Monday, May 7, 2012

So unhappy

The title tells it all. I’ve been under a black cloud that still hasn’t cleared. This time of year is the second anniversary of my husband’s stroke, and usually any sort of hope for the future evaporates about now. It has lifted before and I expect it will lift again, but I am just in a dark place.

Two years ago I was at work when my cell phone rang in the late afternoon with an unfamiliar number. I tend not to answer calls I don’t recognize, but this one I did. An ICU nurse asked if I knew my husband had been discovered in the parking lot of our condo complex and had suffered a major stroke. This was the first I heard of any problems. I had chatted with my husband on the phone about 11 a.m. and the ambulance got him to the hospital around 11:45, I discovered later. I left work, picked up our daughter and headed to ICU.

My husband was in a coma with a breathing tube down his throat and various machines beeping out his vital signs. We sat by his bedside until late in the evening. He didn’t move except for rise and fall caused by the respirator. The doctors wouldn’t have a diagnosis until the next day.

We did some grocery shopping after the hospital and I lost it in the soup aisle of all places. I had just developed a recipe Tom really liked that used 2 kinds of soups and I automatically reached for the soups, until I realized I wouldn’t need them.

The next day, the neurologist said he’s never seen so much damage in a brain and have the patient survive. He said there was virtually no chance he would come out of his coma. I knew Tom didn’t want to live like this, as we had discussed many times. A “Breaking Bad” character is in a wheelchair and can only communicate by ringing a bell. Both of us agreed we didn’t want to be like that. I made the difficult decision to remove life support. We got two ministers to perform the last rites, and I drew some comfort from their words. Around noon, the technician started removing tubes and wires. The technician said sometimes the patients expire right away or linger for a time.

Tom lingered on, and relatives from his side of the family gathered in a sort of wake, with so much laughing and joking that Tom’s roommate requested another room. Everyone left by nightfall and I was alone with Tom. Another doctor came in to check his vital signs and announced that Tom was waking up. He ordered restoration of fluids and nutrition.

My hope rose with the doctor’s orders, and even more so when Tom woke up. He underwent lots of physical and speech therapy in the hospital until his medical team decided that he should move to a rehabilitation facility. He did, on Mother’s Day 2010, so that day’s ruined for me.

Tom’s condition didn’t improve much, and for two years he’s been pretty much where he is now: unable to speak, eat, walk, or get out of bed. I see him every evening on the way home from work and on the weekends. Most days he falls asleep before I leave; sometimes I think he doesn’t know who I am.

Tom’s still here, but he’s not the man I fell in love with and married. I’ll stay by his side for the rest of his life, because that’s what I said I’d do in the wedding vows. This is the “… or for worse” part, and boy is it the worst. I am so jealous of older couples because I don’t have that anymore. I miss having those private jokes. Having someone know me sometimes better than myself.

I don’t have a great ending to this posting, except make sure you and your partner get that blood pressure checked and keep it in normal range. I don’t want anyone else sentenced to the half-life I have. The life you save may be your own.

See you next time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feeling full, but boy has my head been hungry

I've been following my medical team’s advice to eat more solid food instead of the cottage cheese I've been consuming. I switched my lunch to a meat and cheese roll-up. One serving of deli meat is 2 ounces, which is 2 slices, the way this meat is cut. I layer 1 slice of meat, 1 slice of cheese (lower-fat provolone), 1 slide of meat, 1 slice of cheese. I roll it up and microwave for a minute or so. I eat it by slicing off little pinwheels, less than 1/4-inch wide and chew the heck out of it. The meat-cheese combo makes a filling lunch; in fact I couldn't finish mine today. OK, the piece was about an eighth of an inch wide, but I still couldn't fit it in.

While my stomach has been filled, however, my head has been playing crazy games. It kept telling me that I was hungry, and sometimes I ate even though I was full. And I paid for that with a dash to the bathroom. It even happened to me a few times at work last week.

