Hair Loss After Gastric Bypass

My body has gone through a lot of changes since surgery. One of the toughest things for my self image has been the hair loss. I’m not going bald by any means, and I know that it could be a lot worse…but I really don’t like how much scalp I’m showing these days.

There are a few reasons why hair loss happens after surgery. It can be a result of the trauma of surgery, from the anesthesia, or from nutritional deficiencies. For most people, there is a delay of 2-9 months before the thinning occurs. I started noticing it around the 3 month mark. At 5 months, it’s even more pronounced. Also, the texture of my hair has changed. It’s less shiny and more coarse.

Everytime I brush my hair, or run my fingers through my hair, I have strands come loose. The loss appears even more dramatic with my hair being so long (about halfway down my back). If I  run my hand across a surface (such as my bed or desk at work), the stray hairs are there too. The most breakage and loss happens near the front of my head, so I’ve had to find creative ways to part my hair and pin my bangs so it’s less noticeable.

There’s no magic cure for the hair loss, but I’ve upped my protein intake, started taking biotin, and switched to higher quality, less damaging hair products. I have been heat-styling less, which means it’s up in a loose bun most days. I avoid tight ponytails so I don’t lose extra hair from the elastics.

One of the common debates I hear about weight loss surgery is health vs vanity/beauty. My primary reason for having weight loss surgery was to improve my health, but there definitely was an element of vanity to it. Of course I want to appear more trim and attractive. But I feel conflicted about complaining about my hair loss because it IS vain. I’d rather have thin hair and a healthy body, but it is a tough adjustment.

Luckily, almost all post-operative hair loss will improve after time. As tempted as I’ve been to grab a box of Minoxidil at the drug store, I know I need to be patient with my body and wait it out. Unless I point it out, most people don’t notice the hair loss….but they do notice the 85 pounds I’ve lost.

Harder Than Expected

Over and over, I’ve heard people say some iteration of this idea: “Having weight loss surgery is taking the easy way out.” But I’m here to tell you – it’s tough. Life as a weight loss surgery patient has been much more difficult than I expected.

The last six weeks have been hard. Knock my socks off difficult. Throw in the towel tough. Along with the surgery-type challenges, there have been a lot of other situational stresses to deal with.

The biggest recent obstacle has been our family’s move. It’s stressful to move for everyone, and even when you have people helping you, it’s a big undertaking. I’ve moved six times in the last six years. I feel like I should be a pro mover at this point, but I seem to get more anxious with every moving experience. With the ongoing fatigue I’ve had, I felt my capacity to get things done was a drop in the bucket. My husband was the rockstar of the move, packing and lifting far more boxes than I did.

nicole's black eyeThe day we packed up the moving truck, I had a box springs mattress whack me in the head. It had been leaning against the wall, but it lost balance and landed on me as I was sitting on the floor. The wooden frame got me pretty good and knocked me out. I probably should have been checked out for a concussion, but I was too worried about moving. I worked through the dizziness because I felt like I had no other choice. The swelling from the hit eventually gave me a bruised eye socket.

And what happened the day after we moved into the new place? The sewer backed up. We were lucky that none of our personal belongs were ruined with the flood, but had to leave for a few days so crews could clean up, tear out carpet, and let things air out. Staying in a hotel right after a move wasn’t exactly restful. We’re glad to be back in our new home.

What else? I’ve been at my new job for a few weeks, and I really like it, but I feel like the fatigue I’ve felt recently is making me far less efficient than normal. It’s harder to focus and make it through the weekday. I thought that I’d feel more energetic at this weight.

Speaking of weight, I’ve been in a plateau for a few weeks. I was SO excited when I got under 300. But it’s been bouncing between 301.5 and 298.0 for over 2 weeks. At 298.0, I was officially 75.3 pounds down. Hopefully now that the move is over, I’ll be able to get into a better groove with my weigh loss. I haven’t been exercising much, and I am ready to have the strength to do so.

I’ve got an appointment with Dr. Smith tomorrow. I’m hoping to get some answers why I’m so tired. My guess is that I’ve got some nutritional deficiencies. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety, which seems to hit me hard every summer, so it might be time to switch up some medications.

