An Instant Remedy for Bile Reflux…Soda!!

During a family camping excursion, I unintentionally discovered the most effective and almost instantaneous remedy to get rid of bile reflux!!  I have been getting bile reflux quite often, the kind that wakes me up in the middle of the night. And quite frankly, I’ve lost quite a bit of sleep because of it. Once I get the reflux, I’m not able to sleep well afterwards because the burning in my throat keeps me awake.

During camping, the only drink we had left inside our tent was, ironically enough, diet Pepsi. I knew I would have an issue before we went to sleep because I’d eaten s’mores (graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow) and pretty soon after, we went to bed. We forgot to pack pillows, so I was basically laying completely flat on the ground. Both of these meant I would wake before sunrise to that burning bile feeling in my throat. So, at 5:00 AM or so, I was woken up by that exact feeling and tried drinking the only beverage I had available.

To my amazement, it turns out diet Pepsi completely got rid of the bile reflux, and it happened in approximately 5 minutes or less. Since then, I’ve done a little trial and error at home with this. If I wake up with bile reflux, I go and grab a Coke Zero (my personal favorite) and I take 5-6 giant gulps. Somehow the soda shoves the “knot feeling” down and gets rid of the burning feeling.

I’ve been so flabbergasted by this discovery, I just had to share it as its own unique blog post. I hope it will help those of you who also have this issue. On a side note, my stomachless brother does not have bile reflux, so he’s never had to try this.

Hope that helps! Have a good night.

A Day in the Life of the Stomachless Runner

You’d think that 2 years out, there’d be nothing to blog about. But everyday is new and different. Today I was reflecting on my day…all in all quite a pleasant day, but with quite a bit of gastric discomfort, mostly a result of my own poor food choices.

It all started out in the morning. I managed to keep the motivation to get up early and get out the door for a run this morning! Hooray! I’m in a life phase right now where my running needs to happen long before normal people wake up, otherwise it doesn’t happen or gets in the way life and family. And since I’m usually tired, I sleep as long as possible, fall out of bed, throw on some running clothes and get out the door. Of course, one of the dangers of running first thing in the morning is the lack of bathroom stops that are actually open! (I know many runners who have stomachs who have the same dilemma, so maybe this is purely a runner’s issue…)

The night before, I did not eat well. I had a piece of fried chicken with a scoop of potato salad and some fruit. I wasn’t at my house, and my water cup was cleaned up by the time I was ready to drink again. So when I got home later, I tried to catch up on my thirst, but it was a bit too late. When I woke up in the morning I was clearly dehydrated, so much so that I went ahead and drank a half bottle of water quickly. (I know better before an early morning run…)

So I happily get my legs warmed up with the first mile and then my gut just kind of wrenches. It’s the kind of discomfort that actually makes me stop to walk because it’s so uncomfortable. I made the decision to go ahead and turn around and book it home. Good plan!

Then I got to drink some water, felt better and went on with my day. I’ve been a bit obsessed with coffee brewed via a French press. I do believe it might be the best cup of coffee ever! And I’m pretty sure that since cutting my stomach out of my body, I am more obsessed with good, quality foods when I have time and control over it. So my coffee with cream and stevia was unbelievable as usual.

I ate a sausage, egg & cheese kolache at work. Then late morning, I ate some leftover rotisserie chicken and a banana with peanut butter. Late afternoon, I ate a mini turkey and cheese sandwich on a bread roll. I prefer to just eat at my desk all day long, since it’s easier on me to just work and eat at the same time. It’s a stomachless person’s dream.

