Long time.. no post

So, here I am.. on vacation in Cape Cod with plenty of time on my hands. I was reading a friend’s blog, and realized it had been eons since I had posted ANYTHING!

I would say shame on me, but I don’t believe in that.

I can’t even make excuses like I’m so busy, blah blah blah. I am busy, but it really can’t be an excuse. I find plenty of time to do other things that are way less satisfying.. so I’ve come to the conclusion that this gap in my life is like a couple others I’ve noticed lately. I haven’t blogged because I don’t want to put myself out there like that. I also haven’t gone to a 12 step meeting in longer than I care to admit either.

It’s not that I don’t want to, I do. I just don’t get my ass up off the couch or rearrange things to get it done. I’m vulnerable when I write, much like when I’m in a meeting. I don’t believe in going in part way, it’s all or nothing like everything else in my life. If I’m going to write something, it’s going to be honest.. if I go to a meeting, I’m going to be genuine. I’m me, and that’s it. Love me, warts and all.

I was thinking today how incredibly fortunate I am. I mean, here I am in Wellfleet a block from the beach, spending time with my mom and sister- two of the people I most love in life.  I’m not at work, I’m not broke, I’m not sick, I’m not alone.. in fact most of the time I’m probably loved too much, if there is such a thing. I only say that because these people who love me so much still worry about all the past health stuff.. which I’ve dismissed from my head most of the time. What was once the only issue in my life has now become pretty much of a non-issue for me. I’ve got 4 years left on the battery, so I don’t think there’s too much to worry about until then.

And have I mentioned, most of the time I’m happy. Really really happy. Most of the time..

Most of the time I am full on the inside, full and happy. And then there are the times when I’m reminded that I could be completely going down the wrong path, seeing the crash coming, no way to avoid it, pit in my stomach, completely powerless.  Those moments suck. These moments make me feel so raw in my personal life, that I’m kind of avoiding being vulnerable everywhere else.

As Amber Lynn would say.. “I hate my feelings, I mean I love my feelings, but I hate them. ”

Those are the moments that tend to rock me down deep inside. For such a strong, willful, smart woman, it’s humbling. Humbling to be so exposed. The kicker is, that it’s all or nothing for me here too. If I’m in, I’m in all the way.  It’s just waiting to see if someone else is in all the way that’s so scary.

Happy things…

The Lock & Dam in South Minneapolis

Sweet unexpected notes

Clean sheets

Katie

MN State Parks

My mom and dad

The dandelion fountain in Loring Park

The Stone Arch Bridge

Scrambled eggs with globs of cream cheese

Peonies and Irises

A good bra

Toast with cinnamon and sugar

Andre Pottery

Galleries and gift shops

The conservatory at Como Zoo

Drinking coffee and watching traffic

Bull Bites at Axels Char House

My Monday meeting

Kem card sets

The smell of rain and fresh cut grass

Vespas or old style scooters

Converse shoes

My dog

Porridge at Hell’s Kitchen

Car washes

Recyclable grocery bags

Opening new CD’s

Campfires

Massages and pedicures

Mashed Potato Pizza from Pizza Luce

New books

The cove in Wellfleet, MA

Having flowers delivered

Farmers markets

Taking risks

Haircuts and eyebrow waxing

Kizmet, Fate, Destiny, Karma, Fortune, Luck

Shiny Happy People

So, here I am a few months after my pacemaker implantation.  I’ve had some time to process everything that has happened in the last few weeks, months, years.. and wow, I’ve gotta say- It’s pretty cool.  Now, stay with me for a minute here.. I’m about to turn into one of those people we all think are a bit too happy, I might even annoy myself a bit.

Debbie Downer

The start of it is simple, a few years ago I realized I really wasn’t happy.  The root of the issue was that I had fundamentally become someone I didn’t want to be.  On the inside, I wanted to be happy and fulfilled and I just wasn’t.  There were things that severed the outside of me from the inside, and I desperately needed them to match.

