I have struggled with this post, but I would be remiss if I did a month of blogging in 2022 about changing my life and overlooked the biggest change I’ve made this year. On March 3, 2022, I had gastric sleeve surgery. It was a long-considered change, but one that was pushed to a final decision rather quickly. Let’s back up.
I’ve struggled with my weight my entire adult life, although I moved from just overweight to fully obese (based on BMI) in my mid-20s. I had the typical roller-coaster of diet and weight loss and in my mid-30s, I first explored bariatric surgery. I decided then to do it, but the idea was quickly set aside when I learned insurance wouldn’t cover it.
Although I was committed to a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, and exercise, major weight loss wasn’t achievable for me. Blame it on doomed genetics, a crappy metabolism, or a cancer history that left me with some physical limitations, I couldn’t make it happen. I tried again in my early-40s, hoping a new insurance provider would see things differently. They did not. And I tried again about a year ago with TWO new insurance providers. Still, it was a no-go.
In November, I had symptoms that led to a biopsy, which was thankfully all clear. However, at that appointment, the oncologist very sweetly told me that with a clear biopsy, the only reason for the troubling symptom was my weight. Fat cells produce estrogen and estrogen was causing the problem. Without ovaries, fat was about the only place my body creates estrogen. This was very troubling. With my estrogen-positive two-times breast cancer history, the thought of my extra 150 pounds producing enough estrogen to make my uterus bleed was frightening. She asked me to consider bariatric weight loss.
A week or so later, on a follow up visit to my PCP about my failed thyroid, I brought up everything I had been doing to lose weight for 6 months, only to actually gain a few pounds. He had tried some medication on me, but that had failed. My thyroid levels were stable with medicine now, but the weight still wasn’t moving. He said, “you are in a tough spot. I really think your only option is bariatric weight loss.”
With yet another doctor’s appointment in November, I saw my knee doctor for cortisone shots. He had been harping at me for months about weight loss. As a result, I’d tried medication and had worked with a coach for 6 months, but nothing was working. We discussed what I’d been doing and he said, “I really think you need to consider bariatric weight loss.”
In each case, the doctor’s spoke of the effectiveness of it and why it worked – through restriction and some serious metabolic changes. I was on board. Insurance was the problem.
As I mulled the financial issues, I reflected with my husband what I could do. I didn’t want to take out a loan for $25,000-30,000, but after three doctors telling me to do it within a matter of weeks, I had to consider it. This was serious.
I happened to mention to my husband that I’d often come across ads or mentions of bariatric surgery in Mexico, but when I would research it, I couldn’t make heads or tails of whether it was safe. And I didn’t know how to find highly recommended doctors. He then gave me an idea that changed everything: search on Facebook for people’s posts. He said, “whenever I have trouble finding quality info, I go find what people are saying about it and follow their information, like in groups.”
So that’s what I did.
In a matter of days, I had more information than I needed, had appointments with the top two surgeons I could find, chose one, and put down a down payment for a surgery that ultimately cost less than $6,000 (hotel included) plus airfare.
On March 3, in Tijuana, Mexico, I had about 80% of my stomach removed. With it went a huge portion of the secretions of hunger hormone.
It’s early in the process – just over a month – but I feel really good. I’ve healed nicely and I actually love the diet. It has completely taken away the need for me to make any serious decisions about food – I just follow the plan.
And the best part is, I’m working hard and doing all of the things I’m supposed to – as I usually do – but now it’s working. It feels amazing just to know my hard work is paying off. That. Never. Happens. for me with weight loss plans. Ever. I’ve lost around 40 pounds. My BMI has gone from 55 – which is a deadly level of morbid obesity – to 49 in a matter of weeks.
Even if I do “average” for weight loss with a gastric sleeve, I’ll be able to get down to under 200 pounds, which will be a first for me since I was about 23. But I don’t like to be average. I fully plan to get to a weight that is within a healthy BMI for me.
I haven’t shared this news with everyone. I have a group of close friends and family members who got the advance plan and have been supporting me along the way. I shared with just a few co-workers who I knew would be supportive. In the weeks since, I’ve shared it with a few people I happened to be eating with, so my food choices wouldn’t cause any alarm. So far, everyone has been very receptive. My plan going forward is to freely offer the information if anyone asks what I’m doing to lose weight. I don’t want another overweight person to ever feel like they just have to do better at a diet to do what I’m doing. I want them to know the truth.
I’m thrilled at having been able to do this surgery. Thrilled. I feel like I’ve reclaimed the next 30 years of my life (at least, maybe 40 or 50 – my dad is still kicking at 96). In the months prior to surgery, I really felt so sick that I didn’t think I’d be living much longer. That feeling is gone and I feel more in control of my health, which has had more than its share of time being out of control.
It’s also made me feel more in control of my professional future. I know that sounds utterly unrelated, but the time off for surgery and knowing I’d be feeling better and more energetic soon, made me realize I am ready for changes. I need better ownership of my work and I intend to get there.
If you should happen to comment, please be kind. I’m not looking to change anyone’s mind on how to lose weight, nor am I advising anyone to do what I’ve done. I’m on my own journey and, for now, it’s working.