband:
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Then it was off to skiing. I only go once every year or two, so it took me until day 2 to be ready to ski some blues!! I got there, but my stomachless self definitely requires a mid-day break to eat a snack of some sort.
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Then we found a fabulous locally own Italian place to enjoy dinner. In honor of Steve, I went all out for some decent coffee. They had an amazing cappuccino there!
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Towards the end of the trip, I stumbled on one of the most amazing sandwich shops, called Even Stevens. I had their pot roast sandwich, which was unbelievable.The meat was tender and moist. The bread was amazing, and they had some sort of jalapeno jelly that defined the sandwich. I was able to eat almost the entire sandwich. If you’d seen this sandwich in person, you’d know that was quite the feat. I ate the remainder of the sandwich and the side of chips 30 minutes later in the car once I wasn’t so full!!
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The trip was amazing. The food was incredible. And the wonderful memories we made as a family were unforgettable.

The only challenge post-gastrectomy life leads to is that you no longer have your stomach as a buffer for all the fatty, junky food you consume. You are now more aware when you aren’t eating as well as you should be. It’s tough to eat out every single meal since almost no restaurant limits fat and grease. (I don’t help matters any by going into “vacation mode” and eating too many sweets!) We’re thinking the next trip we go on, we need some sort of kitchenette so we can at least scramble up some eggs for breakfast and have a dinner not at a restaurant.

So, keep living it up my stomachless friends! I know my gastrectomy has taught me that much!

Why?

So, this is a blogging streak for me! Apparently you get some extra iron in my system, and I return to my crazy ways!!

This post is just some open-ended questions that cross my mind sometimes. Short and sweet.

1. Why am I doing so well?
2. Why haven’t I had any major complications or setbacks post-gastrectomy?
3. Can I credit my crazy marathon running past with my overall health? Is this a factor in the quality of my recovery?
4. How awesome must my surgeon be?
5. Why do some doctors not by default put in feeding tubes post gastrectomy? Does the slow and steady weight loss post op as a result (vs the scary fast weight loss) prevent complications such as the gall stones that I’ve read about?
6. Do the food consumption changes post surgery bother me less than other folks?
7. Is it easier to spit out food that gets stuck, rather than being uncomfortable for 20-30 minutes?

I don’t have the answers, but these are some questions that still linger from reading about others’ experiences as compared to my own.

Happy Tuesday! I’m off to spin class in the morning under the presumption that exercise is directly related to my overall health post-gastrectomy. So long as I can make up the calories, I’m keeping it up.

Let’s Talk Iron Deficiency Anemia

It’s been a while since my last post, and life is busy as ever. I can hold my weight and have been focusing lately on hydration, quality foods and exercising. I do eat all the time, both a blessing and a curse. I’m still the skinny girl who indulges in the candy and seems to always be eating, but is still skinny. (This generally makes people mad!) As my life has moved forward, some folks know I have a stomach and others do not. It seems like too long and complex of a story to explain to most people in a short time.

My kids make fun of me for being such a slow eater. But honestly, forcing our family to take time to eat and enjoy our food isn’t a bad thing. It might take me a while, but it forces quality family discussion over food. I could think of worse things to happen. I’ve been attending the kids’ Valentine’s parties, planning a skiing vacation and keeping up with life. Life is still full of so many blessings, it is just wonderful.

The one big reminder I still have about not having a stomach is food getting stuck. As long as I chew well and try to never rush food, I’m fine. I try to stick to this theory. But every once in a while, I eat too big of a bite and it gets stuck. I salivate like Pavlov’s dog and go spit somewhere. Not very attractive, I know. But it’s one of those things I can deal with. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I just stop eating until I can tell it has passed. What’s interesting is that my brother never has this. If a food doesn’t agree with him, he experiences gastrointestinal discomfort more so than having to throw up.

Girl Scout cookie season has arrived, and I’m currently testing a question: “How many thin mints can I eat in one setting before I sugar crash or get dumping syndrome?” So far, I’m able to consume like 12 cookies and still be ok. It’s craziness. I think four thin mints have 8 grams of sugar, so that’s pretty impressive. I never could’ve managed that much sugar early post surgery.