A few people have asked me this week “Do you regret having the surgery?” I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings because I have had some complications and obstacles, but I don’t regret it. It’s given me the ability to make better decisions for my health. My body looks better than it has in several years, and I’m pleased with the results so far. I need to be patient with myself to keep doing the right things for my health. I haven’t been perfect with my eating habits, and it’s hard to overcome the temptations to use food as a crutch when things are hard. The difference is that surgery has given me a good tool to limit my ability to eat when I succumb to food to cope. If I’d been able to eat like a “normal person” through the last few weeks of the move, I probably would have gained 10 or more pounds. Instead, I’ve been bobbing between the same 3 pounds. I know I’m in a rough spot, but I also know it’s temporary. I just need to keep taking life one step at a time.


Roadtrip To Portland – Part 1

Ever since my dilation procedure, I’ve been feeling great.  I decided I was in good enough shape to go on an overnight trip to Portland with a friend. He moved from Salt Lake City to Seattle, and needed a travel companion to keep him safe on the road. Originally my husband was going to go, but he ended up being scheduled on a trip of his own. It would consist of a drive to Portland and a flight back to SLC, all taking  a day and a half.

Because the vehicle would be jammed packed with his stuff, I didn’t have a lot of room to bring what I needed to travel with. I packed a small carryon suitcase, but he said it wouldn’t fit. I told him the only way I could pack lighter was to not bring my CPAP machine, and he said he could handle my snoring. I did pack a back of snacks…an insulated back with some Simply Gogurt, Laughing Cow cheese, shaved parmesean curls, grapes, and some sliced deli turkey.

We left SLC around 3:20 on Saturday with the plan to overnight in Baker City Oregon. After a pit stop in Burley, ID, Chris decided he wanted me to drive. He soon fell asleep, and I got to enjoy rural Idaho through a very gorgeous sunset. We got to our mediocre motel in Baker City around 9:45, having to adjust to Pacific time for a few hours before Daylight Savings hit.

We got back on the road around 7:45 am, and grabbed some breakfast. The motel offered a disappointing continental breakfast, but I couldn’t eat anything there. We went to McDonalds, and I got a sausage burrito. I opened up the tortilla, and ate some egg, cheese, and sausage. Chris was laughing at how little I was able to eat, especially as he downed 4 sausage biscuits. Funny to think that before surgery I could probably have eaten 2 or 3 of those biscuits.

Oregon Trail interpretive center Maybe it was from lack of sleep, or maybe because we were in a silly mood, but this road sign cracked us up. In Mormon culture, CTR stands for “choose the right.” We were joking that choosing the right is up for interpretation, and if you make the wrong choice, you’ll be sent to Hell’s Canyon.

It was an interesting day on the road. We had some light rain for the first hour of the drive, intermixed with partly cloudy sunny skies. When we got past La Grande and into the Blue Mountains, we got hit by a pretty crazy blizzard.

The Blue Mountains are notorious for snowstorms that pick up quickly and dump hard. Roads had not been plowed, and trucks were required to chain up. We slowed down to a crawl and followed the tracks in the snowy slush. There are some pretty steep downgrades, and we slid around a bit, but we made it through the worst of the storm, and it was raining by the time we went down “Cabbage Hill.” We stopped for some lunch outside of Pendleton, and I got a meatball sub at Subway. Of course, what I really only ate was a little sauce, cheese and nibbles of a meatball.

The rest of the drive to Portland was a mix between sunny skies and pouring rain. Driving along the Columbia River Gorge is one of my favorite parts of the drive to Portland. Lots of winding roads, little towns, elevation changes, dams and beautiful views. Right outside of Portland we stopped at the Multnomah Falls viewpoint. When we got into Portland, our first stop was at Voodoo Doughnuts.

To be continued…

Stomach Flu? Or Just A Bad Pouch Day?

It’s been one of those days that I don’t really feel like documenting because I’ve felt so miserable. Do people want to know that I threw up 5 times today? Sometimes I’m not sure. I know I’d much rather talk about weight loss and good days.

