I’ve given quite a bit of thought to what I want to write here. I am not asking permission, the deed is already done. I’m not asking for your opinion. I actually don’t care (on this particular matter). But if you’re curious about what’s going on in my life, or if you want to support me – then this is for you.
I had gastric bypass surgery on Wednesday.
It’s a pretty major surgery. My stomach was surgically altered and rerouted. It is now drastically smaller than it was. The procedure is specifically for patients who are morbidly obese or those who are obese with co-morbidities (diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, etc). I fell into the morbidly obese category. Thankfully I am mostly healthy other than the crippling extra weight I carry, although that brings with it its own risks – especially over time.
My decision to have the surgery came after an 18 month long process. At the beginning of the process I compiled a list of my weights and diets I have tried over the last 18 years, since getting married. It took two pages, single-spaced, to complete the log. I was amazed at the accuracy with which I could remember those specific numbers. The weight I was for each year, each event, each pregnancy, each vacation. It was all up there tumbling around. Over the 18 month process I added to it, each time I tried something new. My doctor suggested I do Medifast. And I added a personal trainer. Then I tried juicing. I went to Medi Weight Loss, a doctor supervised weight loss program. I did Couch to 5k. I put my family on whole foods.
I obviously have issues. No question there. Had I stuck to something for longer than a few months, maybe it would be different. If only I had more self control. If I were stronger. If I were more patient. If I were different, somehow. Surely I’m not defective, am I? All those thoughts consumed my life. Each time I lost, I then gained more. I read books, lots and lots of books. I know more about weight loss than most people. With all of my knowledge, it made no logical sense for me to be obese. But regardless, there is was.
There is a book I write in many mornings. I call it “morning pages” (the idea came from The Artist’s Way). The idea is to write whatever you want, no qualifications. Just write what your thoughts are – 3 pages of them. And never go back and read them again. There is no judgement in the pages, simply a release which allows you to move forward during the day.
Most days I wrote about my weight. I wrote about how today was the day I would do better. Today I would make good choices, eat less, move more. Today was the day that I would not fail. I implored the support of my Heavenly Father. I knew he wanted me to be healthy. Certainly, this body – this struggle was not what he wanted for me. I wrote about the struggles that obesity brings. The aching body. The embarrassment. The insecurity. And I vowed to do better. To be better. My weight determined my mood. Was I down a few pounds? Great! Was I up? Not so great.
The more I learned about myself, the more I came to know my weakness and shortcomings. Through the 18 month process I saw doctors (several of them), nutritionists, psychologists, fitness experts, and counselors. I had several moments of absolute – I WILL NOT do this. But more moments of THIS is what I need.
It’s not an easy fix. I wish it were. Perhaps some day there will be an easy answer to obesity. I’m not talking about needing to lose 30, 40, 50 pounds. I’m talking about needing to lose half your weight. For me, there is this. A drastic, extreme, non-reversable tool. The closer the surgery got, the more secure I became in the knowledge that I was doing the right thing for my family and for myself. It is not an easy route, but I believe it will be worth it.
The surgery will not fix everything. It is a tool. If I use it wisely, it will help me find health. But it will not happen on its own. I still must choose. I’m guessing many of you know someone who has tried bariatric surgery and eventually went back to previous eating habits and regained weight they lost. That is my biggest fear. There are no guarantees. Thankfully, what this surgery did was give me help I can use to gain a healthy lifestyle.
My greatest goal is to improve my quality of life. I want to participate in life and not simply watch it go by. I turn 40 this year. I expect to do it with full vigor and health. Next year Jake and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. I asked him what he was looking forward to most as I moved forward with this decision. His answer? For me to slay this dragon. I’ve been battling obesity our entire married life. He knows the demons I bury deep down. He has been by my side and never lost faith in me. He has loved me thick and has loved me thin. But he wants me to be happy and healthy and live a long life together with him and our family. I’m lucky to have his full support as I made this decision.
Having food addictions, the kind I suffer from, is very much like being an alcoholic. It will always be there. It will be a constant battle the rest of my life. I don’t know why, but it is a trial I have to go through. I’m not naive enough to believe that this simple (simple? ha!) procedure will change what I have struggled with all my life. But I do know that the tools that are now in place will certainly be the best chance I’ve had so far for success. Long term success.
If you are reading this and have your own struggles with weight, please do not think that I believe this is right for everyone. All I can say is that this is right for me. Beyond my own research, I spent many hours reading websites and blogs focused on condemning bariatric surgery. My eyes were opened to so many different opinions. It is okay to disagree, but we must respect each other and our decisions.
So that’s my story – how I came to the decision, etc. So now I can talk about the last week.
Sam-a-lam and I got home from DC last Monday. I cannot believe it has only been a week. It feels like a much more than that. Tuesday I had several pre-op appointments, making sure everything was ready for Wednesday. Surgery was scheduled for 10:30am and I needed to be to the hospital at 8am. At my pre-op appointment with my surgeon, I talked with him a little about the post-op. He told me that most people have a sense of “buyer’s remorse” for the first couple weeks after surgery. But that once those first couple weeks pass, they are so glad they did it. Hmmm. I was nervous already. That made me more so. But I went in with eyes wide open to all the risks and possible outcomes.
I purchased all the protein supplements, chewable vitamins, and liquid medications I would be needing over the next couple weeks. My stomach is extremely swollen and tender after surgery and it will take a couple months to heal. During this time I need to be gentle with what I ingest and how. Small sips of liquid only for now, in the form of protein drinks, vitamins, water, crystal light, sugar free popsicles, and sugar free jello. In a couple weeks I’ll add pureed foods with more texture. Eventually moving to soft foods and then to “normal foods”.
