When I started this journey, for the first time in my life I had hope. I knew this was my last chance and was determined to succeed. And I honestly don't believe I can accept anything less than success. Every day I say this prayer to remind myself how important what I do today really is.
GOING, GOING, GONE--photos of my journey
Here I am at my biggest, 351 pounds. I can't believe I could let myself get this big.
MORNING OF SURGERY
301 pounds -- OMG!
FIVE MONTHS POST-OP
Weighing in at 203 -- down 96 pounds from the morning of surgery, down 148 from my highest weight
SIX MONTHS POST-OP
Weighing in at 193 -- down 106 pounds from the morning of surgery, down 158 from my highest weight
ONE YEAR POST-OP
I'm at 154 now -- down 145 pounds from the morning of surgery, down 197 from my highest weight
14 MONTHS POST-OP
Weighing in at 145 -- down 154 pounds from the morning of surgery, down 206 from my highest weight
19 MONTHS POST-OP
Here I am at 129. A big contrast from 351, isn't it?
Here is a picture of my husband and I. He is the love of my life.
This is Deiondra, our oldest granddaughter:
And this is Codie, our littlest grandaughter:
At really dark times in my life, sometimes things have seemed pretty overwhelming. And I've been tempted to give up. But a long time ago, I found a prayer that has inspired me and helped me to look ahead instead of behind. And given me hope for a better tomorrow.
12/1/05 -- I'm down another 10 pounds -- OMG -- I'm at 119 now. And I actually bought a dress for the holidays that is a SIZE 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Never in my life have I been this small.
I'm beginning to understand that the honeymoon period is really more a mental concept rather than physical. During the early months, most people are totally commited to losing weight so they are totally faithful to their plans. Over time, the commitment starts to weaken and by 18 months out, most people are not being as strict as they once were and the weight loss truly does seem to stop.
But I have definitely proved to myself that I can still lose if I want to...
11/1/05 -- I've decided to try and see if I can lose more weight now that my honeymoon period is over. I'm going to bump up my protein and exercise and see if it is possible. I think at this point, it's more a question of seeing if my tool still works versus a need to lose more. But I just have to find out.
10/1/05 -- Haven't updated in a very long time. Things have been going really well. I watch the messageboard daily to see what's going on and have seen so many posts of people who are struggling to get to goal. Or worse yet, are regaining. It makes me so sad for them.
When I went into this surgery, I really wasn't terribly educated about the process. But I sure was totally versed in how to fail. I made a promise to myself to totally change my eating behaviors. Instead of modifying recipes so I could eat the same things I did before surgery, I was determined to relearn how to eat healthy things. And also to pick things that didn't necessarily taste that great so there would be no temptation to overeat.
I have given up meat totally (no matter how much I chew, I still feel extremely uncomfortable after even one bite). It seems like any dense protein has the same effect on my pouch. I've worked with my nutritionist to come up with a healthy plan. Granted most people would think it was a lifetime punishment but for me, it works GREAT.
I have a protein drink every morning. Day 1, I eat 6 oz of ff/sf vanilla yogurt with 4 oz of fruit cocktail sweetened with splenda for all three meals of the day. For snack, I have sf popsicles. On Day 2, I have 2 thin slices of colby cheese and four saltines for all three meals with sf popsicles again for snacks. Then the next day, it's back to Day 1's plan.
Very boring but incredibly easy not to overeat which has always been my routine in the past.
My surgeon says statistically that about 25 to 30 percent of all wls patients will end up regaining some or all of the weight they lose as they learn how to "eat around the surgery" -- eating ultra high calorie foods (like sunflower seeds or peanutbutter) that doesn't take up a lot of space in their pouches. I live in constant fear that if I start doing that, I won't be able to stop.
5/21/05 -- Saw my surgeon today and he had received the results of the test. It showed major reflux which is very unusual after wls. But it also confirmed that even if I had had the planned surgery in February, the problem would not have gone away.
This just means that I will have to medicate to keep the acid levels down to prevent the ulcers from being irritated. Seems like a much simpler solution to the problem than major surgery.
5/1/05 -- I went for the gastric emptying test and it was probably one of the worst tests I've ever been through. It involved passing a tube down my throat and into my pouch. For more than an hour, a nurse kept pulling the tube up a centimeter and monitoring the process via a computer.
I was then sent home with the tube down my throat and told to come back in 24 hours. The tube was hooked to a small monitor that was strapped on my waist. They said to eat and drink normally but that really wasn't going to happen. My gag reflex was constantly stimulated which, in turn, made me gag constantly. It's a test I will do my best to refuse in the future.
