Thursday, August 28, 2014

followups: Preaching and Mom and FML

PREACHING:
So last week the God-Botherer (as I think of him) did not mention God, the Bible, or Jesus. He sat in the corner radiating horrible energy. Red and black tentacles, anger. Like a nest of angry rattlesnakes. Honestly, a bit scary. I think he needs an exorcism and I'm pagan and don't believe in demons or devils.
But the more I thought about him, and certain things he said, the more I started to be afraid of him and not want to be near him and his horrible energy anymore.
Today in group, one guy was talking about his situation. His pregnant girlfriend dumped him. He is scared he won't be part of his baby's life. All valid concerns and cromulent things to discuss in a coping skills group. God-Botherer speaks up. Basically, this is what he said: The Bible says you shouldn't have sex before marriage. If you practiced abstinence this wouldn't have happened to you. I groaned, out loud (fuck him) and very pointedly turned my back and stared at the wall.  The therapist started to berate him, rather gently, saying that religion wasn't appropriate here.  God-Botherer just steamrolled over him and started saying how "in the good old days" there was only two religions, Jesus Christ and Jewish.  (That's how he put it.)  He then referred to a woman in the group who is maybe 50 and said, "she remembers."  I turned to her, and speaking over God-botherer, said, "You look pretty good for being 2,000 years old" and she laughed.  Someone else said that Islam was also a valid third religion.  God-Botherer was still talking about abstinence and how no one should have sex before marriage ever for any reason because BIBLE and people used to follow the Bible and this never happened then.  Finally I said, very loudly, "This has nothing to do with this guy's problems!"
I'm visiting my PCP next week.  If she will take over prescribing my prozac I am quitting that group.  And I am telling the therapist I am quitting because that guy is offensive and also scary and totally doesn't belong in that group.


MOM:
My mom's cancer is stage 4.  She started chemo this week.  She is weak.  All the fluid they had drained from her abdomen came back.  She can't eat.   She can't poop.   She is crabby.  Everything makes her cry.  It is awful.  I am heartbroken and frustrated and I don't know what to do.

FML:
A couple of days after my last post, my car broke down at 142,000 miles.  I had to junk it.  My husband got me a new SUV, slightly smaller, but now we have double car payments for 25 months.   The plan had been that my car would make it until September 2016 and then I'd get a new one.  So yay, I have an awesome new car.  and BOO it's costing A LOT of money to have this car.  Hubby doesn't believe in used cars.
image source

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Monday, August 18, 2014

F M L

FML. Seriously. Fuck My Life. On Friday, I got a phone call early. "Hi, this is your mother's oncologist. Do you know what's going on?" Well, since you're an oncologist, I'm guessing my mom has cancer.
Today we had the definitive meeting with said oncologist, who is really very nice. It's got to be a terrible job, to tell people they are going to die a horrible painful death.
 My mom has stage 3/4 (indefinite) ovarian cancer, which has already metastasized into the outer part of her intestines, her uterus, and possibly her liver.  It has spread too much for surgery.  She is going to start chemo in a week.  Possibly the chemo can shrink it enough to have surgery.  Perhaps she might live 3 years.
This is what the Mayo Clinic has to say:
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and is frequently fatal.
I was thinking before that the previous thing her ovaries made was me.  This cancer is my evil murderous sibling.


Follow up on Bible-thumper (see previous 2 posts): 

I wasn't able to go to the next group therapy after I complained about the Bible-thumper. That was the day my mom got her chest CT scan and they found a pulmonary embolism. Which obviously I haven't even mentioned because HEY what's one more thing that can kill my mom?   When the scan found the blood clot in her lung, they would not let us leave until they called her doctor, who had her immediately go to the ER and get admitted.  Probably the fluid in her lungs and the clot were all caused by the cancer.  Regardless, I was in the ER at the time of therapy.
If this week he says one fucking thing about his god to me I am going to walk out of therapy.  If I don't, I'll punch him.  I told my mom that and she said "Don't punch anyone."

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Monday, August 11, 2014

preaching follow up

I did not speak of my own problems at last week's group. I did not want to hear any Bible/Jesus shit from that freak.  If you missed my last post, this guy basically told me that the problems other people are having around me are because I'm a pagan.
At the end of the session, I indicated to the therapist that I wanted to talk to him.  He said, "What's up?"  And there, lurking, was Bible thumper.  I said, "I'd like to talk in private," quite pointedly looking at the Bible guy.  We started walking down the hall.  Bible guy followed.  The therapist asked again what was wrong.  I turned and looked at Bible guy who was still following and said, "it's about him."
Once we were in his office with the door closed, I said how upset I had been at the implication that the problems of my loved ones were caused by my religion.  And the therapist agreed, and said he had gone too far.  I reminded him of the time he told the sad woman that she'd be happy in heaven too.  I said how uncomfortable I am every week that he has to bring the Bible and Jesus and prayer into everyone else's recovery plan.   In fact this week someone suggested to Bible Thumper that he hang a dream catcher above his bed to help with his nightmares.  His face was FROZEN in disapproval.  It was actually kind of awesome to see.  And the therapist read from a book on Buddhism, a passage about non-attachment.  The therapist actually confessed to me that he was worried that (Bible Thumper) would be offended by the Buddhist reading!  But it's okay that Bible Thumper offends me?
The end of the conversation was basically that the therapist hadn't really realized how far Bible Thumper was pushing the envelope with his constant Jesus/Bible/prayer talk.  He agreed with me that it was inappropriate for him to suggest it to anyone else, and that he was going to call him and say he could only talk about Jesus/Bible/prayer in conjunction with his OWN recovery and not anyone else's.
I might not make it to this week's session because I have to go to the hospital with my mom for some tests because they still don't know what's wrong with her.  It might be another week before I find out if the Bible thumping and preaching will stop.
image source

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

what's going on, and pathological proselytizers

This will be a bit off topic as it has nothing to do with weight, but it's what's been going on in my life.
A couple of weeks ago, my best friend found a huge (golf ball sized) lump in her breast. The same day she went to the doctor for it, my other good friend had to take her ex-husband to court because he was threatening to kill her and kidnap their (now grown) children. My mom hadn't been feeling good, and 3 days after all this happened, she went to the doctor and they said she was in congestive heart failure with possible kidney failure.
So it was like bam-bam-bam, all these people around me, possibly going down. Cancer, murder/kidnapping, heart failure. 
Obviously, I was a mess. I know I get too wrapped up in other people's stuff, but possible cancer? My mom could die? My friend's literally insane (schizophrenic) ex-husband telling a judge he was going to "get her" in open court? How can I blithely ignore any of that and go on?
The obvious thing to do was to bring it up in my stress management and coping skills group therapy session. That's what it's for, right?
I told the story basically how I told it here.  And I added the caveat, to go with that day's theme, that my "story" (internal monologue) is that I'm alone.  Having the possibility of losing 3 people who are close to me reinforces that story.
Since it's a coping skills group, the response should be, here's some ways to cope with this issue.  And then everyone discusses my problems for a couple of minutes, and we move onto someone else.
Instead, this guy speaks up.  He is a schizophrenic Bible thumper and, IMHO, doesn't belong in the group.  A few weeks back, I had given my business card to a lady in the group who was interested in buying some Tibetan singing bowls from me.  He asked for one too.  I really didn't want to give him one...but I did.  Now that comes back to haunt me.
Basically, this guy said (not a quote, more of a summing up), "If you believed in God then all these bad things wouldn't be happening around you.  I went to your web site, and you believe in some horrible things, and this is what happens."
To say that I wanted to smack him, to scream at him, doesn't do my feelings justice.
Did you just say that because I'm a pagan, my friend might have cancer, my other friend's ex wants to kill her and hurt their children, and my mom might die?!
Two of the people on that list are (nominally) Christian.  So your precious God would punish other people who believe in him because of my nonbelief?
I am firmly convinced that this guy's pathological need to preach and bring up Jesus and the Bible for every fucking subject is part of his mental disorder.  Some kind of transference of addiction (from drugs and alcohol to JEBUS!).  My insurance company isn't paying for me to go to Bible school, they are paying for me to go to therapy. 
I have a call into the therapist that runs the group. I'm hoping he calls me back before our next session.  I don't even want to talk anymore.  If this ass brings up Jesus or the Bible or being a Christian again in response to someone's problems, I might go off on him.  And you know I'll be the one to get in trouble.  He told a woman who was very sad and has anhedonia (inability to feel joy) that she should have FAITH because when she dies she'll be with JESUS and everything will be good then and nothing now matters.  The therapist did not say anything.  I sat there with my mouth open, thinking, did you just basically tell this person to kill herself to be happy with Jesus?
I wonder if I should say "it's this group that's stressing me out, the one person who can't stop talking about Jesus," at today's session.
image source

Follow up: my friend's lump was full of fluid and most likely a benign cyst. Other friend got a third-party restraining order, meaning if her ex contacts anyone about her, he goes to jail. My mom is still undergoing tests but now they think it's not heart or kidneys but something else.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

new account

The email address on every post previous to this is incorrect due to Yahoo's stupidity. They are supposed to wait 90 days to recycle an account (their word for deleting it) and they deleted mine after approximately thirty days. If you need to reach me, it's now ITSAFATLIFEBLOG at YAHOO dot COM. Sorry.


