The Lessons I’ve Learned, Living with the Lap-BandDecember 7, 2015
Personally, my choices of surgical procedures were limited to Lap-Band living only. I live with (PTSD) and a history of deep depression. This required me to use the least invasive of the weight loss surgery procedures. The one thing each surgery has in common are the guidelines you will need to follow pre-op and post-op.
Lap-Band Living: Pre-op
I was fortunate when I decided to do something about my weight. I had firsthand knowledge of what I could probably expect after having bariatric surgery. I work in health care, so I had access to the medical team at WakeMed that specialized in Bariatric procedures. My surgeon, Dr. Brandon Roy, was upfront from the moment I walked into his office. He talked with me about the lifestyle changes I would have to make for the Lap-Band (or any WLS). Dr. Roy wanted to make sure I was 100% ready to make a full lifestyle change, as well as, what my overall weight loss goal was.
Lap-Band Living: Surgery day
When my surgery date was set, it was important to me to educate myself and be as prepared as possible for how life as a Lap-Band post-op. I knew this wasn't going to be something that just happened on my surgery day and then go back to my normal life. I took care of work duties since I was going to be away from work for a few weeks. Also, I made financial preparations regarding my surgery. The most important part of all, is that I stocked up on the nutritional products I would need newly post-op.
When my surgery date finally arrived, things went so smoothly that I don't remember much except that I woke up ready to start the new journey that was standing in front of me. I was fortunate to have a good support system in place to help with my recovery and the challenges that came up for me. My support system included people close to me, but a patient's support system could be anyone, your partner, members of your family, dear friends, or support group members. Most Lap-Band patients are in and out of the hospital the same day. I had to stay overnight, since I was using a CPAP machine (for sleep apnea) at the time. The hospital staff, as well as Dr. Roy’s team, made sure that I was in no pain during the recovery process, and that I had what I needed to make the start to my new life as comfortable as possible.
Lap-Band Living: Post-op
Once home, I quickly realized that changing the way I had eaten for so long was not going to be easy. I went from full course meals with a cold soda, topped off with something sweet, to my post-op diet of only clear liquids. Following my bariatric surgeon's nutrition protocol, I slowly progressed to other foods over the next 4-6 weeks.
Just a few days after having the band placed, I went in for my first fill with a very small about of liquid added. This was done to allow my body the time needed to become accustomed to it. As my body started to adjust I found the need to have my band tightened more frequently.
Lap-Band Living the first three months as a post-op patient were challenging. My eating habits were dramatically different. I went through periods of depression and frustration. The first few months, my weight loss was slow, and the process was discouraging to me. I had to become accustomed to how I needed to eat, and learn to handle social time with family and friends. I realized that I couldn't expect others to change the way they ate, just because I ate different than I did before my WLS.
My tastes changed after having surgery. Food that I once found so enjoyable no longer tasted the same to me. Many foods would not go down anymore as well. The cravings for certain foods eventually began to subside. I used protein shakes with sugar-free chocolate flavoring to satisfy my sweet cravings.
For the first year post-operatively, I went in for a fill every few months. During this time, I was able to determine the fill that worked best for me - not too tight or not tight enough. During my first year post-op, I happily adjusted to my new appearance as I lost weight. I learned to purchase inexpensive clothes, as in only a few weeks they wouldn't fit. Thrift stores and consignment shops became a regular place to shop to keep my wardrobe fresh with clothes that fit me. I kept one outfit that I wore before my WLS, so I could remember how far I had come and where I was before my surgery.
I had two band fills during the first three months after my surgery. Shortly before my first year surgery anniversary, I had another fill, for a total of three fills. I didn't need another fill for a couple of years.
My experience having a fill is that it only takes a few moments, and consists of a needle and a small bottle of saline that is placed into the port. There is some discomfort from the needle when this is done, as well as the area around the port is very tender for some time afterwards. After a fill, I return to a liquid diet and progress to eating as I did right after my surgery. When I become hungry more frequently, I know that it is time for a fill.
It is a priority for me to keep check-ups with my surgeon and his team, to check the amount of saline in my band.
I have a strong bond with food that that still exists. Surgery helped my physical hunger, but didn't impact my head hunger and emotional eating. I am 5 years post-op, and I still find myself wanting things that I know my body will not take. Old habits have started to change and others have slowly disappeared. I regularly remind myself that having surgery, regaining my health, is all worth it.
As you know, there can be set backs to any surgery. Once, my Band slipped, requiring me to have the fluid removed to allow the Band to re-position itself. I was lucky, because after just a few days, it did slip back in place on its own, without difficulties.
The biggest lesson I have learned...
I have a life changing tool in place
to help me along the way;
But ultimately, I am the one that makes it work.
What I've learned as a Lap-Band post-op
- My Body: I learned boundaries of what my body will and will not tolerate.
- Emotions: Sometimes I miss a certain food that I can't have to self-medicate my emotional eating. I have to find distractions until the head hunger passes, so I don't give in to emotional eating. The child in me still wants to be in a candy shop but I keep focused on my long-term goals and why I had weight loss surgery.
- Depression: Food has been a crutch and a comfort blanket that is hard to throw away.
- Patience: I've learned to be more patient. It gets easier and it’s worth it! I've learned to appreciate the life around me. I look at photos of myself before my surgery, and see how trapped I was. I see myself locked away, but now I can be more present in my life and do things I've always dreamed of doing.
- Trust: This is a journey of letting others into my comfort zone, trusting them as a part of my support team, that has grown over time.
Today, I feel so fortunate when I reflect on my life before my surgery and how it is today. The most important lesson of all that I've learned is to love myself, trust myself and respect myself. I will always remember the place I came from, and what it has taken to live the life I have today. My personal mantra is "Find Your Happy, and Run With It."
ABOUT THE AUTHORJames Habourn had Lap-Band surgery on 12/29/2010 and lost 142 pounds. James was a speaker at the #OH2015 Conference, and is dedicated to supporting others in their WLS journey. James works at WakeMed and loves working with patients.
Read more articles by James!