beer, diet, low carb, Sleeve, Surgery, Uncategorized, weight loss

I Wanna See You Be BRAVE.

“I wanna see you be brave.”

These are the words to one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs. And it’s also my personal mantra for 2016.  My heart is really full today and I’d like to share why…

You’ve likely gotten my blog link from my Facebook profile.  I share things on FB about my family and my life in general.  I tend to keep it light and funny most days but as you know, in the last few months, I’ve shared my struggle with depression and how I’m dealing with it.  (Wonderfully, by the way!)  I’ve also shared with you my struggle with being overweight since I was a teenager. Being overweight is a very common bond that many share.  In my case, it has gotten to the point where the excess weight is affecting various parts of my life.  I was growing more and more detached from friends and family because I’ve been embarrassed of my size, especially because just 3+ years ago, I was almost to my goal weight, but gained nearly  every ounce back again because I got injured, lost my motivation.  My blood pressure has had a steady rise over the last year.  My body hurts as it hasn’t before.  The body weight has really taken its toll on my knees, ankles and feet. I find myself always fatigued in one or all of those areas.

“Mrs. Graham, you are Morbidly Obese.”  These are not the words one wants to hear from her doctor. But I heard them last year.  And I heard them again this year.  Not “you’re overweight”. Not even  that I’m obese.  Throw in the word “morbidly” and it the “obese” part takes on a whole new meaning and sense of urgency.

At 47 years old, I am heeding the warnings.

Exciting things are happening! My life changes on March 2nd for the better. A few of you know that I have spent the last several months researching Weight Loss Surgery. I’ve spent hours and days educating myself on the different procedures, and have chosen the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, also known as VSG. My stomach will be reduced to about 25% of its normal size. I will follow a life long high protein/ low carb diet.  I’ve attended informational seminars from 3 different hospitals, talked to surgeons, joined online support groups- but mostly, I’ve been fortunate to have 2 excellent resources in my life who have had this surgery. My sister, Teresa- and my cousin, Regina. Both of them are younger than me…I thought the older sibling and cousin was supposed to be the wiser one?!?!?!? Not in this case! Both of these ladies have had wonderful results from this surgery and they’ve been fielding my 4654647874 questions for the last several months 🙂

Before you even THINK about saying the words “She is taking the easy way out.” I respectfully ask you to retract those words and let me tell you why it is anything but easy!

For the last 3 weeks, I’ve had test upon test. Psychiatric Evaluation, Sleep Study, EKG, Nutrition Classes, Blood work, Upper GI and an Ultrasound to name just a few. Next week, I will begin a strict, physician supervised diet that helps shrink the liver. Most people already have mildly fatty livers. People who are overweight tend to have more fatty livers- so before I have the surgery, they want me to try to shrink the liver so the surgeon gets around it easily when he operates on my stomach. I remain on that diet for 2 weeks. Week 2 of that diet is gonna be a real test of my willpower. Only liquid protein for 3 meals a day. Oy. When I come home from the surgery, I will go 2 more weeks of JUST LIQUID while my stomach heals itself. After that, I will introduce foods again. One by one.

My relationship with food will totally change. For the very first time in my life, I will be eating to LIVE as opposed to living to EAT. AND- I am paying for this myself because my insurance does not cover it. We are talking thousands of dollars. So all of that is the easy way out. Right? This will test my physical and mental willpower like nothing else.
Why am I doing this? I’ve lost weight dozens of times in the past. In fact, if you take all the times I’ve lost weight, it would add up to about 400 pounds lost. Unfortunately, with each time I lost, I also gained. That roller coaster of highs and lows is not just depressing, it’s terrible for my body. The Sleeve is a tool to help me keep the weight off. Secondly, I am getting older, and it’s not getting any easier no matter how I try to get the weight off of me. Other reasons….because there is a shame associated with obesity. There is a dark, lonely depressing side that you can’t truly understand unless you live it. I am tired of the dark. It’s time for my health to take a front seat in my life.

Quite simply, I want the rest of my life to be the BEST of my life!

The Sleeve is not a miracle. It is not a quick fix. It is a tool to help me with my obesity problem. Can I fail? Sure. If I substituted my protein shakes for milkshakes, yes, I can fail. Is it likely? NO. I can’t remember in my adult life ever wanting something more than I want this, even though for a short time it will be a huge financial burden. But it will be so worth it. My health is worth it. Look- this process is hard. But being fat is hard, too. I am just picking a different hard.

