Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Love After Loss

It’s true growing old isn’t a privilege extended to everyone. Last weekend, our cousin Julia passed away, leaving behind a shattered world of beloved family members including four kids, husband, mother and siblings.

Those of us left behind can’t wrap our heads around this injustice. How will anything ever set this horrific wrong right? The answer; it won’t. 

When you lose someone to tragedy, it’s so easy to concentrate on the things left unsaid. The deeds left undone.

The things said that we wish we could take back. The things we would DO differently if we had only known.

As far as I can tell, there are two options. You can wrap yourself up in bondage so great, you’ll never be released. You can dwell on the past in a way that ties you up for the rest of your Earthly life.

And, then when you arrive in Heaven in the presence of the Almighty God, you can hug your loved one, flesh to flesh, and tell them how you pined for them on Earth. How you spent years wishing you had treated them differently. How you wished you could have said I love you one last time. How you wouldn’t have spoken so harshly to them.

How you let it consume your life because you couldn’t forgive yourself. I can almost see the horrified expression of someone hearing you did all of this in their name.

Or, option number two, when you see them again, you can tell them that you lived your life well in their honor. You loved your spouse, your kids and you represented them on this planet when they couldn’t be here to do it themselves. You took your regrets and turned them into loving acts.

I’ve spent years living regret and I wouldn’t pick that for anyone. Our loved ones who have passed on wouldn’t pick it for us.

For those of us who knew Julia, can we agree she wouldn’t want it either? Instead, can we stand the gap for her here on Earth?

Can we love her kids well? Can we love her husband well?

She would certainly do it for anyone of us.

We're still here to witness the milestones. We can be there when her kids graduate from high school. We can be there when they get married. We can represent her in a way that would make her proud. 

Of course, it won’t be the same. But when we see her again, we can tell her we gave it our all. We didn't let the legacy she created waste away.  Instead of dwelling on the should haves, we showed up and loved her family. We supported Derek and the kids in a way that meant something.

For you Julie.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Things I Learned After VSG

Lately I’ve had a few people telling me to tone it back, to wipe this smile off my face.

I physically can’t do it. Seriously.

When you’re life is in a good place, you have no reason not to embrace the joy. Don’t get me wrong, my life wasn’t in a horrible place before. I have a wonderful family. I live in a nice neighborhood. I have a fun job. I really had nothing to complain about.

But I was grotesquely overweight. I was weighed down in a way that would be hard for some people to understand. I spent years hating myself and questioning my worth.

So now dropping 100 pounds, I can’t stop smiling. I feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. Just to play catchup, last July I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy at Bingham Memorial Hospital. 80% of my stomach was permanently removed and given that my anatomy was so greatly altered, I had no choice but to work on clearing up some mental roadblocks I had desperately held on to.

Now that I’m sixth months out and down 100 pounds, people have noticed and started asking questions. So I want to pass on what I’ve learned.
1.     Everyone will have an opinion. I feel like I spent so much energy talking my family into my surgery. After I had spent months talking myself into it, this point of the process felt exhausting and I probably wasn’t as patient as I could have been. Now, 100% of my family is onboard with my decision and excited to see the changed person I am now.
2.     It’s not the easy way out. I’m 32 and I’ll never eat an average-person meal again for the rest of my life. That doesn’t sound easy or fun. To me, it’s worth it but it’s not easy.
3.     It’s a tool. This tool is definitely not for everyone and I would never pretend otherwise. I’ve read plenty on the Internet of people who have failed, even after bariatric surgery. I’ve still had to work on emotional issues, which led to overeating in the first place. But this tool gave me a second chance at the life I wanted. If you don’t feel like you are ready to change, don’t jump into surgery.
4.     It will change your life. Besides being 100 pounds lighter, other aspects of my life have changed as well! I have energy in spades, much better self-control and a better outlook in general. I am mentally able to not give food as much power as I used to and instead spend time playing with kids.
5.     There are days I wish I could go back. I know this probably seems extremely contradictory to everything else I’ve written, but it’s true. There are days I deeply wish it didn’t have to come to this and I could just be back to my old ways. There are moments I genuinely wish I could eat whatever I want and not have to worry. But that’s not how it is. I think that’s normal with irreversible surgery. So I’ve developed things that help me get over it. I look in the mirror. I run on my treadmill. I concentrate on the positives instead of the negatives.
6.     Your body might respond to food differently. For me, I can no longer tolerate ground beef. I miss it. But I feel so horrible after trying to eat it, I’ve rearranged my diet to no longer use hamburger of any kind. On the flip side, I used to find boiled eggs nasty and now I crave them.

