My Story


My name is Anna. I am 38 years old, 5’8” and I weigh 384 poundsMy BMI is 58. I can remember being aware of my "weight" since the age of seven. I have been gaining and losing (mostly gaining) weight since my family enrolled me in Weight Watchers (for the first time) at the age of nine. Like most of us, I have had my fair share of life’s disappointments and blessings, tragedies and triumphs. I have stood in victory on top of mountains and I have held my head in my hands down on my knees. My weight has made me one of the strongest people I know and has taught me true compassion from the outside in. I now realize that my weight has served a purpose for me since I was a young girl, but I do not need it anymore.

I did what I knew to do then, but I know better now. I am going to take care of myself in other ways. I know that weight loss surgery is a huge decision and I have been researching it for years - literally years. Despite my insulin pump dependent diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, back pain and severe sleep apnea, I have been turned down by both Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare. It is always a “contract exclusion” in the p
ublic school district where I teach. Honestly, I NEVER thought I would even consider going to Mexico for any surgery, but after months of research, I have come to realize that Mexico has gotten an unfair reputation. 

Here is the crux of the issue for me... I wanted this surgery done yesterday, if you know what I mean, but the program I was working with in
St. Louis (St. Alexius New Start) wasted the last 6 months of my life. I planned all year to have WLS done early this summer, as I am a teacher and off work during the summer. This well-known program wasted the last 6 months by first telling me they got pre-approval from my insurance to cover the lap-band only to find out 2 months later that this was not true. Then I was told that the doctor recommended doing a VSG (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy) on me, as I had too much weight to lose for the band. I researched the VSG thoroughly and concurred, but then they wasted another 6 weeks stalling because they “needed to figure out what a VSG would cost, as I would have been their first!!! Finally they said it would be around 18K and I was fine with that, but then they wasted another 8 weeks telling me they would be putting me on the schedule any day. That was back in May. The last time I called them they told me that I have a “tentative” surgery date of Aug 8 because they are having trouble getting the surgeons schedules together due to their summer vacation needs. They have never called me back since. 

I felt like an unwanted stepchild throughout all of my dealings with them. I just finally realized that I kept overlooking their extremely poor treatment of me because I thought they were my only choice. Did I mention that they were going to charge me $8K more than my new surgeon who has done well over 600 VSG’s with zero leak/complication rate? I was going to pay more to be their first guinea pig. No thanks. I am done. 

That was then, this is now. Within the last three days and with the assistance of some angels (Betty and Nancy on OH), I now have set up my plan B. My VSG is scheduled for Aug 6 with one of the most skilled and experienced VSG surgeons in the world, Dr. Alvarez. My mother will be with me the entire time while my husband stays home with our 3-year-old. Dr. Alvarez has emailed me personally a couple of times already and asked me to delay my surgery for an extra few weeks so that I was smoke free longer. I never had that type of reassurance, professionalism and conscientiousness with New Start. New Start told me 2 weeks of being smoke free prior to surgery was fine??? 

Here is a little information about my family. My husband is the best man I know and did I mention he is 6’ 7” tall? We met, fell deeply in love and married within 6 months. When you know... you know. We have been married for 7+ years. We took in a foster child named Mark. He was one of my students as a 14-year-old freshman in high school when he was placed in foster care. Unfortunately, his mother passed away and his biological father was not around. Mark is now 21 and just left for the Navy. He is doing very well. I am very proud of him. We also have a 3-year-old daughter who is actually my niece (my only brother's only child). We have had custody of
Madison since she was 13 months. Unfortunately, for her, my brother and her birth mother are both substance abusers who cannot care for her. I never planned to have kids. My husband and I were completely okay with our total freedom, but I have learned that both Mark and Madison are gifts from God. We cannot imagine our lives without them both.

We live in Missouri (about 25 miles south of St. Louis city ). I teach social studies in the inner city…it is very challenging but I cannot imagine teaching anywhere else. It is my passion and true purpose. My husband was a skilled machinist until about 3 years ago when he fell and broke his ankles. He is now on full disability due to severe circulatory deficiencies in his legs brought on by his extreme height, heredity and some symptoms of Marphan’s syndrome (and the injury did not help). It has all worked out. He is a wonderful stay at home husband, father and domestic engineer and we really have a rock solid marriage and family. We are each other’s best friends and greatest admirers. I am so blessed in so many important ways.

