Before & After RNY with Karebearz1965, losing 211 pounds!August 22, 2017
Why I Decided To Have WLS
I've have been overweight all of my life but I never let it get in my way. I was always very athletic, and I never let it hinder me.
In 1990, I gave birth to my greatest gift, my son. Even though I was still overweight, I was able to carry it well and just kept working and living my life. It wasn't until 2000 when I got lymphedema and was no longer able to work that my weight became an issue. From that point on, I continued to gain weight because I had nothing to do but sit at home, feel sorry for myself and eat. It was nothing for me to go to a fast food restaurant, order $20 + worth of food and eat every bit of it.
Then in 2005, my mom died and I was devastated. Even though I had my son, I felt lost and alone. My son became my primary caretaker which caused him to miss out being a teenager. Those are years that he'll never get back. I will forever regret what I put him through.
In 2010, we became homeless for three months. I honestly didn't think I'd make it through this period of time and seriously I didn't want to. It was an extremely difficult time. We were finally able to get a place of our own. Instead of using this as an opportunity to make changes in my life, I continued to eat, my lymphedema was out of control and I stayed in bed. Getting out of bed was very painful so I didn't unless it was absolutely necessary.
My son continued to take care of me, and I think by this time he started to resent me, though he never said it, I knew he did. My norm at this point was eating fast food, going to buffets five to six times a month (or more when I felt like getting out of bed). I usually had a minimum of two bags of chips and a couple of 2-liter bottles of soda on my bed, and candy bars in a Ziploc bag in a drawer. I would get up first thing in the morning, grab a bag and start eating them, then a couple of hours later I would have a huge breakfast as though I hadn't eaten anything earlier.
By this time, I weighed about 475 pounds and was hated myself and what I had done to get to that weight. I had continued to become more dependent on my son than I already had. At one point, I made peace with going to sleep and not waking up. I wasn't thinking about those around me and how it would have affected them had I died, I just didn't want to live the way I was living.
Is WLS For Me?
In early 2014, I decided that I wanted to have WLS (weight loss surgery), or at least in my head I did. I talked to a friend who had RNY (Roux-en-Y) about 3 years prior. She told me everything she had to go through prior to her surgery. I thought I was ready but I wasn't. I didn't change anything I did, continued to eat the way I had been, didn't move and was stagnant. I was only fooling myself and anyone who I had talked to about having WLS.
In 2015, I turned 50, and I had an epiphany. I had decided fully and completely that it was time to look into WLS. I kept it to myself for a few months, though I did make an appointment with my primary doctor to let him know I was ready. I got my family together to tell them what I had decided, they were very happy for me and relieved that I had decided to get my life back. The only one who was not on board was my son. He was dead set against it, and I couldn't make him understand why I needed to do this. Looking back, he was probably scared.
My WLS Journey Begins
My cousin, Kathy, went with me to my appointment. I told my doctor that I was ready to do this, and he informed me of what was expected of me in order to get my consultation. I told my doctor, "let's do this" because I was ready. We walked out, Kathy looks at me and told me she was in too! I was perplexed because I hadn't expected that reply from her. When she said she was in, she meant it.
We attended the seminar, and it was a little overwhelming. I knew I wanted RNY going into this, so in my mind, the other surgeries that were discussed weren't even a thought at that point. So at the end of it, I was locked in and never more ready to move forward with WLS.
On November 3, 2015, was my initial consultation. Fear of the unknown took over and I was an emotional mess. As I waited, there were times I considered leaving. A close friend of mine, who at the time was fighting melanoma played the cancer card and told me if she can fight cancer that I can go back in there and do what I needed to do. She was right, I had no argument whatsoever, and I am eternally grateful to her for strongly encouraging me to go back in. I knew I had made a commitment not only to myself but to my family and close friends. I got over my pity party and went back into the waiting room. Despite the emotional day that it was, Kathy hung in there with me.
When I got called back, I was asked to get on the table. That turned out to be a daunting task and an epic fail. At that point, the doctor told me that I needed to start my pre-op diet immediately. He explained when it came time for surgery, I would need to be able to be moved from the gurney to the operating table. That same day, I started the pre-op diet but it was hard. After two days, I wanted to quit the diet, but my cousin, being the rock that she is, told me I could do the diet and informed me that I was not quitting.
