Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baby Steps

I think that the first month I was starting all the new meds, I made so much progress with the fluid loss that I kinda expected, or at least hoped, it would be the same.

This month hasn't been that way at all and I've really struggled with the fluid. My fluid pill has been doubled again, and that helps. I must learn patience!

I did go to the lab today to get bloodwork AND for the first time, got out of the wheelchair and walked to the van where it was parked. It wasn't that far, we usually park in the same place, but you should have seen Renee's face when she came back from returning the wheelchair and I was getting into the van!

Baby steps - that's what I'm taking right now - but at least I'm stepping.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Heart Healthy Choices

When I went to the grocery store, I was reading labels on everything I bought. For me right now, avoiding sodium is key. Too much sodium causes me to retain fluid which seems to be the worst offender I'm having. My cholesterol is great at 147, tryglicerides (sp?) are 43, so I'm good when it comes to both cholesterol and fat - although - I am not trying to break that bank by gorging on either.

I've talked a lot about the sodium, but there are few choices in anything that is remotely prepared or in packaged food. The other thing I noticed is that the few things Kroger had marked "heart healthy" were on the top shelf and there was only one flavor or option. Most cardiac patients I know are riding in the cart - so you're not going to be able to reach the top shelf unless you've got your cane and can reach up and knock it off (I did that more than once - but it doesn't work with cans or glass jars and bottles) (Also, don't try it on laundry detergent or cokes, beer, etc!)

It's still working to stick with the fresh produce for me. My brother Mike is having some good success with using the Healthy Choice frozen dinners for his lunch, and all kinds of fruit for snacks. I used to do those for lunch at work, maybe I'll check them out this week when I get groceries.

My sister Amy and her husband are having good success with the Paul McKenna diet plan. I haven't researched it all yet - but I will and update. One of the biggest things I know is that you take your time eating, put your fork down between bites, and really learn to listen to your body about when you are full.

I believe that wholeheartedly - like my spill on ordering the small hamburger and a baked potato and being full before it was all gone as opposed to the big double hamburger combo. And, we are all victims of the "there are starving children who'd be glad to clean their plate" society in which we were raised - we don't think food should be wasted so we eat it - mostly when we don't need it. Keeping that in mind has really reduced what I spend at the store - I am not being hungry, but things last longer because one half of a turkey sandwich and an apple fill me up. I don't have to eat the other half plus half a bag of chips - and it's a win/win all around.

Now, don't think I won't eat what I want to - I'm going out with some friends in a couple of weeks for lunch - I hope we go somewhere really good!!

Hope this wasn't too rambly - just things that crossed my mind today. I go to VUMC on Tuesday for bloodwork and see the doctor again on April 7 for a weigh in. My next purchase is going to be a new scale on which to weigh - it will cost me close to $100 but will be a good investment in me and my health.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sunsweet Prunes

An unlikely title - but I wanted to share this tidbit. While grocery shopping last week - and I have a rant about that! - I bought a container of Sunsweet Prunes that are called "Ones". They are pitted and individually wrapped.

They make a great snack - and they are so sweet that they satisfy the craving I get for something sweet about 9:00 or so at night. And, there is an added benefit, prunes are nature's laxative. They work quite well and have no ill side effects, no cramping, etc.

They may seem like a subject that shouldn't be discussed, but, let me say this - once your body has gotten past a certain age, and I think it's worse after you've carried children - you are going to need some help staying regular. It is essential to your overall body health, and particularly for your colon health.

Prunes - well they are a good way to do that. I got Renee to eat one today, she loves plums, but she made the most horrible face! If you try them, maybe cut the first one into three or four bites so you can get used to it - they are a little different. Growing up, my mom fixed prunes occasionally for supper - I think I understand why now - so I was surprised about the taste. They are good - it's just different if you've never eated them. They are dried prunes, like raisins are dried grapes. That should help!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today is a Little Better

Yes - today I think I feel a little better. That could be because I've been home for two days and haven't even walked out the back door - which means I've slept quite a bit. But, for right now, I have a little more energy and will probably do some packing.