3/31/05 -- Had another appointment with my surgeon today. My weight is down to 129. That means I'm 51 pounds below my surgeon's goal for me and 6 pounds below my own personal goal. OMG -- it's like a miracle!
My medical file had a whole collection of recently received appeal denials for the meds I need. I was pretty discouraged but the surgeon promised to get the insurance company on the phone and talk to them personally and make sure they understood the critical nature of my problem and the great need I have for drug coverage to avoid more surgery.
Lo and behold, when we got to the drug store a couple of hours later, the prescriptions went through without a hitch. I can't believe the magic he and his office worked. I have fought with the insurance company almost daiily and have gotten nowhere. Hopefully this will prevent any further ulcers or reflux problems.
They are also setting up a gastric emptying test to see if my pouch is emptying correctly. If it's emptying really slowly, that could explain why the ulcers keep forming. Hopefully within a short time, I'll know when and where that test can be done.
3/2/05 -- Saw the surgeon today. The pain and nausea are still there whenever I eat anything with even a hint of spice. He still isn't ruling out the possibility of surgery but I really want to try medication for a little longer. He's been giving me samples of protonix to take since October and he'd like me to continue on with that. He also wants to add an mild antidepressant to hopefully stimulate my appetite. He wrote prescriptions for both. I'm down to 124 and his goal for me was 174. So I'm 50 pounds below goal.
When I left his office, I went right to the drugstore. I waited patiently only to be told my insurance company was refusing to pay for either drug. And the cost without insurance is a little over $850 a MONTH!
It's really discouraging. Even though the insurance company has literally paid out thousands of dollars over the past year for various medications, and EGDs, and CT scans, and upper GIs, and MRCPs, and authorized in the range of $100,000 for the surgery that was scheduled for 2/9, they're refusing to pay for the meds I need to hopefully avoid this risky surgery.
The surgeon is doing what he can to appeal. And maybe the insurance company will give in. At least I hope so. It seems pretty unfair that insurance companies are allowed to practice medicine without licenses.
But, I'm letting God worry about this one. His shoulders are much broader than mine and I'm sure it will all work out.
2/24/05 -- Now that I don't have to worry about losing more weight because of revision surgery, I have decided try to lose a few more pounds to sort of get a "cushion"...lol
Starting last Monday, I was back on the protein and water regime totally -- and back on the treadmill every day. I'd like to say I'm loving the exercise but if the truth were known, I HATE it. But when I got on the scales this morning, I'm down 3 more pounds to 126! So I have to say it's worth it...lol
2/9/05 -- I went in to the hospital at 10:30 this morning. They did all the pre-op things. They took me back to the OR at about 12:30 and administered general anesthetic. I expected to wake up in recovery 6 or 8 hours later and be going to ICU.
Instead, I woke up shortly after 1:00 and the nurses told me they didn't have to operate. Within minutes my primary surgeon came in and said that the scope revealed the ulcers were completely healed! He used words like speechless, flabbergasted, amazed, and shocked. He said they had never seen anything like this before.
He said it's likely I will always have to take medication to prevent a recurrence of this problem. I'll see him in a month to find out the plan.
1/24/05 -- All the pre-op testing is done. I met with the surgeons and went over the game plan on 1/20. They will be performing a pyloroplasty (to create a permanent opening between the stomach and intestines), a vagotomy (to sever the vagus nerve to prevent stomach acid production), and a revision.
At this point, it seems likely that they will have to remove the entire pouch. They assure me that people can survive just fine without a pouch. And already being at goal, they will work closely with me to prevent another major weight loss that revision surgery sometimes can bring about. No point in worrying about it. What will be will be...
After surgery, I'll have to start back over at the beginning with food re-introduction in stages. At least this time, I'll be more experienced and will be able to learn from my earlier mistakes...lol...hopefully it will go smoother than the first time.
1/13/05 -- Pre-op testing is scheduled for 1/20. I'll also get to meet with both surgeons one more time. I have a whole list of questions to ask.
1/3/05 -- I have a date for the revision surgery to eliminate the pouch ulcers. The surgery will be done on 2/9/05.
I'VE MADE MY PERSONAL GOAL!!!!
I'm now down to 129 from 299 the day of surgery and 222 from my highest weight -- one pound below my my personal goal and 53 less than my wl surgeon's goal for me...lol I honestly can't remember ever being this small. Went shopping yesterday and actually found that I fit into size 6 jeans and tops -- OMG, OMG, OMG!!!!!
Following the last EGD on 12/3, the gastroenterologist said the ulcers have tripled in size since August and that surgery is now the only option. My wls surgeon and his partner will do the surgery. They are calling it a revision and they feel that in all likelihood, there will be almost no pouch left when they are done. I'm praying we can still go to NY for the holidays so I can see my kids and then we'll deal with the other stuff after the first of the year.
