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.
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We had the opportunity to sit on the patio on the beautiful sunny day. Here’s me and my extremely supportive husband:
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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.
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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!
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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!!
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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!

10 thoughts on “A Newfound Appreciation for Iron! 1.75 years post total gastrectomy

  1. Hy, my name is Mady, i’m from Romania, and i’ve been follow your blog since my father suffered a total gastrectomy seven months ago. Last month has finished the last chemo session and the tomography came very well. This is the short story.
    He had, unfortunately, almost all the postsurgery effects. But what’s upset him most, are the cramps. Most of all, after meal. Every day the same story… i don’t know what to do for him 🙁 they are normal? He’s sad and angry on himself. It’s brown sugar one of the problems? He loves my mother homemade cakes… 😀
    Next week we’ll go to a nutritionist.
    Thank you for your time! All the best! :*

    • Hi Mady!!
      Gastrectomy recovery is very difficult and challenging, especially at the beginning. But 6 months is better, then a year is even better.

      Your dad really needs to cut sugar out of his diet and see how he feels. If you can switch to baking using sugar substitutes such as Splenda and stevia, that should help. I can tolerate sugar, but only when it is coupled with protein. I struggle with foods I haven’t cooked because I don’t know what’s hidden in them. Generally if it tastes sweet and I don’t expect it, I don’t finish eating it.

      Also, he’ll need to watch breads or anything that looks like it expands when it’s mixed with water. I also stay away from greasy foods with no protein, ie French fries.

      Try a few of those recommendations and see if it helps. I also start my days off with water first, and then eggs. It feels like the water gets my digestive tract started up and the protein to start the day really helps.

      I hope those help!!

  2. I read y and I was being taken by it I need your help could you tell me how was it like after the surgery when was we went when you’re able to eat solid food after the surgery I had my surgery in October my removal of the stomach and I’m still suffering with gagging vomiting and unable to eat regular food could you tell me or help me with some information I really appreciate it thank you so much

    • Hi Esther,

      I started soft solids in the hospital and then moved on as I could to regular foods. I have to chew and chew and chew every meal. It probably takes me 2-3 times as long to eat as people without a stomach. Sometimes if a bite I swallow is too big, I end up salivating and then have to throw it back up. This happens infrequently now but happened a lot more in the beginning.

      If all your food is getting stuck, you might have a stricture. You’ll need to have your doctor check. If you do, they do dilations to help improve it.

      I hope that helps. A great resource is http://www.nostomachforcancer.org

      Marne

  3. Hi Marne,
    Wow. I think you and I live somewhat parallel lives, reading your thoughts on this blog. I had a full gastrectomy in Nov 2008 and have been totally cancer free ever since. I happened to come across your blog doing a web search since I’ve had some issues with my iron level recently. I’m now taking a teaspoon of Iron Ferrous Sulfate Elixir solution every morning with orange juice, as prescribed by my doctor. I’m curious to know why you chose the non-coated tablet over the liquid solution. In addition, I’ve just started eating grape nuts cereal (very high in iron, popular with women athletes I hear), although the amount of fiber is a bit crazy high for me given my digestive system if you know what I mean! It is great to see another person missing their stomach be so physically active. Living in the New York City area and attending support groups, I’ve met quite a few people without stomachs but not so many athletes. I play competitive tennis at a high level, mostly with former college players. I’m 40 lbs lighter than I was prior to surgery so I’ve had to adjust my game to live with less power, particularly on my serve. I like to consider myself the best player in the world without a stomach until somebody challenges me for my title! Take care and I’ll check in on your blog.
    Jeff

  4. Hi Jeff!!

    So great to read your comment!! A few folks have joked with me that I need to find a less calorie intense hobby now that I’m post-gastrectomy. But I do love running!

    There isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason behind using an iron pill supplement. I do take it with a chewable vitamin C to increase absorption. I actually didn’t realize there was a non-baby liquid version of iron supplements. I’ll have to try it. The only thing I knew that was a liquid iron supplement was this liquid we gave to our kids as babies called poly-vi-sol. Do you take that one or something different?

    I’ve actually found that now that I have been supplementing iron multiple times a day, I have a lot more strength. I’ve been able to add a boot camp class (just athletic conditioning) and bodypump. Right now, I’ve been running 2 mornings a week and have been taking those classes the other 2 days. So, a total of 4 workouts a week. When I ramp up for another half marathon, I’ll add a weekend longer-distance run as well. 🙂

    One of my fellow bloggers, Steve Dang, had his stomach removed and just completed his first triathlon post gastrectomy. I’m so proud of him; it’s such an inspiration.

    Take care!
    Marne

    • Hi Marne,

      That is absolutely crazy nuts that a guy who has had a full gastrectomy is completing a triathlon, but I love to hear it!

      Do a search for “Ferrous Sulphate Iron Elixir Supplement Liquid 16 Oz” on Amazon. That brown bottle is what I use. Even though I am taking it under the care of a doctor (and would not recommend taking this strong stuff without being monitored by a doctor), it does not require a prescription. How low are your numbers? My Ferritin level had dropped to 21 last December but now I have it up to 34. I’ve also seen increases in both my hemoglobin and red blood cell count in 2015 which had also both fallen below their expected ranges in late 2014. The interesting thing is that all 3 of these blood tests fell below their expected ranges for me at about the same time late last year. When I looked at the data with my doctors it was completely obvious that they had been continuously falling since surgery. Nobody ever picked up on it until they went too low. I often feel like I and my doctors are “writing the user manual” for my digestive system as we go along. Thanks to complications, I’ve got more missing from my digestive system than just my stomach (the illeocecal valve, for one thing) so that makes it a bit more difficult to predict my future issues.

      Keep up the blogging. I love your focus on food. I wonder if you loved food as much prior to surgery. I don’t think I did. I think I appreciate it more now.

      Jeff

      • Hi Jeff!

        I had to look it up. My ferritin wasn’t the reference in my bloodwork. One of the levels in my lab report was hemoglobin. It was 9.1 and should have been between 12 – 16. My hemocrit was 30.5 and should have been between 37 – 47.

        I had to use Dr. Google to figure out all the different measures in my lab report. I just know many indicators of iron were well under and my surgeon said I was very iron deficient. 🙂 I need to go to medical school!!

        Marne

        • Hi Marne,

          Those are low numbers! I am sure your ferritin would have been low too. I hope you are able to raise those levels if you haven’t already.

          Jeff

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