Saturday, July 29, 2017

New sh*t is going down...the big C-word

From 2010 to 2012, I blogged about my experiences (hate saying "journey") following a gastric bypass.  I feel like it helped me process a lot of the emotional baggage that kept piling up.

It's now 2017.  I still struggle with weight and still lug around all that ridiculous baggage, but now I am facing a new challenge.

On February 22nd of this year, I started getting itchy.  Like, all over.  I thought I was having an allergic reaction, and so I did all the standard stuff--antihistamines, wash everything in perfume/dye free detergent, see if I was using any new products, etc.  The itching got worse and worse, to the point that I was scratching my skin open in spots (gross, I know).  I finally broke down and went to my doctor.  She asked if there was anything else she needed to know about and I told her I felt like I must be dehydrated, because I had dark urine (double-gross).  That was the clue that tipped her off, and she sent me for testing.  Turns out I had jaundice, which led to more testing to figure out why.

An MRI showed I had a mass that was blocking the bile duct, and causing the jaundice.  They couldn't see it clearly, and couldn't do an endoscopy to get to it because of the gastric bypass, so they scheduled me for surgery on May 5th to remove and test the mass.  Meanwhile, I was scratching like a tweaker and starting to turn the color of a character from The Simpsons.

The week before my scheduled surgery, I started getting a lot of pain and went to the ER.  They admitted me that night to control the pain until my surgery date, but luckily (for me) the person who was next on my surgeon's schedule was not able to have surgery and I was in the right place to skip ahead into the surgical line.

They performed what's called a Whipple procedure.  Apparently it's more complicated than open heart quadruple bypass, slightly less complicated than brain surgery.  In my case, they removed the mass, along with 1/3 of my pancreas, part of my liver, my gallbladder, the rest of my duodenum (early part of the small intestine) and part of the jejeunum (the next part of the small intestine).  Then they have to reattach everything and reroute a bunch of stuff.

When I came to, they told me that the tumor they removed was large, and that it was cancerous.  Pancreatic cancer.

They call it the silent killer because usually there are no symptoms until the cancer is too far progressed.  Lucky for me, they caught it at stage 2, they got clear margins all the way around the tumor, and none of the lymph nodes they tested showed signs of cancer.  They thought they had gotten clear margins and the entire tumor, and didn't see any lymph nodes that were affected out of all they tested.  But they did recommend chemotherapy and possibly radiation.

It's now almost 3 months later.  My digestive situation is still touchy.  I've lost nearly nearly 40 pounds and my hair is falling out.  I was allergic to one kind of chemo, and the other caused borderline liver failure.  I've had 2 additional ER visits and 1 additional hospital stay for ulcers (probably from the chemo).  Now they are going to try the chemo again, and add in radiation treatments for good measure.

So, like always, it's good news/bad news.  Good news it was caught, bad news is that it could still kill me.  Some days I have a positive outlook, and others (like today) the thought of dying takes my breath away.  My brain is on overload and I just can't process it.  That's where writing it down comes in--the good, bad, and the strange.  More to come another day...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Feeling a little lost...

2 years and 2 months ago, this was me:

Now, this is me in my new super-cute happy-green spring coat! (Ignore the fact that I don't have on any makeup):
I would have loved a better full-body shot, but this is the best my computer camera can do.  And I swear that I do still have hands (although that's a quick way to lose a couple of pounds...just kidding, kids).

Most days I don't really recognize either of these people as ME.

Everyone seems to talk about the weight struggle, or food, or exercise, and what I want to know is if anyone else finds their "self" lost.  I'm not who I want to be yet (maybe after another 15-20 lost?) and I'm not who I was (when my deepest relationship was with the pizza delivery guy--I'm serious, btw.  They probably think I died).  I hear people talk about being comfortable in their own skin, and all I can think is, "Yeah, but how much skin are you actually talking about?  I, after all, have lots of skin that I'd be happy to donate to someone else who needs it."

I'm a bit adrift and at a loss.  When will all of this skin become comfortable?  Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Too early in the morning for this much reality...

So it's just past 8am on a Sunday, and I should be sleeping in.  The Beast, however (my extremely tiny-but-loud cat) has used her little one-track-mind to ensure that I don't sleep past 7am--weekends be damned--so here I am.  And it's just too early to be feeling this real.

I'm at the point of my post-bypass life that everything starts to catch up with me.  I didn't really believe people when they told me this would happen.  The first year is a gift, and you almost cannot NOT lose weight every time you step on the scale.  Then your pouch gets bigger (it IS supposed to, by the way), and there is no automatic weight loss, no taking things for granted.  And weight loss becomes work, like it does for the rest of the population.  And at year two, all the ugliness in your head is resurfacing.

My personal experience really mirrors a lot of the other people I've talked too.  You don't reach morbid obesity status without some serious issues (and yes, I know that a lot of people are obese due to health issues or genetics--I'm talking about the people like me who are 150+ pounds beyond just good-old-fashioned "overweight"). 

The common theme I'm finding is that we are people pleasers; we're givers; we're polite and conscientious of others;  we're the peacemakers and the relationship-builders.  This doesn't mean that everyone who is MO is nice or a good person, by the way, it simply means that we have a face that we present to the world that is all about who we "should" be (or who we wish we were).  Lots of times that nice face is very genuine, but when you feel like you have to be that way all the time it doesn't allow you the full range of human emotions.  So all the juicy stuff that makes us a complete human--anger, sadness, jealousy, disappointment, etc.--never gets to come out and play.  And instead of disappearing into the ether, we would rather turn this stuff against ourselves than upset others or be seen as bitchy.    None of us want to acknowledge that there is a dark side (or, at the very least, less "pretty" side) of being a complete human.

For me, it means that I've cared for so long what other people think and how I come across that I don't even know who I actually am.  Here's a great example of what I mean.  I clean my house for other people, and it's a wreck unless I know I'm having visitors.  It never even occurs to me that I personally like it when my house is clean and that maybe I should clean because I like the way it looks, or because it makes my life easier.  For me, a clean house is all about making it the "right" way for someone else for two reasons:  1. Because it makes the guest more comfortable for them, and 2. Because I want them to think I'm a good person.  The first reason is just about hospitality as far as I'm concerned.  The second reason is where we meet the crazy--it's messed up that I even worry about how another person may pass judgement on me based on whether I have laundry on my bedroom floor or not. 

The more I look at all of this, the more that I find I'm a much better mirror than I am an actual 3-dimensional person.  I'm so busy reflecting what other people want (or what I think they want) that I forget to ask what I want.  For me, this syndrome isn't the "I do everything for everyone else and I'm my own last priority" thing.  For me this is about being a certain way so that I'll be liked.  It's the terror that people will see past the humor and the over-accommodation into the person who isn't as pretty, who is just human.  It's a very lonely way to live, frankly, and it turns you into a sad person who's angry that life is just passing by.

So I'm working on it.  I'm practicing being angry and feeling sad.  I'm trying to find out what I really like to do and who I really want to be.

Like I said, exceptionally heavy stuff for an early Sunday morning to think about. So, to contemplate your own experience with "the dark side," I leave you with this: