Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Nana is fading very fast.

She will probably pass within the next 2-3 days.

We are all here trying to prepare and saying our goodbyes.

I can't remember anything ever being this hard.

Devastation only skims the surface.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Don't Always Get What You Want

Hi everyone!!!

I am currently typing this from the PC at my mother's house. I am here for two weeks of vacation.

When I planned the trip back in March, we were going to a family reunion and also to a time share resort for a week. We really weren't going to be here much and it sounded like a lovely, relaxing vacation.

Well, of course life is going to throw you some curve balls. Mine came in the form of my Nana getting Pancreatic Cancer.

For those of you who don't know, there is no cure for Pancreatic Cancer and there really is not much in the way of treatment either. It is quick and vicious. Most patients that are diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer don't last 6 months.

Nana was diagnosed about a month ago. She is progressively getting more confused, stubborn and scared. She can no longer be left alone for any length of time which has caused my mother to file for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) so that she can take her to appointments and generally care for Nana.

Last week my mom had to go to a meeting at work and her husband had a Dr. Appointment. The neighbor lady is friends with Nana and asked my mom if she could stay with Nana. My mom reluctantly agreed because she was in a bind. The neighbor lady is elderly as well and my mom knew that she could visit with her, but if something happened that she wouldn't be able to physically assist my Nana, but Mom needed help so she went against her better judgement and left Nana with the neighbor.

Nana decided that this would be the perfect time to go outside and check on her flowers. She hasn't been allowed to do any gardening for a while and she wanted to see how her sweet peas were growing. The neighbor tried to convince her to stay in the house, but Nana has got a stubborn streak a mile wide and wouldn't listen.

Outside she fell and hit her head. The neighbor couldn't get her up and called my step-brother who lives down the street and my step-sister who lives a few miles away. My step-brother got there in less than 10 minutes, picked up Nana (who weighs about a buck ten) and put her into her bed.

Mom got home as fast as she could, took one look at Nana, called the Dr., packed her into the car and took her to the hospital. In a way, it was a huge blessing.

Once they got there, Nana's blood oxygen leven was at 71%. Normal is between 96-100% so it was really bad. They couldn't get her oxygen level back up until they put her onto a full face non rebreather mask (mom told me what it was) at 100% oxygen.

They found out that Nana has MRSA which is a really bad, antibiotic resistant infection which in turn has caused her to contract pneumonia and just to make it fun, Congestive Heart Failure to boot.

Suffice it to say, that if Nana wasn't in the hospital, she might not still be here. She is very ill, easily confused and at times in hullucinating. She does, however, still have her sense of humor firmly intact.

Devon and I drove straight there with my mom, as soon as we landed. Because of the MRSA we have to wear a gown, mask and gloves to go into her room. We went in and it took her a few moments to recognize us. She was very happy to see us, but was also seeing an imaginary dog in her room as well.

It was incredibly difficult to see her like this. She looked like she had been mugged and beaten within an inch of her life from the fall. HUGE purple raised bump on her forehead, two black eyes, scratches on her nose etc. She was breathing through her mouth and she had the white, filmy spittle coating the edges.

Her speech is slurred and difficult to understand but I could understand a few things. She said hello to me and to Devon.

I sat on the edge of the bed and got close enough for her to see me and be able to hear me. I stroked her face with my gloved hand and she closed her eyes and smiled a bit. I could tell that it brought her a lot of comfort so I continued to do it.

I looked at my mom and the tears filled my eyes and started streaming down my face. This isn't Nana. Nana is vibrant, funny, active and always talking. This was a faded memory of my Nana.

It came crashing home like a freight train that Nana will be gone sooner than later. I won't have her to talk to or to hear stories from. She won't be here waiting for me when I fly in to visit. I won't be able to play cards with her or sit with her in her room and watch The Food Network.

Devon got extremely upset and cried for a really long time. He is trying so hard to be brave, but he is only 10 years old and this will be the second major loss of a loved one (his great grandfather died a few years ago). He is very aware that Nana won't be with us much longer and is taking it very hard. I had to whisper to him that Nana needed to see him strong and to not cry in front of her. He was able to get his emotions under control until we left and then we stood in the hallway and I held him as he cried.

Last night, I slept in Nana's bed. It brought me a bit of comfort to be around her things.

Mom says that Nana has her good days and her bad ones and we happened to arrive on a bad day. I am hoping that I see her on a good day because I don't know how I can face 2 weeks of last night. It was definitely turns what was supposed to be a fun trip into a very somber occasion.