Before actually deciding to do this thing, I looked at myself in the mirror. There was NOTHING I liked in that mirror, so I vowed to change it. And the words that just kept coming to me were from the Sara Bareillis song, “Brave.”

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one of these days you can let the light in. Show me how big your brave is.”

And with that, I called Bariatric Specialists of North Carolina and scheduled my consultation! In 3 weeks, I will have the Sleeve and learn a new way of life. And I simply cannot wait! I have a list of things to accomplish along this journey. They are scale victories and non-scale victories. I hope you will stick around to read my updates along the “weigh.”

Until then, I want to show you pictures of my role models!
This is my gorgeous sister, Teresa. She’s four years younger than me but clearly a lot smarter:)  Sleeved in November 2014, she’s lost about 90 pounds!!


To show you that true beauty really does run in the Barnes Family…meet my beautiful cousin, Regina! She was sleeved June 2015 and has also lost over 90 pounds, and still losing:)


Aren’t my mentors terrific!!?? I love them so much!

For me, this journey is not about being thin.  It’s about being healthy.  And if Ilook better, then that’s just a bonus for me.

I know there will be doubters. I know there will be people who don’t think it is necessary.  My circle of friends has recently decreased and it may get smaller still.  The friends who know my struggle will understand and the ones who don’t care or want to sabotage my efforts simply won’t be in my circle. I’m serious about this lifestyle change.

With my faith, and the support of my family and friends, I know I’ll be ok and obtain the healthy goals that I want. I’ll update the blog with each phase.  I hope you will stick around to witness my journey- I’d be happy to have your company. And if I can support you in your weight loss journey, I feel I am a great cheerleader!

Chat with you a week from today.  Until then, I just might eat pasta with every meal and chase it with a beer.  LOL.

It feels good to finally be BRAVE.


Love, Dawn

Watch and sing this with me ❤  How big is YOUR brave?


achilles, Surgery

Going slow, but still going!

Finally, the Achilles surgery is over! It’s been 9 days since the surgery.  It’s been a little slow going since the procedure, but at least I am still going and plugging along.

The day of the surgery was a non-event…I was prepared and looking forward to the surgery.  I knew recovery would be long, but I had been suffering with this injury for a few years.  The pain in the right heel was getting so bad that I couldn’t walk to the end of my driveway without pain.  And at age 45, I knew the pain would gain as the years progressed.  My doctor was Dr. Reinke of Cary Orthopaedics.  He did a great job.  He made a single incision at the back of my heel, detached my Achilles tendon, shaved down the horrid bone spur from hell, cleaned up some huge swelling/bursa situation, reattached the tendon, and stitched me up!  My mom and husband were with me that day.  And my sweet friend Mandie came to visit me shortly before I went in for surgery.  A surprise visit from a wonderful friend really did my heart so much good.  She’s been a friend for 10+ years.  So sweet of her to come by and wish me well! Then…I’d had a nerve block in my right leg, so I didn’t feel a thing.  I had an IV full of silly sleepy juice.  I remember trying to get comfortable face down on the table with oxygen tubes in my nose.  That’s all I remember until…

The morning after.  After the block wore off.  It was a pain I cannot describe and hope I never feel again.  Dr. had prescribed OxyCodone.  I’d started taking it the minute I got home to stay ahead of the pain.  I also had some anti-nausea meds in case the Oxy made my tummy upset.  the night before, I slept well and woke at about 3am noticing that the block had worn off.  Took more pain meds and back to sleep.  About 9am Thursday, I was begging for more drugs and my mommy. LOL.  Jason, my husband, called the office and they prescribed a couple of days’ worth of OxyContin.  A couple of doses of that stuff and I was able to cope.  I took 1 every 12 hours when needed.  I gritted my teeth when the pain would get too hard to endure and just tried breathing through my nose and exhaling through my mouth.  I am not too proud to tell yall that the pain I felt made me cry like a baby.

The next couple of days weren’t too terrible.  I am able to work from home while I recuperate, so I was able to catch up on work tasks, from my bed and with my foot elevated.  My family would bring me breakfast in bed and make sure I had all I needed.  My teenager gets home mid-afternoon, so I was really only alone for a few short hours per day.  I did experience one episode while trying to get back to my bed from the restroom.  My crutches got away from me and lost my balance for a second.  I put my toe down and it was horrendous:(  Let’s not do that again, I told myself.