9/4/04 -- I had another EGD in August and the ulcers are still very evident, despite the voluminous amounts of medication I take. The gastroenterologist, my wls surgeon, and an independent second-opinion surgeon all agree that it's best to wait and see if the medication will do its magic.
I'm now at 145 pounds, down from 299 the day of surgery, for a total loss of 154. I'm only 15 pounds from my personal goal of 130. Since my surgery was proximal, not distal, the surgeon thinks I've done exceptionaly well.
He tells me for proximal surgery that statistically most people will have lost 75 percent of their excess weight in 18 months. He estimated my excess weight to be 164 pounds and 75 percent of that would be 123 pounds. And I'm down 40 additional pounds on top of that.
That means in 14 months, I'm one pound away from losing exactly 100 percent of my excess weight! Definitely a lifetime of prayers come true -- in my whole life, I never even let myself dream about being a normal size. And now it's my reality. Is that incredible or what?
6/7/04 -- The ulcer is still raging but I'm feeling great otherwise. I've now lost 145 pounds -- down from 299 to 154, down from size 4X-5X to size 8. I can hardly believe I'm finally in the "normal" weight range for the first time in 51 years.
I know plastic surgery is totally beyond our means. And for me, I'm not sure the health risks it presents are worth it. All along I've told myself and everyone else I was having wls for my health, which has improved immensely.
And actually sags and wrinkles can be pretty cute right?
5/10/04 -- Weight loss has slowed way down as I get closer to my goal. But even "no gain" is like a loss to me.
I was diagnosed today with a 2 cm ulcer running the length of my pouch. Eating even a bite or two or drinking just a few sips of anything, even water, has caused major pain over the last few months, and it seems to be getting continuously worse.
An upper GI three weeks ago showed severe reflux but my surgeon also referred me to a gastroenterologist who performed an EGD, or scope, today. He did some biopsies and I have another appointment on 5/24 to get the results. He told my husband that we'll deal with the reflux problem after we get the ulcer situation under control.
In any case, he seems very kind and competent and I'm sure he'll fix the problem for me.
2/15/04 -- Spent the entire day shopping and had a ball. It's something I never had the stamina to do before wls. I'm down 10 more pounds since I last updated my profile, for a total of 137 pounds lost in a little over 7 months...never dreamed that was even a possibility...just 35 pounds to go to hit my ideal weight...
1/13/04 -- Went for my 6-month checkup and they felt I was doing tremendously. I'm down 127 pounds. The labs were all great, too. I'm a few pounds away from the goal the surgeon set for me and about 40 pounds away from my ideal weight. But even if I don't lose another pound, I could live out my life a happier and healthier person, just because I feel so incredibly good now.
I went shopping for a pair of slacks last week and bought a pair of size 16s. Thought for sure they would fit. I was amazed when I got home and tried them on and found that when buttoned and zipped, they slipped down around my ankles. It was such a pleasure returning something that was TOO BIG instead of TOO SMALL for the first time in my life. I exchanged them for another size, trying it on first before taking it home. Believe it or not, I'm wearing a SIZE 10!!! I'm sure I must have worn that size before but was probably in first grade and I can't remember...lol
12/14/04 -- Finally another substantial loss, 10 lbs in the last week. And I did my measurements after discovering I could easily fit into 34"x36" jeans -- and I was stunned to find out that I've lost a total of 78" in less than six months! That's the best Christmas gift ever...lol
12/8/03 -- The honeymoon is definitely over and each pound comes off hard. But since I'm still going in a downward direction, no matter how slowly it might be, I'll take it! I'm less than 20 pounds away from the goal my surgeon set for me. In my heart, I'd love to go about 40 pounds below that...but we'll see. Hope everyone has a wonderful, safe holiday season, filled with love and dreams.
11/8/03 -- Well, hit my first plateau on 10/15/03. Didn't lose a pound until yesterday, and then it was a 7-pound loss. Hitting the plateau was like hitting a brick wall. It didn't seem like anything could push me past it. I tried increasing protein, increasing exercise, increasing fluids and the scale didn't budge. If my hair wasn't already practically gone (I call it major thinning), I would have torn it out in sheer frustration! But it has now passed and hopefully I'll see a steady decline, however slow it might be, once again.
10/15/03 -- Still going along, losing steadily. I'm now at 203. Just four more pounds and I'll break out of the 200s. I've lost 96 pounds in just 15 weeks. I've started walking a mile every day unless it is raining. And have made an effort to discover great tasting high protein/low carb products to substitute for my continued intolerance to meat.
