A Sleeve Journey

The Time is Now

Secret Life

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of thoughts and feelings – either driven by this decision or influenced by this decision. The hardest part of this process so far has been not having anyone to talk to about what I’m going through. The people that know about what I’m going through is limited – my parents, a coworker back home who had Lapband and one of my friends. Even with having these 4 people – I feel like I don’t have anyone I can really talk to about issues I’m dealing with. My dad has never been one to talk to me – about anything – and there’s only so much I want to talk about with my mom. The co-worker is back home is engaged and one I’d feel guilty about tying her up for hours to talk to about this. And finally, my best friend knows – at first he didn’t agree, but he’s come around to support my decision. Problem being – he is involved in everything and like me is a busy college student which doesn’t leave him with time to chat with me when I need. He’s the kind of guy who will reply to a text three days later – my best friend and I love him, but he’s not the kind of person who is going to be there for me when I need to chat. Because of this lately I’ve been bottling a lot of these thoughts and feelings up inside and it’s starting to eat away at me. I’ve been debating if I should tell another friend – I’ve got two incredibly close friends who have always been there to listen to me when I needed it and provide guidance when necessary – even if it was the same thing over and over again. I’ve been debating telling one of them, but I have this incredible fear of  doing so. A couple things I’d like to talk about here are how I told the people who do know and what stops us from telling other people.

 

How I Told the People Who Know

My friend from work was the first one who know – because when she told me that she had had Lapband about the same time I had been looking into it. From there it just came automatically that I started asking her about everything and talking to her about it. That one was the easiest. There was no judgment or questions from someone who knew me and had it done on herself. The other ones were not as easy. I had texted my mom asking if she would go to a seminar about Lapband while I was at work from with the support of my friend. She wouldn’t even hear of it. I kept pushing to just have her go to an info session with me – nothing with regards to actually seeing a surgeon. After a couple weeks she broke and said she’d go with me. Problem was that by this time there were no seminars before I was to leave the country for 2 months. I instead set up a one on one meeting with the bariatric coordinator to go over the same information and she set me up to see a surgeon directly after that meeting. It was a four hour adventure that you can read about in The Journey Begins. This was when I think my mother realized I actually intended to do this and that even if she didn’t want me to I was going to anyways. Since then, she has fully come around to the sleeve (since I switched from my initial plan) and has even dropped hints that she’s been thinking about it too. My father found out through my mother and to this day I don’t think I’ve ever actually said anything about the surgery to him. He knows I’m doing it, but there has been no conversation about it with my father.

Finally, we have my best friend Jeff. I don’t remember exactly how it went down, but something happened that prevented me from doing something because of my weight. I was talking to him about how I had worked my butt off all summer for 9lbs which did nothing to change anything. Eventually, I said that I thought it was time I look into other options. Because he knew me so well, he knew this meant I was probably already well into the research and started to ask me about it. Once I went in for a surgical consult, I told him and he ended up taking me out to dinner to talk about it. I have to admit that it was odd sitting there talking to a friend about it. I noticed myself trying to say as little as possible because I was in a public place. I feel this is the first time that it sank in that I would soon be leading a sort of double life where most of my friends had no idea what was going on in my life. I realized how afraid I was that people would judge me.  Jeff wasn’t fond of my decision to switch from Lapband to sleeve, but being the best friend that he is came around to support me with whatever decision I decided to make.

 

What Stops Us from Telling Other People

Let’s face it. There are tons of reasons why you might not want to tell people you are having weight loss surgery. I’ve run into a few. First of all, I don’t want anyone besides those I tell to know and let’s face it – word spreads when you don’t want it to. It horrible to say yeah, I’m considering telling my 2 best friends, but what’s stopping me is not wanting it to spread. Don’t you trust them? Of course I do! It’s not an issue of trust as much as it is an issue of oh shit, did that just slip out of my mouth. I fully trust that if I told them I wouldn’t want them to tell anyone that they wouldn’t – what they have no control over is what I fear more. One slip and soon everyone in your life knows. And why would that be so bad? Well, here are a few reasons. There are so many stigmas against fat people and even more about those who have WLS. Weight loss surgery is usually viewed from outsiders as the easy way out. They have no understanding of what you go through when you have WLS. Those who do not make the necessary life style changes do not lose weight or initially lose it and then gain it right back. WLS is not a cure, it is a tool, but people on the outside who hear you are having this will know none of it. To them, your lazy ass got yourself to where you are and now yet again you are taking the lazy road out. Also, those who are close to you might not support you in the journey out of fear of what might happen to you. I keep telling my one friend that I want to tell him what’s going on, because he is fully aware that something has been going on recently, but fear of him not supporting me is holding me back. What happens if I tell him and he doesn’t support me?  Do I really want to have a friend know but not be behind me supporting me? Do I want to have to listen to why I shouldn’t do this? Do I want to listen to the stigmas or misconceptions he has against it? Honestly, I would probably tell him if I knew for a fact that he would support me, but how do you know that unless you tell him what’s going on? I think the biggest hurtle here is having the people you are telling updated on what bariatric surgery is today. Ten years ago, bariatric surgery was much different than it is today. Not only are there safer methods available such as banding or sleeve (over bypass), but bariatric surgery has become an industry. There are standards and regulations, much more data, safer practices, and the number of surgeries a surgeon performs are much higher today making them more skilled at what they do. Most people still view WLS the way it was 10 years ago – a last ditch effort for patients that were already gone. All of these sorts of things make it difficult to tell other people what you’re going through.

