Lovely news, thanks Mum

I am delighted that my niece Rosie and her husband Jason are the very proud parents of Harry James, born early yesterday morning 21 December 2019 by emergency C; weight 5lb and totally perfect. Rosie is fine too; thank goodness for good medical care which, in this case, was literally life-saving. I’ve talked about it before so won’t go into it again – but if you would like to support them on their difficult journey, being walked in love, you can donate here.

I have done a page in my Dylusions journal about it because art helps me work through the feelings. Yesterday I cried. Tears of gratitude that Rosie survived a high-risk pregnancy. Tears of love for a baby who was at considerable risk. Tears of admiration for Jason, learning to be a Dad even as he learns to walk again following an accident that could have killed him. Tears of sadness for all the babies who couldn’t stay with me. Maybe even a few tears of jealousy at Rosie becoming a Mum when I never managed a live baby. (it’s ok Rosie – it’s me learning to feel, not eat as self-soothing)

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3 years ago

Today it’s 3 years since I had weight loss surgery; C bypass to be precise, also called a mini bypass. It was meant to be RNY Bypass but I had so much internal scarring it couldn’t be done. My surgeon, Atul, prefers this operation but it’s not popular in NZ.

My highest weight was 139.9kg and my lowest post surgery was 60kg, which wasn’t a good look. I got so low, not by trying, but because I got incredibly sick and was in and out of hospital including a brief stint on life support.

I’m back to exactly where Atul (and the surgeons in New Plymouth who treated me) said I should be – 75kg. Some days my head tells me that the gain means I have failed and will get super fat again. But the sensible part of me knows that is not true. The reality is I was too thin, it didn’t look good especially for my face, and I felt frail.

We’ve been talking about our mental wellbeing on a FB support group and I just commented that “All of us – fit or not, at goal or not, plastic surgery or not – have to find a place where our bodies & our heads are comfortable and that we can maintain without weight/fitness being the main focus of our lives – because that’s not really living”.

At this weight I can eat fairly normally in a high protein, healthy fat & low carb way. I don’t exercise because of my physical limitations so can’t rely on that for extra control. And my weight is not the biggest thing in my life.

I am incredibly grateful to Atul; I believe he saved my life and I continue to save it by doing the right things. I am still a food addict, and chocolate is my crack, but I have the tools to manage no. So grateful…

 

Star Struck!

This week’s quote speaks to me – I’m a firm believer in the power of gratitude, and this is a timely reminder not to whine! I’ve got a friend who is struggling to make the changes they say they want. I’ve suggested more than once their lack of clarity, and gratitude, is getting in the way of the Universe providing for them.

The challenge was to use acrylic paint, and stars. I have plenty of star stencils from Tim Holtz & Dyan Reaveley, so used dark blue paint, silver and copper Nuvo mousse and Golden Fibre paste for the stars. The background is Dylusions paints because I love their intense colours.

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One year on I’m half the person I was!

A year ago today Ailsa and I were in Wellington and I was recovering from a gastric bypass with Atul Dhabuwala. It’s been a huge year with some major medical dramas, some of them ongoing. Just this morning I received an appointment to see Dr Anderson (the neurologist) as a follow-up to a stroke caused by the lead-up to Aspiration Pneumonia. I have a paralysed vocal cord, which ACC agree is a result of medical misadventure at Base Hospital. It is slowly healing but I sound like Darth Vader! 

In 2010, before we went to Italy for the Legato exhibition, I weighed 139.6kg. I lost 25kg before we left, but slowly regained 22kg. Dad died of a heart attack at 65 years old, and Mum died at 89 having suffered 16 years of ill health related, in part at least, to her weigt. When I discovered I could withdraw my KiwiSaver to fund surgery there was no looking back.

Atul set a goal weight of 75kg for me, based on the average percentage of excess weight people lose. To be a normal BMI I need to be 68kg. I’ve dropped below Atul’s goal; one year on, I have lost 70.2kg and sitting at 69.4kg. So, I am officially half the person I was…

Thanks to my boss Fiona, staff and colleagues, and STDC as a whole, for concern and support. My sister Ailsa for going with me for the surgery and check-ups, for taking me to hospital more than once, for cleaning up and sorting out, and listening. My best friend of 48 years, Sandra, who has cared without fussing, and just recently asked me “are you okay being this thin?” (or words to that effect) and when I said yes, was happy for me and left it at that.