I had already started to deal with some of the issues that made me feel sad, like my weight.  I was being successful with that issue, but it wasn’t enough.  I needed a more fearless look at myself.  The missing piece for me was personal relationships.  I was in a relationship that was quickly going nowhere, I had a few great friends (who I hadn’t seen for a long time), but I didn’t have any friends that could offer me support on a more regular basis.  I knew one thing, I hadn’t been through all the pain of losing weight to still end up feeling like shit. I was lonely, alone and kinda sad.  I had let myself become complacent and it was no longer acceptable.

Mean Gene

I’m not going to share all the  details, but the first thing I did was end my seven year relationship.  The fact was that I wasn’t in love anymore, and I wasn’t sure whether I ever really was.  This was definitely not fair to me or the other person, so it needed to end.  I hurt the other person, but I couldn’t go on this way.  I knew one related thing too, I was NOT going to do my normal thing and jump right into another relationship… Have I mentioned I was a serial monogamist? One right after the other, no alone time.  Ever. I was going to take a break from the relationship world, and rightly so, it had been about 20 years since I had been single.

Sweetness, Joy and Light

I took a long break, and made some very important decisions about my personal life.  I also had this extremely strong need for more friendships, I had friends.. but something down deep inside told me that I needed more.  I had continued going to my 12 step meetings, but I ramped up the volume a bit. I went to several new meetings, reached out and took risks, found a new home group. I ended up meeting really excellent new people, and making some really strong connections with new friends and having a great support system around me.  I even started dating a bit, and met some great people who I still call friends. Then, kind of out of the blue I met someone really special. We had a bunch of stuff in common and just enough not in common to keep things interesting. We seemed to blend together pretty seamlessly and it started to feel really serious. Little bit of an issue though, he was moving in a few months.. far away in the spring to finish some business on the east coast.  We talked about it, decided to continue to see each other even though it clearly was going to get harder in the future.  This was a tipping point for me, the decision to move forward with a relationship, even though I knew there was great risk of being hurt. I had been hurt in the past, and definitely had put up some walls to protect myself, but something seemed different this time, I wanted to take the risk, it was worth it to me. I loved him, thought he was the one.  I was an expert at failed relationships, and my thinking was that maybe the reason they failed was because I had held back.. so I decided not to this time.

The few months slipped by quickly and *poof* he was gone. This is the point where it gets really difficult.  A few weeks after he left, he decided to end the relationship. I felt blind sided and emotionally damaged. Getting dumped is humbling to say the least, but here’s the deal.. I had to remember that I have ALWAYS said I need to be with someone who equally wants to be with me, loves me. It just doesn’t work if both people aren’t in it. So, no matter how much it hurt I had to figure out how to let go.  I also had to remember that this break up wasn’t really about me.  I had done the right things, said the right things, acted sanely. I have no regrets about my part, I was fully present in my own life, which is the best that I could do.

You’re probably wondering .. where’s the irritatingly happy thing she promised at the beginning? Here it comes..

In the end, I get it. I mean really get it, it was a set up all along by some power greater than me.

I had longed for different personal relationships but I didn’t know why. I truly feel now that people have been placed in my life for specific reasons, none of which I understood at the time.  He was there when I had my pacemaker surgery, fully supporting me and involved in my life, I needed that. I also needed to know that I was capable of having a healthy relationship, and today I know am capable of that.

I had felt the need for more friends, but I didn’t know why.  They were there to support me when I felt shattered, and they are still there today to support me in my daily life.  They have also been there to remind me of how great a person I am, pump me up and tell me how stupid he is for dumping me, we all need that from time to time too. Simplistic as it sounds. Today I know I’m a keeper, worthy of having a relationship and being loved.

I have even had some people pop back into my life that I haven’t seen for 15 or 20 years, haven’t quite figured out why yet, but I’m sure it will be apparent at some point. If I hadn’t had that inner voice telling me I needed more, I would never have gotten through the really tough stuff so I’m sure there’s a reason that I’m just not privy to right now.

And here’s a little clincher to top it off.. in early May I got into a car accident, totalled my car. Smacked my head on the side window as my car got spun around, but wasn’t hurt too badly.  One of my friends smartly pointed out how lucky I was.. I cocked my head and looked at him, like WTF? He simply replied, “if this would have happened before your surgery, your heart wouldn’t have been able to handle it, and you probably would be dead.”  And he’s right.

