What Good Came From Gastric Bypass Surgery?

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I’ve posted quite a bit about some of the negatives and side effects resulting from my gastric bypass.  I’ve even mentioned the downside of weight regain – which I struggle with on a minute by minute basis.  But there are benefits that far outweigh – for me, anyway – the risks I undertook.

When I decided to have surgery, I had just watched my father fight – and lose – his last battle with diabetes.  I sat in a room with my dad’s brothers and sisters, who came from various parts of the country to be with us in hospice, and realized that we were all diabetic.  As my dad slept fitfully on one of his last days, his youngest brother by his side, all I could think was that I hope and pray my young cousins never have to sit like this and watch their father die from this horrible disease.

And then it struck me that I never wanted my children to sit and watch me.

After losing the first 50 pounds, my blood sugars became normal.  Not only did I no longer have a need to test seven times daily, I also stopped needing medicine.  My blood pressure, which really was in the medium to high normal range, is now low normal – unless it’s the night before a chemistry exam.

I didn’t know how much the excess weight slowed me down, and honestly, I thought I was a damn mobile big girl.  But when I lost 100 pounds, and realized I could get down on the floor and not have to crawl to the sofa to lean on it to get up, it was an epiphany.  I volunteered more at school, after backing off when Brighid was in elementary school.  I went in one afternoon to read to her class, and one of the boys told her I was the fattest mom ever.  He was an expert, having a pretty enormous mother himself, but it occurred to me I might be an embarassment to my kids, so I didn’t go back to school to volunteer.

I also didn’t put myself out there for things – like applying for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel.  But then I lost weight and found courage.  I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did.

I didn’t know my quality of life was as poor as it was until it got better.  And it did.

So, yep, there have been a lot of pitfalls in my journey through gastric bypass.  But the days when I’m flying high make every small stumble worth it.

Re-learning How to Spell Inspiration

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Awakening before dawn, they arrived.  There was Captain Jack Sparrow.  I saw a few Tinker Bells.  Buzz and Woody were  represented, and there were even a couple of the 101 Dalmatians.

Some of them, by mile 24, where we patiently waited, were still wearing smiles.  But more than smiles, they wore blood, sweat, and tears.  Some were bandaged from falls, while others had knees and shins taped up to help support them on the journey.

I saw cancer survivors, people who ran in memory of those they loved, people who ran to raise money for causes they believed in, and people who ran hoping the finish line was paved with bottles of cold beer.

I cannot tell you how many people thanked us – they actually thanked US!  Margaret cheered until she was hoarse, Erin called out to as many runners as she could, and Jodi and I clapped until our arms ached.  And I could not believe how much it meant to some of those runners – ones who actually used some of the last breath available in their lungs to say thank you.  It made me tear up!

But let me tell you why we were really there.  When I first started with the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, we all talked about losing weight, getting fit, and running.  I’m a good talker.  A doer – not so much.  so when a good chunk of the panel started running, I was so impressed.  Tanya, Jodi, Whitney, everyone was just running their behinds off.  I so admired them for everything they were doing, for how hard they were working.  These were busy moms with kids, husbands, work, lives – and they were taking time out to do something for themselves.

And I hope none of them will take offense when I say that the one who has most inspired me was Diane.  She worked the hardest, she fought the longest, and she has achieved goals I’m not even sure she thought she could set for herself.  And along the way, she’s the one that has kicked my own ass for putting the goals I have for myself aside.  She’s the one who sent me the link nearly three years ago for the Couch to 5K program.  It’s bookmarked.  It’s read.  It’s on the bucket list.  She’s the one who just a few weeks ago called me out for promising come hell or high water that I would get my act together and do what I set out to do – and then I didn’t.

I went to Orlando this weekend for Diane.  I wanted to be there with her to celebrate this moment with her, and to let her know just how freakin’ much I love and admire her.  Not only does she put this mere mortal mom to shame, but she could out do Martha Stewart, the best of the Top Chefs, and the brightest of Project Runway.

Why yes, she is all that AND a bag of chips.

