I have spent the past 3 years working my rear end off to recover from the complications from back surgery that have left me with what looks like permanent peripheral neuropathy and foot drop in both feet. My balance isn’t terrific, my gait is kind of lurchy, I have to be conscious all the time of my feet so I don’t trip, and I get tired easily. Can I do the things I used to be able to do before this happened? Yes, with the exception of some things (like jumping rope or wearing high heels — I don’t miss jumping rope a bit LOL, but I do miss heels — A LOT). But even though I can do all the things I used to do, I can’t do most of them the same way I used to. One of those things is exercise. I do go to boxing anywhere from 2-4 times a week, and that definitely gets my heart rate up. But something many people don’t know is how that impacts me when I get home. Many times, I am just flat out exhausted. The exertion as well as the concentration it takes to maintain my balance just wipe me out. I often have burning in my feet or cramping in my feet because of how hard I try to keep my feet firmly planted so I don’t trip and fall during class. I sometimes get leg cramps as well. All of this actually happens with almost any activity I do — boxing, walking, biking, even swimming. I think it’s just a natural result of working those leg and feet muscles so hard to fight against the neuropathy. I wish I could get more benefit out of my exercise. I wish I could exercise easier. I know that if I lose weight, those benefits would come. But I have been struggling the past 3 years to lose weight. In fact, in the past 3 years, I’ve put on about 30 pounds.
Now, I’m not stupid enough to think my weight gain issues are all related to having neuropathy. I know that is only one factor. There are other factors at play — like my age. I am firmly planted on the middle of menopause right now, and menopausal women being unable to lose weight is a tale as old as time. I also know darn well my eating habits and relationship with food plays a role, too. My whole life, I’ve loved eating crappy food. If it’s sugary or fried, it’s in my belly. And it shows. In the past, I have been able to easily (for the most part) to put any weight gain in check — I start to slip back into old habits and patterns of eating, I put on pounds, I step back, get myself on a plan like WW, step up my activity, and the weight comes back down.
That has not been the case these past 3 years. For many months after the surgery, I couldn’t exercise at all. When I could, I did very little. If I took a walk, it was only for 10 minutes. I did boxing one-on-one once a week, and I had to sit for lots of it. It was a very slow progression of gaining weight (after all, 30 pounds in about 36 months is less than a pound a month). And if I am being really honest, food for the past 3 years has been a comfort for me. When I was in the hospital, I ate hospital food every day for breakfast and lunch. I had snacks from people in the room, and every night, Jim would bring dinner to me so I wouldn’t have to eat hospital food again. He didn’t really cook; most of the time, he came straight to the hospital from work, so we had restaurant food. We had dinner together like that every night. Sometimes family or friends would come for dinner, and we would go down to the kitchen area on the OT room and all eat a takeout meal around the table. It was wonderful. Eating together was social, it made me laugh and smile and feel loved and not left out. When I got home, for quite a while, I couldn’t cook, and Jim was so tired when he got home from work, we just ordered food in. All of that food from restaurants was partially a necessity and partially an emotional crutch. It made me think of friends and family and love.
Neuropathy, menopause, lousy eating habits, eating for comfort — combine all that and you’ve got a perfect storm of weight gain. It’s pure luck I don’t have diabetes or high cholesterol or high blood pressure. But if I don’t get a grip on this, I WILL have those things. And listen, I’ve got my first grandchild coming in less than a month. I can’t be the kind of grandma I want to be if I’m morbidly obese and have a whole host of health problems!
So I’ve been doing some research and talking with people, and have finally decided to move in a pretty drastic direction. I am now in process of getting myself prepped for weight loss surgery. I researched 2 different doctors who both have very robust programs; one was just too far away, but the other is out of Silver Cross Hospital, which is pretty close to home. So I have started the necessary steps to get medical clearance for the surgery. I’ve already had a psychiatric clearance to make sure I was a good candidate mentally, and I saw a pulmonologist who wants to err on the side of caution and have me do a sleep study before giving the clearance, so that’s in the works. I’ve got an appointment with a cardiologist coming up as well as an upper GI endoscopy scheduled. Today, I had a meeting to begin a one month supervised diet/nutrition/exercise program. Once I get all my clearances AND complete my one month program successfully, THEN I can be scheduled for surgery.
I’m planning to have the gastric sleeve procedure, which is what some people refer to as “stomach stapling.” I’ve done lots of research on this and gotten lots of information from the doctor and people I know who have the procedure and feel well prepared for what I am about to face as far as lifestyle changes. I’m grateful the doctor I am seeing has an extensive prep period and a robust aftercare program as well. Additionally, I have my own individual plans to seek out additional counseling to get more understanding about my personal relationship with food.
This is a big decision, but I am pleased with it. I’ve never been someone who plays the victim, and I’m not going to start now. I am thoughtful in my actions and decisions, and this one is no different. But like anything else in my life, I do a lot of processing through writing. So I plan to share my journey — the good and the not so good — right here for anyone who wants to follow along!