Since I’ve been back at work, I’ve been around a lot of sick people. It’s frustrating when people come into work sick and germy because I usually catch anything that’s going around. Especially since my immune system has been down since surgery. I take my vitamins and supplements daily, and I’m vigilant about washing my hands. But today I’ve been sick enough to wonder if I picked up what the boys at work have.

I couldn’t keep anything sizeable down until about 3pm today. Had egg whites and melted cheese for breakfast – lost it. Had a few bites of pudding – lost it. Had a little bit of tomato sauce with melted cheese – lost it. I tried to make up for a lack of nutrients with a protein shake, lost it (twice). I couldn’t even keep down water very easily. I made it through half of church, but I was feeling dizzy and nauseous, and decided it was time to go home.

I kept down a few bites of light yogurt, then took a long nap. When I was up, I had a little bit of shredded meat, enchilada sauce and cheese, and didn’t lose it. I sipped water through the evening, and had a little bit of vegetable broth. I kept my emesis basin handy for all the regurgitation and times I though I’d lose my dinner…but it wasn’t fun at all.

If it’s the flu, I hope it’s just a passing 24-hour thing. If it’s an unhappy pouch, I’ll be discussing that with Dr Smith at my post-op surgical appointment tomorrow morning. I’m going to talk about the ongoing nausea and fatigue that I deal with every day. Some people have suggested me upping the amount of protein I consume, and I also switched the type of B-12 I take from sublingual drops to sublingual lozenges. I’ll report my weight in my post tomorrow.

Food diary:

  • Egg whites and cheese (lost it)
  • A few bites of pudding (lost it)
  • Tomato sauce and cheese (lost it)
  • Protein shake (lost it)
  • 1 oz light yogurt
  • 2 oz shredded pork, enchilada sauce, and melted cheese
  • 2 oz vegetable broth
  • 5 grapes

Why I’m Having Gastric Bypass Surgery

With my extensive social media involvement, I have many people that I interact with who I’ve never met. I post a fair amount of pictures of myself online, and I always pick the pictures where I think I look good. I’ll tilt my head the right way, crop out my arms or belly, and avoid showing my whole body. I hide my problem areas along with my insecurities.

The truth is, I’m very large. Technically, my BMI of 51 puts me in the “super obese” category, which is one step above morbidly obese. I have a plethora of health problems including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, severe obstructive sleep apnea, elevated blood pressure, polycystic ovaries, hormone imbalances, chronic anxiety and depression, edema and circulatory problems. My joints constantly ache, and I have difficulty exercising without injuring myself. I take pills to help with many of these problems, and I’m usually in a doctors office at least twice a month.

Now, you might be thinking “She doesn’t look THAT huge.” I get that all the time. I was blessed with good genes. I’m 5’10”, so my weight doesn’t show as blatantly on my frame as it might on other people. But as stated above, I have a lot of health problems and excess weight. When I stepped on the doctor’s scale last week, I weighed 357. It’s not the most I’ve ever weighed, but close. When I hit 300 three years ago, I could not believe I’d hit that point. But when have disclosed my weight to others, I usually get a depreciating statement like “That’s not possible….you don’t look anywhere near 300 pounds.” As much as I appreciate people telling me I don’t look my weight, the numbers on the scale do not lie. And I’m very self-conscious about it.

I’ve come to hate group photos. All I end up doing is comparing myself to the other people in the picture. Especially arms – my upper arms are 2-3 times as large as a fit woman’s arms, and no amount of toning ever seems to help. I’ve done a fair amount of weightlifting over the years, and all it’s ever done is bulk up my big arms. Or so it seems to me.

I honestly believe I have a more healthy diet than the average American. I’m a pro at the lean protein/whole grain/veggie and fruit way of life. I have been putting myself on restrictive diets to lose weight since age 11, which was when my weight problems began significantly effecting my self esteem. I’ve memorized nutritional information for most foods that I consume, including calories, fat grams, carbohydrates, and protein. Until last week, my main guilty pleasure was excessive consumption of soda and caffeine, but I’m overcoming those addictions and am on day 7 totally soda free.

