Weight Loss Surgery: My Journey And Results
Written by Michelle Lee,
The moment had come when I started looking into having weight loss surgery.
After speaking with friends who had previously undergone the surgery, I decided to research the different procedures and find out everything that I possibly could.
I needed to know which route was best suited for me. After extensive research, I eliminated the options down to the gastric sleeve procedure because the upkeep of the lap band was too demanding for me.
The next step in the process was to call the insurance agency and find out what coverage they offered. To my shock, I learned that the surgery was covered one hundred percent as long as I met certain criteria — high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and BMI scale; needless to say, I passed the test with flying colors.
I was given instructions for the following months leading up to the weight loss surgery; I would need to meet with my doctor for specific weight loss appointments, as well as meet with a nutritionist for three consecutive months before I would be approved for the surgery.
My journey to get healthier took a drastic turn.
Everything seemed like it was on the right track until I received the blow that no one can prepare for.
I had the first appointment with my primary care doctor on lock down, fully expecting to discuss the impending weight loss journey that I was about to embark upon — little did I know that it was going to be about an entirely different kind of journey.
Unbeknownst to me, my world was about to be turned inside out by the diagnosis of breast cancer.
My plans came to a screeching halt the moment I got the dreaded call that no one ever wants to receive — “Your mammogram is bad.”
No longer was my focus on meeting insurance requirements, it was on fighting breast cancer.
Since getting diagnosed with breast cancer, my oncologist would frequently hound me on how important it was to lose weight. Being overweight only added to my chances of recurrence, especially with being one hundred percent estrogen positive.
I had to make a change or the odds would be stacked against me.
Suddenly, everyone magically sprouted medical degrees and told me their opinions on my diet and the measures I needed to take for losing weight. Some recommended the juice cleanse, others told me that I had to use Plexus. The list goes on.
I know they meant well, but I was focused on getting through one day at a time, one surgery at a time, and one chemo treatment at a time.
During that period, I ate every damn piece of red velvet cheesecake that was brought to me. Between the stress of breast cancer and losing my old job, life took a turn for the worse. My emotional eating was at an all-time high.
All that cheesecake, and let’s be honest, a whole plethora of other kinds of cakes and cookies, landed me with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
I was starting to feel like a walking time bomb.
Moving forward from rock bottom.
Once I was on the other side of breast cancer (I endured 7 surgeries, 16 chemo treatments, 33 radiation treatments, and a lifetime of hormone suppressors) I started looking into weight loss surgery again.
Shortly after having seven surgeries related to my breast cancer, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wasn’t in any frame of mind to go through another surgery. I just wanted to live my life with no health issues.
Until my oncologist said the words that would forever change my life.
“You won’t live to see 70 if you don’t lose the weight, it’s time for you to have weight loss surgery.”
She had my attention. Seventy no longer seemed that far off.
After the appointment, I rushed home to call the insurance agency. My husband had switched jobs by this point, and along with the new job came a different health care plan. After a distressful conversation, I discovered that they didn’t cover the procedure, regardless of the medical necessity.
Here I was 48 years old, having recently kicked breast cancer just to find out that I could die. By the time my husband came home from work, I was an emotional mess. He wrapped his arms around me and told me that we would figure it out. He was right.
After taking out a hefty medical loan, I ended up having weight loss surgery three weeks later — with no nutritional counseling before or after.
One year later.
I am now approaching the one year mark, also known as the surgery-versary. I’m down 92 pounds. I feel great, I have an abundance of energy, and am amazed at the transformation that my outer self is making; my inner self, however, is still a work in progress — I still want that red velvet cheesecake.
The night before surgery, I picked out an outfit to take a photo in. I took pictures in that outfit each month to document my progress. I did this with the hopes that I would be able to look back and see how far I have come, and am so glad that I did!
The truth about weight loss surgery.
Weight loss surgery doesn’t “fix” anything, it’s just a tool. A very serious tool that needs to be maintained. The head hunger, bored eating, and emotional eating do not go away — they are still there. You just have to learn how to deal with the cravings.
I still make poor choices sometimes, but I am trying.
Because I did not go through all the nutritional counseling prior to surgery, or meet with a nutritionist post-surgery, I missed out on some valuable information.
I wish I had known the importance of staying hydrated, I’ve had three kidney stones since my surgery just under a year ago. In talking with my urologist and doing some research, I’ve learned that not drinking enough water is a surefire way to get kidney stones, especially after having a gastric sleeve surgery.
I did not know that my hair would thin out dramatically. Having already lost my hair once due to chemo treatments, I was horrified. Thankfully it was short-lived, but was enough to freak me out!
What I have gained from this journey.
I want to live beyond seventy, I want to continue to see my children grow and play with my grandbabies, and I want my sons to forget how heavy mom once was and now remember how great she looks. I want to be proud of my pictures instead of trying to position myself behind something in order to hide my body.
Shopping for clothes was an activity that I used to hate, but now has become enjoyable. I savor compliments now, when before I felt they were obligatory. I am enjoying life so much more!
Do I recommend weight loss surgery?
Yes, but only after you’ve exhausted all other options. Do yourself a favor, and see a nutritionist before and after surgery. I also recommend a stable exercise routine, even just walking 30 minutes a day. Get your heart rate up and drink your water! In the end, you have to be willing to put in the work.
Originally published at The Wisdonian.