This is the week!!!

I love this Birdwell cardigan I got for Christmas. I used to wear these in my surfing days in SoCal.

I’m both excited and scared. This Friday, I will see my doctor for my six-week post-op appointment and will find out if I can take the binder off and if I can start my exercise program back up. I’m excited because I really want to get back to it and start preparing myself physically for Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC) this fall. I also found that I need exercise to help keep me calm and even-keeled. But, I’m also scared, because I know that I have a tendency to push too hard; to make myself workout harder than I probably should. I’m scared I’ll injure myself, or that I’ll somehow tear something inside where the surgery was.

The biggest quality of life improvement will be getting to finally take the binder off. I know it was necessary, and I also know that I’ll probably still wear it from time to time (I’m buying one for running, in fact), but it’s annoyingly uncomfortable. My skin is incessantly itchy, regardless of the amount of lotion I put on it.

I am not as afraid of showers anymore. For the longest time, I had an illogical fear of taking showers because I worried that the incision line would open up. I know this wasn’t a possibility after the first week (if at all, frankly), but I still had that irrational fear for quite a while. That’s finally gone, which is good.

As for my exercise plan, I will focus on running for time first; 30 minutes. I will not push for great distances or anything; just 30 minutes. Once I hit a good, solid pace in 30 minutes, then I’ll work on increasing the distance during that 30 minutes. Once I get to about 3.5 miles, I’ll work on getting the time down for that distance. That’s what I did when I first started running, and I was able to make some amazing progress back then. This time, I’m not quite starting from zero, although I am starting with post-operative healing to take into consideration.

I’m also going to re-start my weightlifting, but again, I’m going to start at the bare bar. It’s going to feel dumb and awkward, but I need to focus more on form than anything. I need to make sure, for the sake of my core muscles, that I’m doing everything perfect to keep from injuring myself. I should be able to be at a decent level of weightlifting by October, in time for WOBC.

The schedule I’ll be using will be as follows:

  • Weightlifting (StrongLifts 5×5) followed by 30 minute run
  • Mountain biking for 45 minutes
  • Weightlifting (StrongLifts 5×5) followed by 30 minute run
  • Mountain biking for 45 minutes
  • Weightlifting (StrongLifts 5×5) followed by 30 minute run
  • Light physical activity
  • Rest day

The mountain biking allows me to have some cardio without too much exertion. I don’t push myself too hard on the mountain bike, and since it’s a bike, I can coast, go slow, etc, but it still keeps me moving.

So, this is hopefully the last week without exercise and in the binder. I can’t believe I’m “That guy” who complains about not being able to exercise, but I feel myself getting weaker and it bothers me. I need the meditative quality of exercise; it’s a time of the day that belongs only to me, and there’s something really powerful about that. Oh, and it’s good for me, too.

Eating Well to Heal Well

This is where my wife keeps her recipes for our amazing meals.

Something I think a lot of people overlook when they are recovering from injuries or surgery is their diet. What you eat directly affects how you heal: how fast, and how well. Case in point: my incision scar. When I went in for my three-week appointment, the nurse was amazed at how well my scar is healing. Most people my age heal slower than younger people, and often, an extended period of healing is advised. To the contrary, my scar has not only been healing well, but the nurse had to look at my chart twice to make sure she was reading it right.

“So, it’s only been three weeks?” She asked me.

“Yes, three weeks today,” I replied.

“Wow. It’s really healing nicely. I’d have said it’s at a month, based on what it looks like.”

She marveled at how well I’m healing, even considering my age. I asked her if diet could have anything to do with it, and she replied enthusiastically that diet directly impacts healing, and that many people don’t eat to heal. She said that people who eat healthier foods made from whole ingredients tend to heal better and faster than those who eat fast food or fried foods.

Since that appointment, I’ve also been adding a scar cream twice a day to the incision scar on my abdomen, and it’s been healing up very nicely. I’ve also been very careful with the food I eat, and I’ve refrained from smoking my pipe at all (as nicotine inhibits healing). I’ve had some alcohol on the weekends, but not more than a few drinks, and even then, only on one day per weekend over the past two weekends. All the food I’ve eaten has been healthy.

My wife has been very supportive throughout the process, and that support extends to the amazing foods she makes based on recipes listed on her blog, Our Daily Bacon. All the recipes on her blog are among our favorites, and we use her site weekly to decide what our meals will be for the week.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Me and my dad in 1973.

