My History

Everyone groans when someone says they have a genetic predisposition to being fat. However, it’s pretty true for a lot of us, and that’s why we survived famine for thousands of years. Lots of people can fight their tendency to be overweight, but I clearly couldn’t. When I was 18 and 19, I was in two pretty bad car accidents which hurt my back quite a lot. It was hard to walk, let alone exercise. I battled some pretty deep depression during my 20s,  and looked into Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) when I was about 24. I weighed 240 then, and decided against it. Decided I would try Weight Watchers or Atkins since regular low fat/low calorie wasn’t working for me.

So I wasted my entire 20’s on diets that could never get me lower than a 40 BMI, and that added extra pounds on the regain. Low fat diets seemed to exacerbate my depression, though I did Weight Watchers with no cheating for 3 years. I stalled at a BMI of about 41 and could never get lower. Atkins was more successful and I wasn’t depressed, but I still couldn’t get lower than a 40 BMI.

I went back to looking into WLS when I turned 30. I hit 300 lbs on my 30th birthday and realized that I’d be 400 by my 40th at this rate. I had a very obese granny who died that year from diabetes complications, and that fueled my decision to do WLS. I saw it as a last resort, but a critical need.

I first started looking into the lap-band because I thought it might be safer. Being a grad student, I did tons of research. I talked to people who had the procedure, I looked up articles on pubMed, I read blogs from people who had it. It did not seem very safe or effective at all. In fact, I would consider it the worst WLS, and I hope they will end it, but somehow I doubt they will. There’s too much money involved.

I then looked into the RNY, and I wasn’t very excited about losing my pyloric valve or having a blind stomach. That seemed hard to live with. Plus, when I found out I’d have to live on a Weight Watchers-esque diet probably, I was depressed just thinking about it. Those were dark days for me, and I wasn’t keen to do it for life.

I then heard about the VSG and the DS from a poster at 3FatChicks. That forum wasn’t very pro-WLS, but I was so lucky to hear from someone who pointed me in the direction of ObesityHelp.com. I was overwhelmed with the information, and it took about 3 months (while working and going to school) to decide that WLS was indeed for me, and that the DS was the right surgery for me.

This blog will talk about some of the things I had to go through to get surgery, and my post-op life.

The Easy Way Out

I think people say “old fashioned way” or “the hard way” because there is something ingrained about self-punishment.

Some people look at fat folks and think, oh, you got yourself like that, now you have to work to pain and misery to get yourself out of that mess. It’s your fault. You deserve it. This is what they actually think, and indeed, this is what many fat folks think too, sadly.

But do people do the same for heart patients? liver transplant patients? alcoholics? smokers? drug addicts? the depressed?

Saying, “Just eat less and exercise more” or “lose weight the old fashioned way” is akin to telling someone who is clinically depressed to just snap out of it. Yet people completely understand and encourage it when a clinically depressed person takes medication or goes to therapy.

For some reason our society hates fat people more than any other sort of person. So many fat people take on this guilt and simply say, yes, yes, we deserve it. We’ll take on the pain like a trooper. We’ll just eat something and forget for a little bit.

As for the lauded “old fashioned way”, what’s the point of that? Modern science, modern doctors, modern Obesity experts all agree that surgery is a viable and successful option for the morbidly obese. Why must we pretend like Amish medicine is somehow more valiant? Trudging through it like a Gauntlet is somehow superior?

Ever hear this one? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.” Remind anyone else of dieting? It sure reminds me of Weight Watchers, rounds 1 to 4.

It’s estimated that 2-5% of morbidly obese people ever lose all their weight and keep it off. Let’s consider this in a different way:

Route A: Taking the highway to town will take 1.5 hours and you will sit in standstill traffic for most of it. You have only a 2-5% chance of getting there on time for your appointment. There is a good chance you will be so late that you will miss your appointment and have to reschedule it again.

Route B: Taking some other route, it will take you 30 minutes to get to work, you’ll be mostly moving for the majority of the ride, and you have a 70-80% chance of getting to your appointment on time. There is a low chance that you will have to reschedule your appointment.

Both routes travel approximately the same distance and in the long run cost about the same. You’ve driven Route A a few times before, and have never actually made your appointments. Why in the WORLD would you not take Route B?

Stubborn Pride? Fear? Shame? This is stupid. We’re human, this is the 21st century, and this is how we currently treat this problem. It’s science.

When people say, “Did you do it the old fashioned way or did you just get surgery (snark snark snark)?”

Reply with: “I did it the smart way.”

Because you did.

Stuff I won’t miss: Gallstones

History:
I have serious gallstones and gallstone “sludge” right now. I have had gall bladder problems since I was 17 years old. I was only a BMI of 30 at the time, but I remember having a few bad attacks due to eating my family’s favorite fatty foods. At the time, I didn’t know what the pain was from, I just went to sleep. But after this happened a few times in a month causing me to miss school, my mom took me in and they diagnosed it as gall bladder problems and told me to eat salad. Seriously, that’s all they said.

For a few years, it came and went, mostly gone but would usually come back if I ate something particularly fatty, but this was still only a 5-10% risk, and it had no real pattern. One day I might be ok with Popeye’s Chicken, the next day it would go off with a cheese baked potato. The next week that might reverse.