And of course to Tony, who has dealt with a very, very sick wife – he has cleaned up unmentionable messes without complaint when I was at my sickest. He has coped with a shrinking wife, which must feel odd, and smiled patiently as I bought endless rounds of smaller clothes.  

It’s been a hell of a journey and I have truly earned every gram I have lost. If anyone thinks weight-loss surgery is the easy way out I have news for them! It is a battle every day to drink enough, to eat the right things, and to understand my fat brain.

Has it been worth it? Hell yes! I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Have I rewarded myself? Hell yes! I have always wanted an Annah Stretton Flip dress. On Thursday Tony and I went shopping for the day to celebrate his 71st birthday, and enjoyed dinner on the way home.  The photos below tell the story…

 

My mum

As many of you know, until May of this year my Mum was being cared for at home by Tony and I, and had been for 14 years. She had a stroke and decided to go into a rest-home as she no longer felt safe alone when we were at work. In the months since her health has got progressively worse, despite the wonderful care she has been receiving. Her kidney and heart problems were reaching end stage.

Mum spent 3 weeks in hospital recently and we decided, along with medical staff, that Mum would return to the rest-home and never go back to hospital. If she got sick we would use comfort care only, and if she got an infection such as pneumonia we would not treat it. Mum had simply got too sick.

Friday last week her health deteriorated rapidly overnight and the palliative care nurse was called in. We got to the home at 10am and basically never left again. We had a quite rough afternoon and evening but by midnight Friday she was comfortable. I went home for 3 hours sleep, and Ailsa went for off for a bit when I got back.

Ailsa and her family were down because we had already planned an early family Christmas, so both Ailsa and I and our husbands, and most of her grandchildren were able to spend time with her. The rest-home manager, Judy, sat with Mum for an hour while we had Christmas lunch – Judy said Mum would be proud of us for doing the family thing for her.

Mum slept all afternoon with us stroking her hands and hair, and talking to her. She passed away peacefully late afternoon Saturday with Ailsa, Tony and I right with her.

I am glad she found the peace she needed to be able to let go and join Dad. I will miss her terribly but I am grateful she is no longer in pain.

I want to share some of the things I wrote to say at the funeral: I ended up only saying part of it, for various reasons, so here it is:

In the 14 years ago Tony and I looked after Mum the Hawera ED staff got to know us on a first name basis…  We’ve had amazing care from medical and ambulance staff over the years. On Mum’s behalf, I have to say a special thanks to Dr Bok and ICU Nurse Simon – she remembered you both right to the end.

My sister Ailsa has provided endless support, coming down from Auckland most months. She’s been the patient recipient of many “hey, we’re just off to ED” phone calls, providing support, and a sounding board.  In turn, she could not have done it without the endless support of Jim and their children.

Finally my husband Tony. We’d only been married 3 years when Mum got sick; for most of the years we have been together we’ve been caring for Mum. You haven’t just used your ambulance skills with Mum, you’ve been patient and kind; you made her laugh and taught her to do the fingers! You’ve supported me when I had to make difficult choices and never once suggested a particular path just to make life easier for yourself. Those things are part of the reason I love you; thank you for having taken this journey with me.

I have worked full-time throughout the years Mum’s been sick. Sometimes, particularly when Mum was very sick and I was truly nursing her – feeding her, dressing her, tucking her into bed at night –people have asked if I was tired or whatever. Yes, I was; tired as all hell sometimes. But few daughters get to spend the quality time with their ageing mother that I have had, and, as I have written on her coffin, the journey with Mum was worth every second. 

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Gratitude

Every Christmas I give small gifts to the people who keep our rather complicated household running; Teresa who cleans for us, Mum’s weekday caregivers Wai and Carolyn, the staff at the  rest home Mum visits 2 days a week and who deliver a midday meal the other 3 weekdays, our fabulous doctors clinic, and the Hawera Hospital A&E and Hawera Hospital Inpatient’s Ward Doctors and staff.

Yes, I know they are all ‘only doing their jobs’ but without some of them Mum would have died years ago now, and we would not be able to care for her at home. We just couldn’t, so I am immensely grateful. I give a range of gifts – this year A&E and the inpatient ward are getting (slightly late) a handmade gift box each with fancy coffee bags, fruit tea, butter shortbread, cashew nuts and a few chocolate truffles. And a card that says “never underestimate the difference you make in our lives” because I think in the hustle of the day-to-day they must sometimes lose sight of just how powerful what they do really is.