Moving on by Amanda Frank, 8 year RNY post op
I think back to when I first heard of weight loss surgery and what it promised. I never thought things would turn out like they did. Hind sight is 20/20 and mine is no different. There is not one person who considers doing this who thinks they will fail. There is not one person who thought they were making the worse decision of their life. There is not one person who did not intend to do everything by the book to insure their success. There is no one person who had full knowledge about everything that could happen much less what ends up happening after this surgery as many people share in a few places available regardless of whether you had it last week or years. We all had the same hopes and dreams and did everything we could to ensure success. No one goes in this thinking failure is an option. Living life as a large person is not easy and to get to whatever age you are, you are tough, you sacrifice, you go far beyond the call of duty. You endure more than people who are not large like us. You are a success regardless of what anyone says. You are a fighter, a dreamer, a hoper and a pray-er as well as a magic bean buyer. You are strong, worthy and loved. We all touch countless lives with faith, hope, determination and a tenacity that others can only dream of having. Inside the heart of every large person is a spirit and many qualities beyond a normal personís comprehension. Believe it because it is true. No one can walk a mile in our shoes because it would destroy lesser people. We are unique, worth more than we want to admit to ourselves.
I wake up each day in pain. I have for 7 years and counting. Some days are good days when the medication I take help. Others are bad when it doesnít help. Along with that is the radical hormonal swings from menopause causing bad days to be worse. I have suffered from depression most of my life. Add the death of my mother, stressful work, putting my first dog down, two car accidents being unrestrained driver, one of which should have killed me and the other driver, economic issues, the house purchase from hell, demotion at work and those are just a few of the many negative experiences of just the past couple of years. A lesser person would not be here still. Plus, add the surgery, a number of hurricanes hitting this area, complications, numerous health problems as well as all of the shared struggles we have living in this country and more, it is a wonder anyone grows old.
I honestly had WLS because I already had diabetes and did not want to accept being sick. WLS was supposed to heal me but it didnít. But, have I moved on? How do you move on? Can you get past all of this?
I have had to accept that I did make, in my opinion, the worst mistake of my life having weight loss surgery. Before that, I had been diagnosed with diabetes at 33. I hate it, I was on one medication for that and one for arthritis in my knees. I take over $1000 in medication now every month, only one is from before the surgery. I accept this now.
As a result of accepting that I choose WLS and it is wrong for me, educating myself about the REAL after-effects of was important. I felt alone around all of the success stories I saw at the surgeonís aftercare meetings. It was often edited as I talked to people. One person stood up and had the surgery 2 months after I did and had lost more weight by far than I had so I asked him how. I found out he was still hospitalized and could not keep anything down. This is often the case at most "support meetings". My surgeon was quick to tell people to come into the office so he could "lay hands" on the person. When you took him up on that, he chanted that "there is nothing wrong with your surgery" when weight loss stopped and you were eating 200-300 calories a day. Most people regain their weight and it is not due to not doing what you were told, the "tool" become "worn out" and you cannot be healthy on 300 calories for the rest of your life. Accepting this is important and, for me, I did a lot of research.
I have learned that my weight means NOTHING to my loved ones. If you have never read the Velveteen Rabbit, do so but be prepared to cry. Those who have know that when you are real, you are not ugly except to people who do not understand but they are not worth my time or yours. I have heard from family members where the patient died. Most are left not understanding why the person was troubled with their weight and would rather have the person regardless of their weight or limitations because of the weight. Part of this, I have read the side of the dieting debate that does not promote dieting since the other side is very vocal and in-your-face. There are gobs of data where those who diet and regain die sooner. When you find out that some actually had those who stayed fat and those who started at the same weight, lost and regained had higher death rates, you may question all of the assumptions that extra weight is bad. Also, try and find research which has a group of fat people who stay fat comparing them to fat people who lost weight "forever" and compared their length of life. There are none because there is no significant population who keep lost weight off. I know several people who had surgery around the time I did and are now, 4-5 years later, regaining uncontrollably. They used to act "holier than thou" to me and try to tell me what I was doing wrong. Eating nothing and not losing woke me up to how fast my body adjusts to low/no calories. I have had to come to terms and make peace with thin is not possible to me. No amount of dieting, even WLS, would not get me there.
I have had to embrace all of the repercussions of having had WLS. I have had to promise myself that I will do WHATEVER is necessary to be healthy which meant allowing the regain, eating what I wanted (this is an evolutionary check to keep you healthy by craving what you need), take medications, loads of vitamins, trying a hundred things before finding out what works and getting off my back about weight as well as getting rid of people who refuse to accept me warts, fat, dyed hair and all. I have been working on finding the right medication for one of my problems for over 6 months and counting. After that, I will have to have a full work-up on my menopause/PMS issues. That will likely take nearly a year or more. This is a long-term commitment to me and has caused me to lose a few friends also.