My mother has been doing basically everything for my Nana. She cares for her at home, makes sure that she gets her medicine and takes her to all of her appointments. In addition she has to watch her carefully because Nana can be unpredictable. They had to put a monitor in her room so that they could her hear at night if Nana needed help.

I honestly don't know how she has stayed as strong as she has. Mom is sad a lot. She knows that she is losing her mother. She watches her slowly slip further and further away every day and is trying to prepare herself as much as she can for the inevitable. But I can see the added lines to her face. The drawn, sad expression when she is lost in thought.

I want to be here for my mom as well as Nana. I only have two weeks. I pray that Nana gets well enough to leave the hospital and spend her remaining days at home. I have convinced Mom to look into Home Heath when or if Nana comes home. If she doesn't, I will worry about Mom's health as well.

Today we are going to see Nana again. I pray that she is more aware and lucid so that she can communicate with me a bit better. I plan to go up there, stroke her face again and just sit and talk with her, tell her how much I love her and just gaze at the face of someone that I have loved and has loved me since the day that I was born.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Project Diversity

At work we have a 15 minute meeting almost every day. Once a month, they ask for people to come in and talk about something related to diversity.

We have had people come in and talk about their heritage, overseas adoption, autism etc.

They asked for volunteers and I offered to do a meeting about what it is like to be morbidly obese and about my weight loss journey.

Today was the day that I did the meetings (6 of them in total) and I was really pleased with the results.

Without further ado... here is my speech.

A few years ago I went to Michigan's Adventure with my friends and our kids. We had been at the park for a few hours riding rides and decided to ride the Wild Cat. As a group we all went up the ramp, stood in line and waited our turn.

The coaster came in and let the passengers off and I noticed that it was a divided seat, not a bench seat. I started feeling a little bit uncomfortable, but stayed in line. When it was our turn to get on the coaster, I made sure that my son was in his seat and buckled in before I got into my own seat. It was a very tight squeeze, but I was able to get seated in the coater. I grabbed the seatbelt to strap myself in and I couldn't get it closed. It was so close and I pulled and pulled, but I couldn't get the belt buckled. In front of an entire line of people waiting their turn, I had to get off of the coaster and stand on the other side, alone, facing the crowd that was staring at me knowing that I was too fat to fit on the ride. I stood there and waited for my son and friends to finish the ride and return to the station.

I can still feel the embarrassment that stained my face that day.

I couldn't even think about doing this diversity pre shift until I'd lost over 50 pounds. Because you feel that everyone's judging you, for being lazy, eating too much, not taking care of yourself, not trying hard enough. You feel your voice doesn't count. You feel you can't talk about what it's like to be fat until you've proven yourself and shown that you're taking steps not to be fat anymore.

And now, I'm still overweight so it's not easy to talk about it now. But I don't want to be one of those people who only talks about what it's like to be fat from the vantage point of a nice, safe size 6, where how horrible it was is only a vague, awful memory.

I want to talk about while I'm still in it because for once I want to give power to my words from within my own situation. I don't want to write some chirpy "after" post once I've reached my goal weight about how much it sucked to be fat. I want to write it while I'm living it and while it's real.

I was morbidly obese for over 10 years. Over 2x's of what is considered a healthy weight. It was a way of protecting myself from the world - putting a physical barrier between myself and the world based on things that happened when I was younger. Issues of abandonment, rejection, low self worth all contributed to me turning to food for comfort. After my dad left we were very poor and were on welfare. High carb diet (Ramen noodles, mac and cheese) contributed to poor eating habits and weight gain.

I was 240 when I got pregnant and got down to 204. I eventually gained it all back plus some. After I started working at Foremost, I lost 30 pounds on a low calorie diet and exercising during lunch. Once lunches went to 30 minutes, I gave up and gained it all back. I didn't make any effort to lose weight or have a healthier lifestyle for another 6 years.

It's hard to be fat. You don't fit into chairs. When you go to a restaurant and someone suggests eating outside, you do a subtle scan of the chairs to see if they're sturdy, if the arms are narrow, if you'll be uncomfortable spilling over the sides of the seat during the meal. When somebody asks if you want to go to a baseball game, you hope they have tickets fro the expensive, roomy seats. Nobody wants to sit next to you in the Metro or on the bus. You see every seat fill up around you while the one next to you remains resolutely empty.

People can be and at times are very cruel. I watch them. I see their looks, their rolling of the eyes. The glances between two friends where one will puff out their cheeks to emulate being fat and the other will double over laughing. But nobody will ever talk about it. You can't make reference to it yourself. It's the elephant in the room and if you ever mention needing to lose weight, or having to shop in the plus size department, people look awkward and look away. It becomes your job not to make people uncomfortable, not to talk about it, not to push it. You diminish your expectations for a good life in order to have some semblance of happiness.