Best of all, I can fit behind the wheel of the car comfortably finally -- no more squeezing in.
What an amazing journey this has been. It's so unreal, almost like a dream. And by far the best dream I've ever had.
9/29/03 -- I continue to experience difficulties readjusting to food, in particular eggs and meat and a few times soyburgers. No matter what meat I try or how well I chew it, it comes back quicker than it went down, generally accompanied by major pouch pain.
I've passed the 60 lb. mark and continue to forge on. I'm enjoying life so much more as a thinner person and I honestly don't miss all the craving/gorging I used to do. Just knowing I'm in better control of what I eat is so powerful.
9/6/03 -- I'm now down 52 lbs, or exactly 50% of what the doctor expected I should lose in total. I'm pretty much sticking to protein shakes. My surgeon and dietician assure me that an intolerance to meat is not unusual and that for some people, it never goes away. But it's a very small price to pay for feeling better and better every day.
My blood work at my 8-week checkup was great. In fact, my AIC was at 5.6 which is the low end of normal for a NON-diabetic. The last bloodwork I had before surgery was in April '03 while on tons of medication. At that time, my A1C was 5.8. Now I don't take any medications at all and the diabetes seems to be in total remission.
In addition, I have discontinued all medications for cholesterol, trigylcerides, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, muscles spasms, and joint pain.
I'm still waiting for the giant burst of energy, though. I don't have the urge to nap like before but I still am quite content to sit instead...lol
8/23/03 -- It's almost eight weeks now since surgery and I feel great. I have lost 48 lbs. and 36 inches. I'm still unable to tolerate meat of any kind and am using protein shakes to supplement. I understand from the dietician that this is not uncommon and that for many people, it passes in time. I actually don't crave meat at all and am perfectly happy with beans and dairy as protein sources. The shakes still taste good so I have no complaints.
EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE
I look like this:
And want to end up looking like this:
7/28/03 -- It's been four weeks since my surgery and each day I'm feeling better and better. Although I still get tired very easily, I'm even back to work. I work from home typing court transcripts so it's not physically strenuous and we could really use the money.
I've been on a pureed diet since 7/18 and have a checkeup with my surgeon on 7/31. At that time, I'll also meet with the dietician and get instructions on the next phase of food re-introduction. I'm kind of looking forward to that since the desire for pureed food has pretty much run its course.
Eating is a real chore since I don't ever seem to get hungry. When planning for a meal, nothing is appealing. I think back to the pre-surgery days and come up with ideas using the foods that I used to love. After I finish preparing the meal, one bite tells me that it's nothing I enjoy any longer.
So far I have been unable to tolerate eggs or meat. Maybe it's the pureeing, I don't know, but they send me running for the bathroom every time I try to eat a bite or two. I guess my digestive track isn't ready for meat yet.
I've lost 30 pounds this month and am incredibly happy. While I know this loss will slow down, I'm just so relieved that it's weight I shouldn't have to worry about gaining back. And I still have a long way to go to reach my goal but to me 30 pounds is an excellent start.
7/15/03 -- Each day I feel a little better. So far, no appetite -- which is definitely a first for me. I'm keeping track of what I eat and drink on a piece of paper since I simply don't feel hungry. It's hard to guess whether I've lost anything yet or not. According to our scales, I'm down 17 lbs since the morning before surgery. I'm hopeful it will continue this way.
7/14/03 -- I am now out of the hospital and back home. I had expected to be released on 7/2 but had a change in plans.
For the most part, the surgery went well with the exception of a pretty big hemorrhage two days post-op. I understand they put me back in ICU, did a CAT scan, put in a central line and then transfused 17 units of whole blood over several days' time. Thankfully, the hemorrage eventually sealed itself without further surgery. I'm pretty fuzzy on the details and am learning on a need-to-know basis. My husband never left my side and is truly my best friend.
Days seem totally consumed with plans now, planning what to eat, when to eat, what to drink, when to drink it, and most of all, how to get all the medicines I need worked into the overall plan. As I grow stronger and have more to share, I'll be back to add my progress.
6/30/03 -- In a little bit, we'll be leaving for the hospital. The surgery is scheduled for 12:40 but they want me there by 10:30 to do a final blood cross match. I'm thankful yesterday is over. I swear the "clean out regime" they have you do is really a weapon of mass destruction. Believe it or not, I've actually lost 7 pounds since yesterday. Whew! What a pain in the butt...literally!
6/29/03 -- Well, tomorrow is the big day. I honestly think I have more butterflies in my stomach this afternoon than I can ever remember. Of course, I'm working on the "bowel prep cocktail" which is definitely having an impact on my stomach as well.
