My Nephew, Jonathan
June 2008~ 1 Year Reflection~
As I sit here trying to reflect on the past year, I find it difficult to find where to even begin. I’ve encountered plenty of ups and downs (both literally and figuratively) in my last 27 years, but this past year has been, by far, the most mentally challenging year of my life. I have spent the last year trying to find myself and embrace the new person I’ve become. It’s very difficult for me to process all that has happened.
I worked very hard, for a long time, trying to hide myself from the world. At twenty seven years old and 306 pounds, I stopped socializing, withdrew myself from friends, dreaded family functions, and couldn’t even look into my own face in the mirror. I struggled with my weight, and the mental anguish that came with it, for all twenty seven of those years. I finally decided to give up the fight. I stopped dieting, caring, living. I hated myself. I was miserable.
On June 19, 2007, I underwent Gastric Bypass Surgery at Temple University Hospital. From that day forward, I was placed on center-stage. No more hiding. The spot light was right on me. People became fascinated, almost obsessed, with watching me. My weight-loss, size, exercise routine, new clothes, and physical appearance felt like the topic of every conversation I had with people. Times were both good and bad. After succeeding in my goal to make myself invisible, the abrupt attention became irritating. It was a daily reminder of the miserable girl I was trying hard to lock away.
In a nutshell, I exercised A LOT (elliptical, then running, and also spinning classes), hit high protein goals daily, took every supplement, and ate every three hours to keep that metabolism going. Every time I exercised, I pushed it a little bit more and worked out as long and as hard as my body could possible withstand. I also do intensive weight training at least once a week with primary focus on my biceps and triceps. I don’t obsess over numbers anymore and I pretty much eat whatever I want…knowing that I will work it off and continue eating the right things. In addition to high protein foods, I eat at least one serving of vegetables daily and two or more servings of fruit each day. When I don’t eat these things in balance or make a poor choice, my body really feels it. I literally use food for fuel. If I don’t have the good stuff, my body shuts itself down. It’s amazing how in touch I am with my new body.
With this new body, I practically had to I had to take on a new identity due to the fact that I became a completely different person on the outside. I lost my first 100 pounds in 6 months and another 45 pounds in the three to four months after that. 145 pounds in 9 months. People could see what I became physically, but some couldn’t comprehend that nothing changed mentally. I was still insecure, lost and unable to give myself credit for my achievements. Through therapy and deep inner searching, I am continuing to work through those issues and rebuilding my self-esteem.
I knew having this surgery and losing a significant amount of weight wasn’t going to fix all my problems. I’ll admit, I thought it would make me happier, but knew it wouldn’t solve everything. If anything, it magnified everything. I can no longer indulge in food to sooth myself. It is physically impossible right now. I can only address my issues head on and try my hardest to work through them without running to the kitchen. I can no longer check all the “NO” boxes in the doctor’s office. I will always have this on my record. I can no longer assume abdominal pains are just a stomach bug. The risk of complications will always be there. I will always have to monitor my blood work because I live with the fear that I will be deficient in some vitamin. And I live with a constant fear of the unknown. Where will I be in 50 years? How will my organs, that I voluntarily rerouted, be functioning then? I did this for my health. Will I be healthy?
Because I haven’t completely accepted what I’ve done to myself, it makes it hard to accept and embrace the body that I worked so hard to create. I spend countless hours in the gym, on the track, and in classes. I did not get here by sitting around and letting my surgery do the work. I work hard. Real hard. And I do it for my insides, not for what it does on the outside. Although I do reap some of those benefits, what matters most is the way exercising makes me feel. When I look in the mirror, I still see the same girl I saw last year, just a little thinner. When I look at a picture of myself, I have to literally make myself stare at it because I can’t believe it’s me. I still feel the same, but when I look at a picture I am someone else. It is the weirdest thing.
I am not an advocate for this surgery. I did not want to do this to myself. I don’t regret my decision by any means, but am still learning how to deal and cope with it. I think if I had this surgery for vanity purposes I’d probably be on could nine! But I didn’t. I did it for my health. And as I said, I’m not so sure it’s the healthiest thing to do.
But here I am! This was the decision I made, and now it’s time to embrace it. I got through my first year and achieved all the goals I set for myself. I even ran a 5K at 11 months post-op! Amazing.
I have people who stood by me though it all. They listen and try hard to understand my struggles and they are happy to share in my successes. And there are some who do not and, for reasons of their own, have a difficult time discussing this part of my life. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to not have traveled this journey alone.
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” William Arthur Ward.
It wasn’t an easy year, but this next year and years to come can only be what I decide to make of them. So here’s to the future…to dreaming and achieving…to life!
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Well I guess it's about time I do this, since I am still in recovery with not much to do and not able to drive. I'm writing this not only to help educate those looking to have Weight Loss Surgery, but also to document this journey for myself. This was not an easy decision and not something that I took lightly. Voluntarily deciding to alter my anatomy is not something I wanted to ever have to do, but I just couldn't see myself continuing life like this. Although I did not have any predisposed co-morbidities, it wouldn’t be long until I did....especially with the family history on both sides. I wanted to make a life style change... I always have. I just need the tool and the seriousness of this procedure to help me. I believe that this procedure is the perfect option.
