As a result of my surgery I have one really big dietary restriction: no red meat. Not for three to six months from the date of the surgery. Now exactly what that means depends on who you talk to. When my surgeon’s assistant tried to clarify that for me she got varying responses. She told me that two nurses said that it meant only beef, while two doctors told her that it meant both beef and pork. The nurse who removed my staples and who is very familiar with my surgeon said it meant only beef. But when I finally had my follow-up with my surgeon he couched the restriction in the broadest possible terms: no beef, pork, lamb, etc.
Now as a practical matter only the first two affect me (I never eat lamb), but that still creates a huge impact on my diet. It means I am restricted to poultry, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. Given that I’m not keen on a diet based exclusively on chicken and turkey, and since a diet heavy on seafood is not practical, I have to open myself up to more vegetarian food.
Long time readers of this blog may recall that I have flirted with a vegetarian diet in the past, and more than once. This is not exactly new and unfamiliar territory for me. I know a vegetarian diet is healthier for me as an individual and it’s far better for the health of the planet. That is one thing that has not changed a bit since Frances Moore Lappé first published Diet for a Small Planet in 1971.
The question, then, is how to eat vegetarian. It’s the same question I have asked intermittently since the 1970s. The easy path, the path taking the least amount of thought, is to go with meat substitutes. I bought a package of veggie bacon strips which were awful. Some of the meat substitutes aren’t so bad, however. Soy crumbles make a great vegetarian chili when properly seasoned, and black bean burgers can be very tasty.
A vegetarian snob, however, and even a serious vegetarian who is not a snob, would say that one ought to cook vegetarian dishes that stand on their own and which do not try to emulate meat dishes. Perhaps that’s not as easy as it might first sound. Mollie Katzen admits that in her first edition of The Mousewood Cookbook she tried to create recipes specifically so the meat wouldn’t be missed. But that was decades ago (1974) and a lot of vegetarian cookbooks have been published since then, a good number of them with some very tasty, savory dishes. Martha Rose Shulman, one can make the case, is a master of this sort of recipe in her cookbooks.
It’s not an easy journey right now, but it is one that is highly manageable.
La lucha continua, if I may be so presumptuous as to borrow from those engaged in the fight for social justice.
I am big on routine. Perhaps that is where our four-footed child Tasha gets her insistence on routine.
I have made it a point to be disciplined in my exercise routine. For a very long time I walked three days a week listening to lectures from The Great Courses and I did yard work one day a week. When I needed to improve my strength in advance of my surgery I shifted to weight work three days a week along with a cardio and strength class one day a week. I tried to throw in yard work as well. It made all the difference in my surgery and recovery.
Right now I need to back off on all of that. My body needs time to heal and I need to scale back on the exercise. That’s OK. It will be nice to get back to my walks and Great Courses lectures down the line a ways.
My spiritual director spent many years as a nurse before becoming an Episcopal priest. She provided that fact during our very first session and that reality does at times affect how she interacts with her directees.
That was the case during our last session before my surgery. She stepped out of her spiritual director role and into her nurse role long enough to tell me to make sure that I was getting the pain medication I needed.
That advice did not work as well as it could have while I was in the hospital. I don’t know whether it was Kaiser policy or my surgeon’s directions, but I only received pain medication when I specially asked for it. That meant I probably missed a few doses I could have used.
I took that advice very seriously when I got home however. I made sure that I took my pill regularly, every four hours. That made a huge difference to me and my comfort level.
Sometimes we have the inclination to tough it out. That’s not always the best approach. We frequently need to give ourselves the care and comfort that we need.
I knew for many months that I would need surgery. It was just a question of when. My surgeon told me very early on that I would do much better if I were in better physical shape.
As it became clear that the surgery would be sooner rather than later, I asked my surgeon about the kind of exercise I should be getting. Strength training, he said. I had been doing walking so I made the shift. I took the process seriously and added wight and reps to keep challenging myself.
I had also asked my surgeon about the length of my hospital stay. I said that for a youngster it could be short, maybe three days, but with my sixty-five-year-old body that was not possible. He was highly unwilling to commit, but he seemed to suggest that five days might be a minimum and that it could be eleven or so days.
As it turned out I spend three nights in the hospital and went home on day four. I took the need for preparation seriously and it paid off.
A lesson to remember.
I am back sooner than I expected, but then I have a lot on my mind, as you might imagine.
This blog entry might contain TMI for some.
As I reported to my friends on Facebook, the surgery was scheduled for three-and-a-half hours, but was completed in less than two-and-a-half. I was moved from the gurney to the operating table, and the next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room, feeling relatively comfortable. At the outset there was no pain unless I moved.
As I was coming up on the date for surgery I kept asking myself if I really needed to go through with it. The answer I gave myself was that anything that was causing me to lose weight and creating an elevated white blood cell count needed to be dealt with. I learned after the surgery that the object removed was the size of a golf ball, and that several other small objects needed to be removed as well. So I guess the surgery really was was necessary.
The hospital routine was an interesting one. I had my nurse on duty and I got a new nurse every twelve hours. There was usually a handoff to acquaint me with the new nurse and the new nurse with my situation. Then a lot of other people came and went. Technicians or nursing students to take my vitals. Phlebotomists to take blood. The head of nursing to get my evaluation of my treatment, and my case manager to get information about my personal circumstances. And, of course, my surgeon or the resident to see how I was doing.
It was an interesting experience and I was pleased with the quality of care I received. I was also very happy to get home.