I've struggled with a decision about moving for awhile - I have always planned to move into a small apartment somewhere when the kids got grown. Renee is out on her own, Lynn is still here, but he's refusing to even look for a job, which presents another problem.

I did the paperwork to start getting into Trevecca Towers in December. I will go from a 1400+ square foot 3BR, 2 Bath I cannot possibly take care of into a 600 square foot 1 BR, 1 Bath. I'll have a living room/dining combo and a small kitchen, which will be more than sufficient since I cook little.

The only struggle I'm really dealing with is what to do with my son?? We've struggled a lot the last three years, I put him in state custody for about 16 months until he turned 18. He got his GED almost a year ago, in July. He got a job in September, which he quit early November, and has not worked since. I told him over a year ago that when the lease was up here this month, I would be moving. Does he think I'm kidding? Does he think I'll feel so guilty that I'll stay here (which is where I'm teetering) knowing I cannot physically nor financially continue to keep this house.

I've tried telling him that if I dropped dead on the steps, which could happen any day, he'd only have the rest of whatever calendar month we were in to move out. Well, this is my mental struggle today. It's probably a good thing I feel some better so I can deal with this - set my move out date, and continue on.

I truly believe stress can and will affect your physical health in more ways than you will begin to know, until that stress is relieved and you feel it in your bones, the damage it was doing.

Two really great things about Trevecca - they have a work out room - I cannot yet, but I hope to be able to walk on a threadmill soon. The 2nd thing they have I can do, is walk in the pool. They have an indoor pool. I'm really looking forward to this since it will help me with mobility and motion and burning calories.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Numbers

So, it's been a few days since I posted. I feel awful! The doctor said I would, but I thought he was kidding around. I didn't expect that he was right on target when he said 'really bad'. I suppose the meds are helping, I'll find out more about that on April 7, but I sure don't feel like doing much.

The metoprolol is to slow my heart rate and in doing so, hopefully relieve the pressure within the chambers of my heart, particularly the right side where there is the biggest problem. I'm not sure what the measurement is, I don't think it's like PSI in tires (??), but, I know it's supposed to be a 25 and in my heart it's an 80. A little scary!

This week, my INR was down to 4.3 - still a little high but I'll go two more weeks on 10mg of Coumadin daily and see if it comes down a little more. Ideally, I'll get somewhere between a 2 and 3 and try to keep it there.

I'll say this about the new med - Renee can tell if I've taken it. I get a little loopy - because it zaps all of my energy and all I want to do is sleep. So, I get that exhaused look on my face and my eyes get a little glassy. I don't feel high, just drugged. I did some internet research and it didn't say that it would get better or that you'd get use to it, so, I don't know for sure I will continue taking it.

It also tends to cause you to retain some fluid, which I don't need to do at all, and I can feel that in my legs. It's nothing like it was, but I'll bet it's been close to 20 pounds back on since I started taking it.

I suppose the question becomes - is it really extending my life? AND, for how long? I'd rather have 6 months the way I felt a month ago than a whole year of the way I feel today!

Well, I feel the bed calling - I can get in a nap before Jack Bauer comes on and maybe I'll stay awake long enough to watch it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shopping Trip is Coming Up

I'm still wearing all my clothes, though most of them are just hanging. And, I'd thought I'd wait a little longer to go shopping. BUT, after today, maybe I'll just go on and buy a couple of things!

Renee had gotten some new shirts a couple of weeks ago - just too cute - at the Avenue! I've not bought clothes there in almost 10 years. So, today she is here doing her laundry and just for fun, I tried one of her new shirts on - it fit perfectly!

That felt great!

Living Wills

This morning as I got my AM meds together, a thought came to me. I need to be sure that I have a living will on file at the hospital. My sister, Amy, and my daughter, Renee, both know full well what my thoughts on this are, BUT, they would still be powerless if I don't get the proper documentation completed.