Call it what you want, kizmet, fate, destiny..

I am lucky (and grateful) for everything.

Adrenaline, how I missed you so…

Today is my first day back at work, and I can hardly believe that I only got my pacemaker a week ago.  The time has flown by, and I am a little shocked myself at how fast the recovery has been.

The ablation and implantation of the pacemaker went really well. One slight glitch in the process, when my doctor attempted to ablate from the right side, the pesky thing just wouldn’t stop.  Not shocking knowing my history.  So, an additional catheter had to be inserted and they threaded that up through my aorta. From there, they did an additional burn on the left side of my heart to the AV Node.   That was the ticket! My heart stopped and the pacemaker was implanted as normal.  Not technically anything wrong, just one more odd thing to put me in the anomaly category.  My doctor said he had only had to do this three times before, so it is a rare occurance. 

I ended up having a different pacemaker implanted from the version that I mentioned before too. The Consulta was an ICD device, which had a defibbrilator, and that really wasn’t needed for my condition since I don’t have A-Fib. Apparently the defib device causes some pain and discomfort when it sends the shock, and most patients develop an aversion to the device over time. 

Insync IIII have a model called the Insync III, and before you ask- no it doesn’t make me a better dancer.  The Insync III is a pacemaker that is used for Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) and is a bi-ventricular model.  Basically that just means that the device can be programmed to have a high and low limit and has three wires leading into my heart instead of two.  Right now my pacemaker is set for a minimum of 80 beats per minute, and a maximum of 120 beats per minute.  To put a little context behind that, 80 BPM is like Marcy Playground, Sex & Candy and 120 BPM is more like Limp Bizkit, Nookie.  I’m currently hovering at about 85 BPM most of the time which is like Alanis Morrisette, Ironic.

I left the hospital just over 24 hours from the time I was admitted, and went home feeling pretty good.  I was sore from the incision in my chest (only about two inches long), but I took some Tylenol and felt pretty good.  I couldn’t sleep on my left side, and couldn’t drive a car.. so I sat my ass in front of the TV for a few days until all was well with the world again.  I have a couple of physical limitations for the next 30 days (no lifting my left arm and no lifting over 10 lbs.), but really I’m back to normal for the most part.  I think I’ll even go to the gym and do a little running this weekend. 

A ton of people have sent me well wishes and shown me love and support, which has been great and much appreciated.  I have also had many people ask if I can tell the difference between the pacemaker doing the work vs. how my heart used to work on it’s own.  I think the biggest difference is that I just don’t notice it anymore.  I just go about my normal activities and there is no uncontrollable pounding in my chest.  It’s wonderful, and I haven’t had one episode of syncope (dizziness) during the last week either.

Both of these are great things, but the best thing is that I have adrenaline again!  I don’t have to take my heart meds anymore (beta blockers), so I don’t have anything chemically blocking my adrenaline.  It’s cool, I was always exhausted before, and now I’m finding that I have a ton of energy.  In fact, I’ll have to get myself on a regulated schedule because so far I’m not tired at night either.  Slightly problematic.. but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

How do you mend a broken heart?

As some of you may already know from reading my bio or from talking to me, I currently have a broken heart.  Not in the lovey dovey way, but in the actual physiological way.  I have a condition called Atrial Tachycardia (AT), and it’s really irritating me.

I was diagnosed quite suddenly with AT in 2005, Halloween to be exact.  I had been at work all day taking care of my marketing peeps, promoting people, moving people.. all the regular stuff.  I was having some pain in my chest, but really didn’t think anything of it.  I, like many others, chalked it up to stress or a pulled muscle and kept on going.  It was only after the pain didn’t go away that I decided maybe I should see a doctor.  I stopped in to urgent care at the U of MN on my way home just to be safe.  Wow, was I surprised at how quickly they got a doctor when I said I was having chest pain, no sitting around the waiting room for me!

I actually felt a little silly, thinking “all this for a pulled muscle or anxiety?”

They were very thorough, in fact I was getting a little irritated that they weren’t just dismissing me.  They insisted on running a test to check for a chemical that shows up if you’ve had a heart attack, they hooked me up to a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM), they poked, prodded, ran EKG’s and had me wait around to see a specialist.  Once the cardiologist saw me, he said that he had some concern about my EKG. There seemed to be an irregularity in the way my heart was beating, and that the rate was a bit too fast.  He asked if I would be willing to wait and have a stress test in the morning once the labs opened up.  Since it was already very late, I agreed.  At this point I was getting a little concerned myself.

In the morning, the lab opened up and they sent me down for a stress test.  Not the normal standing one, because they were concerned I would have an “episode”, I had to do the bicycle stress test that’s done while lying down.  The test itself really wasn’t that bad, I just had to pedal the bike and keep a pace that lit up a light on the machine.

Once he read the results, the cardiologist pulled me and my partner aside.  The good news was that I hadn’t had a heart attack, but there was an issue.  Apparently after looking at the test results he had identified that my heart was beating in the opposite way that a normal heart does. When I was resting, my heart was in a rhythm like I was in the midst of a full on exercise class.  The atrium was sending a signal when it shouldn’t and the end result was that not only was my heart rate too fast, but the wrong part was sending a signal to beat.  I had tachycardia with an arrhythmia (sometimes referred to as tachyarrhythmia), and I needed to come back and see an Electrophysiologist (EP).  An EP doctor is a cardiologist whose sub specialty is the electrical function of the heart.

Normal Heart Function

Normal Heart Function

I went to see the EP doctor, Dr. Scott Sakaguchi, on a follow up appointment.  He was very nice, seemed super smart, and he clearly knew what he was doing.  He told me about how a normal heart beats, and how mine was beating in comparison.  A normal heart has a natural pacemaker called the SA Node, which is supposed to send the signal to beat.

 
My heart was short-circuited and sending too many signals.  It needed to be fixed, my heart was already slightly enlarged, a side effect of tachycardia.  He thought that I had probably had the condition for years, but had gone undiagnosed because my heart rate really wasn’t high enough to raise a red flag for anyone.  The heart rate was probably dismissed by other doctors because of my previous obesity.   We talked about solutions, for a first round of treatment there was either drug therapy or Radio-Frequency Ablation (RF Ablation).  As a very last resort they would consider shutting down my heart completely and implanting a pacemaker to do the work that my heart couldn’t do.  We weren’t ready for that yet, it just seemed too extreme.
Atrial Tachycardia

Atrial Tachycardia

 

Drug therapy was a very common form of treatment, and specifically we talked about Beta-Blockers like Atenolol or Metoprolol.  Beta Blockers work by creating a chemical reaction in your body that blocks the effects of adrenaline allowing your heart to relax and beat more slowly.  The most common side effects of these drugs are fatigue, dizziness or weight gain.  Although I wasn’t completely against drug therapy, it seemed like it would be more appropriate in someone who didn’t need a long term treatment plan.   I just couldn’t see myself taking drugs for the rest of my life,  I was only 37 at the time.

Radio Frequency Ablation is a non-surgical treatment for arrhythmias and other heart issues.  Catheters are inserted into the veins in the groin and threaded up into the heart with the guidance of x-rays or magnets.  Once the catheters are inside of the heart, the doctors do an EP study to determine which part of the heart is sending faulty signals.  Once the doctors map the heart and find the problem spots, they use low temperatures to burn the heart tissue.  Believe me, its sounds A LOT worse than it really is.   The damage to the heart is minimal, and doesn’t have long term adverse effects, it simply is supposed to stop the signal from being sent from the incorrect part of the heart.  Ablation is about 95% effective in most patients.  There is only a one night stay in the hospital, and is done under sedation in most cases.

RF Ablation seemed like the route to take, it was non-surgical and very successful in use for treating tachycardia and other arrhythmias.  I was scheduled for my first ablation  to occur on 11/21/05.

