There are millions of us, millions of stories of how and why we have a weight problem, and what ultimately led us to the decision to have weight loss surgery.
My story is unique of course, just like yours. I have decided to keep a weekly journal of my own journey for three reasons. First, I don’t go to therapy (although some of my friends say they would be lost without it), and it helps me to put things down on paper. Second, I was inspired by another person’s blog about her lap band procedure, which convinced me to do my own research (and I ultimately chose the vertical sleeve). And last, outside of the forums (which were very helpful), I want to document this extraordinary year that I am about to embark upon.
My surgery was October 25, 2011, and I’ll chronicle what I went through each week. Maybe it can help someone else reach this very important decision; I am quite sure it will help me as I go through the process.
Anyone who has come to this point knows that the journey does not start on the day of surgery, and my journey was no exception. I was a fat baby, a fat kid, a fat cheerleader in high school, and a fat bride (twice). I have led my life as a fat adult – in fact, getting fatter every year. Until now – at 58 years old (I turned 58 five days before my surgery) and 5 foot 3 – I checked into the hospital at 203 lbs (I weighed my highest a year ago at 223 lbs).
Even though I’ve always been heavy, I’ve had a wonderful adult life: fulfilling and challenging jobs, great friends, wonderful husband of more than 20 years, no children by choice, and financial security. (Could be I am okay financially because I have no kids!) I was always active and in great health. My husband and I retired last February; we left our home in Hawaii and have been on an incredible year of travel throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Life has been good to me, but in fact I’ve gotten away with murder – almost my own. I have always been self-confident, competent in my career choices, with lots of friends, and I managed to be happy and successful without being thin.
Of course I tried losing weight over the years – who hasn’t? Weight Watchers®, Jenny Craig®, Nutrisystem®, Atkins™, Slimfast®, all the usual suspects. But I simply could not lose more than a half a pound a week (if that!) and I would get discouraged and give up. I am not a binge or closet eater, I don’t eat at night, and I tried to eat healthy, so I was frustrated when I saw thin people around me eating more than I did. But as Dr. Phil would point out, “How’s that plan workin’ for ya?”
Truth is, I didn’t move much. I walked regularly, but it was really just a stroll. I never pushed myself physically and the weight crept on, two or three pounds a year for 25 years, and I had been overweight to begin with. Then at age 57, my feet, knees, and hip started going out on me. The red flags everywhere were telling me, “It’s your weight, stupid!” Immobility can be a great motivator. So here I am.
There were several factors in deciding to have the surgery now. My failing mobility certainly was a large factor. But there is more, a most interesting and unusual story I’m not sure I’m ready to tell at this point. But I made the decision, felt good about it, and went about figuring it all out.
We were living in Amsterdam at the time, and Amsterdam is not the place to feel good about yourself if you are short and fat. The women here are the most gorgeous of any place we have ever been. So even though I have a strong sense of self, the pity parties were coming on strong! Now, not only was I short and fat, but I also couldn’t walk without limping, and at one point could not even ride my bike.
My surgery would be self-pay (there was almost no chance my insurance would have covered it, and I didn’t have the time to wait), so it was a matter of finding a surgeon with a good reputation. We found a website called European Medical Tourist, and through them we found Dr. Rudolf Weiner (they call him Professor) in Frankfurt, Germany. My web research showed that Dr. Weiner was a very well-respected surgeon in this field, so after a bit of paperwork, a few phone conversations, and wiring $18,000 to the hospital, I scheduled the surgery. A few weeks later, with my husband by my side, I was on my way to Krankenhaus Sachsenhausen.