When I look back over the last two and a half years and the almost ninety pounds I’ve shed, I feel like a brand new person, but also like the person I always wanted to be, and imagined I was.
I’m still working at it of course, like I said they don’t wheel you in, cut out all the bad parts and then all of a sudden you’re some skinny, happy woman of the world. You’re still you, with all your hang ups and all your concerns, but you can eat less. The rest is up to you.
I remember calling the number my PCP gave me, for who he called a “crackerjack surgeon” (now one of my favorite people and biggest fans). I didn’t get a doctor, or receptionist, I got the voicemail of a program director. Like I mentioned, a very thorough process. When he called back that afternoon he had some screening questions for me, and then would set up my orientation and initial appointments.
One of the questions, was, of course, what is your current weight?
“Uh, hmmm” I hesitated, while my boyfriend was in the kitchen with me, making a cup of coffee.
“I don’t want to say right now, can we come back to that?” As if when I uttered “278” Steve would drop his coffee and shriek as if hearing that destroyed his knowledge of me, as if he thought I was some one hundred fifty pound specimen of fitness.
When I went in for the full day orientation I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew it was a serious decision, but I couldn’t imagine what we would spend the day doing. I’ve since learned that the vast majority of people who have a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, or gastric bypass or the lap band don’t have the in depth preparation that I got. In retrospect I am super grateful.
I’d say there were about seven or eight of around a table in a conference room. Each more self-conscious than the next. We had gone for a battery of blood work, separately and then met here. I have never liked walking into a room full of people, even if they were expecting me, loved me, or were as fat as or fatter than me. This was no exception. I picked the open chair that was the closest to the door and pulled it out, making some awkward joke that didn’t rouse much of a laugh.
There was talk of the change in attention, how people in our lives might react differently to us. How people in the world might notice us when they hadn’t before. They touched upon changing relationships; friendship and intimate, even family- possible jealousy, and not understanding our decision to have surgery, not respecting the boundaries of our choice.
I hadn’t thought of that. I mean, who in my life who cared about me would not understand my decision? My need for SOMETHING to finally work as hard as I worked it? What person that loved me wouldn’t want to see me at my healthiest, my happiest, making a decision that could only improve my life?
Turns out, there were a few.
I didn’t just shout my decision from the rooftops at first. I gradually divulged my little secret to people in my family as I saw fit. Strangers? Spilled it with little provocation. Closest friends and acquaintances, within a few days of making the decision.
The first 250lbs I lost came off in an afternoon.
I called one of my long time girlfriends shortly before discussing the possibility of surgery with anyone but my parents, cousin or boyfriend.
She took over the conversation talking about her own weight concerns and I was fine with it, because, commiseration is essential when you are feeling down, right?
She told me her tale of woe and how a doctor “offered” her gastric bypass. My heart skipped a beat because I could tell her now without any judgement, she would get it without any explanation.
“Really?” I said “Wow, are you gonna do it?”
You would think that I asked her if she was going to cut her own leg off.
“What? God no. That’s pathetic. That’s the last resort for people who have no willpower or self-control. I would never”
My heart skipped another beat, shit, now what do I say. “I don’t know, I gotta tell ya, if someone offered me that, I think I’d do it” The conversation moved on to other things about my doctor’s visit and eventually ended.
It was the last time I would speak to her, because despite our long term friendship, the years of ups and downs she had known me through and been there for, this was probably the biggest thing and she was not going to be on board. I wondered if I had told her first if she would have reacted differently, maybe chosen better words, different opinions to share.
Truthfully though, if I was about to lay it all on the table and be real about it, I only needed people who were going to be that way around me. She did me a favor with her brutal truth. I wonder if it had gone another way if she could have talked me out of it, if she would have presented some case that would sway me in the direction against letting someone remove more than half of an organ I’ve had since birth. I don’t think she could have, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out