I was preparing for the ablation,  my family had come into town.  We were all a little worried about it, and didn’t really know what to expect.  The day before I was scheduled to go into the hospital, I had an episode.  I was sitting on the couch after just having gotten up on a lazy Sunday morning, I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee yet.  My sister called and I was talking to her on the phone, when suddenly I passed out.  Of course, I didn’t realize it.  I woke up confused and feeling like my head was shaken loose.  My partner was standing over me, I could hear her quickly telling my sister that we had to call 911 because I passed out.  I passed out again, my partner did indeed call 911.  I woke again and was still really confused and didn’t understand what was going on.  The EMT’s got to the house, hooked me up to some machines, put me in the ambulance, and took me to the U of MN.  My sister and mom met us at the hospital.  I was wheeled into the emergency room and hooked up to many monitors, given another IV (apparently they need two- one for the drugs and one for back up, who knew?).  All the while people rushed around and said things like “stat” and phrases you only hear on TV shows like, “I need a CBC Chem-7” and  “a shot of epi”.  It was all very surreal. I was hooked up to a heart monitor, and my family’s eyes were glued to it.  At some point I passed out again, when I woke up I remember seeing my mother’s face and thinking that I had never seen her so worried, or maybe terrified is a better word.  Apparently my monitor had flat lined.

I’m not sure if I passed out again after that, but the doctors explained that I was having episodes of syncope.  The heart pauses as if to reset itself, the patient passes out briefly and then wakes up.  This is sometimes followed by another episode of passing out.  Syncope in itself isn’t life threatening (even though very scary) because the person regains conscienceness, but can be an indication of a condition that could later cause sudden death.  They admitted me to the ICU for observation, but I didn’t have any more instances of syncope after that.

Typical EP Lab

Typical EP Lab

The next day, the EP study and ablation took place as planned.  I was brought into the lab (yes, it’s more like a lab than an operating room), prepped and given a sedative.  Since I wasn’t fully asleep during the procedure, I would wake up sometimes and watch what was going on.  It was really an odd experience.  I could see the computer monitors, and the images of the catheters being threaded into my heart, but I couldn’t really feel it- just a slight movement or pressure inside of me.  Sometimes when they were mapping (or pacing) I could feel my heart speed up.  They would then give me more sedative and I would fall back to sleep, this went on for hours and hours.  When I woke up at the end of the day, the doctor told me that he had found several areas of my heart that were sending incorrect signals, but unfortunately the burning hadn’t gotten rid of the arrhythmia or slowed down my heart rate.  I spent the rest of the night in the hospital, completely immobile after the procedure.

The procedure had lasted about 13 hours, and I was back at square one.  I was disappointed, sore, sick from the sedation, and not cured.

I explain this in such detail to give you an idea of what it was like, not because it’s terribly interesting, but because this is only one of the five ablations that I have been through. Shortly after this ablation, I had another in January, 2006, also unsuccessful.  After the second unsuccessful ablation here in MN, my doctor started speaking to a well known doctor at the Cardiac Arrhythmia Research Institute in OK.  Doctor Warren Jackman is world renowned as one of the leading EP researchers.  He pioneered many different types of ablation techniques and was respected in the EP world as a leader in this type of medicine.  My doctor in MN sent all of my files to Dr. Jackman and asked him to take my case.  Dr. Jackman agreed, and I was scheduled to go to C.A.R.I. to have my third ablation.  In May of 2006 I traveled to Oklahoma City and underwent a slightly different kind of ablation.  The technology was basically the same, but the catheters that they used were much more powerful than those used here in MN.  In fact, they burned so much hotter that the catheter actually sprayed water during the procedure to cool down the burn site.  The procedure in OK City left me very battered, but it appeared to work.  I was sent home with a gross of blood thinners (so that I didn’t stroke out) and strict orders to take it easy.  I got home and did just that, I was incredibly relieved, and felt so much better.   I was able to resume some normal physical activity after a few weeks.  It was great!  Unfortunately, it was also short lived.  My symptoms of tachycardia came back after two months.

After ablation number three was unsuccessful, I was crushed.  I truly think that Dr. Sakaguchi was crushed too, we had created this odd relationship because of my anomaly.  I was broken, and he was really committed to fixing me.  Every time we suffered a setback, I felt like we suffered it together.