I think the hunger is tied to some anxiety I’ve been going through. We’re trying to adopt a dog and the process includes a home visit. I’m not much of a housekeeper, and became even less so after my husband’s stroke, so we had a lot of work last week to get our condo ready.

While the front rooms of the condo are in reasonable shape, my bedroom was a disaster zone. I found a kitchen trash bag worth of lost socks under my bed, and almost as many wash cloths and towels. I filled a 20-20-20-inch box with books from the bedroom floor, plus a large storage bin, and I still have many left. My library bookstore will get a BIG donation soon. I had stacks of stuff that I hadn’t gone through in ages, and hauled out 6 garbage bags of trash. We had 8 paper shopping bags worth of clothes for Goodwill, and that doesn’t include the ones that were just too crappy to give away. I found a coffeemaker I forgot I had. This experience has saved me having my life profiled on “Hoarders.”

The effect of this cleaning has been to clear my head. For the first time in years, I can enter my bedroom without stepping on books and dancing around piles. My head feels clearer, and my lunch filled me up today.

We don’t know yet if we’re getting the dog, but there will be plenty of room for her.

See you next time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

No poke for me

After conferring with the experts at my surgeon’s office, we decided I wouldn't have a fill this time. I’m going back in six weeks to check again.

In the meantime, the nutritionist told me to eat more solid food. Currently I eat lots of so-called soft foods—cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt (among a few things I shouldn’t). I need to eat more meat. I have a killer tuna salad recipe that also works for chicken. (The secret is chopped onion and sweet-pickle relish. Maybe that isn’t such a secret, but it beats the tuna-mayo combo I used to eat.)

I have a *bleep*load of recipes saved on my computer, plus access to lots of great blogs that feature WLS-friendly recipes. I get home too late at night to cook a proper dinner, so I’ll look for recipes I can cook at my leisure and reheat.  

Sounds like an adventure to me.  Challenge accepted.

See you next time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I’m due for a poking

No, not that!

My insurance situation has been cleared up and I’m seeing my doctor to adjust my band. I won’t be cut open. After the area is numbed, my abdomen will be pierced by a needle into the titanium and silicone port that lies beneath the skin and saline will be added. This causes the band to swell and tighten under the pouch above my stomach. This makes the opening between the pouch and stomach smaller and will slow the rate of food passing through it. I’ll be satisfied with less food—at least that’s the plan. For the first few days, I’ll be on clear liquids, then mushy food a couple of days, then the real thing. Wish someone made protein pinot noir.

I don’t mind the needle, because the lidocaine means I don’t feel anything. Plus, I had three amniocentesis procedures during my pregnancy, one without any anesthetic, which felt like the Alaska pipeline going through me, so this doesn’t scare me. The only discomfort comes during the actual adjustment. The band is tightened until I can’t swallow water, and then loosened until the water goes down.

My challenge will be going without coffee first thing in the morning, then making the 30-mile drive to the doctor’s office. Nothing by mouth after 5 a.m., and I’m not getting up that early. If only someone made caffeine patches.

My immediate goal is to lose the 11 or so pounds to make my total loss 100 pounds. The band-tightening will help, and if I’d ever get my life in gear enough to get to the gym, that goal will be easier to reach.

See you next time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ooh, a piece of candy …

I accidentally broke my no-candy pledge.

My daughter offered a taste of a KitKat bar that’s sold only in Japan, Sakura Maccha Latte, which I believe is some variation of green tea, that she bought at a Japanese market near Los Angeles. It looks like a KitKat, but it’s green where it should be brown. She offered, I ate. It wasn’t until much later that she remarked that I’d broken my candy pledge. I think I said a curse word, but that was it. The candy consumption did not start a binge or a depression spiral. Just had a piece of candy. And I haven’t had any since.

I wish the rest of my life were so simple. I think the next pledge I’ll have to take will ban cookies. I just can’t leave them alone. My daughter doesn’t really eat them, or she eats ones I don’t like. Yes, there are actually cookies I don’t like. But sometimes I’ll eat even them.

