A READER'S STORY
Weight Loss Surgery
Hi there. I am in my 40's and have been overweight most of my life but the past 10 years have been the worst. I have always been afraid of weight loss surgery and said it was never something I would do. I had heard horror stories on the internet about it and thought it was admitting failure to myself that I couldn't lose weight on my own. I would say "I got this way on my own and I'll lose it on my own".
But now I find myself at 430lbs and having a hard time doing normal things like walking, doing my groceries, getting off of the couch, etc. I can't do stairs at all anymore. Everything is just so difficult. And no matter how hard I try I cannot lose weight, I just keep getting heavier.
I have dreams. I want to travel to Rome and visit the Colosseum, Pantheon and other great sights, I want to visit Egypt and see the pyramids, and Australia and Japan and Machu Pichu in Peru. I cannot do this at my current weight and mobility. So, after alot of deliberation, discussions with an obesity doctor, with people who've had the surgery, my family and friends I have decided to have the surgery.
The first few months will be more of a waiting game than anything while I get insurance approval and everything set in motion. I will track here though every step of the process.
I am posting my progress and thoughts on my blog http://weightloss-diary.com/blog/.
Questions - If you have any questions please feel free to email the magazine and I'll try to answer them in the next issue.
October 30, 2009 - It's been another slow month with the weightloss and I've only lost 6lbs. I know I shouldn't complain - at least I didn't gain 6 lbs. I've been under alot of stress this month and that probably hasn'th helped matters. I've had to stop the exericising too as I found a mass in my belly. I am going for an ultrasound early November but the doctor thinks its more than likely a hernia which can happen after abdominal surgery. I hope I don't have to have more surgery. Will also be having a followup in November with the surgeon. Hair is still falling out but seems to have slowed a bit thankfully.
September 30, 2009 - Not sure why but it's been a very slow month in terms of weight loss. The last week my scales said I actually gained a few lbs. Not sure why. I get a bit depressed at times wondering where the 30lbs a month that I've heard so much about is. Only had one vomit session this month so that is good but had a few dumpings. I still need to learn to eat more slowly. The worst thing is the last week I have been losing my hair. I know I was told it was a possibility at about the 3 month mark but was hoping it wouldn't happen to me. Apparently it's your body's response to the stress of the surgery and the so few calories you are taking in the first few months. I dread brushing my hair in the morning because there is so much in the brush when I'm done and on me. It's only supposed to last a few months and there isn't much I can do about it. The nurse said I won't lose ALL of my hair and that it will grow back. Work has been very stressful so I am also wondering if that could be the cause of the very little weight loss.
August 31, 2009 - I lost 15 lbs this month. Not as fast as I hoped but at least I'm not gaining. Eating is going very well except for a few bouts of vomiting but that is to be expected, so they tell me, as I learn what my new stomach likes and doesn't like. My energy level is good and I am getting used to the serving size I now eat. I had my first dinner out at a restaurant and it was great (and I bought home a doggy bag that fed me for another 2 meals!). Like a friend said, I'm a cheap date now. Will be going to surgeon for another follow-up appointment mid September. Stay tuned!!
July 31, 2009 - Had my 3 week follow up on July 2 and had lost 10 of the 15 lbs I had gained. Not the weight loss I was looking for. The surgeon said he knew I was feeling frustrated and that I was still retaining water but that as the weight fell off that would go away and I just needed patience. Easy for him to say!! I've been adding more foods into my diet and as of July 18 could add normal foods but to be careful. A few things haven't sat well and I've had a few cases of vomiting, which is not fun at all but I'm learning what my stomach likes and doesn't like. I met with the doctor who helped me lose the weight prior to surgery and I've lost 25 lbs!! Woohoo, it's finally starting to come off. People can say they see it in my face and I think I can too. My upper body seems to be losing. I did have some problems with low iron which really zapped my energy but after two weeks of taking iron supplements my energy kicked back in and as of writing this I am feeling like my old self. I met with a personal trainer this past week and have been giving some simple exercises I can do in my apartment with hand weights and stuff.
June 30, 2009 - Went to the surgeon's office the day before the surgery and low and behold I made the weightloss needed exactly!! (15lbs). I was so happy.