My dad is no longer around for me to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, but I am thinking about him a lot today. Like most humans, he wasn’t perfect. He had his issues and his own challenges, but in many other ways, he was a great father. He was hard-working, he wasn’t afraid to hug or kiss his kids, and he genuinely was happy to have us around (as long as it wasn’t during his nap time on Sunday afternoons).

My dad making us one of his amazing meals.

As he got older, he became a much better human. Many of the issues he had as a younger man were gone, replaced by even more awesome traits like expressing sheer joy at the sight of his grandchildren, making great meals and inviting us over many times a week, and wanting to spend as much time with me and my kids as possible.

My dad and my daughter at a birthday party for my friend Kenny and me in 2002.

It turns out that the time was well spent, as my dad passed away at the age of 63, only 5 years after I returned from active duty in the Marines. Those 5 years were filled with many dinners, weekends, and evenings talking, laughing, sometimes arguing, but the vast majority of the time, enjoying each others’ company. He especially loved his time with his grandchildren, and he never declined an opportunity to spend time with them (which was great for me when I started dating Sherry, as I needed a babysitter on Friday nights).

Me (at my heftier weight), my sister, and my Dad at Christmas in 2001.

When my dad died, I immediately felt like I’d been cheated by life. I wasn’t yet ready to be a dad without my own dad to guide me with advice. It was selfish; I needed him. I no longer had someone that I could bounce ideas or questions off of without judgment or embarassment. I could talk to my dad about anything, and that was gone forever.

My dad and my son on a deep-sea fishing trip in 2001.

It’s been nearly 20 years that he’s been gone, and sometimes his absence affects me more than the presence of others. But he lives on in my memory, and in my heart, and I often think of him when I see a great new sci-fi movie or TV show, or when I’m in a store and see a beer he’d enjoy. There are times when I still want to phone him and share a joke (he loved jokes; the punnier, the better) or a meme. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away.

My dad about a month before he passed away on our last fishing trip together.

I remember talking to my grandmother about this, and when she was in her late 70’s, she told me that she never quite got over the loss of her own father, and how his absence in her life was still a hole that could not be filled. I get it. While I don’t feel distraught over his loss anymore, I still feel the absence. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away.

The last photo taken of my sister, dad, and me (at my heaviest weight of 328 lbs) together on my birthday in 2002.

I tried to be the best dad I could to my kids as they were growing up. I tried my best to not emulate my dad’s shortcomings and to amplify his strong points. I never once denied picking up my kids when they asked to sit in my lap. I never shoo’d them away, or didn’t stop to take a moment to hug them, kiss them, or let them know that I loved them. I never missed a sporting or theater event. My dad taught me the importance of those things, and in that way, he lived on through me.

My dad’s favorite photo of himself.

As I am now nearing the phase in my life where I’ll be a grandfather (fingers crossed that it won’t be too much longer), I look forward to living up to my dad’s example of being the amazing grandfather. My kids remember my dad for being a fun, loving, and cheerful guy who doted on them. I hope to do the same, and to live on in their hearts long after I’m gone, and hopefully, they’ll want to emulate the example I will give them, which in turn, ensures that my dad lives on in them, too.

The lake in Hungary where I scattered my dad’s ashes after he passed away. This lone young swan came in close to shore moments after I scattered the ashes and hung around for a few moments before returning to the flock.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops. I miss you.

Just Shy of a Month Post-Surgery

I’m still quite swollen, but at least my belly button looks normal again!

I really am not a fan of the compression garment (aka girdle or binder) that I have to wear for another two weeks, but it is what it is. It apparently helps with keeping the swelling down and holding my torso together so my abdomenal muscles can continue to heal. So yes, I’m not in any hurry to take it off prematurely. But it is uncomfortable.

With that said, I am impressed with how smooth my stomach looks now. Of course, with the swelling, I can’t see any of my (formerly somewhat visible) ab muscles, and the sides are still swollen which make them look like there’s not much difference between pre-op and post-op, but I can assure you that there’s quite a bit of difference. Even with the amount of swelling there, it’s greatly reduced from what it used to look like prior to my surgery.

I will begin distance walking this weekend, and in two more weeks, I will begin light lifting and other exercise. I have to wait another full month before I can hit the weights like I did pre-op, but that’s okay; that still gives me three solid months to get strong before I go to WOBC.

At this point, the most difficult part is the pain in the sides (from the liposuction) and the skin discomfort (it’s drying out a lot). Sherry massages my scar with scar cream twice a day, so that’s helping the scar heal nicely, and I have to massage the sides as often as I think of it, and that’s pretty painful, but it seems to help.