My doctor wanted me to lose between 20-40 pounds. I took him seriously and at my first weigh in, I had lost 31.5 pounds, so I surpassed his 20-pound goal and came close to reaching his goal of 40 pounds just short of one month. I stayed true to the pre-op diet and began obtaining my clearances for surgery.
I thought the pre-op testing process would go pretty quickly and I'd get my surgery date easily. It didn't happen that way at all. It was nine months of setbacks and frustration, talk about being tested literally and figuratively, I was. I kept pushing through all of the clearances, procedures, and repeats. With each step, I got so much support from my family and friends, the love I felt was overwhelming. At long last, I finally received a surgery date of July 5, 2016.
The big day of July 5, 2016, finally came so I went to the hospital to check in to change my life with WLS. When I arrived at the hospital, I was told my surgery was canceled because of an insurance issue. We couldn't believe what we were hearing. There was no way after a very challenging nine months that this was happening, but it was.
At that point, I felt it was a sign that I wasn't supposed to have WLS and I was ready to chuck it all. The doctor's office was amazing and worked all day trying to get things fixed but wasn't able to. I felt hopeless and didn't know what was I going to do after everything I had done. I questioned if I was actually going to have the surgery. Words can't express how defeated I felt. I honestly couldn't see past that day, regardless of how much everyone assured me it would be resolved.
A couple of days later, I got a call from the surgeon's office advising me that everything was fixed and my surgery was rescheduled for July 12. Though it was only a week, it felt like a month. Still, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about every scenario that could prevent it from happening this time around as well.
Before & After RNY with Karebearz1965
Having Surgery and Life as a Post-Op
We arrived at the hospital on the morning of July 12, trying to be positive as we walked in. Got checked in without a problem. After I went upstairs to be prepped, one of my best friends surprised me and came to the hospital. I was so happy she was there too. The doctors came to check on me and go over some last minute things before it was time to go. After they left, I realized this was finally happening. They came to get me to go to the operating room, and at that point, saying goodbye to my cousin and best friend, I broke down.
My surgery was supposed to take between 1-1/2 hours to 2 hours. It actually took 5-1/2 hours to complete my surgery. The surgical team started it laparoscopically, but when they got in there they realized I had a huge amount of scar tissue from an appendectomy I had 30 years ago. After both surgeons tried for a couple of hours to complete my RNY and remove my gallbladder, the only option was to have an open surgery. The surgeons had to remove a large amount of the scar tissue before they could even begin my RNY. My cousin and best friend were concerned after a couple of hours, and no one could tell them anything. Finally, Dr. Krahn came out after four hours to let them know what had happened, and that my surgery was almost done.
After I was finally taken from recovery to my room, I still didn't have any idea what had happened in the operating room, all I knew I was in a huge amount of pain. My cousin ended up telling me what happened, but I think because I was so out of it, I really didn't understand much. When the PA came in a couple of days later, I had to double check with her that they actually did the RNY and took my gallbladder, she told me they did, LOL. The PA pulled my bandage back and when I saw the incision, it hit me pretty hard. Because my surgery was so invasive, I ended up having to stay in the hospital for five days.
Coming home was hard physically and mentally. Within a few days, I realized how extensive my surgery was. I was happy that I had the surgery but I struggled with the fact I had a huge scar on my stomach in addition to the other ones from their attempt to do it laparoscopically.
The post-op recovery was difficult due to the pain and having to get accustomed to my new way of life. Navigating the first two weeks of the post-op was so daunting, trying to drink 64 ounces of water, not counting all the other liquids throughout the day was impossible. About four days after I came home, I scared myself. I was only able to drink 1/2 a shake a day but one day I was able to drink an entire shake and panicked. I called the office crying to the nurse swearing that I broke my surgery. Now, I look back and see how absurd that sounded, but it wasn't absurd to me at the time. I was assured I was okay and couldn't break it just from one shake.
As time went on, I was feeling better and stronger, and I started to see my weight loss. Almost two weeks after surgery, some of my family traveled to visit us so I knew it was important to give myself the time to heal and not push my recovery so I could spend time with my family.
There was a visible difference in my size since my cousin had seen me just two weeks since she brought me home from the hospital. All she kept saying to me was "wow" at how different I looked from the weight I'd already lost.
