Five Weeks Down – The Rest of My Life To Go

Anyone who says that gastric-bypass is the ‘easy way out’ has never actually known anyone who went through it. It’s been tough, especially the first three weeks between the liquid-only diet, hardest thing I have ever done hands down, and the oral thrush I caught and dealt with, I was all sorts of miserable.

The incision pain was, thanks be to God, very brief. I had surgery on Wednesday and was off pain meds by Sunday, but I would liken it to having done a hundred sit ups in 10 minutes without having ever done sit ups before in your life. I would have to have my husband literally lift me up out of chairs by my hands because I couldn’t make my stomach muscles engage my core enough to do it on my own.

Probably, the worst, most traumatizing experience came three days post-op. I had tried to switch from the liquid percoset to liquid children’s tylenol without knowing that they throw a whole lot of sugar into that crap to make it palatable for ill three-year-olds. It was too much sugar and I, having never experienced dumping syndrome in first hand, didn’t realize it. Very quickly afterward I was  uncontrollably and violently dry-heaving, having not even the faintest idea why, and in excruciating pain from my incisions with every heave. It was painful and I attempted to combat it with a dose of the percoset. Finally the dry-heaving subsided only to leave me drugged out and asleep for the messy aftermath of phase-two dumping syndrome. I won’t get into fine, and gory, detail but it left me in a very slimy and unpleasant situation.

*Sigh*, yes I went there. I wasn’t sure if I should but I want this to be a very up front discussion of what people face after this surgery.

I have been very lucky though, and very, very diligent about chewing my food to a pasty consistency, in that I have not – yet – dealt with any vomiting at all. I would truly say that this is because I am extremely careful about chewing and taking small bites. If you are thinking about this surgery, this is something that is so huge and important.

I have, however, encountered the pain of eating too much/too quickly. I would liken it to someone punching you in the diaphragm from the inside and then also pinching you in the intestine. It is unpleasant to say the least.

And due to my severe PTSD-like anxiety after that one dumping episode, I have eaten very little by way of sweets, and when I do eat sweets I take the tiniest of bites. People- there are 6 boxes of my favorite girl scout cookies sitting in the closet behind me and I haven’t opened a single one. A SINGLE ONE. That’s how terrified I am of dumping again. Aversion therapy, it works.

But the pluses are worth it. I feel so good. The last weight I took was 30 pounds lost since surgery. I believe that it has been more, as I haven’t weighed myself for a week or two, but it’s amazing. My body feels light and fluid, My energy- despite the tiny amount of food I take in every day – is high, and I already have lost a significant amount of the back and knee pain I was dealing with before the surgery. Alhumdulillah.

I made the mistake of getting over excited and trying to kneel down on the floor for prayer – omg ow – it’s still a little too early for that apparently. Felt like someone was nailing my kneecap to the carpet. But at least I didn’t feel like I was putting my back out getting up again so, you know, baby steps.

My clothes hang on me. Obviously this is a good thing, from a hijab standpoint and from a weight-loss standpoint, but it’s not such a good thing when I’m walking and my long skirt falls down enough for me to step on it and faceplant. Have I ever mentioned how graceful I am?

This soon after surgery I have stuck very closely to guidelines and not tried to get too far out into the food categories. It has been mostly basic proteins and some veggies for me. Tater tots didn’t go down so well, but at least they stayed down. Refried beans – vegetarian and healthy version of course – have been my friends, hamburger has oddly not – even though I have eaten a lot of it, it being a very easy protein to cook with. When you have to chew food as thoroughly as post-gastric patients do, you find quickly that hamburger is less meat and more un-chewable tendon than you previously had realized. And you begin to consider buying your own meat grinder in order to make sure that your meat is consumable even though you work a lot and come home very exhausted and having to grind your own meat would take forever it’s just that you’re tired of chewing for hours and having to still spit bits out like a cowboy with his spittoon. Y’know what I mean?

But, I spend a lot less money on food now. I can buy a lunch at work and have enough for two more days of lunch at work. It’s the little things.

My next few culinary adventures will probably involve trying hummus and fo’ul again. Beans are good protein, ya’ll.

If you guys have any questions about my experience so far, please ask me in the comments. I am going to set them up as needing moderation before they post publicly so if you feel your question is too personal for me to post it, let me know in the comment and give me your email and I will try to answer you directly.

Please be patient with me. We’ve had a lot of medical ordeals in our household recently, and along with work and daily life, I don’t find as much time for responding to emails and writing blogposts as I used to.

Now I’m going to get back to finishing my liter of water (flavored with Mio orange tangerine- it’s like Fanta without the natural sugar and fizz!). You’d be surprised at how freaking hard it is to drink 2 liters a day when you can’t chug.