The turning point for me wasn't anything earth shattering. My mother, who had been doing Weight Watchers offered to pay for a 3 month membership for my birthday. At first I thought that it was a horrible idea for a gift and truly just wanted her to give me the money. $120 would buy me a great pair of shoes. I hemmed and hawed about it for a few weeks. Then I noticed that when I was leaving work wearing heels that my ankles were hurting when I walked down the stairs. With my love of shoes, that was unacceptable and I decided then and there to take Mom up on her offer.

I joined WW and went to the first meeting. It wasn't that long. The worst part was being weighed and realizing that I wasn't too far away from 300 pounds. The first week I stuck to the program. I journaled what I ate, I measured my food to learn what a correct portion was. I cut back on diet soda and drank a lot of water. I stayed within the point range that WW said I should be at. The next week I weighed in and I had lost nothing. I was devastated. I wanted to cry during the meeting. I did cry afterwards. I talked to my leader and she said to give it another week. Sometimes it just takes time for your body to catch up with what you are doing.

The second week I lost 7 pounds.

Within the first month I realized that WW was something that I could do. It wasn't that hard to stick to the program. The points were relatively easy to figure out. I made a promise to myself then and there that I was going to do this. No "we'll see how it goes" or "I'll try". It was more of a "I am going to do this no matter what. There is no other option than to succeed."

From June 13 to the middle of October, I had lost 40 pounds. I noticed that my weight loss was slowing down so I figured that it was time to bite the bullet and start working out. At first I went to the workout room downstairs and walked on the treadmill or tried the elliptical. The first time I tried it, I made it about 2 minutes and thought that I was going to pass out. Slowly I worked up my resistance and speed and now can easily do 30 minutes at a level 7. After about 6 months of working out downstairs I joined a gym. I work out 4-5 times per week and have found workouts that I love like Zumba.

In 13 months, I went from 287.5 pounds and have lost 97 pounds and currently weigh in at 190. I have gone from a size 24 to a size 12/14. I still have 50 pounds to lose but I am not worried about it. I know that I won't ever give up and that it really is all mind of matter. My mind is overcoming my matter.

Weight loss, like being fat, is also hard. Lots of people are able to make it work, but a lot of people can't make it work. This doesn't mean that they are stupid, lazy or that they aren't trying and it doesn't mean that they aren't thinking about it every minute of the day and they probably spend a lot of the time thinking about what you think about it. They don't need people making fun of them, talking about them or treating them any less than anyone else.

There are a lot of preconceptions of obese people. They are dirty, slothful, lazy and poor employees. Many times the opposite is true. I rarely allowed myself a slobby day because if I went out in public, I was perpetuating the stereotype of what many people viewed obese to be. Many non-obese people see obesity as a lifestyle choice in spite of the great difficulty obese people face when trying to lose weight.

Discriminating against and making fun of fat people is one of the only acceptable forms of prejudice. You would never openly mock someone because of their race, sexual orientation or religion. You might do it behind closed doors but not to their face. But it is OK to make fun of fat people. Why? Usually they don't fight back. They look at you with a sad, disappointed face, turn and walk away. Obese people don't need others to make fun of them, talk about them or treat them as less of a person. No one ever said anything to me, however hurtful, that I hadn't already thought to myself a thousand times before.

Everyone has things that they struggle with. Just because theirs is on the outside for everyone to see, doesn't give anyone the right to harass them or treat them with disrespect. Besides, nothing you say, kind or unkind, can ever convince a person to improve themselves. That kind of motivation has to come from within, and only when the person is ready. The most helpful thing you could do for an obese friend is to listen to them and be there for them when they need to talk.

To people who are where I was: it doesn't matter where you are on your journey or if you have even started it, when you are ready, you can achieve amazing things. If you are happy with where you are, I am so proud of you. Accepting yourself is the first step to reaching acceptance from others. As long as you are comfortable in your skin and love yourself that is all that matters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unexpected Bonuses

For the first time since I was in 8th grade, my sister and I weigh roughly the same.

She has always been the skinny sister and I was always the fat one.

It helped her that she always worked on her feet and was walking miles a day and when at home running after 3 kids.

We were talking yesterday and we realized that we wear the same size.

I am going to Washington next week to visit family. I get there on Tuesday, and my sister will get there from Texas, on Friday.

I have a feeling that I will be coming back missing a few cute outfits. But she is my sister, so I won't mind giving them up...too much.

I also convinced her to try Zumba with me. They have classes at the YMCA and my mom can get us 2 week passes.