Finding Balance (For Me) Part 1
Note: this post is not about education or technology. It kind of comes back around in Part 2, but it’s really more about me.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I posted something new here. It’s not because I don’t have anything to share, or because I’ve lost interest in blogging. Actually, I really miss it. But, I guess I needed a little bit of time away to focus on something else. For the last year I’ve been working on finding a more balanced approach to life than I’d had for the previous eight years or so. It all started on September 14th.
On September 14th (our first PD day of the year, coincidentally), I woke up with a shooting (and I mean shooting) pain in my upper-right back, just under my shoulder. It was so bad, I couldn’t move for at least an hour. I really couldn’t even talk. It was painful.
Eventually, when I could see straight, I realized that this must be my first gallbladder attack. I’ve had gallstones for a few years (because I have the beta thalassemia minor trait, and they’re unavoidable for me – but, hey, I’m less likely to get malaria), and I knew it would be coming, but I didn’t know when.
The Long Wait
This little wake-up call very early on a Friday morning began my adventure to remove my gallbladder, and as a side benefit, find a better balance in my life.
After confirming that it was indeed my gallbladder causing the problem, and finding a surgeon who spoke enough English to make me feel comfortable, I was informed that it would be at least six weeks before I could actually have the surgery (not that I was looking forward to a hospital stay, but I certainly did want to just get it over with).
Oh, and until the surgery I could eat no fats. Well, except olive oil. No chocolate, no cheese, no fried anything, no butter. No. Fats. Hmmm… to be honest, I had always wondered if I was a person with willpower. I mean, if a doctor told me I would die if I didn’t stop eating chocolate, would I do it? Turns out, yes, yes I would.
During this time I attended Learning 2.012 in Beijing, where the team took such good care of me that I had my own (fatless) meals organized in advance (thanks Mads and Annette!) and then participated in our week-long grade 6 Field Studies trip to Hakuba, where I flummoxed the hotel restaurant chef day after day with my bizarre food requests. And, yes, there may have been a few angry incidents in the grocery store as I discovered that fat is in everything delicious. But, I survived. And, I kind of felt better.
Six weeks with no fats and I wasn’t hungry all the time, I was eating more veggies, snacking less, and generally kind of proud of myself. But, let’s be honest, I was planning a cheese and chocolate party the day I came home from the hospital.
Here in Japan, doctors are very cautious. So, my gallbladder removal was a whopping six days, five nights in the hospital. (I think in the US it’s almost become outpatient surgery). Thankfully, I was in an outstanding hospital (Jikei University), with absolutely fantastic care, and had my own private room (with a bit of a view). Nevertheless, this was my first surgery, first inpatient procedure of any kind, actually, the first time I ever had more than a cold, so I was a little nervous. As luck would have it, I had a bit of a comedian as a surgeon. When I told him how nervous I was the night before, he said with a hearty chuckle, and arms spread wide, “Why are you nervous? I’ll be there!” Surprisingly, this made me feel much better.
It turns out my anesthesiologist was also a bit of a jokester. Just before he put me under, he showed me the anesthesia and said “You know Michael Jackson?” I nodded yes. He said “Same for you!” And I was out like a light. This was all after I waited for a few minutes in the surgery prep room with a soundtrack of the theme song to Star Wars. Actually, it’s a good choice to pump you up before surgery.
Anyway, everything went smoothly. I was gifted with my removed gallstone the day after surgery (although Alex got to see my actual gallbladder right after it was removed to prove the surgery was successful). I’ve named him Tim and he made it all the way home with me.
You might say that laparoscopic gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy for those who want to be technical) is no big deal. I think it’s actually the most common surgery in the world. But it was a big deal to me. And even though I had a very successful, and actually kind of pleasant, stay in the hospital, that week was enough to convince me that I never wanted to go back.
A Turning Point
So, after I got home from the hospital, I decided I was going to keep up the eating habits I developed before the surgery. I tried to eat cheese, but found I had really lost my taste for it. I knew that eating fried foods and other fatty choices would be hard to digest without a gallbladder, so I continued to stay away from those too. Plus, I was so happy to be less nervous about another sudden gallbladder attack that Alex and I were spending more time outdoors, enjoying the day, rather than working the day away. And before I knew it, I noticed a biiig change.
I was starting to become a healthy person. Not that I wasn’t healthy before, but now I was paying attention to the food I was eating, I was spending time outside, I was saying no to some aspects of working that I had always done without question before, I was prioritizing. And side benefit, in only two months after the surgery, I had lost 20 pounds. In five months, I had lost 40 pounds. At this point, I’ve lost a total of 60 pounds, and I’m still working towards another 10 – 15 (which is not nearly as scary or intimidating as it would have been a year ago).
I did not set out last year to lose weight. In fact, I’m sure I wouldn’t have done anything like this had it not been for the surgery, but I’m glad I did, and I’ve learned a lot more about what makes me happy in the process. So, although I’m not blogging nearly as much (although I haven’t stopped entirely, since I’m still writing on my various YIS blogs and my COETAIL blogs), I’m feeling increasingly better about myself, and starting to find ways to get back into positive old habits while retaining the new ones I’ve built in the last year.
What’s been really fun, over the past year, is how I’ve been able to merge my geekiness with my new healthy habits. I’m seeing a whole new side to technology that I really wasn’t taking advantage of before. And it’s awesome!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll share all the geeky goodness I’ve been infusing into my more healthy lifestyle!
- On the way to the hospital by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Sunlight on the Bridge at WAB by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Sunrise Over Tokyo Tower by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Warning! You might not want to see my gallstone, but here it is! by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License
- Beautiful day for a hike up Spencer’s Butte by superkimbo, Flickr, CC License