In January of 2011 I weighed my heaviest ever, 391 lbs. I had already gone to another informational meeting at a hospital but I didn't have a good feeling about bariatric surgery after that meeting so I kind of put the surgery part off and started dieting and exercising myself. I lost a few lbs on my own, but decided to check out another bariatric program at a different hospital. What a huge difference this place was. They were not all about the financial part of things like the previous hospital, they did not make the surgery and post op life sound glamorous, in fact they flat out told people that if they didn't do XY and Z that they would kick you out of the program. This including smoking cigarettes (with random testing), a program requirement of 6 consecutive months of appointments with weight loss, a 6 week class on how to deal with changing your life, attendance to at least 2 support group meetings and a 7% weight loss. Of course if you had an insurance with even stingier rules, like mine, the program's "rules" didn't seem so bad. My insurance required a 15% body weight loss. It took me a good year to lose the 58 lbs I needed to. I think that by having the more strict rules that I appreciated the surgery more than a lot of other people that I met who had the surgery the same time as me.
Things were a little tricky with determining which surgery was best for me. I have Multiple Sclerosis and at first my surgeon considered me a "high risk" patient because of all the troubles I had had with my MS acting up. There was concerns about what would happen post op if I needed IV steroids to stop a flare up of the MS, because the IV steroids cause gastric ulcers, and with the stomach the size of a hot dog, you can see where the concern was. There was worry about wound healing with the medications I'm on, there was concern about the actual physical stress of surgery on my body and whether that would cause a flare up of the MS. By working with my surgeon, neurologist and PCP, we developed a great plan of action and I felt comfortable with my decision to move forward with the surgery.
Initially I had decided on the gastric bypass, although I was uncomfortable on the thought of bypassing the small intestine. Being a nurse I didn't like knowing the consequences of this. I had friends who had the gastric lapband and I have seen firsthand the complications of that, so that was out of the picture from the start. My doctor mentioned the sleeve gastrectomy just a few months before my surgery, it seemed everything that I wanted. They did keep mentioning that it was a slower weight loss than the bypass and that it was still a relatively new procedure, the program had only been doing them for about 3-4 years. I didn't care about the rate of weight loss, I knew that eventually it will all come off, I was not in a race for everything to happen overnight.
The actual surgery went great, I was so happy that I had passed all the requirements, but I had fears right up until the hour of surgery that the insurance company would suddenly bang out of the deal and I'd have to go home, still fat and ugly. I should mention that I had extreme self image issues, it was getting so severe that I hated to go out into public. To be seen as the fat girl everywhere we went was so embarrassing. I hated eating in resteraunts, feeling like everyone was watching what I ordered, how I ate, how much I ate, etc etc. I had a hard time fitting in the seats at the movie theatres. I would become so tired and fatigued and out of breath where ever we went. Back to the surgery though, when I came out of surgery I remember the nurse putting the button to the PCA into my hand and telling me to push. That first day was very groggy. I don't remember much pain because of the dose of pain medication made me conk out. I remember gaining enough conscienceness to know NOT to press the button so that I could at least grasp at some kind of reality. I called the nurse and asked to start walking right away. Being a nurse, I know how important it is to walk after surgery. I remember feeling like I had to hold my belly, it felt like everything was just going to fall off. I walked enough that by that afternoon they removed my catheter (my first victory post op). I asked for physical therapy to come and walk with me that early evening, and by the next morning I was cleared to walk by myself. That first night though, I faced a great problem. It hurt like crazy to lay down in my bed. Trying to get out of bed, I still don't know how I manager. You'll be amazed at how many of those muscles you use to just sit up. I absolutely refused to get back in that bed after getting out of it that 2nd day. They brought me a recliner and that was ions better. The doc came in that morning, called me a superstar of the floor. There were 8 other patients who had bypass surgery the same day as me. We would pass eachother in the hall. Multiple times I would hear them question the nurse or physical therapist they were walking with, asking why I didn't need anyone to walk with me. I would walk and walk and walk, it actually felt better to be up and moving. I had asked the doctor on the evening of my first night to please reduce the dose of the medication in the PCA. Everytime I hit it I would be knocked out for a few hours. He did gladly because it was getting to a point that I wasn't medicating myself and keeping myself in pain because I didn't want the meds.
So I went home on the 3rd day and the first week was definitley the hardest. Even though I wasn't hungry and went home on the clear liquids, then full liquids, etc etc, I still wanted junk food like pizza or a burger or something. Obviously I didn't even tough any of it but the cravings were awful. After one week though they went away. I hated the liquid diet phase. For some reason, after the surgery, the smell and thought of broth would make me nauseated. The same with Jello gelatin. And I had stocked up on that stuff preop!!! I think I stuck with watered down apple juice. I was so excited every time I was advanced on the diet, but it also scared me. I knew I shouldn't be excited about food, I felt like I was going to fall back into my old habits. Never the less I dropped a good 30 lbs in that first month. My post op appointments went great always and I was getting back into a great routine of exercising, although sometimes I pushed it too far.. 4 days after getting home from my surgery I went with my parents to thier land and ended up hiking it in thick knee high grass, uneven ground, and all hill.. That was a great lesson to be learned. My husband was extremely supportive throughout the whole process and still is to this day.
