Repeat after me, “I Am Thankful”

November 1, 2014

I always seem to have a million thoughts racing through my head these days. I weighed this morning and I’m officially down 95lbs. This number includes my pre-op diet I was required to do. Thanks to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome(PCOS) I lost less than 10 pounds on an entire week of liquid diet! Which was the justification I needed that I was doing the right thing by having the sleeve surgery. My friends I had made online through a support group that did not have an endocrine or metabolic disorder had lost 20 to 30 pounds on their pre-op diets. Don’t get me wrong…. I was thankful for the not quite double digit weight loss. But that was the story of my life. Working hard at eating better and exercising with minor results. Followed by giving up and gaining what I lost plus some added pounds.

95 pounds! That’s so close to 100 pounds lost!!!! I’m so proud of myself. However, I’ve caught myself falling back into old eating habits. So as of the last few weeks I’ve been trying to make healthier choices. Because of this my scale is starting to move again. Yea!

Today is Saturday. I have some errands to run so I get up and attempt to find pants that fit. My fitting pants are now loose. I’m so frustrated. I have on a very baggy pair of jeans as I write this. But as I said, these days I have so many thoughts racing through my head. I’m reminded of how thankful I am for these baggy pants. Appropriately this is November 1st. What better day to remind yourself of things you’re thankful for than the month of thankfulness. This time last year I was laying down on my bed just to get my size 20 pants zipped! I was avoiding buying that size 22 I knew I needed. Now this size 16 I have on is way too big. I’m thankful!

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I’m also thankful I have the energy to get some things done today that need to be done. Now if I will just actually get them done. (Yea for finally getting an inspection sticker on my car that went out in September!) I’m also A.D.D. I have the hardest time focusing. The weight loss seems to have made it worse. Before I couldn’t focus and I was too tired to do anything or worry with it. I was too tired to care. Now I have the energy to deal with things, but I start something and then I think of something else that needs to be done and I start doing that. Thus leaving an unending list of things unfinished. This list leaves me anxious and moody. I’m still trying to figure out an appropriate plan on how to address this situation. I’m sure my husband would appreciate my figuring it out.

Anxiousness…I’m feeling it right now. As of last week I am officially off of my antidepressants(with my doctors clearance). I am very happy about this, but they have been a crutch for so long that I can’t help but think that maybe I still need them. When in reality I know I don’t. When I stop to think about why I am feeling this way I am met with the reality that I have a lot going on right now. I’m dreading this week because I have to go out of town Wednesday after work for my job. I won’t get to come home till Saturday night. As I have said I am a registered dental assistant and my job is sending me to a seminar a few hours away to learn about a product we are going to start selling. I’m excited about the learning part, but not the packing and the getting there part. Packing means I have to go through my closet and see that I have no appropriate clothes to wear. Usually events like this you dress business causal(I’m still not sure I know exactly what this is…). I have baggy jeans and t-shirts. I haven’t spent a lot of money on clothes because I am still losing weight. Now I am going to have to go spend money I don’t have on clothes I won’t be able to wear for long. Not my idea of fun.

As a previous obese person I am having to adjust my shopping attitude. I still have the attitude I had when I was obese when it comes to shopping for clothes. I dread it. I still find myself navigating to the plus size section. I have to remind myself that I no longer have to shop in that department. Usually by the end of my shopping experience I am in a little better mood. That is till I have to pay. Hopefully I can find time this week to go to a consignment shop and find some nice clothes for a fraction of the price. I can, after all, find clothes in my size now in consignment shops.

As I try to wrap up this longer than intended post I have one more thing to add. My husband and I started seeing a fertility specialist at the beginning of October. We are in the early stages of this journey and I am not cleared by my surgeon to actually start TTC(trying to conceive) till January which will be my one year anniversary since my WLS(weight loss surgery). This is a huge source of my anxiety. With the weight loss, things in my body have started to work that have not worked in a very long time if they every worked at all. I have gotten good news and some not so good news(but doable). I am working on a blog post right now that I took a small break from. It’s long and involves a lot of me sharing in depth about my story and what brought me to this point in my life. To be honest it scares me a little…ok a lot….to be this transparent. But if I can help even one person with my story then it is well worth it for me.

