3 years ago

Today it’s 3 years since I had weight loss surgery; C bypass to be precise, also called a mini bypass. It was meant to be RNY Bypass but I had so much internal scarring it couldn’t be done. My surgeon, Atul, prefers this operation but it’s not popular in NZ.

My highest weight was 139.9kg and my lowest post surgery was 60kg, which wasn’t a good look. I got so low, not by trying, but because I got incredibly sick and was in and out of hospital including a brief stint on life support.

I’m back to exactly where Atul (and the surgeons in New Plymouth who treated me) said I should be – 75kg. Some days my head tells me that the gain means I have failed and will get super fat again. But the sensible part of me knows that is not true. The reality is I was too thin, it didn’t look good especially for my face, and I felt frail.

We’ve been talking about our mental wellbeing on a FB support group and I just commented that “All of us – fit or not, at goal or not, plastic surgery or not – have to find a place where our bodies & our heads are comfortable and that we can maintain without weight/fitness being the main focus of our lives – because that’s not really living”.

At this weight I can eat fairly normally in a high protein, healthy fat & low carb way. I don’t exercise because of my physical limitations so can’t rely on that for extra control. And my weight is not the biggest thing in my life.

I am incredibly grateful to Atul; I believe he saved my life and I continue to save it by doing the right things. I am still a food addict, and chocolate is my crack, but I have the tools to manage no. So grateful…

 

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P!nk – Courage

I’m still recording the music I love in my art journals. I enjoy the process, but also it tells people a lot about me. Music is a huge part of my life; I listen at home, in the car, at work, while I cook…
This is P!nk’s Courage. It speaks to me because maintaining my weight loss means having the courage to face all the reasons I overeat. The courage to dig deep emotionally, face my fears, feel emotions instead of smothering them with food.
This page is in my large Dylusions journal. Inks: Peony blush, Bubblegum Pink. Postbox red & White Linen. Paints: Peony blush & Funky fuschia. Stencils: Teardrops, Star struc &  Diamond in the rough. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet. Other: Archival ink, Distress ink, white gel pen.
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No, it isn’t easy

Trigger warning: abuse, weight loss surgery.

I’m still recording the lyrics I love, this time it’s P!nk’s (Hey Why) Miss You Sometime. No doubt she was writing about a partner but, for me, this could easily be about food. Yes, food – chocolate, savouries, ice cream. OMG Sante Bars!

 

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I had weight loss surgery, three years ago this September, and have lost over 70kg. It probably saved my life. But here’s the thing – I’m still a food addict. Surgery is a tool, not a cure. The line “thousand nights I’ve said goodbye, almost lost my mind”. That’s me and chocolate. Chocolate is my answer to grief, pain, shame, embarrassment, loss, fear, boredom, loneliness; anything and everything.

For me, food does two things. It smothers my emotions, and I’ll do anything to avoid feeling emotions. I’ve lived most of my life carefully flat. And, as an addict, certain food gives me a dopamine hit and my brain lights up with sheer joy. That’s the hard truth of it.

On book I’ve read on addiction suggests pain and shame is at the heart of all addictions. For me, the pain and shame stems from low-level but damaging abuse as a kid by a friend of my father, and an abusive first marriage. Now’s not the time to write more about it, just putting it out there and parking it for now.

Despite the weight loss surgery, and a lot of work on “fixing my head”, maintaining a healthy weight will be a lifelong journey for me. If you think weight loss surgery is an easy out, think again.

And, to finish. I love people, love people’s bodies and think all bodies should be honoured – including fat ones. I don’t hate fat bodies, far from it. My father died of a heart attack at 65, Mum died slowly over more than a decade – my decision to have surgery was to try and avoid what happened to them, and a recognition that I could never lose weight on my own. I have *no* judgment of other people’s bodies.

Recording the hard stuff

I was talking with someone on a FB group page and they commented that you can’t journal the hard stuff because others might read it. It means you can’t share the page, so others don’t get to be inspired by your art.

I disagree; I’ve always journaled the good, bad and ugly in my scrapbooks and art journals. As an ex scrapbooking teacher, I’ve always shared my art in person and online.

Sometimes I write it all out so it’s legible and figure, if I share the hard or ugly stuff, I might help others get through and be able to tell their stories. We can all help create safe places for others to share their experiences, especially around addiction, mental health and abuse / domestic violence. I’ve never felt my life has to look perfect in order to share online.

But, even for me, there are things I don’t want the world reading about. Sometimes it is just too raw, other times it’s because it would compromise another person in some way. Often it’s about my food addiction, addictive personality, Tony’s health or my relationship with others who support me (or have similar issues) that I’m wanting to talk about.

When I want to record things but don’t want it to be legible, I use “scribble writing” so I get it all out of my head, but no one can read it. I usually start in the middle of the pages then work up and down, so the lines aren’t consecutive, and make sure the writing is loopy and overlaps. If’ you’re a scrapbooker or art journaler I’d encouarge you to record it all, it’s very healing.

