As I am about to enter my 2nd year with APHSA, I have had some time to reflect on what the past 42 months has meant both personally and professionally. First, I can’t believe it has been 42 months (and most importantly December 13), that I checked in at Fair Oaks Hospital for life-changing surgery with the team from Blue Point Surgical. Under the direction of Dr. Amir Moazzez, I underwent having bariatric surgery with the election that is known as the sleeve surgery where 85% of a person’s stomach is removed.
For more years than I care to remember, I was the chubby (yes, fat), funny girl that worked hard to be one of the crowd. I was living a great life but struggled privately with many health issues – anxiety, sleep apnea, PCOS, always being tired, IBS, low back pain, addiction to food (I always wanted something to eat), leg pains – however, even with this private struggle I worked tirelessly to be healthy. From as early as I can remember, doctors would say – eat less, move more – it takes time and dedication. How does one move more when they are tired and in pain most of the time? You don’t. You come to accept that this is the way life is and will be. Then bariatric surgery was introduced to the world.
I watched a couple of friends go through the early surgeries with success but never felt I was a candidate. For years, as indicated in earlier posts, I read about the advances with this type of surgery as I was curious if it really worked.
I had moved to VA for my career which meant a new set of doctors. One suggested that I have sleep study done which lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Now added to my pills was a cPap machine. However, I started noticing that I had a bit more energy and at least was getting some solid rest plus even lost a few pounds. I found that I was working harder to eat better and move a bit more but was always in pain because when you are carrying close to 300 pounds on your joints they aren’t too happy – and – they will rebel. I found that I was going to the doctor more often – it seemed that we just couldn’t find a cause for the pain – except for the weight. Being assured that I was not alone in the quest and that I was a candidate for surgery, my doctor encouraged me to go an informational meeting – no strings attached, no commitments – just go and listen. Being a bit skeptical that I was truly a candidate, I didn’t go right away. A side note: during this time period another industry peer had this surgery done. I watched quietly as I saw her successful progress.
The “straw” that broke me was taking narcotics 3x a day while doing a meeting in July 2010. I either had to do something drastic or change careers. Physically I just simply could not do what I loved doing as it was too physically difficult. I was exhausted not only from the long hours but from the pain that I experienced every day. I couldn’t get across a trade show floor or run up the stairs without being totally out of breath. There were times that I would become so flushed from pushing myself that colleagues and attendees would think something was wrong with me. But I could not do my share – I had to prove that the fat girl could carry her share of responsibilities. Within a week of that meeting, I went to the informational meeting that changed my life.
Has the road been easy? Yes and no. Let me explain. Yes, as I quickly accepted that what the doctors were saying. I need to do as they were instructing and be present for every moment of this new journey. It was THE journey that would change my life, my career and my future. I work in a profession where dining out and cocktails are a regular course of life. It is during these times that I struggle with my surgery…I want to be social but food is still a trigger…so I struggle when I am out with friends and colleagues for a dinner where there are multiple courses and lots of cocktails – a couple drinks (if that) and a few bites of an appetizer – I am full. If I overeat, it comes back to haunt me. If I drink without eating, I am plastered within the first drink. I am still learning the balance as I don’t want food or drink to control my life again.
The positive results outweigh the struggles or negatives. I am free of five medications and the cPap machine. I am not in constant pain. I can wear a size 10/12 (down from 24/26). I can walk into almost any story now and buy clothes off of the rack – current trends and fashionable clothes – I am not any longer relegated to the few plus size racks. My blood pressure is the best it has ever been my entire life. I can run a 12 – 14 minute mile – never ran before. Finished walking a half marathon and raising funds for LLS and have done five additional races. Continue to find opportunities to add a walk or run to my day with my wonderful dog, Bentley. I can sit in the exit row on an airplane – and – I am on them a lot these days (translation – no seat belt extender). I don’t get the “look” when I am sitting next to someone now – and – if you are overweight, you understand what I am speaking about.
I work every day to make smart (and smarter) choices. I work on the “voices” in my head when I get tired and want to eat whatever I can find rather than taking five minutes to think it through. I struggle to not to become obsessive about the numbers on the scale. I weigh myself every day as a method for me to check myself.
Over the past 42 months, I have had moments where I cried uncontrollably … out of joy and disbelief. I never thought I would ever be smaller than I was in high school. And turn heads? Right that happens to the cute ones not to the fat girl – yes, I am experiencing that phenomena as it happens now from time to time. I still see the “fat” girl in the mirror and work tirelessly to make sure she doesn’t reappear.
I have also had many moments where I experienced such wonderful support and encouragement from friends and family. My father, who is 80, made my day when he hugged me Easter 2012 and lifted me off the ground – it was an overwhelming moment. The pride on his face was worth any amount of pain that i endured for the surgery. When I attended Expo! Expo! in 2012 and people didn’t recognize me – totally overwhelming – I learned from that experience to always have photos to share with those who wondered what all the fuss was about. Jane Dahlroth who went through this journey with me and continues to do so. Susan Haning who is responsible for getting me addicted to running/walking competitively. Chris who is learning new ways to cook and understand that pasta, rice and pork are not part of my diet any longer. Friends who check in on me from afar and send me notes of encouragement. My sister, Janell, who stood by me when others thought I was taking an easy way out to lose weight. My “village” will always continue to be a part of my journey…I could not have done it [cannot do it] without you.
I still love to cook and continue to add to my cookbook collection. I eat just about anything I want except for pork, pasta and rice. I eat more protein than carbs. I drink less alcohol now. I drink more water and green tea. I enjoy going out with friends as long as I can plan ahead regarding menus.
When I think about what the last 42 months have been like here are some words that describe this journey
Amazing. Wonderful. Blessed. Supported. Encouraged. Struggle(s). Work. Surprise. Positive. Strength. Impressed. Challenge(s). Hard. Emotional. Happy. Sad. Shift. Game Changer.
I trust that as you read this post you will be inspired to take control of your life or at least an area…make a shift, cause a change, become the person that is hidden below/behind the facade…you will not only change who you are but you will be able to impact someone around you — many times without even knowing that you have done so.