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Saturday, March 08, 2014

double dose

Today, 2 weeks late (or maybe 3), I've finally started taking 2 Effexors. I took the 2 at lunch time, while out with friends. Just after they left my house, I started feeling very strange. I felt like I couldn't hear--my ears feel all clogged.  I was dizzy. I felt sick to my stomach. Smells are really intense. I feel dizzy, woozy. And tomorrow I have to drive about 50 miles to a wake. I'm hoping my husband will drive, even if he stays in the car. It's not a death I can skip; I know the deceased and the family. My hands aren't shaking yet but I feel like they are going to.
Basically I feel like I'm right on the edge of something.
But I'm not experiencing that intense tiredness yet.  So we'll see how it goes.  Seeing the doctor on Friday.
As far as them working on depression...I don't feel SAD precisely, just very unmotivated.  My eyes feel sad, if that makes any sense, but the rest of me doesn't.  I just don't feel like doing anything, work-wise.   And I have a ton of stuff to do.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Stop telling me to eat!

It's going on two weeks that I've been on a real low dose of Effexor.  It makes me jittery and exhausted.  That's annoying.  It also has made me lose interest in food.  That's a bonus.  I'm going to ride out that side effect as long as I can.  I'm a big fat ass and anything that helps me lose weight or eat less is a plus.
Anyone who sees me, even from a distance, can see how fat I am.  It's not a secret.  I can't hide it with baggy clothes.
But what are people's reactions to hearing that I'm eating almost nothing due to this pill? "you have to eat!" "you aren't eating three meals a day? Why not?"
I'm not because, frankly, right now I can go without and not feel deprived.  I'm not eating because I'm very very fat and I'm in no danger of starving to death.
But when I say that, everyone is shocked.  I don't get it.  I'm not that type of body dysmorphic.  I know I'm fat.  Did you think I don't know?  Do you not know that I'm fat?
In 2012 when I went for medical weight loss everyone praised my willpower when I barely ate on their plan and lost weight (and was desperately unhappy).  Now I'm not eating with no willpower involved and losing weight (and not unhappy) and that's bad?  What am I missing?
I told a friend of mine who was saying I need to eat: when you can see my bones you can tell me to eat. 
When I have a space between my thighs.
When you can see my hip bones through my clothes.
When my elbow is bigger than my upper arm.
Then, and not before, you can say, "Rosie, you should eat something."
(posted from smart phone, sorry if errors)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

my 600-lb life James' story (synopsis and review)

This is the episode of TLC's My 600 Lb Life from two weeks ago...I've been so ill with my new anti-depressant I've gotten behind on my reviews.  Sorry.
I've watched how many of these shows...and yet upon seeing the opening to this one, my first thought was "wow, he's big." James Jones is 37 years old and 728 lbs.  He lives in a beautiful rural part of Texas in a house that looks like a modern church; lives with his mom who is overweight but not morbidly obese.  He fell and got stuck against a wall and the fire department had to come and break him out; the wall is still busted. 
He says he weighed about 200 in middle school and close to 300 by age 16.  As an accountant, he sat down all day and gained weight.  After work every day he eats fast food.  (Honestly I don't know how he fits behind the wheel of his car as I weigh less than half what he does and I feel cramped!)  Then he gets home and eats the meal his mom cooked him, plus dessert.  The last time he went to the doctor "a few years ago" he weighed 750 and his mom feels he blames her.  She says they have a family history of obesity; his dad died weighing 450, and he lost his sister six month later to weight-related issues (unspecified; she doesn't really look that large in the photo).  
The over-sized hospital bed belonging to the dad before his death then went to the sister, who died, and then the son moved to it.  It's like a cursed bed of overweight death.  I hope at the end of the episode they burn it or something.
Dr Nowzaradan asks James about his eating habits; he replies "I eat quite a bit and quite often" he admits to eating up to 4 times a day.  The doctor says James is "not going to survive much longer" and gives him the usual "lose 50 lbs" before surgery and surprisingly sends him home, not admitting him to get him to lose weight.
 To lose weight he appears to be eating scrambled eggs (or maybe an omelet) and toast.  To exercise he works out in the yard.  He wants to start a hay business but he can't get into his expensive new tractor.  A grizzled old farmer friend of his seems almost in tears as he says that he has to use a forklift to get James into his tractor and that ain't right and he wants James to be able to get into the tractor by himself in the next year. 
He loses 53 lbs and the doctor is very happy and schedules James' surgery for the next week.  Dr Nowzaradan said James is one of his largest patients ever and that the surgery will be challenging and risky.  James gets both the smaller stomach and the rearranged intestines for his surgery and wakes up in a lot of pain.  He gets up and walks right away, inspired by the fact that a woman he met online came to visit him in the hospital.  She is a former weight loss bypass patient herself.
A month after his surgery, he's lost about 25 more pounds, and is finally able to eat solid food.  His mother vows to feed him less.  He eats, as his first solid meal. a hot dog and beans and I couldn't tell what else was on the plate and gets sick.
He is a little pissed that a friend of his didn't come see him at the hospital or since, and when he questions her she answers that "some people work for a living" and she also seems a little miffed that James has met a new woman.  And then she starts crying.  In a voice over, he says he doesn't want to "keep getting hurt by her."
On his next visit, he is at 580, down 150 pounds in a few months with much hanging skin.  Dr Nowzaradan says when he's lost 200 lbs he can get the extra skin off.
He goes on his first date, ever, with the woman he met online and they seem to have a good time.   He is so happy he goes out for fast food and eats a huge platter of fried food in his car, saying he has "cravings."
Eight months in, he's at 565 lbs, and visits the cemetery to put flowers on his father's and sister's graves; both died in 2011.  He regrets that he wasn't able to help them.  His mother worries that Dr Nowzaradan said James could be there in that cemetery in a year if he doesn't lose weight, and James says if he died too, it would kill his mother.
He joins a gym with a pool very similar to the one I use and does water aerobics as his exercise, and gets down to 542 pounds, and decides to try to get onto his tractor.  A friend helps him get onto a platform and from there onto the tractor.
An unknown amount of time later, James is rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pain and has to undergo an emergency procedure.  Dr Nowzaradan decides he has to do the skin surgery removal right away as he thinks the extreme weight of the hanging skin pulling on his organs is what is causing all the pain.  
He goes on another date with his new girlfriend, even going dancing, and then goes in for his skin surgery a few days later.  I can only imagine that the skin removal surgery is almost as complex as when they take off a lymphedema mass.  In this case, they take 72 pounds of skin off him. SEVENTY TWO POUNDS.  No wonder his abdomen hurt! 
At the end, he weighs 376 lbs (down 352 lbs in a year; so just about half).  "I feel like I can do just about anything," he says.  He starts house shopping and talking about marriage with his girlfriend.  Seems like a happy ending to me!

image source: TLC

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

what's going on over here?