A lot of folks do not like to talk about death, or even think about it. I have a friend who totally refuses to discuss it at all. It's not something my family has a problem with, but, my dad was a heart patient from age 43, as most of his family, so maybe we are just a little jaded. I prefer to think of it as practical. Besides taxes, it's the only thing we can be sure of, right?

For myself, it's more like making sure that I am taking care of my business and making my own decisions, as much as I can. I do not want extreme heroic measures taken. I have survived two head on collisions, one of those inflicting great harm, but I was younger. As I near 50 and know that inevitably, there will be a major heart episode, I don't want to be on a respirator or feeding tube. And, while a transplant might become an option, I will not be pursuing that. I do believe in transplants and signed my donor card years ago, it just won't be something I choose for myself in the future.

Oh, don't think I'm giving up, far from it. I'll take my meds, stay on my diet, get as healthy as I can and want to live as long as possible, but when the time comes that my ticker has had it, I'm okay with that too and don't want to extend life with non-existent quality. As of right now, I have no reason to think I can't or won't live another 20 years, modern medicine is really something, and I have not suffered any heart damage, (i.e. dead tissue or coronary artery disease) at this point. I am extremely grateful for these facts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Acknowledge and Admit

I have to say something here - I've been meaning to do this since the day I started this blog.

Never, I mean NEVER!! in my whole life have I admitted how much I weighed, to anyone. My doctor and the nurse who weighed me knew, the lady at Weight Watcher's knew (yeah, I tried that several times, and it does work, I just didn't stay committed).

I never admitted to my mom, my sister (who would have been the only person I'd told if I was telling), my kids, my husband, no one!

I remember what I weighed on certain days - 208 pounds the day I graduated from high school. (By today's standards, I'd be one of the sexiest girls in school with my hips!) I weighed 280 pounds when I met my husband, 340 when he married me. I weighed 343 pounds when I found out I was pregnant with Renee, 338 pounds the day before she was born. I weighed 335 pounds the day I found out I was pregnant with Lynn and 342 the day before he was born. On May 26, 1999 when I was in a terrible car wreck, I weighed 424 pounds. AND at that weight, I worked full time for the YMCA running Fun Company and summer camps, had 2 kids and 1 husband who drove a truck, had an 11 room house, active in church, family and community.

I rarely got in bed before 11 pm and was up again by 4AM to get Ronnie out the door and open my school by 6:30 am. When I got to Stallworth Rehab and they asked me about my daily schedule, they even suggested I was exhausted and had fallen asleep at the wheel!!

My point is that my weight had never really kept me down, I thought. But, it did. It kept me from enjoying everything to the fullest. In the latter years, I didn't go as much as I used to - I didn't ride anything at amusement parks - I've walked thru Mammoth Cave a few times but couldn't begin to consider it now - and I love the beach but me at this weight and loose sand are a very bad combination. (I don't like water - just the beach looking at the water!)

So, part of my own journey and rehab of my thought processes is to openly admit exactly where I am. If I can't acknowledge and admit just how serious the problem is, how can I ever tackle and overcome the full challenge of what lies ahead of me? And, you know what - with admittance comes liberation. Sure, it's a number, a high number, but it's also a temporary number. Something that will change, is changing, and not something I hide from any longer.

To say that 2 months ago I weighed 601 pounds is a major confession by anyone's standards. In doing that, I am liberated from those chains of secrecy and can openly share, give and receive, encouragement, hope, understanding, and accolades. It's one of the best things I've ever done for myself!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Falling Down

I usually watch the Biggest Loser on Tuesday nights. Actually, I guess starting to watch that show last fall began the inspiration for me to do something about my weight.

Last night, the Black team won a 24 hour pampering session. They got massages, pedicures, etc. and they got to go out and eat somewhere that looked pretty fancy. They had drinks, huge shrimp cocktails, and lots of food. In fact, the 5 of them ate 15,000 calories BEFORE they went to the bar and drank.

