Here We Go…….

Hi everyone.

Yes I know, I did promise……   But things happen.  Life happens.  I really admire those lovely people who manage to keep updating almost daily, I just can’t.   However, I’m going to try and do a weekly update with odd extra bits when I feel I need to shout about something.  I feel really guilty as I know that a number of visitors were following my progress and I should have kept you all up to speed with things instead of just using Facebook or Twitter.  Sorry.

So where were we?  Well, on the weight front, I’m now down to 19.5 stone, which is just over 13 stone from my heaviest weight during 2010 pre-bypass.  It hasn’t been easy as I’m still having problems with food intake.  Although by now I thought I’d be eating a reasonably normal low-fat sensible and small diet, I have found I can’t tolerate chicken and solid meat like steak.  I also find veg like broccoli difficult, although I have to say that they weren’t really my favourite.

Things culminated in a trip to hospital a few weeks back when I had eaten some stew I had made from stewing steak.  I thought I had tenderised it and cooked it to death, but a piece of it seemed to lodge somewhere in my inner plumbing and I suffered the consequences.  I suspect that on the day I was admitted I cleared it by vomiting and a subsequence gastroscopy revealed inflammation in my pouch.

Since then I have had a fairly bland diet.  I followed advice and went right back to basics eating soups and puréed things for a few days and now managing mainly simple things using minced beef, pork or lamb.   I’m doing a food diary again and will share this in the near future, along with hopefully some comments from my Dietitian, the lovely Vanessa.

The other problem I have encountered health-wise that has caused lots of difficulties is that of kidney stones.  Around Christmas last year I started to feel quite a bit of discomfort and pain.  A subsequent admission to my third Holiday home at Huddersfield Infirmary revealed the presence of a number of renal calculi (kidney stones to you and me!).  I had one lot of surgery just before Christmas which removed four stones from my left tube; stents were placed inside to help with passing them.  I then had further surgery at the end of January which removed a few stones from my left kidney.  Two lots of lithotripsy removed some of the stones from the right tube and kidney.  However, I still have a large 2 cm stone in my right kidney that has resisted all attempts to destroy it, and I now face surgery at the end of the month to get rid of it.

I’m a bit puzzled about the number of stones now removed (around 12-15) and still to shift; my last x-ray/scan revealed that I have the beginnings of new ones in the left kidney as well.   After my bypass surgery I have to take a number of daily meds which include iron and calcium supplements as my body no longer produces adequate quantities.  I also take vitamin supplements and eat Brazil nuts to maintain selenium levels.   Hopefully the surgery at the end of the month will reveal more.

After the second kidney op, I found that some bladder problems that had been around for a while intensified and I now have to wear a catheter, which is a real inconvenience, and has depressed me somewhat.   A few weeks back when I was in with kidney pain, we tried to remove it, but the problems without it outweighed the ones  I have with it.  So for now, it’s back in and making me a bit miserable.

Another thing that happened late last year was that I suffered a couple of minor blackouts; nothing major, but I was referred to a neurologist as a precaution.  I saw the neurologist back in February and he advised me to stop driving.  Despite my protests, I agreed and advised the relevant authorities.  This also meant sending back my Motability car.  This probably affected me more than the illness issues and I struggled with public transport.  Luckily, many of my friends and family rallied round so I was able to go to play bridge and so on.  I am so grateful for everyone who helped me.  After undergoing a couple of scans that the neurologist requested, he cleared me, but wanted me to see a cardiologist.  I did this last week and he cleared me, identifying that some medication I was on to reduce my blood pressure at night and help my kidneys, was actually already on my meds list.  Consequently I was zonked out a lot of the time.  No that we have stopped this, I feel much better and am trying to enjoy life a little more positively.

My lymphoedema seems to be reasonably stable at the moment although th fluid pouches at the top of my legs are still quite large.  The stat dose of antibotics I have been taking seems to have kept the cellulitis I used to frequently get at bay.  I’m still having my legs bandaged with some gentle compression and hope to see my Lymphoedema Specialist Nurse, Tracy, in the near future.