Here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned (and need to remember for myself):

  1. Eat oatmeal before bed, but not too much.
    1. It seems to help ward off middle-of-the-night bile and slow your digestive track for your early morning run
  2. Don’t drink a lot of water before bed.
    1. This seems to be the main culprit behind the bile that wakes me while sleeping
  3. Be hydrated the night before so you don’t have to drink water in the morning before a run.
    1. Your digestion seems to wake up after you wake up
    2. Running seems to wake up digestion even more
    3. and drinking water seems to get it moving even faster
    4. The above is the perfect trifecta for a trip to the restroom
  4. Exercise
    1. I feel better when I’ve gotten exercise 3-5x per week.
      1. This might just start out as a simple walk early post total gastrectomy. You can get back to what you want further out from surgery
  5. Blood sugar
    1. Your stomach was a buffer between what you put in your mouth and your digestive tract. Once you say goodbye to your stomach, ratably supplying your body with food is up to you to manage.
      1. Your blood sugar can drop low if you haven’t snacked, much the same way your blood sugar can spike when you eat too much sugar.
    2. Always keep a protein-packed snack somewhere nearby for when your blood sugar unexpectedly drops. When I notice my hands start shaking and feel ‘off’, I immediately eat protein. I tell my kids, “Mommy has to eat right now. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.”
  6. Start your day with protein
    1. If possible, eat eggs for breakfast
      1. If you eat out for breakfast, watch out for the “fake egg” places that serve what they call eggs but have so much grease it surprises you
      2. I had a lot of trouble keeping down scrambled eggs early on, but now they are a “go-to” food for me.
  7. When eating meals with others, use context clues for how long it’s “supposed” to take normal people to eat
    1. At this time, just get a to-go box and finish the rest 30min to an hour later
  8. When eating out, prioritize what food on the plate you eat first
    1. Protein first
    2. Fruits and veggies
    3. Simple  carbs last (typically become the leftovers you take home)
  9. The further out from surgery, the less you need to snack, but…
    1. Big meals can be uncomfortable
    2. You can have spikes in blood sugar
      1. Up – when your body is digesting that giant mass of food
      2. Down – before you eat again
  10. Be positive
    1. When I run marathons, I’ve realized (to quite a big extent), your brain tells your body what it can do. Keep this spirit in post-gastrectomy life. Everyday won’t be rainbows and flowers, but push through and remember the big picture. Mind over matter.
    2. Go and see the world. Travel now. Love on your family. If you want to see or do something, plan it and do it. No more indecision. Don’t put it off any longer.
  11. If you drink water near a meal, water before a meal seems easier than water after a meal.
    1. It’s almost as though your digestive tract doesn’t want you to accelerate the food through your gut with water.

Summary list of go-to foods today

  • Egg
  • Pistachios, almonds, peanuts
  • Salmon
  • Cheese slice
  • Peanut Butter
I hope this list and these thoughts help you. Small, frequent healthy meals are best for feeling good. I still enjoy ice cream and sweets without too many issues. I just watch my portion size and it seems to go ok. I can tell when it’s “almost too much”.
Here are a few photos from my trip with the family this summer to Alaska. Such a blessing to be able to share such a beautiful place together. Alaska was designed to remind us just how big and beautiful the world is.
DSC_0287 20150720_190352127_iOSHave a great day! Can’t believe it’s been almost 2.5 years since my gastrectomy!!

Vitamin supplementation Plan – 2 years Post Total Gastrectomy

From what I’ve read and been told, after 6 months, most of your vitamin stores from before a total gastrectomy are assumedly gone. So, it is safe to say that at 2 years post-gastrectomy, I am fully dependent upon diet and supplements to maintain my health.

I just wanted to share with you what I currently am using as a reference. Check with your doctor for your plan. I’ve certainly discovered that everyone’s body reacts and heals differently from this surgery!

Since I have struggled with some major iron deficiency, I found that Centrum chewables is the only chewable multivitamin that actually contains iron. So, I take that one every morning and evening. My theory with the chewable vitamins is that the more I can break it down before it hits my system, the better for absorption.



Then, here is the type of ferrous sulfate (iron) supplement I take. It’s NatureMade because that’s what’s available at my local grocery store. I make sure I get uncoated tablets for better absorption by my gut.

I know that too much iron is a concern, but since I was so deficient, taking this twice a day isn’t an issue yet. I know my iron absorption is reduced due to my total gastrectomy, and I was so extremely anemic that I haven’t reached a tipping point of too much iron. When you get too much iron, you get constipated. I can still poop, so it seems ok so far. To confirm my success with this, I am awaiting an August well visit with my doctors to include a vitamin and mineral screen.