I have wanted children for a long time and I finally feel like it could possibly be in reach. In this month of thankfulness I will try to focus on the things I am thankful for rather than the things that cause me so much anxiety. I am thankful I have no clothes to wear to this dental seminar. I am thankful that I have been crying so much lately because my body is producing hormones that it had stopped making because of my weight gain. I am a Christian and with saying that I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Heavenly Father has an awesome plan for my life and my marriage. Anything that is thrown my way I can overcome by having the faith and the knowledge to know He will help me through. I have faith.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

I hope everyone has a wonderful beginning to the holiday season. Try to stop and think about the things you are thankful for. This is my absolute favorite time of year and I plan on trying to savor every moment! In the mean time I will try to work more on my TMI blog post and get it posted as soon as possible. LOL. Hope everyone has a blessed weekend!

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Helping Others

There are so many things that having this surgery has done for my life. My husband and I set up monthly at a local flea market and sell refurbished looking signs and furniture he makes. In these two days that we have been out here I have had the pleasure of talking to two different women that are having the gastric sleeve surgery next week. They are both on their liquid protein diet that most surgeons have you do before surgery to help shrink your liver and their emotions are high. As an obese person it is more common than not to have a fatty liver. This diet is supposed to help shrink the liver which gives the surgeon better visibility while operating on you. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I heard that this would help him see better and have a better chance of fewer complications I was all for it! No cheating(well… I might have had a cracker or two with my puréed soup…shame shame). But I wanted the best chance possible for an easy surgery and recovery. So I(for me) was rather faithful(but not perfect) to that liquid diet. It’s hard! Emotionally I was all over the place. So I understand where these women are at in this moment at the start of this lifelong journey. And I feel terrible, but in awe of them at the same time for being at this trade show with all of the smells of junk food and funnel cake in the air. (My husband literally just walked up to me with a funnel cake in his hand after I typed that last sentence. What the heck….) lol.

I talked to these women at different times, but the relief I saw on their faces was the same. It looked like the same relief I had when I met a lady (days before my surgery) that my surgeon had operated on 6 months prior and she was a success. She went on about what an awesome surgeon he is and how well she had done. It’s exactly what I needed at that moment. I had been freaking out on the inside about what I was going to have done in only a few days. I was now that person for these women. Even though we aren’t using the same surgeon, we all are having the same surgery and the same fears.

I told them what I thought they should hear. I told them I had lost 91.6 lbs as of yesterday morning and that this was the best decision I had ever made(besides marrying my awesome husband of course 😉). I showed them a before and after picture of me the morning of my surgery and one from last week. I was wearing the same pajamas in both pictures. However, I did want to let them know it’s not an easy road. I have spent this whole year adjusting to my new lifestyle and the new me. At times I have felt like I was losing my identity and other times I felt like I was just going crazy mad because my emotions were all over the place (Thanks hormones!). I’ve had high energy levels and low energy levels. But I’ve always kept my eye on the big picture and that is my overall health. I told these women this is a tough journey and there’s will differ from mine but that, in the end, it is so worth it.

My prayer is that they are as happy about their decision to take charge of their life and their health by having this surgery as I am. I am a huge cheerleader for this decision. There are people out there though that do regret having the sleeve done. Mainly ones that have experienced severe complications from it. But complications are a risk with any surgery. It was a risk I was willing to take. The best advice I can give anyone contemplating on having this or any kind of Bariatric surgery is this….research. Read everything you can get your hands on about it. And please follow your surgeons guidelines he gives you. They are given to you for a reason. I have been blessed and very fortunate with few bumps in the road so far. I was very diligent in following the instructions that were given to me.