For the record, this page is about some of the head struggles I’ve had this week, more than 2 years post weight loss surgery, what I’m doing about it, and the support I get from people.

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2 years post weight loss surgery

I’ve just had my final appointments with the weight loss clinic after my 2016 gastric bypass. I had a talk with Atul, my surgeon first. He’s happy with my progress and weight and thinks once I got over all the very serious impacts, I’ve done well.

The dietitian was pleased my weight is almost the same as when we spoke in April. We talked about how I am having to work at keeping my weight up, and some strategies for maintaining that. She recommended I start taking a Copper supplement with my Zinc.

Normally I have a quick chat with the psychologist but this time we talked for about 40 minutes. I have realised there’s stuff in my head that needs sorting, and he was very helpful. We talked briefly about body image and how weird it is to have to eat enough when you struggled to not eat all your adult life.

The main thing we talked about is that I’m increasingly aware I have always eaten my feelings, rather than live/feel them. I smothered them with food. There’s been a lot of triggers to me realising the depth of the issue and, as honest as I am online, even I’m not going to disclose them all here. But I will talk about some of it, because it may help others. There are issues around body image, sexuality, emotions and abuse I need to deal with…

After we’d chatted a bit, Steven asked me if I can easily express my emotions. Hell no. Are you a warm person? No, kind mainly, but not warm. Do you cry easily? Uh, no – I might weep watching the news particularly with stories about kids. Long pause – is that because it feels ‘acceptable’? Yes, I suspect so. Did you parents validate you if you cried as a child? I barely remember crying as a kid, and certainly don’t remember being soothed by Mum. When I think about it, I don’t remember Mum ever saying she loved me as a kid, or even as an adult. I know she did love me, but she certainly didn’t say it.

We talked about the way Mum modeled behaviour, and her own battles with food and weight, and being adopted out as a toddler. I am not blaming Mum for my issues – they are mine – she was a product of her own upbringing and I took some of it on and made it my own.

Six months ago I would have said I was fine and didn’t need to continue with psychologist help. We agreed I am stable, and doing well – with all the tools I need for long-term success – but also that more help would be a good thing. For well-being, it’s vital I do more work on my head and have decided to have further counselling. Overall I get an A+ pass mark but weight loss surgery is a journey, not a destination.

dyary sept 10-16

Dealing with the hard stuff

Sometimes the planets align, and they are at the moment. It’s difficult and confronting but has to be done. I realised there are a couple of issues I haven’t dealt with in terms of my food addiction and one of those is all the babies I lost to miscarriage in the 80s. The other issue is one I am not ready to talk about with anyone but I am quietly dealing with it in my own way.

How have the planets aligned? More and more of the people around me are becoming grandparents, which increases my awareness of my childlessness. I’ve had a few people, quite randomly, talk to me recently about their own miscarriages or stillbirths. I’ve read some stuff seemingly by accident. I was going through my weight loss journal looking at the pre-surgery psych work and on the page about my babies I had started to journal then had written ” I can’t write more for now” and never completed it. And so on.

I sometimes go to Hawera Cemetery in my lunch hour. I tell myself it’s because it’s green, quiet and there are very few people around. I realised this week, talking to someone I trust who has also has the surgery, that I go there to be near the memorial stone for angel babies.

Today I was talking to one of my staff about this and I said “well, I always lost the babies very early on so it wasn’t a big deal” or words to that effect. And it struck me … I have been telling myself that lie for more than 26 years. Because each time there was a baby, and each time I did face the loss. The loss of a future child, birthdays, weddings, grandchildren and so on.

How am I dealing with it? I have my final appointment with the weight loss clinic psychologist soon because it’s 2 years since my surgery, so will talk to her. But I am also journaling a lot, dreaming and not sleeping, removing myself from social media a bit to give myself space, hugging my husband and just letting all the feelings come through. What I know for sure, to quote Oprah, is that I am dealing with this so it never derails my weight loss, and stops beings something I lie to myself about – it did hurt, and it does matter. Thanks for listening!

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There’s weight loss, & then there’s skin!

I’ve been debating this blog post for a while now. I’ve been very honest about the whole process but blogging about my excess skin makes me hesitate. But if I don’t, how do others know what could be in store if they go the gastic bypass route? In the end, I’m not going to pretend it’s all pretty – cos honey it ain’t!

To recap – I started at 139.9kg, goal weight 75kg, current weight 63.1kg. I’ve lost 76.8kg. A friend who has about the same as me (started heavier but not as light now) just had surgery to remove excess skin and they removed 11kg worth – so I’ve possibly got 5kg or more of skin hanging round. And I do mean hanging round…

People tell me the excess skin isn’t obvious and, fully dressed, that’s fairly accurate. My arms are the most obvious bit. People say most women have flappy arms at our age. Yeah, maybe, but not so loose you accidentally lean on the excess and it hurts 😉

The reality is the excess skin *can* be uncomfortable. Aside from leaning on spare arm skin, I sometimes find I’m sitting awkwardly on a fold of spare bum and it’s unpleasant – try adjusting that in public!

