Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cancer & Obesity: an Up and Down Update

We are casting for the part of Zu-Zu.
Must love dogs.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of it, I want to take a minute to recognize all of you who reached out to me with your own stories, your own struggles, and offers for advice and more information. Also, the sheer volume of unflagging support for both of us continues to give us whiplash. I say that in the best possible way. Thank you all for being in our corner. It's Bedford Falls every day around here.

Okay, it's been a rough week, and we're in the middle of it, but I wanted to update everyone on what's going on. Read on, if you dare.


I saw another doctor, the one who was going to remove my panniculitis. Please, please please do not Google it. It's gross, and you don't want to see it. And no, this isn't one of those times where you think, "Oh, Mark's telling me NOT to look knowing that I'll be curious that I will HAVE to look." This isn't that. Please don't look it up.

In any case, this doctor is a plastic surgeon, and the experience I had with him was a 180-degree difference from my initial consult. He took the time to listen to me, to address my concerns, to answer my questions, and he heard me when I spoke. He never looked at me in a weird way, and he and his assistant both treated me with compassion and dignity. It was a real relief after what happened before.

He told me something interesting, and it's something I've not heard from a health care professional since I have been going to them regularly: The result rate and percentage of weight loss for a patient with a bariatric sleeve and a patient committed to diet and exercise is the same. First time I've heard that in four years. Lots of doctors have recommended a sleeve or a band. The assumption being, "here's a guy who just can't help himself."  Sorry, but I still get a little worked up over this.

Think about that, though. The success rates are the same. What that means is this: I don't have to jump right into a stomach-altering surgical solution. Once the hernia is addressed and the panniculitis is removed, I'll have two to three weeks of recovery, and then I can start moving and grooving. Or, more specifically, walking and stretching. My eventual fitness goal is to be able to walk a mile every day and do yoga and possibly Tai Chi for flexibility, balance, and stress management. It's time to get my Zen on.

I'm going to stress again that I may well need to use some surgical method down the road to get to a healthy and maintainable weight. But that's down the road, and I owe it to myself, both mentally and physically, to do everything I can to take it off the old-fashioned way first. I need that success, for myself. Having addressed the reasons why I'm eating (stress eating, for example) and having a different set of tools to manage the stress, has already helped me and motivated me to take these steps.
If I lose THIS much weight, y'all
will lose your damn minds.
Here's a picture of me in my mid-twenties. You can tell because I am rocking the 90's comb-over in this picture: the Bruce Willis "Butch" from Pulp Fiction. I don't know how much I weighed then, but it was probably 225 or so. I have this picture hanging on the refrigerator. This is my motivation, and my target. I won't look quite like this again, but I am confident I can come close. With that in mind, expect an occasional update on my progress here. I may--MAY--post pictures. We'll see. This is, after all, the Internet, and I know how some of y'all are.

The good news for me is this: they can repair my hernia at the same time they remove the pann--the apron of fat. So I will have one surgery instead of two, and while it will be a big 'un (with a drain tube and everything--gross!), they won't have to keep cracking me open again and again. Two birds, one stone. For once, a desirable outcome for everyone.

Cathy, on the other hand, is in the final sequence of treatments before she can have another CT scan. It's been rough. We are playing "Daily Symptom Roulette" where every day brings a new rash, a new ache, a new situation in the ladybusiness to be addressed. It's taking a toll on her; she's gone from not taking any drug stronger than Advil to suddenly needing a Utility Belt to keep up with her bewildering variety of medicines they have foisted on her. Each side effect gets a new med to treat it. I suspect she's feeling worse because of the meds right now than the cancer itself.

It's very frustrating for me, because I can't fix this for her. All I can do is keep my voice light, tell her it's okay that we don't do whatever we had planned that day, and regularly check in on her if she needs something. We are both really anxious for this first leg of the journey to be over.  I am going to try and take her out of town this weekend, to take her mind off of the treasure chest of pills she has to take and the constantly ooky feeling she has after she takes them.

The cards have really kept her going. She has made a Wall of Gratitude with them, using the envelopes as pockets. They are all there, and we both walk by them several times a day. Again, all of you--thank you so much for the cards, the food, the notes, the conversations, the texts, the gifts, the warmth and compassion and care and positive energy--just thank you. Thank you, every single one of you.

I promise, I'll get back to talking about wizards and dinosaurs and super heroes soon. We could all use a little distraction as we trundle into November.

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