As I’ve started telling people about my surgery plans, one of the first things that people ask me is “Wait, have you tried _____ diet/supplement/pill/shake?” Honestly, I’m DONE “trying” things. The short list of my weight loss attempts include Weight Watchers (8 times), South Beach diet, Atkins Diet, American Heart Association diet, calorie counting, fat gram counting, high protien diets, liquid diets,  personal training, online diets and support groups, hypnosis podcasts, Curves, Intuitive Eating, Thrive weight loss, and physician-assisted weight loss plans with prescription weight loss drugs (both phentermine and the naltrexone/bupropion combo).

Twenty years of failed weight loss attempts has significantly affected my endocrine and digestive systems, not to mention my self-esteem. I’ve spent the better part of 10 years on a therapists couch, and much of it has to do with my body image issues and addictive behaviors. I have such a skewed relationship with food. Although I do “eat emotionally,” it is not my main issue. I am a social eater. I can stick with a strict eating plan when I’m on my own, but as soon as I’m around other people, I can’t keep up.

I love the experience of indulging in food with love ones. Many of my happiest memories in life include delicious food with friends and family. It’s so easy to lose control when I’m eating with people I love, no matter what the food item is.

So much of my relationship with my husband has included food. When we only have an hour or two for a date, we almost always go out to eat. When we first got married, we ate out all the time and each gained about 35 pounds. While my husband was able to lose it through diet and exercise, my weight has crept up through the 7 years of our relationship, despite my best efforts. My weight and health have affected our relationship, and I know that it stresses my husband out to no end. Because he is away from home for half the month, it’s been hard to come up with a consistent diet/exercise routine that doesn’t stop when he comes back into town.

So, for these reasons and many more, I’m going under the knife. It took two years to come to the decision to have surgery, with the approval process taking another year. I’ll blog about the approval process for me next, but believe me, it was a tough year of paperwork, health histories and exams, appeal letters, and countless phone calls. I’ve been scheduled for laparoscopic RNY gastric bypass surgery on February 7th.

I’m Not Crazy, It’s My Hormones

 You know when you’ve been sick for so long, you’re obsessed with finding out why? One of my favorite things to do when I can’t sleep is research health topics. I’m an insomniac who researches sleep disorders in the wee hours of the morning so I can try to make some sense of why I’m extremely exhausted, yet can’t sleep. I read book after book about overcoming depression, and follow the suggestions and mental strategies…yet I still struggle with keeping a consistent, happy psyche. Over the last six months, I’ve been having unbelievable mood swings, going from elation to devastation in a single conversation. It’s been VERY hard to deal with.

So I started researching what could be causing my mood swings, insomnia, inability to lose weight, etc. And suddenly a light blinked on in my head – It’s my hormones! After discussing symptoms with my primary care doctor and OBGYN, I was frustrated when they told me to come back in 6 months if the symptoms persisted. “Hormone swings are cyclical…” yadda yadda yadda. I suffered for several months, fairly certain that it was a hormonal imbalance…but not really getting any help from my doctor.

I started talking to people here and there, trying to get a gauge for the possibility of someone at my age with hormone imbalances. I got a referral to a doctor who specializes in hormone and metabolic disorders, but had to wait over a month to be seen. Last week was when I was finally able to get in to see Dr. Lundell. He had me mark a list of 20 different health concerns (brittle nails, libido extremes, inability to regulate temperature, hair loss, hirsutism, insulin resistance), and after the third checkbox, he said “I already know the problem. You have a progesterone deficiency, specifically in the secretory/luteal phase.”

Low progesterone effects brain chemicals that leads to depression, lethargy, mood imbalances and irritability. Low progesterone impacts a calming chemical called GABA, and there’s a decrease in pain-reducing corticosteroid production. A drop in progesterone can also cause women to feel more pain. When progesterone levels decrease, adrenal glands should take over and produce it. Most common symptoms of progesterone deficiency: inability to lose weight, depression, headaches and PAIN. (Check, check, check, check!)