On a side note, I suppose you could take the liquid iron supplement, but that just seems like it’d taste extra disgusting. I couldn’t even stand the smell when I gave it to my children when they were infants.

And since iron absorption is better done with vitamin C, I chew some vitamin C before taking that iron pill supplement.


Last but not least is Vitamin B12. I chose to take the sublingual drops (under the tongue) because I didn’t want monthly shots. I’ve read some folks debating if sublingual drops are effective. With daily sublingual drops taken since my surgery, my B12 is actually high above the typical range. So, the absorption must be effective. I now am balancing to take the drops every other day so that I’m in the healthy range. At this two seconds, I’m taking the B complex sublingual drops; but I’ve also see just B12 available at the store. I’m not sure if the B complex is necessary, but I thought I’d try it.


Stay healthy my friends.

Celebrating two years post total gastrectomy!!

Today marks the two year anniversary of my total prophylactic gastrectomy. It’s been a journey, I think about food differently now, but I’m so happy with where I am today. I sat down for lunch on Monday of this week with a table full of people completely unaware of my gastric reconfiguration. I remember just smiling thinking how far I’ve come. Two years ago, I’d had my stomach removed and couldn’t eat more than 500 calories a day. Now, I can eat with folks who just think “Oh, she has really good self-control around her portion size at meals.” Oh, little do they know!!

So what do you do on the weekend two years post-gastrectomy? Pretty much whatever you want. Hopefully the journey to get here serves as a reminder to savor the moments and love life. We did just that today! The weather is hot and the pools are warm, so you have to soak up the sun. Early in the morning we played a little top golf. After that, we took a short break at home before hitting the neighborhood pools: my son really loves the diving board and then the other pool has a beach as well! This basically meant we spent 4 hours out in the hot sun swimming and enjoying family time together. And tonight we got to attend a friend’s birthday party. Adults got to chat; kids got to play. It was great!

What did I eat today?
Started out with a tortilla with peanut butter, also a coffee with cream
Then some beef stew
Had a grilled cheese at the pool, along with some watermelon
Started getting a little shaky given all the energy output swimming, so I ate some pirate booty and a slice of cheese in the afternoon.
In true Texas form, the birthday dinner had BBQ. So I enjoyed some turkey and sausage, along with some potato salad.
Over the course of the evening, I was able to have a slice of cake and peanut butter M&Ms. I also had chips and hummus.
All that, along with some drinks.

When I type up a list of all the food I shoveled into my body today, I have to say it was pretty awesome. Good thing I’ve kept up my running habit because otherwise I’d probably be gaining a lot of weight at this pace. It’s crazy to compare my food log today with what it looked like 2 years ago. Thank God for the feeding tube that helped me hold my weight the first 7 weeks after surgery!! The pair of pants I bought post-gastrectomy when my weight was at its lowest is now too small for me. Nice to be stomachless and have pair of pants that’s too small on you!

Over the past two years, as I’ve shared my story with others, I’ve been amazed at just how many people are impacted either by stomach cancer or stomach/gastric issues. It’s amazing how many people have a relative who has passed away from or battled with stomach cancer. Others have undiagnosed stomach issues that they’re going from doctor to doctor about. You can’t be part of this community and not recognize that you are your own best advocate.

I call this #stomachlessrunner …

Keep it up my stomachless friends!

But You Don’t Look Like You Had Cancer

Blogging is a great way to reflect on where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I’m going.

At this phase in recovery, a lot of people around me in life don’t realize I don’t have a stomach. And when I do mention it, I feel like I’m weird for even having said anything. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain my circumstance when necessary in the ‘condensed elevator speech’ version that doesn’t make me or them feel so awkward.

So a few weeks ago, I was lucky to be able to attend No Stomach for Cancer’s Spotlight on Gastric Cancer event in Philadelphia with Dr. Parry Guilford as the keynote speaker. It was an awesome conference with great insight into the future of the medicine for CDH1ers. I learned about a possible future cancer prevention pill which would attack mutated e-cadherin. This means that in 15 years, CDH1 mutation patients could keep their stomachs and live!!

