Turn and face the strange

Me in Harlem

Me at 54 — April 2016

I’ve been debating with myself about making this public.  Not that this blog gets a lot of traffic, but entries are open to everyone, including folks who wander this way from Facebook and know me IRL, and I never know who might be stopping by based on a Google search.  But I finally decided that since it’s such a major thing, and will affect everything I do from this point forward, it’s best to just put it out there so future blog entries have context.

I am scheduled to have bariatric surgery on December 27.

There.  Said it.  Whew.

People are always surprised if I tell them how much I actually weigh:  for good or bad, I don’t really look like I weigh more than 200 lbs.  But I do.  And I’m only 5 feet tall.

I’ve struggled with my weight for years: decades, really; and over time the pounds just kept creeping up and adding on, no matter what I did.  Several years ago, I had to go on high blood pressure medication, and blood tests over the last two or three years show my blood sugar levels are increasing to the point that I am now considered “pre-diabetic”.  Here’s the thing:  I can lose weight.  I’ve done it many times.  I’ve read all the books, tried all the diets, and lost weight on all of them.  But I can’t keep it off.  No sooner than I stop the regimented food plan and go back to my admittedly not terrific but not entirely unhealthy normal way of eating, the weight jumps back on.  I can’t keep it off without stringent adherence to a severely rigid food regimen.  And that’s no way to live.

age19

Me at 19 — 1981ish

I had been considering weight loss surgery for a couple of years, but hesitated.  I even went to a seminar offered by a respected local surgeon late last year; when the seminar was over, they asked me when I wanted to schedule an appointment.  I said I wanted to think about it a little longer.  It’s a major surgery that rearranges your insides forever.  That’s frightening.

And surely the next diet would be the one that worked.

Six months later, having lost 10 lbs and regained 15, I read this article in the New York Times.  Go read it; then come back.

Okay, yeah,  it’s long, so for the TL:DR crowd, the gist of the article is if you are heavy and have been heavy for a while, your brain has reset your “normal”, and any diet and exercise attempt to lose weight and fall below that “normal” is doomed to failure.  Neuroscience, not willpower, baby.

That did it.  I called the surgeon the next day and scheduled an appointment.

In the doctor’s office, while talking about why I was there, I started sobbing.  She looked at me and asked, “Why are you so sad?”

Oh god.

“Because I’ve tried so hard, and failed so many times. I’m tired of living like this; I’m afraid of getting diabetes; I hate the way I feel; and I just don’t have anywhere else to turn.”

“It’s not your fault,” she said.  But it was.  It’s always been my fault.  That’s what my head tells me.  That’s what society tells me.  That’s what all the articles in all the women’s magazines tell me.  That’s what the sideways glances and rolled eyes from strangers tell me.

Excuse me, I need a tissue.

~~~~

Okay. So.  I leave the surgeon’s office with a plan.  Lots of pre-op clearances to secure: cardiologist; nutritionist; pulmonologist; psychologist; support group attendance; sign-off from my GP; blood work; upper GI — I’ve had more doctors’ appointments in this past six months than I think I’ve had in the past six years.  And there were delays.  Starting the process in May as I did, I expected to have everything taken care of by August or September and have surgery by late autumn.  But noooo.  First, I had to have more nutritional consultations than they told me the first time around.  Then the pulmonologist wanted to do a sleep study.  Turns out I have sleep apnea and they wanted me on a CPAP machine for several weeks before they would issue the clearance.

When I finally got all of the appointments out of the way and every provider said they had issued my clearances, I called the surgeon’s office.  The patient coordinator said she didn’t have the note from my GP.  I called the GP’s office.  They faxed it over.  A few days later, I called again.  This time they didn’t have the pulmonary clearance or the clearance from my GP.  I called the pulmonary clinic and my GP again.  They faxed the clearances.  A week or so later, I called once more.  “We don’t have the clearance from your GP.”  “For crying out loud, woman, my GP has sent that to you three times!  Do I have to hand carry it in?”  I called my GP one more time; they faxed it while I was on the phone; I called the patient coordinator and said,”It’s sitting on  your fax machine right now. Go get it.”

That was the middle of November.  They called me the first Friday of December and said surgery was scheduled for December 27.  *HUGE sigh of relief*  I was afraid it wouldn’t be scheduled until January and I’ve have to meet my deductibles all over again.

Last week I told my supervisor and boss, who were aware this was an upcoming thing, that we had a definite surgery date and we began the process of getting approval for me to take a month off work for recovery.  I bought all the vitamins and protein drinks I’m going to need for the initial week or so of the recovery process, and started planning out the very particular eating regime I must follow for the first several weeks.

Today I had a pre-op appointment with my surgeon to go over some paperwork and pre-op instructions; and a meeting with the anesthesiologist to go over some more paperwork and more pre-op instructions.  It’s really happening.  It’s really happening.

It’s really happening.

I’ve spent the last six months convincing myself to believe that my weight isn’t my fault.  That’s hard to say, much less take to heart, when I’ve spent the last 20 years telling myself it is.  And while I don’t expect to get back the figure I had at 19, I do expect to lose enough to see my collarbones again.  Eventually.

This is how I will do it.  I’ll keep you posted.

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