Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Weight Loss Journey

Before Gastric Bypass

The story below will publish in Scrubs Magazine at sometime. It wasn't until I decided to post it on my blog that I realized I had left out an important part of my journey. A journey that hopefully will allow God to work through me to help other victims of rape & molestation and to inspire others to lose the weight that is shortening this wonderful life God has given each and every one of us.

My journey starts when I was 9 years old. My mother decides to start working which left me to care for my three younger sisters, clean and cook meals. My dad was a strict man then. The meal had to be hot when it was put on the table and consisted of a meat, potatoes or rice, two vegetables, milk gravy and homemade biscuits. He never had anything good to say about my cooking and my sisters followed his example. So I decided if no one liked what I cooked, I did and I would eat it myself. I continued this pattern through my adult life. There were very rarely leftovers in my home.

Added to this was an incident of molestation by a relative and then our landlord  and  the hotel janitor in Naples, Italy, and being raped by my boyfriend as my going away present (daddy was being transferred back to the states). In the mid to late 70's the woman was still the criminal in rape cases, although the courts and DA's were starting to see the woman as the victim in rape. But for a 14 year old girl all I could think was fat woman don't get raped. So along with my lack of support for my cooking and the fear of men, made sure that I would never be raped again by getting fat. Many years later as I began to deal with these issues, I soon realized that rape isn't a crime of passion but a crime of control. So size, age, gender, etc doesn't matter to the rapist or molester. With God's help I have forgiven each and everyone of these offenders. My weight problem didn't show up till after I married, but the fears were still there and every time I began to lose weight and other men looked at me I would put the weight back on.

When I realized my weight was becoming a problem I started trying all the diets available. I did Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, High protein/low carb, Grapefruit diet, you name it I tried it. Each diet failed because I was suffering from bulimia (non-purging). During the day I did what I was supposed to do and when the kids and husband went to bed I would find more to eat. I justified my eating that it was not junk food, but “healthy food”. In 1995 I had reached 360 pounds on a 5’3” frame. I decided then to go to a bariatric physician to try phen-phen. What a mistake! For the 3 months I used phen-phen I lost 40 pounds, but increased my heart rate to over 200 bpm with minimal exertion and my systolic blood pressure up by 30 points. I tried to tell the physician that 130/90 was too high for me since my norm was usually 96/60. But she said I was fine and handed me a prescription and never looked up from her desk or examined me. I decided then to stop taking the meds. In two weeks I still had no appetite but gained the 40 pounds back.

I went to my PCP and told him what was happening. An echo cardiogram revealed I had supra ventricular tachycardia (SVT). So heart meds were begun and because of the beta blockers I needed a diuretic to combat the edema. My PCP then tried me on Meridia, with no success. My blood pressure started to rise again and he said I was headed for pulmonary hypertension. My only hope was to exercise and decrease my calories. I already knew that was out of the question. But a friend at church invited me to a group called “Weigh Down”. I liked what it taught and thought I could stick to this eating plan. And 100 pounds later I sabotaged myself and went back to my old ways. The only difference is I had learned when to stop so I didn’t put the 100 pounds back on.  That was in 1997.

In 2006, while visiting my parents I was awaken by a pain in my chest that felt like someone was squeezing my heart and trying to rip it out of my chest. As long as I was still the pain was not too bad. If I moved it got worse. We did not go to church with my parents but decide to come back home. Yes I know I should have gone to the ER not home, but I was in denial. I went to my PCP that week. The next week I went for a thallium stress test. The test revealed a spot on my heart so I was set up with the cardiologist for a cardiac cath in two weeks. The Friday before I was to see the doctor, I was at a local hospital admitting a patient onto hospice services. While I was finishing up the paperwork I felt my left arm go numb, chest pains, nausea, and diaphoretic. I, as a nurse, knew what was happening. But I did not want to be seen by the ER at that hospital. So I finished my paperwork and drove the two miles home. By the time I got home I was feeling better so I told my husband I was tired and wanted to go out to dinner. An hour later as we were about to pay the check the pains, nausea, etc all came back. I handed my husband the keys and said “Let’s go to the ER now!” At the ER it took three hours to find and IV and it was not the best in the world. It was a 22g in the shoulder. The ER physician came in and told me that I needed a port-a-cath because according to my stress test I would be back frequently. The three hours scared my husband and me, he did not know what was happening and I was not getting the drugs needed to stop the pain due to no IV site. They sent me to the cardiac ward of our hospital set to have a cardiac cath on Monday. All weekend I had chest pains until Sunday night I felt something pop (only way to describe how it felt) and no more chest pains. All night and morning the nurses tried to get 20g or 18g IV’s started with no success. So the physician told then to stop and they would use my femoral artery if needed. I never prayed so hard that it would not be needed. I went for my cath, watched my heart light up as pretty as I had ever seen on a cath picture. The cath was clear, perfect heart. God had healed my heart and sent me a warning that I needed to do something about my weight.

