WHAT TO EXPECT: Weight loss is inevitable after a gastrectomy. Adjusting to a new body image and getting new smaller-size pants is just a part of life after stomach cancer.
You will likely lose weight in the hospital in the days immediately following surgery. Your doctor may put you on tube feedings or TPN when you are unable to eat very much. See web page After Surgery.
At some point, you will be weaned from these supplemental feedings which will be a great relief. However you may then begin to lose weight and it will be very difficult to put it back on.
Gary lost a total of about 45 pounds from pre-surgery to his lowest point, going from 205 to 160 on a 6′ 3″ frame. He began to worry that he would waste away to nothing. Fortunately over time he was able to gain weight and now maintain a healthy 170 pounds.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: Don’t lose hope. As with other aspects of having a gastrectomy, things will get better. The body doesn’t let you waste away to nothing.
Though maintaining weight becomes a challenge, in the end this is one of the better things about a gastrectomy. Eating ice cream and other high fat food in large quantities is now a virtue rather than a vice.
Also, Gary made dramatic improvement in his cholesterol levels after treatment. Treatment may be hell on your guts but it is great for your heart.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Plan to add calories: You will not be able to gain weight by eating more, so it is important to learn how to make your meals more calorie-dense. “How to Gain Weight” from the Manitoba Department of Health is an excellent summary of how to do this.
You will learn to think of each meal as a way of adding a few extra calories by adding an extra teaspoon of olive oil or a pat of butter to your soup or adding grated cheese as a topping on a casserole.
Whole milk, ice cream, and all those things everyone else tries to avoid can really help with the calories as well.
It takes a while to make these additions habitual, especially when you have so many other things on your mind. And then there is the issue of other people in your household. Anne is still trying to figure out how to best keep Gary’s calories up and hers down!
Plan frequent meals: Don’t forget to eat. In the early days, you may not always feel like eating. It is good if your caregiver can bring you a small tray of food every couple of hours so you can try to eat what you can.
Later, you will be able to take responsibility for yourself. But, it is easy to get busy and forget. Without being too rigid, it is good to set up a regular schedule of meals and snacks through the day and take the time to stop and eat. You will feel better and help keep up your weight.
Monitor your weight: It is always easier to catch a problem earlier rather than later. Your doctor or dietitian will keep track of your weight early on. Later, it is good to keep track yourself. That way, you can notice if your weight starts to slip a little and redouble your efforts to maintain weight.