Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saw the rheumatologist

I didn't post yesterday and I had several people who sent me e-mails asking if I was okay.  I love it!  I'm used to checking in daily and I guess you guys are used to it, too ;-)  Yesterday I was all set to write, but then my Internet service went down, along with my cable.  Even my cell service was being weird.  I live in California, nowhere near that devastating storm, so I didn't know what the heck was going on.

Yesterday I went to my physical therapy appointment and updated the therapist on what's going on with my back, as well as the situation with the R.A., all the bloodwork that's been done and just pretty much everything.  I'm making progress on the back pain, but it is still significantly with me every day.  She did give me some new exercises to do that further works on strengthening my core and leg muscles at the same time.  I was happy about that because that's exactly what I want.  You know things have drastically changed in my life if I'm saying I was happy to be given exercises to do!

The other thing that happened yesterday is that I decided to fight a little harder for myself.  I mentioned that I got an appointment with a rheumatologist on my birthday, over a month away from now.  My primary care doctor told me what I needed to do to get a sooner appointment, so I called back and basically shot straight with them.  I told them that not only was I scared about perhaps being told that I have R.A., but that it would be done on my birthday and I just couldn't deal with the stress of that.  Besides, waiting a month to hear that news is like torture, so I am willing to go anywhere at any time in the county (I told this to the person who originally scheduled my appointment, but thought I'd try again).  Miraculously, the person that was helping me on the phone, someone different, was very sympathetic towards me and found an appointment for me for today.  It was a little further away, but go ahead and ask me if I cared how far it was.

I have been praying a lot and I knew that it put me in a place of great peace so that by the time I walked in to see the doctor, I was perfectly calm and my regular self.  The doctor was very thorough with me and very patient as I told him everything that has transpired.  He looked at my history, especially at all the bloodwork that has been done recently, asked me a ton of questions and did a physical exam.  He told me that I don't clinically present as a person with rheumatoid arthritis.  Yes, some of my labs were abnormally high, but that's why they look at more than just the labwork.  That was a huge relief to me and I found myself silently praying to God in thanks as the doctor continued talking to me.  He is going to run more lab tests, wants me to do x-rays and is going to investigate further why I am continuing to have the pain in my legs.  He will get back to me when he has all the results and then I'll see him in three months.  I remember telling a friend a few days ago that if it turns out I don't have R.A., I would gladly take the pain in my legs.  In comparison, leg pain is nowhere near what the people who have that disease suffer.  If you're curious, just do a Google image search on it and you'll see why I was in tears over the weekend with the thought that I might have it.

I'm definitely not dropping the issue of the constant pain in my legs, as well as the lightheadedness.  After all, something is wrong.  But, I'm not going to spend all my energy worrying about it.  I have seen a team of doctors and other medical staff lately and I know they're on it.  Let's see, in the last two weeks, I've seen the acupuncturist, physical therapist, dermatologist, neurologist, nurse practitioners, primary care and now the rheumatologist.  Man, that's a lot of poking and prodding!  You know what?  I haven't given up on myself or given in to the stress.  I'm still taking really good care of myself and walking through all of this.  It's definitely not easy dealing with all the monkey wrenches of life, but the difference is now that I am dealing with it.  I know that food does not solve any of it and I am not about to turn the direction of this ship into a perfect storm to send me back to that 417-pound Kathy.  There's just no way.  A shift has happened in my life and while I may make mistakes along the way, the whole point is that I pick myself up and keep right on trekking down the road, taking you all with me of course ;-)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekly weigh-in and update

Even though this day was an emotional one for me, it was a good day and I'm grateful for that.  I lost 3 pounds this week.  That's really fantastic, especially given I was up five pounds during the week so I guess technically I lost 8 during the week.  I'm grateful that I'm back to my highest weight loss total of 190 pounds gone.  Yay! 

It was an emotional day for me, though, because I have been trying to walk through my feelings about potentially being sick with another disease versus staying in the moment.  I want to "publicly" thank that special person who e-mailed me yesterday and basically kicked my bootie but in a very loving and friendly way.  She told me to stop looking at websites about R.A. because I'm projecting into the future that I don't even have a definitive, 100% diagnosis about right now.  While the doctor I saw on Friday was not being approaching my case with a positive attitude, he did tell me a rheumatologist would confirm the condition.  Until then, I need to stay in the day.  She is sooo right!  I am committing that I will not be Googling anything online having to do with that or any other medical condition. 

I was upset earlier today because I had called the rheumatology department to schedule the next available appointment and was told the soonest I could see someone would be on December 4th.  Oh, I don't think so lady!  First of all, that is my birthday and like hell am I going to put myself in any position to potentially be told that I have R.A. on my birthday.  Yeah, happy freakin birthday, Kathy!!  Secondly, that's more than a month away.  So I e-mailed my doctor and told her everything that's been going on while she's been out of the office.  She is always good about getting back to me and working her magic to get me a sooner appointment.  If anything, I think she'll want to see me herself.  She's been my primary care doc for about 12-15 years, so I feel very comfy with her handling things.

When I went to the Optifast clinic tonight, I went into the medical office and talked to the two staff members who have been seeing me.  They reviewed my lab results and talked to me about my symptoms.  They point blank told me that in their experience with R.A. patients, I don't present the symptoms of one at all.  Besides that, my elevated levels were only slightly elevated in the big scheme of things and that the exercise I have done in the past three days would not have been possible if I did have R.A, at least not without excruciating pain.  I explained to them what happened with that other doctor and they said he was probably just covering things to be on the safe side.  That's not how he dealt with me, it was more like I better get in to see a rheumatologist right away, the sooner the better. 

Then, when we had our group Optifast meeting, the counselor brought it up for me to talk about and I shared with the group everything that has been going on since last Monday.  I told them all how scared I had been feeling, but that I had been praying a lot this weekend.  The thing with all of this has been that my faith has really been tested and it was the thing I knew I had.  If I had nothing else, I was and am certain I had my faith.  I don't get too "religious" on my blog, but I also don't ever shy away from the fact that I pray and that I have a relationship with God.  I was on my knees this weekend, not in a begging sort of way but in total humility, giving my care and my health over to God.  Having had all that time in prayer, good conversations with friends at work today as well as my interactions with the Optifast medical staff and counselor this evening, I feel like I'm in a much, much better space than I was on Friday.  I still don't know where things stand, but I feel like I can get a restful night of sleep and know that all I need to do right now is handle things as they come.  Sometimes being in the moment is hard enough ... I don't need to do any more projecting about an outcome I have no control over anyway.  And I love the fact that my food has been as clean as a whistle - no going to food to make me feel better when this all would have been a really good excuse before.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I'm a scrappy fighter

Knowing that I more than likely have a disease inside of me has been tough to deal with the last couple of days.  Of course I won't know for sure until I see a rheumotologist, but all the symptoms are pointing strongly in that direction.  I got up this morning and started really checking out R.A. on Webmd and some other sites that have pretty reliable medical information.  I just wanted to know what I'm facing if in fact this is what's going on.  It was pretty difficult to read, I must admit.  Part of me wants to say, No, this isn't me.  I don't fit the symptoms.  The other part of me, though, realizes I fit many of the symptoms.  R.A. can be devastating on the body and the medication used to deal with it has potentially horrible side affects as well, thinks like leukemia.  It's all pretty overwhelming to digest. 

Yet, this isn't the first time that I have had challenges in my life.  In fact, this isn't the first time I was faced with a chronic condition.  I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2000 and I remember having similar feelings of fear.  Yet, I am now no longer considered diabetic.  Since going on Optifast and losing all the weight that I have so far, I have been told by several doctors and other medical staff that while I'm not necessarily cured of diabetes, I am in remission because I no longer present with any of the symptoms.  That really is a miracle to me.  I said to myself, Fight, Kathy, fight!!  When my back is against the wall, I come out swinging and I fight, so this time would be no different.  I changed my clothes, laced up my shoes and decided now was a good a time as any to go outside and move my body. 

As I started walking, the pain was coursing through my legs so it was slow going at first.  Then, a couple of blocks into it, my fierce determination and will to persevere kicked in.  I picked up my speed, raised my head in defiance and walked briskly down the road.  I was reading that one of the things that helps with R.A. is exercise.  As I continued walking, the pain was lessening enough for me to make it through a 5K.  I felt so powerful and strong.  Yes, there was still pain there, but I think the endorphins of the moment helped me realize that I have the desire, determination and fighting spirit to walk through all of this.  I will fight because it's what I do.  I refuse to give in to the fear that tells me my life is never going to be the same again, that all of my hopes and dreams for myself will never be realized and that I should just give up.  No way!