We have a cute little house with everything we need, including a little, year round spring running through the back yard. We live in a beautiful wooded subdivision with lots of amenities, common ground, cricks/springs and neighbors that we just love. We moved here 5 years ago and will probably live here forever or retire somewhere warm. I have always felt that life is too short to not live near ocean and palm trees.

I just need to get my health in order so that I can get the most out of my life and body again. I am tired of feeling so old. I am 38 and while I have battled the bulge all my life, I have really gone down hill since being diagnosed with Diabetes at age 30. I have gained over 100 pounds. Before that, I never let my pleasantly plump shape stop me from doing anything I wanted to do. I played sports, was a cheerleader in HS, graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. Louis University. I jumped out of bed in the morning to teach history in our inner city school system with a true passion for it. I am a sharp, vivacious Italian dynamo dying to get out from under this fat suit.

I rarely took aspirin at one time. Now I literally use a tackle box for my daily meds. I miss the old me. I enjoyed life so much more. Hell, I attacked everyday energetically. I was the kind of person that "the party didn't start till I got there." I am very strong. I still get all the important things done but my quality of life is low. The days are passing me by. I do not even want to go to the party anymore. My lower back has gotten so bad in the last year that I cannot stand up for more than 5 minutes. I cannot really cook, clean or shop anymore. Thank Jesus that I have the best husband on earth, but the reality is that I cannot even take my 3-year-old daughter to the ZOO or Six Flags - all because of the back problems brought on by this weight. 

Please, do not misunderstand, I am not depressed, just tired. I am soooooo over ready for the VSG. I want off all of these meds, I want to sit in a chair with arms, get dressed and tie my shoes without it feeling like I just worked out. I want to camp and hike again. I want to feel good in my body again. I want to feel sexy again. It seems like this has all happened so fast in my life, but in reality my weight gain and subsequent physical decline happened just slowly enough that I have just gotten used to being more and more limited. I am done with feeling like this. I am ready for a big change.


Okay guys and gals, I am quitting cigarette smoking and going on a pre-op diet, which Dr. Alvarez sent to me. I start the change today. 

I have 23 days until the big day! I have lost 24 pounds already and I have remained completely smoke free!!! I now weigh 358 and my BMI is 54. All this in just 3 weeks! 

Post Surgery

Dear OH Friends,

Thank you so much for your well wishes and prayers. I am so happy and pleased with everything and I feel such a sense of excitement and hope for my future. It is as if I could literally burst. I went to Mexico and Dr. Alvarez was my surgeon. He was everything I hoped for and then some. I had my VSG on Monday August 6 and by Wednesday the 8th; I was able to get off all of my oral insulin and my diabetic insulin pump. I can hardly believe it. What a gift! I am looking forward to getting off all of my high blood pressure, high cholesterol meds and CPAP with oxygen as well.

There is a place in heaven for Dr. Alvarez. I just cannot say enough good things about him and his whole south of the border team. The entire trip and surgery went smooth as butter. We flew first class and his hotel accommodations were wonderful...everything that I needed. His staffers are very attentive, warm, gracious and kind.

The only minor hiccup with the surgery was due to my own stupidity and the fact that I panicked and had several last minute "food funerals" in the week that led up to my surgery. I actually gained a lot of weight right before surgery (I was back up to 384). I do not recommend this because both Dr. Alvarez and I paid the price. My liver was evidently the size of a Cadillac. Dr. Alvarez made it very clear that the size of my liver will shrink over time due to the health benefits of this surgery but from what I understand, it was THE BIGGEST liver he has ever seen. In fact, it was so frickin big that he had to put a drain in near my liver for 24 hours but it worked very well and came out just fine without any pain – I am just a little sore in the abs. I have no bruising and all discomfort immediately after surgery dissipated quickly.