So he ordered a battery of lab tests, set me up on hormone replacement therapy, and said that within a month I should be able to sleep through the night, my metabolism will spike up, mood swings will diminish, I’ll be able to decrease my dose of antidepressant and other lovely things. I am feeling optimistic about my new course of treatment.

It’s reassuring to know that I’m not crazy, it’s just my hormones.

Doing My Best

The last few months have really put me through the wringer, emotionally and physically. It has been incredibly difficult to go from an able-bodied, overzealous DO-er, to someone who has to accept help from others, and be satisfied with myself when I accomplish less than my usual best.

My mother has dealt with chronic pain for nearly 17 years, over half of my life. When she wasn’t able to do all that she needed to, I stepped in. I spent most of my teenage years being a nurturer, a teacher, a chauffeur, a cook, and serving my family whenever necessary. It was frustrating and overwhelming at times, but I was happy that I was able to serve. Although I never really understood my mother’s physical pain, I trusted that she was doing the best she could. I knew I had the ability to help…and I did. And still do.

Since I injured my back in December, my life has been like a parallel universe. I have little endurance and mobility. I am dependent on several medications to function AT ALL. I keep ice packs, heating pads, and “granny pillows” at hand. I go to physical therapy 3 times a week. The entire office staff at my doctor’s office know me by name. I’m on the phone sorting out bills with my insurance, hospitals, urgent care clinics, imaging centers, and medical supply companies nearly every day. I deal with symptoms that sometimes cripple my mobility, such as limb numbness from hip to toe, for hours at a time. I got my first bedsore this week. Sometimes I lose bladder/bowel function. Sometimes the cerebrospinal fluid pressure changes from the cysts in my back cause mindblowing headaches. Some days, I barely make it out of bed at all.

And this life does not suit me. At all.

I pray daily for the patience to endure my pain. I pray for the patience of my friends and family members, who are affected by my illnesses. I pray for the understanding of others, that although they may not know the particulars…they don’t judge me harshly for the things I’m not able to do. I pray that my husband doesn’t give up on me, and understands that I’m truly doing my best.

Did you hear that, world? I’M DOING MY BEST.

Please don’t give up on me. Please be patient with me. Please do not judge me for the things you don’t understand. And I’ll do the same for you.

Depressed Bloggers Anonymous

depression flow chartOver the last few weeks, I have been catching up on my Google Reader. As I’ve skimmed and soaked in 1000+ blog posts over the last 3 months, I’ve found a common theme: depression. I read posts on Mormon Women ProjectBlog SegullahMormon Mommy Blogs,FMH,  Melancholy Smile, and other sites I love. I felt like these authors were speaking my language.

Depression is my disease.

According to the DSM-IV, the following symptoms may occur with depression:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (In children and adolescents, this may be characterized as an irritable mood.)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5 of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with feelings of worthlessness, sadness, inadequacy, and poor self image. I had an extremely hard time making friends as a child, preferring to spend time alone rather than try to fit in.

In 1992, the song “Creep” by Radiohead was released. The lyrics described what felt the so passionately:

I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
when I’m not around
You’re so very* special
I wish I was special
But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin’ here?
I don’t belong here

I have struggled with diagnosed clinical depression since I was 16.  I have always been an emotional and empathetic person. I am a moral perfectionist, always wanting to the right thing and to singlehandedly solve the world’s problems. I feel others’ pain and sadness. Even when my circumstances aren’t dire, I tend to feel so deeply of others’ struggles that I felt drained of my sense of happiness.

Sometimes my depressive episodes are are more cataclysmic than others, but usually I am able to function.

My first depressive episode spawned from qualifying for the state drama meet my sophomore year of HS, but having my drama teacher tell me that I couldn’t go. The principal wanted to limit attendees to one bus. It made me cry uncontrollably to the point I had to go home from school. And then I cried for the better part of a month, feeling so out of control. I met with my doctor, who said that my emotional state was more than an “episodic depression,” it was clinical depression.