By the time I got home, I was feeling so much better.  The pain in my legs was back when I stopped moving like I was, but that didn't matter in the moment.  What mattered was that I was not going to give up.  I am going to fight to be as healthy as I can.  I did not start this weight loss adventure only to be saddled with more medical challenges.  I don't believe that was my purpose in this whole thing.  I want to be healthy and I am committed to that, no matter what roadblocks stand in my way.  This is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination.  I was reminded of that fact when I got in the shower, stood under the water and sobbed in the corner.  That's the place I have always cried when I am alone and really honest with my feelings.  When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, when I was told I had diabetes, even when my ex-fiance broke my heart ... the shower was where I let out everything I was holding in.  But that's what I needed to do because, by the time I got out of the shower, I knew that I was not going to eat over this, I was not going to sink in the corner in a helpless state.  I knew that I was going to move forward in the most positive space I could be in, honoring my feelings but putting one foot in front of the other anyway.  God has given me His hand to hold, so I know I'm not walking through this alone.  I'm a scrappy fighter and so I will continue to fight, fight, fight.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Summoned in to see the doctor

I received a call at the office this morning from Kaiser that they want me to come in and see a doctor right away.  Since my doctor wasn't in the office, they scheduled me to meet with someone else in the same building in the afternoon to review my test results and to get a referral to a rheumatologist.  Okay, this means it's something serious if they're not telling me what it is over the phone, at least that's what I thought.  I had a couple of hours to work at the office, my appointment with my acupuncturist and then the doctor's appointment later in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the medication I have been put on leaves me very tired (even though I had 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night) and it makes me feel like I'm having a huge hangover that just isn't going away.  Not great things to experience.  My legs hurt badly, but I'm just not sure if that's because there's new pain there or because I'm now aware something is wrong and I am noticing the pain more when before I just somehow pushed through it.  I know that, in my life, there have been many times that I have pushed through pain.  That's sort of what I learned to do as a kid when I was being abused and so, as an adult, it's been an automatic reaction.  It's only now that I'm seeing I'm not supposed to just push through extreme pain ... I should actually seek help in these situations.  I know that's an elementary thought to many, but not when you've been in negative situations before.  You do the best you can to get through the moment.  I am in the mode of self-care now, though.  So  am going to see doctors for help and not giving up if it's feeling like the answers are not quick or right in front of me.

At my appointment with my acupuncturist, we normally sit down for a few minutes and talk about what's going on with me - body, mind and spirit - before she then starts placing the acupuncture needles in my body.  As I was catching her up on everything that has happened since last Friday, I was talking about how overwhelmed I have been feeling with all of this and then I just burst into tears.  Once the tears came, it was a while before they stopped.  I think it was me being absolutely honest with another human being sitting right in front of me, basically saying I know that I'm a strong person but it's a lot to take right now.  The thing with all of this has been that ever since I made the decision to get healthy and started losing weight, all these other issues have been piled onto me and the pressure of it all feels like it's collapsing me.  She patiently listened and gently guided me into what the issues are that are feeling overwhelming to me right now so that I could really talk about the things I've been holding in.  Today, instead of spending our session working on my back, which is my primary purpose in seeing her, we decided to work on my legs since that is the thing that is causing me the most pain right now.  While my back pain is probably a 5 out of 10 right now, my leg pain is at about a 9.  It gave me amazing relief to just take the edge off the pain in the area where she worked.  Since all areas of my legs are affected right now, there just wasn't time to work on it all this session, but I did feel better walking back out to my car.

Later, when I saw the doctor, he said the lab work is suggesting that I have rheumatoid arthritis in my leg joints.  Actually, he asked me about my hands but since I'm dealing with worker's comp things there, he didn't delve further in that area.  We reviewed every single test and two of them came back abnormally high.  My next step is to see a rheumatologist to confirm the diagnosis and then talk about a treatment plan.  I do fit all of the symptoms of someone suffering from that condition and the lab tests back that up.  When he left me alone in the room after the appointment, there was a part of me that was having a hard time with hearing this news since it's yet another thing to deal with.  But a bigger part of me was relieved that there is a name to explain why I have been feeling so bad.  Here I thought the pain was from a person who was exercising everyday who hadn't previously done that, so I just associated it with soreness from that.  Yet, when the pain was never going away and was increasing with time, it now makes perfect sense. 

When I got home from the appointment, the first thing I wanted to do was go out and exercise.  I was warned with the medication I'm taking now that weight gain is a potential side affect and I did see the number on the scale go up a little from my last weigh-in.  That coupled with the fact that I have been exercising less because of the pain explained the gain.  In my head, though, I just wanted to exercise it away.  But, sanity returned when I thought about how tired and "drunk" I was feeling from the medication, along with the news of my next medical challenge.  Instead, I crawled into bed and decided that rest trumped everything else.  I'm glad I wasn't being stubborn and going out and exercising anyway.  The last thing I need to do is add more problems to the list if I'm already not feeling well.

I really want to thank those that have reached out to me, whether on this blog or through a personal e-mail, even those that have been praying for my healing without saying anything to me.  It has meant a lot to know that I don't walk through these things alone and that I can be as real as I need to be here.  I didn't want to be downer with discussing all of this medical stuff, but then I realized that this is not about being a downer at all ... this is about healing.  There is tremendous strength in that as I face those hills and challenges that stand before me.  Personally, I don't want to run away from them because then I'll run straight to food, which is how I chose to deal with things before (meaning I wasn't dealing with them at all).  Even though I'm dealing with a lot of pain right now, I'm suiting up, showing up and walking through the best way I can.  I'm getting to know all different kinds of doctors in the process, but more importantly, I'm getting to know myself and my strong resolve ... Kick Ass Kathy as some in my Optifast group have affectionately dubbed me.  I like that. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hanging in there

The last couple of days have been tough.  The new pain medication I'm taking is allowing me to get sleep, which is wonderful, but it's leaving me feeling very groggy and nauseated.  That's not a good combo at all.  I just feel absolutely exhausted.  I'm trying to take good care of myself and sleep when my body is dictating it, but it's hard when I need to work during the day, especially when I need to be "on".  Today, for example, I was conducting a couple of workshops with students and parents and I was doing my best to be peppy and animated during the time with them.  Then, when I was done, the best I could do was get in my car, drive home and then sink into my couch. 

Earlier today, I received a call from my primary care doctor's office.  Some of the lab work is coming back abnormally high with my red blood cell count.  That doesn't sound very good at all.  I asked the nurse what it all means and she said it could be anything from arthritis in my joints where I'm having the leg pain or a type of red blood cell disease, but she would let the doctor make that decision.  So, at this point, she sent a message back to the doctor and it looks like I'm going to have to come in for an appointment.  I'm trying not to stress out about it because I just don't know what's going on right now.  All I know is I'm super tired and I just want to sleep.  Tomorrow I only have to work for a few hours and then I get to take the rest as a comp day.  So I plan on not doing anything for a while and maybe going for a long walk in the afternoon.  I knew something was not quite right with my body, I just didn't know what the problem was.  I'm hanging in there though, if just barely!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lucky number thirteen

I started out my day with going to get some lab work done at Kaiser since the neurologist wanted to run more tests on me.  I'm so glad she's being thorough because then we can rule out absolutely everything and (hopefully) just leave me with a diagnosis of fatigue.  When I went to the lab, I was so busy chatting with the person drawing my blood that I wasn't paying attention to how many empty tubes she was pulling out that would be filled.  I looked down to the spot where she placed them and did a double-take ... there were thirteen vials laid out in front of me.  Good Lord, thirteen!  It's a good thing I brought an Optifast bar with me and put it on my purse to have on the way into the office.  I've never had that much blood drawn at once.  The test results are starting to come in through my Kaiser account online.  Most of the results are things I don't understand, but I know they'll be contacting me soon once everything is back.