I started therapy a few weeks ago. It's group therapy. Most of the people in it are way more mentally ill than me. As in, hearing voices, on heavy-duty drugs, unable to drive or work or function. And this is the best group that I can fit in? The therapist who runs it said I have a "fierce intellect" like he has never seen before, that causes me to analyze and over-analyze everything, which is part of my anxiety. I had to go to the group a few times before I could see what they call a "prescriber" which is someone who hawks pills to you.
I spent an hour with this poor woman detailing all my problems. I felt bad for taking up so much of her time. I told her how I lost 9 pets and my dad and 2 jobs in a 2 year period. I detailed my marriage and mother-in-law issues, which are worse than ever. After paying her house taxes, she ran out of savings. Since she spends more every month that she receives, my husband has decided that WE have to pay the overflow. At least $500 a month. Because she won't sell her hoarder house. Meantime the mother is paying two loans that belong to my husband's brother and sister. So basically we'll be paying those loans off. There are no words for how angry I am. His sister "can't afford" to help out with money because she's too busy buying a new bigger house with 8 acres of land (but still no room for her mother of course) and his brother, well I don't even want to get into that. His wife is seriously mentally ill and it seems to be contagious. He was going to come back to CT and live in the house, fix it up, care for the mother, in exchange live rent free. He sent a proposal saying he wants $20k as a gift ("expenses") just to move there, $70k to fix up the house, the house put into his name immediately, plus he wants a full time salary, and his wife gets a part time salary, and no one can say anything about how he spends the $70k to fix up the house. Where all this money is supposed to come from, IDK, but when it was pointed out that his proposal was unreasonable, he and his wife basically lost their minds.
I've been really down lately. Probably my Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I get up, go to the pool for 2 hours or so, come home and go back to bed.  Get up, have lunch.  Pretend to work, really just look at lol cats and Cracked and Fark.  Go back to bed.  Repeat.
And I have all sorts of THOUGHTS.  Obsessive, bad, bad thoughts.
I'm in bed all day.  What if tomorrow I don't get up at all....and then I'm down the rabbit hole, into the "I'm gonna weigh 1000 lbs and they'll have to cut me out of the house and take me out in the whale sling."
Or, contamination.  My dishes aren't clean enough.  What if they got washed in the same water as cat dishes and they have cat food on them.  Now I'm pouring Dawn on the dishes directly and scrubbing them under boiling water but they still aren't clean so now I'm eating off paper plates because probably those aren't too contaminated.
The prescriber put me on Effexor (Venlafaxine), to replace the Wellbutrin.  It's got its good and bad points.
Substantial weight loss in patients with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobia have been noted, but the manufacturer does not recommend use as an anorectic either alone or in combination with phentermine or other amphetamine-like drugs. Venlafaxine hydrochloride is in the phenethylamine class of modern chemicals, which includes amphetamine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and methamphetamine. 
Well, half good, half bad?  Of course I've takenphentermine and it doesn't work on me for weight loss anymore so I'm not that hopeful.  And not crazy about something related to meth.  I like my teeth.
It could cause me to have a false-positive urine test showing that I'm on PCP.
It could make me depressed and anxious and suicidal, and give me migraines on top of that.  Not sure how that would be an improvement, unless I also start losing a lot of weight...

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

My 600-lb life: Paula (Commentary and spoilers)

This week's episode of My 600-lb Life features 542-lb, 39-year-old Paula Jones.  They show her in the shower, and her legs are almost deformed with fat, or maybe it's lymphedema.  Her children take care of her.  Her daughter describes her mom as "handicapped" after explaining how she has to put lotion on her mom's feet and put her shoes on her.
Paula goes downstairs sideways just like I do.  It looks terrible.  I hate that I do it.  I can only imagine she hates it too.
As a child she was molested, and after that she started to gain weight, and she "was always the big kid" from then on.  She graduated high school at 220 and then says she gained "50 pounds with each kid."  "Food doesn't hurt you emotionally," she explains.  Her husband died when he was 33 years old, weighing over 600 lbs, with failing kidneys and heart, about a year ago, bedridden.  (Although the numbers don't match up, how was he only 33 with teenage children who look old enough to drive?)
Fearing she'll be joining her husband in a box on the mantle, she heads to Dr Nowzaraden, weighing in at 533 lbs.  She explains that she eats late, she eats carbs, and doesn't exercise, and that she doesn't believe surgery will change her diet, but will somehow allow her to lose enough weight so she can exercise and then lose more weight.  She says that surgery itself is not a life change, but will lead to it. That makes no sense, of course, but perhaps it was edited. 
The doctor doesn't quite agree, saying that she "has to make life changing starting now" before the surgery, including changing eating habits and losing 20 pounds in the next month.
Two weeks later, she is eating fast food and pizza and deciding to move to Houston. Enn route Paula talks about how she wants to eat hot dogs and hamburgers and BBQ (and stops to do just that, at her husband's family's house).
She gained 17 lbs in that month instead of losing 20, and says "it's a real shock to see the weight gain" even though she was eating pizza, McDonald's, hot dogs, BBQ, and burgers (on camera! so what was she eating off camera?).  The doctor says "you clearly have an eating disorder and I cannot approve your surgery now."
He looks at her hernia, a giant thing like a pregnancy, saying that it should be repaired at the same time as her weight loss surgery.  He puts her on a liquid diet and reiterates the 20 pound loss, which would still put her at 3 pounds heavier than when she started.  
A week later, she is drinking what appears to be cold canned soup and complaining how she wants to eat chips and ice cream.  But she loses 33 pounds, and is approved for surgery, and told that she she should lose 15-20 more pounds in the next week or so.
(Seriously does that work?  If I just eat 3 cans of soup a day, can I lose 53 lbs in 6 weeks?)
She dyes her hair a crazy greenish-blue color to celebrate.   She is convinced her husband would have wanted her to have the weight loss surgery rather than die and leave their children alone.  The doctor fixes her hernia and gives her a gastric bypass. 
She wakes up with  no appetite, food smells make her "nauseous" (nauseated!  nauseous means you make other people feel sick, not that you feel sick), her stomach hurts, and she can't eat, and she's already saying she "can't do it" and in the next breath "failure is not an  option."  On the way home, though, she goes through a drive through to get her kids fast food.  She still eats what looks like fried food, although very small amounts. 
The first month after surgery she only loses 10 pounds, less than she lost on the soup-only pre-surgery diet.  The doctor is upset to hear that she's eating mashed potatoes, and says she will be gaining weight soon, and that she needs to eat protein.  She claims that's she's "done everything he asked her to do and it's not working."  I am very sure that fried foods, ketchup, and mashed potatoes were NOT on his list of things to eat.
Five months in, she is only down 56 lbs total.  She goes to Atlanta on a trip and says she can "only" eat fast food on the road.  As soon as she gets to her family, she eats (chicken wings, potato salad, and other foods that I'm sure aren't approved), and her family says she eats too fast, and that she needs to exercise and go to therapy.  Paula is upset that her family expects her to help clear dishes from the table and clean up, and she sits somewhere else and says "I don't wanna" and doesn't help.
The next month, she's gained a couple of pounds, and says she was eating correctly, but the doctor doesn't believe that she "is almost eating nothing" when if that was true, she should be losing a pound a day or more.   She responds that she is eating what he said, and she's confused.  After he leaves, she says "I don't know how to succeed."
Since having surgery, the only exercise the show has shown her doing is bringing a single casserole dish into the house and then sitting in the other room having a hissy fit at being expected to help.
She decides that "working out is a necessary evil...never fun" and goes to a gym.  (You can find something you like, but not with a total defeatist attitude!)  She says she "hits a wall" whenever she exercises and her "feet are heavy" and she "can't breathe" and she's not one of the people "born to work out" and she is about to pass out after about 15 minutes of basic weight lifting.  She says she's "not quite ready for all this right now" and runs to a drive-through for a burrito.
Finally she decides to see a therapist.  He says her weight is "a symptom of something more, of an emotional obstacle."  Paula is forced to think about her weight in a different way.
At her next weight in, she is down a total of 83 pounds, 19 in the last month.  Although she did not lose a pound a day, he says she is doing well with a better attitude.
When she loses 100 lbs, she dyes her hair pink, and aggressively continues going to therapy.  At the end of a year, she's at 371 pounds.  She doesn't get any extra skin taken off.  She's going to the gym, and bringing her children with her.
Image source: TLC

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

my 600-lb Life: Christina's story (Commentary, review, spoilers)