Still awake?  On with a bit more.  As most of you already know, I had to give up work around six years ago and manage on Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowances.   Our wonderful Government decided to move people on IB over to a new allowance called ESA.  However this is being carried out by a private company, ATOS.  There have been many stories in the newspapers about most claimants being turned down and then being forced to appeal.   Because the company is paid on results, like the odious and seriously useless A4e, who are supposed to care for my ‘employment wellness’ they fail most people in the hope that they don’t appeal further.  I have heard stories of people with serious and terminal conditions being told they are fit to work and losing their allowances.  During February I received the form and summons that I was being moved off IB.  I filled in my forms with the help of the Welfare Rights Advisor from Pennine Housing and sent the form off, along with letters from my GP and counsellor detailing my exact state of health.  After almost three months, I was
surprised to hear that my application had been processed and I was being placed in the Support Group, which means I receive the new ESA allowance, a combination of IB and Income Support.  I have to attend regular meetings once or twice a year to maintain my ‘work focus’ (rest assured, Mr Cameron, the moment I can go back to work, I will do so!).   I also used an excellent website called Benefits and Work ( ).  If you are in a similar position I’d strongly recommend you subscribe to the site, and seek help from one of the support services such as Citizens’ Advice or Welfare Rights to ensure your application is fully checked and supported.  Gather and include as much evidence as possible, and I know it’s easy to say, but don’t go over the top with your claims, but tell it the way it is.  That seems to have worked for me.  Feel free to contact me if you are in the same boat and I’ll try and offer a little advice.  Likewise I am always happy to talk to you if you are thinking of weight loss surgery.

Apart from all that, anything else?  Well, I’m still single although I haven’t really made any attempts at trying to date or meet people because of everything else going on.  I’m still friends with Paul whom I saw for a while last year, and although he is still special to me, we’re just friends.  I’m enjoying my bridge, the football referee assessing hasn’t really happened this year because of the illnesses.  Quiz setting has been enjoyable with close contests in both Todmorden and Bacup Leagues.  I have been doing a little crossword setting with a puzzle that is 50% mine on Big Dave’s Crossword Blog ( as the Prize Puzzle for June (you have till Saturday to enter!).  I’m also in the Independent this Saturday with the General Knowledge Crossword.  I’ll post more about the social life over the next few days.

Right, I think that’s me up to date for now.  I’ll try and post things more regularly and let you know how things are going.  I’ll try and get some new pictures of life around here over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, I’m pleased to say that the cardiologist I saw last week cleared me for driving and after talking to Motability and the DVLA, I was able to order my new car today, so I’ll be mobile again soon.  Thanks to the two organisations for being so helpful as well.

Take care



Onwards and Upwards 6

OK.  I know.  I’ve been a klutz.  I haven’t been updating – the nice ladies at Brierfield Bridge Club have been telling me off a bit, so I’ll take their castigation as being from you too.

So where were we?  Well it’s now just over six months since my bypass surgery and the good news is that I’ve lost nine stone and 11 pounds (62.1 kilos).  The not-so-good news is that I am still finding it difficult to tolerate certain foods, although there have been some recent breakthroughs.  I went to a crossword gathering in London a few weeks back and went with everyone there for a Chinese meal.  I confess (sorry Jane!) that I wasn’t too pleased about this as I knew there probably wouldn’t be much I could eat.  Meat and “solid” vegetables were still causing my new tummy some distress and being allergic to most seafood ruled out that part of menu.  Unlike other Asian restaurants, there were no dishes featuring minced meat, which I was able to tolerate.  Eventually, rather grumpily I settled on diced pork with cashew nuts.  Couldn’t have rice or noodles and though I would have incurred the wrath of Vanessa my dietitian, no chips were served (I would have  had no more than half a dozen anyway as I hadn’t experienced them since the op either).

The dish duly arrived and I was dismayed to find the definition of “diced” pork should probably have been “sliced” pork.  However, the prudent use of a knife meant that it was in tiny pieces.  I ate a couple of forkfuls, following the mantra of “chew everything 25 times” and was delighted to notice no ill feeling.  A few weeks earlier a small amount of scrambled egg had induced projectile vomiting all over myself and Big Sister, so i was prepared and bothered as I was in company.   I managed a few more forkfuls and actually enjoyed some Chinese vegetables like water chestnuts, that I previously would not have bothered with.

My success with this led me to try some Quorn sausage a couple of days later  with a little mashed potato and all went well.  A poached egg on toast (Warburton’s Milk Roll) also stayed down, as did beans on toast.  So the diet has become a little more varied now.

The worst thing I think is not the food intake, but the fact that I can’t drink with my meals.  I invariably had a glass of fruit juice or a coffee with my meal, but another of the mantras is to eat and allow your pouch to digest food before moving onto fluid.  I find this really hard, but something I try to follow assiduously.

The really good news on top of the weight-loss is that I have managed to keep out of hospital.  Last year I had fourteen admissions, mainly with cellulitis linked to my lymphoedema.  This year I have been in once.   Sad to report, I still have problems with cellulitis and indeed am nursing an infected leg at the moment, but we are trying to manage it with regular dressing changes and antibiotics (liquid form, including one that tastes of banana – yukkk!).  I have also resumed treatment under the lymphoedema specialist nurse and now have tasteful full-length stockings to wear.  these are designed to induce gentle compression to try and squeeze the pockets of fluid that have gathered in my leg.