Anyway, most of their weight loss for the week showed it - the buys lost but the girls didn't do so well.

And Jillian hit the roof! She yelled and cussed at them because on their first trek outside into the real world, they didn't use their brains to think about what they were eating. While it was a special outing, it makes sense.

I have fallen more than once on this journey, and I expect to fall again. There are some things I love dearly, and I'm still learning to eat them in moderation or alter what I eat to still enjoy them. Mexican food is my favorite - a couple of weeks ago, I had the beef chimichanga from Las Palmas with chips and hot cheese - it was so so good. I ate 1/2 of the order and ate the rest the next day for lunch - so that was some improvement. But, there is room for more.

My whole point is, you just get back up and keep going! We have to do that in every aspect of our life, on the job, in your personal relationships, and with the eating. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on - the failure comes when you don't!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Let's Talk Numbers

Thought I'd share some of my numbers from where I've started - some of these are already on this blog site somewhere!

Beginning weight - 601 (2/3/09)
Last weight - 465 (3/3/09)
Height - 66 inches
Total Cholesterol - 147
Triglycerides - 43
LDL - 53
HDL - 84
Hematocrit - 38
Blood pressure - 140/94
INR - 5.4

Now, for my weight the fact that my cholesterol and triglycerides are so good was unbelieveable. My blood count I included because I have sometimes dealt with anemia, but not right now.

Every two weeks - go to the lab for bloodwork.
Every four weeks - go to the doctor's office for a visit.

My meds right now are constantly being adjusted - which will happen until the numbers fall in line and stay stable - but as long as my weight continues to change. so will the meds.

Lasix - 40 mg per day
Lisinopril - 40 mg per day
Metroprolol - 25 mg per day
Prozac - 20 mg per day
Warfarin - 10 mg per day
There's another little pill I take - for my stomach - to prevent ulcers since I'm on so much blood thinner, etc. - I can't remember it's name.

I have to keep this list handy as it changes often. I also take a good senior multi vitamin each day with an additional B-12, C, and E. My nightstand looks like a pharmacy counter!!

Some really good numbers - 7 days a week I feel like getting up now! And, I can walk the 50 or so steps from my van all the way to my desk at work without stopping to rest! I can lift my leg up the 14 inches to get into the van without problems, I can climb the 7 steps to the deck and walk across the deck into the house without stopping to catch my breath. I am only sleeping about 9 hours per night now, instead of the 12 I used to, and I stay up all day now, no resting spells (except for when it was rainy and I just was being lazy - it wasn't because I couldn't do anything else).

Lots of numbers to keep up with! We shall see on April 7 if that weight number can't come down a little more! I have a goal - I'd like to lose 30 more pounds by then.

Super Obesity

Sunday night I watched The Learning Channel (TLC). I really like this station and their programming. On this night, there were back to back shows about people who were called "Super Obese". That means they weighed more than 500 pounds. I was surprised to learn that in American 15 million people are considered Obese, and over 1 million of those considered "Super Obese".

The three persons who were documented in the segments was a 30 year old woman who weighed more than 900 pounds, a 19 year old man who weighed 800 and a man around 40 who weighed 1048 pounds. I watched with a range of emotions from horror to sadness. Each of these persons had family, the two who were older had children. And, it was sad to see the shape they were in.

During the segments, each of them were removed from their home, which included removing walls, etc. They were taken to Renaissance Hospital in Houston, TX. This hospital has an entire wing dedicated to helping obese patients and the same doctor was involved with these three patients. They've got bigger beds, wider doorways, had altered operating tables, etc. so that they could accomodate patients of these sizes.

