I am an over-sharer. You know that by now. I put a lot of my deepest, darkest thoughts and moments on the internet. Why? For me it’s therapy. Also, I want to have some random rich person discover my blog and decide to give me a book deal which will pay for Daughter’s college and my house. But I digress…
This over-sharing definitely bleeds into my daily life. I tell colleagues and even aquaintances more than I should. I’m not inappropriate! I just share about my life because I process things verbally. The problem then becomes that sometimes I get feedback which upsets me. There’s a tendency to take things too seriously, too personally, too much to heart. I’m working on it. Because of these feelings I have been quieter than usual about a large upcoming event and I am ready to share about that now.
I will be undergoing surgery for a gastric bypass procedure. This is something which has taken me many years to come to terms with. Doctors have been telling me it is medically necessary for a long time. At first, it felt like doctors were trying to just give me a “quick fix” for my weight issues. That seemed like a waste of money, resources, and, frankly, seemed like cheating. For all that time I said no. I didn’t want to consider it. The most recent doctor who said this to me unsolicited was my breast cancer surgeon. He wanted to remove the cancer and then have me get a bypass before doing any other surgeries. His reasoning was that I’d be healthier to put under, it would be easier to get my chest how I wanted it, and I would heal faster. Smart thoughts. I started seeing an endocrinologist who said that, on paper, I shouldn’t be the weight I am. She also advised the surgery. I looked into it, but my insurance wouldn’t cover it so I moved on again.
Then a couple of years ago I decided that I wanted to talk about my weight differently. I wanted people who specialized in obesity medicine. I saw my doctor and she sent me to the people I needed. There was testing. And more testing. So very much testing. Recording things. Attending visits with four different deprartments. The conclusion? I needed a bypass. Needed. Insurance was on board. Everything was going to happen. I did all of the classes. How to eat post surgery. How to get enough protein. How to care for myself through exercise. I attended all the support groups. People talking about how their lives and relationships have changed- and not always in a good way!- post surgery. I went to every appointment, took all the meds, did weekly at home injections… I did all of it. It was time and I was ready!
But it was Covid. All sorts of delays were happening left and right. Surgery that I was originally to expect around hopefully April became maybe June became definitely October. It was six months later than my original plan but I had a date! Then one day two weeks ago I got a voicemail asking if I wanted to move my date up. I called back right away and the nurse sadly informed me that the new date was already taken. I said it wasn’t a big deal, but it was. You see, I knew my place of work was negotiating new insurance, and the surgery would likely not be covered under a new plan. There was no way I would do this without insurance. No way I COULD. I knew that I was probably going to have the past 18 months of many, many doctor visits completely wasted. The nurse must have heard something in my voice and she asked me what was up. I told her. She asked me to hold, and then came back with, “Ok so here’s what we’re doing. You’re going to come and see us on Tuesday. Your surgery is now two weeks from then. We will tell you everything you need when you get here in four days. Here. You. Go!”
I was shocked. I shook and got a little weepy and called Husband while two of my darling coworkers watched and giggled for me and then became alarmed because I was in tears. It was too soon. Too fast. Too much! All of the doubts that I was prepared to have long conversations about in the next months were suddenly immediate. I immediately asked Husband if he would still love me because he’s only really known me as a fat person. Much less fat, sure, but still. I told him that almost 80% of people who have a bypass get a divorce. He asked me when I would finally realize we’re not people. I felt better, but that was just the first of many moments of fear and doubt.
The day after my visit with the doctors, I had to begin my all liquid diet. Have you ever done this? It is, well, unpleasant. I got really emotional. At first I was just very cranky but that moved to sad and I even had a panic attack worse than any I’ve had before. I was terrified I would die. k shook. I cried. I vomited. That was the Saturday after I stopped eating solids. The following Tuesday, my 7th day of liquids, I realized something while I was attempting to process the fact that I had lost around ten pounds in the last week. The reason I was panicking was because every time I lost in the past it all came back double the second I wasn’t looking. Tha fear is so ingrained in my psyche that it felt wrong. My logical brain reminded me that this was different. This is going to change my body physically internally as much as externally and then would change its chemistry. I pressed on.