 This week's episode of My 600-lb life focuses on a 22-year old woman , 639 pounds, named Christina.   She's got giant lymphedema thighs (two of them--last week's episode featured a guy who had just one).
She complains that she can barely walk, can't leave the house, can't drive.  In 7th grade she weighed almost 300 lbs and at 17 she was almost 400, eating because her parents fought all the time, and feeling like she had to  protect her younger siblings from the household discord.
When she was 18,  the lymphedema tumors started--both legs and her belly.  Her husband and mother take care of her.  She gained 300 lbs since her marriage and she admits it's "out of control."   Her mother says "my full-time job is taking care of Christina."  Her husband says "it's a calling from god to take care of somebody" like he does his wife.  He says he gives her whatever she wants and he doesn't want to make her mad so he doesn't say no.  Her mother goes through a drive-through and gets 16 "Nibblers" which look like some kind of small sandwiches, for her daughter.  Sixteen sandwiches. 
I'm a big fat ass and I can say with some confidence, don't eat 16 sandwiches no matter what size they are.  No matter how yummy that sandwich is, 16 is too many. I've eaten four sliders (by themselves) as an entire meal and felt like a pig doing it.  I couldn't stuff 16 of those into me if you paid me.
She sees Dr. Nowzardan, who weighs her at just under 640 lbs.  He finds out that Christina's mother and husband don't work, spending all their time caring for her, cooking for her, bringing her food.  (I always wonder, where does all the money come from?!)  Right away Dr. Nowzardan says he has to separate mother and daughter as the mother will sabotage the weight loss and the mother is indignant, saying "no I won't."  He says "she is in bad shape, surrounded by enablers" and gives her the standard, "you have to lose at least 30 lbs in the next month to get the surgery."  She gets sent home for this weight loss, not admitted to the hospital like other cases have been.
The family moves into a trailer in Houston to be closer to the doctor and she can't get up the stairs to get into it.  Family includes her parents and grandma and at least one sibling.  It takes all of them to get her up into the trailer.
On the way to her 1 month weigh in she talks about how little she's been eating, as she's not hungry, so she's been sticking to fast food. 
Somehow I don't think that's what the doctor meant.
I have to digress here and say I must have gone about my attempt at weight loss surgery all wrong.  I actually tried to lose weight, to eat more healthful food, and told the truth during my nutrition and psych sessions.  I should have crammed myself with fast food and said "it's not my fault!" gotten a TV deal and I'd be thin right now.
She gained 17 lbs instead of losing 30 lbs. 
The mother jumps in saying "we can't cook proper food" and he says "that's typical of an enabler, I ask the patient a question and the enabler answers with an excuse."  He says it's a "dysfunctional family dynamic" and "very disturbing."  He asks Christina to describe what her husband gives her and she says fast food, a hamburger with a "couple" of fries (orders, I presume) or 3 slices of pizza and the doctor replies that she has to say no, that she can't eat that way.  The mother admits they might be part of the problem.  The doctor estimates her intake at 7,000 calories a day, and Christina starts to cry.  The doctor admits her to the hospital, to "separate her from her enablers and give her a chance,"  adding that "she's not too far from imminent death."  He said she could die from a simple cold at this point and her only success will come from being alone, and on a 1,000 calorie a day diet. 
But she refuses the food and her husband eats it instead.  So the mother makes fast food runs for her while she's in the hospital.  She loses only 4 lbs in a month.  Next to her hospital bed are fast food wrappers and cans of (non diet) Coke.  She should have lost 50 lbs and is innocent about how she could have only lost 4 lbs and who knows where those fast food wrappers and soda cans came from? 
I don't understand, if the doctor wanted to separate her from her enablers, why he allowed them to visit her all day every day in the hospital and bring in food. 
The doctor decides to do the surgeries in reverse and take off her lymphedema so she can lose weight through exercise instead of diet.  He explains how it's caused by "lack of drainage in the leg" and how dangerous it is to remove the tumors, how it can be life-threatening with all the blood vessels that need tying off.
He takes just off one mass, and it's 19 lbs.  He wants her to lose 50 more pounds before she can have the weight loss surgery.  She wakes up crying in pain with her enablers huddled around her, probably thinking she needs a milkshake.
She goes home and is able to walk easier, although she's still out of breath, and barely able to go up the ramp her family's built in place of the stairs she couldn't manage.
She's on 1000 calorie low carb, low fat diet, and she loses 61 lbs (including the 19 lb tumor).  She's six months into the 1 year of the show when she gets the bypass surgery.
She gets a traditional bypass, the very reduced stomach and the re-routed intestines.  Dr Nowzardan feels that she's going to do well because her family has rallied around her.  She goes home after 2 days. She's at 572 lbs when she leaves and her mother says she's going to encourage her daughter on the liquid diet.  Right away they are talking about biscuits, waffles and pancakes, and eating them in front of her.
At her next weigh in she's only lost 2 lbs and her husband's trying to make a joke about it.  The doctor is convinced that she's lying when she claims that she only eats once a day.  She complains about pain when eating, and stops eating all together, and ends up rushed to the hospital, with a gall bladder attack, so the organ gets removed.  Then her mother gets nervous about this surgery "I found out she could die"--well she could die from weighing almost 700 pounds too yet you kept buying her 16 sandwiches at a time.
She doesn't recover well and spends 3 weeks in the hospital, missing the birth of her sister's child.  Once she gets home, she can go for a walk in the park (with her dad behind her pushing her empty wheelchair) and she can dress herself, and sleep in the same bed as her husband, and she doesn't need round the clock care from her husband or mom anymore.
At the end of a year, she weighs 390 lbs, and she wants to go to college and become a nurse, even though she has to tour the facility in a wheelchair. 
Image source: TLC

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

My 600-lb Life: Chuck (synposis, commentary, spoilers)