I am still feeling better day after day, but I’m still not nearly done. I watched some videos online of what the surgery actually entails; I’m glad I didn’t do that before the surgery. Wow. It’s pretty serious, and actually a pretty big deal. Now I understand why it has such a long recovery time.

So, I am doing better. My mood is good, and I am no longer questioning my decision to do this. I already see the difference, and I’m sure I’ll feel the difference when I’m able to run again. I’m able to walk around and pretty much act normal at home with the exception that I still can’t lift anything over 5 lbs and I’m still somewhat limited in reaching for things or grabbing things (due to the pain under my shoulders from the liposuction). I also have two spots on my back where I still have stitches that will come out in two more weeks. But, I’m on the mend, and I’m feeling great!

Half-Way There: Three Week Post-Op Appointment

I’m feeling a lot better.

I had my mid-recovery appointment today, and it went well (except for the part where the nurse was cleaning out/touching the inside of my belly button and it caused some reflexive anxiety response that left me sweating and a little light-headed, but whatever). The nurse said that my scar is healing very well; better than she expects to see for people at the three-week mark, in fact. She was very surprised with how well the scar looks, and with how my stomach is looking.

One of my biggest concerns was laid to rest today as well; I was worried that I may have ripped a suture on my stomach muscles, but she checked it all out and said everything looked perfect. She also told me that next week, I can go into the pool. I’m also allowed to go for walks, but I still cannot do any work that involves my core. Walking will be good enough for now.

I was given some scar cream I’m supposed to start using today. I will start applying it and sticking to everything they’ve been telling me to do for recovery.

I have a theory as to why my scar is healing up so well: we don’t eat processed food. Everything we eat has been made from whole ingredients and is very healthy. That healthy food intake translates into giving the body the best quality nutrients possible which equates to better/faster healing. It was really nice seeing the nurse’s face as she went over the scar saying over and over how well it’s healing, and how far ahead it looks.

I still can’t sleep on my stomach for another three weeks, but that’s okay. I’m making do right now sleeping on my back. Having an articulating bed really helps. I can change the angle as necessary to alleviate pain on my back or glutes.

I was told today to expect swelling at the liposuction sites for up to six months, but the rest should start getting less swolen as time goes on. The funniest part was when I told her how much I thought the swelling had gone down, but after she poked and felt around the tissue, she said I still have a lot of swelling and it’ll still go down from here. That means it’ll look even better than it does now, and frankly, it looks pretty good already.

So, things are looking up. The pain I’m experiencing is all normal, and my recovery is going well: ahead of expectations, in fact.

One Day Shy of Three Weeks Post-Surgery

Strange pains are what I’m dealing with most, right now. What I mean by that is that there are a number of different types of pain I’ve been experiencing since having the skin-removal and tummy tuck (sewing the stomach muscles together) surgery almost four weeks ago.

Lightning Pain

This happens near any incision site. I infer this pain as nerves awakening, or perhaps nerves that were cut re-connecting or becoming aware of newly adjacent tissue. It’s jolting and hurts a lot, but the pain is typically over within half a second.


I’ve been experiencing soreness throughout the affected areas. It’s like after a workout when you’re sore, but not from over-exerting. Just sore. My entire abdomen, from the last rib down to my nethers feel this way almost always.

Shooting Pain

This is different from the Lightning Pain I described above. This is more like a pulled muscle kind of pain, only how it feels WHILE you’re getting the injury. I have this in a few spots in my groin, and I can’t decide whether these are real or phantom pains. One of them coincides with an injury I sustained at Phase II of WOCS in April, but it’s not consistent.

Burning Pain

This is ever-present in my lower abdomen, primarily after my blockage issue last week. It seems to be subsiding day after day, but it’s still present. After being prescribed medicine that forced my body to have a bowel movement, my lower abdomen has been burning. It’s not nearly as bad now as it was at the time, and I still had drains in me back then and no, there was no increase in fluid output or any blood in the output. Burning usually indicates internal bleeding, but fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Someone said it could possibly be an allergic reaction to the internal stitching. I will be asking my doctor about that at tomorrow’s appointment.

Muscle Cramps

This one surprised me. My upper abdominal muscles (my stomach, above my waist) gets cramped up very easily when I’m sitting. Every time I stand up, I have to allow my stomach muscles to stretch out, and sometimes it takes them a few seconds or more to loosen up to allow me to stand up straight. I think it has to do with the girdle/binder I’m wearing that is allowing those muscles to get weaker.

