When I came to the first introductory meeting for weight loss surgery back in 2015, I was scared, cautiously excited and I knew that this was my only option to live longer than a few more years. I knew without a dramatic change I wouldn’t be here for my mother, husband, children or grandchildren. The road leading to this point had been a long hard road full of many factors that were taking my life away from me little at a time until I felt helpless to do anything about it. To understand my journey you need to understand the beginning.
It started with a desk job after graduating from college and getting married. I put on a few extra pounds but like the proverbial frog in the nice warm water, I didn’t know that this was the beginning of a very hard road.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained another 40 pounds, and then had major depression after delivery, and I gained more. The next three pregnancies were very difficult. My body turned on me. With each pregnancy, the problems became increasingly worse. I was high risk with all but the first pregnancy. My heart was beating out of control. My average resting heartbeat was 110, and just standing up it shot up another thirty beats. By the last pregnancy I was on bed rest for the last three months because of heart problems, gallstones and early labor. Each time I had a child I felt a large part of my physical health wash away. By the time I was done with having my children, my body was not mine anymore.
Physically, it was so damaged that it was killing itself. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis in my back and knees, high blood pressure and my sugar levels were going up. My weight was out of control. Within 20 years, I had gone from 125 to 322 pounds.
The last four or five years my health declined rapidly. I could hardly get off of the couch. I would try to do all that I needed to do for my family, but I was kidding myself into thinking I was keeping up. Because of my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, there were more days than not that I could hardly do anything. I was exhausted and always in a great deal of pain throughout my body. No matter what kind of medication doctors would try, it hardly helped at all. I hated being on pain meds because that would take what little strength I had. I was on survival mode. Wake up, taken pain meds, have a bath, go lay down because that took all my energy, get up, do some dishes, vacuum, go lay down, get up, make dinner, take pain meds, go lay down and do a lot of crying. Then go to bed and do the same thing the next day. I really wasn’t living, and at that point I wasn’t even trying to cover it up with my family. I couldn’t any longer.
That is when my mother intervened. My dad had died that year and of course it was hard on all of us. But especially on my mom. She sat me down one day and told me she was afraid for my life. She had watched as my pain increased and I became more and more weak and tired. She said she could see that she was going to be burying me next and she couldn’t let that happen. She told me that she had received some money after dad passed away and she wanted to help me get the weight off. Whatever it took. She asked me if I had ever considered weight loss surgery. I said I had looked into it but it was extremely expensive and I had no insurance to pay for it. She said she would and I, at that point, said no way. I didn’t want her to spend so much money on me when I knew she should be keeping it for herself. I went home after our talk and talked to my husband. He sat me down and told me that he had resigned himself to knowing that he would not have me here for very much longer. He knew he would be alone without me, and it hurt him terribly.
I started crying. I really tried not to see the hurt on my families faces, tried not to remember all the activities that I had missed or had to sit and watch. How many times that my sweet husband had to pick up the slack at home, going shopping, helping me into the house, pushing me in a wheelchair, paring down our activities so that we could be together. And now this man that I loved more than anyone else was telling me he had thought about my death. I knew that I had thought about it and at times it sounded like a relief. But how could I leave my family at such a young age? At that point, I had four beautiful children with two of them married, and their spouses I consider my children too, eight grandchildren, a wonderful husband and my mom. I loved them and I wanted to see my youngest daughter and son get married, see my grandchildren grow up, spend time traveling and being one on one with my husband again when we were empty nesters. I wanted to be there for my mom and enjoy having more time with her. But, above all this, I needed my life back. Like that frog in the warm bath that gradually began to boil to death…I was being boiled to death and I needed to do something about it.
So, in 2015, my mom and I went to the introductory meeting. Dr. Sherman Smith was the one presenting and he became my doctor for my surgery. When I checked into St. Marks Hospital in June of 2015 for my gastric bypass, I was nervous but so excited about the possibility that this could give me my life back.
Now, I have to admit there were times throughout that first year that I wondered what in the world I had done to myself. I felt that I had just made things much worse. Nothing sounded good to eat. I threw up more in that year than I had with all of my pregnancies. Physically, my body was going through so much change so fast that for a time my problems seemed to get worse. But I was losing! Faster than I ever thought or imagined I could. The first thing that got better was my blood pressure and my blood sugar was no longer a problem. After the first 3 months or so, I started to have more energy and I noticed that I wasn’t spending my time on the couch. My clothes were falling off me and when I went to replace them, I was always at least a size smaller than I thought I was. That always lifted my spirits even though I was still pretty sick every time I tried to eat.
It was about six months out when I started going to the gym. What an amazing day that was. It scared me because every I had tried in the past it would put me down for days afterward and I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this new ever changing body of mine. But for the first time since college, I started feeling stronger not weaker. I felt my body responding to the exercises and movement. My husband started noticing that I was walking faster and I was stronger than I had been in years. Going grocery shopping was easier and didn’t take everything out of me.
I was smiling and laughing and engaged in my life and my family. One moment that actually made my daughter cry was at the park with my grand-kids. This park had everything! It had stairs to towers and platforms to look down from, a rope bridge, swings, slides and so many things to climb and have fun on. And guess who ran around with the kids all over that park. Me! Their grandma! My daughter couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Here was her mom that could hardly get up from the couch let alone climb up stairs and keep up with kids, doing just that. Now when I cry, it’s because of moments just like that day. I have my life back. I am living instead of barely surviving.
My husband is still amazed at the energy and vitality I have now. Bringing in groceries, climbing stairs, cleaning the house, getting down on the floor and enjoying playing with my grand-kids, just being able to have my shower and do my hair and makeup and immediately go and do whatever I need to do that day without having a nap first. I went from 322 pounds to 166. A total of 156 pounds, and I am 15 pounds from my goal weight. I still have arthritis and the fibro still has its moments, but these problems are not defining me anymore. They have taken a backseat. All this has been possible because of the gastric bypass surgery done by Dr. Smith, my mom that gave me the means to do it, the support of my sweet husband and family, and a lot of work by me. It hasn’t been easy and I have described that first year as hell. But would I do it all again…Hell ya!
Last year at this very place, I had another amazing moment. I got dressed up for the first time since surgery and came to this wonderful dinner and dance. For the first time in years I felt free. Free from a body that I felt literally trapped in. I felt healthy and because of that, I felt happy. Happy isn’t even the word for the way I felt. It was more than that. I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest or won an Olympic medal or had saved a life, my life. That night I danced like no one was watching. I laughed and cried when I realized that I was dancing the night away with the love of my life. I was so high that I couldn’t even think about going home until we were practically the last ones on the dance floor. And even after that we went to a restaurant and had a drink and talked some more.
All I can say is thank you! Thank you Dr. Smith. Thank you Mom. Thank you Ken and family. And thank you, DeNeise, me, for deciding to fight and not to give up.
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