The newest episode of TLC's My 600-lb Life is about Chuck Turner, of Beaumont Texas, who is 45 years old and weighs 693,  the biggest so far this season.
At almost 700 lbs, he can still walk, but with great difficulty, mostly because of the lymphedema tumor on the inside of his leg.  I'm not sure why so far every person on this show has consented to being filmed naked and fat in the shower, but Chuck is no exception. I'm also not sure why TLC covered his hip in that way, but I added the arrow that points to his lymphedema tumor.
He was a cute little kid, not fat.  He said he didn't start to gain weight until he was in his 30s.  When he got to around 300 lbs, something unrelated happened:  his wife was murdered.  He says "I shut the world out...and ate fast food three times a day."  So very sad.  Then he weighed himself at a scrap metal scale and he was 698 lbs.  
He met his new wife when he was around 600 lbs (she's very overweight herself) and they have a baby boy they adopted.  He can't play with his son because he gets winded.   He relies heavily on his wife to do things for him and feels bad.  He is sitting on the floor with his child and a cell phone near his foot starts to ring and he can't reach it to answer it; his wife has to come from the next room. 
She is very unhappy and complains about how difficult it is to be married to a 600 lb spouse.  I don't doubt that at all...but he weighed that when they got married.   It's not like he doubled in size after their marriage, from 300 to 600... She says their marriage is caregiver/patient, not intimate.  She's his servant, "a single mom with someone else there."
Chuck admits that he's got to lose weight "or I'm gonna die."
He heads to Houston to our friend Dr. Nowzaradan, with his wife nagging him the whole way.  "You're gonna have to change everything.  You're gonna hafta exercise."
Lady, can I tell you something?  Your husband weighs 700 pounds.  He knows he's fat and he knows he  has to change.  Being mean to him isn't going to help.  I'm less than half his size and I know that about myself.   Here is a big secret.  FAT PEOPLE KNOW THEY ARE FAT.  They know they need to eat better and eat less, and move more.  Nagging will not accomplish anything except maybe a secret chocolate cake binge.
Dr Nowzaradan asks Chuck what he thinks surgery will accomplish.  His answer?  "If you eat too much it's gonna hurt" and the doctor corrects him:  "it only does one thing.  Keeps you from eating a lot at one time.  You can still eat all day and gain 10 lbs."  He asks Chuck's wife about what she eats, and she says it's "fast food all day"  breakfast sandwich, donuts, apple fritters.  The doctor says if that doesn't stop, the surgery won't do anything.  He says "we have to figure out what kind of eating disorder you have" which is interesting because I don't ever think I heard Dr Nowzaradan mention eating disorders before.  
As soon as the doctor leaves, Chuck says they are going for fast food, "for the last time" while the doctor is saying that if Chuck doesn't stop eating fast food, the surgery won't work.  His wife says "he eats enough to feed 20 people" as they sit down at an all-you-can-eat buffet, straight from the weight loss surgeon's office, with his admonition that Chuck must lose 30 pounds before he can have surgery.
I'm sure 20 people is an exaggeration, but clearly Chuck does not work.  Who is paying for all this food?  For this really expensive surgery?  And how did he adopt a baby at that weight?
At the buffet, their table is loaded with full plates of food and he's eating from all of them.  In a voice over, he's complaining that he's a person "that don't like change."
After that, he goes on a liquid diet, eating only chicken broth while his wife eats chicken Alfredo.  He swears he's not cheating.  He goes down to 667 lbs in a month and his surgery is scheduled.  He says "surgery for me is like closing the casket on that 700 lb man" which is an interesting, if morbid, way to look at it.  
He believes if the surgery fails, he's a failure, and this is his last chance at life.  He wants a job, to be a provider. 
He gets a classic bypass, a small pouch of a stomach and his intestines re-routed.
I'm not sure why different people get different surgeries.  The last few got most of their stomachs removed but no intestinal bypass.  (I know that a second surgery can be done to reroute the intestines later but none of those other patients had that done.)
As soon as Chuck gets out of surgery, his wife goes home and leaves him alone.  Chuck is very upset.  His wife says "I'll call you tomorrow" (implying that she's not coming to visit) and Chuck says "Don't bother."
Unlike the person on last week's show, Chuck gets up and walking right away.  He says he doesn't care about food, he only cares about his wife and family, and even calls to apologize to her.  When she sees him again she complains that he was "grouchy."  Right after major surgery, after a month on a liquid diet.  I can't imagine him being grouchy.
 Chuck gets to go home right away, even though the doctor thinks he's not going to follow the rules, and he's concerned that his wife's focus is only on when Chuck can go back to work.
On the way home they are fighting and squabbling, with Chuck in terrible pain.  His wife  says "I can't handle it anymore."
Chuck says the surgery hasn't taken away his cravings.  He says "I'm eating less but I like to eat good food."  He goes for fast food and gets eggs and bacon, and then vomits into the fast food bag while eating it.   He says he had "a pork chop and french fries" the night before, and he makes his wife bring him medicine because he's so sick from something he ate.
A month post surgery, he's down to 635 lbs, 21 lbs in a month, which is not as much as the doctor wanted, which was at least 30 lbs a month.   The doctor says "Chuck is one of those patients who will never tell the truth about what he's eating."
Then, out of nowhere, his wife, who works full time and who is in nursing school, decides to also get weight loss surgery.  At that point her husband is down to 611 lbs.   She cries because her husband won't be able to take care of her like she did him. (Oh, like leaving him for days as soon as he gets out of major surgery?)
Chuck says he'll do the dishes and take out the trash.  He's eating a huge bowl of popcorn and his wife asks for her pain medicine and he says "you want me to make a special trip?"  He is upset that losing 100 lbs means nothing to her.  She says, he's lost 100 lbs and nothing has changed.  He goes to the drive through and gets 4 pieces of chicken and a large coleslaw, saying "I'm eating better, she just doesn't see it." 
At 526 pounds, he still isn't doing anything around the house, and she serves him with divorce papers, saying she is miserable, but he says it's about money and he'll put new tires on the car.  He claims, rightly so, that his leg (the giant lymphedema tumor) handicaps him.  She just yells at him.  He says if they are divorced, he'll have no insurance, he won't be able to visit the doctor, get his lymphedema and his skin removed.
His wife packs and leaves him alone, crying, saying he has  no reason to live.
It is honestly very sad and I felt my throat tighten up.
Although I'm not sure they needed to show his whole sobbing conversation with his wife on the phone after she's left.
He finally figures out it's not his weight, it's other issues.  He has anger and lashes out for no reason.  He goes swimming in a lake by his house, the tumor hanging down, huge and horrible, and thinks about how he has to deal with his first wife's murder.
 He revisited the doctor, and is down to 419 lbs.  The doctor looks at the lymph edema, and says he'll take off the tumor.  Chuck says how much it grosses people out.  Well, look at that picture, it looks like he has elephantiasis of the testicles.
His wife gives him a second chance at the time of the second surgery.  The doctor talks about how difficult the surgery is to remove the tumor, that every blood vessel (400 blood vessels!) and nerve has grown into the tumor, and if he messes up the removal Chuck could lose his leg and even his life.  It ends up weighing 25 lbs once it's off.  Imagine walking with a 25 lb bag of meat attached to your inner thigh.
After the leg surgery, he's down to 343 lbs.  He puts together a big wooden play scape for his son, and he's able to interact with his son more and play with him, and he's able to sit at the table and eat. 
His wife lost 90 lbs and went down to 218 lbs.  At the end, he's 268 lbs, down 425 lbs, and he's happy, and his face looks very handsome and content.
The doctor warns him that his eating disorder might come back and to be careful the next five years.
I felt really good about Chuck and his outcome.   This is one of the happier shows, even with the almost divorce in the middle.

image sources:  shower & bathing suit/TLC


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Saturday, January 25, 2014

600-lb life: Penny review/synopsis/SPOILERS

The next installment of TLC's My 600-lb Life features Penny, a 46 year old Maryland woman weighing 530 lbs.  The opening scenes show her husband rolling her over to give her a bedpan to poop into.  She can't roll over on her own.  It takes both his hands and what looks like a lot of strength for him to get her from her back to her side.  In the next moment he is bringing her a large tray of fried food, maybe chicken tenders or pieces of fish.
She says she weighed 300 lbs by age 22.  Her world has shrunk to her bed and as far as her arms reach.  She admits that if her son wouldn't come to her, she'd never be able to do anything for him.  Her husband Edgar has had to take over all the family duties, video taping the son's extra curricular activities for his wife to watch and Skyping from the dinner table to her hospital bed in the other room.
He met her when she weighed 450 and did not mind her weight at that time.  When she got pregnant she weighed 630 and then she couldn't lose it.  Edgar can't work as he's a full time caregiver to his wife, and they live off her disability.
Her history includes an abusive father, not surprisingly.  Her sisters feel that she's going to die before her son is 10 (not sure how old he is).  So she decides to head to Texas for weight loss surgery, where she will be lying on a hospital mattress on the back of a van, unable to get out until the journey is finished.
She needs a stretcher and several paramedics/firemen to get her outside to the van.  She fills the entire back of the van.  On the way they stop for fast food.
Our usual friend Dr Nowzaradan meets her in the parking lot because she can't get out of the van unassisted, and again many people and a stretcher are needed to get her into the hospital and in a bed.  Her BMI is 85.7.
The doctor questions her need for oxygen says that she has "issues" and that "she plays a victim" and forces her family to be "enablers." He puts her on the usual 1200-calorie-a day-diet to see how much weight she can lose in the first month.  She loses 40 lbs in the first couple of weeks so he agrees to do surgery on her--the "first" surgery.
He gives her a sleeve gastrectomy too, like the last one.  Her stomach is initially the size of a football.  But when she awakens after the surgery, she says she has no plans to get up and walk, making a joke about being able to play the piano after hand surgery when she couldn't play before.  I know that you have to be up and walking that day, and every day, until you go home.  Even with weight loss surgery, you can't neglect to exercise.
Her husband shows off their new apartment.  The fridge and cabinets are full of soda and junk food and fast food.
She loses ZERO weight after surgery.  ZERO.  She complains that "no one told me I had to lose weight when I got here."  (At that, my husband, who wasn't really watching, snorted loudly and said REALLY?)  She says she's on the wrong diet (1200 calories post bariatric soft food).  Dr N says someone has to be sneaking her food.  She claims that she can't even finish her food.   She insists she's lost weight, but says she is unable to stand up.  He says "she has convinced herself that she's permanently disabled" and that he "can't help her" anymore.   He sends her home for noncompliance after 3 months, when she hasn't lost a POUND since her surgery.  
Even my husband was in disbelief that anyone her size, on a restricted calorie diet, having had WLS, could not lose even a pound.  I can't believe that her hormones could be that far out of whack (or that Dr N wouldn't have tested them)!
Her husband brings her to their new apartment, where she complains that the couch blocks her view of the TV from where she is living on a mattress on the floor.  All she does is bitch and complain at her poor hubby.
A month later, a physical therapist is coming to her apartment to get her up and walking.  He has worked with bariatric patients, although  none so large.  She complains about pain, that she can't get up, that she can't even move her legs.  She wouldn't even move to her side, her "oxygen gets wonky" and the therapist complains that she's "full of excuses" and nothing is accomplished. She misses a weigh-in.
She complains (yes I am using that word a lot) that she "wasn't given a diet" and she goes back to her old eating habits instead of the high protein low carb regimen she was given.  Her husband says "I thought deep frying everything at home was healthier than going out to eat."  (From the peanut gallery of my husband: "Really guy?  Deep frying is healthier?")
The doctor calls her a few months later because she has blown off every appointment and he says she has to be brought to a hospital to be checked out--immediately.  Again with the paramedics and the bariatric ambulance.  She tells the paramedic she's lost 340 lbs.  She shows the doctor how her skin is so loose and hanging, and complains that she has no scale.  She still can't stand. And...she's GAINED weight.  She claims that the original scale was wrong and starts crying and the doctor goes off on her, says he has signed many death certificates for people her size.  She counters with saying she can reach her vagina to clean it and she couldn't before so she must have lot of weight.  She is so deep in denial.  Her husband says she didn't gain weight.  She keeps crying that she's "stuck in Texas" and she was mis-weighed in the beginning.
The doctor says she's her own worse enemy and the husband is the second worse.   In the background, her husband is saying "Are you hungry? I'll get you some ice cream."   And the paramedics take her back home.
Her husband says she is trying, they are eating better, but she is still unable to stand, much less walk, even after months of physical therapy.  She claims she is a better mom (because she doesn't ever leave the house) than women who work.
11 months in, she is saying that the doctor didn't give her "appropriate tools" and that's why she failed.  A nutritionist comes to her house.  Penny is very rude to the woman.  The woman goes through their fridge and cabinet, finding cupcakes and cereal.   Meanwhile Penny is saying to her son see the mean lady is here to take your cereal.  And Penny says the visit was a bunch of "bulls--" to her husband as soon as the woman leaves.
She goes back to the hospital to get weighed, cries and cries that she can't sand up, and the end result is she hasn't lost any weight--10 months post surgery.  He says he did the same surgery on other people the same weight at the same time and those people now weigh 250 lbs.  All she does is cry and yell at the doctor, who says she has "no willingness to get well."
Penny goes back to Maryland.  They show her eating biscuits and mashed potatoes, the same size she was at the beginning.
Very sad.
Photo sources:  TLC, Dr Valin

