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The First Three Weeks

If you had asked me, before surgery, what the hardest thing I had ever done was, I would probably have said my divorce,  or going through infertility treatments, or any other number of things. If you were to ask me that today, I would tell you the first three weeks post-op. Hands down, nothing else even compares.

Day one:

The thing I remember the most about waking up after surgery was the pain. I’d woken up to early and there hadn’t been time to give me anything for the pain, so I woke up completely unmedicated. I cried, I’m pretty sure, and I begged for them to knock me out, to make it stop. I’m not a person that begs, nor am I person that generally shows weakness if I can help it. I laid in the bed, my poor husband next to me, and cried and begged for them to just knock my ass out.

When I woke up again Tim was there, he was trying to talk to me about things he was going to do while in Anchorage and I was glad. I hated the thought of him just sitting there watching me suffer. He left then, offering reassurances I couldn’t really hear.

The third time I woke up I was much more cognizant. The doctor was there telling me and Tim that everything went great, very smooth and that he was very happy with how things were looking. He did stress the walking. I would need to walk as much as I could.

So I tried. In and out of sleep and with Tim there I walked as much as I could.

But good gods the nausea. Like I have never experienced. I took a 2oz shot of water and threw it up. It was terrible. I couldn’t have even the smallest amount of water to take my nausea meds.  

Thanks to the amazing responsiveness and kindness of my AirBnb host, Tim stayed the night there and my nurse set me up in a chair that was much more comfortable.

That first night was an experience of waking and walking and drinking the smallest amounts of water here and there while taking my meds and hauling around my saline bag everywhere I went.

When I finally went down around midnight, I didn’t wake again until almost 0500. When I did, I woke to the news that my Grandfather had passed in the night.

He had been sick, very sick in the last little bit, and we had been warned that it wouldn’t be long. I stared at my screen and when the nurse came in to help me dress I blurted it out. She was a very kind woman who held me for a moment and told me how sorry she was. Then she helped me dress and we called Tim.

60oz of fluid a day, at least 40grams of protein, and as close to zero sugar and carbs as was humanly possible. And no solids whatsoever.

That didn’t sound too hard.

Hell, by the time I got to this point I was used to having so little carbs and sugar anyway I thought it would be easy.

By the time I got to the Airbnb I didn’t want to eat or drink anything.

All I wanted, was sleep.

Tim laide me down and had Gatorade, water, and all kinds of drinks for me in the fridge. He loaded up the pickle, (my green Ford Escape), and had it backed into the garage so I was ready to just pull out and head home when I was able to leave.

That was the other fun thing. I was not able to leave Anchorage for five days. It was a safety thing, and I understood that, but it didn’t make feeling so awful and being away from my family any easier.

Tim talked to me a little bit while I dozed on and off, and then he took a cab and grabbed a ride to the airport and the a one hour flight home to our boys.

I slept.

For almost three days I would sleep, wake up, take my handful of meds, drink a very small amount of water, and then sleep again. About mid day on day three I woke up and didn’t hurt anymore, and the nausea was nowhere near as terrible as it had been. So I stopped taking my meds, all the but the one they gave me for my heartburn.

That one I would need to take for the next six months.

Which, honestly, as someone who has always had chronic heart burn, I was so grateful.

Moving was unreal. I’ve never felt so weak or just out of it as I had those few days. Going up and down the stairs trying to get to the fridge and the shakes I knew I needed to be drinking, was exhausting. More than that, drinking anything was terrible. The only time I wanted to be sick while I was there was when I had to drink something.

The next few days I spent sleeping fitfully and struggling to drink. I had thought not eating solid foods would be the biggest struggle, but honestly, just putting anything in my stomach was so hard.

On the morning of day five I was got myself read, took a shower, and headed down to the Bariatric Center to meet with my doctor. While I was there, they told me that I would need to be out of work longer, at least two weeks they said. When I explained the nature of my job, the agreed to another five days. I could go back to work on Thursday. I got a goodie bag with lots of different kinds of vitamins to try, most of which were gross, but I’m picky.

Then I had to convince my doctor that I was okay to drive back to Fairbanks by myself. Apparently they were not enthused about me making the six hour drive back home by myself. Finally the doctor agreed to let me do it, provided I stopped every hour to stretch and walk.

I went back to the Air BnB and packed all my nonsense up, which honestly took so long to do. I was moving at a snails pace and it was a struggle from start to finish. I finally got everything loaded and got out of there, more than thirty minutes after my check out. (Ruslana if you ever read this, you’re an amazing human being and thank you so much for all the help and understanding  you gave while I stayed in your Air BnB)

I started the drive, and stopped after about 45-ish minutes. As soon as I hit the Target in Wasilla.

I had a need.

And that need was a Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom special edition Nintendo Switch OLED. And Tears of the Kingdom, of course. I had wanted to get one but no where in Fairbanks had them anymore. But the Target came through in the clutch, (Thank you Target you are my hero).

Then I started driving.

And driving.

I want to say I stopped and walked every hour, but that would be a lie. It was closer to two hours. But I did stop, and I almost made myself sick with chocolate milk on the home stretch.

Normally I would have strickly adhered to my doctors orders, seeing as they spent a lot of time and money to know a hell of a lot more about medicine than I did, I know that I know nothing about what keeps me running.

But I was an appointment to see a nice big house we wanted to rent and I didn’t want to be late.

I got to the house hugged my family, and jumped in Tims truck. I showed them the game I got us enroute and watched the boys go crazy for the new game talking about it and how excited they were.

Once I was home and we were settled, that’s when things really took a turn for hard. Drinking was still really hard, and to make matters worse, I was home and needed to cook and take care of my family, which meant that I needed to be around food all the time. This really hit me the first Friday I had to make pizza.

Omg the melty cheese smelled so good and I wanted some so much.

Just a nibble.

A tiny smackerel of cheese.

But I couldn’t. I had been warned about what happened to people that started eating too soon. The pain of tearing your stomach open looked like nothing I wanted to be involved in. Not to mention that I had worked really hard to get this surgery and the last thing I wanted was to screw it up now.

But three weeks is a really long time.

Co-workers would get Doordash and it would smell amazing. Or I’d be making food or Tim would bring food home, and I would want to cry.

So much of what we do and how we interact with people is centered around food, and you don’t realize that until you’re faced with the prospect of not eating everyday for so long. Family meal times when we gather to talk about everything that happened that day, or to comfort each other, or to celebrate. It was to hard.

By the time I hit three weeks I felt like I had never cried so hard about food in my entire life. When I got on my Zoom call with my dietician and she told me that I could finally, FINALLY have solid food, (soft food, but still), I was ready to weep for joy. I had a baby bell cheese next to me ready to go once I had the all clear.

Nothing, and I mean nothing. Has ever tasted as good as that tiny round cheese did.

My advice to you is this. Be ready for the first three weeks. Its so hard.

Find different types of protein drinks that you like, don’t rely on just one. And get some vitamins before you have surgery, I waited and I know that didn’t help me. Find all kinds of zero calorie drinks that you can tolerate to have on hand. I was going through weird Gatorades and drink mixes trying to find something that I like the taste of. Which really made the whole first three weeks thing so much harder than it had to be.

It was so hard.

I know it’s just food and I know three weeks does not sound like a lot, but I’m telling you, this was one of the hardest things I had to do. And I’m really glad it was. If it hadn’t been, if it had been easy, I don’t think I would have taken it as seriously as would have. And this is a huge, life altering surgery, you need to take it seriously or it isn’t going to work.

It was a huge struggle, and it hurt in was I can’t articulate, but was it worth it?

Hell yes.

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