Tomorrow is the day I have waited almost a lifetime for. Less than 24 hours from now, I'll be on my way to a new life, feeling healthier and happier than ever before.
6/22/03 -- I am 50 years old an am married to an incredible man. I am 5'7" tall and weigh 299 pounds. I have dieted my way up and down from an all-time high of 351 pounds. I managed to get down to 220 and I'm on my way back up again at breakneck speed.
I live in rural West Virginia in a home my husband and I built by ourselves three years ago. It's very secluded and peaceful. I grew up in Western New York and moved to West Virginia in 2000 to get married.
I have two sons who live in New York. One is a senior in high school and one is grown and married with two little girls of his own.
My husband and I started with one male chocolate lab, Timber, then added a little female yellow lab, Brandy. Of course, you can guess the rest...within a year, we had eight chocolate babies. When it came time to give the babies up, there were two little girls we couldn't part, Little Irish Bailey and Chocolate Covered Peanut, with so our lab family grew to four. And we just found out yesterday that the firstborn, a male, Beckett, needs a home in the country (translates to out of control...lol) so after my surgery, we will be adding him back into our family as well...hehehe.
Here is Timber:
Here is Brandy:
Here is the new family:
Here is Peanut:
Here is Bailey:
And last but not least, here's Beckett:
I work from home typing court transcripts, which is my favorite job in the world. It's almost like not working. My husband is a high school math teacher. He also teaches college chemistry at Marshall University. He's taking this summer off from teaching summer school to spend time with me while I recover from surgery.
I've been extremely heavy all my life. I honestly can't remember a time when I wasn't dieting and was even remotely normal size. I've tried everything from NutriSystem, Optifast, WeightWatchers, TOPS, diet pills, aerobics, Richard Simmons, Atkins, calorie counting, carb counting, fat counting, grapefruit, and practically anything else known to man.
In 2000, I fell while mountain climbing and crushed both my knees. In 2001, I had two MRIs and three arthroscopies to try to repair the damage. It was clear after the scoping that the damage was too extensive to save the joints so I underwent bilateral knee replacements which have sort of slowed me down a little and made weight loss even more difficult than ever before. And the heartbreaking part is that despite the replacements, the joint pain is as bad as ever due to the enormous weight still on the joints.
For the last year, I've tried to shift my focus to being happy being morbidly obese instead of continually worrying about dieting. But in the back of my mind, I've continued to think of the health risks associated with obesity and prayed for a miracle.
I was taking 14 different medications every day for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, joint pain, muscle spasms, depression...you name it. And worst of all, the periodic bloodwork I had done to check the progression of these problems was showing a decline in liver function due to all the drugs. My PCP was starting to talk to me about which drugs to discontinue to minimize liver damage. OMG -- how do you choose? All the medication is vital and yet....
The risks are too serious to ignore any longer and a week from tomorrow, the miracle is going to start. I'm having the surgery that has only been a dream up until now.
I have always loved photography. I have taken thousands of photos over the years but here a couple of my favorites:
I also love to oil paint. This is one of my favorites. I hope someday I'll be able to find more time to paint.
Dr. Canady was warm, gracious, and knowledgeable and made me feel comfortable from the moment I met him. He thoroughly and honestly explained the procedures and risks.
He performs the surgery through the Holzer Center for Comprehensive Weight Loss which has assembled an entire team devoted to lifelong aftercare and support including the surgeons, a dietician, a psychiatrist, a bariatric counselor (who has actually undergone the procedure and has successfully reached her goal), and an R.N. No matter how many questions I've had for anyone associated with Holzer, they've responded either by phone or e-mail promptly and professionally and always with a smile in their voices/e-mails.
There are also monthly support group meetings attended by the bariatric counselor, the dietician, the R.N., and the surgeons in the practice. There are testimonials followed by frank discussions by the medical personnel on topics relating to bariatric surgery and its risks.
These meetings are open to individuals contemplating the surgery as well as those who have already had it. It is required for all post-surgery patients to attend these meetings for at least one year following surgery.
They make the meetings meaningful and fun. They are even in the process of setting up a cruise for all patients that are interested in order for everyone attending the support groups to be able spend more time together.
The staff of the center visits you following surgery and several people in the support group meeting were even saying they received flowers from the center, wishing them a speedy recovery.
Dealing with PEIA has been wonderful. I received approval within 24 hours. No hassles, no long waits. Although I didn't deal with PEIA directly (Holzer Center for Comprehensive Weight Loss did all the work of compiling the appropriate paperwork and requesting approval), their lightning-fast approval made the process much less stressful.