I miss chugging- possibly more than girl scout cookies. I probably need counseling.

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A Life-changing Decision

Today is one day before my surgery, but I will not be posting this until everything is said and done.

This surgery is a touchy topic no matter who you talk with, or their opinion on it. It touches on issues that vary from vanity, to shame, to health, to laziness, death and disease. It is misunderstood and the people who chose to have it done are misunderstood and continue to face misunderstanding before and after the fact. What makes me sad is that, in general, breast implants/other manners of plastic surgery are more socially acceptable than the surgery I am having and I don’t know what that says about us as a people.

I remember I was 6 or 7 years old and my cousin was sleeping over but she hadn’t brought a swimsuit for us to go swimming. So my mother took one of my old ones, a cute bikini that I had recently become too fat to wear, and gave it to her to use and I had a fit. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t wear the cute one, and instead had to wear an ugly one-piece. Oh, what an analogy for how life would be for me from then on.

At 8 or 9 my mother tried to enroll me in dance lessons to try to get me to be more active than I was, possibly to curb how fleshy I was becoming. Unfortunately as a young child with club feet and the beginnings of fibromyalgia, dancing was painful and I hated it. I more or less refused to get off an uncomfortable metal folding chair in the corner of the dance studio until the instructor gave up on me. I suppose my intense lack of coordination didn’t help much the few times I gave it the ol’ college try, either, and there is nothing, nothing, flattering about a tutu on a fat girl.

I hadn’t, at that age, really comprehended what being fat meant. All I knew was that when I sat on the toilet, my tummy would make two lips and it was fun to play with. No, understanding came later. Along with low self-esteem, horrid moments of potent self-hatred, and social ostracism at school.

On the upside I developed a winning personality to make up for my physical shortcomings; there is always a silver-lining to everything.

I spent my whole life dreaming that one day I might be skinny. One day I might be beautiful. One day I might be all of the things I never thought I could be.

But then I grew up. I realized that I was loved, and lovable, and that so long as I knew what a wonderful person I was, there would be someone in this world who knew it as well. And I did find him- my rock, my lover, my best friend; the man who looks at everything I hate about myself and tells me that I am sexy. And it stopped mattering as much.

But as content as I am, and even though my heart and my soul are whole and happy, my body has slowly started to cry uncle. At 28 I began having knee problems, something that is genetic in my family, and later I was almost prostrate with back pain on a daily basis. I’ve had to sit in a chair to pray for more than a year because I can’t handle getting down on the floor for sujood.

I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had dieted and failed. I had exercised as much as I could considering my physical limitations, and failed. I restricted myself to a 1,000 calorie a day diet and exercised and failed.

So I decided to get gastric bypass surgery.

My mom did it 5 years ago and had wonderful success, and I was with her for much of it so I saw all the ugly things about the side-effects of the surgery, and the repercussions for not following the rules. I know that with my front-row seat on my mom’s journey I am going into this with my eyes wide open.

This surgery is not the magic pill; plenty of people have had it and misused it, and gained back all of the weight. I intend to use it as a tool to help me with my goals, goals of eating healthy, goals of conquering the elliptical (seriously, this machine is my mount Everest), and a goal of finally being able to do everything I can to ease my fibromyalgia pain. Oh Lord, if nothing else I am having this surgery on the off-chance that it will help my fibromyalgia.

I am not using this surgery because I think that it will make people love me more. No, I have an immense amount of love in my life already. I have an amazing husband who is everything to me; who supports me and encourages me through the hardest times of my life. I have a mother who is there to guide me through this. I have a wonderful family who cherishes me. And I have an absolutely amazing group of friends who keep me strong.

I love you guys for that. So much.

This surgery isn’t to make me beautiful because I am beautiful already if only for the beauty of those around me.

And frankly only God knows what is in store for me, but I feel so much hope.

I apologize to all of you who want to comment with words of encouragement, but I am closing the commenting on this. I have already had my fill of people who are of the opinion that I just didn’t try hard enough and I shouldn’t have the surgery because it is the lazy way out.

Send me love, send me light, and make du’a for me please.

Being my own doctor

He doesn't believe me

 

I’m just going to lay this all out on the line as none of this is what I would consider to be private information I wouldn’t tell friends. It’s just that working for so long in the medical field I have this annoying little voice in the back of my head going, “but this is private patient information and it’s in violation of HIPAA!” However the patient is me and I’m putting the information out there so would it just please shut up already.

