Life without a stomach, 12 months later



It’s been nearly a year since my last writing, so I figured it high time that I post an update.

Over the last year I’ve received plenty of emails from fellow total gastrectomy patients—both those who have had their surgeries and those who are facing the prospect of going under the knife—thanking me for recording my experience and providing information on what to expect. I couldn’t be more flattered. This is assuredly a very crappy thing to go through, and the thought that I’ve played some small role in helping others to endure it is quite satisfying. If you’re a total gastrectomy patient stumbling upon this blog for the first time and have questions that I haven’t answered in my anecdotal posts, feel free to email me. I’m more than happy to share my experience with you.

Now, I presume that the big question most of you are eager to know is this: How is stomach-less life one year post surgery?

In a word, great.

I’m as active as I ever was, feeling healthy, and maintaining my weight. I can eat pretty much anything I like these days (just a lot more slowly), and I hardly even think about my condition.

In fact, that’s been the biggest change over these past 12 months. Slowly, without noticing, my eating habits have readjusted themselves so that they now feel normal. Completely routine. And since I work at home and can eat at leisure in front of my computer, I rarely feel like my longer meals are interfering with my lifestyle.

Returning readers will remember that I complained a lot about uncomfortable bouts during which I felt as though something was stuck in my oesophagus that led me to sometimes spend an hour or more spitting up thick, clear saliva. This still happens, though far less frequently. It’s been months since the last episode.

I was supposed to see my surgeon to determine whether I had a stricture—excessive scar tissue obscuring the oesophageal passage—but her people never managed to make the appointment happen. Consequently, I just figured out how to deal with it.

Here’s what I think happened.  

I subconsciously learned to chew my food a lot better, eat more slowly, and recognize the first signs of the problem occurring, at which point I just stop eating for a moment. Gently rotating my neck left and right often makes the sensation go away, and breathing shallowly helps a lot as well (it feels as though deep breaths expand my chest and constrict my oesophagus further).

Even if the feeling persists, I no longer get worked up about it, which is key as well. I think this calmness keeps my body from tensing up, which seems to make the feeling worse.

But, like I say, the feeling is now blissfully infrequent.

A bigger concern for me is that I’ve returned to many of my bad eating habits at night. I’m eating relatively healthily during the day. A typical schedule might include yogurt, an English muffin with an egg, and some apple juice in the morning. Then I’ll have some soup (wonton, French onion, and clam chowder are my favourites), crackers, apple sauce, and V8 in the afternoon. Supper might be pasta, perogies, or tempura. Lots of water, iced tea, and diet, caffeine-free sodas keep me hydrated. It’s a decent balance, I think. Bit of everything from all the food groups.

But then in the evenings I fall back on junk food. Chips, chocolate bars, and the like. The processed nature of these foods make them go down easier than anything else, and their condensed calories are a shortcut to reaching my daily energy goals.

I don’t think I’m eating more junk food than before my surgery, but it’s still more than I should. I’ve recently been trying to replace some of it with fruits and salads (grainy foods, which are harder to chew to mush, used to be much harder for me, but seem to have become options again over the last few months as my eating habits have readjusted). But now we’re talking about a lifestyle change rather than something forced on my by my surgery. A diet, basically. I’ve never been good with choosing to eat things I don’t really enjoy for health reasons. Still, that’s where I am. No use denying it.

And that’s about it. Life without a stomach is good.

I don’t expect I’ll be updating this blog again for a while unless something of significance related to my status as a man without a stomach occurs. Perhaps I’ll do another post in a year’s time. Until then, I bid happy days to both my gastric-enabled and gastric-impaired friends.

Post Script: I was just reviewing some of my earlier posts and was delighted to find that the most popular–with more than 9,000 views(!)–was the one I titled “Hooch is back on the menu!” Rest assured, it’s still there. 🙂