Speaking of Optifast, it has been a nice adjustment switching from the 70 to the 800 product.  One of the things that is interesting to me is now I understand why they don't allow diabetics to be on the 800 ... it will raise your blood sugar and if your diabetes is not under control, that can spell disaster.  I was looking on the package and the carbs are twice what they are in the 70, same thing for calories.  Given that I suffered with out of control diabetes for twelve years, my first response to seeing the amount of carbs on the box was, "Oh no, my blood sugar is gonna be high."  Never mind the fact that I no longer have diabetes, strange that that was my first reaction, isn't it?  I did check my blood sugar and it was 82, even after I had one of the bars.  I am perfectly fine, although I think it's going to take awhile for me to convince myself of that truth.  It's a work in progress, though.  The normal blood sugar level is 80-120 when you haven't had any food in your system for two hours (I believe it is).  It's even higher when you've had food, I think up to 140 or 160, something like that.  Mine was 82 even after having a product with carbs in it.   It's just a weird thing.

I saw a dermatologist today and she looked at my legs to see how things were healing after being given the topical cream.  Given my history of melanoma, she did offer to biopsy my legs.  Since she feels that, given the look of them, they don't appear to be cancerous and that I'm healing, we decided to wait on doing the tissue biopsy.  I've never seen this particular dermatologist before but I noticed that she was looking at me strangely, but I couldn't place why.  I asked her about the hair loss I have been experiencing and if there's anything I could do about it.  Sometimes people do lose hair while on low calorie eating plans.  So when I was talking to her about the fact that I've lost almost 190 pounds since the beginning of February, she then explained why she was staring at me funny.  In my chart, I am labeled as Super Morbidly Obese.  Isn't that absolutely lovely?  Here comes Kathy, the Super Morbidly Obese woman.  She admitted that she was looking at me funny  because she was wondering how I could possibly fit in that category since I'm "so small".  I am finding that at almost every turn, I am having to deal with living life now out of the 417-pound body, as strange as it is to me most of the time, let alone someone else.  I'm no longer Super Morbidly Obese.  No longer a diabetic.  No longer do I have hypertension.  No longer do I have high cholesterol.  Wow.  All I can say to that is wow. 

Last night I started taking the new medications that are supposed to help with my pain before I went to bed.  Since two of the pills will make me drowsy, the doctor advised me to not wait too close to bedtime before I take the pills otherwise I will be absolutely exhausted in the morning.  I ended up sleeping about 6 hours, got up about halfway through but then went back to bed.  However, she was absolutely right about the grogginess ... I was beyond exhausted today.  Driving in the car was a struggle and staying awake in my class tonight was a challenge!  I was taking notes and I could feel my head bobbing forward every few seconds, as if I was nodding off.  Of course, my professor picks tonight to be long-winded.  So, as soon as I came home from class tonight, I popped the pills so I'm hoping it will be early enough where I won't be dragging tomorrow.  It's absolutely dangerous to be that tired, especially getting behind the wheel of a car.  I don't want to jeopardize anyone's life while on the road. 

Thanks to those of you who have reached out to me in your support of the medical stuff I am going through right now.  There are times when I'm a bit hesitant to post all of what's going on with me in terms of the medical stuff because I just don't want to be a downer.  Yet, it's important that I talk about what's going on because these are things I'm going through and I don't want to eat over them.  I know you all support me, just as I support you.  Writing about them and sharing them with all of you is such a release for me and I'm hoping other people can relate to the challenges I'm facing right now on some level.  Not feeling well can be very frustrating, causing anger, resentment and even some sadness.  I think my struggle is that I just want to find out what's wrong with me and move forward with some sort of treatment plan that feels like something is being done.  The not knowing is driving me nuts, although I am doing better tonight.  I will know something soon I'm sure. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekly weigh-in & medical update

I gained weight this week ... boo.  I'm not too surprised given I did a bad job of being on top of weighing, measuring and planning my food out well.   Besides that, the stress that I was feeling this week sort of immobilized me from working out as much as I would have liked to.  So, I'm hoping for better results next week.

At 4:30 this morning, I woke up by the alarm on my cell phone going off near my ear.  I wanted to get up a little early so that I could go to the office and get some work done before heading to my neurology appointment since I really didn't know how long that would last.  I must have dozed back to sleep because at about 6:30, I woke up with a start, looked at my cell phone and said, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!!"  I took the fastest shower known to man.  Who knew I could move that fast in the morning!!  When I eventually got to my appointment, I told the nurse taking my vitals that my blood pressure was probably going to be high since I was stressed with getting there on time.  It ended up being 112/61.  Not exactly high.  It's so weird for me to have regular blood pressure readings, especially when I expect them to be super high for some reason. 

I was told that I would need to take off my pants, shoes and socks, then put on the hospital gown.  I looked on the exam table and there was a gown, a regular-sized gown (just sayin!).  It fit around me with no problem.  Will I ever get used to the fact that my body is different now?  I wonder sometimes.  I had to sit on the table for about 45 minutes before the doctor came in, which got me annoyed since I was the first appointment of the day.  But whatevs. 

By the time she came in (no cutie patootie doc for me today), I had let go of my annoyance and just chalked it up to the ability to have more time to myself to calm my nerves.  I was feeling very nervous for some reason.  I guess it's probably because you generally don't see a neurologist for run of the mill stuff, so it can make a person worry.  She asked me a million questions to probe at my lifestyle, family history, issues that I was having.  Pretty much anything and everything was fair game.  As I was describing what was going on with the pain/weakness in my legs, my constant dizziness and my lack of sleep, my voice was starting to crack.  I was trying to hold in the tears as much as I could, trying to be strong so that I could remember to tell her everything she needed to know.  But, when she asked me if I was feeling frustrated by the not knowing of my body's pain, I could barely get out my "yes" and instead nodded my head.  I just didn't want to cry, not then and there.

One of the many machines the doctor used to
shock and poke at me.
We eventually moved on to the physical examination.  She tested my reflexes, my strength in my legs and other body parts, watched me walk, tested for neuropathy with my feet.  Then, it was time for her to send electric currents through my body and poke my legs with needles.  These were not the cute little acupuncture needles.  These were big honking needles that you can feel down to your bones.  She warned me, "Kathy, this is going to hurt."  Not a little warning that I might feel a little sting.  It was this WILL hurt.  Man was that an understatement!  Oh my goodness it was painful but I soldiered through.  As my back was towards her, I did cry.  Not out of pain, but out of a release I was feeling to at least be on the road to some sort of answers.

The good news is that, from what she could tell, I don't have neurological damage.  There is still a few tests she wants to run in the morning.  She did tell me I am suffering from some major fatigue.  She did prescribe some meds that not only helps alleviate the pain of that but will also help me sleep, which I desperately need.  She did tell me that she advises I stop using the Optifast product, not from a neurological standpoint but because she doesn't feel I'm getting enough nutrients in.  So now my dilemma was do I stop it because she prefers me not to be on it, not as a neurological physician but more because she just doesn't get it or do I listen to the clinic that has worked with thousands and thousands of patients for well over 30 years?  She did tell me that I am no longer have hypertension or diabetes. Dang, she was the second medical professional to tell me I am no longer diabetic.  I'm still sitting here trying to process that bit of info.  It's a dream of every diabetic to one day be free of diabetes and now here I sit, living out that dream.

Then, later in the day, I had an appointment with my worker's comp doc.  He put me on some meds to help with the pain in my hand and we will be meeting again in a month.  If there isn't improvement, we're going to be discussing surgery.  The good part is that it will take away the pain.  The bad part is that I will lose feeling at the surgery site.  Between his meds and the med from the neurologist, I should really have no problem falling asleep since his cause drowsiness, too!

Finally, my last medical appointment of the day was when I went to the Optifast clinic.  I had called my counselor earlier in the day to talk to him about what to do about going off the products.  He disagreed with the neurologist because she does not specialize in the products like they do and she was giving a personal opinion.  I told him I want to do what is best for my health.  So we agreed that I would meet with the medical staff in the evening and discuss my options.  They were also upset with the neurologist.  The fact of the matter is that they don't want to jeopardize my health and never would do that.  If it meant getting off the product, so be it. We looked at all of my options and, as a group, decided that I would go off the Optifast 70 product and onto the Optifast 800 product with a lean meal added in.  So I would be getting nearly 1,000 calories a day, as well as increased fat and starch.  In fact, I would be getting 120% of the required nutrients a person needs each day.  In the meantime, I will take the medication that has been prescribed and continue on with the tests I have to do tomorrow.  I felt very happy with that decision.  I couldn't previously go on Optifast 800 because of the diabetes.  Now that is no longer a concern.  We are going to play it by ear, see how I feel and see what happens as a result of the additional tests.  I still have around 60ish pounds to lose and I really do want to continue on the products because they have worked so well.  Besides, that one meal a day of actual food (not just shakes) is giving me practice for when it's time to get off products completely. 

