Weight loss and self identity

When our body changes through illness, accident or injury we have to develop a new relationship with ourselves, with our new physical identity.

For me it was weight loss through illness. For most of my adult life I had been around 140lbs, but when I went into my 40’s this gradually increased to 148lb, and it was a continuous battle to remain at that weight. There were a few exceptions, for example prior to getting married I was eating 1300 calories a day and it still took 4 months for me to loose 8lbs prior to our wedding in 2013, needless to say it soon went back on. Then in the late Summer of 2014 I naturally began to lose weight which I put down to a change of diet; drinking smoothies and eating lots of salads, but the weight continued to fall through the autumn.

After an episode of acute pancreatitis – where the pancreas becomes inflamed and the digestive enzymes it produces begin to digest the pancreas itself – my diet became more restrictive. I was eating less generally, as well as having a low fat diet (less that 35g of fat a day bearing in mind an Avocado pear is around 20g!).

However, due to the pain I was in, eating wasn’t enjoyable, it became a chore rather than a delight. Anything containing too much fat caused me discomfort as my pancreas wasn’t able to digest it properly.

I struggled to get used to my lighter weight and what I called my scrawny shape. Why? Because it wasn’t my choice. The interesting thing about losing weight when it’s not planned is that there is a sense of confusion about why it was happening and also a concern as to when it would stop.

How low could my weight go for me still to have enough energy to get through daily life?

Then when I was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour (IPMN) in January 2015 the weight loss made sense, at least I knew why, which was a relief. Also, the tumour could be removed, an even greater relief.

By the time I had surgery to remove my tumour I was down to 120lbs, the last time I was this weight I was a teenager! Having lost 2 stone none of my clothes fitted, everything was baggy, making my weight loss more obvious. I became gaunt as my face became thinner.

My sense of identity had never been challenged before, and I didn’t know how to adjust to the change. It was like I had been given a new body to live in, a very disconcerting feeling. My view of myself changed. I may have looked a thinner version of my usual self to everyone else. But I felt small, not just physically but psychologically too, it felt like everything about me was diminishing, fading.

Fortunately as with most things, it was time that allowed me to accept my new shape and identity. I literally had to shrink into my own skin and then as I got used to it, I became stronger and more confident in myself and my new body.

When we chose to change our body shape, it’s because that is what we want to do, and therefore we are delighted when we achieve it whether that is due to diet, exercise or surgery.

Having lost 28lb in the 12 months prior to my operation, it has taken 9 months to put on 8lbs due to a low fat diet. But I now finally feel comfortable and well in my own skin, and I am enjoying having a new body, a new shape, a new identity.

It takes time to adapt and accept physical changes. I am fortunate, I haven’t lost a limb or one of my senses, I just have an abdominal scar that fades with each passing day. I also have age on my side, at 50, I no longer want or have any expectations of a ‘perfect’ body, what ever that may mean. I am just happy that I have a body that is still functioning and enables me to live fully.

Cyclone Winston and the wild Rabbit

Currently hubby is somewhere over America on his way home, after his annual fishing holiday, which this year was in Kiribati one of the tiny islands in the pacific ocean roughly equi-distant between Los Angeles and New Zealand.

Yes, I am thinking lovely island, fine sand, lots of sunshine, very remote, no mobile signal and very intermittent internet probably only when a satellite goes over head. Sounds just perfect and a trip of a life time for a certain kind of fishermen.

However, this years trip will be more memorable than most and not for the fishing! To get to Kirabiti it takes time, so having arrived in Hawaii via Los Angeles the guys spent 3 days chilling out watching the Superbowl, visiting Pearl Harbour in the sun and the rain! One of the reasons for spending 3 days in Hawaii was that there was only one flight a week to Kirabati, which they didn’t want to miss so they weren’t going to leave anything to chance. Just a shame they hadn’t had the same thoughts about returning home, but more of that later.

As they were overweight with their luggage they had to leave some bags in Honolulu, now these guys do this type of trip every year and they know the closer they get to their destination the smaller the plane becomes, the lighter the luggage needs to be. So I have no idea what happened this year, as not only did they spend 18 months planning the trip but they were taking two non-fishing mates with them too, so they had extra capacity to carry all they would need.

In Kirabati, it rained and rained in fact it didn’t stop raining, it is of, course the rainy season in this part of the world, but in the months of planning the weather along with the luggage weight didn’t appear to been taken into account.

Having had a week of rain and poor fishing, I know this as I have been getting random Whats App messages throughout the week. The boys head back to the airport on Wednesday, to get their flights home and were due to arrive back in the UK late Thursday afternoon.

However, there is a technical fault with their plane, so they will have to wait for the next one. Did I mention earlier that there was only one flight a week to Kirabati, so yes, there is only one flight a week back to Honolulu and their left luggage!

I will not go into the complexities of working out all the time differences, but the time in Kirabati was the same as Honolulu but it was a different day! Needless to say I had the time of their multiple destinations set on my phone.

