Life without a stomach, 12 months later

 

Belly

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. 🙂

 

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12 thoughts on “Life without a stomach, 12 months later

  1. Clementine says:

    I’m 2 years post-op and just recently have had trouble swallowing after a relatively stress-free time until now. If I eat enough to go beyond that certain sticking point, whatever’s above it comes up again. Sorry TMI – but I’m sure you understand! I’m just trying to get a couple of pills down now – late at night when things are worst – and I’m twisting my head from side to side as you described above. I think it might be helping! By morning I’ll be fine again – although sometimes I aspirate in the night and that can lead to lung infections which are annoying!

  2. Chad / Kristy says:

    Clementine, I’m happy my trick might be helping. I just do it gently and try to relax and it seems to work. And yes, pills are the worst. I take chewable vitamins, but when I need to swallow an ibuprofen or cold tablet it’s just awful. I’m considering reverting to what my mom used to do for me when I was a young child; grind the pills to dust on a spoon and then pour on a bit of honey to cover the flavour. :p

  3. MARTARA says:

    GOING IN FOR THE SAME SURGERY (CANCER OF THE STOMACH) , YOUR WORDS ARE SO HELPFUL TO ME, IT TAKE THE FEAR OF THE UNKNOW OUT OF MY THINKING , THIS WILL BE HAPPING AUGUST 2011 THANKS SO MUCH

  4. Anna says:

    Hi have had this surgery done in January ’11. I am starting to feel a bit more normal these days. I did have problems with not being able to eat and did throw up a lot in the early part but am now eating albeit small amounts and am sick a lot less. I think the worse part is you feel you are on your own even if like me you have great support. It is hard to explain to people who have not had this done just how hard it gets sometimes. I am now starting to be able to lead a somewhat normal life even if I dont eat lots. The tiredness is also the thing I had trouble with I felt so exhausted most days even though I tended to force myself to keep going, I now stop when I get tired and leave it til another day.I hope your surgery goes well Martara it will be scary at first but each day you will learn a new way to deal with it and soon the months will pass. If I can help as someone to talk to please feel free to contact me. That is the big help to be able to see or talk to someone who has been there.

  5. Anna says:

    Hi just caught up on your last post so glad you are feeling so well. I had this done last Jan. and thought I wasnt goimng to make some days but at 10 months down the track I am feeling really good. I like you can now eat most things although very small amounts. I dropped 15 kilos but seem to have levelled out have been the same weight now for 2 months so am pleased. I find I can eat things like steak and fish and so on but not any gravys or sauces or things like that. Everyone I have spoken to seem to be able to eat some things and not others. The dryer foods etc. seem to suit me. So glad I came across your site it was a great help and I think that as we all talk about our different experience it must be a help for anyone going down this road. Well take care hope to talk again I guess you are getting ready for winter over there as we are getting warm over here. Best wishes from Australia Anna

  6. I had a total gastrectomy about 3 months ago. I was just checking out your scar and it’s so different to mine. Mine goes straight from my sternum to about 3cm below my belly button. There is a pick on my blog nostomachforeating.blogspot.com. I wonder why they cut us differently for exactly the same surgery? Your scar is pretty impressive.

  7. Judith McGuire says:

    Dear ChadThis is such a wonderful blog. My father had his stomach removed earlier this year and has just finished two further sessions of chemo. Reading your thoughts a year on has been such a positive experience for us. Your advice about dealing with the ‘blockage’ in your oesophagus has been extremely useful, as have some of the comments on your current diet! Thank you for taking the time to share this. Judith and family

  8. CAROLYN STIDDOM says:

    hY++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++.name.stanley stiddom 22 year’s no stomach 58 year old the last 2 mostly in bed IT HAS MOSTLY BEEN IN MY LIFE LIVE LEARN MY DOC UK.KY TOLD ME EAT WHAT YOU CAN WHAT YOU CAN’T DONT EAT IT NO MORE GIVE ME 5-8 YEARS TO LIVE I EAT MOSTY PROTEN ANY THING THAT DON’T HERT ME BUT THE LAST 2 YEARS I HAVE ALOT OF AHEISONS BAD——HOPE THIS HELP’S

  9. Cameron says:

    Hi,I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?Thanks,Cameroncameronvsj(at)gmail.com

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