With the Optifast 800, I now have thicker shakes, as well as a soup and peanut-butter bar each day.  And, I still have the lean meal as well.  It does feel like a lot of food, even though it really isn't, and I'm grateful I have a little bit more time to transition.  Stay tuned for more updates on my Optifast saga!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Finding a better way to deal with stress

Since it was raining today, Sara and I met up at the mall to do our walking indoors.  It was nice to have a change of scenery from our usual Sunday walks and there's nothing wrong with window shopping since I left my wallet locked in my car.  We walked for about an hour and then chatted afterwards.

Can I get a cutie patootie neurologist, too?
Later in the day, I was feeling a little frustrated and anxious about my upcoming doctor's appointments scheduled for this week, especially about my visit that's coming up tomorrow morning to see the neurologist.  I need to write down all of my concerns and questions just to ensure that I am getting all of my needs met and that I walk away not kicking myself for not addressing everything.  In the face of these sort of appointments, I tend to forget half of what I want to cover.  As I started thinking more and more about this particular appointment, along with all the other ones that are coming up, my stress level was starting to go up.

In the past, the way I "dealt" with the stress led me to eventually going into the fridge and finding something to soothe me in the moment ... and continuing to go there for the rest of the day.  Instead of doing that and going down a road I want no part of, I laced up my shoes and decided to go for a 5K.  I have a course I do - I call it the Kick Ass Kathy 5K (yeah, okay, I'm a geek but I know you love me for it!) - that surrounds my house.  It's 3.2 miles complete with some hills and I get lost in the music blaring out of my iPod.  It gets my heart pumping and I feel so good taking care of my body.

I am going through some heavy duty emotions in dealing with all the medical issues.  What will the answers be?  Will there be answers?  Will I be just as frustrated, if not more, after seeing the doctor?  Lord help me, but what's wrong with me???  Handling these open ended questions is extremely difficult and trying for me.  Yet, I know I do have to handle them and not shy away from any fear I am feeling.  I can turn those fears over to God and, if I continue to feel the fear, keep doing it.  Both my parents are very concerned about what's going on with me.  No matter how old you are, you want them to kiss it and make it all better.  My dad always seemed to have the answers to life and I would look up at him with these big brown eyes as a little girl and hang onto every word.  I wish he had the words now to magically make this all just disappear.  I do know I am doing the right thing for myself by pushing the doctors to keep going until we find out what's wrong.  There's something wrong, I just know there is.  If you are a praying person, please ask for my good health and peace.  Thank you all and I'll be sure to post updates when I have them.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Purging signs of bigger me

I really thought a lot about something I put in my last post:  Why am I hanging onto clothes that no longer fit me?  What I mean by that are clothes that are too big on me, that I really have no business owning let alone hanging in my closet as if I'm going to wear them someday.  When I say they are too big on me, I mean they are very, very big on me.  In fact, the pants I'm wearing now are a size 16 and those are starting to get baggy.  This is absolutely insane.  People, I started in a size 34.  A freakin 34 and now those size 16's, which I just recently got into within the past month or two, are now getting baggy on me?  I just don't  understand how in the world I am supposed to process any of this.  It feels like it's beyond my level of comprehension, although I'm certain it isn't.  It just seems like I blinked and I woke up in a body that is totally unfamiliar to me in many ways. 

I did do something productive about it today, though.  I had several boxes/bags of clothes that friends had given me of things they thought would fit me or would in the future.  They've been sitting in my spare bedroom, so I went in there and started trying on clothes.  It actually was a pretty fun experience because most everything either fit or were actually too big on me.  Just a few things were still a little tight, so I hung them up in the spare bedroom's closet for a future date.  The rest of the things that look good on me now got moved into my bedroom and into my closet.  And every single thing that is too big on me, except for a couple of workout t-shirts, got taken out and dumped on this growing avalanche of clothes I'll be donating to charity.  Unbelievably, this is only one of the mounds that I have.  I talked about doing the donations last month, but I think it was trying on all the newer clothes today that was enough of a push for me to really do something about it.  I put on jeans, blazers and some really cute outfits that made me feel, well ... hot in them.  Anyone that really knows me knows I would never say that about myself, so I must have been feeling really good.  So much so that I finally see it's now time to let go.  Maybe someone else can enjoy the old me, but I'm moving on.  And happily so. 

In the vain of moving on, the realization of how the change that has happened in my life sort of hit me square between the eyes today when I thought about how it has changed my relationships with other people.  In most ways, things have moved in a positive direction. Those relationships have become very strong and I'm so grateful for that.  In other relationships, however, particularly with a couple of close friends, I realize that the changes may be too much for us to survive intact.  One friend in particular, who I have been extremely close to for a long time, seems to be growing further and further apart as I lose more and more weight.  That's heartbreaking to me because this person was so supportive in the beginning.  It must be tough to see someone losing so much weight when you struggle with that yourself.  It just made me feel a bit lonely today.  These are times when I miss a guy in my life.  Actually, there are many times when I miss that, but particularly when you just need someone to give you a hug and tell you it's going to be okay, to just stay the course and continue to keep taking care of yourself.  Sometimes that is the biggest challenge in life - the choice to take the road I haven't always taken for the sake of my health and well-being.  Sometimes it's a very difficult path to take with a lot of sacrifices along the way.  But, I am still choosing to do it every single day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Don't mean to complain, but ... seriously??

You know that saying, "When it rains, it pours?"  Well, I learned this week that that is the biggest friggin understatement ever.

As a follow up to my whole anemia vs. what's really wrong with me saga, I was able to get an appointment with a neurologist for Monday.  I already had meetings scheduled at work, but lovely friends/co-workers stepped in to cover for me so that I could keep the appointment (I just work with the best people ever.  Hands down.)  At the appointment, I am hoping there will be some answers.  I also need to face the very real possibility that it may be time to transition from a modified program on Optifast to getting back on food to lose the rest of the weight before going on maintenance.  That's only if they can't find out what's going on, but it's something I have to give serious consideration.  I'm not ready for that, at least not in my heart.  Yet, I wasn't ready to go on the modified fast either.  Ultimately, my health is the most important component of this and with incredible lightheadedness and weakness in my legs every single day, it's something that may be the common denominator in all of this.  Everybody reacts differently to taking products into their body and mine may just have had enough of it after eight months.  However, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Later that afternoon, I have to see my worker's comp doctor so he can look at the progress in my arms.  I'm still in major pain there and it hasn't gotten better since I saw him last month.

Then, later that evening, I have my Optifast class where I'll be stopping by the medical office before the meeting starts and review the findings of my appointment with the neurologist.  It may be at that time that I make some difficult decisions on whether to stay on the modified fast or do something different with the Optifast products.

Meanwhile, in about the last week or so, I have had horrible spots appear on my body that are very itchy.  I mean itchy!  Have you ever had a cast before and found yourself desperate to scratch the inside that you grabbed a wire hanger to stick down in there and go to town?  No?  Just me??  Well, memories of the summer I broke my arm during sixth grade came flooding back as I have been dealing with these spots that are overwhelmingly begging me to scratch them with every fiber of my being.  Come on Kathy, you know you want to scratch right there.  Right.  There.  Here's what my legs look like, just to give you a visual reference.

The pics don't even do justice.  My ankles are swollen and these spots are all over my legs with some now on my tummy, arms and back.  These are the prettier spots ... some are very splotchy and just kind of yucky to post on the blog.  They itch like mad so I decided to go in and see a doctor today to get some sort of relief.  [As a side note, when they were taking my vitals, the nurse was able to use a regular-sized blood pressure cuff on my upper arm for the first time in my life - up to now they've always had to use the thigh cuff to measure my blood pressure there.  That was a huge victory.]  The doc took pictures for dermatology but told me that essentially she thinks it's a bad rash since she was able to rule out other causes.  We couldn't pinpoint what it could be ... I have cats but they're indoor cats and don't have fleas, I haven't done any activity out of the ordinary lately, haven't eaten anything weird, nothing like that.  The doc told me that I wouldn't hear from her unless dermatology had concerns and wanted to see me and to just take some prescription-level ointment and Claritin.  The last time I had pics taken for dermatology was when the odd-shaped mole on my back led to a concern from the dermatology department and, after performing a biopsy, it turned out to be a form of deadly cancer, melanoma.  So, I was hoping I didn't hear a peep back from dermatology today.

