January 8, 2017
I want to love my body again. Not that I ever paid attention to this fact, but what my body has become now is so far removed from my life growing up as a thin person, that I realize I DID love my body prior to my bad relationship with FOOD. I miss that body.
Food has always been something I was fond of. I not only enjoy food, but it was my friend, my coping mechanism. A crutch. It was the ONLY thing I could control in my life when I felt I couldn’t muddle through situations in life, which is called LIFE. I have been fighting the battle of the bulge most of my adult life. When I was 20 pounds overweight three decades ago (ah, only 20 pounds overweight), I would go on strict diets and lose the pounds I needed to lose. Starving, bulimia, excessive exercising, it was all just a mask. After having my third child and being a few years older since giving birth to my first child, losing the weight that I needed to shed just seemed harder and harder to accomplish.
Move from 1979 to present day: My weight has become so out of control and even going on starvation diets did little to keep off the excess pounds. (I know, I know… you are NOT supposed to starve yourself.) I joined a gym; ate minimal calories for a year and dropped over fifty pounds. I was excited but deep down I knew it would be short lived, due to the fact I only had been eating one small meal a day for over one year. As soon as I started eating once again, back to the old habits, the pounds would just mount up. And they did. In all their fat glory. Which leads me to today. Now.
It’s hard to admit that you are obese. Or in my case, morbidly obese. The term disgusts me to my core. Obesity is a disease, like alcoholism and diabetes. An article published by the New York Times in June 2013, The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments. Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, suggested the new definition would help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity.
I lost 60 pounds in 2005. Gained back 70. Then the big weight loss of 2012, losing 53 pounds, and the subsequent regaining of all of it back plus 37 pounds (90 total), my blood pressure has skyrocketed; my cholesterol is still high; my A1c (blood sugar) is through the roof; I still have a c-pap machine to sleep at night; I’m pre-diabetic ( as of December I became DIABETIC) and in addition to having RA and fibromyalgia… I pretty much feel like crap. A big, fat, pile of crap. I saw my doctor in December for a six month checkup and after going over my labs, discussing my weight- and how it’s not happening for me in the dieting department, she looked at me and said “You know I never push surgery on patients, but I think you should seriously consider the vertical gastric sleeve. I need to put you on diabetic medication. ASAP.” (Gee, Merry Christmas to me.) We went over all the many diets I have been on over the last 5 years- and failed miserably at- and she agreed that I needed this tool to help me take back my life. She told me to research it, look at my healthcare provider list and find what surgeons perform this in our area, and she would help me to determine which one to choose.
I have researched Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) for a dozen years, reading about the different options out there. Gastric Bypass, Lap-band, I didn’t like what I had found. After my December doctor appointment, I researched immediately and found a surgeon who runs the bariatric program at the hospital not far from home. I went online and read everything I could on the subject matter and joined a wonderful group of other VSG (vertical gastric sleeve) patients and soon to be patients. I’ve made many new ‘sleever’ friends. I began the 3 month nutrition classes that my health insurance required for a prerequisite for surgery, and began a diet immediately. I have followed it to a ‘T’ so far, and just keep looking ahead, as to how I will feel after this surgery, and how my next journey in my life will begin. Diets DO NOT WORK. jenny Craig; Nutri System, Weight Watchers. Sure, you drop some weight but it will ALL come back. There are NO studies out there that prove a person who drops weight on these programs keep it off 4, 5 years down the road. It’s all metabolic, neuroscience related. It will come back. Once I accepted this (from history), I knew this was the last resort for me.
If anyone thinks “Oh, she’s taking the easy way out”, “Cheater”, think again dear readers. It is a very difficult decision to make, knowing you will have 80-85% of your stomach cut away. Yes, cut off and tossed. No banding; no re-routing of the intestines; just having 3/4 or more of your stomach removed. It’s gone. It’s irreversible. All that’s left is a thin sleeve that is the remaining stomach. The size of a small banana. The sleeve will hold 1/8 – 1/4 cup of food per meal in the beginning, slowly stretching to 1/2 cup (per my surgeon). Also removed is the hunger hormone, ghrelin. It is in the portion of your stomach that is being removed. This is a commitment for life. It is NOT for everyone. There are extreme lifestyle changes that will take place and you have to have the mental mindset that this is a TOOL and use it accordingly. There will be naysayers out there, but you know what? Who cares? The decision for ME to undergo this surgery is simple: I want to be healthy and enjoy the latter years of my life. To be rid of all the medications related to obesity. To be able to walk around the house without being winded. To be able to fit into clothing in the ‘regular’ department instead of PLUS size. To take my grandkids to the waterslide park without looking like a manatee. To have the energy to do things without needing a nap. But the main reason is… for my family. I want to be around for them and not drop dead from a heart attack or stroke or diabetic coma.