And because of modern technology, I failed.  Well, we failed.  We relied on information gathered somewhere out there by satellites in the universe to let us know when Diane would pass us by so we could cheer her on.  We stood and waited until headache, hunger, and our ability to control our bladders gave us no choice but to stand down from our post and seek remedies for our ills.  The universal powers that be told us we had plenty of time to do it.  But we didn’t.  And we failed.

We weren’t there, waving pom-poms, clapping, and shouting her name when she ran past us.  We were eating, peeing, drinking, and caffeinating our headaches.  And because we relied on modern technology, we missed her.  By minutes.  Literally, by minutes.

I failed.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love her any less, admire her any less, or regard her as any less a superhero.  I do so even more.  She ran and succeeded without us there to push her through the last few miles.  She set the goal, she worked her ass off, and she achieved.

Yeah, I’m thinking I’ll be spelling inspiration with a capital D from now on.

Save the TaTas, Stress Out the Mamas

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I have happily gone along for the past ten or so years avoiding getting a mammogram.  I had one once, after losing my mother’s aunt and my father’s mother to breast cancer, and I figured no cancer on the planet could be as painful and humiliating as a mammogram.  I vowed to do whatever necessary not to have one done again – even if that meant getting the name of Chaz Bono’s doctor.

Well, as you can imagine, Chaz and I don’t travel in the same circles, so it was becoming quite obvious I wasn’t going to run into him, and when my doctor shoved his “it’s breast cancer awareness in here every month” prescription for what should be a yearly mammogram, I figured, what the hell.  I had these old boobs lifted last summer, and rarely have a chance to show them off, so why not?  And really, could the mammogram be as bad as I remember?

Why yes, it can!  But I optimistically left the radiologist’s office thinking it went rather well.  I was in and out in just a few minutes; I resisted the urge to belt out a few lines of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” as the technician was squishing and squeezing me into place, and while it was way more painful than I remembered it to be, I was done for at least another year.  Go me!

Then the letter came in the mail.

Okay, can I stop here for a second and tell you – if you’d like to casually mention to me that I might possibly have a disease that could potentially kill me, maybe you could text me?  Send an email?  Gimme a call?  Something a little more personal than a letter in the mail.

The letter simply said, “The results of your mammogram indicate the need for further studies.  Hope you’re having a nice day!”  Okay, I may have made up the nice day part.

Who doesn’t go into a tailspin with that kind of letter?

I called my doctor – the evil doer that made me go for the stupid test – and they didn’t even have the results.  And it took two days for them to get them.  The surgeon who did my breast lift was quite comforting in informing me the mammogram mishap likely had nothing to do with the surgery he did, but that I shouldn’t worry about what may be just a very routine recheck.  Easy for him to say, as he has no boobs that are in need of a recheck.

I opted not to share the news with too many people in advance, knowing that I’d garner way more sympathy when I had some actual news to share, but I did find tremendous reassurances from a few good Moms and my awesome sister.  I parceled out in my head all of my most valuable possessions – my Moms Panel pink collection to my closest Moms Panel friends; my children to that awesome sister (to kinda get back at her for all the times she was a pain in my arse when I had to watch her growing up); my husband to his good pal Dr. Veitia; my Disney pin collection to Amy and Anthony.

And today was the follow up testing.

Whew, am I glad that’s over with!  I take back everything I ever said about cancer almost being preferable to the pain and humiliation of the mammogram – even though I said it in jest.  If I could have told that woman today to squeeze a little harder to make sure she was seeing everything clearly, I would have.  And then when they did the ultrasound, it was all I could do to keep from taking the wand out of the woman’s hand to find the damn lump myself!

When all was said and done, I do have a little something in there, but they aren’t going to worry about it at the moment.  Their feeling is that it is entirely benign, and really very small.  It may be something I’ve had all along, but at this point, it is definitely not something to worry about.  At least for another six months.

The sweat and tears that have poured out of my body this week living in the FEAR that something COULD be wrong have given me a renewed appreciation for everything my Sisters battling breast cancer go through.  No superhero could be stronger; no warrior tougher; no soldier braver.  I’m wearing pink in honor of you guys tomorrow.

Although not Moms Panel pink – that’s already spoken for in my will.