 

The Great Debate

I am currently at a place where I wish I had close friends to talk to about this or at least knew what I was going through. There are so many times I just wish I could have someone there to listen, but at the same time I just can’t get myself to tell them what I’m about to do. I’ve been struggling with this for about a month – wanting to tell people, but not being able to.  It is something that may come with time, but for now, this is one for the blog.

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One Month Visit

When I got back from Morocco I went for my first monthly visit with my family doctor. Though I was already done with all my pre-op testing, I had yet to mention this to my family doctor. It’s not like I was avoiding it – it just happened that way with my trip. My family doctor has never said anything about my weight – ever. Same goes for my mother and grandmother who also see him and are also obese. I was glad to hear he agreed with my decision though and has never judged anyone of my family. He’ there to answer questions and talk if you bring it up, but he keeps his mouth shut if you don’t – which is lovely compared to the ass hole endocrines I’ve been seeing over the past couple years.

The first endocrine I saw (for my insulin resistance) was as large as I was and yet found it acceptable to walk in the room and immediately start criticizing me for my weight. After a year of dealing with this horrid man, I found another endocrine. I found her to be just as irritating. When I told her about my issues of diarrhea when I eat low carb, she denied that it was a side effect. “No that doesn’t happen.” Well, I’m telling you it does. I’ve been on and off low carb for probably 5 years now and I always joke around with my mom that I can tell when I’m doing a good job if my ass is exploding. Within a week of eating low carb, things start to go downhill. About a day or two after eating carbs things start to regulate. For me, eating a low carb diet causes this – and my endocrine would not accept that. She told me to read some book and get gastric bypass and it would be all better. Though I was already thinking of lapband at the time, she told me that only bypass would help my endocrine issues – which is completely untrue.

After these experiences, it’s nice to be able to go to my family doctor who answers my questions and supports me without telling me I’m wrong or telling me that if I’d just put in an honest effort I wouldn’t be this way. Thankfully, I lost a couple pounds in Morocco and for the first time in a couple years was able to be weighed on the scale at my family doctor that only goes up to 350. A very happy moment indeed.


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Pre-Op Tests

Anyone who is looking into the surgery knows that there are a lot of appointments and testing to do before you can be approved for surgery. I did a lot of reading about all of this before I started my process and I know it helped to hear about it from different people. Here is my account of the pre-op testing that I got done all in one week!

Psychiatric Clearance:
This was definitely a lot quicker and painless than I thought it was going to be. I expected to go in there and be crying and needed to tell my life story of being fat. Talking about all the emotional torment etc. I figured I would come out of there with a red face and bloated eyes. Not. Even. Close. This was about 15 minutes at most and never once did I feel a twinge of emotion. Basically he asked who knew about my surgery which would be both of my parents and two of my friends. He asked what each of those four people would say are good qualities about me. He made me list a few adjectives that I felt about being obese and asked if I had ever been raped or had raped anyone. That was it. Quick, easy, and painless.

Gallbladder Sonogram:
Pretty straightforward. Fasting sonogram to make sure they don’t want to take out your gallbladder. Took about 20 minutes, and besides the fact that she got goop on my sweatshirt, this wasn’t bad.

EGD:
Here is when things go from painless to a little worse. This is a test that you actually go to the hospital for and go under general anesthetic. Since it was in the hospital, naturally, I sat there for a good 5 hours after I checked in with an IV freezing my butt off before the test actually happened. I think this test was another one of those moments where you seriously think about what exactly it is that you’re doing. When they handed me the form to sign stating who would make decisions for me if anything happened while I was under, the severity of what I was doing sank in a little more than usual. They make you gargle some liquid to try to numb your throat so the gag reflex is not as bad, but I’m certain I numbed more of my tongue than my throat… and it tasted vile. I remember the swallowing of the scope barely. During it, it seemed more like a dream than reality. I was just out enough that I knew I felt like I was choking, but couldn’t do anything or really formulate thoughts – just knew it was happening. The test took about 45 minutes and then I had to stay an hour after I came to in order to be monitored. They found a hiatal hernia and will most likely fix this during my sleeve surgery.