Jason helped me get a shower every other day.  I am no prima donna, but girls, you know if you don’t LOOK good, you don’t FEEL good.  I already didn’t feel good, so I could at least make an effort to look good.  Here is how we set it up…

Put a plastic (empty) square-shaped cooler in the bathtub so I could sit on it. Hey- we don’t have one of those benches, so we made due with what he had!

Prop my bad leg up over the side of the tub and onto a lawn chair. Doesn’t EVERYONE have a pink lawn chair in their bathroom?

Tuck shower curtain between my knees so I didn’t get water all over the place. Our shower head is detachable, so I was able to sit, enjoy a nice hot shower, wash my hair and shave my one leg.  LOL.  Getting out was a chore for the first bath because I was still so incredibly sore!But the baths after that just got easier as the soreness went away.

Progress along to Day 7 and then the terrible awful happened.  I fell.  The bathroom floor was wet from previous shower my dear daughter had taken.  We didn’t see water on the floor:( My right crutch flew out from under me and I caught myself with my bad foot, that at the time, was still in a splint, wrapped by an ace bandage.  I was good at getting to and from restroom by myself, so by this time, I felt pretty good.

I am fairly sure I woke up dead people with the sound and pitch of my scream of terror.  I caught myself and put ALL of my weight on the bad foot.  ON a scale from 1-10 with 10 being worst, the pain was a 7million. And of course, my poor daughter felt horrible  She was home with me when I fell.  She heard the screams from hell and experienced the crying meltdown as she helped me get back to my bed.  Besides the pain, I was worried I’d damaged something.  How could that kind of fall with that level of pain NOT cause damage?  I don’t know, but it didn’t cause any! I took some pain meds, called it a day and rested the entire rest of that Wednesday.

The very next day (yesterday) I had a scheduled checkup.  Dr. Reinke said all looked well and I couldn’t believe the size of the scar! And I couldn’t believe my foot wasn’t more swollen.  Because in that heap of dressing/splint, it felt swollen.

I’ve graduated now to a hard cast.  I will wear this for 2 weeks and then will get a boot! Like an aircast thing.  I’ve had one of those before.  That means I can WALK!!! Praise Jesus. Walking without crutches will be such a joy!

So that’s where I am now….enjoying having a tiny bit more independence.  I am able to put 25% body weight on it, still with crutches.  Every bit of progress is a positive step in regaining my full independence and re-entrance to getting back on the fitness regiment. Not being able to exercise for several months has really resulted in some packing on some pounds.  Carrying ALL of this weight with me and on crutches is really difficult for me.  I am up quite a bit.  Depression had set in and when that happened, I lost sight of all my goals.  Now that I am progressing, I am incorporating some upper body exercises into my days.  Nothing crazy.  Just some 5# hand weights  and lifts similar to these in this video:

And since I can’t really get TO the floor, I have tried some v-ups and leg lifts while on my bed.

when I am cleared for exercise on lower extremities, I think I am gonna have a party.  LOL.  What a glorious day that will be….but first I have to go to physical therapy.  Not sure when that is happening yet…but I’ promise I will go SLOW when I CAN go.  Running is not ever going to be in my future.  I’ll be glad to walk my dog…walk with my family…bike a little, swim a little.  NO boxing for quite a while.  I am so afraid of kicking the bag and injuring myself that I just can’t fathom boxing or kickboxing for a long, long time- even though that particular exercise was my main weapon in my weight loss journey.

A few pictures from this fun time in my life… these are pics of my incision site and stitches.  Ouch!

office helper

IMG_2679 IMG_2678

This is how I started my day last Monday and up to this past Thursday.. propped up foot, icepacks, hospital tray/table with my laptop and my phone to my left.  My cute puppy would join me most days, too.  I can’t sit at my desk yet, so I work from my bed.
IMG_2664IMG_2677New Cast I got yesterday.  I’ts already working my nerves at night.  I still have to elevate it most times.  No letting it dangle in seated position too long.  It’s better to elevate so that the swelling goes down.  I haven’t had pain meds in a couple of days.  Feeling good and looking forward to gaining strength!

I’ll update again when I get my aircast!

My family and friends have been fantastic sources of help during this time.  From sending flowers, bringing food for dinner, just a call, text, email, or visit, has meant so incredibly much to me.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Happy Halloween, y’all! If you and your kids are trick or treating tonight, please enjoy and be careful!