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me

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My friend and fellow Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Kaylene wrote a pretty awesome blog about me today.  I love Kaylene – both her kind heart and caring nature make her someone you just admire and aspire to be like.  I was honored that she wrote about me today – which you can read here:  http://www.memorymakermom.com/ – but I thought to myself – even with all this blogging, is there stuff you don’t know about me?

Well, yeah.

So, I thought I’d share some little known outside of my immediate family facts about me.  It’s not like I’m that interesting, but I thought it would be fun if you got to know me better!

1 – My favorite movie of all time is the Shawshank Redemption, followed VERY closely by the original Arthur.

2 – I have only one spot on my entire body that is consistently ticklish, but you have to hit it just right in order for the tickle to kick in.  Oh – and it’s behind my knees.  How freakin’ weird is that?

3 – When I was 18, I took a job working for a drag racing group that was going to be fined if they didn’t hire more women.  They gave me the “racing” name of Ghia Garland on their books, but they wouldn’t let me touch the race car.

4 – The best thing I ever did in my life was pursue having children, long after infertility tried to kick my ass.  I lost five children to miscarriage, but the three amazing daughters I have were well worth the heartache I suffered.

5 – One of my most favorite foods in the whole world are Grandmom Holak’s potato and cheese pierogies, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am I didn’t work harder at learning how to make them while she was still here to share her wisdom.  Go visit your Grandmom – today.

6 – My first ever celebrity crush was Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees.  My second was Barry Manilow.  Don’t judge.  I was never much for the pretty boys – I needed personality.

7 – My second happiest place on earth?  Italy.  And not necessarily for the food.  I’d love to buy a house and retire there someday.

8 – I hate the beach.  I hate sand in my shoes, in my hair, in, well, other places besides my shoes and my hair.  I could sit on a deck and watch the ocean from now and for the rest of my life.  But I don’t want to sit in the sand.  Blech.  Oh, and while I’m hating on the beach, I saw Jaws six times.  I’m lucky I can still use a toilet without going into full body shudders from the fear.  I am NOT swimming in the ocean.

9 – My favorite color is green.  Ironically, it is probably the color I have the least of in my wardrobe.  It’s so hard to find a green that looks good on actual human beings.

10 – When I grew up, I wanted to write the Greatest American Novel.  I just might someday.

With Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust, Many Things Are Possible

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Many years ago, when we lived in Orlando, I got a phone call from a friend in New Jersey.  She was coming to Orlando, all expenses paid, and was hoping to catch up with me.

How wicked awesome, I thought!  A fully paid trip to Orlando – theme park tickets, accommodations, airfare!  What do you have to do to score a vacation package like that?

I had not yet heard of Give Kids the World.  I knew, of course, that seriously ill children were often granted wishes to visit Walt Disney World, but I had no idea that such a place like the Give Kids the World Village existed.  When my Jersey friend finally did arrive, I learned that she and her family had been flown down to celebrate what may have been a final vacation with her granddaughter, who had leukemia.

I was overwhelmed by the information she shared about Give Kids the World Village.  I was bowled over by her description of the fairytale like atsmosphere and the amazing people who volunteered at the Village.  And I knew that somehow, I wanted to be a part of it all.

Throughout the years that we lived in Central Florida, I often visited the Give Kids the World website to browse their wish list, and Brighid and I would gather some things and deliver them to the Village.  It felt like something so small, but then in 2009, when I became a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, I felt like I had bonded with a group of people so amazing, so magical, so filled with pixie dust that they would understand my love and passion for the children at the Village.

We were small but mighty that first year.  We raised in the area of $1500, which we donated to be used in a memorial garden.  The day that we made our donation, we were fortunate enough to be granted a tour of the Village.  We visited the salon, where beautiful princesses are created.  We stopped by the ice cream parlor, where even for breakfast, ice cream is an option.  We saw the cozy cottages and the awesome playgrounds.  There was nothing here that would make anyone think this was a place for sick kids; it was a place for kids – with everything a child could dream that would transport them away – even for just a short time – from the daily routine of doctors, nurses, needles, and medicines.