I got to meet my fellow stomachless blogger Rachel and her energetic stomachless mom!!

On the way, a lot of people from Houston were flying to Philadelphia for the larger conference hosted by the American Cancer Society. I’d bet most people heading there were researchers or worked for the pharmaceutical companies.

When a man on the plane asked me a simple question, here’s how the conversation went:

Him: “Oh, why are you going to Philadelphia?”
Me: “I’m going to a gastric cancer conference.”
Him: “Oh, are you in research?”
Me: “No.”
Him: “Oh, then you’re a doctor!”
Me: “No, actually I’m a patient.”
Him: Look of astonishment, turning to feeling a bit awkward for having asked the question.

I am fairly young. I consider myself to look pretty healthy, somewhat athletic, and maybe too skinny. So when people see me, they don’t think I look like someone who had cancer or who is missing a stomach. How do you explain your circumstance to people who feel your physical appearance is incongruent with what you’re telling them?

Here’s conversation two, as I was picking up my young son from after-school care:

Son (while nonchalantly playing with a toy): “Yeah, my mommy doesn’t have a stomach. Yeah, she had it removed so she could have me.”
Older girl classmate: Look of absolute confusion. Looks toward the teacher for an explanation.
Teacher: Look of even more confusion. Looks at me, looks confused back at the confused girl, looks at my son who thinks everyone knows you can live without a stomach.
Me: Awkward laugh.. “Yes, he’s telling you the right thing. I don’t have a stomach. I had my stomach removed. It wasn’t so I could have kids though”
Teacher: Still confused. “What?”
Some silence
Me: “It was because of cancer.”

I don’t feel like I had cancer. My gastrectomy got all my cancer out before it became a problem. It was curative with no chemotherapy. I don’t feel like I can “claim” I had cancer, but quite frankly it seems to be the simplest explanation that most people can get their head around. And everyone knows that cancer sucks.

And the conversation I have at work every week or so. Most stomachless folks will smile as they read this because I’m sure they can relate.
person: “Can I come to your desk to discuss XYZ topic?”
me: “Sure thing. I’m here.”
person (sees remainder of food I need to finish at some point): “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’re eating. I can come back.”
me: “Oh no!! Just ignore the food. I kind of just eat all day. I promise it’s not a problem.”

Maybe I’ll get better at explaining my circumstance as time goes on, but for now it’s just a bit strange when it comes up.

Onto regular life, as I continue to supplement iron multiple times a day (with vitamin C to increase absorption), my strength continues to grow. I’m able now to work out 4 days a week, and I think I’m holding to gaining weight. (Yes, my scale actually broke, and I haven’t replaced it.) The current routine I’m trying out is an attempt to include my love of running with some more strength classes. I run 5-6 miles 2x a week, then take a bodypump class and a boot camp class (which is more like athletic conditioning). I can tell I’m gaining muscle strength; I don’t have a trainer to tell me what I’m accomplishing in body composition, but I can tell. And during my workouts, I can tell that my strength is growing. I’m able to lift more, sprint harder, complete the entire class without feeling like giving up. This is a great place to be at now. I’ve notice my growing strength is really helping my running pace again, much to the chagrin of my running friends who have to push to keep up with my increasing pace. Haha!!

My regular pants from before my gastrectomy fit me again. 6 months post surgery, I had lost so much weight and muscle mass that I was swimming in all my clothes. Now I feel like I’m back!

On the food front, a blog commenter Jeff mentioned I focus on food more now. I’d have to agree. Ironically, my gastrectomy has made me more appreciative of good, quality foods with lots of flavors. If you can eat good quality proteins, add all the flavorful elements and feel good afterwards, it’s a big win! You appreciate everything that tastes good, makes you feel good and stays down. Not many people have had to go through an extended phase of not being able to hold food down, so they can’t quite appreciate what it means to eat food and keep it down.