Now onto the main topic… iron deficiency anemia! Woohoo! Are you as excited as me?

Anyhow, I went to see my surgeon, and they did a general blood screen. My gastrectomy by-passed my duodenum, where I have read most of the iron is absorbed into your body. This puts me at risk of anemia. I had been feeling incredibly tired and when I ran, it felt like my muscles just weren’t responding the way I am accustomed. I also looked up symptoms, of which I had pretty much everything: cracked corners of lips, sore tongue (think tongue on fire after eating incredibly spicy food), pale skin (paler than my usual pasty white), some mental fogginess and bad skin. I felt like the walking example of iron deficiency anemia, so I started adding an extra daily supplement of ferrous sulfate (This was a leftover over-the-counter supplement which I had taken during my pregnancies). I started feeling better and am still continuing feeling better even today. My energy levels are coming up, and I don’t feel exhausted all the time. My blood screen came back after 1.5 weeks of daily additional supplementation and I had a 9.1 hemoglobin count. I’m not sure exactly where you should be, but the pretty chart had a trend line with a reference point of 12. I assume you should be above a 12 to be in good shape. You could see my hemoglobin trendline just plummeting….into exhaustion.

So now I’m adding the daily supplement for 2 months to see if I can get back on track. The trouble with nutritional deficiencies is remembering just how long it takes you to get this deficient and then how long it will take you to get back. The struggle I have is the act of actually taking the supplement. When I take the full iron supplement, I don’t always feel good. It’s almost like a “sugar crash” feeling where you just want to go and lay on the couch. But I found out that if I cut the pill in half and take it in two separate, smaller doses, I don’t feel sick.

So far, my energy levels are up, my muscles feel like they’re starting to give me a bit more in my workouts, and my skin is starting to clear up. I will be continuing to watch this trend. My guess is after my iron is at acceptable levels, I’ll need to figure out exactly what a “maintenance volume” might be. Would it be 2 supplements per week or just 1? I will have to find out!!

On a side note, I completed my second half marathon without a stomach in January!! It was not my best time by any stretch of the imagination, but I got it done! I was tired at the start and didn’t have a running buddy. I FaceTimed my children 5 miles in, which made a lady running by me think I was crazy and talking to myself. :) I was pretty bummed about a 1:54 finish time, but my surgeon bailed me out with good excuses. He said running with iron deficiency is like strapping weights to your arms, feet and then throwing a backpack on for good measure. The iron in each blood cell is what transports the oxygen to your muscles and takes away the carbon dioxide. If you have a deficiency, it’s like pulling a sub compact car up to transport passengers instead of the planned megabus. It’ll take twice as much blood to accomplish the normal oxygen delivery. So my excuse for this year’s half marathon will be iron deficiency anemia. I plan to correct this problem and try again next year!! (I’m already signed up.)

Sometimes it’s just about looking fast!
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What’s better than a pre-race selfie?
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So that’s a few thoughts about 20 months post gastrectomy. Thanks for following the blog!

What Does Life without a Stomach mean to me? 1.5 years post-op

Life is moving on. What else does being stomachless mean to me? It’s kind of like this quiet journey I’ve overcome in life. It’s been a check for myself from God to remind me of what really matters and just how lucky I am for everyday I live in good health.

I do wonder what it would be like if the CDH1 gene had been found in the early 90s and what that would’ve meant for my dad. I think how lucky I am that medicine has come so far that I can live a normal life and have beat this familial cancer that took my grandma, father, aunt and others. My brother is still frustrated trying to keep his weight up with his high metabolism and the need for 2500+ calories per day to hold his weight. He will be a year out from his surgery in a few weeks, and constantly eating gets very, very old during that recovery. But his dedication, focus and determination are holding his weight. He will be able to gain weight soon, I know and I pray. At the end of the day, we both understand this is the long recovery journey and that it is worth it.

My everyday is much simpler now. I don’t have to get so crazy about snacks. If I do run 5-6 miles in the morning, I’ll make sure I add more snacks that day so I don’t lose weight. I don’t really get that hunger pang, but I do feel weak or realize when my hands start to shake because I haven’t eaten enough. I can drink alcohol, can eat most everything in moderation. I still struggle with fatty simple carbohydrates, ie any crackers, potatoe chips, etc. I can eat them, but not a whole lot of them. The same goes for sugars… I can have sugar, but I have to moderate my intake of sugars.