I heard back from them.  

They want to see me after getting the pics and written report from the doc.  So I get to do that on Tuesday.  Meanwhile, the cream is not alleviating that feeling of wanting to scratch my skin, so I'm going mad over here right now.  Also on Tuesday, I meet with my physical medicine doctor to see how the progress is going on the back pain I'm trying to deal with.

Speaking of that, I had the second appointment with my acupuncturist today.  I practically cried during the portion of our visit where we talk first before she works on my body. We talked about body image and why in the hell I am hanging onto clothes that no longer fit me.  They are in boxes, ready to be donated to charity, but I haven't made the call yet.  In those boxes are a shitload of clothes that are from 1-9 sizes too big (I can't explain why I'm cussing so much tonight, but sometimes polite words just don't do it!).  I was wearing pants to our session today that are four sizes too big, held up by a belt that is also way too big on me.  I told her everything that is going on and the stress I'm feeling.  It just feels like my poor body is falling apart.  I know it's not and that it needs time to adjust to the drastic and sudden changes, but it feels a bit overwhelming.  Couple all of that with a stressful job that I happen to love, trying to go to school at night, not getting more than 3-4 hours of sleep at night, being in pain every moment of the day and just being pulled in so many different directions ... well it's no wonder that I just need to chill out as much as possible!!  I totally fell asleep on the table during acupuncture with numerous needles sticking out of me.  You can't even begin to imagine how soothing it is.  No, seriously, it's an incredibly calming feeling, especially with soft music playing in the background and the lights turned down low. 

Even with all the worries, fear and stress I'm feeling right now, I need to stay in the positives:
  • I get to get some extra sleep this weekend
  • I get to spend some time getting some extended physical activity in that I desperately crave
  • I get to spend some girl time with a friend on Saturday that I haven't seen in a few weeks
  • My health is so much improved ... no more high cholesterol, high blood pressure or high blood sugar.  In fact, those things are normal now.  The nurse practitioner at the Kaiser clinic referred to me as a "patient who used to have diabetes" when she was describing my situation to a colleague.  What do you mean used to have?
At the end of the day, my worst day in a thinner, healthier body is so much better than my best day in a 417-pound body.   This is a time of challenge for me, but I am rising to that challenge and feeling so much stronger as a result.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's not easy putting one foot in front of the other

It's been a couple of weeks now that that clinic added a meal together with my Optifast shakes.  I used to get so resentful when people who had already been through the program said that living on the shakes alone was easy.  Excuse me, but there's nothing about that process that is easy.  Living in a world where all your nourishment comes from liquid?  Not easy.  Dealing with social situations where everything is centered around food and you can't even munch on a freakin carrot?  Definitely not easy.  However, I do get what they were saying.  Their intention was not to say that it was easy, but easier.  Think about it ... you don't have to make decisions on a daily basis on what you will have for your meals, no issues of portion control, fat content, calories, sodium.  The only thing you have to decide is what flavoring to put in with your shake and maybe whether you'll blend it with ice or just mix it up in a shaker.  Sure, every moment you don't pick up actual food is a victory because it makes you feel stronger and better able to handle the days ahead.  But it's completely different when you are handling the very thing that can bring you to your knees if you truly have a problem with food.  Healthy living is not the easiest thing in the world, especially when your inclination might be to just pick a softer road lined with cupcakes.  Geez ... did you just get the visual like I did? 

For me, I have been doing pretty well when I remember to follow the guidelines the clinic established for the modified fast.  When I don't, it's more of a struggle.  The biggest issues for me are two:  being in too much of a hurry that I don't weigh or measure my food and not getting all of my shakes in.  The plan for me is to have 6 shakes a day and a meal that consists of 3 ounces of a lean protein, half cup of cooked veggies and two and a half cups of salad.  It actually is a lot of food for the entire day.  Getting used to that has been a challenge and it makes me not want to have all my shakes, even though I must have them to get all of my nutrients in.  When I don't, then I feel horrible.  And when I'm not weighing and measuring, I either want too much of something or not enough.  I know that I won't have to weigh and measure for the rest of my life, but right now it's what I need to do to relearn.

That's what I've really seen as important to me as I've gone through this journey.  I'm relearning how to eat right, take care of my body and love myself in a whole new way.  Some of it is completely new to me.  This morning I went into the office late because I'm conducting workshops tomorrow evening for students and parents so it was going to be comp time.  I had these plans to go on a five mile walk.  I was so excited about it, but then I received a call from my attorney's office regarding a worker's comp deposition I gave recently.  They were summoning me in to review the depo in case there were changes.  So I pouted that I couldn't go on my walk.  And as I got ready for my day this morning, I still was pouting.  Oh poor Kathy, upset that she can't go on her little walk.  No, I think it was more than that.  I wanted to go on the walk because it makes me feel good to take care of myself and the physical exercise really helps a lot with the pain I've been dealing with.  As I was trying to figure out what to wear, I think I tried on 5-10 shirts, hating every single one that I put on because of how my arms looked in them or because they were just too big on me and feeling frustrated how quickly I go through clothes. I sat on my bed to sort of shake off the black cloud I was feeling that was surrounding me.

Isn't it a good thing that I'm losing weight and that's the reason why the shirts don't fit well ... too big rather than too small?


Okay, and why is it that you don't like your arms in your shirts?

Because of the excess skin that is hanging.  

Alright.  And why do you have the excess skin?

Because I've lost a lot of weight.

Okay.  Can't you see that's a reason to celebrate?

I'm trying.  I just have a hard time focusing on that when I just don't like what I see in the mirror right now.

Boom!  I hit the nail on the head.   When you are in the process of putting on weight or living in a body that feels non-human because there's so much extra weight, you put blinders on.  You pretend the image that you see in the mirror, if you even dare to look in the mirror, is not reality.  Somehow you rationalize enough to make it okay until one day when it no longer is okay.  It's really a hard pill to swallow when you finally do open up your eyes.  My jagged pill is all the stretch marks that are left on my body and the excess skin that is now a part of me.  How do I look at those things and not want to cry?  Sometimes that's all I want to do and I know that's part of my grieving process on to a better life.

I finally did manage to pull it together and picked a shirt I could live with for today.  While I was at the attorney's office, I took a break from the depo review and went into the bathroom.  I looked up after I washed my hands and almost startled myself in the mirror.  When I saw my image staring back at me, I actually felt little.  I'm not saying I am little, but I actually felt it.  So much so that I took a picture.  Yeah, it's obvious I'm in a bathroom but forget that for a moment.  See the image I saw through my eyes for a minute.

Here stands a woman in a size 18 top and size 16 pants.  I used to wear a size 34.  In fact, you can't see it as well in the pic, but the pants were actually baggy enough on me today to have people comment at work.  A woman I used to work with, who has known me for eons, was at our school site today and did a double take when she saw me and said, "Kathy, you look FABULOUS!!"  She said it several times.  When am I going to get it through my head that there has been major change?  As I continue doing good things for myself, there will actually be more change.  I am well aware that other people are watching me to see how I'm doing.  I see them looking at me when they don't realize I can see them staring.  I get a lot of people that do that.  It doesn't bother me, though, because I know they care about me an awful lot and that's something that is very precious to me.  It's not easy putting one foot in front of the other, no doubt.  But I AM doing it no matter how much it scares me sometimes.  Are you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Not recognizing how small I've become

There have been times where I look in the mirror or look at my own body and not see the difference in the weight.  I know that's ridiculous because, helloooo ... how can you not notice the difference in 190 pounds gone?  I just still see myself with a filter on, the one that allowed me to be 417 pounds.  Sometimes I'll be driving in my car and look at the distance between my tummy and the steering wheel, yet still be so amazed.  Not too long ago, I could barely fit behind the steering wheel and had to drive with it practically in my lap.  Just shocking.  Where did all that weight go all of a sudden?