On the life front, I’m happy. My CDH1 diagnosis focuses me on what truly matters in life. I don’t think about it everyday, but it sits in the back of my mind. It gives me a good reminder to push away what doesn’t matter. I strive to strike the right balance between God, family, my health, and work. So long as I keep my iron up, I seem able to keep up, although a bit hectic at times. I try to remember everyday to build up the people around me and remember they too have a story. People and true relationships matter. And everyone has a story.

One final note to articulate just how everyone has a story. I met some new folks for a group run last week. One guy was faster, so we ran ahead for a great run!! I chat while I run and got onto the subject of not having a stomach. (The good thing about distance running is I had plenty of time to explain my story!) We were talking about genetics, its link to cancer, medical protocol and more. As we were talking, he mentioned how odd it was to hear my story. He then proceeds to tell me that his mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer many years ago. She was told she would live 1.5 years without surgery, but with surgery could live 3 years. He pushed his mom to have the surgery because he wanted his mom with him for the full 3 years. After the surgery, his mom had so many complications that she passed away within one year anyhow. He felt guilty. He said, “I think about my mom a lot when I go running.” I said, “Yeah, I understand. I think about my dad a lot when I go running too.”

Everyone has a story.

A Newfound Appreciation for Iron! 1.75 years post total gastrectomy

Now when I sit down to blog (in glorious peace and quiet), I have to calculate how long it was since my surgery. It’s hard to believe that in June I will have been without my stomach for 2 years! I’m at the phase now where I’ve truly lost track of how long it has been. My lack of stomach no longer dominates my life or my thoughts. My body still reminds me periodically, and I sometimes wonder what my life would be like today with my dad and aunt still in it. I’d like to think those are gentle reminders to focus on what’s important in life.

As the title eludes, I have been taking my separate iron supplement along with my multivitamin and B complex supplement. That addition of iron to my repertoire of daily supplements has led to super energy Marne again…tons of energy!! And it’s amazing how far I had slipped without realizing the root cause. I eventually felt bad enough that I looked it up and realized I exhibited all the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. I also figured my exhaustion and pace slowdown in running was because I was getting older and out of energy. I ran 5 miles yesterday and was able to drop my pace down into the 7:00 min/mile range again. It’s amazing how much more you can force your body to do with normal iron levels!!

Per WebMD, women age 18-50 require 18mg/day, while men get away only needing 8mg/day (you guys stink!). Between that and my bypassed duodenum, I quickly trended into the iron deficiency anemia “fogginess” and exhaustion. But I’m happy to report, a simply daily supplement of ferrous sulfate is getting me back on track. Make sure you buy the non-coated caplet. Something about the coated one tore up my gut and left me feeling a bit ‘off’.

Onto the story of life…
I love the way my fellow stomachless blogger Steve put it: less things, more memories. To that end, when my son said he wanted to go skiing, we were able to make it happen. Our trip included a LOT of family time, skiing, an airplane flight (half the fun for the kiddos), snow tubing, ice skating, a Utah Jazz basketball game, first ever visit to the great salt lake, and great food! The trip was a blast!! I’m always worried I’ll forget to book a flight or that the activities I plan will be horrible, but I’ve been very impressed how somehow everything just falls into place and works out.

Here is a brief synopsis of my stomachless food and ski tour….

I’m a huge fan of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I actually vicariously enjoyed food in the early post-gastrectomy recovery days by watching the show. So, of course I looked up a few spots to check out and settled on the Red Iguana 2 in Salt Lake City. Here’s the mango chicken enchiladas! They were fabulous, and I ate 1 1/2, took the rest to go. I ate my last half 30 minutes later. It was delicious, and I’m picky about Mexican food.
We had the opportunity to sit on the patio on the beautiful sunny day. Here’s me and my extremely supportive husband:

Then it was off to skiing. I only go once every year or two, so it took me until day 2 to be ready to ski some blues!! I got there, but my stomachless self definitely requires a mid-day break to eat a snack of some sort.

Then we found a fabulous locally own Italian place to enjoy dinner. In honor of Steve, I went all out for some decent coffee. They had an amazing cappuccino there!