The week after I was released from the cardiologist, I went to our bariatric surgeon and started researching gastric bypass. I had the choice of gastric bypass or lap-band. I chose gastric bypass because it was permanent, lap-band had a back door; I could have it removed if I did not like the after effects. It took one year to go through all of the needs for the surgery. I found out I had sleep apnea and had to go on BiPAP. I had to see a psychiatrist to make sure that mentally I was ready. I had to get clearance from my cardiologist and PCP. Then you had to go through classes and support groups through the surgeon’s office.

September 11, 2007 was D-Day. Surgery went well. I was supposed to go home the next day, but I did not follow the rules. I did not drink enough for the first day. This turned out to be a good thing because that night I went into A-fib and had to go to ICU for a cardizem drip. Eight hours later I got to go back to the floor and then got to go home. My weight on the day of surgery was 270 pounds. Today 2 years later I now weigh 155 pounds and wear a size 8. I have not seen size 8 ever, so to be here is a thrill. I gauge my weight by my BMI and not what the scale or my clothes size says.

It has not been an easy two years, but a rewarding one and wish I had done this years ago. The hand full of cardiac meds I use to take I no longer need. I have more energy now than ever before. I still have 25 more pounds to go to get my BMI below 25. I’m at 28 right now. I also have not been the model patient either. One of the side effects that you wish for is dumping syndrome. When you eat something you should not and you want to dump you quickly learn never to touch that food again. You also learn to chew your food well and to eat slower because the pain of overloading the pouch. I tried my favorite food Krispy Kreme donuts. For the next 20 minutes I wish I was dead and God was not taking me fast enough. I have no desire to touch Krispy Kreme donuts ever again.

My weight loss slow down is now due to my love for sweet tea and sugar in my coffee. The one thing I wish I had dumping syndrome over, I don’t. So I know have to learn to be a “normal human” and increase my caloric output to compensate for the added input. In hate water, flavored water is the worst. I make sure that my tea and coffee are decaffeinated and I am working on decreasing the amount of sugar I put in them. It is a slow process, when a southern born and bred girl was raised on sweet tea.

With all of the episodes of dumping syndrome, and yes I do still get them sometimes it takes a 2X4 to teach me to do the right things, and the complications after surgery I would go through the surgery again. I only take vitamins and a hormone patch now. I eat when I am hungry and only eat 4-8 ounces depending what I am having. That feels me up and I am satisfied for 3-4 hours. I have found a love of exercising through the Wii Fit and have lost 4 pounds with it.

Gastric Bypass surgery is only a tool to help you lose weight and not a miracle weight loss solution. I have seen people who had the surgery and are putting the weight back on. You have to follow the rules to lose the weight and to keep it off. That I am learning now and working on the stay off sugar part. Foods that I thought I would miss I do not. At holidays I still have pie or cake, I just have a very small piece, usually a bite off my husband’s piece and only if I’m not already full. Food does not rule my life anymore. Buffets and parties are not scary. Even if I take more than I can eat, I do not have the need to clean my plate, I would dump if I tried. And I hate dumping. For me this was the best present I ever gave myself. Oh and the best part, MY VEINS CAN BE FOUND AND ACCESSED NOW, one stick!

I also praise God that I don't fear the catcalling of men any more. I know how to protect my self if attacked again, and know that how I look didn't have anything to do with the attack. I have been able to let a few guys become close friends once again, guys that I look up to as mentors, brothers, and good friends. That accomplishment has taken many years and counseling to get to.

2 years

after Gastric


Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year's Resolution

Well time to make New Year's Resolutions. I usually don't because I never keep them. But this year I was challenged by Chris Brogan's blog called Your 3 Goals for 2009. He uses 3 words as goals for the year. So I began thinking of 3 words that would be goals for me this year. But as a nurse I couldn't just pick any 3 words, they had to be measurable and I had to be able to assign interventions to them (part of the nursing process). So what are my 3 words...

1. Consistent: I want to be more consistent this year. Consistent in my Bible reading, church attendance, spending time with my family & friends, and exercising. Each of these are measurable daily, weekly as well as yearly. 
  • Read the daily Bible readings on
  • Attend church services on Sundays either in a church building or through an online service such as
  • Plan date night with hubby, call family each week, write or call friends at least monthly
  • Exercise on the Wii fit @ least 3x/week.

2. Share: I have so much I can share as a nurse and a Follower of Christ. That is why my tag line is Serving Christ through Nursing. I want to use this blog to share what I know as a nurse, how it fits into my Christian walk and hope that others will be blessed & edified through what God teaches me. 
  • Blog about my experiences or whatever God leads me to share at least weekly. 

3. Absorb: I want to absorb more of the knowledge of the people I associate with. I follow some great people on Twitter & Facebook. I want to glean from what God shows them and seek how God can use this knowledge in my life.
  • Set up a reading list of inspirational books from different genres & read at least 1 hour/day.
  • Read at least 1 blog/day.
  • Journal on what God reveals to me through the books & blogs, share as God leads me.

As I have just finished listing my goals for 2009, I realized they all are interconnected. As read, I share then I absorb. A wonderful circle that will help me to become a richer person and to become the person that God wants me to be. 

Thank you Chris Brogan for this challenge. This year I may actually keep my New Year's Resolutions. Will update this post on 12/31/09 with a recap of how I did and to see how far I have come & grown.