I enjoyed the visit with my family but I started to feel very fatigued, so I thought I had just pushed myself too much. I tried to rest as much as I could. I noticed some swelling around my incision but thought it was a normal part of the healing after surgery. It turned out that it wasn't normal because my incision was draining around the staples. Even though I had a two-week follow-up appointment scheduled with my surgeon, he wanted me to come in the following day. I was scared.
After my surgeon felt my stomach, he knew I had developed a bad infection. He explained that he didn't know how bad it was until he taking a few staples out. I was in so much pain as he was working on me. I was so upset with this setback, I thought maybe it was something I did, but he assured me that it was nothing I did, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.
For five weeks, I had nurses come to my home so they could pack my stomach. In the beginning, it was so painful, but as time went on it became more tolerable. I continued to do what I was supposed to, stayed true to my proteins, listened to my doctors and the nurse while I was recovering which I know helped me heal faster.
Once I was healed, it was crazy how good I felt. I was able to start moving more which helped me continue to lose weight. I started PT soon after. It was tough, but I knew I had to push through because I had a lot of work ahead of me. I knew that this was going to get me walking again, and at that point, I would have done whatever it took to walk.
As the months have passed since surgery, I couldn't have ever imagined in a million years how good I feel. I'm like a completely different person.
Instead of staying in bed not wanting to do anything, I get up every day and find things to do, even if I jumped on my scooter and went out to different stores in my area, just looking around is wonderful. My breathing has remarkably improved. I have only had to hit my inhaler about five times in just a year. I don't snore or stop breathing anymore either, which is awesome.
My son has seen how much I've changed, and now he understands why I did this. Having him acknowledge how proud he is of me means so much, considering how he felt when I first told him. I know he was scared. I am his only parent, so it is understandable that he would have some fear and apprehension.
Special Milestones/Non-Scale Victory
There have been more milestones and non-scale victories than I ever realized was possible.
- The first one was when I was able to put a seat belt on and still have about 2" between my stomach and the belt.
- A big one was when I walked the Fashion Show runway at the 2016 ObesityHelp National Conference. That was the beginning of many to come.
- I was able to get my first pair of shoes after not wearing them for about 12 years. It was so weird having to learn to walk again in shoes. Since then I have started to be able to stand longer thanks to PT, being able to take long car rides and not become fidgety or having to stop because my legs hurt so bad.
- Being able to sit in a chair and not worry about it breaking. I had to do this for so many years that out of habit.
- I went from wearing size 5X shirts to now wearing a size XL.
- I cannot express the thrill I felt putting on my first pair of jeans. I just bought three new dresses and sandals too.
- I'm now able to wear boots for the first time in over 15 years.
- I recently got my hair cut and was able to sit in the salon chair.
- I am able to help my cousin with house work and took care of her recently when she was sick. When I'm visiting her I can take the train and go to the beach.
- I am now able to shop at regular stores and not have to search for plus size shops. When my Cousin Tony saw me a few weeks ago he gave me a hug, was able to put his arms around me and
- When one of my cousins saw me a few weeks ago, he gave me a hug, was able to put his arms around me and was astonished.
How ObesityHelp.com Has Been Part Of My Journey
ObesityHelp.com has been a vital part of my journey. I became a member in June 2015, just weeks before my appointment with my primary care doctor to talk about WLS.
The OH Community is amazing. When those around me didn't understand what I was going through, I found so much support on the website. I found I wasn't the only one dealing with the emotions, the doubt, and the fear, and that brought me so much peace. I was able to ask questions, post how I was feeling, and there was not one person who didn't support me. It was such a great feeling to be able to have a place to go to help me understand everything I was about to face pre-op and all the things post-op. Every question, concern etc...OH was my "go to" every time.
When I read about the ObesityHelp National Conference, it looked like so much fun. I really didn't see myself ever going, until last year. We had the opportunity to attend, and it was amazing. It was so much fun and very informative. On the second day of the conference, we decided we are going to attend every year no matter where it is.
This journey has been incredible, It has had its ups and downs, but if I had to do it over again I would 10 times over, the exact same way. I'm better than I was, but not close to being finished. I still have a lot of work ahead of me and will push forward like I have since day one!
Share Your Before & After Success!
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