 

I have Fibromyalgia (FM). This sucks. I also have what was diagnosed as Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). This also sucks, in some ways quite a bit more than FM does.  I have a feeling in the way bitty back of my gut that I may only have UCTD and all of my FM symptoms are caused by secondary disorders arising from UCTD.  However it would be close to impossible to prove it and I have so many FM symptoms that it does me better to simply keep the diagnosis.

 

What inspired me to write this post today is because I got a bit of information last night that confirmed something I’ve been SAYING all along; I knew it to be true and yet all I’d get were some pats on the head and a “well maybe, but..”

 

In this particular case it is very much my own fault that I didn’t prove them wrong before this, but what I want to write about today is my growing realization that I am, and must continue to be, my own doctor.  And how frustrating this is.

 

The results I got last night were that although I’ve been taking iron supplements and my iron levels are fabulous (for probably the first time in… well a long time) but I am still dangerously anemic. I knew this to be a fact and it is why I resisted taking iron supplements for so long. Therein lies my mistake, I could have proven this years ago if I had just taken them. It is also a mark of the failure of the medical system that I feel like I have to prove the doctors WRONG in order for them to listen to me.

 

I also expected this because even though I was taking the iron, I was still having my familiar bouts of dizziness and momentary blackened vision when I stood up quickly. If you know me in real life and you see me stand up, stand for a few moments looking blank, and then continue on my way it’s because I can’t see a damned thing and I need to wait for my vision to clear before I can walk. I don’t remember a time when this didn’t happen.

 

So now, here I am, with the proof that something else is wrong and where does it get me? Nowhere. There are an almost unlimited amount of things that could cause my anemia, and most of them are scary. The ones that aren’t scary are the ones they can’t really prove, all they can do is slap a sticker on me and send me on my way. “This one is anemic, so refuse to do surgery on her even though there’s nothing she can do about it.”

 

And I can just see an un-ending future of trying to explain to new doctors that I am, in fact, not iron-deficient and no I can’t fix it so yes you’re going to have to figure out a way to heal around it.

 

Beyond that, it was this morning that I was doing some research into non-iron-deficient anemia and I decided to re-familiarize myself with the standards of UCTD. It was a diagnosis I had never really understood beyond that it made my body attack itself. During this research I stumbled across a syndrome that can be caused by UCTD/MCTD which explains a number of things I’ve had for years. Things I went to my doctor and asked her if they could be caused by my disorders to which I never got a good reply.

 

Good reply? I never got a reply; I got vague promise to look into it and nothing since then.

 

And yes, I could ride my doctor like a prize-pony until I got a response but all that would get me is my doctor throwing lab-orders and MRI’s at me until I or my medical insurance cried ‘uncle.’

 

So instead I settle down in front of Dr. Wikipedia with a dictionary and some paper to take notes on and wade through such enlightening terms as “Erythroid hyperplasia with accelerated production of red cells, reflected by reticulocytosis, and slight macrocytosis in peripheral blood.”

 

And in the end, what does all of this time spent in research get me?: an upset doctor who doesn’t trust Wikipedia or internet sites. Sometimes the information IS wrong, or misleading, but it’s a fuck-load more than I got from my doctor.

 

I don’t have an answer for other people who find this blog while in their own quest to figure out what the hell is wrong with them when the doctors won’t listen. All I can do is thank God for Wikipedia and close to a decade of experience working in the medical field. I can at least read through an article and have a small understanding of the gist of the medical terms. I can’t imagine how confusing it would be for someone who hadn’t worked with these terms before.

 

And I can hope that armed with specific questions and requests for the doctor I’ll be going to see tonight, I might, just might, get to figure out what’s wrong with me. Although it’s not as likely as I’d like to think considering that I’m going to a physician I’ve never seen before because it’d be two weeks before I’d have been able to get in with my PMD.

 

Honestly at this point I’m wondering if I should fuck-all and go straight to a Rheumatologist with this. Maybe I’d be able to get in for an appointment sometime before next year… maybe.

 

And please, my friends, I know that you care about me and I appreciate all of your well-wishes ahead of time. Please don’t feel that you have to write something for the sake of my illness. I know that you’re all thinking it as you read. Make du’a for me, and don’t worry about commenting to tell me that you made du’a.

 

And if you are someone who has Fibromyalgia (FM) or Undifferentiated (or Mixed) Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD/MCTD) or both, let me tell you a few things I’ve self-diagnosed:

 

1.)    Stop, immediately, drinking and eating anything that has aspartame in it. The moment that shit became big back in the 90’s I knew that it made me flare up. Anyone remember Clearly Canadian when it first came out? It used to have aspartame in it and it would make me sick. I flare up whenever I have anything with aspartame in particular, although I try to stay away from any artificial sweeteners at all.