The key to all this would be to eat more protein, such as a morning shake. But it’s been so cool in the morning, it’s hard to drink something cold. And I don’t want to get up earlier. Right now it takes about 20 minutes from getting out of bed to getting out the door, including feeding the rodents (the cats wake me up at 5:30 for food and I stupidly feed them then) and making coffee.

But in the end, when push comes to shove, insert your favorite cliché here, I’m the only one who can do something about me. I’m quite easy when it comes to situations having control over me. Sure, many things are beyond my control, but what goes into my mouth is all mine.

See you next time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Holding strong to at least one pledge

No candy this week—yes!

One of my biggest weaknesses is candy, especially in the single-serving bag available for major holidays. Well, single-serving if you want a thousand calories in one bag. I can’t eat just one. I’ve been subbing sunflower kernels and string cheese for when I just gotta snack. I just wish there was a high-protein, low-fat and carb food I could get in a drive-thru.

I haven’t been sugar-free this week, but I might as well have been. I tried to eat a daughter-made chocolate-covered strawberry and a supermarket cranberry muffin, and both made a painful return trip. As much as I love the flavor the first time, it’s not worth the discomfort.

I guess I should just drink more water. I love water, and I don’t even flavor it up with Crystal Light or other enhancers (although Crystal Light does make a killer mojito flavor I love). Good old water will fill you up, and get you moving with all the trips you’ll need to make down the hall.

I hope you all have no problems with your pledges.

See you next time.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Into that Pleasant Valley Sunday

In 1967, I was a seventh-grader in Palm Desert, California, obsessed with all things Monkees. Had all the albums, collected the pinups in Tiger Beat and 16 magazines, watched the TV show every week. Wrote fan fiction about my school friends being their girlfriends. Obsessed.

At the time, the desert area had lots of open spaces, with dunes that went for miles beyond the housing developments. One afternoon, my family was on a drive and saw a German World War II tank parked at the end of a cul-de-sac. My dad, a WWII veteran, pointed out aspects of the tank and compared it to the American tank he drove in the war. Finding a Nazi tank in a neighborhood wasn’t so weird back then because the pristine desert dunes often served as backdrops to cheap movies filmed outside Hollywood.
About a week after the tank’s appearance, a movie crew set up at the edge of the housing development. Word soon spread that the Monkees were filming. That was all my junior high needed to hear. Our school sat across a dry wash from where filming took place. The student body left school in the middle of the day, trudged through the wash, to arrive at the set. Can’t remember if we saw any Monkees that day, but the principal came by to herd us back to school.

My family came by the set after school and for several days, armed with a Super 8 camera. Somewhere in the bowels of a closet, I have a reel my dad shot of the Monkees on set and waiting between takes. We saw Micky film a scene with a Coke machine perched on a dune. I was able to get all four Monkees’ autographs and for years wouldn’t let anyone touch the pen they used. Sadly, I have no idea where those autographs might be.

The Monkees’ film, Head, didn’t get much of a release in 1968. Of course, I owned the soundtrack. At the time I didn’t like the psychedelic turn they’d taken. I always wanted to see it and didn’t get to until it showed up on Cinemax years later. Very weird film. Besides the Monkees, it featured cameos from Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Teri Garr, Vito Scotti, Sonny Liston, Carol Doda, Ray Nitschke, Frank Zappa, the director Bob Rafelson and screenwriter Jack Nicholson. (OK, you’d know who those people were if you were my age.)

I write all this in honor of Davy Jones, whose death at 66 was reported today.  Although I loved the Beatles, Stones and other ’60s bands, the Monkees were mine, because they came to my hometown when celebrities of my generation generally didn’t visit. And now that Davy’s gone, I’ve lost a little piece of childhood. Fun facts: David Bowie had to adopt that name because Davy had claimed David Jones. And Davy appeared on the same episode of the Ed Sullivan Show as the Beatles. He performed a number from Oliver!, the West End musical he was starring in at the time.

Rest in peace, Davy.