Next day the surgery was set for 7:45am on the Tuesday. The surgery took 3 hours because apparently I have a large liver and it kept getting in the way. I was in the hospital until the Saturday because I had low blood pressure and low potassium. BTW potassium runs in IVs hurt like hell. I also had a problem peeing in that I couldn't. I had to wear a catheter at night and then try to pee during day. If I didn't the catheter was put back in for the night. They finally let me out on the Saturday but with a catheter and bag and told to go to doctor's office on the Monday. The hospital staff were absolutely wonderful and caring. The bed was very uncomfortable and not big enough for me to turn over in. My butt was sore (felt bruised) by the time I left the hospital.
On the Monday my blood pressure was back to normal. When they weighed me I had gained 15lbs but they said not to worry and that it was due to all the fluids they were pumping into me into the hospital and once I started peeing it would drop away. They removed the catheter and said I was able to go home but if I didn't pee within 8 hours I was to go to the nearest emergency room. Thankfully I peed.
I've been home now for a few weeks and feeling great. No hunger pains, no vomiting or nausea. I am following the diet given to the T. What I missed at first was the taste of things; the diet was very plain and tasteless. But now at week 4 I am able to start adding more foods so it's getting better. I can only eat about 1/3 cup at a meal before I start to feel full and uncomfortable. I am also finding now that I am home alone the non-hungry bored part of me wants to eat. Guess this is something I have to start dealing with.
Because of my stupid scales I don't know if I am losing weight but I have a follow up appointment July 2 with the surgeon so will let you know next month. My mother says she can see a difference in my face but my best friend says he doesn't see any difference yet. I don't feel lighter but I'm sure I must have lost weight.
May 31, 2009 - This past month has been a roller coaster for me. I found out the hard way that my scale was broken and giving me the wrong impression. I wasn't 410 like I thought (after getting weighed at doctors). I've bought a new scale but because of the broken scale and the fact that my doctors scale was always off from mine I really don't know where I am right now. I am so scared that I'll get to the hospital for the surgery and the surgeon will send me home because I didn't lose the weight he wanted. This past month I've been resisting all temptations (which meant I became a hermit so I wouldn't have to drive past Tim Hortons, MacDonalds, etc.) and tried to eat a 1000 calorie a day diet.
My next report should be after the surgery so stay tuned.
April 30, 2009 - It's been almost a year since I wrote in. I met with the new surgeon last June and weighed 467! Yes I'd gone up quite a bit. My initial meeting with him didn't go very well and he refused to believe that I don't eat much but can't lose weight. He kept saying to be my weight and not maintain it (i.e. not lose) I'd have to be eating 6000 calories a day. Both my mum and I knew this was ridiculous but he refused to budge from that notion. He said he wanted me to lose 40 lbs and come back in November. We left the meeting in tears but vowed to do it.
Anyway by August I was down to 451 but stuck. I found a new doctor in my city who had a weight loss clinic and went to see him. He is wonderful and found out that my body likes to retain water and as my cells lose fat they replace it with water. He said he knew I was losing fat but because of the water gain it didn't show on the scales (which unfortunately is what the surgeon was looking at). He put me on some water pills and by the time I went back to the surgeon in November I was down to 420.
The surgeon was glad to see the weight loss but wanted another 15lbs. He said he'd schedule me for surgery in 10 weeks on condition I lost the 15lbs. I thought it was doable so agreed. Unfortunately I had alot of problems losing the weight and even went back up to 432. Fortunately the surgeon had forgotten to schedule me for the surgery.
In the Spring I started getting extremely depressed about the struggle to lose this weight that I ended up on anti-depressants. My weight doctor emailed the surgeon and next day I got a phone call. They scheduled me for June 2nd again on the condition I lose that 15lbs.
I think that having a specific date was a kick start for me and I have been working hard to lose the weight. As of today I am at 410 so I just need another 5 for the surgeons goal although personally I'd love to be below 400 by then. The surgery is in five weeks. I am scared, nervous and excited.
During the month of May I have to stop taking aspirin, motrin or other anit-inflammatory medications as well as omega 3. I also have to get some tests done including extensive blood tests and an EKG as well as a history and physical done by my family doctor. I will keep you updated.
May 31, 2008 - Have an appointment with the surgeon on June 5th so will have more information after that, otherwise everything is status quo.