My doctor and I talked about alternatives, and decided to try drug therapy for a while to see if it could be successful.  I was going to continue meds, but at a higher dose and see if we could control the rhythm and fast heart rate that way.  I had been on several different meds by this time, just in smaller quanitites.  This round was Metoprolol, three times per day, a fairly normal amount to start, and typically well tolerated.  The meds worked well at controlling my heart rate, I was exhausted but figured it was worth it.  We had decided to try drug therapy for six months and then reassess if needed.  I started going back to the gym, and took up running.  It was nice to have some amount of normalcy again.  About two months into it, I started to have side effects from the drugs.  I was suffering from horrible depression that couldn’t be ignored, and luckily it was my pharmacist at Target that told me it was probably a side effect of the heart drug.  She told me to contact my doctor immediately , which I did.  He immediately took me off of the metoprolol and placed me back on to a low dose of atenolol in the winter of 2006.

My doctor was conservative when it came to ablating again.  I had already been through three ablations, all of which has been more than 10 hours each.  My body needed time to recuperate from the procedure itself and from the radiation that I had been exposed to.  We now had to be careful of how much exposure I got to x-rays.  I tolerated the drug therapy at the low dose, but the issue was that it wasn’t enough to control the rate, so I was basically tachycardic and horribly dizzy whenever the meds wore off. We tried yet another ablation at the U of MN in May of 2007.  This time when they sedated me, my tachycardia played hide and seek.  It completely disappeared!  So ablation number four was a wash out too.  No response to pacing, no burning.. no chance of success even close.  I was completely losing hope.

We continued with the drug therapy for quite some time, me on the low dose that I could tolerate, but tachycardic much of the time.  In addition to the tachycardia, I was very dizzy too.  Although I didn’t have any more epoisodes of syncope, it really was from sheer will.  I would force myself to remain awake and aware when it happened.  I would basically will myself to keep some glimmer so that I didn’t pass out.  I continued like this until the fall of 2008, when I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I was living my life feeling terrible all the time, and it just wasn’t worth it.

My doctor contacted C.A.R.I. once again and talked to another doctor about doing an ablation.  Dr. Jackman had since left to do other work for the private sector, so I would be a patient of Dr. Sunny Po.  Dr. Po agreed to see me in OK City in November of 2008.  Dr. Po called me about a week before I was scheduled to go to C.A.R.I. to talk about the procedure.  He expressed concern that my arrhythmia has disappeared in the previous ablation due to the sedative use.  He asked me if I would be open to having the procedure completely without sedation.  He asked if I was “strong of mind” and able to find “my happy place”.  I assured him that I felt like I was strong and capable.  The idea of going through the ablation without drugs seemed like a daunting task.  I had no idea what I would feel or if I would be in pain, but once again it seemed like it would be worth it if it was successful, and I was willing to do just about anything to feel better.

I arrived in OK City before Thanksgiving, and underwent the ablation, what I termed Lucky Number Five.  To be frank, it was the most horrible experience of my life.  Even though there are no nerve endings inside the heart, I could feel them burning me.  I thought I was dying, there was so much pressure and pain in my chest.  At a few points I know I screamed from the pain, and of course I was in sobbing uncontrollably.  I tolerated the pain for as long as I could, and when they thought they had the tachycardia identified, they finally sedated me.  I woke up after a relatively short procedure, this one only lasting six hours.  They told me that it appeared I was finally cured.  Dr. Po commented after the procedure that this was the most challenging case he had ever had while practicing.   I was extremely happy with my result, and because I had little sedation during the procedure, my recovery was really fast.  I was trucking around the nurses station the next morning, bugging them to let me go.  I felt really great and traveled home to Minnesota to resume my life.

I’m sure you’ll find this a huge surprise, but my results were once again short lived.  After about a month I started to have a fast heart rate again.  I returned to the doctor for a check up and my resting heart rate was 123.  I was panicked! He asked me to wait just a couple more weeks to see if it slowed down on its own, maybe it was just stress or anxiety.   I returned at a follow up visit and the rate was still high, it was time to talk about more extreme measures.  My doctor and I talked again about the idea of a pacemaker.  We had this conversation a few times over the last few years, but had always dismissed it as being too radical.  This time was different.  I think this time he knew I was at the end of my rope, I was desperate for a solution.