I had another shocking moment.  In my communication class tonight, we had to head over to the Arts building for a private screening of a Asian-related movie in an auditorium.  I had been in this room before when I was at my heaviest and squeezing my bootie into one of those chairs would have been a miracle.  Here's what the room and those chairs looks like:

I don't know if you can fully appreciate the anxiety I was feeling.  To the right of each seat is the pull down desk if you wanted to take notes.  This auditorium was packed to the gills this time, though.  I sat down in an empty seat with the chairs right next to me remaining open.  Next thing I knew, people sat next to me because it was standing room only.  And you know what?  I had excess room to spare in my seat.  What a gift all of this has been.  No one in that room knew my secret ... that I weighed 417 pounds.  Then it hit me - I am not who I used to be.  Wow, that realization was pretty startling.  I pray no one ever gets to know that 417-pound Kathy in person again, except the remnants of her, which is who I am today.  I am no longer the biggest one in the room and that's a huge realization for me. And, to be honest, very difficult to deal with all at the same time.  If I'm not the biggest one in the room any longer, then what is my identity now?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekly weigh-in

I am perplexed, that's all I can say.  I went to my Optifast clinic tonight and wanted to find out what was going on with the medical tests they ran last week.  My ferritin levels were definitely in the abnormal range (as were two other tests), but what they were looking for was something too low and mine were too high.  So, it turns out I don't have anemia ... or any of the other diseases that were possibilities.  Trust me when I say I was definitely relieved.  But, I was also left feeling very confused, frustrated and a bit angry.  I mean, WTF??  What is going on with me then?

I told the physician's assistant, actually both of them as I saw two of them together, this is not a figment of my imagination.  I am in real pain.  I have real limitation with the weakness in my legs.  I have real lightheadedness that makes me lean against a wall almost every time I get up from sitting down.  They didn't doubt me, but I felt like I just needed to say it out loud.  Actually, I wanted to scream at someone, anyone.  I want to be more active, I want more and yet my own body is holding me back.  Actually,  I just want to feel "normal" - getting up and not feeling dizzy, no gripping pain on my thighs when I do something simple as sit down in a chair.  Yes, I do manage to walk long distances, but I have to really push through the pain every single day.  I wake up with the pain, I have it all day long and it goes to bed with me, only to start it fresh the next day.  When people see my weight loss and ask me how I feel, I have to be selective with my words.  Yes, I feel so much better than I felt at over 400 pounds, but do I feel good?  Well, no.

The next step is that I have been referred to a neurologist.  I did ask the P.A.'s if the Optifast product is causing this or what I should do in relation to that.  Everybody has a different reaction and side effects to being on product, so I felt compelled to ask even though I didn't want them taking me off.  They said to stay on the product because it definitely is healthy, but then talk to the neurologist about it.  If that person feels it's best for me to get off the product, then we'll go from there and follow the plan they have for people who are not on product but still doing a weight reduction program.  I am not about to quit, so don't worry anybody.  I have worked really hard to get to this spot and I am not about to throw the white flag in the air now.  Oh hell no to that!

On a much happier note, I am thrilled to report that I lost three and a half pounds this week making my grand total  ...

190 pounds lost

I mean, woo hoo on that front!!  I began eight months ago and I've lost an unreal amount of weight.  At the end of the day, despite all the physical and medical setbacks that I have been encountering, I'm still doing the best I can and it appears my best is pretty good.  Seriously, thank you ALL for your support.  Whether I know you in person, met you online, we text each other on our phones or we've never exchanged words, I need you all to know that I could never have come this far without you and I know I'll need all of you as I continue along in my journey.  This is one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life, yet I know I don't walk alone in this and I'm so grateful for that.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stop being so negative

My mom came over to spend some time with me today and I got the full force of her negativity put on to me.  I was telling her about the medical tests I was waiting to hear back on, which I told myself I was not going to do until I knew more, but she could see something was wrong on my face.  So when I told her, she went into this space about how people gain weight back after the program, how I need to stop immediately and that she knows a better way.  My mother is overweight herself and has only gotten larger as I've gotten smaller, so I'm assuming her little rant had more to do with her issues than mine.  Here I sit, having lost a load of weight eight months after starting, living on shakes almost the entire time (until a meal was added in recently) and as I'm getting closer to the end, now she decides to just give it to me full force?  Seriously??

Okay, I know I'm trying to understand her thinking and really that is none of my business.  She is going to feel how she is going to feel.  I did, though, tell her I need her support and I did not need to hear her negative thoughts.  Those she could keep to herself, thank you very much.  I did tell her that I would not be putting myself in harm's way and would get off the fast and transition back onto food following the clinic's guidelines if it turns out that I'm in any sort of danger.

Here's what I know about my medical tests that were taken late last week:  I definitely have one of the following:
  • Anemia
  • Leukemia
  • Hodgkin's
  • Liver disease
My ferritin levels were through the roof and Kaiser shows online, when you look at lab results, that it is one of the above items.  Obviously I am now hoping I'm anemic and not any of the other things.  The waiting is the part that drives me nuts.  The way Kaiser works is that all of your lab results are available online (unless it's something like cancer).  Then, you receive an e-mail stating you have new results listed in your account.  This can happen at any time and, in this situation, the results came in after the clinic was closed on Friday.  So, technically, I know more than they do right now until they get in tomorrow.  Yet, they are the ones to determine what's going on or if I will have to go for even more tests.

Right now, more than anything, I don't need anyone being a Negative Nancy around me.  I love my mom, but she sometimes just does not have a filter.  Thankfully I've grown enough in my inner strength to hold up my hand and say to her, "Mom, stop it, right now."  My regular weigh-in is tomorrow night at the clinic so I'll be stopping in at the medical office and speaking with their team to find out what's going on.  Hopefully I'll know more by tomorrow night at this time when I post my weekly weigh-in numbers.  I'm feeling a little stressed out right now, needless to say.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Having a little perspective

We all start our weight loss journeys in different spaces.  For me, I weighed in at 417 pounds at my first Optifast class on February 6th of this year, even though my top weight was 420 pounds.  When they asked me to set a goal weight, that was a completely foreign concept to me.  Do you mean I might actually hit an ideal weight someday?  I couldn't wrap my brain around that, so it was incredibly difficult for me to finally say, "Yes, this is my goal weight."  After some negotiation, the clinic and I settled on a goal of 160 pounds for me.  Again, it still felt foreign to me but at least it was something to shoot towards.  As of last Monday, I weighed in at 230 pounds.

Now, for some people, my current weight would have been completely unacceptable for them.  I've seen postings where people have been disgusted with themselves at or near this weight.  They have labeled themselves as a "fat cow" or described the inability to breathe normally because of all their excess weight.  I know they are describing themselves and how they felt at the time, but I would be less than honest if I said I wasn't affected by comments like that.  Again, this is about me and not about them.  It is still hard to live comfortably in a world where you are judged by your weight.  If people are judging me at 230 pounds, just imagine what things were like for me when I weighed over 400 pounds.  People can be utterly cruel, determining your worth as a human being just by looking at you.  Is it no wonder that the food was easier to invite into my life than close relationships with people who could ultimately hurt me more than I thought Twinkies could?

If you are anything like me, food was more than just food.  It was never so simple as making a decision to push away from the table or just to say no to that piece of cake.  Some people will never understand that concept, even if they do understand things like alcoholism or other types of addictions.  For me, I am glad that healing has happened and continues to happen in my own life.  I think a lot of you are with me on that front, aren't you?  Starting this blog back in January was initially just for me.  If other people happened upon it, that was great but I used it primarily as a place for me to journal.  It has now become a labor of love for me to connect with my spirit, to grow in healing and to move forward to a healthier life.  After over 15,000 visitors, I know I'm not alone in this and I am completely humbled by that.

Today as I was outdoors walking to get some exercise in, I was overwhelmed with how great it made me feel.  No, it didn't take away aches and pains as I still deal with all of that on a daily basis.  Somehow, I am able to push through and focus on taking good care of myself as much as I can.  I am constantly reminded of something very important:

I am not saying that I think I am beautiful in the egotistical sense.  What I mean is that I am constantly reminding myself of the fact that I am beautiful because I don't give up, I don't succumb to the voice that sometimes tells me I'm not good enough.  I face fears I have, I am standing up with courage I didn't think I possessed, I am willing to do the best I can to fight for myself and for my life.  Most importantly, God reminds me that I am beautiful.  Perhaps it's in the way someone else looks at me and smiles, maybe it's how another might tell me that I inspire them or it's even in that small voice inside of me that says, "Kathy, get over yourself, you are beautiful."  I can begin loving myself as I love other people.  That's not easy as I can find a lot not to love, at least that part of me that is fighting to stay in the cocoon of obesity where things just feel a lot safer (even though they're not).