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Friday, January 17, 2014

600-lb life: Olivia review/synopsis/SPOILERS

Oliva Cruz and her lymphedema leg/belly.
This is the episode of My 600-Lb Life I've been waiting for, with the woman with the horribly advanced lymphedema.
Olivia Cruz (46 years old, 578 lbs) is the one who they show crying and unable to pull herself up the stairs in the various commercials. Her stomach hangs below her knees.  Her lymphedema mass is so hideous it makes me cry.  It looks like she showers and then puts on the same giant red house dress as she was wearing earlier (no washing it) over her naked body, no bra, no underpants.  (Although I'm not sure how underpants would fit her body shape, honestly.)  When she is showing her lymphedema (right leg), which is in the elephant-man stage (my term, not a medical term) you can see a bit of the same hardened tumorous flesh further up.  I assumed it was her thigh but it's her BELLY.  Her panniculus has lymphedema.  Oh my god.  How does that even HAPPEN?  The screen shot is dark but you can kinda see the hard tumors on her lower stomach flesh.
Close-up of her poor, poor leg.  :(  
Olivia has a twin sister.  That's got to be heartbreaking for both of them.  In my high school there was a set of identical twins where one was skinny and one was obese.   What must it be like every day to be fat and see exactly what you'd look like if you lost weight?   And for the slimmer sister to see her fatter sister's struggle and know how exactly comfortable her sister could be in a smaller body?
Although in this case, the twin is also overweight, but not as much.
Olivia lives in the basement in a kind of hacked together apartment so everything is on one level.  She's on oxygen and her family--mother/sister--does everything for her.  Including bringing her McDonald's, pizza, and other food; and medicine; and oxygen.  She admits to eating "6 or 7" slices of pizza and then crying over it and eating cupcakes and then eating more pizza when everyone leaves.
Olivia (but not her sister)  was molested as a child, which probably precipitated her weight gain.  She said she weighed 250 lbs in high school, to avoid people.  She tried to kill herself a few years ago.
She also had weight loss surgery before, at almost 600 lbs, and the surgery "didn't work" (whatever that means).
She leaves her twin (they've hardly been apart in their lives) to travel from her home in Chicago to Houston to see our old friend Dr. Nowzaradan, which is when she finds out she can't get up the stairs between her panniculus and her edema leg holding her back.
I get that; my leg is nowhere near as bad and I often drag it when I walk because it's that much heavier.
She also could barely get into the back of the big SUV, and she took up the whole back seat.
She actually moves to Houston, to live with her brother, all her things in a U-Haul, to see if she can have more weight loss surgery.  I guess it depends on what she had done before; I know certain kinds can be converted to other more restrictive types.
Her weight is 580 at the first appointment.  She says she had an experimental weight loss surgery where 4 inches of her intestines were removed and then she got a lap band.  And she still weighs almost 600 lbs.  The doctor says it's "mind-boggling that you still continue eating" after all that. (I think he means over-eating, or eating improperly, because obviously she's got to eat something or die.)  He says if two surgeries didn't fix your overeating, why do you think a third one will?
And here I am, half her weight, and considered psychologically impaired enough with my eating disorder to be ineligible for even a lap band. Is she saner than I am, even though she attempted suicide?  Or is her case that desperate, between her immense size and her terrible, terrible lymphedema?
Food goes into the tiny pouch
and you get full fast.
She argues with the doctor that if she gets a bypass that her stomach will then be small and she won't be able to eat.  Um, the lap band does that too, and it's adjustable.  I wonder how tight it was.  I know my friend used to get hers adjusted, tightened if she didn't lose enough weight between appointments (or gained) and loosened if she was in pain or started vomiting.   Maybe Olivia's other bariatric doctor just gave up with trying to fine-tune her band.
The doctor says "she's in some kind of self-destructive mode" and needs to be under observation "to see if she can follow instructions" before she can have surgery.   He said she is too "used to giving up when it gets hard" and meanwhile Olivia is saying that she's "starving" on the 1,000 calories a day allowed in the hospital.
But she's allowed to get the surgery, weight loss surgery NUMBER THREE.  (I do have to wonder who is paying for these.  They aren't cheap and insurance doesn't usually pay.)
"excised" is a nice way of saying "thrown in the trash"
They remove her lap band and give her a sleeve gastrectomy, which is where a big portion of the stomach is completely removed.  You basically have no stomach, just a narrow portion no wider than the intestine and esophagus that connects the two.  This one is very effective because it removes the area of the stomach that makes the hunger hormones (gherlin? leptin?  one of those).
The day after the surgery, she said she doesn't crave anything, that smells repulse her, and that a couple spoonfuls make her full.
She ends up being in the hospital for 3 months post surgery, and is down to 360 lbs when she leaves.  She walks much easier when she leaves, although still using a walker, and is off her oxygen. She is still wearing a giant shapeless house dress but it appears that she has a sports bra on.
Although she tries, she can't make it up the stairs to the second floor of her brother's house on the first day home.
She still has the lymph edema of the leg and belly, with the belly still hanging past her knees at six months post-surgery.  But she only lost 6 lbs from when she went home from the hospital three months before.  And the doctor goes off on her for eating too much still, saying she's eating twice as much as she should, and she can't have the lymph edema tumors removed until she's under 300 lbs.  Which, at 6 lbs per 3 months weight loss, is going to be a looooong time.
He says the growth will come right back if he takes it off now, and says she has to lose the 50 lbs in a month and that she should be able to.  She is 6 months post surgery and still in the golden period of weight loss (which is about 18 months, then you're stuck where you end up and may even start to gain again).
She takes a walk--800 feet to the end of her brother's street and back again, hardly able to breathe, with frequent rests.  Dragging that leg and that belly, ugh.   At her next appointment she is 292, down 51 lbs, and she's approved for her lymphedema removal.   And she weighs 5 lbs less than her twin, even with all the tumors.  When she goes in for surgery, she has lost just about 50% of her starting weight.  Although it appears that the doctor is only going to take the belly portion of the lymph edema off, her leg is also really bad in the front.  The back is red and looks like it could still have some circulation.  The doctor had to tie off 400 blood vessels and do a FOUR FOOT incision to remove just over 40 lbs of lymphedema, bringing her down to under 250 lbs.  (Something I haven't been able to manage).
She is wearing pants at the end, not a shapeless dress with no underwear.  She's much smaller, but still very lumpy-looking, down 339 lbs, and she goes to a family reunion, where she is visibly skinnier than her "skinnier" twin.
I don't know what happens to her lymphedema leg; it's never addressed.  All that waiting, no answers for me.
image sources: TLC, TLC, Hartford Hospital, and Dr Valin (the guy I never could get an appointment with even though I tried for a year)