I had no complications with the surgery, the only little bump I hit was 2 weeks post op I caught a cold with a God awful cough. I ended up tearing some of the stitches in my abdomen (the internal ones) but nothing that needed intervention, it healed itself on it's own. I am now 4 months post op. Since the surgery I have lost 64lbs. I was wearing a size 3xl tshirt on the day of my surgery and size 28 jeans. I am already wearing a size XL tshirts and size 20 jeans which are getting to be a bit baggy. I am amazed by the changes in my body. I am amazed at night in bed when I'm on my side, I can feel my hipbones sticking out. My face is the most noticably, my collarbones show like you see on the skinny models in magazines. When I look at myself in a mirror, I can still see that I'm obese, but I see the changes happening. The best change by far is not a physical one but a mental one. I had an epiphany a month or so after my surgery. For awhile I had battled with whether I would tell people or not about the surgery. But I felt that lying about it would just be more work than just admitting to it. There are quite a few people who I've met that don't understand the surgery, that see it as that miracle fix, and I'll admit it, it sorta is. But it's not a permanent easy fix, all that weight can come right back. Not tomorrow or even in the next 4-5 years even. This surgery is a second chance, and if you screw it up, well, then you deserve what you get. I have had people ask me, couldn't you just eat what you eat now without the surgery and you would lose the weight? And my answer is yes sure! But (at that time I was only eating a quarter pureed cup a food at a time) I think I would of rathered shoot my right foot first than to eat a quarter cup of food with the size my stomach was preop. So I tell people about the surgery, I use it as a chance to educate people. Some friends are now looking into it, but I don't glamorize any of this stuff. But back to my epiphany, it was during one of my speeches about the surgery and why I did it to a "nonbeliever" that I realized shortly after that for the first time in my life, that I am okay with people not liking something I did. My entire life I have tried to do what everyone expects me to do and to make the right decisions. This surgery was the first decision that I made by myself for myself even with some family and friends openly against it. And those people are now my greatest supporters. My grandmother and grandfather who were very much against it, but still came with me to support groups regardless of how they felt, to support me, now cry every time they see me, at how much I've lost since they last saw me. I now just don't care what others think of me, or I should say I don't care if they don't like me. I gladly go out shopping, out to eat, out anywhere, and not once EVER do I worry about what others are thinking of me. I am genuinely happy for the first time in my life and I never even realized that I was unhappy in the first place.
The loss of weight has improved my multiple sclerosis. I have gone the longest without a flare up of symptoms than I ever have. I attribute this to my weight loss and increased activity. I have re-entered school again to finish and get my RN (I am a LPN). I started to work again, slowly and just a few hours a week, but I keep myself busy. My biggest frustrations now, at this point in my post op journey is really trying to figure out my stomach. There are some days that nothing seems to settle right. I will always have an ongoing battle with myself to eat more protein and drink more fluids. But the change in myself to eat the right foods is amazing. I don't consider it a diet or even rules. I just know that whether I am eating at home or eating out, I need to eat some kind of protein. I don't even glance at the sides, if I can help it I don't even make them unless my husband really wants them. My issue is that I can't seem to eat the amount of food that my dieticians want me to eat. They follow the bypass dietary rules seeing how the sleeve is so new to them, but they are finding kind of the same results across the board with us sleevers. That we can't eat as much in one sitting as a bypasser. I was told to have about a cup and a quarter at each meal. I have a tough time with this. My daily meals consist of the following: breakfast: a Greek yogurt, sometimes I can't even finish it. Lunch, a piece of deli meat or cut up cheese, or sometimes I just have another Greek yogurt for lunch. Dinner is always a piece of meat; a piece of chicken or steak. I find myself still filling my plate like I did a year ago. I'll sit down to eat and I don't even make an indent in the food because my eyes are bigger than my stomach. And I do use small plates and small utensils. I hate that I can't get in my vegetables and fruits that I want to. I would love to just eat a salad for lunch. But I know I need the protein so if I put some grilled chicken on the salad, by the time I eat the chicken, I am too full for the vegetables. My dietician has suggested 4-5 small meals so that I can get my protein amounts in. I've tried this and it seems to be okay, but sometimes I just cant eat that many times.. well most of the time I cant. Because of trying to drink my fluids, I cant seem to fit in an hour before and after meals of no drinking, if I ate 4-5 times a day I dont know if Id ever get to drink. I get dehydrated a lot, if I get up in the morning and feel faint when I stand I know I need to get drinking. I refuse to drink soda and havent since my surgery. I don't want the carbonation to stretch my stomach. I stick with Crystal light and water in everything. My protein levels have been pretty low, I have lost a good 1/3 of my hair. Luckily most big women have beautifully thick luscious hair anyways from all the years of extra nutrition and overeating, but oh boy every morning that I see my brush fill up with hair, it scares me enough to fight to eat as much protein throughout the day. My doc says that 3-5 months post op is the worst for hair loss and assures me that I will not go bald.. I don't think he'd think so if he saw the small animal of hair that I pull out of my brush every day.
Sometimes I go online to try and find tips and recipes and other people who are like me with the same worries or at the same stage as me, but I haven't yet. Which is why I'm writing this and making this profile. The forums I've read disappoint me, when I read about people eating things that they shouldn't, pushing the limits of the rules. To this day I am very very wary about even taking anything fried to eat. Only if I absolutely have no choices to choose from. I figure that I got this amazing second chance and why would I want to add all those unwanted calories and fat into my diet when I don't want or need them. I'd rather put something healthier there.
So I realize that I've written not a story but more like a book... But I really hope that there are people out there that will read this and maybe feel some connection.. I'd love to be able to meet someone with similar issues or interests to chat with. So message me if you are interested in swapping tips and stories and if theres anyone out there that I can help through the process of bariatric surgery or even just dieting please let me know, I would be more than welcome to help in any way I can!
Height: 5 feet 6 inches
Starting Weight: 391 lbs
Weight on Day of Surgery:
Current Weight: 206 lbs
Goal Weight: 170 lbs
Weight Lost: 185 lbs
Surgery Status: Post Surgery
First Dr. Visit: 03/02/2011
Surgery Date: 03/26/2012
Hospital Stay: 3 Days
Surgery Funding: Insurance
Insurance Outcome: 1st Letter Approval