I could actually keep going on and on about what I’ve learned throughout this process. But the bottom line is that I’m so grateful for the opportunity to begin a healthy life.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Life After VSG

Today I woke up 80 pounds lighter than I was when I started my weight loss journey four months ago. I am a new person, not only physically but mentally as well.  If you’re keeping tabs, this is the third part in a series I’ve been writing about losing weight. This hasn’t been an easy adventures but your support makes all the difference. Thank you.

Just to get you caught up if you have missed the first two issues, I decided to have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which is a surgical procedure to permanently reduce the size of the stomach. A smaller stomach fills up faster, making you feel full before you start overeating.  Using surgical staples to section off most of your stomach, the surgeon creates a long vertical tube (or "sleeve") about the size of a banana and disposes of the excess stomach for good.

When I woke up from surgery, I remember pushing the happy button a lot. This magical device was supposed to deliver pain medicine at will. I also remember the very kind nurse telling me, “It’s only going to work once every six minutes sweetheart.” When I registered what she was saying to me, and I’m sure it took a few minutes, I decided sleep seemed like a better option and just closed my eyes.

When I woke up, I really wasn’t in pain anymore. Until I looked at my phone and saw an obvious pocket-text message from my boss that said “L You” followed up with “Ah. Pocket dial. That sounded bad.”  Even in my recovery state of mind, I found this to be hysterical.

The only problem here is that laughing after a majority of your stomach has been removed doesn’t feel pleasant. So I would laugh, then cry out in pain and then laugh again. Such is the cycle. But honestly, I was completely off all pain medication within 48 hours.

Let me tell you peeps, recovering from surgery was a breeze. Recovering from a life-long food addiction was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. In fact, because I take pride on being the best drama queen I can be, there were moments when I seriously questioned whether I would ever feel joy in my life again. If I couldn’t eat what I wanted when I wanted to eat it, what would my life possibly be like? In the required two-week resting period, I ran through an array of emotions, including complete despair.  No exaggeration, I would lay in bed and dream of food.

But within a week, I was down 10 pounds. And then 20. One day I woke up and realized food wasn’t the first thing I thought of. It got easier and letting go of the hold food had over me meant I had so much more time and energy for other things. I hate to be so serious here but after everything I had been through, I finally landed on an emotion I could embrace.

Gratefulness.

I am so grateful to the team at the Bingham Memorial Weight Loss Center for treating me with compassion and supporting me through one of the most difficult phases of my life. I can’t name names because there are too many but, let me tell you, I owe these people my life. They took an overweight, self-doubting and self-hating person and turned me into someone who can’t wipe the smile off her face.

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I feel like I have the rest of my life to live now instead of hiding away in my room. My husband and I took our girls to Lagoon last October and I actually rode the rides. Well, all of them that didn’t require me having a death wish. For the first time in ten years, I just enjoyed being at an amusement park instead of spending the day convinced people were staring at me.  It this experience plus hundreds of others that bring joy to my life instead of food. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weight Loss Surgery

When we last met up in this space, I spent time telling you all how I decided to have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which is a surgical procedure to permanently reduce the size of the stomach. A smaller stomach fills up faster, making you feel full before you start overeating.  Using surgical staples to section off most of your stomach, the surgeon creates a long vertical tube (or "sleeve") about the size of a banana and disposes of the excess stomach for good.

Sounds drastic? I never really thought so even when unknowing people tried to tell me it was. What scared me the most was realizing how devastating it would be to wake up sixty years from now and know I failed at something that I desperately wanted.