I'm grateful for the place I find myself in today.  I'm not at goal weight yet, but I feel like a different person than I did before even if I don't always see it.  And I really believe in my heart that I will find myself at a normal body weight someday not too far away.  Compared to where I was, I'm on the border of it now.  You are beautiful, Kathy.  So are you, dear reader.  So are you. 

My foray into the world of acupuncture

Some of my test results from the lab work I did yesterday at Kaiser are still coming in, so it looks like I will have to wait until Monday when I go to the Optifast clinic to find out what is going on with the anemia.  In the meantime, I am continuing to deal with back pain, which I have talked about before (I know ... when it rains, it pours).  I have some pretty significant lower back pain that I am continuing to get treatment for with a physical therapist.  However, the physical medicine doctor also wanted me to start acupuncture treatments to see if that helps.  I was actually pretty surprised when she suggested it because the treatments are covered through Kaiser but with an outside provider.  That's pretty progressive for a large hospital group that follows western medicine to support the practice of eastern philosophies.

I have never had acupuncture treatments before and, honestly, didn't know much about it except I knew there were needles involved.  People I know that have had treatments swear by them and say how relaxing the experience is.  As far as I'm concerned, I am open-minded enough to at least give it a try, especially if it is going to help with the pain.  So, I selected a provider from the list Kaiser gave me that was located close to my office, not knowing much about this person at all.  It's hard to know who to pick when you don't have a frame of reference, but I did check out her website and everything seemed fine to me.  One thing that was surprising, and I guess it was a pre-conceived notion of mine, was that she was not Asian, as I just naturally assumed she would be.  Of course that was fine with me.  My ethnic background is that I am Filipino on my mom's side and a whole mix of European ancestry on my dad's side, so I definitely have the non-typical experience.  I just found it fascinating as we typically don't see someone who is non-Asian as an acupuncturist. 

I waited in the reception area while Kelly finished her work with another client and looked around.  Being the geek-a-zoid that  I am sometimes, I snapped this pic when I was alone.  The room was very soothing with exotic smells and soft music.  The artwork on the walls was definitely drawing me in and helping to let any stress I was feeling in the moment leave me.  I sat there and wondered to myself if it was possible to hope that the back pain I have been experiencing would somehow be alleviated through this process.  I always assumed the pain had to do with all the excess weight I was carrying around in the beginning.  After losing nearly 190 pounds, the pain is still there and that's why I knew I needed to seek treatment for it.  This whole experience with weight loss has really shown me that I was not doing a very good job of taking care of my needs.  If I am experiencing pain,  I have to say something.  That's a great thing to do.  Look at my experience with the anemia - had I never said anything about what I was going through, it would have been left undiagnosed.

It was now my turn to go into the main room where Kelly would be working with me to review my medical history before we got started.  When I got in the room, I was immediately concerned because I saw the exam table and wondered if it would support the weight of my body.  In my mind, I often times still see myself as I was when I first started my journey back in February at 417 pounds.  I hated the fact that I let my judgements about myself cloud my experience as I walked into the room, but decided that I needed to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward figuratively, let alone physically.

We went through the paperwork I completed and she asked me a ton of questions.  She was floored when we talked about my weight loss.  It is something that still tickles me when I see the look of absolute shock on someone's face when they find out how much weight I have lost.  Literally, this woman did a double take and her jaw was practically on the floor.  Honestly, it is a very big deal and I really forget that sometimes as I go through my journey.  In fact, as I was describing everything to her, I started to get tears welling in my eyes.  This was not some arbitrary person I was talking about ... it's about me and my life.  I am doing a lot of things to change it and that feels really good.  She did tell me that the main focus of her work with me would be about the back issues, but she would also be helping me in a full-circle way so that we can deal with my light-headedness, inability to get good sleep and more.  First I would start off getting on the table and laying down on my back so that she could start treatments there and then eventually lay on my tummy for the second half.  She left me alone for a few minutes so that I could take off my shoes, socks and watch and then climb on the table while she grabbed some supplies.  Here is the table I found myself fearing.

Is it just me, or does it look little to you, too?  After she came back into the room, she explained what the needles were going to feel like and had me touch one so that I could tell how different they were from a typical needle.  To be honest, I wasn't feeling any concern about the pain.  Last summer, when I had melanoma and was prepping for surgery, the team had to perform some tests using these very large needles that went below the surface of my skin to determine if the cancer had spread to lymph nodes.  They described the feeling of bee stings with each needle insertion, which was a total of eight.  So, really, little acupuncture needles did not have the best of me in comparison.  Kelly briefly explained to me the theories behind acupuncture and finding my chi, describing the sensation I would be feeling at some points when the needles are inserted as something similar to a sort of fireworks coursing through my body.  Oh my gosh, she was so right about that.  When she put a needle in the middle of one of my legs as I was laying on my back, the sensation was felt on the entire right side of my body.  It was so unexpected, but also completely fascinating to me.

The whole experience was lovely, really.  I was utterly relaxed, even fell asleep on the table a couple of times when I was left alone to let the needles do their thing.  When she was done, she finished up with a massage on my back and calming lotion applied to the area where I have the back pain.  I have never had a massage before, not ever.  I always had a hard time with that because I was self-conscientious about being bigger and having someone else touching my body in a non-intimate moment.  I really recognized that so much of my life was spent not living and not being in the moment because of how I felt about the size of my body.  Yet, here I was allowing someone access to all of me and she wasn't turned off by it.  If anything, she was very tender and friendly.  Never did I feel judgement from her and, oh my gosh, I completely needed that.

So, I will be getting acupuncture treatments for a couple of months.  I'm really looking forward to this because, if this one visit was any indication, it is a very loving treatment towards my body and ultimately my soul.  As I allow her to touch my body when she provides treatment, I really am letting go more and more of the iron wall that I had silently built up over the years that kept me in the cocoon of obesity, protecting me from nothing.  This is a very good thing for me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Turns out there is an explanation after all

The other day I was wondering if I was being a hypochondriac.  Turns out I had every reason to be concerned.  I received a call from the medical office at my Optifast clinic telling me they had the results in from labwork I had completed earlier in the day.  I finally addressed with my clinic, when I was there on Monday, that there is something seriously wrong with me, particularly with my legs.  I can't do normal things, like squat down on them, lunge or even sit down without extreme pain in my thighs and lower legs.  If I dropped a pencil at my feet right now, I couldn't bend down on my knees to pick it up.  Before sending me to a specialist, the clinic wanted to do a few more tests.

I heard back and it looks like I've got anemia.  The clinic now wants me to go back to the lab to do a few more in-depth tests to determine what type of anemia it is so that they can map out a treatment plan for me.  I started looking up some of the symptoms.  Here is a handful of what I have:
  • Fatigue/tiredness - I am tired all the freaking time, but I always equated it with working full time, going to school and doing Optifast, let alone the hustle and bustle of life.  When I can't sleep at night more than 3-4 hours, I think it's just because I'm stressed out.  This is also where the leg and muscle issues come into play - my legs feel completely fatigued when I need to climb hills or stairs.  Really, they are fatigued all of the time if I'm being completely honest with myself, they really are in pain every waking moment. 
  • Chest pain - don't worry, it's not as if my heart feels like it's going to conk out or something.  There are just times when I feel a stretching around the area where my heart is.
  • Shortness of breathe - this usually occurs when I am dealing with the fatigue of my legs.  It's not the same shortness of breathe associated with being overweight.
  • Dizziness - all that lightheadedness I have been feeling ever since I started Optifast?  Yes, this is probably the culprit.
  • Cold hands and feet - I am always freezing.  I am constantly complaining about how cold my office is at work ... I wonder if it's because of the anemia after all.  Right now, my house is 71 degrees inside, yet I'm wearing long sleeves, socks and my fingers are blue.  
I could go on  and on, but I'll spare you!  I think you get a fair and accurate portrayal of what I'm dealing with.   I'm waiting to hear back from the clinic on the latest test results from today.  In the meantime, something I have been thinking about is wondering where I go from here with Optifast.  I absolutely love the program, adore it really.  It has given me my life back and I'm incredibly grateful for that.  My weight loss journey is not finished yet, but, honestly, I've been suffering some difficult-to-deal-with side effects.  In addition to the anemia, my skin is so dry that I have cuts on my hands and lips from cracking, the veins in my hands/arms are bulging like that of a weight-lifter, my blood pressure is low and so is my blood sugar (although adding in that meal has really helped).  I'm not basing on Optifast by any means.  Anyone who has been reading this blog knows I love the program.  I heart it.  However, just like any program, sometimes there are side effects that come along that causes the need for adjustment.  This is precisely why I am such a big advocate of doing this program under medical supervision, as the program dictates in the U.S.  It's not because I want to line the pockets of any organization, but because the medical experts provide the appropriate guidance that those of us without the medical backgrounds need while doing such an intense program.