All three were going to have the gastric bypass surgery, but so much was involved prior to that being able to happen. The man who weighed over 1000 lbs had surgery on both legs to remove huge fatty tumors. After 5 months he was able to stand up - for the first time in 3-4 years - he had lost about 400 lbs before his surgery was ever scheduled. The teenager was doing ok - he had still been able to get up and walk - but he was an only child and very spoiled, so he didn't do so good if mom was around. The young mother lost a couple of hundred pounds, had the surgery which was successful, and was improving greatly when she suffered a massive heart attack and died.

Throughout the whole time I spent watching these episodes, I kept saying to myself, "Thank you God that I did't get to this point" and "Thank you God for letting me see the light before this is what I faced".

Some interesting points made during the shows:

1 - since two of these folks were bedfast for years, they had an 'enabler' in their life who actually brought them the massive amounts of food they ate. I'm sure for those persons, who were family members, it was out of love and pity. (The teenager did too - mom brought meals and snacks to him directly)

2 - the availability of cheap and fast food (drive thru windows) was directly related to all of these three's weight problems.

3 - once a person's weight goes over the 500 pound mark, it is not just what they consume, but metabolic problems, lack of movement, etc. that actually contribute to the problem becoming so much worse.

I was impressed with the persons who were in support positions, the firefighters and EMT's that moved the patients, and the PT's and nursing staff who were so caring and kind to the patients, especially during the difficult times of trying to move them. As a person who once had casts on both legs and had to be moved about by others, I know it does not make you feel very much like a human and the extraordinary kindness of the folks helping you really does make a difference.

I'm not sure what all of this means to me right now, but, each day I am looking at my life and how it is improving, and, it is beyond my control that I will want to take what I'm learning and spread it to everyone I can - that's just who I am.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Grocery Shopping

Now that I have a plan and a goal, grocery shopping has certainly changed.

I've always started out with making something of a menu. I didn't have to have specifics per day - but I would write down 10-12 supper meals I planned to cook and make my grocery list from that. Then, the list of suppers was put on the fridge so I could mark thru them as I had prepared them. It helps keep me on some kind of plan, and especially when shopping. If I were to go into the store with no list at all, I would spend way too much money and not have anything to eat when I got home, or at least to make a good meal with.

I think 60-70% of what I'm buying now is out of the produce department. You can't go wrong with fresh produce and fruit, and you have complete control of how much sodium gets added.

Also, when I get home, I go ahead and prep everything. I wash the produce and repackage it all in ziploc bags or glad containers with tops. I'll use a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. This works good with fresh herbs too, something new for me. I go ahead and slice my cucumbers - they are all gone long before they'll begin to go bad. Leave the fruit whole, it will keep better. And, I don't refrigerate my grape tomatoes - they are washed in their container, let drain dry, and set on the counter. A good quick snack for me - 3 or 4 of those - so I don't snack too much when I'm cooking or on the wrong things.

I'm not buying much meat - I get turkey bacon but one pound will last 3-4 weeks. A small package of ground chuck, browned, rinsed and drained and put in freezer for spagetti or chili later. We love chicken, so boneless skinless chicken breasts are always on the list. And fish - I've always got tuna in cans and pouches and canned salmon.

This week Prevention.com had an interesting article on particular foods to eat for certain organ health. For brain and heart health, they recommended garden salads with canned salmon. For heart function, grape juice. Grape juice can be a little tart, I tend to water my down a little. Or try this - buy the crangrape - cranberries are great for your urinary tract. If it's still a little tart, add one package of the artificial sweetener you use, (I prefer Sweet-n-Low, I'll explain later), and drink it iced. It's tastes great and is quite refreshing! Pour it over crushed ice in your favorite margarita class and head to the deck one afternoon!

I do buy deli cold cuts, usually just oven roasted turkey or roast beef, for when I crave a sandwich. I buy all 100% whole grain breads and pastas now. I still put a small amount of mayo on my sandwiches and I may eat multi-grain Tostitos or Baked Lays - depends - but I can actually skip those now and choose a thinly sliced Granny Smith apple to accompany my sandwich. The crunch will make you think you're eating chips, but, look at the calories and sodium saved!