 

2.)    Dark colas make me sick as well. Not as sick as diet colas, but anything with caramel coloring makes me feel achy.

 

3.)    Things that have a lot of preservatives really also affect my FM and UCTD. After I eat them I become very fatigued.

 

4.)    Too much sugar affects me, but I will say that this may not be related to my FM and UCTD.

 

If I can think of anything else that I know, personally, makes me ill, I will write about it. Otherwise just keep an eye on yourself, if you feel yourself flare up, think about what you did/ate recently and remember it. And the next time you eat/do those things, see if you flare again. It’s the best method to find out what works for you.


Token Resistance

I keep hearing about how such and such political activist or revolutionary prisoner is on a ‘hunger strike’ for whatever movement or injustice is plaguing them.

What a crock.

I’m certainly not belittling political activists or the movements they fight for, but I belittle the inanity and token bullshitness of this act.

Take for example just today Al-Baghdadi, the former PM of Gaddhafi, has gone on a hunger-strike in the Algerian prison he is being held in to protest his extradition.

Does anyone care whether this dipshit eats? I certainly don’t; Libya and the freedom fighters probably do not; if he wants to hurry the date of his execution and remove the need for a long and drawn out trial, then by all means, please commit suicide and go straight to hell.

I mean, who is going to care if this dude dies?

And it’s the same even on the flip-side, when it is a sympathetic character like a political activist who is throwing around hunger-threats like a toddler who threatens to hold her breath until she gets her way.

Angry Arabiya for example, a Bahraini political activist who went on a “hunger-strike” to protest the arrest and illegal detention of her father, husband, and brother-in-law.

As much as I felt bad for her and her family, what the french-toast did she think was going to happen?! It is apparent that the Bahraini government did not/does not care what happens to her or her family. They obviously weren’t going to give a damn if she died, by her own hand, when they have shown themselves perfectly willing to shoot protesters and move along.

And she’s no Gandhi with millions of followers ready, willing, and able to stage a mass uprising if she died, she would have simply been another drop in an ocean of people killed by evil regimes, and people would have mourned, and then forgotten about her.

I, personally, could only stomach a couple of days of her forced drama. “For the sake of my family and my little baby daughter, who begged me, I am drinking a cup of water a day.”

So, why? Why do people threaten or enact hunger-strikes if they are such wastes of time?

I think it’s because they can. Because it’s easy to fake. It’s easy to do. It’s easy to get out of.

But, can anyone name me an instance where a hunger-strike worked? Not including Gandhi, of course, because in his instance it was fear of his millions of followers mass-murdering the British if he died. Of course that doesn’t belittle his hunger-strike, because it worked, but other than him?

Maybe there have been, but for me the “hunger-strike” is the new hipster form of “protesting” and I think very little of it.

I’ll think I’ll hunger-strike the fact that I’m not a millionaire.

Addition: So, I’ve done a little bit more reading into Angry Arabiya (Zainab alKhawaja) and really….

On her twitter bio she states “. . .  I hate Arab dictators, and American neo-colonialism.”

And yet as soon as her father was beaten and detained (may Allah grant his release and the release of his compatriots), she sat down and wrote a letter to President Obama.  Reference.

It’s shit like that which really pisses me off.

Dream Home

Does anyone else look up house listings in their area, pick a house they love, and then spend hours dreaming of how to decorate it, and what things they would cook in the mind-blowing kitchen (because it must have a mind-blowing kitchen)?

*sigh*

InshAllah one day my dream home will come true.

Dawah By Dong*

In this title I am talking about the men who are intent on spreading Islam with their man-parts, by dating and eventually converting poor, misguided women in the West.

I hesitated to write this post, despite my passion on the subject, because I, myself, was involved with a Muslim man when I converted to Islam. I’ve mentioned this before and am mentioning it again in the interest of full disclosure. I didn’t convert for this man, however, as evidenced by the fact that I rejected his marriage proposals, broke up with him soon after converting, and moved out of state to escape him, my family, and my old life in order to re-discover myself in my new, chosen, identity.  I had also been bumping up against, discovering, and delving into Islam for four years before this relationship so the brother was not my first introduction to the religion. InshAllah he will get reward though because he did help me cross that final threshold.

I also hesitated because I anticipate that this will be, possibly, an offensive topic for many out there because I very rarely, and I mean rarely, meet women who converted on their own, without being in a relationship, or already being married to a Muslim man. I identify myself as someone who came into Islam by myself, although in fact I do wallow in a gray area between due to this relationship. I can neither disregard nor completely credit the contribution of this brother for my being Muslim. But I generally count the two years between my conversion and my marriage as sufficient to identify myself as someone who came into Islam without being married to a Muslim man. You may disagree with that as you wish.

