Sunday, March 24, 2013

WLS Journey IV - Surgery Scheduled!

TUESDAY, MAY 14th is the day! It's exciting to have this dream become a reality after such a long time. A week after scheduling the surgery, things got a lot more real - I paid my deposit!

I made sure to schedule the surgery for after the semester is over, but at a time when I know I'll have a great deal of work to do via computer. Grades are due that morning so I know that I will have something to help distract my mind get through the few days beforehand. I will be on a liquid diet for two weeks prior to the surgery date. This is to shrink my liver and ensure that the surgeon can reach the stomach easily. It will also add to the weight loss!

I will be teaching in Innsbruck, Austria this summer for seven weeks (more about that later)and want to have the surgery at least a month before I fly there. I will still be learning how to handle my new stomach size, but I will be surrounded by fresh markets and an easy / touristy way to increase the walking that I already do.

Some thoughts that recently occurred to me:
- I will be able to fit into those STUPID SMALL school desks better.
- I've spent 30 years fighting a battle against obesity....with whatever years I have left, at least I will have a tool to help me fight it better
- I WILL ride horses again. I used to train horses, racehorses actually (trained two for the Hialeah stakes in Fla.), but I've been avoiding riding for YEARS because of my weight.

50 days until surgery!

In Remembrance - Entering Holy Week

As we enter into Holy Week, I would like to share a beautiful piece of choral music with you:
In Remembrance from Requiem by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley.

This time of year can bring a mix of nostalgia, spiritual discomfort, and great rejoicing. To steal and paraphrase a few words from Father Rob's sermon this morning: "I hope you will come and have your feet washed this Maundy Thursday. It might embarass you or make you feel uncomfortable - it's supposed to. I hope you will take an hour out of your time to pray during the Gethsemane Watch. You will probablyt be sleepy. You're supposed to be sleepy. Peter was sleepy." Good points. Should we allow ourselves to emote as well? Of course! How?

For me, Holy Week is usually spring break so my body says STOP & REST, but a different kind of service calls me and makes me excited and ENERGETIC again! I have a job that directly affects people's worship experiences and to some extent what they get out of the services. Sometimes, the repertoire that I bring to the choir and that we bring to the congregation helps people find a kind of release, find a connection with God, or perhaps drag them kicking and screaming to rejoice in the renewal of grace that no one is sure they actually deserve. Whatever the reaction, I am quite sure that times such as Holy Week and Easter poke at and unearth memories and experiences of the past. For many, it is viewed as a sorrowful time of guilt and remembrance of Jesus' death on the cross. For others, it's their one time of the year to show up and socialize with a flowery hat. For still more, it is a roller coaster of cross, prayer, guilt, sorrow, grace, rejoicing, and thankfulness.
I love this setting of "Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep". I conduct it slightly differently, but I love the way it is done here by the Stanford University Chamber Singers.
I programmed this work as an Introit for Easter morning at St. Paul's Episcopal, New Orleans, to be sung from the balcony. My idea is to make a connection with the women who went to Jesus' tomb on the third day and could not find him there. First they are sorrowful and then they are glad. It reminds me to see the Divine in all things and not to grieve. I changed the last line to "I am alive" (so as not to negate the Resurrection - though I suppose in a philosophical way, "I did not die" still works).

The text is the poem  Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
written by Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Here is Daley's choral setting performed by the Stanford University Chamber Singers on YouTube

Saturday, March 9, 2013

WLS Journey Part III - Types of Bariatric Surgery & What I'm Having

Types of Bariatric Surgery in a Nutshell

Check out each link for detailed images and info.

Lap-Band / Gastric Band - This involves putting a band around the upper portion of the stomach to restrict the amount of food you can eat. The band is inflatable and those who have it must receive saline solution fill-ups periodically. It's considered a minimally invasive procedure and is both adjustable and reversible.