When the medical team at Bingham Memorial Hospital approved me for surgery, I was ready to show up and get it done. The next day.  

But it’s not that easy. There are appointments with nutritionists, sessions with counselors and weigh-ins with the surgeon. When you’re living it, it feels like a lot of time. But there’s a reason Bingham Memorial has so many successful weight-loss patients. A lifetime of poor food choices isn’t going to be solved with surgery. The team puts in the time to make sure you will have all the skills you needed.

Skills I had no idea how to get on my own.

The first time I met with the nutritionist, she told me I would have to pick up some new hobbies. I eagerly nodded my head, but I really had no idea what she was talking about. Until I took a step back and realized how much time I spent eating and thinking about food.

If you and I ever went to lunch together, you probably wouldn’t think my food intake was that much different than yours. Because I spent a lot of time gauging how quickly lunch companions were eating and making sure I matched them bite for bite.  Then I would calculate the time to my next meal and I would make sure I could eat what I wanted then. Or I would come up with a reason to leave early so I could eat again before my next commitment. Now you know why I desperately needed a new hobby.

When I met with the counselor, he asked me about my support system. Once again, I put a smile on my face but couldn’t really comprehend how this was important. Let me tell you peeps, how difficult this process would be if my family was not onboard or had opted to enable me instead of holding me accountable for my food choices. My husband read all the materials I brought home and adjusted his life to match mine. My girls have never once complained about eating differently.  I’m so grateful for their support. I’ve read horror stories online of people who didn’t have the support system and found the journey too difficult to continue.

Two weeks leading up to surgery, you have to go on a very intense liver-shrinking diet. It was not pleasant for me but I kept telling myself I could make anything work for two weeks. When I lost ten pounds, I was proud but I knew I could never continue that diet long term. On with surgery.

Finally, the big day arrived. I practically bounced into the hospital. My smile didn’t change until I woke up and semi confused on what happened.  Instead of explaining it to me, my husband just recorded me on his phone. Needless to say, the video isn’t pleasant for me but he’s found it to be great entertainment at family functions.  In the next issue, I’ll go over what it means to have a double-digit weight loss and how I’m living a life I never even thought possible.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weighed Down

It is 3:30 a.m. in the Burke house. Please understand I don’t typically crawl out of bed to write.  Or do anything for that matter.  I like sleep way too much. But today I need to see darkness outside my windows and have a house full of sleeping people because I feel like I’m entering sacred territory.

Sacred territory? This must be intense.

It is, peeps. It is. I’m going to let you in on my battle and lay it all out on the line.

The truth is that I’ve given food way too much power in my life for far too long and I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’m tired of being overweight. My mom passed away from complications of a stroke at 54 and she was at a healthy weight. What am I setting myself up for by not being healthy?

I promise I’ve tried as many weight-loss programs as I could: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, LA Weight Loss. I know they work for some people but I’ve failed at every single one of them.

I’m so lucky to have a good friend who loves me enough to tell me she thinks bariatric surgery would be a good option for me.

We were sitting at her house, when she said, “You need to watch this Youtube video.” All of sudden, I was watching a young girl describe my life exactly.  She loved food so much it began consuming her life, always thinking about the next meal and scheduling her life around it.
In other words, living to eat instead of eating to live. A feeling I know very well.  

She took back her life by having a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, which is a surgery that removes a large portion of your stomach.

After hearing her story, I decided to talk to my husband about it.  He reacted exactly like I thought he would, adamant that a diet change and intense exercise is the right way.
Sigh. I love my husband. But he falls under the I-quit-pop-for-a-week-and-lost-30-pounds category.

I’m much more of the I-quit-pop-for-forever-and-gained-four-pounds person.

If only life was fair.

Knowing I would need his full support, I was contemplating my next move when twelve hours later, he called me and was so overcome with emotion he could barely speak.

Away for work, he has been sitting in a hotel watching ESPN when a documentary came on. It was about a group of professional athletes who attempted to complete a workout with eighty pounds of extra weight strapped to them. In the beginning, the participants were critical of being overweight and, through the show, their voices changed to expressing kindness for those struggling with extra weight.