I’m so excited for for these two wonderful women and can’t wait to see them as they transfer into the healthier version of themselves. I’ll be praying they have as smooth of a journey as I have had.

Left: January 7, 2014; Morning of surgery Right: September 30, 2014
Left: January 7, 2014; Morning of surgery
Right: September 30, 2014

To Clean Or Not To Clean….

I seem to be struggling a little today. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s bothering me though. Today is Saturday, my reward day for working so hard during the week. As I look around my house and see all of the misplaced items, I can’t help but think I need to get off my bum and do some cleaning. Every part of me is protesting the thought of cleaning though. My husband is asleep next to me on the couch and I think, maybe I should take a nap too. After all, I worked really hard this week and deserve some down time. Keep in mind it is already noon. I slept till 9:30 this morning and have done nothing more than take my supplements, drink some coffee and enjoy half of a bacon and egg taquito while browsing Facebook. Doesn’t that qualify as downtime? 87lbs ago Tracey considered a whole day or two as downtime. The slightly more energetic Tracey can’t quite justify sitting here on my iPad all day. But I still have yet to make a move from the couch. I even just took a break to comment on a video I shared on Facebook of a goat. What can I say?…I’m on fire today. In my defense the goat is adorable.

Where was I? Oh yes…my downtime. My mother called me about an hour ago and is a busy little bee going through stuff in their storage building getting ready for the garage sale we have planned this next weekend. My mother is so cute. She keeps sending me pictures of stuff she finds and is asking if it’s mine. She then asks if I want to keep or get rid of. Lol. This is what I need to be doing, but I’m not. I have this fluttery feeling in my chest and am feeling anxious, but why? It makes me think of Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. I’ve spoken with my Heavenly Father this morning and prayed He would give me a peace that I so much need right now. Most of my grievances I know are from my job. Situations there are ever changing and I’m having a difficult time coping. After bariatric surgery your body goes through so many changes. Throw additional life changes in with that and it quickly becomes a mess. Some days I haven’t even recognized myself. And not in the way of my appearances, but in the way of my actions. I have always loved that I was an easy going person at work and I didn’t get my feathers ruffled easily. I certainly didn’t cause any wakes if I didn’t agree with the way things were going. In fact you had to really disrespect me and treat me bad for me to push back. I had my boundaries. Now I’m not clear where my boundaries are. Every thing seems to aggravate me. Maybe it’s because I feel like I have no consistency with life. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. I do believe I am becoming a better person. I’m definitely stronger in my career and I have more confidence than I have ever had. Now if I can just keep my attitude positive. It’s something I work on daily.

Bariatric surgery is not easy. It’s a life changing decision no matter which type of surgery you choose. I chose to have the vertical sleeve gastrectomy. I haven’t regretted my decision once… well maybe once. I had a moment of buyers remorse my second night in the hospital while vomiting for 5 hours straight. All I could think is, “what have I done to myself?!” Turns out my sugar was pretty low. Once they gave me some glucose in my IV I slowly recovered. I reminded myself that I knew this wouldn’t be an easy road when I chose to do it. I did my research and for the most part knew what I was in for. The good has far outweighed the bad. I’m getting my health back one day at a time and my life along with it. I’m thankful that I feel guilty for sitting on my bum and not accomplishing anything. Because 87lbs heavier Tracey didn’t give a crap. I didn’t have the energy to care.

I have so much excitement and hope for my future. I just sometimes have to stop for a second and refocus when things get blurred. In 2 weeks my husband and I have an appointment with a fertility specialist. My bariatric surgeon has given me the go ahead to start trying to conceive in January which will be my 1 year anniversary(surgiversary as we like to call it). I want to go ahead and consult and get some of the testing out of the way so we will be good to go come January. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I’m especially nervous about the financial aspect of it. I just pray for God’s will in my life and I know He will provide a way for whatever is meant to be. My husband and I dearly want a little family of our own and have for some time. I have plenty of things to look forward to. We would greatly appreciate prayers during this time.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

That is one of the verses I cling to. I know there are great things ahead for me!

