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  • BMI 24.9

Obesity & Me

Describe your behavioral and emotional battle with weight control before learning about bariatric surgery.

Weight was a constant struggle for me starting in my early years, but it got worse as a teenager. Food was my coping mechanism and when things got tough, I ate to stuff down my feelings and anxiety. I ballooned up to 400 pounds in my 1st marriage due to abuse and generally being very unhappy - was very isolated and it was the only constant "friend" I had. I tried multiple diets and gimmicks but nothing ever really worked for long. I started researching WLS several years before I was even able to have my surgery and knew that it would probably be my only saving grace because I just knew I was literally going to eat myself to death or develop common co-morbidities like HTN, diabetes, and have a stroke or heart attack.

What was (is) the worst thing about being overweight?

Feeling like I was always on the outside looking in and not being able to enjoy my life .... that and the whispers, looks, hurtful comments, and disdain I felt from others because I was so morbidly obese. I was absolutely miserable; physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I felt like a failure because I couldn't control myself or couldn't/wouldn't stop the behaviors that got me to 400+ pounds. I couldn't stand for more than 5 or 10 minutes without being in pain. I couldn't work because of my weight and the physical limitations the weight put on my body. I felt unlovable and that I was disappointing others, including myself because I wasn't able to participate or be a "productive" person. I was ashamed of myself and who I had become and of how I looked.

If you have had weight loss surgery already, what things do you most enjoy doing now that you weren't able to do before?

I am living my life again and enjoying it. I get to comfortably move around, walk, work, and play. I no longer have to have a seat belt extender in my car or on an airplane. I actually had to buy two (2) seats on an airplane to accommodate my size when I flew for my initial surgery in 2007 - that was humiliating (and still is). I ended up having a revision of my VSG to a RNY last year because of regain and I am thrilled with the results and do NOT regret one moment of the journey or having the revision. I am in ONEderland for the first time since I was a teenager. I don't have to shop in the "plus-size" or "women's" section anymore and it's easier to do just about everything. I'm happier, not afraid to walk around with my head held high and look others in the eyes because I'm no longer ashamed of myself or how I look.

Describe your experience with getting insurance approval for surgery. What advice, if any, do you have for other people in this stage?

Initially I did not have insurance I decided to go to Mexico for my VSG because of the cost savings. When I opted to have a revision last year, I tried to utilize insurance, but I met with so much resistance from US physicians who didn't want to touch me because my original WLS was done in Mexico, and the fact that the insurance requirements kept changing or were "updated" making me repeat several steps that I again went back to Mexico for my revision. I have no regrets about going to Mexico and my results have been wonderful.

What was your first visit with your surgeon like? How can people get the most out of this meeting?

Most of my initial inquiries and questions were done online or on the phone. I had great consultants with each surgeon's practice who were able to walk me through the process and answer any questions or allay any fears. I also reached out to former patients of the surgeons to ask them questions about their experiences. Don't be afraid to ask questions - ask anything and everything you can think of. Request to get in contact with former patients that are willing to share their story with you, especially if you are considering WLS in another country. I was at ease both times I met my surgical team - they were all very friendly, informative, and willing to discuss everything with me.

What made you finally decide to have the surgery?

I knew that if I did not have WLS that I was going to literally eat myself to an early grave. I was miserable, uncomfortable in my own skin, and hated who and what I had become. I felt this was the only way I was going to get my life back and actually be able to start living my life the way I wanted to.

How did you decide which proceedure to have?

Initially I wanted the RNY, but the surgeons felt that because of my size and BMI the VSG was the safer option when I arrived to discuss the final arrangements for my surgery. At the time I honestly didn't care what procedure I had, I just wanted something done. I had great success with the VSG but also knew that I might not achieve the total amount of weight loss I wanted and might need a revision later. I lost about 200 pounds with the VSG - maintaining around 225/230. I could never seem to get below that point. When I started to regain and was not having success getting below 200, I decided to have the RNY and am still losing (slower now) but have gotten down to 175 and am thrilled and extremely happy with my decisions.

What fears did you have about having complications or even dying from from the surgery, and what would you tell other people having the same fears now?

I don't think I was worried about dying on the operating table - I think I was most afraid of having to finally come to terms with the things that got me to the point where I needed the surgery. The hardest part (for me) was post-op and dealing the loss of food - not being able to use food as my crutch or use it to self-medicate. I actually mourned the loss of food and found myself crying because I couldn't eat the way I used to.

How did your family and friends react to your decision? Would you have communicated anything differently if you could now? How supportive were they after your surgery?

My family was very supportive and have been very happy with my decisions to take back control of my life. While not everyone in my family knows I went to Mexico for my surgery, they are all impressed and happy to see the results and know that I'm healthier and happier now.