I need iron and protein, and that is clear from how I feel. The more I focus on those (and B vitamins), the all-around better I feel. So my day-to-day is an attempt at healthy eating, but that certainly doesn’t always happen. I find it CRITICAL to start my day off with protein, so I lean heavily on scrambled eggs to start out. And I still love oatmeal. I can eat a GIANT portion of that (10% of your daily iron intake) and feel really great, not too full, not crummy, just really good.

So long as I’m eating well, I have lots of energy to keep up with my family. I’m motivated again to cook and enjoy the foods. Now that food isn’t such the central focus in my life, it’s more enjoyable. Although spending a year ensuring you eat snacks all the time almost makes you TOO focused on foods. So when you can consume regular portion sizes again, you have to actively reduce snacks because you are consuming a lot. My husband commented I’m now eating more than a lot of people and my portion sizes are bigger than some folks. I still have my high metabolism for sure. And yes I get no sympathy for that, but it was definitely a challenge during the first year of recovery plus my running habit. :)

My goals for 2015 include healthy eating, more home-cooked meals, a regular workout routine (been getting lazy), remembering to give my children drinks during meals since I don’t drink and eat at the same time, finding a general practitioner to watch my vitamin levels and trying to be a less snappy wife and mom. I do think my imbalances with nutrition have led to me to be more easily frustrated and more likely to snap during the day. I’m working on this, and I think balanced nutrition is a critical element.

So, that’s life 1.5 years post-gastrectomy. I had the pleasure of meeting someone 9 years post-gastrectomy the other day. He’s completely normal and just picks and choses what he eats in a sitting. He commented that he asked the waitor to take his water away during a meal because that night he was going to have wine. And when there’s only so much space, you just have to make choices what you will consume. The waitor did give him a funny look, but most people don’t think like someone without a stomach.

So that’s all for me for now. I’m might not be a regular blogger now that life is busy and less about recovery. But I made a promise to myself that I’d maintain this blog for the long haul since there was a lack of folks posting about multi-years post gastrectomy.

Taco soup dinner is ready, so I’ll upload photos later.

Vacation to the Bay Area!

So I had my last post sitting in draft mode for quite some time, so this is a bit of a double-post evening. I wanted to highlight a wonderful trip I got to take to San Francisco.

Most importantly, I got to meet my blogging friend Steve! He managed to run into every setback in the book the month preceding my trip, so I wasn’t sure how on earth he’d be able to meet me for dinner. Steve actually emailed me before I arrived about how great it is to have spent 6 nights in a row at home, not revisiting the hospital! I can’t believe they made it after all of that!

Here we are. And the best part was having a stomachless friend who also took a to-go box. The “EAT” sign in the background was completely unintended but so very appropriate. Steve has really embodied the positive spirit of people I want to surround myself with in this world; to be able to meet was so exciting!
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We got to chat about what we’ve gone through, ask family history questions, laugh about some stuff and realize how great our spouses have been for supporting us through this whole crazy rollercoaster. Keep on recovering Steve! You’ve got this!

Now onto some touring we did…
I do still love me some coffee. Here we are at Olea in San Francisco enjoying (for the first time) french press coffee. This coffee was coupled with my breakfast of huevos rancheros. (I do separate food and drink at most meals still. Restaurants that are slow enough to allow me to drink first before the food arrives are my favorite!)
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I did get to eat a lot on this trip. Here were some fabulous dinners.

I found that I can eat quite a bit of seafood very easily. Here’s Mr. Crab. Messy but so tasty!
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The trouble with extended eating out is there tends to be a general over-abundance of fat and not enough protein and iron. So, to shore up that issue, I enoyed a center-cut prime rib. Amazing!! The photo is of the delivered steak, and I was able to eat most of it because I didn’t get any appetizers.
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And finally a non-food photo! Here is Kyle checking out the Pacific ocean. I believe this was the first time I’ve visited the Pacific ocean. :)
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I wanted to add a bit more to the blog, but I’m too tired. I’m signing off and hope you have a great night.