One of the many reasons I selected Dr. Alvarez as my surgeon in addition to his experience, surgical skill, reputation and training was his professional philosophy of being very gentile to the body on which he is operating. I truly believe that 9 out of 10 surgeons would have gotten one look at my "mui grande" liver and converted me immediately to an "open" instead of laparoscopic procedure. I am sure that at the very least I would be a lot sorer. He must make every move so gingerly. I just cannot say enough good things about him but neither could any of his previous patients, which is another reason why I chose him.

Dr. Alvarez came to see me several times each day. He would be there at my bedside early in the morning and late at night. I have been hospitalized in the numerous times and have never experienced the kind of thoughtful, consistent and loving care that I received south of border with Dr. Alvarez. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my gallbladder looked perfectly healthy to him and he felt no need to remove it. The weird pains I have been feeling over the past year were probably from a swollen liver and had nothing to do with my gallbladder.

Honestly, the surgery just went perfectly. I feel fantastic and am glad that the surgery is finally behind me. I do not seem to have any of the minor problems that can come after a VSG. I am not having any trouble getting my liquids or protein in. I am not tired, I have no indigestion, heartburn, or discomfort at all. I have not needed any acid blockers and I really do not need the pain meds that he gave me anymore but I am going to take them until they are gone. I even got up early yesterday, threw on my sneakers and took a walk to the lake in my subdivision. I have lived here for almost five years and have never done that. Dr. Alvarez even called me personally yesterday to check on me, wish me well and remind me that I can call or email him anytime. He is a gem! I will thank God for guiding Dr. Alvarez into bariatric medicine for the rest of my new, longer, happier and healthier life. I have changed my life and want to change my head too while I change the body. I will keep you all posted though.

Again, my dear OH friends thanks for your thoughts and prayers. I really appreciate it. I will be in touch. 

2 weeks and 4 days since surgery 
I have lost a total of 45 pounds (25 since the surgery) and I have never been so happy and excited.

Yesterday was my 39 birthday. I had my VSG on Aug 6, 2007 and as of today, I have lost 72 pounds (20 of which I lost before surgery). It is a very personal decision but I have nothing but good things to say about the VSG. It, and my surgeon are truly a blessing from God. I could be losing even faster if didn't snack so much at night when I am grading papers and if I worked out. I am hoping to find the motivation for that soon or at least after the holidays. I am happy with this rate of loss for now because I eat very well, we go out to eat a lot and spend a lot less money on it when we do. I never feel deprived and so far, I do not have any sagging skin that I didn't already have, lol. It is all about quality now not quantity. I eat crab legs, fillet mignon, jumbo shrimp, scallops, shaved ham with melted provel and anything else I desire. I can eat exactly what I really want now and be satisfied with a fraction of what I used to stuff down. I crave healthy foods and more green veggies now. I actually taste my meals now because I am able to feed my body instead of my dysfuctional mental need for food. I know what it feels like to reach satiety and stop without feeling deprived or something. It is something about the absence of Gherlin and the Vagas nerve branches  that my surgeon snipped. I rarely ever eat bread like before surgery. It is weird, I don't even care about bread anymore. I just don't want to waste the room in my tiny tummy on bread. I just love how the VSG makes me feel. I live and feel like a person who has never had issues
about food. Within a week of surgery, I realized, "Wow, this must be what it feels like to be normal." I know that I made the right choice for me. I know that I will eventually get down to 200, which is my  personal goal. I would love to see 180 some day but I will be thrilled with 200. I was 384 and miserable just a couple of months ago and today I weigh 312 and I could go on and on about how much more energy, stamina and how I have no back pain and physical discomfort now. Puting my shoes and socks on is a breeze without that beachball belly I had. I feel so comfortable in my clothes and just being in my body. Just moving and doing anythng is so much more comfortable. Anyway, I am rambling, but you can ask me anything and I mean anything and I will shoot it to you straight. Best wishes to you all.
Warm regards,
Anna Banana

























About Me
Barnhart, MO
Surgery Date
Jan 17, 2007
Member Since

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