What’s life like six months after angioplasty?

I woke up early this morning fighting a mild cold with a bit of an upset stomach. Still in all, I woke up glad to be alive. Six months ago today, I was being wheeled into a surgery to save my life. Doctors had discovered one of the arteries around my heart was 80 percent blocked, meaning blood was barely getting through.

An angioplasty took place, a procedure in which doctors used a small balloon to clear the blockage and then inserted a stent, a wire mesh tube, to keep my artery open. It’s fair to say that changed my life, giving me years I likely would not have otherwise had, hopefully.

Me before my surgery
Me before my surgery
Me today, 29 pounds lighter
Me today, 29 pounds lighter

It also changed my food life more radically than anything else that has ever happened to me. My diet now bears little resemblance to what it had been. Gone are the daily chocolate candies, snack cakes and diet sodas that once were staples for me. Gone are burgers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and elsewhere. My lunch almost every day now is a salad with oil and vinegar which I carry myself since most places don’t have it as an option. Dinners involve more vegetables and also more ground turkey, more fish and an occasionally very lean steak or 96 percent lean ground beef burger. White bread, rice and anything made with white flour are out.

The result? When I checked into a hospital Aug. 13, 2012, I weighed 219. This morning, six months later, I weigh 190, so I’ve lost 29 pounds in six months by eliminating everything I once loved from my diet.

I am constantly hungry these days, my appetite has not receded as predicted by some know-it-alls. And my taste for chocolate has not disappeared either. Indeed, yesterday I had the first real chocolate chip cookie I’ve eaten in months and it was amazingly good. This morning, to celebrate my anniversary, I ate the last two Drake’s Yodels I bought on eBay after parent company Hostess went into bankruptcy at the end of last year. And they tasted as wonderful as I remembered.

But like a diabetic who can no longer eat sugar, I can no longer eat my favorite foods if I want to continue living. So I am slowly finding substitute dishes, remaking old recipes with new healthier ingredients, and adapting. In six months, I have established a fairly decent home cooking routine that takes care of most dinners. Lunches out are salads, as I mentioned, boring but not harmful. And my wife and I are slowly assembling a new list of restaurants that have healthy dishes or that can accommodate me when I call ahead and say I want dishes with no salt, no fat and no sugar involved.

I’ve also thrown myself into a wonderful new avocation, acting. I’ve wanted to try acting since I was a kid but was too shy in those days. Luckily, my wife and I starting an acting class before my surgery and I fell in love with the whole process. Now, acting gives me the escape from everyday trials and troubles that food once did. As I write this, I’m preparing to be in my first student-made film and a play I wrote myself.

So if you’ve faced massive life changes like I have and had to leave your safety blanket of old foods behind, take some heart from my experiences. Rebuild and find new ways to enjoy the life you have now. I’m here to help.


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