Gastric By-pass - This both reduces stomach size and re-routes a segment of stomach and small intestine. The segment containing digestive juices is attached to the food-bearing intestine closer to the large intestine. There are several different kinds of bypasses.
More info here:

Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) - In this surgery, the size of the stomach is drastically reduced to a sleeve and the remaining portion is removed.
More info here:

Duoenal Switch (biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD-DS) - This surgery both reduces stomach size and re-routes a substantial portion of the small intestine, creating two separate pathways and one common channel.
More info here:

Info from the Mayo Clinic

I have chosen to have the VSG procedure. For me, I feel that VSG is the best choice. I know a few people that have had this same surgery. I know two people who have had lap-bands and three who have had gastric by-passes. Each of my friends is happy with his/her decision and has had amazingly successful results!
There are benefits and complications to each surgery. It will take a long time to get used to eating with the new stomach size and temperament, but I think that no longer having the portion of the stomach that produces the hunger hormone Grehlin will be useful. I also believe that if I were to get the Lap-band, I would be able to "cheat" a bit by not going in regularly enough for saline fills. I have read about that happening. I have also read many accounts of the malabsorption that can sometimes be associated with gastric bypasses. In addition, many people who have the bypass procedure, have experienced what is called "Dumping Syndrome"
There are TONS of helpful websites and blogs out there about bariatric surgeries. One I've come to enjoy reading is the VSG Talk forum.
I've also found tons of YouTube videos helpful in seeing real people discuss and share the problems and the triumphs of each of the surgery types. I'm often struck by how much has rapidly developed during my lifetime. From typing a paper on a computer for the first time during my Masters degree to finding anything at any time on personal devices practically anywhere - this amazes me!
I believe that I should have this surgery. I'm quite ready to not have to deal with the weight struggle which has tormented me most of my life. I'll have a new struggle and new results!

Monday, March 4, 2013

WLS Journey Part II - Going for It.....and Insurance Land

I decided in May 2011 that I really wanted to go for it.

I had decided this before, many years ago, but did not make any moves because it was prohibitively expensive. Now, in the middle of my career, I realized it might yet be a real possibility. So, I attended a Bariatric Seminar at a local hospital. They were very nice and it was informative. I was shocked at how many people were there. There were some for whom I realized this surgery would be a life-saving event. I kept the information, but did not follow up with them right away because of the high cost.

Summer came and went. I read Mindful Eating by Jan Bays. I tried new meals. I walked City Park like a fiend. I traveled to Brasil and walked holes into my shoes, literally. I had to throw them away. I hiked around Igacu Falls on both the Brazilian and Argentine borders. I read blog after blog. I drank a bazillion gallons of water! I read articles and websites. Then, in the fall, I started talking more about it with friends from far and near who have had various weight loss surgeries. I learned lots of practical things related to surgery and recovery that I hope to work through with the same sucess they have found.

Two of the blogs I like are:
The Incredible Shrinking Girl and
Living After Weight Loss Surgery
I have found HUNDREDS of blogs about people's personal journey with WLS. I thought to myself: "Why not?!"

In February 2012, after tossing it around forever.....I made the second part of the decision to have weight loss surgery (WLS). Want to know what that part is? It's commitment. When I say this, I mean commitment in the sense of a deep, abiding, personal dedication to the preparation, process, and life afterwards. It is a work in progress, but I know I can do it!

Some of my close friends who have had weight loss surgery have helped me - a LOT and I am eternally grateful to them. I will need their encouragement and that of my other friends through the coming months.

From December 2011 to February 2012, I exhausted my health insurance options, making tons of calls, filing petitions, and learning that no matter what, none of the insurances offered would cover bariatric surgery - even with medical letters of necessity and references. It was recommended to me by a very nice man at the national office of one of the agencies, that I try the Head's Up program with the state Office of Group Benefits. I filed the application online to be chosen by lottery for elective bariatric surgery which would be 100% covered. All of the people with whom I interacted (phone screening, random questions from me, letter-writers) have been SO NICE and VERY helpful, but it's been over a year and I haven't been chosen. The dates of the program and the numbers of surgeries have been changed and I wish the very best to those chosen, but I won't wait any longer than this May.

