Sunday, September 13, 2009

How It All Started

I've always hated blogs and vowed never to start one. They are typically filled with self-centered, egomaniacal drivel. Then why did I feel compelled to go against all that I hold true? It was a trip to Catherine's plus size clothing store last Sunday afternoon. As I was picking through the clearance rack looking for something that had the vigor of Spanx but the price of pantyhose, I noticed an older woman entering the store and immediately heading for a chair placed beside the cash registers. The short walk from the car to the store had taken its toll on her. It was a feeling I could remember well.

I went to the check-out with my chosen item (Serenada high-waisted thigh shaper - HIGHLY recommended for under skirts with the added benefit of keeping back fat in check). The woman had started up a casual conversation with the Catherine's workers from the comfort of her chair. She was having gastric bypass surgery next month. She said many things but I can't quite recall what made me chime in and say, "I had it (gastric bypass) myself 4 years ago." The woman looked at my 300+ pound frame, tried to stifle a look of surprise and said, "Really? How did it work for you?"

This question began a 20 minute conversation about my experience with weight loss surgery and what I've learned to be true for me, about me, about the many things I did wrong or wasn't ready for or didn't want to accept. As I looked at this poor, winded woman's face she reminded me so much of my own overweight mother. I had to tell her my story. I wanted her to know even though I'd never said many of these things out loud before. She shared many details about her failing health, multiple heart issues and that her doctor assured her that RNY was her last chance at living. Could this be true for her? Maybe. There is one thing I will likely say again and again during the life of this site - I am not a doctor. I will never give medical advice or judge anyone for the decisions they have made. I am many things, but a hypocrite is not one of them.

As we continued to chat her eyes had a look of hope while her words conveyed that she was not ready for it. She was not ready to change her life to save her life. I told the pertinent bits of my story and what I now know to be true:
  1. People are fat for different reasons. If you don't reconcile the underlying issues/causes/environment that led to your current size, you will stay fat.
  2. You can jump through all of the hoops to get your insurance to approve your surgery - I said what I needed to say and did whatever I needed to do to get it done (sleep study? sure!) - but insurance approval alone does not mean you are ready for the surgery.
  3. Your doctor will have you believe that you will implode like a Monty Python movie if you even dare look at a Diet Coke, loaf of Sourdough or bag of M&Ms after the surgery. This is a lie. I eat whatever I want. If you want to eat a can of frosting post-op, you are going to eat a can of frosting. If you eat until you feel sick now, dumping syndrome simply shortens the lag time.
  4. Gastric bypass surgery is a tool. An awesome tool that, when leveraged appropriately, can have outstanding, lasting results. At the core of that tool is YOU. You make the decision about what to put into your mouth and you make the decision to put on your Nikes and go for a walk. YOU decide.

Sadly, the last revelation is that I would do it all again. Despite being a failure at using the surgery as the tool I profess it to be, I would have easily gained back 3X my starting weight had I not had the surgery. At the end of my story the woman had a concerned look on her face. She confessed that she felt like her doctor was pressuring her to do something she didn't want to do - especially because her heart might not survive the surgery. I wanted to hug her. Today we speak of weight loss surgery like we do Botox or Fraxel facials. As obesity has become our epidemic, the bypass has become our fad. The Catherine's cashier handed my bag to me then and said, "My aunt's just like you. She had the surgery and it didn't work."

It was that statement that started this blog. I am not alone. I am not an anomaly.

In the end, I wished the dear woman the best of luck and hoped that everything went well for her. As I left the store I felt like I had purged something out of me by finally being honest about my surgery. I wish someone had that same conversation with me on December 27, 2005. Would I have done things differently? I hope so. It may have still ended with having the surgery, but maybe not. We can each only deal with where we are TODAY and what we choose to do about it.

Today I am making a choice to speak up.