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

600 lb life: Zsalynn review/synopsis/SPOILERS

The initial picture of Zsalynn in the episode.
I've been looking forward (in a weird way) to seeing this episode of My 600-Lb Life (Zsalynn) because the commercials for it kept showing her leg, which is clearly an advanced lymphedema leg, and as my faithful readers know, I have lymphedema in my leg so I like (wrong wrong...?) to see others with it and how they manage their disease. Usually if someone's on TV with lymphedema it is way more progressed than mine is, of course, but it's also a bit of inspiration for me not to allow my leg to get that bad and to keep up with my 6 hours of therapy each week even if I am tired or don't want to go.
 This series is on TLC and follows morbidly obese people, usually in Texas, under the care of Dr. Narzaradan for several years as they undergo various weight loss procedures.
Zsalynn Whitworth is morbidly obese and started out thinking of herself as "Miss America" in spite of her weight, until she got so fat she became almost  immobile, 597 lbs at age 42.  She entirely fills the shower.  Her life is eating, sitting, watching tv, and sleeping.  Movement is painful and "unbearable."  She says that from freshmen to senior year of high school she went from 170 to 375 lbs.
She says her addiction to sugar "is like crack cocaine."  She goes grocery shopping and then sits in her car and eats donuts, saying it's like sex.
When she was 19 she discovered the National Association for Fat Acceptance and embraced it wholeheartedly.  Her formerly fat friend says she was the "fat girl rock star."  Fat admirers paid for trips around the world for her, and met her husband through the group. By age 29 she was over 500 lbs and became a recluse instead of a "queen."   Although her husband married her because of her size, now he feels she's too fat, they "can't do anything together" and "be careful what you wish for."  Seems like some buyer's remorse there.
Zsalynnn's biggest sadness is how her obesity is affecting her young daughter's life.  Her formerly fat friend (Bonnie?) has taken over the more active parts of parenting as Zsalynn is physically unable.
Pushed to her limits, Zsalyann makes an appointment with a weight loss surgeon (the familiar Dr Nowzaradan), driven there by her faithful friend.  I wish every morbidly obese person had a friend like her.  I wish I did!  (I have great friends, don't misunderstand me.  But this friend seems to go above and beyond and sometimes you do need that.)
She weights 597 at the initial appointment and says that her hope is that, once her intestines are removed, that eating sugar will make her really sick and therefore she'll stop eating it.  However the doctor says the only thing it will do is keep her from eating a lot at one time.  (So perhaps his method of surgery doesn't cause "dumping"--the sick feeling from eating sugar that many post-WLS patients have?)  He says that it's false hope to think surgery will keep her from eating sugar, especially when she admits she eats as many times a day as she can and that there's a hole in her soul she tries to fill with sugar.
The doctor says she has to learn 20-30 lbs, cut down her eating, eat 2-3 times a day with no snacks, and to return in 2-3 weeks.  Which means he expects her to lose 10 lbs a week on her own, after she said she couldn't lose any weight.
I understand, from having gone through the pre-op stuff myself (failed the psych, surprised?) that the weight loss is primarily to shrink the liver and make the surgery easy.  But if us extremely overweight people could drop 20 or 30 lbs in less than a month, wouldn't we be DOING IT? 
She is terrified of dying, dropping dead, but also of how difficult it's going to be.
I don't understand some of the things she doesn't do.  She can drive a car and walk around her house (slowly) but when her daughter wants to play she has a friend bring her to the parking lot because she "can't go walk through the gate" (which I don't understand) and she sits in the car and watches the child play.
A month later, she's down 28 lbs (although how she did this isn't detailed) and is declared ready to go.   I can only think that most of the other pre-op work they must not film because I had to endure weeks and weeks of dietician meetings, psych evals, weigh-ins,  pre and post op group meetings, and provide exhaustive lists of food consumed and calories expended.  We won't talk about all those $40 co-pays, all wasted when at the end I was a big fucking failure.
Two weeks after that, boom, she's having her surgery.  And I have to notice that they haven't shown her lymphedema leg which makes me think it must be another episode with a woman with bad lymphedema.  Her husband is unhappy and not supportive, as he married "a fat happy wife" and now she'll be thin, and his sexual preference is for a very fat woman and if she's thin she will be "repulsive" (he said that!  that his wife would be REPULSIVE!)  When I was looking her up, I noticed she is on Twitter and part of her description says "wife to an angry man" so I feel for her, as I am also wife to an angry man, although mine isn't angry because I'm fat but because of his family situation. 
Her daughter and her friend Bonnie (I'm calling her that, sorry if it's wrong) go off to the Houston hospital for the surgery while her husband stays behind.  Hoping that's because he's working, and not because he's a jerk, although both may be possible.  My husband came to one post-op group therapy with me, out of all the appointments I had all those months.  He was simply not interested, and probably would not have been terribly supportive, as he has been known to eat pasta in front of me when I'm trying to do a low-carb diet.
From the description, it seems like the surgery is to reduce the stomach size only, with no re-sectioning of the intestine, which is what she was counting on to limit her sugar intake.  It's done laproscopically (less scarring, easier healing).
Post surgery, she is eating 1200 calories a day.  She is shocked to still have food cravings, and to still want to eat.  Surgery fixes a small amount of the problem--you simply can't eat in volume anymore--but it doesn't and can't fix any mental issues.
She is able to get up and walk (which is know is required) and reveals that she hasn't talked to her husband since before her surgery, which makes me feel sad for her.  He demands to know how much weight she's lost (in one day!?) and then starts telling her how he went out for tacos and she hangs up on him, which I don't blame her one bit.  Jerk.  Maybe careful editing makes him look bad, but her twitter description calling him "angry husband" makes me doubt that.
Her husband came after 3 days to pick her up, but shows up very late, and complains that he expected her to be looking "skinnier" and says that he's not doing any dieting himself and not to expect that.  On the way home he goes through a fast food drive through, offering her french fries.  In a voice over, she calls him a jerk for it.
Four months later, she's about 100 lbs down, trying to find food that's high in protein.  She gets sick to her stomach easily and has to force herself to eat three times a day.  She has frequent breakdowns, crying over the loss of her "friend" sugar.  At her next appointment she's down 150 lbs, saying that everything tastes bad.  The doctor feels that she should have lost more, closer to 200 lbs, and asks her to lose 50 lbs in the next month.  So she makes an appointment with a personal trainer at a gym and says her husband is going to "freak out" over it.  The cost?  I can't imagine that.
Ah, yes, the cost.  He says she should work out at home and not pay someone $50 and then when she says she wants a salad for her meal, he retorts that he's not buying her a salad and she can go "in the yard and eat some grass."  Holy shit.  What a fucktard.
The husband says their marriage "wasn't worth it" to their upset daughter.
At 6 months post surgery she's down 200 lbs with a goal of doing a 5k with her daughter.  Her husband mocks her exercise efforts and says "now are you going to cry all afternoon that your feet hurt?"
She admits to still drinking diet soda once in a while (carbonated drinks not allowed after WLS because it will stretch the stomach) and that she has to break some rules.  But on her next visit she hasn't lost weight and the doctor goes off on her for the once a week diet coke.
A year out, at the end of the show, she is  at 350 lbs.  She manages to go to the playground that she couldn't make it to earlier.   The day she was supposed to do the 5K she is on crutches due to an ankle injury.  Her husband mocks her cooking and she says eventually she won't be able to "take it anymore" and I don't blame her one bit.