The next step for me was to attend bariatric surgery nutrition classes (again, as I have done so in the past) and choose a surgeon. I don't know why I thought I should do this because the surgery package was about $17,000 (which I didn't have and was unwilling to borrow). I ended up completing the courses, meeting with other prospective patients, choosing a surgeon, paying $350 out of pocket to speak with the surgeon one-to-one, and then walking away upset, terrified, and angry. Why? Well, the surgeon gave me nine (9) NINE minutes of his time and in fact, he was sifting a stack of papers and not making eye contact. I felt as if I was wasting his time and he did not volunteer much info, rather, he answered when I asked a question and after the nine minutes stopped.

Lucky for me, I was simultaneously doing research on another surgeon and reading blogs

In my next post, I will describe the type of WLS I'm having and how I found my surgeon!

My Weight Loss Surgery Journey Part I - A Little Background

WARNING: Weight loss surgery post (WLS).
No, this is not permanently turning into a weight loss blog, but since it's my personal blog, hey, I decided to use it as a posting place. I sincerely hope that my ponderings and ramblings will help someone on his/her journey. Even if no one ever reads this except for me, it feels awesome to get it out into the universe and therapeutic to write about it. This first WLS post contains a bit of background and a wee bit of ranting :-)

Yep....I've tried tons of diets.....since I was 11....yes.....11 years old. Believe it or not, I can actually still hear the doctor's words as he told my mother that I was fat and needed to go on a if I were not present or somehow didn't understand what it meant.

Yep....I do exercise, though not religiously and not enough. Nope...I don't sit around eating cakes and pizza or snack on bowls of Dixie Crystals.
I am only a bit of a "grazer". (Love the world map on this cow? LOL!)

Weight Watchers? Yes, twice. Low Carb? Yes. Medi-fast? Yep. Even Opti-fast and 6 months of eating ONLY puddings and shakes (blech). Slim-fast? Of course. Salads only? Yes.

Exercising with all or some of these? Yes: in recent years, just walking, but previously, I'd walk 3X per week and play tennis 2X each week. I used to be on a swim team (and won awards!) and I used to train racehorses (In SC, but for the Hialeah race track in Fla.) As a teen, I biked 20 miles per day.

The most successful thing I ever did was exercise and eat a healthy diet of about 1200 -1600 calories per day and I would stop eating after 2:00 p.m. every day for a year and a half. I lost 33 lbs. I just could not keep that going. Another time I lost weight was when I was hospitalized for food poisoning. Not the most glamorous way to shed lbs. and certainly not on purpose.

Doc says I am healthy. The last eight times they took my blood pressure, it was 110/65. A couple of times, including today, it was 102/65. That doesn't mean too much, but it's not an unhealthy pressure. I admit, sometimes, I do eat the wrong things and I eat late sometimes and ok, I don't eat enough fruit. I have a feeling that I'm not the only one. So why should it make me so unsuccessful? Everyone seems to have some advice which he/she thinks will work for me or that they assume I have not tried. Because I am large, many people automatically assume that I'm either lazy, constantly eating/drinking largest portions, complacent, not energetic, and that I am somehow hiding behind myself on purpose....that I psychologically "want" to be a certain heaviness.

Diabetes. I am extremely worried that this will be my fate unless I do something more drastic than dieting and exercise. To again be clear, I have no medical issues except morbidly obesity.......yet.  I know it will catch up with me eventually. So, after twelve years of loosely thinking about and then dismissing weight loss surgery, mostly due to lack of funds, I have spent the last 28 months, significantly re-studying, discussing, pondering, and more actively pursuing this option. The decision to move forward came after two major efforts which were, sadly, ineffective. The first, was the eight weeks I spent abroad in 2010 and teaching for UNO in Innsbruck, Austria. The second was becoming a patient of The Aspen Clinic for six months and losing about seven pounds.

