30 March 2009

Gastric Bypass - Surgery or Not??

My entire life I have been overweight and I do mean my entire life... I was born 6 lbs and 14 oz but then I immediately plumped up straight to obesity. I think by the time I was 2 I was probably a size 22 or some crazy crap... just always fat.. I fought and fought my weight my entire life, never to succeed on a diet, never to lose any significant amount of weight and keep it off. I was always the fat kid in school. In fact, I was 1/2 Japanese and I was fat... 2 strikes for a girl growing up in a primarily white middle-class suburb. Needless to say, I got picked on...

Every time I went to the doctor, and I don't care what kind of doctor it was, anything wrong with me was blamed on my weight. I went to the doctor once because I had an ingrown toenail and I swear the doctor told me if I lost weight it would go away... Ok.. how is that possible? Could it be it would go away because I could bend over to clip my toenails? DUH!

Needless to say I didn't have much (if any) self-esteem and my parents being old-school didn't have a clue how to help me build any. They didn't have a clue how to help me feel good about the things I did have going for me, like creativity, kindness, a love of others etc... any self-esteem that I might have gathered would be squashed by people telling me I'd be a beautiful girl if I'd lose weight.... By people who told me I had " a cute face." UGH.. If I heard that once, I heard it a million times.

I tried every organized diet program out there to include the ones that had you drinking only protein drinks, eating only pre-packaged meals, eating only low-fat food, eating only high protein foods and eliminating carbs... I've done it all... done it all and failed miserably at every one of them. Nothing makes you feel like more of a failure than trying and failing at every diet imaginable to man. It just didnt help that I really enjoyed eating, I loved food and I enjoyed the activity of dining, it was enjoyable to me, an event of sorts.

In 2000 I began researching weight loss surgery. I spent all my time looking for information reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to know the different procedures, the odds for successful weight loss, the mortality rates, the pros and cons of having surgery. I began weighing the benefit -vs- the risk to decide if the surgery might be beneficial to me.

I read about the dumping syndrome, the necessary changes to diet to lose weight and then to maintain weight. I read about the need for exercise and also the fact that often times people had complications down the road which would cause additional surgeries or the need for plastic surgery to remove excess skin or tighten up areas that sagged from the skin that had been stretch from years of obesity. With all this in mind I decided I still wanted to go for it, that the benefit outweighed the risk.

In early 2002 I saw Dr. Patricia Choban at Bariatric Treatment Center(BTC). I had heard she was the best. I had a lot of info on her, her history and her success at OSU and if I were to have surgery, she was who I wanted to perform it. With my diet history and the fact that I had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and family history of heart disease it was not difficult to get approval for surgery but I had to wait until insurance open season so I could move to an 80/20 insurance plan where I wasn't restricted to HMO type coverage and then I could move forward.Finally I had my meeting with Dr. Choban. She scheduled me for surgery which would occur on July 3, 2002. There would be much to do before surgery so we got started with the pre-op testing including an echocardiogram to check heart valves since I'd been on Phen-Fen and with all that needed done the months flew by.

Before I'd go to surgery I wrote letters to my husband, my children and to my closest of friends. In case something happened I wanted each of them to know how much I loved them and how much I valued their presence in my life and appreciated their support in my choice. On July 3, 2002 I went into surgery at 9 a.m. When I came to, I felt like death warmed over. It hurt and it hurt bad. I found a pain pump attached to my hand and although it hurt I knew it was something I'd have to work through and tried to refrain from using the pump as much as possible.

The next few days were really hard and it didn't help that I wasn't getting any nutrition...well unless you consider ice chips and sugar-free popsicles nutritious. Finally going home.. that in iteself would provide it's own challenges. BTC is very specific about what you eat and when you can eat it. Their program is proven and is wonderful but you have to follow the rules and allow your tummy to heal. If you don't follow the rules you pay... by paying I mean you just cause yourself extreme pain and at times just wish you could roll over and die...

Just as with any surgery, every day that passes you feel a little better. With a new tummy I had to learn what I would eat, how much I could eat and how quick I could eat it. Having a meal was no longer "enjoyable" since I was so limited in choice and in volume.

It has been almost 7 years now since I had surgery. A million times since that day I've been asked if I could go back, would I do it again. The answer is always "yes." That surgery changed my life. Losing 160 pounds changes you, changes how you look at everything but mainly it changes how everyone looks at you. When you are overweight, you are treated as less than a person. People dismiss you as being invaluable because they disrespect how you look. Not all people, but a lot of people.

I am also asked quite frequently if I would would advise people to go through with the surgery and my answer is always, "yes" but I also follow it up with the advice that before you have gastric bypass you have to arm yourself with information, weigh the pros and cons and then really think about whether or not you can live with the lifelong changes you have to make in order to be successful. Often you don't have a choice, challenging your body causes bad reactions and after dumping a few really bad times you learn, you are not in control, your body now controls you. It's a life altering decision. One I'm glad I made.

The fat girl still lives inside of me, she always will. The way we're treated in life really shapes who we become. The mistreatment I received as an overweight girl taught me to be tolerant of the stupidity that other people can display, taught me to respect the differences in people and to be kind, even to those who sometimes didn't deserve it. All in all, being fat made me a better person... if that makes any sense...

If you're interested in Gastric Bypass surgery check out www.obesity.com. There is a ton of information out there and it's a really helpful site!

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