Towards the end of the trip, I stumbled on one of the most amazing sandwich shops, called Even Stevens. I had their pot roast sandwich, which was unbelievable.The meat was tender and moist. The bread was amazing, and they had some sort of jalapeno jelly that defined the sandwich. I was able to eat almost the entire sandwich. If you’d seen this sandwich in person, you’d know that was quite the feat. I ate the remainder of the sandwich and the side of chips 30 minutes later in the car once I wasn’t so full!!
FullSizeRender (1)

The trip was amazing. The food was incredible. And the wonderful memories we made as a family were unforgettable.

The only challenge post-gastrectomy life leads to is that you no longer have your stomach as a buffer for all the fatty, junky food you consume. You are now more aware when you aren’t eating as well as you should be. It’s tough to eat out every single meal since almost no restaurant limits fat and grease. (I don’t help matters any by going into “vacation mode” and eating too many sweets!) We’re thinking the next trip we go on, we need some sort of kitchenette so we can at least scramble up some eggs for breakfast and have a dinner not at a restaurant.

So, keep living it up my stomachless friends! I know my gastrectomy has taught me that much!


So, this is a blogging streak for me! Apparently you get some extra iron in my system, and I return to my crazy ways!!

This post is just some open-ended questions that cross my mind sometimes. Short and sweet.

1. Why am I doing so well?
2. Why haven’t I had any major complications or setbacks post-gastrectomy?
3. Can I credit my crazy marathon running past with my overall health? Is this a factor in the quality of my recovery?
4. How awesome must my surgeon be?
5. Why do some doctors not by default put in feeding tubes post gastrectomy? Does the slow and steady weight loss post op as a result (vs the scary fast weight loss) prevent complications such as the gall stones that I’ve read about?
6. Do the food consumption changes post surgery bother me less than other folks?
7. Is it easier to spit out food that gets stuck, rather than being uncomfortable for 20-30 minutes?

I don’t have the answers, but these are some questions that still linger from reading about others’ experiences as compared to my own.

Happy Tuesday! I’m off to spin class in the morning under the presumption that exercise is directly related to my overall health post-gastrectomy. So long as I can make up the calories, I’m keeping it up.

Let’s Talk Iron Deficiency Anemia

It’s been a while since my last post, and life is busy as ever. I can hold my weight and have been focusing lately on hydration, quality foods and exercising. I do eat all the time, both a blessing and a curse. I’m still the skinny girl who indulges in the candy and seems to always be eating, but is still skinny. (This generally makes people mad!) As my life has moved forward, some folks know I have a stomach and others do not. It seems like too long and complex of a story to explain to most people in a short time.

My kids make fun of me for being such a slow eater. But honestly, forcing our family to take time to eat and enjoy our food isn’t a bad thing. It might take me a while, but it forces quality family discussion over food. I could think of worse things to happen. I’ve been attending the kids’ Valentine’s parties, planning a skiing vacation and keeping up with life. Life is still full of so many blessings, it is just wonderful.

The one big reminder I still have about not having a stomach is food getting stuck. As long as I chew well and try to never rush food, I’m fine. I try to stick to this theory. But every once in a while, I eat too big of a bite and it gets stuck. I salivate like Pavlov’s dog and go spit somewhere. Not very attractive, I know. But it’s one of those things I can deal with. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I just stop eating until I can tell it has passed. What’s interesting is that my brother never has this. If a food doesn’t agree with him, he experiences gastrointestinal discomfort more so than having to throw up.

Girl Scout cookie season has arrived, and I’m currently testing a question: “How many thin mints can I eat in one setting before I sugar crash or get dumping syndrome?” So far, I’m able to consume like 12 cookies and still be ok. It’s craziness. I think four thin mints have 8 grams of sugar, so that’s pretty impressive. I never could’ve managed that much sugar early post surgery.

Now onto the main topic… iron deficiency anemia! Woohoo! Are you as excited as me?