As I sit here and listen to my husbands little snore as he is relaxing away, I know it’s time to get up and do my wifely duty. Make lots of racket while doing a little cleaning around the house!!!
I’ve decided I will set a timer for 30 mins, turn on some “happy” music and see what kind of cleaning I can get done in that time frame. Who knows maybe I will find some additional energy and keep going. And if I’m really lucky my husband will wake up and help me! A girl can dream can’t she?!

87 Pounds Lighter and Walking to End Alzheimer’s

September 20, 2014

Today I walked to end Alzheimer’s. I walked for my Grandmother or Mammaw as I called her. Her name was Beatrice Dudley, such a beautiful name to me. She had been battling Alzheimer’s for over 10 years. Mammaw lost her battle with Alzheimer’s on October 25, 2014. Alzheimer’s is the most painful and heartbreaking illness I have ever seen. And it is by no means quick. I walked today to remember and honor my grandmother. This was my first End Alz walk and it was considered a 5K which is 3 miles. This would have been much harder for me 87lbs ago. In fact, I’m sure that’s why I never participated in the past. I was too heavy and too out of shape.

Having bariatric surgery has allowed me to begin to take back control of my life one pound and one day at a time. I’m developing a confidence that I never had before. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and realizing that I’m capable of more than I have been giving myself credit for. I look forward to discovering even more about myself as the days continue.

I’m so grateful to my family. During some of the hardest times we have seen, we all pulled together to help take care of Mammaw. Although it was extremely difficult for all of us, it doesn’t hold a candle to how excruciating it was for my grandpa. To see the love of his life deteriorate. Because of our large family and the ones that gave up so much to be her main caregivers we never had to put my grandmother in a nursing home. She was able to stay at home for the remainder of her days.

Not only did I walk today to honor my grandmother, I also walked to help raise awareness for this disease. I raised $125 to go towards the research of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. It’s not much but every little bit counts. I want to thank the ones that donated from the bottom of my heart. The Alzheimer gene runs deep in my family(on my mothers side). We have seen all too many of our extended family suffer. Although we don’t know if any of us will end up with Alzheimer’s, the fear is real. I fear for my mother. I don’t let it consume me, but I did do something about it. I walked. So I guess you could say today was for both my grandmother and my mother. Who’s knows…it could have been for myself even. No cure was found in time to save my grandmother, but I pray if that day ever comes, a cure will have been found in time for my mother or even me.

Me before the walk started. I was pumped and ready to go.
Me before the walk started. I was pumped and ready to go.
The memory flower we were given to remember our loved ones. Purple represented that we had lost someone to Alzheimer's.
The memory flower we were given to remember our loved ones. Purple represented that we had lost someone to Alzheimer’s.
Every one holding up their flowers in a promise to help end Alzheimer's. Yellow represents that you are a caregiver, purple you have lost someone to the disease, orange that you are advocate and blue that you, yourself have dementia or Alzheimer's.
Every one holding up their flowers in a promise to help end Alzheimer’s. Yellow represents that you are a caregiver, purple you have lost someone to the disease, orange that you are advocate and blue that you, yourself have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
I took my memory flower to my grandfather. In memory of his wife and my grandmother. He had my Aunt put it in a good spot for him. I loved the look on his face when I gave it to him. He even blew on it to make it spin. I love him so much and I miss my Mammaw dearly.
I took my memory flower to my grandfather. In memory of his wife and my grandmother. He had my Aunt put it in a good spot for him. I loved the look on his face when I gave it to him. He even blew on it to make it spin. I love him so much and I miss my Mammaw dearly.

All About Me!

Hello! I thought I would tell you all a little about myself. My name is Tracey Gravley and I’m 33 years old. I’m a Registered Dental Assistant and have been in the dental field for 11 1/2 years. I’ve been married to my husband, Joedale, for 3 1/2 years. We have no children, but lots of fur babies.