Liposection Site Bruising/Pain

I had liposection at a few sites on my back where the fat never went away, and the incision spots as well as the actual sites that were suctioned are sore. Actually, this is some of the most severe soreness I’m experiencing, and separate from the general soreness I listed above. These are very specific, and in very specific spots on my back and lower sides. To make matters worse, I have to massage these sites regularly which seems to exacerbate the pain.

Incision Line “Hot” Pain

The incision line itself is pretty sore almost all the time now, moreso than before. I remember the doctor telling me that there was medicine placed in my body to help reduce the pain at the incision, and this seemed to be working for far longer than I thought it would. Now, however, I feel a bit of discomfort along the incision. This was to be expected; they literally cut a swath of skin out of my body. Also, it’s not terrible pain. It’s quite tolerable, but definitely noticeable, and it’s something I’m aware of all the time.

Overall, even with all that pain, I still feel a lot better than I did even earlier this week. So, while things are still uncomfortable, I definitely feel improvement day after day, and it gets easier to sleep (which has been an issue for the past two weeks since I stopped taking Hydrocodone and Diazapam).

Mid-Way Through Week 3 Post-Op

I need a shave, but I otherwise feel much better this week.

Today is the “Hump Day” of Week Three, and I was told by a friend who has undergone this same procedure before me that this is the “Tough Week” mentally. I think I understand why she said this. As my body continues to heal and the pain continues to subside, I’m struck with impatience at the process coupled with a desire to start getting back to my active life, not only in terms of exercise, but also with doing the mundane things like washing my car, performing small maintenance tasks, or even something as simple as helping my wife bring in the groceries.

I am adhering to all of my doctor’s warnings and admonitions against physical activity and lifting to ensure my abdominal muscles and scar tissue have the best chance at healing properly. I’ve ignored doctor’s warnings in the past at my peril and have paid the consequences. As I’ve grown older, I’ve accepted the fact that it’s often better to just do as I’m told than to believe that “I feel better, therefore I know better.” I finished all pills as prescribed (for those telling me to take them all), and I stopped taking those that I was allowed to stop taking as soon as possible (Diazapam, Hydrocodone).

During my childhood, a member of my extended family passed away because he stopped taking medicine because he was feeling so good, he reasoned the medicine wasn’t necessary. I’m taking that as a lesson to continue to tow the line in regards to my doctor’s instructions: I’m feeling great BECAUSE I’m following instructions. Feeling great doesn’t give me permission to start ignoring those instructions.

I had another friend tell me about their healing from a large incision, and he told me that he ignored the doctor’s admonitions against lifting, and as a result, the scar tissue is far more prevalent due to stretching of the tissue area prior to it being fully healed. This is what I want to avoid, so I’m sticking to the instructions regardless of how maddening it is to watch my wife bring in bag after bag of groceries alone. She made sure to let me know it was five trips without me.

My next doctor’s appointment is coming up in three days, and I am looking forward to find out how I’m doing in her opinion. From my perspective, things seem to be going much better than Week 2. I still have some burning sensation on the lowest abdomenal muscles, and I still have a bit of pain when I cough or sneeze, but otherwise, when I’m just sitting, I feel good. My abdomenal muscles do take a bit of time to stretch out comfortably when I stand up after sitting for a while, but typically it’s only about 10-15 seconds of discomfort (but not pain).

So, it’s another week and a half of the girdle/binder. I am looking forward to being able to take it off, finally. Hopefully, Week 2 didn’t do any internal damage, and I don’t have to wear this thing for any longer than initially planned. Then, two weeks without it, and then hopefully I’ll be cleared to start exercising again.

Starting Week Three Post-Surgery

Sherry and me on Friday; the first day of Week 3.

I’m now in my third week of recovery after the skin removal/liposuction/stomach muscle repair surgery, and I am feeling much better. Digestion issues have been resolved and I can now eat somewhat normal foods as long as I make sure to take lots of probiotics and eat lots of fiber. I’m also taking OTC medicine to help aid with digestion because my lower abdominal muscles are still quite sore. Last Friday really took it’s toll.

On Friday, Sherry and I attended the funeral for a friend’s father, and as it was a military funeral, I wore my uniform. I was able to get the shirt and jacket over the girdle/binder, but the pants was another story. Fortunately, I have suspenders and was able to use that to keep the pants “Up” since I couldn’t zip them up all the way or fasten the button. This was all hidden under the jacket, fortunately, so nobody knew unless I told them.