I couldn’t take meds at a level that would work to control the heart rate.  I had already have five ablations and would never be able to have any more.  As a result of those ablations,  I had been exposed to too much radiation and now needed to be checked for melanoma periodically.  We decided that a pacemaker was probably the only option left for a normal slow heart rhythm and a chance at a normal life.

So this brings us to real time-

On Friday 2/6/09 (also the American Heart Associations day for Go Red for Women) I will be admitted to the hospital for one last ablation and the implantation of a pacemaker.  They will sedate me, place catheters as they have so many times before, and then burn my AV Node beyond recognition.  This burning will block the AV Node from sending any signals correct or incorrect.  The pacemaker will be implanted to pace my heart 100% of the time .  I consider myself lucky, I was admitted to a pacemaker study sponsored by Medtronic, so I will get a state of the art model called the Consulta.  As the gentleman on the Medtronic phone line said, “It’s got all the bells and whistles”.  So, please check back in.. I hope to have good news to report in a few days.

Hopeful once again,

Lea

My New Pacemaker

My New Pacemaker

Size Matters

Lea 1 - 18mos - 2

I talked about this a little in my previous post “To Blog or Not to Blog”, but I think I’ll elaborate a little.  And lucky for you readers, I think I’ll break my own rule about not allowing fat pictures to be posted.  Yes, I have a rule.. my family will tell you they have been given STRICT orders.

Lea 3

I have always had weight issues, well at least that’s my perception.  I remember being heavy as a small child, feeling out of place and being teased a lot for not looking like the other girls.  Here’s the kicker – when I look back now at photos and see what I looked like, I really wasn’t abnormal.  In fact I was pretty adorable if I do say so myself.  In some ways I feel a little cheated now.  If I had somehow been mentally programmed to have great self esteem and a realistic body image, maybe I never would have ended up overweight later in my life.

Lea 7yoThe perception thing is really the killer here. I’ve spent my whole life feeling a part from the world, and it was really just me.. all screwed up on the inside.  My internal idea of what I looked like really had nothing to do with reality until my twenties.  In fact, I have always thought that my weight gain started when I started using, but when I was looking at photos just last night I saw proof positive that the weight started pouring on after I got clean. I turned to food in the absence of being able to do drugs to hide or mask my feelings.

Lea 13

This picture was taken when I was about 13 or 14.  I really remember feeling like I was gigantic.  Of course I will add that I was already using at this point, so clearly that would have an impact on self image. But it goes back to the question – What if I had been raised to be self assured and confident?

xxxxxx

  • Would I have become an addict?
  • Would I have become fat?
  • Would I have made such poor choices in my life?

Lea 17

I’m completely stumped on the answers, and the what if’s really don’t matter in my life today.  I’m dealing with my history but it’s still an interesting question to pose.  And you can believe that when I tried to do the responsible parenting for Katie (my step daughter), I tried to do it the right way.  For me I think it’s all the more reason to raise our female children with love and kindness and teach them to be confident and self assured.  My parents really did the best that they could, I don’t blame them for anything.  I really just look at it as “it is what it is” and move through it, I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m trying to place blame, it’s not about that for me.

Lea 20

Another point I’d like to make is that when I didn’t feel good about myself and I thought I was already fat, it caused me to eat more, which made me overweight.  So even though I wasn’t very heavy to begin with, it ended up being a self fulfilling prophecy.  And the bigger I got, the more unhappy I was.  The more unhappy I was, the more I ate.. and round and round and round…

I had completely substituted my drug and alcohol addiction for food addiction.

The turning point for me came when I was 37, I had a friend who had gastric bypass.  He was a big man over 400 lbs., one of my best friends and most of the time he seemed fairly happy.  We had talked several times about being obese (by the way, I hate that word- but force myself to use it)  and we both felt like it was hopeless and overwhelming.  My friend wanted to lose about 225 pounds, and I wanted to lose about 200 pounds.  I knew that my life was negatively impacted by my weight. Not only was I emotionally unhappy, but physically I didn’t feel well ether.  I couldn’t do even the slightest amount of exercise without pain and breathlessness and at work I found myself passed over for promotions that I was qualified for.  The social stigma of being overweight was draining on me, I felt people staring and when I went out in public I was always the largest person in the room.