Fast forward to March 8, 2017: After doing all my requirements (psych exam, 3 months of nutrition classes), and all the other hoops I have jumped through: echo cardiogram, Upper G.I, Blood work and h. pylori breath test, mammogram (I do those in January annually anyway), more blood work, attending a support group; my surgeon’s office submitted my paperwork to our insurance company a week ago and (drum roll please…) I got “the call” yesterday, March 7, 2017. “Your insurance company approved the surgery and it’s scheduled for March 24.” I knew I would be approved because of the requirements needing to be met: a BMI index of a “Lard Ass” (in my case) and having 2 comorbidities (I had 4).
March 22, 2017:
I have already lost 41 pounds on my pre-op diet which has consisted of PROTEIN, protein and more protein; (losing 12 pounds in the last 5 days alone being on the pre-op LIQUID diet…. Yuck!) and drinking half my weight in water each day. The amount of food allowed per meal is so small (for me anyway), 2 oz. of lean protein, unlimited steamed vegetables, low to NO sugar, (I’ve had 2 grams per day for months), protein drinks, and got to tell you… it’s been hard. This just doesn’t fill up and satiate a normal sized stomach, let me tell you. I HAD to do this and I did it. I no way could continue eating like this much longer because I am hungry. Having a stomach that holds 1/4 cup will be easy to handle. I have been eating this way for 3 months and once you cut out sugar and carbs, for me anyway, I have no sugar cravings. The carbs are another story, but I have followed my nutritionist’s plan down to the letter. I should drop 70-80 additional pounds over the next year while maintaining my new eating habits. It’s not a diet, just smaller portions. Very small portions.
SURGERY DAY: Friday March 24, 2017
I woke up anxious, frightened and eagerly anticipating what would transpire in the next 6 hours. Everything went off without a hitch. I suffered from my dreaded fear: nausea from anesthesia but after a couple days it passed. I declined any Demerol or any pain meds and just bucked up. I have 5 incisions around my abdomen that looks like a giant target where it even appears darts were thrown, and one just under my breastbone. My surgeon found I had a very large hiatal hernia and repaired that before he cut away and removed my stomach. I never had acid reflux; heartburn; GERD, or an other related problem. Lucky for me. I will never have that again.
It’s been 12 days since my surgery. I have no real complaints except it’s HARD to watch the family eat FOOD, so I just stay away until they are finished, then I have my soup. A lot of it is MENTAL hunger, and it’s been difficult to a point in keeping this big deal and major surgery to myself and not sharing with anyone other than Dennis; the girls, Patti and recently my dad. I told my surgeon about my reluctance to GO PUBLIC, when I saw him for my 1st post op appointment last week. I said I was embarrassed because I got to be such a huge mess (literally.) He said I should not feel embarrassed at all. Obesity is a real epidemic. I know he is right. And I know that this surgery is extremely difficult and not many people can go through with it. (The pre op diet and pre op LIQUID diet was grueling). The majority of the population are OVERWEIGHT and many are in the obese category themselves. He’s right.
I walk two miles a day outside everyday, I eat my 1-2 tablespoons of soup per meal; drink my protein shakes, get in enough water and the weight will start to come off. I goofed up the first few days and put myself in starvation mode. (Not a pleasant experience at all). Once my metabolism wakes back up the weight will come off. So far, I have lost 17 inches which is a non-scale victory to me.
So there you have it. I dropped 51 pounds from December 28- March 27, 2017 (including the 12 I lost immediately after surgery from the IV fluids more likely) and the sleeve is doing what it was meant to do. Keep me full!
As my sister keeps telling me, “This is your do over.” And I plan to do just that… Do it over.