Two years post op and now in lockdown

Two years have now passed since I had my oesophagectomy.  I’ve been back at work for nearly 18 months and life was settling down to the point that in 2020, I planned to travel alot more. However, the corona virus pandemic has since put an end to that idea.

My drawing of a Coronavirus

The UK has been in lockdown since mid-March and we are still not out of the woods. Although a remarkable time, it is not without stress or worry and not a time to be confident about health in any shape or form. However it has provided me with the opportunity to switch my attention from cancer-related art to drawings about my experience in lockdown. I have been posting my drawings on twitter and instagram and still have lots of ideas.

In terms of health, I can now eat larger portions and my weight has started to rise ever so slightly. I am in a bizarre situation where I need to rein in food portions. Regular meals are still needed as I still get reflux on an empty stomach but eating is no longer causing me any major issues. In fact I can now eat salads again, albeit small ones and still feel I am not losing out on calories.

My meals are more vegetarian and pescatarian now with meat once every couple of weeks or so. Since coffee outlets are closed, I kicked my daily take-out coffee habit and eating out has stopped for the time being. We now have a vegan in the house so we all drink oat milk instead of cow’s milk, which is actually very tasty and surprisingly versatile.

Exercise is also work in progress. I started to do yoga again and lockdown has provided an opportunity to walk most days. Walks are around 1-3 hours duration (3-8 miles) and I also do some High Intensity Interval Training. My pre-op fitness is returning albeit my upper body strength needs improvement.

I am still keeping an eye on my bloods but lockdown has prevented me from requesting these from the doctors. I have therefore used an online lab to do baseline bloods and this has worked well; so well that I will continue to use them to take a bit of pressure off the NHS. I used to test vitamin B12, D, iron, folate, cholesterol and HbA1c. Most values seem to be optimal but D has definitely dropped. Even before my operation, I did not absorb vitamin D well from food and had to rely on supplements and sunshine. This year I started supplementing vitamin D3 but the weather has been so good, I am hoping that 20 minutes a day has restored my levels to those of summer 2018.

Long term use of PPIs is well known for causing issues with bone density. I wondered if it interferes with vitamin D absorption which in term affects bone or acts directly on calcium absorption. Who knows but optimal vitamin D levels are definitely a good idea especially when supporting a healthy immune system for fighting covid-19. In fact there are one or two articles in the literature that hint that supplementing might be a good idea.

As for susceptibility to covid-19, I am not sure how I stand against the virus. As I have a permanent cough that kicks off with reflux and certain foods as well as previous chest surgery, I am concerned about my risk. I am also not sure how my immune system is after chemo. So I try really hard to look after myself and my family and have been extra careful when out, especially in the supermarket. I have also been working from home since before the whole country locked down and will remain doing so in the medium term.

I still get pain in my right shoulder but it hasn’t bothered me as much recently. Maybe because I am not sat at my desk for 7.5 hours a day. I find I move around more when working from home.

Dumping is very infrequent now and tends to occur after drinking something too fast, acting like Dyno-Rod on my system. Nice. Chocolate consumption did increase this year to the point that I was eating more than I should. The increased sugar intake not only created cravings, it also created bad shakes. Something I rarely suffered with. So I have reined in the sugar again and gone cold turkey with chocolate and I have not had a problem with dumping since.

In conclusion, I am doing well. The world in which we live is not quite the same as it was so I remain extremely cautious when it comes to monitoring my health but will continue to eat well and increase my range of exercise as and when I can.



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