The size of my new stomach will keep me from eating too much at one time and will keep me feeling fuller longer. I also have to avoid sugar. This is a blessing and a curse. Sugar is my drug of choice, my addiction. The primary reason I chose this specific surgery is because of the negative effects eating sugar will have now. My addiction to sugar kept me obese. Physically not being able to consume sugar like I used to will help me be healthy.
Jake and I left for the hospital while the kids were still sleeping. I snuck into their rooms to kiss them goodbye. Knowing I was making a choice to have a surgery that had serious risks made me scared and sad. Yet I was still committed. I knew this is what I wanted to do. After checking in, changing into the hospital gown, peeing in a cup to make sure I wasn’t pregnant, and getting settled in pre-op, we learned that the surgery was postponed at least 4 hours. So Jake settled in for some much needed sleep while I read a book.
Finally it was time to go back. After our quiet morning in our room, waiting, it happened in a whirlwind. I wanted to cry when Jake kissed me and said goodbye, but I held it back, tried to show a brave face and started a conversation with the nurses. They started my IV and gave me some drugs that sent me off to sleep.
My next recollection was in the recovery room. That is a memory I’d like to forget. The overwhelming pain, nausea, disorientation. It was terrible. Thankfully I drifted off to sleep again and woke up in my hospital bed around 6:30pm. Jake was smiling at me. Holding my hand. I was safe now, I thought. It was going to be okay.
That evening was a blur, probably because of the morphine drip. Except I remember wanting Jake to stay with me. I didn’t want him to leave. So he curled up in the little chair next to me and stayed.
The next morning I was up and walking at 6:30am. A little nauseous, but I wanted to start moving toward healing. After they confirmed there were no leaks in my new stomach (via a barium X-ray – YUCK!!!), I was able to start sipping liquids. 1 ounce – spread out over 30 minutes. I walked a couple more times that day. Down the hall and back, holding Jake’s hand. He didn’t leave me. The pain was much less than I expected.
That evening I was cleared to be discharged, but there was a hangup with my pain meds and I didn’t want to leave without those, so I opted to stay one more night. Jake went home to check on the kids and he and Sam came back for me in the morning. They removed the drain from my abdomen and the terrible, sickening pain I’d had in my left shoulder was immediately relieved. That was perhaps the oddest thing of the whole experience. Then out came my IV and we were on our way home. It was Friday and a glorious day.
The kids were excited to see me. Miss B asks me every 20 minutes how I’m feeling. They took good care of each other while I was gone (both in DC and at the hospital). And we had the KINDEST friends bring dinner for them several nights. It was the greatest blessing.
I’ve been walking around the neighborhood two times a day. I’m not going far, but I’m trying to keep moving. I’ve been off pain meds for a couple days. I would take them more, but they taste awful. My nightstand is covered in a serious assortment of vitamins, beverages, and medicines. My abdomen has 5 tiny incisions scattered across it. The procedure was laproscopic, which is why healing is so quick.
I haven’t had buyer’s remorse so far. Except for a few hours this morning perhaps. After sleeping on my side (with no pain meds), I woke up in terrible pain accompanied by nausea. Jake had left for work and the boys were grouchy at each other (read: fighting and ornery). But my tears and a phone call from their dad brought them back into place.
This afternoon they went to the movies and a sweet neighbor is watching B. I’m supposed to be resting, but I couldn’t rest until I got all of this off my chest. Then I’ll be able to settle down. Well, that and hopefully Jake is going to get me some new pillows later today. That will help too. I’m sipping my water and I just took a vitamin. I had to commit to taking vitamins for the rest of my life. This procedure can cause malabsorption issues. Prevention is key.
Miss B keeps me company while I rest. But I try to get up and around as much as possible. I hope that by the end of the week I’ll be feeling much more normal.
All my cravings are still intact. Pizza? Yes please.Hamburger? If you insist. Cupcake? Now you are talking! I enjoy looking at Pinterest still. Perhaps it’s a bit unhealthy, but I enjoy scrolling through all the delicious recipes.
I’m looking forward to a new healthy way of life. I’m looking forward to being able to workout and run and bike! I anticipate losing 100+ pounds this year. I look forward to keeping it off and living a long, healthy, involved life with my family.
This morning in my moment (or two) of self pity and pain, it occurred to me to ponder the question - what if something happened to Jake?! What if he was killed in an accident on the way home? That about set me over the edge. I could have gone straight to hysterical if I’d let myself. I can’t imagine going through all of this, only to have something happen to him. I’m doing this for the years that we will spend together. For my health so that we can live happily ever after. After a series of frantic texts, he assured me he would drive (and fly) safe.
Can I tell you honestly though what was going through my mind? What if something TERRIBLE happened right now and I didn’t have my old coping mechanism – FOOD – to help me through? I’ve always felt that if something awful happened, it would still be okay. I’m strong, I’m capable, I can handle what happens. But that was when I could bury myself in food, in the feeling of comfort and relief that food brings.
If something happened now, Jake would be by my side to support me through it. But WHAT IF, HE was gone?
That shook me to my core.
And reiterates further that I do indeed need counseling.
So I prayed. I asked Heavenly Father for comfort. And I asked him to please, please, please keep Jake safe. And I felt better. The Holy Ghost is such a wonderful blessing.
So, that’s the update on my life. It feels good to share. Hope you are all doing great. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment – but only if you have something nice to say. I’ll delete anything snarky, but it would still make me cry. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a bit on the edge right now.
I’ll be back to normal soon. I hope.