How did your employer/supervisor react to your decision? What did you tell him/her? How long were you out of work?

My job and co-workers were great about my decision. I was only out for about 1 week and then was on light duty for about 6 weeks. Everyone was supportive and continue to comment on how great I'm doing and looking.

What was your stay in the hospital like? How long where you there? What things are most important to bring?

My stay was great both times. The only logistical issue was the language barrier since I went to Mexico and have limited Spanish knowledge. I was in the hospital for 3 days total both times. My first experience I did opt to stay in a hotel for a couple of extra days just in case there were complications. Be sure to bring comfortable clothes and shoes that you just have to slip on - bending over to tie your shoes isn't easy and can be painful. It helps to have a partner or friend come with you because you will need help carrying things or even getting dressed.

Did you have any complications from the surgery? If so, how did you deal with them?

I only had one incision from the Lap VSG get infected and that was easily taken care of with some topical antibiotics. After my revision to the RNY, I did experience some major consitpation and nausea. A co-worker who has had the surgery several years ago recommended that I go back to soft foods for a while, drink more water, and maybe start taking a stool softner or using an enema to help. Once I slowed down adding solid foods and went back to a softer diet for a couple of weeks everything cleared up fine. I'm also now taking a probiotic every day which helps me stay more regular.

Describe your first few weeks home from the hospital. What should people expect from this period?

I was tired but at the same time thrilled that I was finally making progress and able to start shedding the excess weight. I went through a mourning period for food and missed (greatly missed) being able to binge eat or eat whatever I wanted to when I wanted. I had to sleep in a recliner the first couple of days or be propped up about 45 degrees because I couldn't lie flat. I was sore but nothing that a couple of tylenol didn't cure. Don't try to overdo it. The incisions are sore and will pull at times if you move a certain way - that I think was the most painful part.

How far did you travel to have your surgery? (If far, how did this affect your aftercare?)

I went to Mexico both times for my surgery. Aftercare was minimal since my surgeons were on the other side of the country. However, my primary care physician has been a great support, checks my labs, and monitors my health status. I was able to check in with the surgeons afterwards if there were any problems, but everything for the most part has been handled at home if there was a problem.

Please describe in detail what things you could and couldn't eat in the weeks and months following surgery. What foods have been off limits? Please explain how your dietary tolerance changed week-by-week, and then month-by-month since surgery.

My food tolerances were varied day to day. There were days that I was fine, and then I would eat the same thing again and it would make me sick or just get "stuck". If I eat too fast it physically hurts and it feels like there is someone sitting on my chest bone. Anything too high in sugar is a definite no-no for me - as are really fatty foods. I avoid them or just have a very small amount. I try not to have the mindset that something is "off limits" because that's what I'll end up focusing on. I've learned to substitute things for the "bad" foods and just learn to enjoy healthier varieties. At this point, almost a year out from my revision, I'm able to eat just about anything; but again, I make wiser choices and limit those endulgences to a bite or two.

What was your actvity level in the days and weeks after surgery?

I was tired, but felt like my energy level was fine. I had to remind myself to take it easy so that everything would heal properly. I was able to return to work after one week (light duty) and found that I was getting stronger and had more endurance to do the things I wanted to do, especially when the weight started to come off my body.

What vitamins and/or dietary supplements have you taken since your surgery?

I take a multivitamin twice a day, calcium twice a day, a probiotic and iron. I'm not great at taking my supplements, however, and it took me a while to find a type that I could tolerate - chewables made me sick to my stomach. So I've finally found everything in a capsule or tablet form that I can take without it causing stomach upset.

What side effects (nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbace, dumping, hair loss etc.) were worse for you? For how long after surgery did they persist? How did you cope with them?

Main issue I've had has been dumping or consitpation. I was tired for a while too, mainly due to lack of calories, but my energy levels picked up once I was able to start consuming more.

What was the worst part about the entire bariatric surgery process?

Mourning the loss of food; learning to deal with problems in a healthier way vs. eating my problems. Still wanting to eat too fast or consume too much - oh, and dumping!

What is your scar like? Is this what you expected?

I have 5 to 6 small incisions on my abdomen, each about an inch in length. The oldest ones are faded and barely noticeable. Honestly I didn't care about the scar(s) - I wanted my health back and a few scars is well worth the price of that.

Do you notice people treating you any differently now?

Definitely! I feel like I get more respect and people are looking @ me in the eye. I don't see the look of pity or disdain or disgust on strangers' faces anymore like I did when I was over 400 pounds. My social life improved - although I also attribute this to my self-confidence and how I present myself to others now because I am not ashamed of myself anymore and am happier.
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Before & After
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