I used to wear a 26DD bra, now I wear a 14D but I sort of fold my boobs into it. Last time I got fitted the lovely lady at Farmers said “I’ll let you do the origami, you know how they go!”. Karma got me on that one, because I used to laugh as I folded Mum’s boobs into her bra..

I had a botched open surgery hysterectomy in my late 20s and that scarring, combined with the weight loss, is pretty ugly to be honest. One side of my tummy is longer than the other, and the whole things hangs low … if I get up to the loo in the night it audibly flaps. Not cool, or sexy!

Would I consider surgery to tidy things up? No! For a few reasons. With all the complications I’ve had I think elective surgery would be unwise. I had the weight loss surgery for my health, not appearances, and the skin isn’t a health issue for me (but it is for some). And, as I’ve said to a few people, Tony is 18 yeas older than me – he never expected to gain a slim wife in his 70s so a few wrinkles don’t matter!

If you are thinking of weight loss surgery, great! It’s life changing and life saving. If you think you’ll have the body of a 20 year old, think again…

Footnote – I’m really struggling to hit publish. My head tells me people in a bikini show a lot more flesh than this, but I feel so exposed and so, what’s the word, faulty maybe?

 

 

 

 

Still recovering

Last time I blogged I was at the end of two weeks at home, recuperating. I’ve been back at work 2 weeks, doing 4 days a week – by the end of Thursday I’m pretty worn out.

I went to see Mr Farrynt, the surgeon last week to get the MRI results. Inconclusive, because my internal plumbing is unusual even for a gastric bypass patient due to justing the surgery to allow for damage from a botched hysterectomy in my late 20s. My Farrynt wants to do exploratory surgery in the next 4-6 weeks and fix whatever he finds at the time. It’ll start off keyhole but probably end up open surgery. I wanted to delay it but he feels it will obstruct again and then he’ll have to operate when I’m really sick, as opposed to just not 100% well…

 The only thing to sort before hand is an urgent referral to ENT. My voice is still hoarse and weak; the surgeon is concerned my airway might be compromised so needs that fixed before they operate.

 The other thing I’m dealing with is that, after intubation & ICU etc, my hair has thinned even more and become sparser. We’ve cut it very short and changed the shape – it’s better but I’ll be very pleased when it recovers. I’ve coloured it for the first time in many years because I just looked so pale and unwell for a while there.

I’m down to 76.8kg, only 1.8kg off my bypass surgeon’s goal for me. I talked to Mr Farrynt and his side kick Amanda about getting down to 70kg as that would make me a standard size 14 (I think). No way! They are happy for me to get to 75kg but not lose any more than that, as they’re cncerned about my general health with all that’s gone on. So I need to learn to eat a little bit more to stop the loss. I could never have imagined that would be a problem for me! I’ll be talking to my dietician in a week anyway, so that’s good timing.

 As most of you know, I am always fiddling with art and craft, blogging etc. Until yesterday, I hadn’t touched my craft stuff since 8 April, which is a LONG time for me. Yesterday I finally put some gesso on a page and did a quick layout. I don’t have a lot of energy yet, but it was good to get messy.

 

 

Weight loss update

When I last blogged about this, on January 14th, I had lost 38kg to date. Yesterday I reached the 50kg milestone, so only another 10kg to go. I’m beginning to wonder if I could be reasonably small boned and 15kg might be a better goal, but I’ll reassess it with the nurse and see what she thinks nearer the time – probably towards the end of March.

In that last post I said I’d bought jeans off the rack at Farmers. This morning I popped down to Wanganui and replaced them with a pair that’s another 2 sizes down. I’m now a 16/18 on the top and an 18 on the bottom. Unheard of…

Here are some update photos. Hardly great shots admittedly but Tony’s not that comfortable using my iPhone!

 

Making progress

Last time I posted I thought the anti-nausea pills had me sorted. I was wrong. I’m now taking some they use for cancer patients, and life is a lot better, but it’s been pretty rough getting sorted. I drank nothing but flat ginger beer for a week! In the last couple of days, I have managed a couple of flat Berocca and a few glasses of water with diet lime flavouring. So, a huge improvement but liquids still make me feel a bit sick.

Oddly enough, food is fine; this week the plan adds things like a 1-egg omelette (I can eat about 1/3-1/2), thinly sliced beef with 2 teaspoons each of mashed broccoli & lite cream cheese, or mashed egg rolled in ham. Although I often don’t eat quite as much as they recommend, I am coping fine with the tastes and textures.

As the surgeon said, most people can drink but not eat, so your case in unusual! Terrific…

In the meantime, Tony continues to be his usual patient self, helping me prepare meals, getting my breakfast ready, making me laugh with appallingly inappropriate comments. (don’t ask lol)

Someone obliquely asked me if I regret the surgery. Hell no. This is a hiccup on the way to a whole new life. What’s to regret?