So, they check in for the next flight leaving, which was later in the day but to Fiji. This was of course going in the wrong direction but it was the only flight! This too was then cancelled. So that was it for Wednesday. By now I had had one very brief email updating me of the situation and asking if I could contact a couple of the other wives to let them know that, not only they wouldn’t be home as expected, but they actually didn’t know when they would be home. For one wife, her 60th Birthday party was planned for the Saturday night, needless to say none of us were particularly impressed!

It’s still Wednesday in the UK. I get home from work, feed the cats, and start researching flights leaving Kiribati on Thursday and there is again just one flight, and again it’s to Fiji, so I jot down the details and see that after Thursday the next flight would be the following Sunday. By some miracle hubby phones home, for literally one minute, so I just read out the flight details, he says he’ll call back and then he’s gone. By this time I have missed my much loved Tai Chi evening class.

Then, I suddenly realise I need to pop next door to feed the neighbours cats, which I had forgotten about. So with keys, torch and mobile in hand I run out the door to be confronted by Bob. Bob is semi-stray tabby cat of generous proportions, that lives in our wood store. So there is Bob with a rabbit in his mouth. I grab Bob and wrestle the rabbit from him, getting a little scratched in the process. Picking up the rabbit I cuddle it into my coat and wander back into the house, it is then I see a flea disappearing back into the fur on its head. Great.

I put the somewhat wilted rabbit into a carboard box, using a Hoover attachment to keep the lid on whilst I dig out a cat carrier from under the stairs. I find newspaper, some shredded purple paper, a dish for water and and a couple of carrots. So wild rabbit in now ensconced in its new home, still alive, lying on one side but moving its legs.

With the rabbit in the box, I finally get round to feeding the neighbours cats, and return home to find the poor rabbit tied up in the shredded paper so I spend another 10 minutes freeing it, from the purple paper.

For some strange reason I wonder if it was the weather that had caused the one flight to be cancelled, so I google weather only to find there is a Category 4 cyclone called Winston to the east of Fiji. There are some great images provided by NASA showing the size of the cyclone from space. Thinking that their flight might be cancelled again I check for other departures to find everything is now showing as sold out or cancelled until the following Wednesday! So that is it, they have one chance to leave Kirabati or they will be there for another whole week.

It’s at this point I begin to think praying may be useful; for the rabbit, hubby and his mates and anyone in the vast South Pacific in Winstons path.

I can hear the rabbit kicking in the carrier so I know that it’s alive. Hopefully it will survive the night and I can release it the next day.
It’s at this point I notice that my arm feels a bit strange, slightly achy and I remember the scratch I got from the rabbit / cat wrestling. Infection isn’t good, if like me you don’t have a spleen, so I rub tea tree oil over my arm as its the most antiseptic thing I have in the house. Although I have to take a daily low dose antibiotic I do have a stash of mega strong antibiotics for emergencies, so I dig them out from the back of a kitchen cupboard and put them in my work bag – just in case.

By now it’s 11pm so I go to bed. The flight hubby should be getting will be leaving 2am my time and if they get it, they will be landing in Fiji about 7am.

I wake at 4am to the sound of the rabbit kicking the sides of the pet carrier, so I get up and take it outside to see if I can release it but something is definitely wrong it’s legs are moving but it’s just lying on its side. So back in doors we go. By now the cats have woken up too and are noisily demanding food, so I feed them. I then check the flight departure details but there is nothing to say if the flight has left or not.

So it’s back to bed. When the alarm goes off at 6.20am I switch it off and roll over, so so tired. Next the phone rings it’s hubby they have finally arrived in Fiji – yeah – and they will be on a flight to Los Angeles in a few hours. It’s also 7.10am oops I am now well late. My arm still feels strange but no more so than last night. The rabbit is still alive so I call an out of hours vet for advice, who tell me to take it to my local vet, which doesn’t open until 9am. So between re-feeding the cats and making my breakfast, I call work to say that I will be in a hour late because of a rabbit!

I take the rabbit to the vets explaining the whole story, but it is too injured to be saved so sadly they have to put it to sleep. So much for my good intentions in trying to save its life, I probably just prolonged it’s suffering.

By 9pm hubby finally makes it to LA, and is offered accommodation and a flight the following day but by now desperate to get home he buys another ticket for a flight leaving within a few hours. I update the wives again. It’s 11pm again. I am off to bed again.

Lessons learned:
If a cat gets a rabbit it’s usually because the rabbit is sick, so let the cat have the rabbit and let nature take its course.
Keep some gardening gloves accessible for rescuing wild animals.
Cross examine hubby about all future fishing trips, contingency plans, fights and weather.
Don’t leave luggage in Honolulu, (chance would be a fine thing!)

Why am I here?

The meaning of life aside – I am here to collate all those random life notes and ideas that, in my case, usually end up on the back of envelopes; underlined in books; or ripped out of magazines. Which for some reason I am never able to collate into a useable source of information, let alone index and find again. (more…)