Watching this had completely changed my man’s mind on his wife pursuing a medically-supervised weight loss surgery.

Wow. Since my husband is obsessed with sports, I’m usually like, “Babe, you know you’re not on the payroll, right? Stop screaming at the TV because the Denver Bronco coaches don’t care what you think.”
But in this case, I was like, “Thanks goodness for ESPN. Watch some more.”

So the next step was to attend the free seminar at Bingham Memorial Hospital.

On my way, I almost chickened out. You see, being overweight has amplified my anxiety to new levels. I don’t want to put myself in any situation where I feel vulnerable. But my dear friend, who initially expressed concern for me, was riding shotgun and wouldn’t let me turn around. When I tried, she threatened to roll down her window, throw her arms out of the car and scream like she was being kidnapped. 

I am so thankful for good friends.

At the seminar, the doctor explains all of the surgical weight loss options and stayed until every question has been answered.

I can’t tell a lie. On the way home, I wept. 

I was so overcome with hope I couldn’t take it. Instead of speaking out of judgment, Dr. Medvetz spoke with compassion. When others look at you with disgust, he treated every single person in the room with kindness.

Take it from me, you don’t find that everywhere. It was in that moment, I decided to move forward with my own Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.

Am I scared? Yes.

But I’m more scared not to try.

If you want to watch my story in video form, go here: http://binghammemorial.org/katiesjourney


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Enough with the Young People


A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally found out how old my children really think I am.

Katie: Well girls, it’s official. I’ll no longer be sharing an office with my coworker Mark.
Izzy: Super sad smiley face.
Katie: I know!
Cambri: Well, I’m happy about it.
Katie: Cam Cam!
Cambri: What? I was really getting nervous he was going to spoil Star Wars for you.
Izzy: You can’t spoil a move that’s a century old, Cambri.
Katie: Whoa! Stop right there! You do realize a century old and made during the last century are two completely different things?
Izzy: Huh?

Peeps, it’s official. I have two pre-teen girls who look at me like I’m 100 years old. When they found out I’d lived the majority of my life without the pleasure of an iPad, Isabelle asked how we used to read books. All I could think was when did I become the old person of the family?

I was still feeling extremely fragile after this conversation. Luckily, I was heading to work, where I’m surrounded by people much older than I am, which always makes me feel better about myself. One of my bosses is staring 50 right in the face and I take it as my personal responsibility to remind him he really needs to enjoy his last year in his forties before he gets, you know, really, really old.

Being the youngest person in the office suits me. It makes dealing with the young people in my house so much easier. Things at work were going great until they brought in the intern, which I’m convinced they did just to spite me.

She young (barely 20 young), super cute and makes me want to roll myself off the top of our building just to feel young and crazy again.

Mark: Hey Katie! Isn’t it ironic you aren’t the youngest person in the office anymore?
Katie: Tell me about. Alanis Morissette needs to work me into an updated version of her song.
Sarah (the Intern): Who’s Alanis Morissette?

Stop. It. Right. Now.

I immediately sent an email to my boss, Chad, asking how we’re qualifying these people. Seriously, if you don’t remember the release of Jagged Little Pill, you aren’t old enough to be in the workforce. In the case of I.E. Productions, if you were born after the invention of the DVR and have never seen a T.V. spot, you are too young to have a job where you work on COMMERICALS.  It’s safe to say our intern has never known the pain of turning on TV late at night and only having infomercials to pick from. I’m betting she doesn’t even know what an infomercial is.

Unfortunately for me, my bosses Chad and Gary, had both just had birthdays where I spent the entire party asking if they were still able to feed themselves now that they are clearly in their Golden Years. It’s safe to say they were less than sympathetic to my outrage with the intern. In fact, something to the effect of “what goes around comes around” was being thrown in my direction. As if it was my fault they are so old. But IT IS their fault they agreed to mentor someone so young.


It’s probably time to accept that a new generation is up and coming. But since I’ve never been good at accepting things I deem unpleasant, I’ll probably just look for a new job. One where I’m the youngest by at least a couple of decades. I wonder if Congress is hiring?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Burkes Play Hockey

Hockey is a commitment. Wait, that’s an understatement. Hockey is a how-much-do-I-really-love-my-kids kind of commitment.