Anyhow, I went to see my surgeon, and they did a general blood screen. My gastrectomy by-passed my duodenum, where I have read most of the iron is absorbed into your body. This puts me at risk of anemia. I had been feeling incredibly tired and when I ran, it felt like my muscles just weren’t responding the way I am accustomed. I also looked up symptoms, of which I had pretty much everything: cracked corners of lips, sore tongue (think tongue on fire after eating incredibly spicy food), pale skin (paler than my usual pasty white), some mental fogginess and bad skin. I felt like the walking example of iron deficiency anemia, so I started adding an extra daily supplement of ferrous sulfate (This was a leftover over-the-counter supplement which I had taken during my pregnancies). I started feeling better and am still continuing feeling better even today. My energy levels are coming up, and I don’t feel exhausted all the time. My blood screen came back after 1.5 weeks of daily additional supplementation and I had a 9.1 hemoglobin count. I’m not sure exactly where you should be, but the pretty chart had a trend line with a reference point of 12. I assume you should be above a 12 to be in good shape. You could see my hemoglobin trendline just plummeting….into exhaustion.

So now I’m adding the daily supplement for 2 months to see if I can get back on track. The trouble with nutritional deficiencies is remembering just how long it takes you to get this deficient and then how long it will take you to get back. The struggle I have is the act of actually taking the supplement. When I take the full iron supplement, I don’t always feel good. It’s almost like a “sugar crash” feeling where you just want to go and lay on the couch. But I found out that if I cut the pill in half and take it in two separate, smaller doses, I don’t feel sick.

So far, my energy levels are up, my muscles feel like they’re starting to give me a bit more in my workouts, and my skin is starting to clear up. I will be continuing to watch this trend. My guess is after my iron is at acceptable levels, I’ll need to figure out exactly what a “maintenance volume” might be. Would it be 2 supplements per week or just 1? I will have to find out!!

On a side note, I completed my second half marathon without a stomach in January!! It was not my best time by any stretch of the imagination, but I got it done! I was tired at the start and didn’t have a running buddy. I FaceTimed my children 5 miles in, which made a lady running by me think I was crazy and talking to myself. :) I was pretty bummed about a 1:54 finish time, but my surgeon bailed me out with good excuses. He said running with iron deficiency is like strapping weights to your arms, feet and then throwing a backpack on for good measure. The iron in each blood cell is what transports the oxygen to your muscles and takes away the carbon dioxide. If you have a deficiency, it’s like pulling a sub compact car up to transport passengers instead of the planned megabus. It’ll take twice as much blood to accomplish the normal oxygen delivery. So my excuse for this year’s half marathon will be iron deficiency anemia. I plan to correct this problem and try again next year!! (I’m already signed up.)

Sometimes it’s just about looking fast!

What’s better than a pre-race selfie?

So that’s a few thoughts about 20 months post gastrectomy. Thanks for following the blog!

What Does Life without a Stomach mean to me? 1.5 years post-op

Life is moving on. What else does being stomachless mean to me? It’s kind of like this quiet journey I’ve overcome in life. It’s been a check for myself from God to remind me of what really matters and just how lucky I am for everyday I live in good health.

I do wonder what it would be like if the CDH1 gene had been found in the early 90s and what that would’ve meant for my dad. I think how lucky I am that medicine has come so far that I can live a normal life and have beat this familial cancer that took my grandma, father, aunt and others. My brother is still frustrated trying to keep his weight up with his high metabolism and the need for 2500+ calories per day to hold his weight. He will be a year out from his surgery in a few weeks, and constantly eating gets very, very old during that recovery. But his dedication, focus and determination are holding his weight. He will be able to gain weight soon, I know and I pray. At the end of the day, we both understand this is the long recovery journey and that it is worth it.

My everyday is much simpler now. I don’t have to get so crazy about snacks. If I do run 5-6 miles in the morning, I’ll make sure I add more snacks that day so I don’t lose weight. I don’t really get that hunger pang, but I do feel weak or realize when my hands start to shake because I haven’t eaten enough. I can drink alcohol, can eat most everything in moderation. I still struggle with fatty simple carbohydrates, ie any crackers, potatoe chips, etc. I can eat them, but not a whole lot of them. The same goes for sugars… I can have sugar, but I have to moderate my intake of sugars.