While in Austria, I ate a daily, decently-balanced cafeteria lunch and I shopped for veggies and soups from the market. Occasionally, a pizza was had because it was thin, and cheap. I walked a mile to and a mile from the university every day and most days, walked several more miles while exploring the city. One trek had me hiking the Obergurgl glacier which was eight miles for that day - a fairly decent portion of which was UP . On my weekends in Italy, all I did was walk, constantly, take pictures, and swim. In the town of Rovereto, I did almost six hours of hiking/walking and then realized I'd missed the bus and had to walk another two miles back to the B&B. The pool was a personal rule of mine -"don't stay at this B&B unless it has a pool."  I had tripled my exercise and that summer - I lost one pound. ONE. The Aspen Clinic had me on an appetite surpressant and I only took it because while I was already eating a balanced caloric intake w/ colorful fruits & veggies and exercising on my treadmill, I was hoping that it would make me forget to eat and that I would drop pounds... WRONG. I lost seven pounds in six months. I had lost more weight than that before....what was different? My age....I'm fairly certain. So, after those two experiences, I gave up again and when I say that, I mean  G  A  V  E    U  P.
You know what? It's BIGGER than eating. This is a problem I've struggled with since I was eleven. I'm 42 now so that makes 31 years of my life that I have been disappionted with this 90% of the time for something that I have come to believe is honestly related, in part, to my heredity/metabolism. Why is it a problem if I'm healthy in spite of the weight? It has taken its toll psychologically and emotionally at times.  I am positive that at some point, health-related issues will catch up to me. Some of you have walked this road. Some of you haven't, but you can probably understand it.

I will elaborate that having experienced real examples of being considered less important, less attractive, and less intelligent by members of the general populus creates a root system of low self worth. These are my shoes. How can I explain to you what it was like in grade school? How can I explain what it's like to feel invisible (restaurants, stores, career)?  How can I truly explain what it's like to see or receive sighs of disdain in airplanes, buses etc. when someone has to sit next to an oversized person, or what it's like to not be able to cross your legs anymore? How can I explain what it feels like to see that someone is grossed out or uncomfortable that you might like them / be interested in dating them, regardless of whether you actually were interested? I cannot. You just have to trust me on's not pleasant. It can make you crumble and doubt everything that is good about yourself. Luckily, I'm happy to say that, believe it or not, I've overcome much of this through the years with great friends, humor, success in grad school and an awesome  career path and I am a very happy person!  In fact, sometimes I literally wake up smiling or laughing at something silly. I love my jobs and love my life! I definitely know how to have fun and have certainly not avoided travel just because I'm by myself or because I'm overweight. Still, weight loss surgery (WLS) will be part of my personal process at this stage in my life and I am really starting to look forward to this journey! In fact, after years of research, reading, and prep., I am downright excited about it!

In my next post, I'll share what I have done to prepare for this surgery, insurance land, and going for it!

March Madness 2013

YOW! So much since October and now it's ALMOST SPRING! Here are some bulleted thoughts and then I'll post the first two in a series of posts that I'm working on! This is clover from Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, LA. My friend Sara and I went there and to The Myrtles when she viisted a couple of weeks ago.

- INSANE level of busy-ness and concerts / rehearsals since last October
- December was beyond-words crazy busy, but also fantastic. I conducted the NOLA Civic Symphony for an entire concert and I got to sing with harp later in the month.
- We had an Ordination service for Rodney Roehner to the Order of Priests and it was a glorious highlight of my time at St. Paul's, a place that I truly love. I was excited that many people liked what the choir sang and that we sang beautifully!
- I moved to Frenchmen Street on Jan 2 and am loving it. My parked car was hit a couple of weeks ago, but it's being fixed.
- I'm going through a period of reading, thinking, and writing before spiritual advising with possible discernment to follow. TONS more on that this summer when I have many hours to write what I'm experiencing.
- I'll be teaching in Innsbruck this summer, but will probably not be doing as much traveling as I did in 2010.
- Tenure notebooks turned in back in January. Faculty in Music gave me thumbs up and so far things are looking good.
- The duty of Graduate Coordinator for Music is substantial at times and I always feel like I'm behind with stuff!
- My brother and his wife are having a baby girl in July and two other sets of friends are pregnant! So much happiness!!!!! :-)
- Sasha kitty is 16 1/2 now and taking pretty well to the new apt.
- I GOT accepted as a volunteer JPL Solar System Ambassador and am super proud!!! My first event will be talking to the UNO Physics students and faculty about the DAWN mission and NASA Eyes on the Solar System
- My choir students at UNO are doing a super job so far this semester and I'm thrilled and excited about the Stravinsky / Mozart concert with the Jefferson Chorale and my two groups.
- There is too much to catch up on so I'll end for now, but see the next two posts for info on my upcoming WLS.