Prior to the funeral, I drove us to a nice lunch at a local restaurant, and I was able to sit in the chair comfortably and eat upright. After the funeral, we went to my friend’s home for post-funeral gathering before we headed home so I could take a nap.

In the evening, we went out for dinner (my first time since the surgery) and again, I was able to stay upright comfortably and even eat the food without any issues. I drove us to and from dinner; there is no problem for me driving at all. In fact, my 4Runner’s seats are some of the most comfortable I’ve sat in since the surgery and actually felt really good for my back and my muscles.

All in all, I’m feeling much better and while I’m still sore all the time, the soreness does seem to dissipate with each passing day. I do still have some burning sensation in my lower abdomen, but I was told that this was normal at this stage and that it will eventually go away.

I’m still taking it easy, believe it or not. While I am walking more now, I am very careful not to lift anything heavier than my iPad or my cup of iced tea, and I am still getting a lot of rest. I feel more energized, though, and it’s nice to have a sense of humor about things again.

The Night of Day 12: Three Steps Forward, One Step Back

After a shower and a trim of the beard, I feel more human.

I felt like a new person yesterday, in more ways than one. I was able to sit at my desk and work like a normal person, had some moments I used to take very much for granted that proceeded without issue, and then I laid down for sleep. That’s when the trouble began.

I’ve been spending so much time in bed that my glutes get really, really sore. Painful, in fact. It’s not consistent, though, and that’s quite strange, but last night, they were more painful than usual. Enough to keep me awake for most of the night. The hardest part mentally was knowing that, sitting on the table within arm’s reach were opiates that could have taken away all the pain and put me to peaceful slumber. Knowing what those opiates do to my digestive tract, however, have kept me from taking them any further. Constipation coupled with post-operative abdominal muscles do not go well together.

So I laid on my side as best as I could until I was able to get sleep here and there. It worked, although I also have pain on my sides, but it was lesser pain. As I sit here now writing this, my glutes are still very sore, and I have no idea what I’m going to do to help this situation, but honestly, compared to how I felt this weekend, I still feel like I’m two steps ahead. It’s all about perspective.

On a very big plus side, I was able to take a shower alone yesterday for the first time since the surgery and I got really clean; squeaky clean. I found that the skin above and below the incision line is still numb. I’m not sure if that’s from the long-term anesthetic that was put into the tissue or if it’s a result of the skin being cut and severing nerves. Either way, it felt very weird although I have to admit, despite the residual swelling I am still experiencing, it already looks really quite good.

I’m also much more mobile now, which is nice. I can get around the house much more easily, and I can do some simple tasks on my own. I still can’t lift much (like a gallon of liquid is too much weight for my core to handle), but I can at least carry my iPad, iPhone, and a cup of iced tea from room to room. I’m glad I bought a set of dumbbells prior to this surgery; I’m going to need them to augment my free weights to regain the strength I’m losing right now.

So, tomorrow will be two weeks since the surgery. I had a very bad weekend within that two-week period, but my hope is that I’m past the worst of it. I continue to do what I’m instructed to do, and the doctor said I’m healing nicely, so I’m optimistic.

Finally Feeling Much Better (Again)

Actually sitting at my desk at home and working

I finally feel well enough (again) to be back at my desk and working. I had a doctor’s appointment this morning where the remaining drainage tube and catheter were both removed and my quality of life has greatly improved.

Mobility is surprisingly negatively impacted when you have tubes sticking out of areas that typically don’t have tubes sticking out of them. The diet change has really made a huge improvement, and I am able to function normally in ways that I have taken for granted my entire life.

The pain of my abdominal muscles is still present, but not nearly as bad as it was yesterday. Each day, it actually does seem to improve. I haven’t taken any pain pills stronger than Tylenol since Friday, and I don’t feel that I’d need anything stronger at this point. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the edge. It looks nice there.

As for what the doctor had to say today, my incisions/stitches are looking great, I didn’t do any muscle damage (that they can see) last Friday, and everything is healing up as it should be. That means I should be on schedule to start exercising again in four and a half weeks. My bike won’t look at me so longingly for too much longer.

Once again, thank you to everyone for your kind messages throughout this process. It hasn’t been easy, but never underestimate the power a smile has when someone is in pain. Sometimes, it’s that little bit that’s. necessary to make it past a rough spot.