So what 3 goals have you decided on for this year?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What A Journey... What An Awesome God!

I had planned to tell about how God led me to travel nursing sooner, but decided to wait to the end of the year because this journey really started in the beginning of 2008 and this is a fitting way to end 2008. Praising God for what He has done for me this year and how I have grown in Him.

In the beginning of 2008, I started feeling a need to move on in my nursing career. The job I was doing was not fulfilling me anymore. At first I couldn't put my finger on it then it came to me, the job I was doing was not the job I had started the year before. the President of the company I was working for seemed more interested in the money than the care of the patients. In hospice compassionate caring is a must. The nurses, nursing assistants, social workers, and chaplains I worked with were and still are doing a great job in providing end of life care for these patients. Unfortunately, management started having patients that were either not appropriate or ready for hospice admitted to hospice services. I was the admission nurse. My name goes on the certification paper stating that the patient qualifies, so if I found a patient that didn't qualify and after talking to the doctor still didn't find a reason for hospice services at that time, I didn't admit the patient to hospice. this upset the President of the company. There were some patients who after they had signed the legal paperwork with the marketer and then I went to do the assessment and started the education of what to expect from the staff and the disease process decided that they weren't ready for hospice services, so again I didn't admit and president of company got mad. My boss, who had worked with me and was the one who trained me in hospice, knew that I would try to find a way to qualify or if patient wasn't ready a way to show them how our service would be beneficial and that it didn't mean that they would be dead tomorrow and if the admission didn't happen I had done all I could.

So in April I started to lose heart in my job. I started looking at other options and felt God leading me to travel nursing. I inquired with a company and was able to start by the end of the month and they had hospice assignments. I put the idea to my husband and he shot it down. I couldn't get him to see that travel nursing made enough money so he could retire completely and travel with me. But because he is the man I love with all my heart and married, I vowed to honor and obey so I put travel nursing behind me. My husband told me that when we get the bills paid off in 5 years (which was our goal and we're on track to meet it) then we would look at travel nursing then. I agreed knowing that I can do anything as long as I remember who gave me the job and the passion to help people... God, the Great Physician.

Admissions went smoother from that point until October when it all started again. in one week I didn't admit three people, two not appropriate and one not ready mentally but needed hospice desperately. One Friday I was called into my boss's office and informed that I was being let go " because I know hospice too well". He told me that they were eliminating my position, giving me a month's severance pay and wouldn't fight unemployment if I had to apply. He told me that if they added the admission nurse position back they would hire someone who didn't know hospice that well. Being a nurse I shouldn't have needed to go to unemployment. I took a week off to absorb what had just happened to me. Then I started job hunting. The papers had no listings for RN's for 3 weeks, not even the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. I then looked back into travel nursing. I felt God strongly pulling me that way. Hubby still wasn't convinced. At the end of my severance time, I still didn't have a job and had to go on unemployment. I even went to a nursing job fair in Atlanta, handed out 20 resumes and never received a call.

I finally got a call from my recruiter at the travel agency with possibilities in Mississippi, Connecticut, or California. So the  wait began to see which place would call & interview me. Connecticut and California did. Connecticut I was their second choice, California chose me. While waiting for those calls I met a nurse recruiter at the Mall of Georgia. All seemed promising, but when I called that Monday she didn't have anything available before I was to leave for California. 

I felt through it all that God was telling me to go travel nursing and all the other positive opportunities was His way of reminding me that He was in control and working for what was best for me. 

David and I decided I would do the first assignment alone to see if it was as good money-wise as everyone was telling us. On the trip to California, God revealed to me that the pay I was getting was weekly not biweekly, that meant every other week I was making more than my husband made very 2 weeks. So it looks like the next assignment, he and our puppy will be joining me and we will combine my two loves nursing and traveling. Also combining my husband's love, being wherever I am. 

These 3 months are going to be hard, but it is something we are used to. He spent 20 years in the Navy and was gone 6-9 months each year for 3 years at a time and then 2-3 months out of the year for the next 3 years. 

Once in California, God again showed me His provision. After getting here, I had to go to Sacramento to get my nursing license for CA. I get there and find out I don't have what I need to get my license in 1 day and GA wasn't being helpful. This was all on a Wednesday. The best I was looking at was 10 days. So here I am in California with no job and no money. I do all I can to expedite my license and hope that by Monday they would have my GA verification. It took me all day to get fingerprinted, picture taken, and FedEx paperwork to GA. I turn everything in to the CA office and was ready to leave when the reviewer talked to me and 10 minutes later handed me my temporary CA license. WHAT A MIRACLE! I was constantly being told that without GA verification I wouldn't get my CA license. But God provided and I started my new job on time.

This whole year has taught me to rely on God, trust in Him for everything. 3 weeks on unemployment really stunk. Thank God we had started following a spending plan that Crown Financial Ministries developed and had money in savings to cover us through that time. I can't wait to see what He has in store for me in 2009. Whatever it is, it will be for my own good, to grow me and to make me more like Him. Looking forward to the next leg of my journey with God.