Drinking Water Post Gastrectomy – Reduce its Surface Tension

When I attended the No Stomach for Cancer conference in Philadelphia several years ago, we discussed how ironic it was that plain water is the most difficult beverage to drink. To this day, water continues to be the most challenging to drink since it easily gets stuck in my esophagus.

Rachael’s mom mentioned the surface tension of water is to blame. I can’t tell you if that is the reason, but I am a trial & error believer. Once I add drink flavor enhancers, I am able to drink water twice as fast without problems. I recently discovered Walmart carries a clear version. I like that they didn’t add any additional dyes, for whatever that is worth. A more natural alternative would be to squeeze lemon juice into water. Essentially, anything to break the surface tension seems to help.

Stay healthy and drink water my stomachless friends!

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!!

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.

Pretty lucky, Pretty Normal – 18 months Post Total Gastrectomy

So, the Houston heat is finally on its way out. And I made it out this morning for a run. It was foggy and probably 99.9% humidity. So much moisture in the air that water droplets formed on my eyelashes while i was running. I was jogging in the dark with streetlights to light the pathway, thinking I’m pretty lucky. Here I am, doing life, getting my quiet time in the morning, just running the block. (A little voice in the back of my mind was also thinking my pace has slowed since I’ve been taking it easy.)

I am still able to keep up with life. My concerns now are the same as anyone. Am I spending my time the right way, with the people in my life I love? Am I focusing on what really matters? Am I taking care of myself: extra iron, plenty of protein, enough sleep, exercise, time for rest and relaxation?

Life at 18 months is good for me. I do snack all the time because if I eat too fast or too much, certain foods can make me feel bad.

Foods I take my time with (consume half, wait 15 min, consume 2nd half):

  • greek yogurt
  • 6 oz glass of 2% milk
  • lunchable
  • really fatty foods – think nachos with loaded greasy queso

Foods that just go well

  • Spaghetti with sauce or meat sauce
  • Lasagna
  • Non-processed homemade meal (meat + veggie + starch)

Foods that go ok, but chew well

  • hamburger
  • tomatoes or veggies/fruits with skins

Hit or miss foods

  • Reheated chicken (no clue why I’ve had problems with this. It’s the reheating…
  • Rice – Can go ok or can get stuck
  • Chugging water really fast – just gets stuck (this is when I forget I’m missing a stomach)
  • Raw bell peppers
  • Pickles – the skins

I’m sprucing up the blog a little bit, adding categories and trying to focus on what will help fellow CDH1ers or folks who have had or are going to go through a gastrectomy. Since life at this point is so far from gastrectomy, I’ll likely focus on food, exercise, health & living life to the fullest.

Have a great night!

15 Months Post Total Gastrectomy

My being stomachless doesn’t enter my mind as often anymore. Every once in a while, I struggle a little bit with a food. Or I get the feeling of a little lump in my throat that reminds me about my surgery. But generally, I eat a wide array of foods now. I can eat some salad, but don’t always feel like it. I do snack a lot and get full after a good portion size now. I eat steaks in hopes of good protein and extra iron. (Need to get my levels checked.) The one item I stay away from is corn. The skins are just too much to chew down. Ironically, popcorn is still fine; and I eat that in giant portions!

For snacks..
I spoon dollops of peanut butter out of the jar at work…it’s classy. 😉
oatmeal still is my friend (add creamer and splenda)
chips (not in excess or I feel bad)
greek yogurt (eat half, wait, eat other half….still struggle with sugar content of this if I eat it too fast)
handful of peanut butter M&Ms
I can eat a small ice cream sandwich
protein shakes (muscle milk + water. go slow or feel a bit “off”)
cheese stick

My incision is barely noticeable. Oddly enough, it was one of the incisions from the laproscopic portion of my surgery that is more noticeable. But that was my fault. I think I popped that stitch trying to walk too fast too soon after my surgery.

Running & Life…
I’m able to continue working out and running like the crazy runner that I am. My biggest constraint now is unrelated to my surgery…time. Other things seem more important. So I workout super early in the morning and sometimes get too lazy. Family, fun, work and sleep requirements are so demanding!

More Running…
So I’ve been running 5-6 miles 2x a week on weekdays and walking a few miles over lunchtime 5 days a week. I try extra hard on running days to get extra food down and focus on protein and iron. Seems to be working pretty well. I hope to get out of my laziness and force at least 3 runs per week. I am again signed up for the half marathon in January! I plan to still pass by folks with stomachs just because I can.

Even with running, I’m holding my weight at 114-115. Gaining weight is still a bit tough though. The one thing about a gastrectomy is you can snack a lot, but you can never overeat the way everyone else can anymore.

13 Months post total gastrectomy

A lot of the Facebook group discussions talk about energy level, food and weight post TG… Also an improved look at life and getting out there tackling items on your bucket list. So here’s 13 months out and what my current view is on everything..

Energy level.. I’ve always been pretty aggressive with my schedule and manage to have a ton of energy. Though I still find that every once in a while if something disagrees with me, it’ll make me feel energyless for a good 10-15 minutes. If I’m at home, I just lay down or take it easy until “the fog lifts”. If I’m at work I can sort of walk it off.

When I get busy and am enjoying life, not feeling hunger is kind of bad. It’s super easy to lose weight when you don’t get that traditional feeling of hunger. And it’s hard to stop to eat with as long as it takes me to eat.
So after some vacationing, it’s time to go back to work so I can get back into my schedule and food routine.

Popcorn!! I can still put away some major volume of popcorn! Might not have all the nutrition, but sometimes a calorie is a calorie when you just want to hold your weight!! I was holding my weight well until our vacation, but I dropped some weight. It’s ok to eat all the time at your desk, but it’s harder to keep that up when you’re on the go. It’s also tough to eat every meal out where you feel bad for how slow you are, instead of just snacking away at your desk. My desire to “fill myself to the brim” every meal has gone away since I can usually hold my weight without the discomfort of getting that full. I hope to put some lbs back on in the next month and hydration has a lot to do with a few pounds here and there lost.

Vacation!! Remembering to stop your “busy life” and do the things that matter…my shout out to bucket lists. So we road tripped the family about 3000 miles round trip from Texas to the Grand Canyon and back. It was awesome and I’ve included pics below.

Scars after 1 year.. My scar looks amazing and I rock the two-piece bathing suit. The actual incision has faded so much you can hardly see it. I just claim my feeding tube and laparoscope incisions were bullet wounds because that sounds cool!!

Weight loss! My weight loss has stayed well controlled minus the vacation. This was not a lazy poolside vacation. This was a lot of hiking, an 11 mile Grand Canyon rim bike trip pulling a kid trailer and some eating in between all the cool stuff we did. My kids were exhausted! The only complaint I have is a desire to put on some more pounds… My shoulders look scrawny and my ribs show through too much. All in weight loss was from 126 to 114.

Life is pretty much busy and normal. I just get a reminder here and there that I don’t have a stomach.

Here’s some vacation pics.