Many, many converts cannot say the same thing though, and I fear that I will marginalize or degrade their decision to convert by what I want to say in this post. I do not mean to. There is nothing to say that your Islam is less valuable because you married your husband before, or soon after, you converted.

My object of disdain is the Muslim man who dates easy, empty-headed women and then uses the leverage of “I can’t marry you because you’re not Muslim” to break it off when the poor girl gets too clingy. And who justifies his rutting around by saying that he believes she is interested in Islam and he wants to guide her. But then uses aforementioned excuse to break it off when he tires of shagging her.

And there are men who date women who aren’t even interested in Islam and then, when both are invested in the relationship, put pressure on their girlfriends to convert because he won’t marry, and make babies with, a non-Muslim. This is a very sad and unfortunate situation because the women are forced to choose between losing the man that they love or converting to a religion they don’t believe in.

I would be surprised if you, the reader (assuming that you are Muslim and you travel in Muslim circles,)  had never known of, or heard of, a situation where this had happened. The woman breaks down and “converts,” the man marries her, they pop out a few kids and 10 years down the road the woman is miserably unhappy with being a Muslim, covering, and dealing with the expectations so they divorce. It’s a bitter divorce, and of course she leaves Islam, and a year later the kids are going to Friday prayer with dad and Sunday school with mom.

This is why dawah by dong is fatally flawed even though it is the primary method by which many women convert.

Obviously I am ignoring the simple fact that offering his man-parts to ‘ze ladies’ is haraam. I’m ignoring it simply because they do.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Muslim men with non-Muslim women. And very, very, very few of them plan on marrying these women. They’re just playing around until they save enough plata to bag a virgin from their home country. The kufar women are simply for getting his rocks off before then. Sometimes the man is afraid enough of Allah that he marries the chick Islamically so that the sexy-times are not a sin, but the final outcome is the same.

Raise your hand if you’re a non-Muslim and you’ve heard that Muslim men are skeezes? Heck, raise your hand if you’re Muslim and you’ve heard, or seen, that Muslim men are skeezes?

*raises hand*

But behind this are a number, a large number, of women who met their husbands at work/school, became romantically involved, learned about Islam, converted, married, spawned, and are living happily ever after as content Muslimahs. MashAllah.

But oh, oh, how many failures there are. How many men there are who use it as an excuse. Even as an excuse to marry a SECOND wife. To “help” some woman who is thinking about converting, or recently converted, stay on the path.

Because God knows that we women aren’t strong enough to keep a religion without a man around to remind us.

And what a noble cause this gentleman is embarking on: saving the converts of the world, four women at  a time.

Spreading the good word of Islam with his “sword.”

Enough.

Islam is beautiful enough to spread without blackmailing a woman into it.

Women are competent enough to discover how to be a good Muslim without a man to teach her.

And if you are interested in Islam, contact a local mosque. Or go ahead and ask that dreamy-eyed brown boy in your organic chem class about Islam but don’t, do not, absolutely do not tie YOUR Islam to him or anyone else.

Make it your own. And then marry him.

But this method of spreading Islam needs to stop.

Though I doubt it ever will.

I’d flay the skin off my son if I ever caught him doing this, although I would support him giving a Quran, advice, or the number to the local masjid to the pretty young thing who approached him in organic chem.

But I’d make sure she wanted Islam for herself before I consented to a marriage.

Brothers, be responsible.

Ladies, be smart.

And please forgive me if I have offended anyone, it wasn’t my intention. I just had to get this off of my chest.

 

 

*I apologize for such a crude way of putting it, but its apt.

 

Addendum: There are many good, righteous brothers who seek to marry converts because they like the idea that a woman, who was interested in Islam, became a Muslim and they want the reward of helping her learn Islam. Sometimes they help a woman, who has approached them with questions, and the relationship becomes romantic before she converts and after she does they then marry. This situation, from my experience, is the majority of the cases of how women convert to Islam. Its close to the line but doesn’t cross it, and may Allah bless them.

My husband married me after I had been Muslim for 2 years and he is happy to say this whenever anyone asks. Alhumdulillah.

Birthday Poem for My Husband

Usually I would post this on my writing blog but this is something I want to be very public.

A Birthday Poem for My Husband

I never knew
you didn’t know
my deepest thoughts;
you seem so close.
Like a piece of you
beats inside of me
next to my heart,
like a single being.
I never knew
you couldn’t feel
how thankful I
felt to be with you.

But I am.

And I do
love you.