When Izzy came to me and told me she wanted to play hockey, I did what all good moms are supposed to do. I gave her the “that sounds fun” pep talk and waited two minutes for her to forget.

You can imagine my boot-shakin’ angst when she didn’t.

Izzy: There’s a hockey meeting today at 7 o’clock.

Katie: Wow. That’s pushing my bedtime. I’ll tell you what. Let’s spend the next year really mulling this over and if you still want to play, I’ll call and see when the meeting’s going to be for the year after that.

Izzy: This year’s meeting is tonight and it’s at Skyline High School.

Katie: Hmmmm. Skyline High School. I’m not sure where that is.

Izzy: I told Mrs. Deede you would say that. She’s said to tell you it’s the one on Pancheri.

Katie: Pancheri. Pancheri. It’s not ringing a bell.

Izzy: Mom.

Much like the U.S. Government, I don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Unlike our government, I just do exactly what they tell me. 

The short version of this is I ended up with not one but two hockey players’ as the little sister of this house is very impressionable.

On the very first day of practice, we showed up with all the gear, ready to go.
I nearly passed out.

The ice was full of mini-future Olympians, flying around at breakneck speeds.

My nine-year-old had never even skated sans one disastrous attempt involving rollerblades and a little too much birthday cake.

Katie: Isabelle, we seriously cannot do this. I could be arrested for child abuse if I let you out onto that ice with absolutely zero skills.

Izzy: It will be fine.  The Deede twins do it. Maddie does it.

Katie: Those girls came down the birth canal with ice skates on, chanting ‘defense’ through baby-sized mouth guards.  You and I need to have a long discussion regarding the term ‘natural athlete.’

Izzy: I can do this.

Peeps, let me tell you. The first few practices were so painful, I couldn’t even watch. When I did muster the courage to step back in, my jaw dropped. In less than a month, the coaches had morphed my never-been-on-skates child into a hockey player.

As we drove to the first game, Izzy asked me about the rules. Since I had no idea, I told her to watch the other kids. After the game, I definitely had a few pointers for her.

Katie: Rule #1. If Damien, NoMo or David has the puck, do your best to stay out of their way.

Izzy: Okay.

Katie: Rule #2. If you do happen to get the puck, get it back to Damien, NoMo, David or anyone else on the Travel team. Do not attempt to do anything else at this point in your hockey career.

Izzy: That makes sense.

Katie: Rule #3. I was so impressed when you skated into the splits. It really made me feel good about all those years in dance. But I noticed the other kids just keep their hands on their sticks, like ready to play hockey all the time.

Izzy: I can do that.

Katie: Rule #4. I don’t care if your mouth guard is rubbing so hard, it’s exposing a nerve, never again skate over to your coach and drop it in his hand.

Izzy: But he’s so nice…

Katie: Oh he’s the nicest guy in the world for not taking one look at that and pushing you out of his way to wash his hands. I was dry heaving on his behalf.

Izzy: Okay. I won’t do that again.

Katie: Rule #5. It seems to me that when a parent says ‘off sides’ the game stops two seconds later. I’ve decided it’s a secret code word between moms and the umpire. When you see the child you’ve loved, fed and nurtured for the last nine to ten years getting roughed up, you say ‘off sides’ so they stop the game and rescue your child.

Izzy:  I’ll have to ask Coach Mahoney about that…

Katie: Okay, touch base and let me know. I’m only 90% sure.

Now that hockey season is drawing to an end, can I tell you what I think about the Idaho Falls Youth Hockey Association?


You won’t find a better program in this town. The leadership pours countless hours investing into the 
young people of our community. Some of the coaches don’t even have kids on the team, yet give so much of their time mentoring the next generation. My kid plays just as much as the best player on the team and afterwards, everyone is focused on progress instead of shortcomings. The mere fact my epileptic child can skate is a testament to the skill of the amazing people who throw their lives into this sport. Since no one is getting paid, this isn’t about money but for the greater good of our little ones.