Then throw in the times that I was depressed while pregnant, depressed post-partum, depressed when my ex-husband abused me for 4 years, depressed after my divorce, etc. Last summer the depression was so bad that I lost my job because I couldn’t function at work. I spent two months in bed, trying to overcome the dark void that I perceived my life to be. Then I got a new counselor, got on the right meds, made small attainable goals, and pulled myself out slowly. I still struggle everyday, but I’ve learned some wonderful coping mechanisms for getting by on a day-to-day basis.

Other than pills and counseling, my greatest relief comes from spending time with friends and loved ones. When I’m alone, I get down on myself. When I’m with others, I feel like I’ve got the whole world to give away to others. I treat myself to “happy-cations” where I plan out activities for myself where bad thoughts are not allowed. Whether it be time with a BFF,  snuggling up with a good book in a quiet house, or treating myself to a cupcake with a neighbor, my “happy-cations”  make such a big difference.

I’m grateful that others are willing to put out their depression struggles and stories in their blogs. It seems like blogging about depression is like a 12-step meeting…even through depression is not an addictive choice. Would anyone like to join my chapter of Depressed Bloggers Anonymous?

Originally posted at

Organ Recital

This is an actual picture of my chest x-ray today

At age 7, I started seeing a dermatologist for eczema

At age 11, I was diagnosed with asthma

At age 16, I had my first ulcer

At age 19, I was hospitalized for a kidney infection

At age 20, I gave birth to my daughter. During that hospital stay, I was exposed to e. Coli in the hospital, went septic, and into ARDS. I was on a ventilator in the ICU for 3 weeks. At the end of the hospital stay, I developed a blood clot in my arm (from fingertip to armpit) and went on anticoagulation therapy for 6 months

At age 21, I had my first migraine and started immunotherapy for allergies

At age 23, I was diagnosed with hypersomnia and sleep apnea

At age 28, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome

And I’ve basically been overweight since birth, despite numerous dedicated attempts to reduce my weight

Today I went to my new pulomonary/sleep specialist. I have been having terrible sleep luck since October. Usually, I miraculously get by with only 4-6 hours of sleep per night, typically interrupted. I can only recall a handful of times I’ve gotten more than 7 hours of continuous sleep in 4 months. I’ve been snoring like a lumberjack, much to my poor husband’s dismay. I’ve also been feeling sick for a week, and was told on Sunday at Urgent Care that it was “just a cold.” I’ve been huffing my inhaler every few hours for a couple of days, and it was a stroke of luck to get into a pulmonologist so quickly.

I did my H&P wth the PA, did a pulmonary function test, had two chest x-rays, and met with “Dr Eye” (his last name starts with “I” but I can’t remember his actual name). He said that I’ve got a pretty advanced case of bronchitis, and he was surprised that I was still working with it this bad. He reviewed my old sleep records, suggested that I resume CPAP therapy, and scheduled me for another overnight sleep study. He also strongly urged me to look into some surgical options to improve my overall health...specifically bariatric surgery. He said my sleep would not improve markedly unless I lost at least 80 pounds. He said that since I’ve had such limited success with conservative weight loss in the past, and my BMI is over 40, I’m a good candidate for bariatic surgery, and the sooner the better.

Ever since I actually researched what a gastric bypass surgery was, I was horrified. And I also know of two people who had family members pass away on the operating table during the procedure. I have two people that I’m close to have the lap band surgery in the past 2 years, and both have had great results. But do I really want to pursue surgical options? My insurance will cover the great portion of it…in fact my portion would be cheaper than 6 months on Weight Watchers. Dr. Eye said he has a bariatric surgeon that he recommends, and would give me his contact information at my next visit.

Oftentimes, I’ve wondered if my body was the major trial I was given in this life.

Could it be Diabetes?

Through the night, I started having weird pain in my hands and feet. That made me think that I might be dealing with diabetes…it’s been 18 months since I had any pre-diabetic symptoms. But I do remember hearing that immediate, crazy weight gain/loss can be associated with developing type II diabetes milletus. I sure hope that’s not what I’m dealing with…that’s the last thing I need to deal with for the rest of my life.

But I do have a doctor appointment on March 6th with Dr. Monroe, D.O. Hopefully my body will regulate itself out again, and I won’t have to undergo the full panel of diabetes testing again.