(It looks like NEXT episode is the lymphedema lady, btw.)



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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Half Ton Killer (review/synopsis/spoilers

It’s that time of year again, when all the stories of morbidly obese people are shown on TV.  Will they stick to their diets and lose the weight?  Or will they die?  Or maybe gain it all back?   We’ll find out.
Now we have the two part Half-Ton Killer, on TLC (TLC used to be the Learning Channel and now it's the Freak Show channel,) the story of 1,100 lb Mayra Rosales, who allegedly killed her 2-year old nephew when she suffocated him with her bulk. 
Her poor legs are just sacks of lymphedema.  When they take off the blanket, it looks like she’s sitting on a huge pile of flesh-colored pillows, to her front and back and sides, but all that his HER.  The red hard lymphedema tumors are all over her lower body.   As far as she can reach in every direction, her flesh is spread out on the bed around her—while she is sitting up.
I made my husband look at her because I was crying, saying, “that’s what I have, I could look like that” and he said, “no you couldn’t” but it’s a constant fear I have, that something will happen and I’ll get stuck in bed for an extended period of time and next thing they’ll be taking down the bedroom wall and using a whale hoist on my naked body while my neighbors gawk.
You might remember the story in 2008  Somehow she fell on her nephew, Eliseo Rosales Jr., and crushed him to death.  It was all over the news.
I remember wondering who left a child alone with a 1,100-lb bedridden woman?  I thought I blogged about it but maybe I just posted on Facebook.   (And good luck going back through your own FB feed to find something.)
This lady was so fat that she couldn’t go to jail.  She hadn’t left the bed in two years.  She was basically already under house arrest due to her weight.  Unable to stand or move from the bed, there she stayed.  What could change after she got arrested?  How could her life be any worse?
They couldn’t even figure out how to bring her to trial.  They had to buy a huge mattress that would support 1,000 lbs in the courtroom, once they managed to transport her.
Adult Protective Services had to be called in.  They found Mayra close to death, with pneumonia and pulmonary edema, and it took 10 people and a special ambulance to get her to a hospital for tests.  The doctor assigned to her case said Mayra was retaining 600 pounds of water. 
The court has to pay to move her, and every time she is moved it costs $10,000.  Once she is moved into the courtroom for the trial, she has to literally LIVE there on the new mattress because otherwise it’s two moves per day, one to get her there and one to bring her back to where she is staying.  Cheaper to let her stay there with some kind of caregiver.  It will cost the state of Texas at least a million dollars to bring her to trial if she’s physically present.  And there is no way the jail can house her if she is convicted.
It seems to me that her way of life, and the fact that the APS doctor found her close to death, was her punishment (plus knowing she killed a child—I don’t like children but if I fell on one and killed it with my fat I’d be devastated forever.)
But the story about how the child died is suspicious from the beginning. First she says she fell on him.  (How’d she get back into the bed?)  Then she said he was under the bed and that’s how his head got crushed.  She was alone with the children (other small children of relatives were there too) or her mother was also there and saw the whole thing and maybe her sister, the child’s mother, was also there.
And the autopsy report said the child was beaten about the face and head, not smothered by fat.  The child had lots of healed fractures and a clear history of abuse in his body.   Mayra wasn’t capable of doing that.  She could barely move and an active 2-year old could have easily escaped her grasp.
Her defense lawyers tried to film her doing the things she claimed happened.  “Roll over.  Get out of the bed and show how you were on top of the child on the floor.”  She couldn’t do any of it. To them, that proved that what she claimed happened, didn’t happen.  Seems like she was lying.  And Child Protective Services had been to that house many times who said that Mayra wasn’t capable of caring for children (but they didn’t call APS) and that neighbors said the children had been abused by the parents.
Then they found out that her brother-in-law was threatening to burn her alive in bed if she changed her story (unconfessed?) and she had to be moved to protective custody.  She had gained so much weight since she had been taken to the hospital her wall had to be taken down and she was put into the back of a U-Haul.
That is so terrifying.  To be so fat you don’t even fit in the bariatric ambulance.  To be moved in a UHaul like a piece of furniture.  Even if she did kill the baby, that’s still horrible beyond words.
And finally Mayra admitted that her sister, the child’s mother, had beaten the child with a hairbrush.  She even gave up the brush.   Mayra said she thought her sister would learn from the experience (yes, learn that someone else will take the fall for you!?) but then she found out that her sister was still beating the other children and decided to tell the truth.  (Plus she had been moved and was out of range of her murderous drug-dealing, human-trafficking brother-in-law.)
The lawyers set up a hidden camera kind of thing and to the sister to admit she did it, and then the sister fled because Mayra was going to change her statement.
Dr Nowzaradan (a bariatric surgeon who appears in many of these TLC “half ton” shows) visits Mayra and says her lymphedema is a worse problem than her obesity.  But she can’t go for treatment because she’s still under house arrest for confessing to murder even though she recanted.  She had been gaining and gaining weight, went to up to over 1,000 lbs.
Finally the sister came back to the U.S. (she had been hiding in Mexico) because her husband was prostituting her.  (Nice guy, huh?)  The State charges her with the murder of the child, and Mayra only has to appear in court to testify against her sister and is not longer going to be on trial herself.  The giant mattress problem is solved when the State finally did the smart thing and let her telecommute to the trial.  (That seemed obvious to me but apparently everything sets a precedent and probably soon everyone will want to stay home in bed and telecommute to court.)
Mayra is allowed to travel to be under Dr Nowzardan’s care and ironically the thought is that she would have died if she hadn’t been brought to people’s attention through the trial.

PART TWO

Mayra’s sister Jamie was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing her child.  Mayra has diabetes, congestive heart failure, had horrific lymphedema, and is close to death.  Her skin is broken down and oozing from the pressure of the lymphedema, and some of the sores are infected, as are her bedsores from over 2 years in bed.  Dr. Nowzardan estimates that some of her lymphedema tumors weigh 80 pounds (each).
She says her lymphedema started in her feet and the swelling progressed up through her calves and thighs.
She is put on a strict 1,000 calorie a day diet…and this is astounding…she loses 145 lbs in ten days.   Let me repeat that because it boggles my mind.  SHE LOST ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE POUNDS IN TEN DAYS.  Quite a bit of it is lymphedema fluid.  Then doctors attempt liposuction to remove more of the fluid, even though any procedure is life-threatening at her size.
Liposuction grosses me out so much.  It’s not gentle.  It’s violent and awful and looks like it damages the tissues.  Plus she has excessive bleeding because her blood vessels feeding them are so large and ultimately they stop with the lipo.  She has to lose more weight until she is small enough to have the lymphedema tumors removed surgically.  She is given an experimental medicine and loses another 100 lbs in 30 days, bringing her down to 600 lbs.  Finally she is able to stand up for the first time in five years and then get the surgery to remove some of the larger lymphedema masses.
During the surgery, she is so large that she’s falling off the table.  People had to hold up portions of her body so the doctor could get to other parts to cut them off.  They took off 16 pounds of edema mass from her legs.  Doesn’t seem like much, since the doctor initially said some of her masses were about 80 lbs each but maybe the weight loss reduced them that much.  And then she was able to take a shower (with help) for the first time in over six years.  Although she was seated in her wheelchair and someone else was actually bathing her, it was a shower and not a sponge bath.
She can wheel herself around in an oversized wheelchair and do some upper body exercises with a machine (arm rower) and a bit of lower body work also.  She finally is able to get weight loss surgery, but first she goes home to say hello (and maybe goodbye, if it goes badly) to her family.  During the trip her legs swell and she gains 15 lbs in just a couple of days.
Mayra gets the surgery and loses weight (down to about 350 lbs from 1100 lbs in two years), and goes off to live on her own to prove she can be a fit guardian for her sister’s other children.  She says that when she was fat she ate 6,000-8,000 calories a day…but earlier in the show she said she ate “exactly” what everyone else did and still gained weight.  So everyone in your family eats 8,000 calories a day and only you weighed 1,000 pounds?
She has more skin removed and gets down to 241 lbs and files paperwork to adopt her sister’s children.


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