My first serious attack, I thought I was having a heart attack. I had never felt pain that bad. It was after Christmas break in 2009, and I was sitting at my computer after dinner late at night. I thought I had indigestion. It became worse and worse until I threw up and passed out. I am not exaggerating, I actually passed out. I thought I had eaten something wrong, so I treated it like that. My family thought so too. Looking back, I realize it was my first serious gall bladder attack.

The gall bladder problem that I thought was just a nuisance, has become torture. In the past year, it has become a serious threat, and it is one of the many reasons that I am getting WLS.

Frequency:
Currently, I have a serious attack about once a month. I can have a near-attack 2-3 times a month. I always have a dull pain in my upper right part of my body, even when I am not having an attack.

Anatomy of an Attack:
It begins with a pain in the dead center of the stomach, just under the ribs. Sometimes my upper right side starts to twinge as well, as if it’s spasming. A slight nausea starts to creep in, like I ate something off. A sudden and brief “greasy” diarrhea may occur at the same time.

At this point it will either progress into a full attack or subside. I figure it progresses about 1/3rd of the time.*

Progression of the attack is obvious within 15-30 minutes. A cold sweat develops with altered breathing, sometimes rapid, sometimes very deep. The nausea grows until I need to throw up. It’s a definite need because I literally cannot keep anything inside me without being in intense agony. The pain and nausea is unreal.

The intense nausea is ultimately followed by violently vomiting. The vomiting is so intense that it’s comical, like something out of an exorcist movie.  I have become accustomed to cleaning puke out of the back part of the toilet.

At this point, I am light headed and overcome with exhaustion. I have slept for 16 hours after a serious attack.

Likelihood of other Attacks:
If I have an attack that subsides after the brush with nausea, then I am much more likely to have a serious attack within the next 3 days. In fact, every time I have had a serious attack, I have had a minor attack only a day or two before.

Diagnosis:
In May 2010, my doctor officially diagnosed me with gallstones. A lot of them. She said they would not be able to go through my gallbladder duct due to the size, and recommended surgery. She said if I could have my DS soon, I should get them at the same time.

Treatment and Medication:
If I am in the first stage of the attack, I try to walk and drink warm tea. I like to drink a white tea, hibiscus or sometimes just regular English breakfast tea. It needs to be warm to hot. I try to walk as much as I can. I also try to do very basic stretches before the nausea gets too bad. I take this very easy on myself and do not stretch if I am in pain already. I will then lay down on a heating pad on my right side and try to rest in a darkened (but not black) room with a trash bin nearby in case I do get worse. If I need to throw up, I know it will make me feel better. Sometimes I do have to facilitate that in order to get my heart rate down due to the panic of the attack.

Taking antacids make me throw up immediately. My doctor prescribed Compazine, which only succeeds in making me sleep, and does not stop the nausea. I have to take it rectally because if I take it orally, it will almost always cause the attack to get worse.

My doctor didn’t want to prescribe anything more to treat the pain because she was worried I wouldn’t come in if I had an attack that required immediate surgery. I wanted to get it removed but she advised me to wait until I have the WLS so I could get them both at the same time.

Trigger Foods and Prevention:
I used to be able to prevent the attacks by eating low-fat foods. However, now that I have actual gallstones and gall bladder “sludge”, I can get an attack for little reason. Moving too much, or getting stressed out can cause it as much as food. I’ve eaten simple low-fat foods and still had an attack. However, I do try to watch the fat intake. Especially with fried food.

WLS:
I plan to have my gallbladder removed at the same time as my DS. This is one of the things I look forward to the most. I used to be able to eat without fear. Now I dread my gallbladder with every meal.

Update:
I had the gallbladder removed in October 2010, and could not have been happier. No complications or problems since. However, it did make my DS longer due to the adhesions.

Goodbye, Granny

Yesterday, my granny died. She was 78 years old, and morbidly obese with diabetes, strokes, and other problems. She was classic southern in her obesity, and carried probably 400 lbs on average. Most of that side of my family is either very fat or very thin, and everyone who is very thin is either an alcoholic or a severe, criminal drug addict. I suppose everyone is addicted to something.

I’m 30 years old now, and on my birthday, I weighed exactly 300 lbs. I now weigh 315 lbs, halfway through the year. I’m not eating differently than I did in December, or last June. My feet swell up painfully now, and it’s difficult for me to walk or stand for more than 5 minutes.

I was on weight watchers strictly for several years, eating no more than my allotted points, and lost about 40 lbs and maintained at 240-250 regularly. I stopped weight watchers thinking that I was hopeless. Thinking I’d end up like my granny because that’s my genes, and that’s my fate. Figuring I was never going to find someone unless my family set me up, and that I wasn’t worth it anyway since I’d only live to maybe 50 if I was lucky.

I looked at weight loss surgery first back in 2004 before I went on Atkins. I went to the clinic at my hospital for bariatric surgery, and they explained the RNY. It was very superficial in explanation, and I thought it seemed too rushed and barbaric in their presentation. I did Atkins for about a year, lost 60 lbs and felt great. But found it difficult to continue after a 6 month stall.

Here I am in 2010, and I’ve decided that the DS is my only choice left. I’ve tried diets, weight watchers, Atkins, the cabbage soup diet, slim fast, medi-fast, South Beach… lowest I got was 226 when I was on Atkins and exercising 2-3 hours a day.

So, here is is. Goodbye, Granny. I love you, but I will make my own fate.