April 30, 2008 - Still waiting on new approval, although I did ask my doctor's office how bad it would be if I changed surgeons right now. I've found one that doesn't require I lose weight prior to surgery (at least that's what I was told when I asked them). He was the surgeon I was originally to have gone to but I got information about a surgeon closer and went that route. If I had gone with the original surgeon I would have had the surgery by now. Anyway, attempting to change surgeons. And have been going to Curves for past month and actually enjoying it. Although not losing weight am feeling better and have more energy.
March 31, 2008 - Still waiting on new approval. My "new thing" last month was short lived again. So I gave myself a kick in the pants and joined Curves and finally found a registered dietician who I met with for 2 hours and she said I wasn't eating enough and gave me a great meal plan of 2100 calories on which I should lose 1-2 pounds a week.
February 29, 2008 - Still waiting on new approval and still trying to lose the necessary weight. Contacted two nutritionists and neither wanted to work with me! However trying something different and have lost 10lbs this month - woohoo!
January 31, 2008 - Still waiting on new approval and still trying to lose the necessary weight. Sounding like a broken record now. Not giving up but feeling frustrated. Have contacted a nutritionist which will cost some serious money but obviously can't do it on my own.
December 30, 2007 - Still waiting on new approval and still trying to lose the necessary weight. Of course, I gained a few pounds over the holidays, bah! It's been mentioned to me that perhaps I'm not eating enough and therefore have slowed my metabolism way down which is why I'm not losing weight even though I'm eating less than 1500 calories a day. So based on suggestions from others I am trying to eat 2000 calories a day which isn't as easy as it seems.
November 30, 2007 - Really wish I had some news. My insurance approval ran out mid-November so now I've had to reapply and wait for that again. Still struggling to lose the required weight as well.
October 31, 2007 - Nothing to update on. Still struggling to lose the weight needed and still waiting to hear back from OHIP in regards to the Vena Caval Filter. It's been almost a year now since I made the decision and I'm getting very frustrated about how things are progressing.
September 30, 2007 - Still having issues losing the weight. Spoke to Dr. Brackman and he said if I can get to 420 he'll do the surgery. Also he wants me to get a vena caval filter before the surgery. So now I'm waiting to hear when I can get an appointment with a surgeon to get that done. Seems like there is always something!! I got a handicapped parking permit this month because I am finding that even though I'm not gaining weight my mobility is becoming less and less.
August 30, 2007 - Still nothing to update on. Weight loss is barely happening. Still hating the cpap machine.
July 25, 2007 - Not much to update on. Still trying to get used to the cpap machine. I hate it but I have to use it if I want the surgery. And weight loss is not going well. I tried the Atkins diet cause I know I'm a carb-a-holic so thought this diet may help. I went from 445 to 437 and then gained it all back again. At this point I am frustrated and depressed and see the hopes of the surgery dwindling away. The surgeon's office put me in touch with their nutritiontist but she's not been much help.
June 21, 2007 - Got my new machine. Tried it out that night. Is definately going to take a while to get used to. Emailed the surgeon hoping that now I can be scheduled for surgery next month. Got a reply back that there are new hospital guidelines and that I must get down to 395 before they can schedule me!!! WTF. If I could lose 60 lbs on my own I wouldn't be going for the surgery. Very bummed out now. They are going to have their nutritionist email me. One thing I should mention is that I really don't eat much. There is no junk food in my home (no cookies, no chips, no candies, etc). Everyone who knows me is surprised I weigh what I do when I eat less than them.
June 16/17, 2007 - Had my second sleep study. Wasn't quite as bad as the first one as I knew more what to expect. Same bed and room though, which sucked. This time they had me wear the cpap machine. Took me a while to get used to it and for the first few minutes I had problems breathing. In the morning they did say though that my sleep was better. According to the results from the first sleep study I stop breathing on average about 18 times per hour and wake up about 19 times per hour. That was a bit of a shock to me. I came home with a prescription for a cpap machine.
May 30, 2007 - Got a call from hospital to book second half of sleep study. This one apparently is something to do with the cpap. I do not want to do another sleep study but guess I have no choice. It's scheduled for June 16th. Oh joy.