I'll try to shorten this up by saying this: I was born a 10lb 3oz baby, an overweight child, adolescent, and young adult. During college (20 years old, year 2000) I lost about 50lbs and got to my lowest weight of 185. I am 5'6. I was just squeezing into a size 14 but looked great, although I didn’t appreciate my accomplishment as much as I should have. I continued to diet and exercise and gain and lose for a long 5 years...gastric bypass surgery always in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t have health benefits for a while, or a permanent teaching position, stability, etc (also contributing to my emotional eating and weight gain). Throughout the past 2 years I really packed on the pounds because I decided to just give up and accept the fact that I would always be overweight and that’s how it would be for a while until I could look into surgery options. I stopped getting on the scale after 250lbs.
Then I landed a job! And the best heath coverage! Personal Choice Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I made some regular doctor’s appointments that required me to hop on the scale. I knew what it would be and I was right. 300lbs. 26 years old and 300lbs...I couldn’t believe that. And so, I began pursuing Weight Loss Surgery. I weighed in at my highest in February 2007 at 306 lbs with a BMI of 48 (dangerously/morbidly obese).
I went to a couple seminars and decided I was probably going to have the Lap-Band procedure-it looked so appealing and not as dangerous as gastric bypass. Then I met with a surgeon at Barix Clinic in Langhorne. She educated me more on both and I left there deciding that Lap-Band wasn’t going to be right for me (meaning the ultimate success for me personally) and I decided to go with RNY Gastric Bypass. I was still unsure of where I wanted to go, so I met up with an old friend from high school who 7 months before had gastric bypass with Dr. Meilahn at Temple University Hospital. I then schedule a seminar and consultation with him and somehow I just knew. I can’t really explain it, but I could just feel like this is what was supposed to happen. I told myself that "if it was meant to be, then it was meant to be." (famous words of my grandmother). I went through a lot of emotions, research, therapy, crying, contemplating and always said that if everything fell into place with ease, then I made the right decision. And boy did it. Bing, bang, boom...all the pre-op testing was completed, my insurance approved, I got my date for the week after school let out (Tuesday, June 19, 2007), pulled my way through the liquid diet, and there I was- scooting myself onto the operating table. Well, perhaps I left out the part where I sat in the pre-op holding room crying my eyes out when the anesthesiologist came through.
So I am lying alone waiting to be wheeled into the operation room. I am scared to death and crying. The anesthesiologist sees me and hooks me right up on an I.V. with some spectacular sedative. No more tears. Everything was slow motion from there. Dr. Meilahn and his nurse, Laurie came in and asked if I had any questions, which I did not. Then they left and I was wheeled into the OR. I was asked by 2 men, the anesthesiologist and his partner I assume, to scoot from my bed to the operating table, and I did. Then he held the gas mask to my face while the other guy strapped down my wrists. I was told to take nice, deep breaths. One, two, three...goodnight.
I woke up in the recovery area with an automatic blood pressure pump and a morphine "jeopardy" drip-every 6 min, although somehow I maxed it out and was without for a good 45min. The nurse was really nice and he let my dad and sister come in to see me before my sister had to leave. I was then held there from 2pm to 8pm...6 long hours. Apparently there weren't any beds/rooms. Then I started to get upset because there was this screaming and vomiting woman and the nurse wasn’t even aware of what procedure I had done. She said she was going to order me something to eat/drink...hello! I’m not allowed to drink for a day! Not to mention I was supposed to be up and walking! So my dad said he called the surgeon (hmm) and they were arranging a bad for me asap.
I finally did get in a room at 8pm and got up and walked for the first time. Ouchy! I slept until 1am and then asked if I could walk again. A little better. The day after, I walked again, peed on my own and was discharged by 4pm.
The ride home was challenging. My sister had to pull over once for me to vomit...well, dry heave. I thought the days to come would be cake and that it would get a little easier each day, but I was wrong. The second day was really difficult as I was just transitioning from morphine to liquid Tylenol with codeine (2 teaspoons, mind you). I thought I was okay until the day progressed some more and the pain then began traveling around my left side and toward the back of my ribs. I even made my sister call the surgeon. He said to wait until the In-Home Care Nurse arrived and took my vitals, started my Lovenox injections (needle in the stomach to help prevent blood clots), and she called the surgeon back. She said that everything looked fine and that it might have been gas build up. I had to walk as much as possible and try to push, push, push, even though there seemed to be a sword in my rib! But I finally did "it". Twice. And it felt great, at least mentally.
By Saturday morning, the small alien that resided in my intestines was stirring comfortably and releasing gas with ease. I had a BM and was holding down fluids without a problem. Each day continued to get better and better.
March 2007 306 lbs
Surgery- 6/19/07 278 lbs
7/19/07 255 lbs (-23)
8/19/07 236 lbs (-19)
9/19/07 223 lbs (-13)
10/19/07 209 lbs (-14)
11/19/07 197 lbs (-12)
12/19/07 182 lbs (-15) Total loss in 6 MONTHS: 124lbs
1/19/08 176 lbs (-6)
2/19/08 172 lbs (-4)
3/19/08 167 lbs (-5)
4/19/08 163 lbs (-4)
5/19/08 161 lbs (-2)
6/19/08 158 lbs (-3) Total lostin 1st yr: 148 lbs (and finishing weighing between 150-160lbs was my personal goal!)