As for what brought me to this point in my life and this blog, was a lifelong battle with obesity. To make it short, I was diagnosed at the age of 22 with an endocrine and metabolic disorder known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I had struggled with my weight most of my childhood, but hadn’t reached the obese level yet. Prior to that diagnosis I experienced a torn ACL in my knee at the age of 18. I had surgery and a year later had a car wreck that re-injured my knee and messed up my back. Over the course of about 11 years with two knee and two back surgeries later I am no longer just overweight. I now fell into the category of morbidly obese.

My weight was quickly spiraling out of control and I was miserable. In the early part of 2004 I started researching the different bariatric surgeries. I went to a seminar where I was given the options between the Lap-Band and Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. I quickly decided that the bypass was the choice for me and started the necessary steps to have the surgery. Halfway through the approval process with my surgeon’s office and insurance company my husband at the time decided to hastily change jobs which meant losing my insurance. Needless to say I was never able to have surgery. Several years later after gaining more weight and losing my job because of my back injuries I started thinking about surgery again. I went to another seminar and listened to my options again. This time I was given 3 options. The same two as before, but now they discussed a surgery called the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. The reality for me now though, was that I was divorced, jobless and without insurance. There was no way I could afford the cash price.

January 2011 I had my second back surgery (which was extremely minor compared to my first one). Two weeks later I started a new dental assisting job. I quickly found out that being on my feet all day and continually moving was what my back needed. I still could not lose weight though and kept getting bigger. I married my husband in April of 2011. I was so thankful because I had finally found someone that accepted me for me. I was bigger than I had ever been, but had more confidence than I did when I was smaller and felt deeply loved by my husband. We wanted to start a family, but because of my PCOS and weight I was infertile (something I had known for a long time). I knew that weight loss was my best chance of restoring my fertility, but even with great effort, losing even 10 lbs was almost impossible. The first part of 2013 with the assistance of prescription drugs called Metformin and Chlomid we tried to start a family. Several stressful months went by with zero success and very little improvement in my blood work. Due to uncontrollable circumstances during that time and extra stress we decided to take a break.

In the late fall of 2013 my husband told me about the new bariatric program The hospital he worked for was starting. I was quickly let down though when I found out our health insurance didn’t cover the surgery. Then one day my husband called me at work and gave me a number and said to call it and ask for Charlene and she could help me with any questions. I found out from Charlene that their Bariatric program was offering a discount to hospital employees and their spouses that wanted the surgery since our insurance didn’t cover it. A lot of prayers and research later God opened the doors for me to have this life changing surgery. I was ready. I had waited 10 years for this. I went through each of the necessary steps and on January 7, 2014 I had the vertical sleeve gastrectomy along with having my gallbladder taken out and a hiatal hernia repair. My surgeon referred to it as the trifecta. Haha. The first few days were rough, but I was feeling better every day. Each day was a learning experience. September 7th was my 8 month anniversary (or surgiversary as so many call it). I have lost 87lbs and at least 4 pant sizes. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on my new lifestyle, but you never stop learning. I don’t always make good choices, but I always try to do better. The best thing is I don’t beat myself up when I make not so great choices, because I know it’s not the end of the world and I know I make good choices more than bad ones. We are human. As long as you keep your goal in sight and realize this isn’t magic that it’s a tool and you still have to work for it then you will succeed. This is the best thing I could have done for myself and my husband. You can ask almost anyone that has had bariatric surgery if they have any regrets about the surgery and most will reply that they have only one regret…that they didn’t have it done sooner.

I’m looking forward to even better improved health and smaller clothes. But most of all I’m looking forward to the day that my husband and I can finally start a family (with my surgeons approval of course!). 🙂

I am forever grateful to my awesome surgeon and his team along with my personal support team. There are so many of you, but the ones that have endured the most with me through this are my husband and my parents. Y’all are my rock! I love y’all with all of my heart!