I hadn’t told too many people about this, or at least I tried not to. Why? Well, in all my meetings there were cautionary tales. “Oh every other person will know someone who had it and something went wrong. They gained all the weight back. They needed revisions. This. That. The other. No one will be happy for you. Everyone will think you’re cheating, taking the easy way out. Don’t tell people. It’s too embarrassing.” I was starting to see this as mostly true. The people I did tell were relatively supportive. As one might expect, the further you go from “your people,” the less positive feedback you receive. I was learning to be embarrassed.
At one point, someone in my work who I don’t know terribly well but who knew about my upcoming surgery decided to speak to me privately. She told me that she had the surgery several years ago and that there are only three people who know. She said she hid it from everyone, including most family and all friends, because it’s so shameful. To have this surgery is to be ashamed. She kept using that word. Shame. Saying that “everyone knows it’s just the easy, coward’s way out.”
In that moment, I knew I wanted to write this if even one stranger were to read it. I am not post surgery. I’m still in my pre-op phase, but let me tell you a few things.
To the people who think this is easy, there has been nothing easy about any of this. There have been countless attempts at weight loss. Thousands of dollars spent outside of insurance on specialists. Dieticians. Gym memberships. Personal trainers. This isn’t because I ate badly. Sure, there were times when I gave up and didn’t care about what went into my body because it didn’t matter. I gained just as much eating chicken breasts and veggies as I did eating pizza and cake. This wasn’t because I didn’t try. I tried everything. When I would see doctors they would tell me that the only thing wrong with me on paper was the number of pounds. Everything else was healthy as could be. But I was (Was? Am!) in pain every single day. My feet hurt from walking around the block. My knees hurt. My stomach hurts. I won’t look in a mirror without being fully clothed because if I do, I cry. I avoid so many things- events, meeting new people, wearing dresses, pretty shoes, roller coasters… it just goes on. Now that I’m prepping I am consuming all of my food in liquid form. I feel hungry constantly. Everything tastes pretty terrible. There is no joy in putting food into my body right now. I will be eating like this for at least theee more weeks. Then I can add things like an egg or a string cheese. Ooh. I will have to relearn how to eat. No liquids within 30’monjfes of a meal, before or after. No wine with dinner. I won’t tolerate certain things. I won’t be able to eat entrees in a restaurant. Everything around food will change. I’m forcing my body to work through the pain of movement because I know I will need to be ready to walk as soon as I get out of the OR. None of this, not one thing, is easy. And it hasn’t even gotten to the hard part yet.
As for the shame, I’m making a conscious decision to refuse shame. I’m not allowing it. If I broke my ankle, I would use crutches without shame. I wear glasses without shame. Get teeth fixed. Use a CPAP. I feel no shame in getting help to heal my body when it isn’t working properly. The past year has been all about my doctors explaining to me how my body doesn’t work properly. Explaining conditions I have, some of which will be resolved with this surgery because of how my body will adjust. I insist that there is nothing shameful in doing the incredibly hard work to get my body to function properly again. Obesity is a disease. A lot of people don’t like that scientific information, but it’s true. This disease is going to kill me. Well, no. It isn’t. But it would have.
August 9th is my date and you know what? I will leave the hospital the next day with three more years added to my life. Three!!! Do you know how many memories I can make with my family and friends in three years? How many lives I can impact? How many laughs? Hugs? And that’s before all the other issues are resolved. I’m about to get life back. I’m going to be able to walk, hike, bike, kayak with my family. I’m going to go on all the roller coasters. I’m going to walk around Disneyland. Heck, I’m going to rope drop Disneyland and run to my first ride.
Shame? No. Hell no. No shame here. I’m going to live my life and I refuse to be ashamed of choosing to be here to enjoy it.