Sleep Study:
Officially the most skewed results of any test. First of all no college student is going to fall asleep at 9PM. I’m in Robotics Engineering with a minor in Mechanical Engineering, and doing my masters in Fire Protection Engineering. I can’t remember the last time I went to sleep before midnight. On top of that… connecting 40 electrodes and other sensors to the point you can’t move around in bed doesn’t exactly aid the sleeping process. I maybe slept for 20 minutes total at one time waking up probably about 10 times. Needless to say, at 4am when I was released is when I went home and went to sleep! This is the only test I was unhappy about doing, but it’s all part of the process. I’m just glad I proved to them I don’t have sleep apnea and prevented them from throwing me on a C-PAP.

This was a long week, but being done with all the testing was one of the BEST feelings I’ve ever had in my life. Now, the only thing that stands between me and surgery is time. Those 6 (now 5!) monthly doctors visits are all I have left to be approved for surgery. Every day gets more exciting. My 2nd doctors appointment is going to be in Massachusetts since I am at school now with a doctor on campus. Should be interesting. In talking to her to set up the appointment it seemed like she had never dealt with this before where most family doctors know the drill as bariatric surgery is so common now. Updates on that soon to come!


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The Journey Begins

August 2012. That’s when it finally clicked. 19 years of being morbidly obese – at the age of 19.

Summer 2012 was one of much progress, but the decision that I made just as summer came to a close is one that will forever alter my life. This summer I went to the gym at least 5 days a week. Ellipticals, stair steppers, walking, Zumba, aerobics classes, and swimming. I put my all in this summer to prove that I could lose weight on my own. I started the summer at my highest weight ever, 360lbs and 4 months later I was down a measly 9lbs. At that rate it would take me 8 years to get to a normal weight. And trust me, this kind of motivation wasn’t going to last at that rate. The 9lbs made me happy. I had put in effort and I had managed to lose weight. However, if I want to get healthy and live a normal life free from insulin resistance and PCOS it would be essential to lose weight quicker than what my best efforts had ever produced.

During this summer, I learned a friend of mine had Lapband surgery. She was doing incredibly well and today is 10lbs from her goal weight, losing almost 100lbs. I started looking into the surgery and after the summer I had with the results I got, I decided it was time to go in for a surgical consult. When the switch finally switched and I decided to go in, I had only a little over a week before I was leaving the country for 2 months. Luckily, the hospital in Erie was incredibly accommodating and actually got me in before I left for a one on one seminar and a surgical consult with a surgeon.

The surgical consult was not what I was expecting. I had been looking at Lapband for months and had made the decision that it was the only choice for me since it was the only option that was reversible and was the least invasive of the 3 choices. However, my surgeon did not agree that this was the choice for me. He suggested the vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Reasoning being that I was young and implanting a foreign body in my body could cause many problems say 40 years from now. Additionally, I have about 200 lbs to lose before I am “normal” – though my personal goal is not that low. Lapband has shown these kinds of results but it is not the norm by any stretch of the imagination. Also, being in college going between cities 600 miles away would make the frequent drs visits for Lapband an extensive process. I walked out of my surgical consult completely heart broken. All I could think was this is what I wanted. This is what I had convinced myself was the answer and now I see all the reasons why it’s not.

Once I got over the depression and anger I had towards the situation. I finally started to research the sleeve surgery. Honestly, I had never looked at it before because it was a permanent, body altering procedure where they actually remove the stomach. I said no to anything that permanent. The next week I was traveling to Massachusetts from Pennsylvania to move my belongings into my dorm and then coming home again for the flight to Morocco. This 18 hour round trip car ride was spent completely on researching the sleeve surgery reading to my mother while she was driving or her reading to me while I was driving. What a learning process it was. Much to my surprise, my feelings towards vertical sleeve were switching drastically, and I was suddenly asking myself why I wanted band over this surgery. Besides the fact that it was what I had always joked about as a kid – if only they could rip part of my stomach out, maybe I could lose some weight – I was starting to like the idea of making the permanent change to my body. It had significantly better outcomes and the mortality rate approximately the same. Unlike gastric bypass, people did not experience deficiencies or anemia. Additionally, 40 years from now, my body would barely know there was a change, where with Lapband, by that time the band could be eroding away at my stomach and causing serious issues. After much research, which still continues to this day, I made the decision to get the vertical sleeve gastrectomy.

Unfortunately, due to being in college, I had to make the decision to wait until I returned from Morocco to start my mandatory 6 monthly visits to get approved by my insurance and wait until next summer to get the surgery, since it was not something I could see going through I the middle of a term. Normally, people talk about how anxious and excited they are about getting the surgery and don’t want to wait months – for me, it was going to have to be more like 10 months. Let me tell you, the wait is almost too much to handle.

The journey has begun and I can’t wait to find where it will take me.

I will talk more about the waiting game soon. Look for updates about the pre-op testing and monthly visits to come soon.