I need iron and protein, and that is clear from how I feel. The more I focus on those (and B vitamins), the all-around better I feel. So my day-to-day is an attempt at healthy eating, but that certainly doesn’t always happen. I find it CRITICAL to start my day off with protein, so I lean heavily on scrambled eggs to start out. And I still love oatmeal. I can eat a GIANT portion of that (10% of your daily iron intake) and feel really great, not too full, not crummy, just really good.

So long as I’m eating well, I have lots of energy to keep up with my family. I’m motivated again to cook and enjoy the foods. Now that food isn’t such the central focus in my life, it’s more enjoyable. Although spending a year ensuring you eat snacks all the time almost makes you TOO focused on foods. So when you can consume regular portion sizes again, you have to actively reduce snacks because you are consuming a lot. My husband commented I’m now eating more than a lot of people and my portion sizes are bigger than some folks. I still have my high metabolism for sure. And yes I get no sympathy for that, but it was definitely a challenge during the first year of recovery plus my running habit. :)

My goals for 2015 include healthy eating, more home-cooked meals, a regular workout routine (been getting lazy), remembering to give my children drinks during meals since I don’t drink and eat at the same time, finding a general practitioner to watch my vitamin levels and trying to be a less snappy wife and mom. I do think my imbalances with nutrition have led to me to be more easily frustrated and more likely to snap during the day. I’m working on this, and I think balanced nutrition is a critical element.

So, that’s life 1.5 years post-gastrectomy. I had the pleasure of meeting someone 9 years post-gastrectomy the other day. He’s completely normal and just picks and choses what he eats in a sitting. He commented that he asked the waitor to take his water away during a meal because that night he was going to have wine. And when there’s only so much space, you just have to make choices what you will consume. The waitor did give him a funny look, but most people don’t think like someone without a stomach.

So that’s all for me for now. I’m might not be a regular blogger now that life is busy and less about recovery. But I made a promise to myself that I’d maintain this blog for the long haul since there was a lack of folks posting about multi-years post gastrectomy.

Taco soup dinner is ready, so I’ll upload photos later.

Vacation to the Bay Area!

So I had my last post sitting in draft mode for quite some time, so this is a bit of a double-post evening. I wanted to highlight a wonderful trip I got to take to San Francisco.

Most importantly, I got to meet my blogging friend Steve! He managed to run into every setback in the book the month preceding my trip, so I wasn’t sure how on earth he’d be able to meet me for dinner. Steve actually emailed me before I arrived about how great it is to have spent 6 nights in a row at home, not revisiting the hospital! I can’t believe they made it after all of that!

Here we are. And the best part was having a stomachless friend who also took a to-go box. The “EAT” sign in the background was completely unintended but so very appropriate. Steve has really embodied the positive spirit of people I want to surround myself with in this world; to be able to meet was so exciting!

We got to chat about what we’ve gone through, ask family history questions, laugh about some stuff and realize how great our spouses have been for supporting us through this whole crazy rollercoaster. Keep on recovering Steve! You’ve got this!

Now onto some touring we did…
I do still love me some coffee. Here we are at Olea in San Francisco enjoying (for the first time) french press coffee. This coffee was coupled with my breakfast of huevos rancheros. (I do separate food and drink at most meals still. Restaurants that are slow enough to allow me to drink first before the food arrives are my favorite!)

I did get to eat a lot on this trip. Here were some fabulous dinners.

I found that I can eat quite a bit of seafood very easily. Here’s Mr. Crab. Messy but so tasty!

The trouble with extended eating out is there tends to be a general over-abundance of fat and not enough protein and iron. So, to shore up that issue, I enoyed a center-cut prime rib. Amazing!! The photo is of the delivered steak, and I was able to eat most of it because I didn’t get any appetizers.

And finally a non-food photo! Here is Kyle checking out the Pacific ocean. I believe this was the first time I’ve visited the Pacific ocean. :)
Pacific Ocean

I wanted to add a bit more to the blog, but I’m too tired. I’m signing off and hope you have a great night.