The mantle has passed on, and my Mom friends are still doing all they can not only to raise money for this wonderful organization, but to bring attention to the incredible work they do.  We want you, in some small way, to feel like we felt when we toured the Village – where we were not only impacted by how happy a place they have made it, but where we were overcome with sadness in seeing the number of stars that blaze a trail in the skyin one of the buildings in memory of every child that has passed through the Village.  We want you to know how many of us were reduced to tears as we stood awkwardly silent in the chapel, where so many Moms and Dads stood before us, praying for the lives of their precious children; and thanking God and the Village for the chance to be a normal family – if only for a week. 

I have personally known children who have visited the Village through the years.  Some are grown now, possessing just a fading memory of a childhood where innocence was replaced with illness.  Some will remain forever children, as they were taken Home to bloom in the gardens of Heaven. 

But all of them – and their families – will have treasured memories of the magic, the memories, and the pixie dust that they shared in one incredible week at this amazing place.

We would love it if you joined us in supporting the magic and the memories created by Give Kids the World.  Please consider “Liking” our Facebook page, and share it with your friends, so that even more people become aware of the Village and the amazing work they do.  Visit the page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/DisneyFansGKTW and click “LIKE” at the top!

And if you can, please consider making a donation to the Village through the webpage my friends have established.  With faith, trust, and pixie dust, many things are possible.  There’s a smile to be had with every dollar that is donated.  There is nothing more magical than that! http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/DisneyFansGKTW/reunion

If You Could Take One Thing With You…

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So, as you’re well aware, especially if you live somewhere that the six o’clock doomsday hour has already passed, God saw fit to spare us miserable mortals for the time being, allowing us yet another day to mess things up.  Well, damn.  I had an awesome outfit chosen for the looting party I’ve been invited to on Facebook for the day after, when those of us not among the chosen were going to get us a five finger discount on some HD TV.

But, let’s just say today HAD been the day.  And on your way up to Heaven, God said, “Choose one thing from your life on earth – not something living, because frankly, I don’t do diapers, I don’t walk dogs, and I don’t want to have to set yet another place at the dinner table – and bring it with you.  It’ll be nice to have that memory of home, and it will reduce the chances you’ll moan and complain about your accommodations or the food if you have something to keep you company.”

What are you bringing?

I’ve thought long and hard about all of my worldly possessions.  I have photographs that I cherish, jewelry that I love, books that I would never want to be without.  It’s been really tough to decide on just one thing, but after much thought, I’ve chosen my item.

I’m taking my pink Walt Disney World Moms Panel jacket.

I know – I hate pink, for the most part, so why would I want to spend eternity with only a pink jacket?

Here’s the rationale:

Disney World is where I have some of the most wonderful memories of my family.  Brighid as chef of the day at the Crystal Palace when she was four; Eilis learning to walk at EPCOT when she was a year old; Granuaile at 8 months old looking directly into the eyes of the Santa at Downtown Disney; and my honeymoon with the one and only true love of my life.  The jacket will remind me of the holidays we spent at Disney World, the occasions we celebrated, the meals we all ate together, laughing and joking – not worrying about cheerleading practice or dance classes or a scout meeting.

The jacket will also remind me that I was a competent and qualified enough writer that I was able to write answers that helped at least a few people plan a vacation that would give them some of the same wonderful feelings I get when I think of my cherished family Disney memories.  I can say that being on the Moms Panel was a true highlight of my 46 years on earth (okay, the end of the world is surely coming now – I’ve put my age out there in print!).

And the jacket is a symbol of the friendships I’ve made.  The weekend that I got that jacket, I met the 15 people who will be friends for life.  They are the people with whom I bonded more quickly than I have ever bonded with anyone else (except Jim).  When I look at the jacket, I will think of when we met; our weekend in Chicago; my visit with Joanne in NYC; Margaret’s birthday weekend at WDW.  And I will cherish every Facebook conversation, text message, and Tweet that we’ve shared.  Not to mention the bonus friends I’ve made as a result of being on the Moms Panel – Moms Panel Erin, Jud, Anthony, the other Moms Panel members, and those Skurvy Monkeys.

So, while I rarely ever wear the jacket; pink is not my color; and I would hope that I could find the darn thing in an instant if God said I could take it with me, the one thing I would want to depart from this mortal soil with is my jacket.  And all the memories that come with it.