May 16/17, 2007 - Had my sleep study at the hospital. I hope to never go through that again. I had told them I was large and needed a bigger bed and they said ok. When I get there they put me in a room with a regular ward bed and a bunch of junk (looked like a storage room). I asked about the bigger bed and she said we have one but it has a weight limit on it. Well sheesh!! Anyway, bed was too small and I couldn't turn over in it, plus having all those wires attached to me, well I didn't sleep. And the bed aggravated my back which caused me great pain.
May 15, 2007 - Got the approval from OHIP (provincial health insurance) for my surgery!! Woohoo. In an email from the surgeon's office they said I had to lose 50 lbs before the surgery ("IN ORDER FOR THE SURGERY TO BE DONE LAPAROSCOPICALLY YOU WILL HAVE TO BE BELOW 400LBS"). I wrote back and said when I saw the surgeon he said only 10-15 lbs so she wrote back and said she spoke with him and he said 435lbs so that is good. I was thinking if I knew how to lose 50lbs I could probably lose the rest too but I don't know how which is why I'm doing the surgery.
April 27, 2007 - Had a question from a reader asking why if I live in Ontario am I going to the US for the surgery. The answer is quite simple, although Canada prides itself on it's medical system there is one basic flaw and that is wait times. For weight loss surgery I have been told that the wait time is upto 5 years. However, the provincial health insurance will pay for me to go to the US and get it done much sooner.
April 20, 2007 - Have an appointment for a sleep test for May 25. So envisioning the surgery now won't be until August/September.
April 17, 2007 - Upper GI test. This is where you drink the barium and stand infront of xray machine. The doctor had a very hard time seeing anything because of my weight and had to redo the xrays but was able to do it.
April 14 - 2007 - Drove down to Canton, NY to see the surgeon. His assistant, Sandy, was very nice and gave us alot of good information. Dr. Brackman was very nice too. He went over the surgery a bit and said that in the 10 years he's been doing gastric bypass surgery he's not had one death, so that is good news. He is very thorough and ensures all tests are done and good. One such test that I hadn't been aware of is a sleep disorder test to see if I have sleep apnea. He said that it's more than likely someone of my size does and if so I MUST use the cpap machine for a month before the surgery. No exceptions. If I don't, then he doesn't do the surgery. Oh and I need to lose about 15 lbs before the surgery because even with a 15lb loss the liver will be much smaller and won't get in the way as much. The surgery is done on a Wednesday but you meet with them the day before. You are discharged on the Friday but have to stay in town at the hotel until you are totally discharged the Wednesday after. So you plan to be there at least 9 days.
April 5 - 2007 - Blood tests. Took about 6 vials of blood. Also had a H. Pylori breath test (basically you breath into a tube for a baseline test, then drink some lemony liquid, wait 30 minutes and breath into another tube). Had EKG.
April 2 - 2007 - Had my chest xray - went well.
March 23 - 2007 - Doctors office called. Apparently OHIP (provincial insurance) had called the clinic to find out some information. Of course the clinic hadn't heard of me yet. So I called them and got some information. But best of all I have an appointment April 14th with the doctor to go over my medical history, questions, etc. They also sent me a list of tests I need to take before the operation. Found out that the pre and post op appointments are all held just over the border (about 1 1/2 hour drive from here) BUT the actual operation is done in Long Island NY (about 9 hour drive). So will take some figuring on how I'm gonna get there and back. My boss actually offered to fly here, rent a car and drive me down. I'm happy, the ball has started rolling. Here are the tests needed : Chest Xray, EKG, Upper Endoscopy with testing for H.Pylori (may substitute H.Pylori breath test PLUS upper GI series xray if endoscopy not available or delayed), LABS: TSH, T4, UA, CBC, chemistry panel, LFT's, serum triglycerides, cholesterol, iron, ferritin, TIBC, B12, folate, INR, PTT, HgbA1c, nicotine, serum H.Pylori Ab.
March 15 - 2007 - Application was mailed Feb 14th. Still waiting for approval. Frustrating to sit and wait.
February 12, 2007 - Met with family doctor. She will complete insurance application and mail next day.
February 9, 2007 - Family doctor received letter - finally!
January 4, 2007 - Met with obesity doctor and told him of my decision. He dictated a letter to my family doctor indicating my decision and giving precise instructions on how to fill out the application for insurance approval. He said my doctor should receive the letter within 4 weeks. (Note: I live in Ontario Canada and will have to go to the US for the surgery so need prior approval from the Provincial health care system for funding).