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Gastric Bypass Surgery
"Life is simply 110 percent better"
Denice | October 2019
My story begins at the age of 7 when I was placed on my first diet. I was a plump girl who liked to eat sweets. This first diet and the shame I felt from my family imbedded me with the “fat girl mindset.” Ever since, I felt as if I was always the heaviest girl in the room, even when it wasn’t true. My self-image was tainted from this point on.
During high school, I managed to keep my weight in check by participating in sports and using diet pills. However, my weight ballooned after graduation. I tried every fad diet that came along. The only one that I had some success with was the Diet Center in my mid-twenties. I dropped 88 pounds and weighed about 115 at my smallest; finally, I felt normal. Unfortunately, I had not learned the lesson of changing my mindset to keep the weight off, and I regained the pounds and then some more.
During my thirties and forties, I pretty much resigned to being overweight and did little to improve my health. I thought I was a lost cause, and I felt fairly worthless because of the weight and the stigma that comes with being overweight. I worked at a papermill; life wasn’t particularly exciting, but I was trying to make the best of it. At this time, the Atkins diet helped me lose 50 pounds, which was helpful for the job. However, I again didn’t keep it off because I didn’t change my habits.
My parents wanted me to have bariatric surgery, which was just becoming widely known. My response was a firm “no” because I foolishly thought I knew how to manage my weight problem. After all, I had proven I could lose weight, so I didn’t think surgery was necessary. Unfortunately, I had several work-related injuries, and two of them eventually caused the doctors to state I couldn’t return to mill. After 19 years on the job, I had to find a different way to earn a living. I know my size was a major contributing factor for the injuries
Being in your forties and having to reinvent yourself is a daunting task. Because I was using Labor and Industry benefits, I was enrolled for worker retraining at a local community college. One instructor took particular interest in my development and helped me in many ways to successfully rebuild my life; however, she also consistently brought up the weight issue. Here I was doing everything I could to be a star student, and my size was still a point of contention.
Yes, I was large, extra large to be honest. I wore a size 3x (24-26) at the time and felt I was about as wide as I am tall. Here is the thing: Don’t others realize obese people know they have a weight problem? After all, we live in our bodies. We feel the pain of being obese every single day. For years, I needed to use a seat belt extension if I went on a commercial airline. I had torn meniscus repair on both knees. At one point, I needed to use a cane because of knee pain. I used scooters at the grocery store and at the fair because walking was too painful from the surgeries.
Eventually, my size increased to needing to wear a 4x (28-30) in some clothes. I stand a little over 5 feet tall, so being that wide makes moving difficult. At my heaviest, I would seriously consider how badly I needed to use the restroom because I knew just standing would cause knee pain. I went on vacation and wheezed my way around to see the sights. My gait was more of totter, side-to-side, because my legs were so large that I couldn’t walk normally. Life was becoming too difficult to live.
Being obese wreaks havoc on the body. I wheezed because I had developed a serious condition called pulmonary hypertension due to having sleep apnea and being obese. I was on blood pressure medicine since I was 29 years old. I have an enlarged heart and was dangerously close to developing Type 2 Diabetes. Every single day I woke up thinking about needing to lose weight and how much I didn’t want to have the health issues that other family members dealt with. My lowest point at my heaviest was having my 80-year-old father taking care of me. I thought this is cannot be; I am supposed to take care of him.
The summer of 2017, I decided I had to make a change or I would be in a wheelchair. My ability to walk was that compromised. I saw a Facebook ad for Eviva and started investigating. I watched the videos and looked at the website. I watched more YouTube videos, and then I decided to make the call. I was immediately connected and had my consultation with Dr. Eric Harris on July 27, 2017, set before I could change my mind. I asked a trusted friend to go with me to my consultation, which was helpful. A few strong support people is extremely helpful for your success.
Dr. Harris assured me that obesity is a disease; this was the first time I had been told that. I wasn’t shamed and blamed. He gave me hope that I could change my life and improve my health. Dr. Harris explained the different surgeries and recommended Roux-en-Y gastric bypass because I had GERD.
That same day, I met with Lisa who coordinated my care. She made me feel welcomed, too, and Lisa knew exactly what my insurance would cover and how many visits I needed before having surgery. I discovered my cost for surgery and care would be affordable, which was the last barrier to my having surgery. In addition, I appreciated the personal phone calls from Lisa to organize my visits with the nutritionist and to set the dates for pre-op and surgery.
I challenged myself to lose 50 pounds following the supervised diet, which I accomplished. Surgery was March 27, 2018, and it was successful. The biggest challenge I had post-op was dealing with an unknown umbilical hernia. The staff responded to my calls for help, and another doctor covered my care since Dr. Harris was unavailable. Truly, the team showed compassion and was helpful to get the pain under control. If I hadn’t had the hernia, I believe my recovery would have been nearly pain free. The actual bypass surgery gave me little recovery problems.
The Eviva nutritionists educate you on what to eat, how much, and how often. This was critical information, and they really made sure that I understood the expectations. Following surgery, I appreciated checking in with the nutritionist to keep me accountable and to ensure that I was on track for a successful outcome. The first year, follow-up care is essential for your success.
To date, I have lost 176 pounds, and I am successfully keeping it off because I finally learned the lesson of changing my mindset to change my habits. This journey is a marathon, not a sprint. I am in this for life. My clothing has dropped ten sizes. Ten sizes! My mind is still catching up with the idea that I am wearing such small sizes. At times, I look at my clothes in awe because, even though I know they will fit, I have a hard time conceptualizing that. My mindset is still changing, and change takes time.
Summer 2019 was a glorious one for me. Dr. Harris is also a plastic surgeon, and he removed excess skin from my arms. I am very happy to have normal sized arms now; I no longer hide them in long sleeves and went sleeveless this summer for the first time in years. Also, I took a 16-day road trip and hiked 14 miles through three national parks. Hiking is a new hobby and doing that many miles was a breakthrough for me. Considering my lack of mobility before surgery, I am quite pleased with my walking and hiking. Also, I am happy to be able purchase clothing from any store and that my clothing expense has decreased because I no longer purchase from a specialty store. My ring size changed too! I went from a 9.5 ring size to a 6. My shoe size went from 8EE to 8M.
One of the best things about my weight loss is being viewed as normal sized and healthy. Many people have made comments about how healthy I look. I like being able to slide into a restaurant booth, instead of asking for an armless chair. The other best thing about my weight loss is that I have reclaimed my health. I truly thought I was headed toward an early grave. I stopped my medications the day before surgery and have not taken them since. My blood pressure is normal, and I don’t have GERD anymore. After losing 160 pounds, I quit using my CPAP machine because, frankly, it was a nuisance and disrupted my sleep. Recently, a friend asked me how I feel since this massive weight loss has happened; I feel as if I am in my thirties. The constant pain is gone! I can move and go places without worrying if I will fit the chair or if I can climb the stairs.
Life is simply 110 percent better, and I am grateful that I clicked on Eviva’s Facebook ad two years ago.
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