Lea 30

My friend had gastric bypass first, and he was successful right away.  He started losing weight, and started exercising.   It was  incredible to watch, like he was morphing into a completely different person right in front of me.  I was inspired! For the first time in many years, I felt hopeful that maybe I could lose weight too if I was able to have a gastric bypass. I called the U of MN Bariatric Surgery Center and made an appointment for an information session with Dr. Henry Buchwald, he was a doctor known for doing successful roux-en-y procedures.   It was a long wait until the info session, about 3 months, but worth the wait.  I asked all of the questions I had and requested to be considered for the procedure.  Dr. Buchwald’s office worked with my insurance company to get approval, which included many blood tests and also a psychological evaluation.  I was approved and scheduled for June of 2005, at the time it was about 5 months away.

I underwent the surgery and was in the hospital for just under one week.  It was such a relief, for the first time in my life I felt like I could actually have a positive impact on my weight.  At the time of the surgery, I weighed 373 pounds – a mind blowing number!  I started losing weight as soon as I left the hospital, it was summer time and I started exercising right away.  I went back to work after one month, and by that time I had lost about 30 pounds.  The weight dropped off pretty fast, by the time I was three months out I had lost 70 pounds.  In a year I had lost over 150, now at three years out I have stabilized at about a 200 pound loss.

Lea - shrinking woman

I remember the day I had an epiphany while sitting in a restaurant with my family.  I looked around the room and realized two things:

  • That I was not the largest person in the room
  • That no one was looking at me like I was a freak

Lea 2yrs outI had finally reached the point where physically I could blend in and it made me really happy.  I wasn’t happy just because of the way I looked, although that was part of it, I was happy because I had done something positive for my self image.

My friends now tell me that they have loved watching me go through this change in my life.  They loved watching the “incredible shrinking woman”. Some folks that I work with can’t tell that I used to be big, they just assume I’ve always looked like this.. when they find out they are always so curious and supportive.. and shocked.

My friends perceive me as happier, healthier and more grounded.  I am for the most part, but I still struggle with body image issues.  Even now I still see myself as fat.  I am ashamed of the way that I used to look, and more importantly the way I treated myself.  On most days I would tell you I still need to lose 20 pounds.  I’m terrified of gaining weight, and weigh myself to the ounce each day.  I don’t know if I will lose any more weight, like I said – I think it has stabilized.  But I think I’ve come to the point where I’d be okay staying at this weight for the rest of my life.

Lea 3 yrs out

To blog or not to blog…

That is the question..

I have been thinking about documenting my life for the last few years.  It seemed a little daunting and let’s face it – I don’t think I have anything particularly important to say, but you be the judge.  I simply feel the need to express my thoughts and somehow leave a mark on the world.  As I get older and am forced to face my own mortality,  sneaky thoughts keep creeping into my head..

 

  • How will anyone know I was here?
  • What is my legacy?
  • Who else will know my experience?
  • When I’m gone, will anyone remember?

 

A blog has always seemed like the simplest way to do this, but I’m no writer – so I’ll ask for your forgiveness and patience right now.  I’ve also been told that writing is not my strength, so keep that baggage in mind when you’re reading. But, that being said – I believe in the spirit of the message and trust that you will too.  A friend of mine recently gave me a little encouragement to start blogging and apparently that was the tipping point,  so if it’s bad –  you can blame him.

Here’s my plan…

I am thinking of this as a free flow of my thoughts on life as it happens or as I remember.  For those of you who know me, I’m planning on it being informal – like me.  I have also promised myself that I will approach this with fearlessness and honesty, much as I try to approach my own life.  I’m expecting that the most common themes  will be around 12 step recovery, former fattie-ness, family and relationships (or lack thereof), my drama with being an arrhythmic anomaly (for my Atrial Tachycardia)  and maybe I’ll talk about some work just for fun.  I don’t have a set idea in mind of how often I’ll post, I think I’ll just follow my gut on that one.

Off we go!

Please feel free to leave comments or send me a note with your thoughts.  All inquiries will be considered 🙂

– Lea