I have to stay on top of my health. I have had to make all of my doctors understand that I canít do it all at once. I explain my problems, conditions, increasing allergies and who all are treating what. I also ask ones I have not seen in a while whether they are up to this challenge because I know my health is complicated now. It is easy to skip checkups, put off PAPs, bone density tests and, in general, a lot of poking and prodding. I truly have a team of doctors, I give them all of the cards of all of the other doctors I am seeing, all of the pharmacy slips of all of the medications and signing various releases so that they can call any of the other doctors and share information. Believe me, for me, this was very hard for me. I am a very private person. But, it is best for me.
I have had to be willing and carry through when I am being ignored, treated as if nothing is wrong or my pain is not being addressed appropriately. I had to go through 4 different antibiotics to find one to get rid of a quickly spreading upper respiratory infection. I finally told the doctor to prescribe anything which does not come in a pill to get rid of it. I have fought insurance companies, doctors, nurses, office staff and more to be heard. I have also had to go to the ER and hospital whether I really wanted to or not. I have had to allow people to help me. For a strong, fiercely independent woman who has always taken care of herself, this can be difficult.
I push myself relentlessly. I have had to accept that I canít do everything I want to. I had to be sent home from work the day I found out that my left foot and right ankle were both broken. I have had to let the pain control me since not doing so makes things much, much worse. I have had to accept many limitations I never had before because of the various health issues I have. I have strength, stamina and will-power. But, being "strong" and ignoring the pain are part of why some of issues are long term, like broken bones for years, not healing. Accepting your limitations has been a hard pill to swallow.
I now choose to spend my time and effort to touch peopleís lives when I can, make life better and help whoever I can. I have started going to a chat room for people who have lost their parent(s). I choose to work where I do and do my best there. It is one arena where I am at the top. I make the best decisions with all of the available information every time I have to make one. When bad things happen, I know that I am not flawed or useless or hopeless or any other negative thing. I can make mistakes and live with the consequences and be okay with it. I can tell myself the truth that there are things I am very good at as well as some things which I am not.
I donít have to be perfect. I have had a lot of success in my life and live my dreams all of the time. But messing up is not familiar to me. You may be the opposite but we can get so used to one or the other that we can make ourselves miserable. I can be happy or sad or mad or anything else and be content with myself. I can admit that I am good at things and be proud for all of those things.
I am "terminally single" and love being this way. I have time to do many things I want to do. My life is not what I wanted it to be but I am learning that it doesnít matter. I read a quote that God does not give you a deep desire for something you can never achieve. I like being alone and self supporting. Others may have the same feelings about being a wife or mother. I remember when I was out of college and out of work. I actually felt that not being able to find a menial job trapped me into my chosen profession (I really like variety). But, it is something I do extremely well. I remember that how much I dreamed of "the country", yet I was a city slicker at heart and loved being in a large metropolitan area. A friend of mine is about ready to retire in the next year or so. He was lamenting about now wanting to move to the country but not feeling like he could. I told him I would bring him a book and we also talked about a lot of what I just wrote about. I told him that I wanted to be done paying on a house before I retire, be self sufficient and would be able to live on much, much less because of no mortgage or car payments. The book was one which talked about having everything you want in your backyard. He has reconsidered it all and he will finish paying for his home next year and has a much different view on retirement.
So, I am moving on. I will still be active talking about the hidden side of WLS. It is very important to me. But, I am not defined by it. One line in the "Man in the Iron Mask" really speaks to me. When he is caught and placed back in the mask in prison, the musketeers say that they thought that returning him to the prison and into the mask would destroy him. He replies, "I wear the mask, it does not wear me." Only my closest friends and family know much of my struggles. I have told countless people in a group of any type where they share pain and struggles that they discount the value of people who donít know that about you. I tell them that there are people and places I can go where I am not sick or a WLS horror story. I am just me and can feel normal and do normal things without feeling like I am supposed to be a certain way or that someone is looking to make sure I am "all right" all of the time. There are times I need that and there are times I donít want it.
Balance has come back to my life in spite of my problems, trials and issues. I have learned that acceptance and doing what is important to me has allowed me to be content and happy with who I am and what is in my life and what I am doing with it. It makes my life worth living in spite of all of the bad that is in it. To another person, it may seem that it wouldnít be worth a dime but it is my life. There are people who see my successes as something to be envied and that they should have them too. To get to where I have, whether it is my life or career, I was not handed it. I worked hard, overcome a million problems and challenges that a lesser person would have walked away from instead of conquering. It is not tough to be a screw up and a failure. It takes incredible courage and strength of character to live a good life in spite of all of this. If you want my life, you have to pay the high price I did to succeed when it was so easy to fail. But I am thriving and am proud of myself. It doesnít get better than this.