Pretty lucky, Pretty Normal – 18 months Post Total Gastrectomy

So, the Houston heat is finally on its way out. And I made it out this morning for a run. It was foggy and probably 99.9% humidity. So much moisture in the air that water droplets formed on my eyelashes while i was running. I was jogging in the dark with streetlights to light the pathway, thinking I’m pretty lucky. Here I am, doing life, getting my quiet time in the morning, just running the block. (A little voice in the back of my mind was also thinking my pace has slowed since I’ve been taking it easy.)

I am still able to keep up with life. My concerns now are the same as anyone. Am I spending my time the right way, with the people in my life I love? Am I focusing on what really matters? Am I taking care of myself: extra iron, plenty of protein, enough sleep, exercise, time for rest and relaxation?

Life at 18 months is good for me. I do snack all the time because if I eat too fast or too much, certain foods can make me feel bad.

Foods I take my time with (consume half, wait 15 min, consume 2nd half):

  • greek yogurt
  • 6 oz glass of 2% milk
  • lunchable
  • really fatty foods – think nachos with loaded greasy queso

Foods that just go well

  • Spaghetti with sauce or meat sauce
  • Lasagna
  • Non-processed homemade meal (meat + veggie + starch)

Foods that go ok, but chew well

  • hamburger
  • tomatoes or veggies/fruits with skins

Hit or miss foods

  • Reheated chicken (no clue why I’ve had problems with this. It’s the reheating…
  • Rice – Can go ok or can get stuck
  • Chugging water really fast – just gets stuck (this is when I forget I’m missing a stomach)
  • Raw bell peppers
  • Pickles – the skins

I’m sprucing up the blog a little bit, adding categories and trying to focus on what will help fellow CDH1ers or folks who have had or are going to go through a gastrectomy. Since life at this point is so far from gastrectomy, I’ll likely focus on food, exercise, health & living life to the fullest.

Have a great night!

15 Months Post Total Gastrectomy

My being stomachless doesn’t enter my mind as often anymore. Every once in a while, I struggle a little bit with a food. Or I get the feeling of a little lump in my throat that reminds me about my surgery. But generally, I eat a wide array of foods now. I can eat some salad, but don’t always feel like it. I do snack a lot and get full after a good portion size now. I eat steaks in hopes of good protein and extra iron. (Need to get my levels checked.) The one item I stay away from is corn. The skins are just too much to chew down. Ironically, popcorn is still fine; and I eat that in giant portions!

For snacks..
I spoon dollops of peanut butter out of the jar at work…it’s classy. 😉
oatmeal still is my friend (add creamer and splenda)
chips (not in excess or I feel bad)
cheese
greek yogurt (eat half, wait, eat other half….still struggle with sugar content of this if I eat it too fast)
handful of peanut butter M&Ms
I can eat a small ice cream sandwich
protein shakes (muscle milk + water. go slow or feel a bit “off”)
cheese stick

Scars…
My incision is barely noticeable. Oddly enough, it was one of the incisions from the laproscopic portion of my surgery that is more noticeable. But that was my fault. I think I popped that stitch trying to walk too fast too soon after my surgery.

Running & Life…
I’m able to continue working out and running like the crazy runner that I am. My biggest constraint now is unrelated to my surgery…time. Other things seem more important. So I workout super early in the morning and sometimes get too lazy. Family, fun, work and sleep requirements are so demanding!

More Running…
So I’ve been running 5-6 miles 2x a week on weekdays and walking a few miles over lunchtime 5 days a week. I try extra hard on running days to get extra food down and focus on protein and iron. Seems to be working pretty well. I hope to get out of my laziness and force at least 3 runs per week. I am again signed up for the half marathon in January! I plan to still pass by folks with stomachs just because I can.

Weight…
Even with running, I’m holding my weight at 114-115. Gaining weight is still a bit tough though. The one thing about a gastrectomy is you can snack a lot, but you can never overeat the way everyone else can anymore.

13 Months post total gastrectomy

A lot of the Facebook group discussions talk about energy level, food and weight post TG… Also an improved look at life and getting out there tackling items on your bucket list. So here’s 13 months out and what my current view is on everything..