The prospect I am dealing with is transitioning to a full-food program sooner, even though I have 70 pounds left to lose, then stay in that zone until I'm ready to go into maintenance. Part of taking care of yourself is doing things that are difficult.  The easy thing for me would be to just keep the status quo, keep pushing through pain and discomfort.  Yet, is that really what I want to be doing?  Hardly!  I haven't made any decisions yet, though.  I'm sort of waiting to hear back from the clinic before I make any moves.  I think really I just need to "talk" it out here so that I'm doing what's best for me and my health.  I'm ready not to feel tired any longer. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The true definition of love

You may have noticed that I have a LOT of links to other bloggers on my blog.  Some are doing Optifast like I am for their weight loss, while some are doing it through other methods.  Regardless, I get so much from the journey of everyone who walks along the path to good health like I am.  I can't read all the blogs every single day, but I do try to keep up, comment when I can and reflect on the writings and experiences of others.

Yesterday I read a completely fabulous, beautiful and inspiring post from Jennifer over at It Sux to be Fat.  She talked about the love between she and her husband, referencing 1 Corinthians 13:4.  Even if you're not a Christian, you've probably heard the verse a million times at weddings.  "Love is patient, love is kind ..."  But one thing that she said that hit me square between the eyes was to have us think about whether or not we show ourselves this kind of love.  I have not been able to stop thinking about it since reading the post last night (if you haven't read it yet, seriously, click on the link above and read it - it'll hit home). 

As I lose more and more weight, as I become more present in this world, I am faced with the task of accepting myself as I am - right here and right now.  That means accepting my excess skin that is showing because of the weight loss, my imperfections as being wholly perfect in God's eyes and, essentially, loving myself unconditionally where I stand right in the moment.  As I was reflecting on the verse and my response to it, I realized I am way too hard on myself.  Way. Too. Hard.  I'm going to repost that verse and those associated with it below and then break it down in a way to help me see where I can continue growing.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8:  "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails."

So the questions I am asking myself are these as I look at how I show myself this kind of love ...

Am I patient with myself?
Am I kind towards myself?
Am I jealous of others?
Do I brag about myself?
Am I arrogant?
Do I act unbecomingly?
Am I self-seeking?
Am I easily provoked?
Do I not take into account wrongs I have suffered?
Do I celebrate the truth?
Do I believe positive things about myself?
Do I have hope in myself?
Do I have hope in others?
Do I endure?
Do I see myself as a failure?

Looking at this list of questions, I am attempting to be as honest with myself as I can possibly be.  I have a long way to go.  This in no way minimizes the road I've already traveled, but it also helps me see that I need to keep staying the course on this road.  There are reasons people overeat or partake in some other sort of addiction.  It is my charge to do things differently in my life.  Do I need to seek comfort and solace in a bag of chips or scoop of ice cream?  Of course not.  Yet, those things are an easier method of escape than dealing with why I am sometimes not kind towards myself, why I am jealous of things other people have, of why I tell myself lies about the sort of person I believe myself to be and so much more.  I am absolutely my own worst critic, convincing myself of things far worse than anything else someone might lay on me.  I am certainly not patient and I am not kind towards myself.  However, I also am starting to see the things other people see in me.  I do have a good heart, I am a loving person and I have a lot I contribute to this world.  I just get to keep working on finding a meeting point between the worst ideas I have about myself and the reality of who I am.  It seems so much easier to believe the worst about ourselves than the best.

In what ways do you show yourself love?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Am I having a gall bladder attack or being a bit of a hypochondriac?

I was being lazy when I had my meal this morning and didn't measure out what I was supposed to.  I don't know if that was the cause, but I felt absolutely sick to my stomach after coming home in the afternoon and was convinced that I was having a gall bladder attack.

I know, you're completely laughing at me right now, right?  Admit it, you are!  Panic much, Kathy??

One of the biggest fears that someone who goes on Optifast has is that they are going to develop gall stones and will be required to have surgery to remove their gall bladder.  While you do have to have a medical pre-disposition for it, it does not happen to every person on the program.  One of my friends that had this happen to her years ago described the symptoms to me.  I was in such excruciating pain today that, as I was laying in my bed in a practical fetal position, I had my cell phone in my hand and typed in "gall bladder symptoms" in the browser.  It was a pathetic site - me in mind-numbing pain while surfing the net on my smartphone.  While I didn't have every symptom on the list, I had a good chunk of them.  Yet, we all know how unreliable sources could be on in the Internet.  For all you know, I could be a 12-year old boy pretending to be a grown woman with some weight to lose!  That would be a little demented, but, hey, it does happen from time to time.

I did end up skipping my class tonight because of the pain and falling asleep for a few hours.  I'm still in a lot of pain now, but it's nowhere near where it was.  I'm continuing to monitor it and see how I feel.  I really don't know what the cause of it was, but oh my gosh was it beyond.

On the other pain front, the doctor's office called me today about my legs and they want to do a series of more blood panels to rule out some other conditions before sending me to a specialist.  Essentially what's going on is that I have had very painful legs since starting the program in February.  I have radiating pain from my toes all the way up to my hips, although mostly concentrated in my upper legs.  It leaves me with the inability to do most exerting activities, let alone the simple ones, with my legs.  Climbing stairs is a real challenge ... each thigh feels like it weighs 200 pounds each.  Sitting in a chair or getting in a squatting position is very hard without me grimacing.  When I sit in a chair, I sort of have to plop down because of the pain.  The thing is that when I exercise, I just power through the pain.  When it first started, I really thought it was just my body adjusting, going from being sedentary and then adding in all the physical activity.  What it feels like is the day-after pain and soreness (amplified times ten) when a person starts exercising after a long period of not doing anything.  Lately the pain seems to be getting worse and, as I do more physical strength training with my body, the more I have realized something is very seriously wrong, more than just typical aches and pains.  The nurse practitioner at the clinic is stumped and has consulted with the head doctor on staff.  In addition, my hands have these bulging veins coming out of them.  I don't know if that's a normal thing with weight loss or is somehow associated as well.  Take a look at them (yes, I was lame and snapped a couple of pics).

I don't know if the camera really captured the bulkiness of the veins, but I never had them like that before I started the program and it has me in a little bit of freak-out mode, wondering what's going on.  Just as a side note, look how skinny my wrists look!  Who knew I'd lose weight there ;-)  Ongoing battles in my world that I need to remember to take a day at a time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekly weigh-in

Okay, so I got reminded today about why we're always told to weigh in on one scale.  There is about a three pound difference between the scale I have at home and the one at the Optifast clinic.  In fact, I weighed myself when I got home from my class tonight just to make sure.  I wish I could take the lower number, but I'm ultimately happy with the two pounds I lost this week.  I promise I am!  This is important because I had a meal added to my days and really it's about acceptance that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be in this moment.  People, I have 70 pounds left to lose.  Do you have any idea how huge that is to me?  It feels so surreal, get completely thrilling at the same time.  Having started this adventure needing to lose 256 pounds to get to goal, that feels absolutely insane to me. 

I was the only one to hit the pavement in our lunctime walking group today.  Most people forgot their shoes and I think others just don't want to do it.  That's seriously okay, really.  I know I am committed to getting the exercise in and one of my other friends, who wasn't at work today, wants to destress, so we're really doing it for ourselves.  If others come along for the ride, that's fantastic.  I did have a killer hill that I had to manuever on the walk, but it was good.

Speaking of hills, I spoke to the clinic about the pain I've been experiencing in my legs.  Something is seriously wrong, so they're sending me to a specialist.  Meanwhile, I'm pushing through the pain as much as I can stand it.  I'll let you all know more when I know more.