My story, what’s my story? Everyone has one, right? Oh well, this should be fun...
I was always a big kid, and as expected, some people went out of their way to let me know (As if I didn’t already). Kids at school were…well let’s just say that children can be cruel and leave it at that. At home, there was a group of teenagers that used to hang out around where I grew up, who had somehow acquired the altogether less than original title “the teenagers,” One of them, Paul if I remember correctly, delighted in calling me “Elephant Boy” every chance he had (That was fun).
There were other people who were less than friendly, there always are, but what can you do? You can either give up or grow up, so I grew up…and I grew out while I was at it.
As a kid, my parents decided that “Fat Camp” would be helpful for me…and it was, for a while. I actually went for six years in a row starting the summer before fifth grade. It was a place called Kingsmont in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. It was a place where a bunch of fat kids, and not so fat kids, could go and just be kids. For a month or two, it was great…although not according to the letters I sent my parents, which they still delight in bringing up at holidays. The only problem was, that after the summer was over, camp was over and the illusion that you were “normal” ended with it. You went back to reality, a little smaller than when you left, but because you had no idea what you were really being shown how to do or the true value of it, you ended up in the “husky” section of Sears shopping for an even bigger size of pants.
High School was High School. It was all emotions and hormones…and beer, that was fun. Anyway, for the first time I was taller than I was wider, but the funny thing was I had no idea. I look back at pictures now and realize I was relatively thin, but at the time I though I was the same huge person I had always been. It really is amazing how different things look when you view them through a different lens.
I gained a lot of weight in College. My first semester was bad. I was away from home for the first time (other than fat camp) and I ate to make myself feel better. I also drank and sat in the dark a lot, but that’s another story. I was a music major and managed to fail music theory, for any number of reasons. None of them actually mattered though, because by failing music theory, I was no longer a music major. So, I went to another College, closer to home and did amazingly well as a music major, so well in fact that I took a year off (Counterintuitive I know). Anyway, I decided to go back because I actually wanted to be there and still managed to do amazingly well. But (Wait for it), the harder things got in my life, the more I turned to food as my drug of choice. I drank casually at this point, but had really tired of the vomiting and hang-over thing, and I never did drugs so this was really all I had…and I was really good at it.
I did actually graduate, with two BA degrees (yes in music) and after school I hit the real world. I started working in retail, computers, audio (for a while) and eventually landed in finance, where I currently reside. In honesty, my early jobs were just jobs. They were day jobs to support my music habit...and my food habit. The music thing was rough, because as I’m sure you can imagine, being as round as the bass drum isn’t really what most people are looking for…or at least that what I thought they were looking for, so I never really tried to find out. I just kind of floated into and out of things, admittedly a couple of those things were bands, but they really found me as opposed to my seeking them out.
I somehow, and I still to this day am not entirely sure how, managed to talk a girl into marrying me. Frankly I don’t get it, I was living in my parents basement (I think I said that I shared a house with them or something stupid like that), I was/am into Sci-Fi and video games, and most of all for me, I was extremely fat…large…rotund. I wasn’t in shape, I was a shape…round. The only sense I could make of it was that I just got lucky and I found someone who obviously could look past the whole shape thing. It couldn’t have had anything to do with me…could it? Nah!
So on my way to the altar, or back yard of a Bed and Breakfast in St. Augustine Florida actually but who’s counting, I flirted with Weight Watchers for the first time and managed to lose 80 pounds…and gain it all back again. Around this time, I was actually talking to my Mother (what you’re surprised?) who was looking into having a Gastric Bypass. For as long as I could remember, she was big, and she had finally had enough. We had talked about it before, but she was serious this time and before I knew it, she met with Dr. Elmer Valin and had Gastric Bypass surgery. As I was living in Florida at the time and my mom was in Connecticut, I didn’t get to see her right away. When I did, I hardly recognized her. She was sooooooo small, and not the woman I remembered at all.
We ended up back in Connecticut for a while, and even though I really didn’t think I was interested, I went to a WLS orientation at St. Raphael Hospital in New Haven that was hosted by Dr. Valin’s office, the same doctor who had done my mom’s surgery. I gave them my information and actually met Debbie Valin; Dr. Valin’s wife, a nurse and the bane of my existence for the next three years. I’m just kidding…mostly…but seriously, other than my family Debbie was the person who I was closest to during my whole WLS experience/ordeal and without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. (Thanks)
I decided, even though I knew I wasn’t fully committed, to begin the process of doctor visits, diets and tests to get ready for surgery. This was January 2004 or 2005, I forget. Either way it was a while ago which is the key to this part of the story. I went to all the appointments you could ever want to go to for six months and I even did a sleep study to see if I had sleep apnea. That was a blast. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that no one can sleep when you’re all wired up to beeping machines in a strange bed.
After six months of this, things were actually going great and I was beginning to feel that I was totally into the whole idea of WLS when Aetna, my insurance company at the time, put the breaks on the whole show by declining to cover the operation. I was extremely confused by this given that they had managed to pay for all of the lead up work and doctors visits for the past several months, but I guess that what happens when you put a logical mind in an asinine situation. After weeks of spinning my wheels, I was advised to write to the State of Connecticut and see if they could do anything. Long story short, I did and they couldn’t…mind you it took about a year for me to find that out.
That letter I wrote to the State was really what galvanized my feelings on the whole WLS thing. Before that, I never talked about being, well…fat. I was horrified by it, ashamed of it. But the only way it looked like I would get anywhere was to have to talk about this horrible thing with people I didn’t even know. In the end, I took my laptop to a Panera Bread, had a cup of tea and wrote the letter. When I realized that my only option was that I had to do it, it made me realize that maybe I was, in fact, worth writing a stupid letter in the first place. Maybe this whole thing was worth it.
That hope lasted for just about as long as it took the State to tell me they really couldn’t compel Aetna to cover the surgery. After that, I had no idea what to do, so I basically gave up. I was out of contact with my doctors, pretty withdrawn in general and desperately trying to eat everything I saw and some things I didn’t. Then the weirdest thing happened. Just like that, I was out of a job…and it ended up being the best thing that ever could have happened.
My company was bought/sold/acquired/merged/whatever with/by another company who happened to have United Health Care as their insurance provider. For the six months leading up to the merger, I bugged the crap out of my HR department to find out just who the provider was, as I didn’t know at the time, and if WLS was covered. As it turns out, it was. Loosing a job never felt so good. By the start of January 2007, I managed to get my head back in the game, I was back on track with all of my doctors and even had a surgery date of January 23rd. The rest is pretty much history, or at the very least stuff you can read here at OH.
As of the time of my writing this (June 26,2007) I’m down 139 pounds to 299. Since no one’s counting, I thought I’d mention that I haven’t seen that number in somewhere around fourteen years…and I’ll be happy to never see it again once it leaves this time.
So what’s my story? It’s the usual fat kid story, the only thing that makes mine different is that somebody, somewhere, decided to give me a shot…a second chance to make something better of myself. A chance to be someone different than the person I had talked myself into being. I’ve always been that person, but it was just so much harder to see before under all those years, and names and pounds. In my head, I’m still that fat kid a lot of the time, but at least now I’m trying not to be.