The things I don't even bring home anymore are regular chips, cold drinks, anything sweet like cookies, etc., canned veggies (unless they are no salt added), very little cheese, quick prep stuff like Hot Pockets, frozen pizzas, etc. I pretty much avoid the boxed dinners like Hamburger Helper. I do buy Rice-a-Roni and turn it into a casserole with chicken and veggies.

I'm going to be adding some recipes that I've tweaked to work for me - hope you try them!

Also, I have switched to a whole grain cereal and soy milk. I have a problem even with skim milk, but the Silk brand in light vanilla is pretty good, especially with cereal which is the only milk I injest. And, I buy real butter that is unsalted. I use it sparingly but find it tastes better and is less of a problem that margarine. Don't forget the olive oil, and I buy a salad dressing that I like, again, because I will use it sparingly.

Allow time to read the labels, Mike and his wife are really doing this too, so we are able to share ideas with each other, especially on altering a recipe or coming up with something new. That has made this chore, which could have become overwhelming, somewhat of an adventure. What can I come up with that is good and healthy at the same time??? It's not as hard as you'd think.

Friday, March 6, 2009

You're Not Going to Believe This!

I'm way behind, again! That's not the unbelievable part though.

I had an appointment with my doctor on Tuesday. I always have to get a wheelchair and go to his office since it is still too far for me to walk, but I had planned to get out of the chair and weigh to get the best possible number!

I noticed Lynn was pushing me like really fast and I asked him, "does this chair roll better or am I lighter?" to which he answered "I think both".

But, are you sitting down? When I got on the scale and the number came up, my mouth dropped open and I asked the nurse "Is that a real number?". The woo-hoo's started from her - and the receptionist came running to tell me she knew I didn't look like the same person. It was all so exciting, I felt faint!

Wait, I didn't tell you yet! The number was 465!!! Yes, I weigh 465 pounds, which was 136 pounds lighter than exactly four 4, yes count them, 4, weeks before. Unbelievable!!

I knew I felt so much better and could move so much better. And that my clothes are hanging on me.

Most of that I'm sure was the excess fluid which was drowning me from the inside out, but I have made dramatic changes in my diet and eating habits.

My doctor was pleased, very! He also added another new medicine to me, a Beta blocker to slow my heartbeat so that it may squeeze more blood out on the pump side, and rest more on the relax side. I will start it tonight - he said I will not feel good for a couple of days until I get used to it, so I figure the weekend is a good time to start taking it.

I see him again in exactly 5 weeks - my personal goal is to lose 30 pounds by then. I will definitely be below the 400 pound mark by my birthday on June 1.

FYI - this is the lightest I have been in 7 years - I weighed 498 pounds when I left Ronnie in 2002. And, I have to buy some new clothes - starting with a couple of good bras!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Really Cool Dessert

My brother Mike and I are both struggling with some health issues and trying to really cut back the amount of sodium in our diets. Easier said that done, but, as it's becoming a habit I think it is getting easier.

He told me about this recipe he's fixed up - great for those of us who have a sweet tooth too.

He takes a can of pineapple (in it's own juice) and chills in the fridge. Cut up a banana into the pineapple and toss in a handful of unsalted roasted peanuts. It's delicious!! I added whipped cream to the top of mine! Very little sodium and very very tasty!

Since we are both on huge doses of diuretics, loss of potassium can become a problem and cause leg cramps. Right now, I eat one banana and one orange each day. Besides adding natural potassium, they serve as a healthy low calorie snack and satisfy my sweet tooth. Some other high potassium foods are lima beans and sweet potatoes. Haddock is an excellent source of potassium.

All of the dark green leafy veggies are - BUT - if you're on anticoagulant therapy as I am, you have to be careful. You can have them, BUT, try to keep the frequency the same. I eat broccoli a couple of times a week, but if I were to eat it four or five times, I'd need to tell the coumadin lab since it would throw off my INR.