Energy level.. I’ve always been pretty aggressive with my schedule and manage to have a ton of energy. Though I still find that every once in a while if something disagrees with me, it’ll make me feel energyless for a good 10-15 minutes. If I’m at home, I just lay down or take it easy until “the fog lifts”. If I’m at work I can sort of walk it off.

When I get busy and am enjoying life, not feeling hunger is kind of bad. It’s super easy to lose weight when you don’t get that traditional feeling of hunger. And it’s hard to stop to eat with as long as it takes me to eat.
So after some vacationing, it’s time to go back to work so I can get back into my schedule and food routine.

Popcorn!! I can still put away some major volume of popcorn! Might not have all the nutrition, but sometimes a calorie is a calorie when you just want to hold your weight!! I was holding my weight well until our vacation, but I dropped some weight. It’s ok to eat all the time at your desk, but it’s harder to keep that up when you’re on the go. It’s also tough to eat every meal out where you feel bad for how slow you are, instead of just snacking away at your desk. My desire to “fill myself to the brim” every meal has gone away since I can usually hold my weight without the discomfort of getting that full. I hope to put some lbs back on in the next month and hydration has a lot to do with a few pounds here and there lost.

Vacation!! Remembering to stop your “busy life” and do the things that matter…my shout out to bucket lists. So we road tripped the family about 3000 miles round trip from Texas to the Grand Canyon and back. It was awesome and I’ve included pics below.

Scars after 1 year.. My scar looks amazing and I rock the two-piece bathing suit. The actual incision has faded so much you can hardly see it. I just claim my feeding tube and laparoscope incisions were bullet wounds because that sounds cool!!

Weight loss! My weight loss has stayed well controlled minus the vacation. This was not a lazy poolside vacation. This was a lot of hiking, an 11 mile Grand Canyon rim bike trip pulling a kid trailer and some eating in between all the cool stuff we did. My kids were exhausted! The only complaint I have is a desire to put on some more pounds… My shoulders look scrawny and my ribs show through too much. All in weight loss was from 126 to 114.

Life is pretty much busy and normal. I just get a reminder here and there that I don’t have a stomach.

Here’s some vacation pics.

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Today Marks One Year

One year since I proactively checked myself in for a surgery to remove my stomach because it was going to kill me. I underwent a surgery that had a crazy long recovery. And yet today life is darn near normal.

I eat healthy. I eat small portions. I eat slowly, and I chew thoroughly. Most foods have made it back into my diet, though some foods I’m more cautious with since they’re more cumbersome to chew or whatever the case might be.

I proactively start my gut with water, then protein. I make my small but perfect homemade egg muffin sandwich with cheese. I’m holding my weight well and able to run 3-6 miles 3 times a week, plus work full time and raise two beautiful children.

I focus on iron, protein and vitamins. I stay away from much milk unless it’s added to coffee or eggs for scrambling. I can do Greek yogurt now. I’ve added Cheerios as a snack for iron and vitamins. I’ve also been rocking a lot of expensive steaks because they are tasty, have iron and have protein. The best cuts of meat work cooked medium to medium rare because tendons and fat are hard to chew. The good cuts are easy to chew.

I can drink wine and beer. I have to watch restaurant margaritas because they must sneak sugar in them.

I always get a take home box from restaurants. But for lunch, the doggie box is just so I can finish lunch an hour later.

Sometimes I get tired, but most would expect that given my hours and everything I take in. I’m signed up for another half marathon in January.

Life is normal. I still miss my dad, but he’d be proud. My stomach will not kill me before my kids graduate high school. So my surgery has given the finger to my gene mutation, and I’m happy to have that option. It’s still in the back of my mind my kids have a 50/50 chance of inheriting this mutation from me. But I donate to non-profits that fund stomach cancer research in hopes that medicine in 20 years will give my kids even better options than what I’ve had.

So tonight, I’m thankful. I love life and seek out the adventures I’ve wanted for my and my kids. It’s awesome. I thank God for my extended lease on life. My scars have faded and most people’s response is, “Wow, they took your stomach out in that tiny incision!” My surgeon and MD Anderson are the best. And thanks to nostomachforcancer for research and networking folks together.

So that’s my normal life one year post op!