Other news.  You’ll be able to have a laugh at me on TV later in the year when I appear on the BBC4 quiz show Only Connect as part of a team called The Listeners.  I am bound by a superinjunction from Victoria Coren herself which means I cannot tell you how we did, but we had an amazing time and a special thanks to all the production team who were just brilliant, as was Madame VC herself.  I’ll post details of the date or dates nearer the time.

There are other updates to the website going live over the next few days and I’d appreciate your comments as to whether you enjoy them or not.

That’s all for now and I promise to return in a day or so with more news.  I am off to do 50 lines “I must be more conscientious….”.  Ah the days when doing 50 lines involved writing rather than using a drinking straw….


Onwards and Upwards 5

Oh dear!  Best laid plans and all that……

Firstly, a happy new year to everyone and I’d better get the apology out of the way.  I’m really sorry that I have neglected the blog, and I suppose the reason why I neglected the blog is the reason why I should have been posting!

Are you still with me?  Good, I am so glad someone understands.  I have been having a bit of a rough time.  By now, I should be just about hitting a normal diet again, and I am far from it.  Indeed, I haven’t really approached the mashed food stage and am struggling.

Things went a bit haywire over Christmas.  In the approach, I seemed to be coping ok with the puréed stuff, although to be honest I wasn’t really enjoying the food, it all seemed so bland and tasteless.  This left me with a worry for Christmas dinner.  I eventually settled on a Weightwatchers’ Shepherds’ Pie type thing with a mashed potato top.  The meat was minced and although I wouldn’t have eaten the pastry case, it appeared fine.

I went over to big sister’s for Christmas lunch and promptly forgot the pie!  However my ever-resourceful Big Sister came up with an idea.  Mashed potato, carrot and swedes and some smooth chicken paté, which seemed to work well.

However, late Christmas evening things didn’t go too well, and I began to feel rather unwell and by morning I was vomiting everything I ate.  Over the next few days I deteriorated and by the Wednesday my GP admitted me to hospital where I saw in the New Year.

I had some tests including a gastrograph, which was similar to a barium meal.  Earlier in the month when I had similar problems I had had an Ultrasound scan, and it turned out that neither procedure revealed anything.  I was quite dehydrated so I was given lots of liquid to rehydrate me. I was advised to start again with the puréed diet and to see how it went.

I came home on the Sunday after New Year and found I had real bursts of energy.  I spent the week coping with porridge, rice pudding and the odd puréed meal, but I couldn’t get any satisfaction from the food, nor could I cope with anything more normal.  Even soups like minestrone were giving me grief, despite me chewing the veg up as much as physically possible.

It has remained like that since, although over the past couple of days, I have had a bit of a breakthrough and have been having what I would call “small pot pies”.  These are mashed potato toppings with fillings of either creamed mushrooms, or the potato mixed with grated corned beef.  They are topped off with WeightWatchers Grated Cheese.

One of the highlights of the last month was my trip to the Bariatric Support Group where Vanessa the Dietitian gave a presentation on reading food labels and their contents.  This was a really useful meeting and taught  me a lot about understanding good and potentially unhealthy food.  I’ll put a separate post on this as for anyone coping with food post-op, it’s very interesting.  I am toying with the idea of starting a food database where we can list ingredients in terms of fat, sugar and other contents.  It’s a big project, but I am sure it would help people.

I’ve also undergone a radical change.  the long shoulder-length hair has ben replaced by a short crop and the beard replaced by a goatee. A picture will appear soon!

OK I promise to update more often!


Onwards and Upwards 4

I seem to start my posts with an apology each time!  Anyway, I’m sorry for neglecting my site over the past week or so, but unfortunately I have been back in Calderdale Hospital with cellulitis in my left leg.

Although the treatment went well, the standard of care I received was completely inadequate, which is terribly disppointing as I have generally been well looked after in my previous stays. Continue reading

Onwards and Upwards 2

Thank you to everyone for visiting and for your brilliant feedback.  I am so thrilled to read your messages.   I’ve had record figures for visitors to the site and I’m particularly pleased to read how those of you are awaiting the surgery are finding it useful.

It’s been another spectacular day today, after a completely inauspicious start.  I went to sleep just before midnight and had a dreadful night.  Continue reading

A New Life Dawns….

The day is finally here!  It’s the big operation!

I came into Huddersfield Infirmary yesterday and am almost ready to go to theatre.  I have seen my surgeon and anaesthetist in the last hour and am prepped and ready to go.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared and was a bit upset in front of the surgeon. I know it’s something I have to go through and hopefully will be all the better for it.

I have had lots and lots of lovely messages from friends and chums dotted round the world, and one in particular said that this is the start of the new life and new me.  I really hope so.

I’ll be back soon to let you know how things are going.  I know I’ve neglected things over the past week or so, but I’ll rectify that soon.

Love you all!