My perceived notions of how important the gym was to my recovery from the gastrectomy and in gaining weight had come to light. With no stomach I never have to fear of becoming fat again, but on the flip side, I will struggle gaining weight and maintaining my energy. Although going to gym takes a heck of a lot out of me, literally, gaining muscle is the most realistic way I’m going to gain any weight and increase my energy. But, in order to gain muscle I need to be able to supply the necessary nutrients and calories to do so, and maintain it, hence the eternal battle I am posed with. It’s not only the lack of my ability to absorb the nutrients and calories needed, but also the amounts in which I’m able to consume that are the main factors to this dilemma.
As I started to recover from the deviated septum and bone graft operations, this became even more apparent. My muscles atrophied even further from what they had already done so from the gastrectomy. I had made very slight headway at the gym with regards to the weight I was able to lift up to that point, but by no means was it anywhere near what I was able to do before the gastrectomy. The little bit of weight I was able to lift was allowing me to maintain my weight at the 120-125lbs range that I was stuck at. However, now that I was sidelined once again and not able to hit the gym, I fell to an all time low. Once the bandages came off and I could walk without crutches, I weighed myself at 116lbs. I had now surpassed the average weight loss of 20-25% pre-op body weight; I had lost roughly 30-35%, and I was really starting to feel it too…I was drained, frail and my energy was super low…I was seeing stars, feeling dizzy and having blackouts a lot more frequently.
When I saw my Oncologist the next time shortly there after she was even more concerned about my weight, if that was possible. To tell you the truth, I was now a little concerned myself. There wasn’t anything anyone could do though, I just had to get back on track, continue to push my eating habits and get back into the gym. It was hard and painful due to the hip and knee both recently been operated on. As the weeks went by and the range of motion and pain subsided I was able to step up the level of my workouts again though.
It was also around this time that I started trying to eat some foods that a friend whom is a Holistic Nutritionist suggested I experiment with. She suggested mostly probiotic foods as my body had now almost been stripped completely of the bacteria that once filled my stomach, leaving what little left my intestines were able to retain. By eating these highly concentrated probiotic foods the idea was to reintroduce them into my system and in turn hopefully assist in my acceptance and digestion of food. Within about two weeks of ingesting foods like: sauerkraut in water, natural Greek or Balkan yogurt, miso and Kombucha tea, I noticed I was able to eat more in both quantity and variety, causing my energy to improve and ultimately begin to increase my weight again.
Whether it was coincidence or these foods really did contribute to my improvement is hard to say, but nonetheless something happened and with a noticeable improvement in my eating and energy, came an extra boost physiologically. I had new pep in my step and my recovery was gaining momentum again, the weight wasn’t piling on by any means, but it was climbing.
I was hitting the gym again twice a week, pushing myself pretty hard. The side effects from eating weren’t as bothersome or maybe I was just getting used to them. As I worked on my eating and hit the gym when I could, I finally inched over the arduous 125lbs mark by Christmas, bestowing on me the best Christmas gift ever.
I may have indulged a little too much over the holidays, but who doesn’t. I ate some foods that I knew would be too much for my body to handle, but knowing the suffering goes away after time, I could not neglect my cravings for my beloved turkey dinner. I had a couple glasses of red wine and what some would call “normal” sized plate of food with all the fixings, gravy and all. I felt fine for about half an hour, then the “dumping syndrome” kicked in and I had to excuse myself to the couch for some quiet time while it subsided. It wasn’t the worst “dumping syndrome” I had experienced, but it wasn’t fun.
The phrase “your eyes are too big for your stomach” need not apply to me anymore, but that night in some twisted way they did. Once the effects passed and I felt better I helped myself to another glass of red wine, and as time went by, maybe a couple hours, I could no longer resist my love for turkey dinner, and so I went back for seconds. The result was not as favorable as the first go around, if you could call the first go around “favorable”. I had a slightly smaller portion, but I added a little more gravy, which even a little is pretty much a no-no in my new condition. Needless to say, within about five minutes of finishing the plate, I started to sweat and feel nauseous, so I ran to the bathroom spitting up my last effort of consuming the scrumptious food. I say spitting up since it is nowhere near the same sensation as puking when one has a stomach, its real mellow, just like spitting something up. Being my second time actually “spitting something up” not just gagging, it was still a totally weird experience, I was still expecting the old vomit nightmare. The “spit-up” didn’t take me out of the game though, after a brief quiet time on the couch I was back in the mix, enjoying another glass of wine.
With my lack of concern towards the after affects of what I ate and my newfound ability to consume a little more variety and quantity I ramped up my efforts further. Foods I had issues with before I tried again and again, and again until either I knew I could not handle them or my body seemed to accept them. Pizza was something I tried at least five times until it finally seemed to be ok with me. Cooking which had become obsolete since the gastrectomy was beginning to be something I could semi-tolerate to some degree again…at least once a week anyways.
Things were looking positive again and I was in a good place as the New Year rang in…even ate my first “whole” sandwich (big deal, trust me). It was really nice to say goodbye to 2011, which was without a doubt the most challenging year of my existence both physically and mentally (although 2010 takes a relatively close second). I wasn’t sure what 2012 or beyond holds for me, but I felt as if a huge load was lifted off my shoulders and with the start of a new year, so began a new chapter in my recovery…so I hoped.